Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Major Trouble

This is going to be the blogging equivilent of the older neighbor behind you in the checkout line of the supermarket bragging about his kid. Difference is, you don't have to be stuck there pretending that you're interested if you're not. Oh, and it's the seven items or less line, and you've got nine items there. Just thought you should know.

The following are the comments my son's Commanding Officer--a full-bird Colonel--wrote on his T-ODP.* It's sort of the military's report card/letter of reccomendation that all the Junior Officers get. Other than the XXX's, the footnotes, and the name thing, it's word-for-word:

[LT. TROUBLE]is ready to be an Operations Officer of a large unit. I have invested my personal time and professional energy to confirm his success! Send him to the most challenging assignment open!

If an Operations job is not open, then send him to a MAJCOM** Staff. This assignment will provide the staffing skills required for him to be successful. I look to see him as a commander soon.

Additional Developmental Recommendations/Assessment:

Okay, pay attention! Take your time in getting this one RIGHT!

[LT. TROUBLE] has learned the XXXX, XXXXXX, and XXXXXX*** portions of our duties. Currently, completing his MS degree, he is ready for more challenges. Either deploy him as a Operations Officer or Joint Staffer in the AOR****, and he will succeed. I am expecting him to pin on Captain soon and we need to position him to take on the toughest of missions. Push him to SOS***** as soon as possible so he can focus on executing the mission. I want this guy to eventually go to Air Staff as a seasoned Major, so prepare him for command early!
Wow. Is this the way they write up everyone? I've never been in the military, so I may be wrong, but it sounds to me like this kid is being groomed.

Thing is, he's not even sure if he wants to stay. One of the captains he worked with at Nellis is now a patrol officer in the Las Vegas PD, and is trying to convince him to come to work there.

And, of course, there's this nasty war business. You may have heard something about it. McCain and Lieberman say we're winning it. However, Lt. Trouble, in his duties in the back office at Nellis, was dealing with a Major who was looking for officers to send to the dessert for the next deployment in December. Apparently, the Major was having a bit of tough luck. For every Colonel's positon he needed to fill, he had to ask eight officers, because seven of them would resign their commisions rather than go over there. That's a big loss of leadership. Especially for a war that we're winning.

Perhaps that's why he's being fast-tracked. There's no one left.

By the way: he told me he's '80% sure' that he's going to be deployed again in December.

Major Trouble, indeed.


* Transitional Officers Development Plan.
Major Command. A big-league job.
** Redacted by me. They probably could have been blogged, but I want to be careful about revealing too much.
***Area of Responsibility. Aren't abbreviations great?
****Squadron Officers School. Yes, they are.

My Deepest, Darkest Secret*

Or, Why Am I a Balloon Pirate Which is Really Not That Deep and Dark but Makes a Suckier Subject Line:

In college, my friends Phil, Larry and I produced a TV series called "The Nothing Special." It was a lot of fun, but our ideas always exceeded our capabilities and our means. Which didn't really matter. We were doing something creative. Phil and Larr were TV-Radio majors, and I was an actor. Well, I was an Acting major, as opposed to an acting Major, which is a pro-tem field promotion to a positional operational command which may or may not become a permanent position.

We wrote our sketches by a process known as 'riffing,' a very poor example of which is above. Someone says something, and we ran with it, twisting the words this way and that, looking at if from different angles, trying to 'find the funny.'

One bit that we were working on was a pirate radio station that was run by real pirates.

(I, on occasion, will write stuff that seems incredibly obvious. But I have made the mistake of writing things that are blindingly obvious to ME, but not to others, thus finishing up what I thought was a cogent point or an amusing anectdote and getting a response similar to that of a dog watching a card trick. Even though we all speak the same language, cultural [and perhaps generational] differences do appear. If I explain a blindingly obvious point, this is why.)

Pirate radio stations were high-powered stations that were run in Canada, offshore or in Mexico, thus avoiding FCC licensing and regulations, but still able to reach a large portion of American listening audiences. With the internet, I don't even know if any still exist, but they were a big thing back in 1979, when this story takes place. (Blindingly obvious?)

Where was I? Oh yes. Pirate radio run by real pirates. I have a facility for voices, accents, and dialects, and because I do look a little pirate-y, we were working on a sketch where I was to play Artie Mehartie, from WRDR (say it like a pirate and it's funnier). Anyway, we were riffing on it, figuring out what I would be playing and saying--sea chanties, looting and pillaging ettiquette, the ravishing wench o' the week, stuff like that. This was not the only idea we were working on at the time--we had notebooks filled with sketch ideas, and we would go from one to another whenever we seemed to hit a dry patch. Thirty minutes a week of comedy is a lot of work, especially when you're taking a full course load.

One night we were working at the campus pub (yes, there was a place on campus that served alcohol), where the relentlessly cheerful people who put on relentlessly cheerful school activites were doing something relentlessly cheerful and getting the fuck in the way of what we were doing, so we went back to Phil & Larr's dorm room to work some more. The RC squad had put up a whole bunch of balloons, so I grabbed some on the way back to the room.

So we sat around their dorm room, throwing ideas around. When you're in college the novelty of a helium-filled balloon wears off rather quickly. So, while we were trying to figure out what was going to be in this week's show, I untied a balloon, inhaled, and in my best pirate voice (and I do a pretty damn good one), I said "Give usssss yerrrr ballllooooons!"

Howls of laughter, and thus was born the balloon pirate.

Although it never made it on the show, over the years, whenever we would get together, the balloon pirate would show up.

I haven't seen Larry in 10 years, haven't talked to him in 5. Phil and I have kept in closer contact (of course, him being in LA and me in NY meant it wasn't that easy, but we do what we can). When Phil started blogging, and eventually asked me to be a contributor, I had the feeling that there would be times when I would want to retain as much anonymity as I could (I'm in Al-anon, STBEW's supposedly in AA and NA, and the principle is very strong) because I could see where I might want to reference something in my life to make a point. So, for blogging purposes, the Balloon Pirate was reborn. Besides, it matches my initials.

So that's the story of how the Balloon Pirate came to be. Phil's blog has gone dark, so I no longer post there. It was a political blog, where we would vent our spleen over the crap that the current administration is doing to our country. I've pretty much given up on poliblogging, since it seemed that either folks agreed with me, or disagreed vehemently--no one ever changed their minds, and it resorted to ad hominen attacks. So that's why there's political references in my profile and the subhead. I suppose I could change it, but I don't. I guess it's laziness, but how many of you read that stuff anyhow? Now go get a glass of warm milk, and go to bed.


*This is essentially a copy of an email I sent to a blog buddy asking about the story behind my name. So if you feel like you've read this before, that's why.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Information Dump

Stuff about my life that might be of interest:

  • Youngest son gave up on the carrots. Actually, he broke his promise of 'nothing but carrots' when the corned beef came out. So he's still the traditional family color of ghost white.
  • Daughter is indeed precious and precocious. The artistic director of a local theater group has inquired if she might be interested in appearing in a play this season. The part was written for a 14-year-old, but she said it could be reworked for a younger girl.
  • Two weeks from today the kids and I will be in Las Vegas hanging with Lt. Trouble and his girlfriend. We'll be there until the 12th. I don't know how much blogging I'll be doing from Sin City. Just thought I'd tell you.
  • On the 12th, we will be the other traditional family color: lobster red. In a week, the red skin will peel off, and we'll be back to ghost white again.
  • Sometimes I should be better at telling people stuff. For instance, even though we made these plans two weeks ago, I only told STBEW about it today. To be honest, it didn't occur to me to tell her until yesterday, and so I figured it wouldn't matter if I waited one more day.
  • A very significant step towards making STBEW just plain old EW will occur in the next few days when she's served with a subpoena that will tell her I'm suing for full custody. We had a very amicable joint custody agreement that was written up more than a year ago. I tore it up.
  • Fecal matter will impact upon the air-moving appliance when she reads it.
  • I haven't been a very good blog-buddy these recent weeks. I apologize for not commenting more on your posts. I do read them fairly regularly, though. I just don't have the time to add anything right now.
  • I've been told I'm a steampunk. I'm not 100% sure I am, but I do know I want this keyboard:
  • You can read about how the dude made it here.
  • I don't know which I would like better: to have the time and the tools to make it myself, or to be wealthy enough to have someone make it for me.
  • Actually, I think I'd like both
  • yeharr

Monday, March 19, 2007

Good Times

Hope your weekend was good. Mine was.

Went to a Saint Patrick's day party. I think it was my first ever. I've never been much for this particular holiday, what with most of my heritage coming from Poland and Germany. I'm not much of a drinker any more, and even when I was, this had a bit of an 'amateur hour' feel to it. Besides, I tend to ignore holidays that don't have presents, turkey, or both.

But this year, Saint Paddy's fell on a Saturday, and moreover, on a Saturday that I didn't have any freelance commitments, so I went over to Nancy's place with the kids. Nancy's half Polish, half Irish, but she tends to favor her Irish side, especially on days like this. She lives right up the street. When the kids get home from school they call me, and they call Nancy, and let us both know they're home. If there's an emergency, they call Nancy, who can be there in two minutes if needs be.* Plus, I've worked out a sometimes babysitting gig with her: she watches the kids some evenings in exchange for tickets to upcoming hockey games.** Sometimes she watches them on off nights and I get her ducats for the next home game, sometimes she takes the kids to the game on the night they play.

Anyways, Nancy has a big shindig every Saint Patrick's day, and we were invited, so off we went. It's a fairly hard-core Irish crowd, with some of the older folks being first generation--or even off the boat. There was lots of Guinness, soda bread, and corned beef and cabbage. But before the food was brought out, Nancy asked a number of people to read poems from different Irish poets. She even asked one of her younger neices to read, and my daughter volunteered to recite a poem.

Or one of the poems that she has written. It could have been either.

I wasn't around when she volunteered to do this. Nancy announced it to the crowd as 'a poem she'd written,' but she sometimes gets minor details wrong. Hell, she sometimes gets major details wrong too. And while I was proud of my daughter for volunteering, I was a bit worried.

My nine-year-old daughter is a poet. She's been writing poetry for a few years now, and we've read a few poets together as well. She's a big fan of Ogden Nash. She has a number of poems that she's written that she has memorized, and a few that we've written together, and these are fine little dittys.

But she also knows a few whose origins are somewhere in the murky past. I believe, more or less, in age-appropriate language and reading materials for my kids, but I will on occasion call up a couplet that might not please everybody, especially some stodgy old folks with provincial ideas about childrearing. Nothing that she knew was in the 'There once was a man from Nantucket' range, but one of the couplets she knows is this one:

Spring has sprung
Fall has fell
Winter's here
And it's colder than
A harmless enough thing, but perhaps not the most appropriate thing to come out of a nine-year-old's mouth after a few stanzas of Yeats and Heaney.

So it was with a bit of trepidation that I listened to the readings, waiting for her turn. The place was packed, and Nancy had brought up all of the readers to the front of the room. There was no way I would be able to go and talk to her about her poem without making it look exactly like what it was: a father vetting his daughter's choice of poetry. And I wasn't going to do that.

Verses and stanzas proceeded apace, and with a flourish, announced my daughter as the pentultimate poetry presenter.

And my beautiful daughter, with a smile on her face, recited a little ditty:

There once was an Irish leprechaun
That everyone thought was so much fun.
But everyone, both young and old
Kept on trying to get his gold.
That is, until Saint Patrick's day
When the leprechaun gave his gold away.

James Joyce it ain't, but it's pretty damned good for a third-grader. Especially when she delivered it in a dead-on Irish brogue.

After I hugged her and gushed over her for a while, I asked about the poem--mostly, because I had never heard it before. With a shrug, she explained it to me: "It's just something I wrote in the first grade. I had to do it in a brogue to make the first stanza work."

So if you heard a strange popping sound coming from the Great Lakes area early Saturday evening, that was me bursting with pride. Plus, there were a number of cute women there who just fawned over her (and me, collaterally), so that was a bonus.

In case you were wondering what my son was doing during all of this, he was consuming about a pound and a half of carrots. That was just about all he ate on Saturday, after he read that eating a lot of carrots could turn your skin orange.

And I can't tell you how glad I was that it didn't take effect in the middle of a room full of Irish Catholics.

My son, the genius.


*My office is a twenty-minute drive from my house; she's a writer who works from her home.

**Working broadasts for the local hockey club is one of my more regular freelance gigs; and part of the deal is tickets.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


There will be no kittens.

STBEW is back at the halfway house she first lived at when she got out of the clinic two and a half years ago. There's nothing that says we must always be moving forward, but part of me says the past thirty months have been a big waste of time. I know that's not true, because I can look back at what I was like back then, and I know that I've come a long way. And maybe this time recovery will stick for her. I wouldn't bet on it, though.

Nor will I bet against it.

As angry as I am at her right now, I don't think I hate STBEW. I know I don't want to see her, hear her, or even breathe air that's been near her, but I don't wish her ill. Well, no serious, long-term illness, at least.

Do you know what I want? I want to stop time, and pull out an Al Gore-style power point presentation that outlines in excruciating detail all of the shit that she's done to me. All of the pain that she's put me through. And I want to put electrodes into her brain, and flick a button to let her feel all the anguish that I've had to go through because of the actions of someone else. Specifically, her. And I want to keep her sober, because I was sober. I had to be, in order to deal with all the crap. There was no escape for me. I couldn't afford to be selfish.

That's what I want.

And maybe a new car. I want one of those, too.

Oh, and I got a call from current ex boyfriend #2--the one she got drunk with. Apparently, she still has clothes over at his house, and he was instructed by STBEW via current ex #1 to drop her clothes off at my place. Of course, she never asked me if this was acceptible to me. Par for the course.

But I'm glad that she's back in the halfway house. It lets me know where she is, which will make it easier for the divorce papers to be served. I've gotten that ball rolling pretty well, although I know that she's going to fight the full custody thing. Even though she'll have no chance of getting custody, she'll pull out every trick she knows to cost me money.

I'm girding my loins.

In other news: the kids and I will be flying out to Las Vegas in two weeks to visit Lt. Trouble. We'll be there for eight days over spring break. He's very excited to have me out there, and is bugging me to give me a list of things I want to do.

Here's what I have so far:
  • Sit by the pool and relax
Have I missed anything?

More cool news from Vegas: Tomorrow the El-Tee will be leading his squad in PT. He does that all the time, but tomorrow, one of the guys in his squad will be Terrence Howard, who's getting into character for his upcoming role as Jim Rhodes in the Iron Man movie.* The top brass wanted to make sure he got a good workout, so they picked my son. Yes, I'm bragging.

Time for bed.


*For those who aren't cool enough to be Marvel Geeks: Jim Rhodes is the Air Force test pilot that inventor Tony Stark hires, ostensibly to be his pilot/bodyguard, but he also was Iron Man for a while when Stark was battling his alcoholism. Now, Rhodes has a similar suit as Stark, and goes by War Machine.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Because There's More to Life than Just Bitching About My Wife...

New snark over at Celery of Humanity. Go, look, and feel slightly superior.


Sunday, March 11, 2007


The kids are all excited. Mom's going to go get kittens!



The woman who last week was begging me to bring her toilet paper wants to take the kids to get kittens. The woman who is freeloading off of a guy who threw all her stuff in the trash one month ago is going to get kittens. The woman who stole my checkbook, and on four separate occasions forged my name on said checks in order to buy crack is going to get kittens. The woman who has no car, no job, no house, and (at least up to and including last Sunday) nothing with which to wipe her ass is going to get kittens.

And she wants to take my kids with her.



They thought she was going to take them this weekend to get the kittens. They kept asking me when they were going to go with her to get them. When were they going? I told them that I had no control over this--that she hadn't informed me as to when she wanted to do this.

And, of course, I didn't mention that if she had enough fucking money to buy fucking kittens, plus pay to get them spayed or neutered, plus buy the fucking kitten food and the fucking litter box and spend all the other fucking money that you need to spend on kittens to keep them alive, then why the fuck wasn't she paying me the fucking money she fucking stole from me?

I didn't mention that. I don't even know if I'd mention it to her. Why should I? She knows she stole from me. Lucky you, though--you get to read it.

However, if she does call and ask about taking them out there, I will tell her that, should she suddenly find herself unable to support the kittens, which by my reckoning should happen immediately, under no circumstances will they come into this house.


Does she think that getting kittens will somehow make her sane?


Does she think that getting kittens will somehow repair the damage she's doing?


Does she think?




Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Sorry if I've been a bit distant recently. I've been a bad blogbuddy and I apologize. I've been kindasorta busy these past few days. After a month of little or nothing to do at work, everyone wants everything all at once. Clients who blew me off in January and February are now calling, wanting me to drop everything and take care of their project right now.

On top of that, the kids didn't have school yesterday because of the extreme cold, so I had to go to work, firewire a bunch of projects onto a laptop, and I worked at the dining room table until midnight--taking time off for things like playing with them, making dinner, and going to the gym, of course.

On top of on top of that is the paperwork I have to fill out for the divorce. I need to give them my net worth. Sheesh. They want to know how much I spend per month on toothpaste before they help me divorce my wife. Actually, I've been working a program to find out a lot of this stuff anyway, so I had already started some of this. It's just a drag filling it out.

And STBEW is pretending to be sane again. She's back with the other current ex-boyfriend--the one who dumped all of her stuff out onto the curb and poured shit-filled cat litter onto it.

Or, as I like to call him, the more stable of the two.

I took the kids to see her last Sunday. They were there for a bit more than an hour. The kids were quiet and unsure as I drove them to the place where she's staying, but as soon as they saw her, they ran joyfully up to her.

It broke my heart to see that. Because she is their mom, and they love her, and she loves them. And I will have to keep them far more seperated than either generation wants in order to keep them safe. And that sucks and it hurts and I'm so angry at her for putting us all in a situation like this. A situation where I have to be the 'bad' guy and regulate her contact with them.

And I believe she's going to fight it. She's going to fight against my full custody. She'll take it personally, and do everything in her power to prevent it from happening. She won't win, but she will drain my reserves down to nothing.

But that's ok. It really is. It has to be, because there's no other options.

So, I'm whelmed right now. No one ever uses 'whelmed' anymore. I'm bringing it back. It means 'to be completely submerged.'

Once upon a time, the wordguy in me railed against the usage of 'overwhelmed:' If you're completely submerged if you're whelmed, I asked, then it would be impossible to be more completely submerged. It's like something being whiter than white. Or tasting more like orange juice than orange juice. Or being north of north.

But then I got overwhelmed, and shut the fuck up.

I won't let that happen again. I'll be fine with my whelming. I'll deal with the stuff I have to do, and know that soon I will break the surface.

In the meantime, I think we all need a smile. So I'm posting one of my alltime favorite clips. This is the trailer for Comedian, a documentary that followed Jerry Seinfeld right after he ended his series, and decided to dump all of his old material. This clip is apropos of nothing--not even the movie it's shilling.

Share and enjoy.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Other Shoe

I've got a lawyer, and I'm going to sue for full custody.

It won't really change anything from what's going on right now.

I keep getting messages from Dave, the current/ex boyfriend she stayed with at the beginning of February. Right after she got drunk for the first time in 20 months. Right before she started smoking crack again after two and a half year.

I'm not sure, but I think she's stopped drinking. Because it ate into the time and money she spends on crack.

Dave and his friends bought $40 worth of candy from my daughter for a fundraising drive. He's been calling about getting the candy. He thinks I'm withholding it from him. Like I give a shit about that.

Despite my frequent promises to deliver the candy to him when she gets it, he still calls. Turns out he's more interested in giving me updates on what STBEW is doing.

Like I give a shit about that.

Actually, I do care. Partially because it gives me an idea of her whereabouts. So far, she has not come to our house. I don't know how much longer that will last. She's desperate. She's sold her television, and everything else she could get her hands on for crack. Including the guitar we got her for Christmas.

I've also gotten tidbits from her sisters and the older kids. Apparently, she's hit them up for money, too. Some she's told that she needs it for food (Dave told me she took all her foodstamp money and cashed it in for crack), others she's told that her dealer is holding her hostage and won't let her go unless she gives him money.

She also calls the kids. She usually waits until she thinks I'm out of the house. I've told them not to answer the phone when I'm not here. So far they haven't. I don't think they like the calls.

She hasn't approached me about anything since early last week, when I got two calls: the first was to ask if she could do her laundry here. The second was to ask if she could move in. No on both counts.


I do care. This is a woman I loved, that I lived with for nearly twenty years. It hurts to watch her destroy herself.

Dave called last night, telling me of the latest things she's done. He pleaded with me to help her. Sorry. It's not that I don't want to help her. I can't help her. There's absolutely nothing I can do. The only thing that will help her is for her to get so sick and desperate that she will have two choices: recovery or death.

Like I said at the top of this post: I have a lawyer on retainer. I have a sad feeling that most of that retainer fee will be returned.

I have a sad feeling that I will be a widower before I get divorced.