¡España Here I Come!

I’ve dreampt of this day for a long time, ever since I started taking Spanish classes in High School. Well, it’s almost here. Today I fly to Lisbon, Portugal with some other American students, and on Wednesday we all catch a bus to Seville, Spain!

We have a huge trip planned and only 16 days to do it, but I’m sure it will be wonderful. The grin on my face is worth noting right now.

When I get back my mom will be one day from arriving, and we’re then going to Paris and Vienna, maybe more. I’m excited about that too!

Have a nice time everyone; I’ll post updated when I can.

It’s not a coincidence.

Well, no curse is complete without evidence: something justifiable of its existence. Until then it is just a few coincidences as stated before.

Part three also belongs to me, and now that the founding tempo has been discovered it should have been no surprise that 2 years later I was in the 8th grade and playing contact sports when it struck. Football season was over and spring had started. Of course that happens earlier than normal in Texas. We’ll have tall grass, flowers, and the trees will be fully in bloom while even places like St. Louis have brown grass and not a leaf in sight.

Since winter was over the coaches had us outside the weight-room more frequently to run and in this case wrestle. There were different styles of wrestling, some we’re used to seeing and others that I had, as a newly become teenager, never seen. My birthday was only a couple months before and in January 1994 I turned 13 years old. I was a year ahead in my studies over most kids and since my birthday came late in the year even more than that. Now you can imagine a kid one and a half years younger than some of his peers playing football. Well, I was smaller in stature to say the least; and even today there are 8th graders much taller than me. Guess it will always be that way.

So, the wrestling style of the day was “quick pin” and the goal was to get the shoulders of the other guy on the ground and the match was over without a count. The winner stayed in the circle and the loser switched with someone in line. It made for very quick paced play and the observers had a lot of fun watching.

I had gone a few times and wasn’t doing so well. I weighed less than the other kids even though they separated us into different weight groups I was still smaller than most in my own. Then it was Jake’s turn. Jake was just a normal country boy 4H Club and such. I think he even rode in a rodeo or two as he got older. But he was best known for his cattle which seemed to win more often than lose in the local shows. Those cattle even earned him a scholarship to Texas A&M University which he wisely accepted.

Well, Jake had been wrestling calves when I’d been climbing trees and was a little more prepared for such battles than I. Not to mention the several inches and pounds he had on me. Along with turning 13 that year it was also the first time to step on a scale and see more than 100 pounds. That was a while ago!

Well, not to draw it out anymore, when the whistle was blown I found his weight thrown at me and somehow my hands trapped behind my back – the starting position. He was quick! The match lasted less than a second, and it was my turn again to leave the ring. Only there was some difficulty. My arm wasn’t doing so well. Getting onto my feet I noticed that my fingers were a lot closer to my elbow than they’d ever been before. It looked like during that one second wrestling match I had grown an entirely new wrist. Oddly enough it didn’t hurt in the least. I didn’t notice it and wouldn’t even have known except for the look of terror my coach gave me. Looking down I saw what was the problem.

So he walked me to the nurse’s office where I was given a splint, and my mom was called to come pick me up. We went to the family doctor. He said come back at noon but meet him at the emergency room to take x-rays, set the break, and make a cast. So I had a few hours to kill being that school hadn’t even officially started yet for the day because Athletics started before and went through first period.

I laid in my bed in the new house mom had bought just that spring after graduating with a Masters and getting a job at the University as a computer programmer, not Spanish teacher like she originally thought. I remember watching Jeopardy and something amazing happened. Several of the categories of answers were actually things that I had been studying and knew. More than a few I got right which cheered me up immensely. Had I not been home at that time this would never have happened. Odd huh?

Now those of us that frequent an emergency room can probably remember when they started asking on a scale of 1 to 10 how much pain you are in. That actually happened a few years after my incident, but had they asked me that day I could/would have honestly said zero. I wasn’t even on the scale. The only sensation I remember was the odd feeling of not being able to move my wrist and poking at it was strange with my other hand due to the shape of the bones. I can honestly say that I never remember any pain with that broken forearm./p>

Here’s how I can say that. After the x-rays the doctor determined how to set the bones and took me to a room to prepare. He gave me an injection, which I found very odd. Normally bones don’t require medicine. But this was no normal medicine; maybe he was trying something new, but out of all the times I’ve been to the doc this hasn’t happened a second time. What he gave me was some sort of amnesiac drug designed to make me forget for about 20 minutes whatever was going to happen. According to my mom who was in the room, I was wide awake and intelligible the entire time from setting it to wrapping it up with the new cast. I gained awareness during the second x-ray and asked the doc if he was going to set it or just take x-rays all day.

Mom tells me that I didn’t cry out or anything while maintaining a conversation the whole time. I’ll never know for sure. I healed up quickly, almost as quickly as it was broken, and in 4 weeks was playing football in the street as Mom pulled up and made her feelings known that I shouldn’t be. But the doctor said it was ok and that was good enough for me.

So, now 3 times in less than 4 years, once every 2 something broke on my body. This was beginning to be more than just a series of coincidences as we shall soon see.

I’m proud to say that a few years later in 2003 I saw Jake again. He was still several inches taller than me but didn’t have that weight advantage as before. We were in a country music bar waiting for Joe Nichols to come on. He was with that same girlfriend he’d had for years. The kind of girl that wears pants so tight you’d have to peel them off like a banana; either that or they were just painted on. We hadn’t spent much time together in High School, but I’m sure he remembered the incident well because when Jake recognized me at that country bar he got real timid. He walked up and shook my hand with the kind of look on his face like “are we cool”. I let him know that we were in fact cool and I had never held a grudge. Besides he was just unlucky to be an actor in something over which he had no control. Good guy and probably a successful farmer somewhere in East Texas by now.

Part 2 Curse sets a tempo.

Part two of the curse also involves me; I was the accident prone child as we all can expect. It was a little over two years later, and I’d been promoted to the 6th grade. We lived, the three of us, in Family Housing on the University campus. My mom had decided to seek a bachelors degree in Spanish about the same time as the divorce and this was the best place for us to live.

It was good for the kids too. The New Raguet Apartments as they were called was full of families and lots of kids. Many were babies but many were my age and even older. I can remember high school kids who seemed so much older than us at the time living there. They weren’t big apartments and there were sometimes problems. Being that there were so many kids we loved to play together. The apartment complex was set up into 3 courtyards with 4 buildings each in a square facing a central area. Kids from different courtyards played with each other but there was always a little rivalry and sometimes more than that.

We often got into fights. No one got hurt but that proximity often caused problems. Now that’s not the point of this story, just to set up the situation. These apartments were adjacent to the University’s football stadium and practice fields. I can remember playing for hours with kids of all ages football on the grass practice fields either until it got too dark to continue or someone from the coaching staff asked us to leave. We always did politely. There were occasions when we’d play on the main astroturf field too. Sometimes during football season the practice fields were occupied by the team and we had to find another place. Where but logically the “Main field” as we affectionately called it.

Now this main field was no ordinary field for pre teenager kids to have access too. It was inside a full blown Texas State University Football Stadium with seating for upwards of 30,000 and was taken care of like you can imagine a retiree takes care of his flower garden, or my grandfather his lawn. We loved to play in the stadium. Because of the stadium seating and the field’s position well below ground level we could only see sky and bleachers. The walls were steep and perfect for sliding down on a skateboard or on the occasional frost or freeze with something a little more slippery.

We loved this stadium for many reasons. One was that there was always people around. It was only used for Football games or Track competitions. Later on as I got older and joined the High School marching band I realized that this stadium was the location for all marching band competitions in the eastern part of Texas. For 5 days every fall bands put on shows that are as memorable today as they were then. Of course being the home team we always put on a good show. So, this place was the setting of many an adventure.

One more thing, besides a foot ball stadium we were often blessed with the equipment to host a track meet. This meant high jump, Hurdles, Pole Vault, and many more toys. Each of those jumps came with pads for landing, and one can only imagine the hours we spend playing king of the mountain on those pads. The size of a bed room, we could wrestle on them, do flying leaps without fear of injury, and I know of more than a few people that had their first kiss under the covers of those pads. Sometimes they’d be wet with rain or hot from the sun, but they were always enjoyable when put out, and a better playground is hard to find.

Well, that’s also the setting for the second part of our family curse. As my band director always said, “the first beat of a song means nothing; the second one sets the tempo.” That second beat could some immediately after or in this case 2 years later. And that’s the tempo we’re still following.

So, this time it wasn’t as dramatic. We were horsing around as always on those pads that gave our childhoods many hours of wonderful experiences. Horsing around of course meant wrestling and jumping like all kids do. Well, as can be expected just being myself I caught my little toe on the edge of one of those pads and bent it in a way no toe should ever be bent. Immediately I fell down in pain. Now please believe me when I say I have a high tolerance for pain; we’ll see that later. That said, this toe thing was unbelievable. I knew that second that it was broken. There was no pain I’d ever experienced that compared except for an ear infection, and that’s one pain I wouldn’t wish on anybody.

Well, imagine I can’t stand; I’m 50 feet below the surface of the ground and about 1/4 a mile from home. How do I get there? Well, crawling with my one good foot, my butt, and my hands I pushed myself up that steep hill to find my bicycle. Oh great, not only do I have to make it home, but I have to take the bike too! It turned out to be a lifesaver because I was able to put pressure on my heel and didn’t have to crawl home. There was no walking.

Mom was there when I got home, and she helped me into the second story apartment. Of course I crawled backwards up the stairs to get there. After an hour or so we figured the pain wasn’t going away, and if it hurt me it must be real. So off to the hospital. Well, as we all know emergency rooms are for emergencies and we waited, and we waited. No big deal except I was in a lot of pain. Finally we had x-rays taken and sure enough it was broken but in its proper place. The doc taped it with some cotton between the small and second toe and sent me home. He told me to not walk on it if I didn’t have to, but there was nothing else to do – toes just aren’t fixable.

The next few weeks I limped around, and even for several years after I on occasion felt pain in that toe. Believe it or not, that was by far the least serious but most painful event of this thing we call our family curse. Of course I’m speaking for myself; I’m not the only one involved as we will see soon enough – but I’d put that up there with any of them.

Just finished my German final exam

The teacher was looking over it as I packed my things and left.  She smiled at me which seemed to indicate that I did well.  Will know before too long.

One Physics test and a big lab report is all I have left.  My other 4 classes have already been determined.

Then Spain, Portugal again, Morocco.  When Mom gets here Paris, Vienna and more; then back to Italy.  I’m already making plans for next semester too.

Believe in curses?

It’s a silly question of course, but somehow throughout the history of man the idea of a curse came about, and ever since the there have been people who believed in them.  Something happened recently that brought that idea into my head, and it’s time to talk about it.

Ever since I was a kid I’ve done things that would be considered dangerous.  You guys know the motorcycle side of me, but I’ve climbed trees in the rain, jumped off of roofs, and other things much less glamorous.  Anyway, it didn’t start with me I’m sure, probably my dad, but I would have been too young to remember.  At the age of 9, I’m 26 now it things started to shape up.

It was the last day of school, 1990 – only a couple months after my parents divorce.  I had just passed the 4th grade, and my dad was picking me up for summer vacation.  As part of the settlement he had custody of us for half the summer.  We lived in Nacogdoches, Texas, my mom, brother, and I.  And Dad came from my birthplace about 45 miles away.  He was a little late, so Aaron (my brother) and I jumped in the truck and learned where we were going.  Dad was doing a big kitchen remodelling down in Houston and we’d spend the next week there helping him tear out the cabinets and putting in the new ones he had already built in his shop.  The trip was about 120 miles, and in those time the national speed limit was still 55mpn.  It wasn’t a long trip, and since it was summer we got there with daylight left.  First was to the house or jobsite to check in and unload the trailer.  The next day would be work.

Since there was time for a round of golf he threw the clubs in the back of the truck and took us with him.  Dad managed to find a game with some Houston locals, and we rented a cart to keep up.  That was a little abnormal as we usually walked, all 3 of us, when he took us to the golf course, which was often.  Anyway, about the 6th hole he was pulling up to his ball, and I being a rowdy kid was hanging on the back where the second golf club bag would normally be.  I jumped off after he stopped, but evidently he had parked too close to the ball and decided to back up… over me.  I don’t remember if he drove over my leg once or twice (to pull forward again) due to the panic that ensued, but my shorts were ripped, and my leg hurt.

He asked if I could stand, and I couldn’t.  My dad is a frugal guy and often more selfish than is healthy; he wanted to continue the golf game.  After a few minutes of my complaining it soaked in that we wouldn’t be able to finish and he took us back to the car.  That night we stayed at my aunt’s house, his half sister, and they made me as comfortable as possible with pillows and Tylenol.  In the morning the pain hadn’t gone yet, but it was time for work.  I was carried to the truck, and we headed to the job site.  As it turned out the man for whom my father was working was a doctor in a nearby hospital.  He insisted we have x-rays and even offered to have the fee waived if my dad would just take me.  So we went and the results were as predicted.  I had broken my femur a couple of inches above the knee.  It was a bad place for a break because of the nearby growth plate.  If I didn’t have proper medical attention that leg might be stunted for growth.

Well, cast and all I waited the next few days till the job was finished.  Afterward we went home, but I wouldn’t be staying there.  The middle of a National Forrest was no place for a 9 year old child to be on crutches.  I’d be stuck inside all day.  So instead of spending the summer with my dad as planned, my grandparents picked us up so we could spend the time with them.  I still remember the trip: my foot extended straight on the back seat; Aaron between my grandmother and grandfather in the front seat (one of those monstrous Oldsmobiles with room for 6 people and more).

On that ride, which due partially to the distance and speed limit took much longer than it does today came a rain which can only be described as a turd floater or frog strangler.  Now, my grandfather was a competent driver, steady and smooth, but he had lost vision in his right eye while spending time malnourished in a prison camp during WWII, and his other wasn’t top notch either.  The rain was so bad that cars were pulling off on both sides of the interstate highway and hoping not to be rear ended by those idiots still moving down the road.  The kind of rain that motorcyclists love, danger to the extreme.  Well we finally did make it which was the beginning of a summer with my grandparents: my one and only.

My mom was a student at the time and had the summers off.  She had signed on as a camp counselor at a camp for Boys and Girls Club.  She’d be the lifeguard at the pool or lake depending on what the day called for.  As part of her job she bargained for Aaron and I to be able to come and stay for free during the weeks.  This was of course the plan for after we had spent our half the summer with my dad.  That all changed.  I was in Dallas with my grandparents, and Aaron, 7 at the time, was not going to be with my dad who was currently in bad standing all around went to the summer camp alone.

Some good things did come out of that time though.  I spent the next six weeks getting very close to my grandmother, and till this day I feel closer to her than most all of my family.  She’s the only grandparent I have left really, and I call her frequently just to talk.  Besides the time we spent together and all the times I got to see my aunts, uncles, and cousins that lived in Dallas too something else really special happened.  My grandfather had recently retired and so we were more people in that house than had been during the day for many years.  I think they weren’t used to me or any child being around for that long and so they bought me a Nintendo Entertainment System.

This was big!  My brother was the one playing at the lake with other kids every day while I had to sit at home with my elderly grandparents, but he was jealous of me.  On Saturday afternoons Mom and Aaron would come to stay with us and I’d have someone to compete against in our new found form of entertainment.  Grandma got better over the time I spent there, but I played so much she never really had a chance.

During that time we did see a specialist, and I would be ok with no full body cast as the doctor initially recommended.  After those first 6 weeks he cut off the green fiberglass which was an immense pleasure to me.  My leg from hip down had been itching for a long time and my heel was bothering me from the pressure of the cast.  I was too week to walk, but the doctor wanted  me to begin putting weight on it and less on the crutches, which by the way I had gotten so good at that I could run circles around my grandmother and beat anyone up the stairs who dared challenge me.  Well, the replacement splint didn’t stay on much, and in just a couple more weeks I was back to my old self running and jumping.

Thanks very much to pressure from my mom the next time we saw that doctor I walked into his office and with full flexibility.  Kids sure do bounce back quick.  The doc was so surprised that he cancelled the next visit and told me to go spend the last two weeks of summer with my mom and brother as summer camp.  So reluctantly leaving the NES in Dallas I finally did get to swim in the lake, and there are still campfire stories and memories that stick with me to this day.

Now, this story with a sad beginning and happy ending seems like just another story from one’s childhood, but it turns into a full blown curse as we will soon see.

I found Oreos!

I did!  They come in snack packs of 4 and aren’t cheap, but today I had oreos with milk.  Yummy.  Something dissapointed me alittle though, they float.  I’m not used to that.  They also don’t absorb milk like the ones in the US.

Anyway I’m extatic.  Not only did I find them, but also I found rib-eye steaks for a resonable price.  They’re actually the first real steaks I have found here.  What I’ve seen before are cuts of meat that are beef but have no fat and thus little flavor.  They’re not cheap either.  Speaking of that, last week I found real ground beef.  It was a treat. I made tacos for the first time that weren’t 55% pork and they didn’t smell bad either.  Ground pork just isn’t the same.

And lastly I found my favorite wine.  It comes from Spain and is delicious!  Now that I know where the steaks and wine are I can have someone over for dinner.

It was a great day!

National Health Care

Someone I know was talking about the evils of nationalized healthcare worrying about the extra cost in Taxes. I only have my experiences to share, and did so proudly.

I went to a German doctor the other day for a checkup and referal – walk in. I was in and out in less than 1 hour.

I took my insurance card and 10 Euros. Now I can go back anytime for 3 months without paying another dime.

Next week I’ll get my eyes checked, from the referral, for free and then the dentist. It’s been years since I’ve been to either.

I pay 58 Euros per month for this coverage that takes care of me in almost any circumstance, and if I need medicine or anything it’s so cheap.

Nationalized healthcare isn’t necessarily worse than private, in fact there are more positives than negatives. Now, if you need to see a specialist it may be a little more hassle, but hopefully I won’t have to.