Long post warning: You has it.

November 2nd.  No point in posting the picture of my alleged moustache, ’cause there’s hardly anything there unless I have *just* finished shaving with a Bic, and I don’t have a camera or the patience to even bother getting anything approaching a macro setting for some hairs on my lip.  Also, even though I initially thought I was going to go for some sorta triple-threat thing and blog every day AND grow a stache for Movember AND ALSO PLUS cycle to work every day, I can’t, ’cause my back tire has a slow(ish?) leak and is currently flat.  Yes, the back time with the kevlar tube guard thing that’ll stop anything sharp from getting anywhere near it unless that sharp thing happens to be on the road, I guess.  Oh!  Story about the crazy who jumped my bike last week.  I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow okay?  Okay.  Coffee?  What coffee, YOU shut up.  Ahem.  Starting now.

[Monty Python Man At Desk]: Good evening.

I like to think I type gibberish like that because it’s witty, somehow, but mostly it’s just that I’ve found that typing damned near anything will get me going off on some tangent, usually with way too many parentheses, and far too few periods.  Especially dangerous at work, lemme just say.

Is it a tangent if I wasn’t going anywhere in the first place, or just mental bumbering?

I remember reading once that one of the signs (not necessarily a warning sign, mind you) of Asperger Syndrome is “atypical use of language.”  This pretty-much includes anyone I’ve ever enjoyed spending more than about an hour around.  Whether it’s friends who enjoy odd sentence structures, or those that use of words that haven’t been in a newspaper or magazine in… oh, maybe a century, or just about anything by Soul Coughing’s front man, Mike Doughty

(and then, instead of continuing to write, I just went out bomping around on the ye mighty ‘net, looking for good examples of why I like Doughty’s stuff, and instead of finding one thing I found about eight and then went looking for a track he did with another guy who normally does music I’m not actually that into but thought that maybe all y’all would be a little more interested in his lesser-known…)

Whoo, lookit that little brain try to skitter away from what it doesn’t wanna do, huh?  Flip the lights on and watch ’em scatter.

Here’s what I’m not saying:  I’ve been thinking about death today.  No, that’s not true.  Not death.  Not even sipping tea and watching ferryman coming for us.  Just thinking about the grandfather figure I mentioned yesterday.  Ace.  He was one of those mythical creatures in my life that gained the less-than-heavy-enough title “Friend of the Family.”  He was a old dude who was a friend and coworker of my mom and step-but-not-really-since-they-married-years-after-I-moved-out dad.  {Imagine a ricochet sound, as I jump to the top of this post and type what you THOUGHT was the first paragraph, but actually the seventh, which ends at the phrase “Good evening.”}

Cool.  Brain doesn’t wanna go there.  Check that out.  Pyeerommm….

Here’s the short version: Ace, an old friend of the family, and, as he would put it “A good shit,” showed me that me playing with computers was something that was possibly a legitimate thing I could do as a job.  Turned out he was right, of course, but before I ever got to be enough of an adult to spend time doing these sorts of things, he died.  I don’t know how to tell his part of my story.  I had a C64, he had a C64, but when he got a C128, and then later a PC, he and I would sit around trying to figure out what we could make these things do.  I’m pretty sure he’s one of the first people I knew who owned a “pc.” annnnd he was a friend, ’cause he would sometimes swear around me, and there was no “Whoops I swore in front of the kid” moment.  He knew that at twelve, I’d heard swearing before, but he also knew that I’d mostly heard it from the kids at school, who had no sense of tone, timing, or delivery.  He would swear with gusto, like he meant it, and like it was okay.  It was fun, it was joyous, it was powerful.  Not everything that contained force has to be ugly or mean, his swearing said.

He and his wife were crazy hippie bastards who’d gotten old, but were still active and still fighting the good fight.  I think Marge may have been a Raging Granny at one point, but don’t quote me on that.  She may have been “A” Raging Granny, but not necessarily “A Raging Granny.”

Fuck it, there’s no short version of Ace’s story, so lemme just tell you my favourite story of Ace, even though I have zero first-hand experience of it, and was told that he always felt really bad about what happened (it’s okay: Ace stays a Good Guy through the whole thing, you don’t have to start reading through your fingers or anything).

Ace had a daughter (or was it two?) and she was grown and out of the house, but came home one day to visit and let herself in.  Ace came home and when she stepped out of one of the bedrooms and spoke to him, he was so surprised that he turned around, bringing both hands up and then down in a sort of air-traffic-controller-guy (with the orange cones) move, hitting her in both collarbones at once, breaking them (or maybe it was just one).  There was something about military training at some point in his younger years.  Something about it all coming back in that split second, when he heard a footstep and a voice behind him he wasn’t expecting, in his own home, when he knew his wife wasn’t in the house.

Something about hearing that story for the first time (when I was still a kid, maybe 14 or so) made me see, in crystal clarity that adults are humans who have lives we didn’t know about.  That parents are humans.  I knew that, of course.  They were people with past lives.  I knew that too.  They were people who’d maybe learned things they hadn’t used in a long long time.  I don’t think I’d really known that.  I just assumed that everyone went to school and then to work, and what they did day in and day out was the culmination of everything they’d learned so far from DNA up to that afternoon.

I came to the slow realization that sometimes people learn things they maybe didn’t want to use in the first place, and maybe never wanted to use again if they could help it.  Left me wondering if this six-foot-something gangly guy with a huge rockstar smile and tinted glasses had at one time been a bad mutha, and had maybe done things he had never quite healed from.  That he had pains that were more than just the limp that I was always told was from some of his many motorcycle accidents of his youth.

He also, without ever a word between us, showed me what a broken heart looks like when you spend your whole life with the person you love most in the world, and then they get older just slightly faster than you do.  He aged fast then.  He was still in there, still driving behind his eyes, but he didn’t have that same spark.  That same fight.  The old crazy hippie bastard who’d marched in peace rallies and swore with grace and warmth had kinda gone out of him.

Yeah, no, there it is.  That’s it.  The fight had gone out of him.  His “military presence” was gone.  He was an old man now.  Old and sitting in a Tim Hortons, having a coffee, by himself.  Thinking about things.  He was still teaching at the College (or the University, or whatever they hell they were calling it that month), and he was teaching old folks about computers.  20 years later, and he’d taking all the stuff he and I had cobbled together about what we thought about computers, and turned that into the end of his career.  Helping the little white haired grandmothers NOT send hundreds of thousands of dollars to Nigerian scammers, or something.  Helping them take whatever gumption they had left and get it online.

I only saw him for a few minutes, but he caught me up really quick on what he was doing.  Folks my age would call themselves techs, nerds, or geeks, but not Ace.  He was “still teaching.”  I got to introduce him to the woman who would later become my wife, and I could see him light up a little at that.  He could read in me that I was happy, and that I was full of all the fire and brimstone and alarmingly deep focus on a topic that he’d had when he was starting out way back when.  He knew I’d found love that’d keep me going until I was old, too.

He died less than a year later, I think.  Never really got to say goodbye.  Don’t think I could have, given the chance.  Wouldn’t have wanted to put him on the spot like that.  I wrote him in my head as a character for a story my buddy Rick and I came up with a few years later, and one that Arwen wrote a chapter for (but it didn’t include Ace).  He was the first line of my version of the same story.  In it, he was a fence for some sorta futuristic information pawnshop, hauling ill-gotten data around between buyer, seller, and thief, and cop.  He’d been caught in the middle of all of it one time too many, and the deal had gone wrong, but he hadn’t disconnected from the technology.  He’d hidden away the last little bit of what they’d come for deep in his mind, and then exported himself into a system that he’d knew our heroes would look through for clues.

He’d passed the torch, expecting us to… no, demanding that we pick up the fight.  That we understood the weapons, the dangers, and the loss of what was to come, but didn’t let any of that leave us standing in the middle of the room when the bad guys came back to clear out the rest of his memories.

Was that what I wanted to write?  Who knows.

Felt like that ricochet swung back round a bit though.

Posted on November 2nd 2009 in Brainfarts, Friends, Grumpy Old Man, People, randomness, Sad
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