Drinking Root Beer at a Pub

 

 I met my dad for the first time today. Not the guy I grew up with but the one that makes up half of my DNA.  Sitting across the table his face was hidden underneath a full white beard that worked down to two points and a full head of hair that I was jealous of.  Baldness is not passed down from father to son but is instead snuck through genetics on the mother’s side.  Regardless of being hidden under layers of hair everything was revealed in the eyes.  The same as mine.  Blue in color, framed by wrinkles and swollen skin they were mine, twenty years from now they could be mine.  

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 His beard was a sheet of white no longer making the transition to grey.  The long curly hair on his head on the other hand was still a deep brown color and had not lost it’s luster to time.  

 In high school he had been a long distance runner.  Relay teams and cross country were his chosen sports as a youth.  A slender good looking guy he had dated my mom until she became pregnant.  Regardless of his physical qualities and gifts maturing to such an event was not something he was able to do.  He admitted he was never suited to be a father.  He had married once, almost a mirror image of my first marriage, minus having a child.  

 “I have nothing bad to say about your mom.  She was a good woman and what happened was all my fault.”  

 So he didn’t stick around.  The events that happened in my life afterwards I doubt could have been prevented even if he had.  What I did learn during our two hour conversation answered a lot of questions I had about myself and why I never fit in with my mom’s side of the family.  

 Growing up I had an interest in martial arts.  I joined the track team freshman and sophomore of high school.  In college I developed an appreciation for classic and old movies. Around the same time I started listening to classic rock.  Some of this could have been influenced by the few bits of information I had about my father.  I bought all ten of Led Zepplin’s albums after moving out of my parent’s house.  The music was forbidden because it was my dad’s favorite band.  

 Some of the other things I grew an interest in would have had nothing to do with what I knew about him since they developed in his life after I was born.  Both of us went to the same tae kwon do school about a decade apart.  I was tired of being beat up by bigger and older guys in my neighborhood and he was tired of “getting his ass whooped” as a smaller guy.  Both of us had competed in tournaments with minimal success.  

 The interest in classic movies came from the dumbing down of Hollywood that has happened over the past few decades.  Learning that Casablanca was one of his favorites was a surprise since it’s not regarded as a masculine film.  A guy with a tough biker image, leather vest and matching chaps over blue jeans, is not the kind of guy that states he enjoys Casablanca.  

 While talking I started to notice he spoke with a slight lisp.  He wasn’t drunk or slurring his words, it was simply how he talked.  I wondered if he had always had this?  As a child I went to speech therapy for being unable to pronounce my “s” properly.  Now I wondered if that was genetic.  

 I told me later about being struck by lightening in the early nineties and how he has memory problems now because of it.  He described it as his brain shutting off at random times and he won’t know where he is or how he got there.  People he knew before the event he had completely forgotten and at times short term memory was an issue.  Wondered if the lisp was part of that event or if it was always there.  

 “Don’t ever get struck by lightening. It’s the most painful thing that ever happened to me. Plus it screws up your brain.”  

 I had been told by his side of the family that he enjoys drinking and beer is his preferred drink.  When we sat a the table in Old Peninsula and out server asked what we would like he ordered a root beer. I have to admit I was surprised.  

 “I stopped drinking five years ago for health reasons.  It doesn’t agree with my body. Gout.”

 “Is this something I should look forward too?” I asked.

 “probably.”

 We both laughed.  

 After lunch and realizing we were both well past our 90 minute limit of parking on the street we decided to leave.  He expressed his interest in seeing me again and going to car shows or aircraft museums.  He wanted to have me meet my grandmother, his mom, and two of my aunts.  In the end we parted ways after he gave me a hug.  The embrace was not expected and caught me off guard.  One hand wrapped around him and the other holding a to-go container I wished wasn’t there, we hugged for the first time before parting ways.  

 My father is a big man.  He walks carrying a paunch stomach and a waddle.  I can figure out if the way he walks is from his size or having bad knees from running.  My knees have told me recently they don’t appreciate running anymore.  A chicken or the egg debate came to mind which caused the other?  

 During this entire journey I have been greeted with open arms from every member of the family so far.  I had received warnings about what to expect and to not keep my hopes high.  When I first saw him on the street I admit I was reserved but polite.  I didn’t put myself out their and kept my defenses up just incase this whole meeting went wrong. Once I saw how open and honest he was about everything I began to relax.  The things I learned brought some closer to my life about the things that didn’t make any sense about myself.  Maybe everything can’t be explained by genetics.  After learning about my sister and now meeting my dad I can see there were things passed down from one generation to the next without environmental influences.  

 The lack or religion in his life was another pleasant surprise since I have come to the conclusion that all religion is false.  Granted, most of that side of the family has the same or similar view, but I had never met these people until now.  Being raised in a so called religious home and then changing my beliefs later one through reason I now wonder how much reason had to do with it.  Maybe religion is like a mental disorder.  When a child is raised in a home with obsessive compulsive people and then are taken out of that environment they will start to lose those habits if they don’t have the disorder themselves.

 Whatever the case I now know more about myself and that the things I have done in the past were not strange or odd but simple a part of who I am.  Half of the picture was missing and now I’m starting to discover more that fills in the gap.  

Matthew Gilman can be contacted on his author Facebook page and found on Twitter.

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The World According to Jackie Chan

 Last night I had the opportunity to meet the great Jackie Chan.  Strangely, this 28 year old Filipino nurse was at the bar listening to a friend and I debate the health problem of America.  Ben and I went back and forth on the topic.  I argued the diet aspect of American culture while Ben took to the hospital side of the debate.  Jackie jumped into the conversation and soon we were a trio.  

 After an hour or so we left Tibbs and wandered down the street to the Union.  The conversation had switched to the topic of women, as it usually does with three guys hanging out.  Jackie then turned into a pickup guru explaining how he approaches any woman he likes accepting the odds they will turn him down.  

 Being timid pale white guys Ben and I listened and asked questions.  Jackie had a knack for getting one night stands and getting phone numbers at the club.  None of this information was anything that I hadn’t heard before from guys that play this sort of game.  While I was taking mental notes the information would likely turn up in a future story with none of it confirmed by my own experience.  

 When Jackie made a simple statement like “you just have to try and see what happens” Ben would reply how it has never worked for him in the past.  

 “That’s a Bitch Butterfly!”

 This was a phrase that came up repeatedly over the night.  Jackie was referring to the colorful excuses guys come up with for not approaching women.  

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 Later in the evening I would learn that Jackie’s antics weren’t always a positive experience.  He told me about a co worker he had been with and how things went south when she realized he didn’t want a relationship.  I asked a few questions and the guru status quickly deteriorated as the pieces came together.  Jackie was just another guy that might have had confidence but was just as capable of making a series of bad mistakes like anybody else.  Sure he could make the first move and approach women whenever he wanted but after that he was clueless on what to do from there.  He hadn’t been in a long term relationship since he left the Philippians ten years ago.  

 Women were everywhere, dressed up in their latest purchase from the mall and hiding their faces under several layers of makeup. The expectations society puts on women makes the notion of approaching one more complicated than it should be.  For starters who the hell am I approaching?  Is it the person that they want to appear as or the real person they were before they left their house or apartment?  The lies that relationships start with I would have to assume is the reason nobody has a lasting relationship or marriage these days.  We never meet the real person until later, sometimes years later.  Our lives are constant job interviews for relationships that aren’t real.  Women work hard to appear as models instead of the unique beings they are.  Men try to portray an image that is higher than their true place on the social ladder.  I have always been disenfranchised with the dating scene, long before I was in it.  Jackie talked a lot about self confidence and how one had to carry himself in order to attract women.  But, if we aren’t supposed to be ourselves and portray somebody else how are we supposed to be confident in ourselves?  

 Maybe this rant is just a long series of Bitch Butterflies.  Maybe I have lost any interest in playing a stupid game that continues to have the same result for so many people.  

 Jackie’s real name is Jackie Chan by the way.  He was the third grandson born in his family and usually the grandsons are named after their grandfather.  After already having two grandsons with the same name his grandfather decided that Jackie would be named after his favorite action movie star.  It’s not the pick up line or the confidence that Jackie has going for him.  It’s his ability to walk up to women in a club or bar and simply say “Hi, I am Jackie Chan.”  So few of us can be so lucky

Matthew Gilman can be contacted on his author Facebook page and found on Twitter.

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Power coffee and early morning weights

 The past few weeks has seen a push in my physical fitness.  The drive I have found has continued and I haven’t missed a day that I didn’t do something.  My training has been mostly weights in my basement.  My knees have made it known that running is no longer an option for a form of cardio.  

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 To stay on track I started listening to different podacst that I once subscribed to.  The fat burning man pod cast has been a favorite in the past and has returned to my life once again.  While I can’t say that I agree with every guest on the show I will admit there are a few that have opened my eyes to new things.  For one my coffee consumption has changed in the morning.  After listening to a show about “bullet proof coffee” I looked up the recipe to try it out.  I didn’t order the actual coffee with all of it’s components from the website.  Quite frankly I don’t have money for that.  After reading the recipe there was no reason to do so.

 The recipe was simple. Good quality coffee, grass fed organic butter, coconut oil, and (if one chooses) unsweetened cocoa powder.  Everything goes into a blender and creates a smooth coffee beverage that carries you further through the day.  

 I have been drinking this every morning for the past two weeks and I have to say I get through my workouts quickly and I’m wide awake the majority of the day without any added coffee or stimulants through the day.  

 After I drink my coffee I go into the basement and get my weight training workout out of the way.  My cell phone plays some pod cast in my pants pocket and I finish in 30-45 minutes.  Once my workout is completed I follow up with a protein shake with a banana and half an avocado added.  Topped off with vitamin D milk the shake has a chocolate ice cream flavor to it that can’t be beat.  

 I have already seen a drastic change in my body.  The ability to build muscle has not been difficult.  As I gain muscle mass I can only hope that fat loss later will be easier.  

 One obstacle that I have come across is the amount of energy that my leg days take out of me.  I realize this is one body part that encompasses a large percentage of body mass.  Leg day is also the shortest workout day I have, usually I’m finished in twenty minutes.  Afterwards I drink a protein shake and crash on the couch.  The workout wipes me out even though it is so short.  Who would have thought a few sets of squats and quad extensions would have such an impact.  

 I can tell that I’m getting enough protein in my system since I haven’t had any problems with sore muscles.  The recovery time was always a problem years ago due to low protein consumption.  Sometimes a simple day of arm training would take a week to recover.

 The new routine that I have started with coffee and a morning workout has only been a positive change.  My afternoons of writing has been a pleasant bonus that I want to keep in my life.  

 Previously my experience with coffee has been a love/ hate relationship that ends with me leaving coffee for a bit then returning to start the whole cycle over again.  I can’t tell you what the change has been since there are now three added ingredients to choose from.  At this point I don’t want to tinker around with the recipe to find out what exactly is improving my mornings and feeling.  I simply wanted to keep enjoying the new mental buzz and positive effects I have been getting from this experiment.  

 The only downside of my new routine is the need to purchase more weight for my equipment.  I have topped out most of my equipment already and look forward to buying plates from yard sales and second hand stores from people who are simply too lazy to use it themselves.  There is always a plus to having a second hand market.  

 If anything changes I’ll be sure to post it here.  In the meantime I’m going to enjoy the new ride and keep working on creating new material for fans in waiting

Matthew Gilman can be contacted on his author Facebook page and found on Twitter.

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Fourth of July

 Fourth of July weekend ended up being a surprise gathering of family I had never met before. I was invited out to a lake and then to a gathering at a cousin’s house in Lawton.  Most of these people I had never met, members of my biological dad’s family.  I went with an aunt and uncle seeing life in the rural areas around Kalamazoo.  Every other street and farm had a story.  Sitting outside of the market in Paw Paw was a conversation of who’s who as people walked out.

 “didn’t you go to school with him?” my uncle would ask my cousin.

 It’s a different culture in the country from what I grew up in.  people stay friends long after high school.  From what I have seen people don’t leave town and if they do it’s through the military and they come back.  The parades are still a big part of their community gathering.  

 Out on the lake five of us take a pontoon boat out for sun bathing and fishing.  The lake was filled with bass and blue gill.  The combination of night crawlers and red worms helped me leave with a bucket of fish for dinner the next day.  

 While I snapped the worms in two and conserved what I had, as I usually do, one of the girls on the boat loaded a red worm on her hook.  The ball of flesh appeared amusing and I wondered how well it would work.  A minute later she was pulling a bass from the water and she still had the worm.  The joke was on me.  

 After a few hours on the lake we went back to the cabin and my cousin took his potato gun out of the truck.  Powered by spray on body spray we shot gulf balls out into the soy bean field.  The woman who owns the cabin once lived on the farm.  Her parents owned the land and the lake but were forced to sell lots on the lake to pay bills later.  More victims of American capitalism, the family property was now speckled with houses and trailers.  A boat in the middle of the lake played Brittney Spears, Nikki Minaj, and Elton John.  

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 “hooligans,” the woman driving the pontoon boat said.

 After the boat ride we drove to my cousins house in Lawton, whom I had never met before.  She was two years older than me and had remembered hearing about me growing up.  Her twin brothers on the other hand had no idea that I existed.  The three of them work with my biological dad at their place of employment.  They told me a few stories.  The boys only had good things to say since they like the guy.  I refrained from drinking trying to get a feel for the people and learned everyone’s quirks.  The twins were plastered by the end of the night and were taken to an apartment down the street.  

 I went home realizing this was the first forth of July I had spent with family that didn’t involve drama or some kind of fight.  There were laughs and giggles.  Stories were shared of times gone by.  The people sitting on that porch wanted to be around each other.  

 The next day I went to my dad’s trailer.  A beautiful Sunday afternoon I wouldn’t be surprised if he was out riding his motorcycle through the country roads.  I walked up to a dilapidated porch with steps that had rotted and broken over the years.  A truck and minivan sat in the driveway but there was no answer at the door.  I doubt he was home.  I went back to the car and wrote a note inside leaving him contact information and other ways to reach me.  I don’t know if he found the book.

 That afternoon I was invited back out to my cousins place and enjoyed a relaxing evening on their deck meeting her longtime friends.  The evening finished with a nerf gun war in their backyard.  

 I haven’t heard from my dad, don’t know if I will.  The amount of family I have gained in the past few weeks has been shocking, not in a bad way.  The difference in culture is something to adjust to.  The notion that these people took me in with open arms is a comfort I did not expect.  

 There is a strange feeling seeing how the environment is such a large part of everyone’s life.  Granted I can now look at Kalamazoo and have some connection with it.  That connection is nothing like what these people have with the town of Paw Paw. Multiple generations are connected to this town and their immediate family live down the street from one another.  They have a sense of community that I never experienced and it’s amazing.  

 I hope to learn more about this.  The small town life might not be something suited for me but the fascination of it has grabbed my attention.  

 

Matthew Gilman can be contacted on his author Facebook page and found on Twitter.

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Scope Bite

 

 I took a trip down to the gun range last Saturday.  A friend of mine was pissed he wasn’t able to get expert status at his last drill for the national guard.  While he owns a few shotguns, practicing with rifles and pistols are totally different.  I load up my two Mosin Nagant rifles, .45 carbine, ,45 pistol, and .22 long rifle into the trunk.  

 For a Sunday morning the range wasn’t as busy as I thought it would be.  On a bright sunny day it is common for all four lanes to be taken.  I pull up to the only 100 yard lane and start unloading.  First we shoot to the Mosin Nagants (Mosin for short).  

 I bought my first Mosin a few years ago for a hundred bucks and have loved it ever since.  I added a scope to the iron sight and left everything else original.  I have wanted to upgrade the stock and modify it but the funds to do so are still out of reach.  The weight of the rifle would be a burden over long periods of time.  The idea of a synthetic stock and detachable magazines have always appealed to me since I think of this as a SHTF rifle.  

 My buddy and I put over forty rounds through the two rifles.  We placed a 25 yard target at the end of the lane and took turns firing rounds at it. The size of the target is slightly smaller than a human torso.  

 The second Mosin I own I bought last year from a coworker.  The guy had put some money into it with the desire to have a authentic Russian scope mount but deciding to put a high powered scope on it.  He switched out the straight handle blot and put in a real bend handled bolt he ordered from online.  The rifle looks huge and intimidating, the weapon of a giant.  I only shot the rifle at the range once before.  

 I tell Ben to make sure the butt stock is firm against his shoulder before shooting.  A few minutes alter I wouldn’t take my own advice.  The rifle was shooting low and to the left.  

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 I sat at the bench for my turn and adjusted my position trying to get comfortable.  I finally had a good position and aimed for the target.  I squeeze the trigger and feel the punch to my forehead.  

 “Are you ok?’ Ben ask as I sit up and touch my eye brow.  I look at my fingers, blood.

 “Are you kidding me?” I was mad at myself.  I was now the guy who knew better and didn’t take my own advice.  I was “that” guy at the gun range.  

 I let Ben take over and fire a few more rounds while I blotted and took care of the cut to make sure it didn’t run into my eye.  Ben’s shots were consistent and he was hitting the target.  The scope wasn’t dead on but it would put somebody down at that distance and that was why I bought it.  The shots became more concentrated as the time went on.  

 I was itching to take my .45 out and get some practice with that.  I started with the .45 carbine and put up a target at forty yards away.  Past experiences had told me that over thirty yards the carbine grew inaccurate.  Since then I took the red dot scope off and switched to the iron sight.  I was getting a nice grouping even at forty yards.  I was happy with the results and switched to the pistol.  

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 Somebody had left a bag of sand in the lane and I put a zombie target on it at twenty yards out.  The first round was between the eyes and I continued.  The hi point .45 always felt good in my hands and I didn’t have a problem putting rounds where I wanted them.  The kick is minimal and the sight is exactly how I like it with three dots you line up.  Plastic bottles were left behind and plinking became the next game.  I brought a hundred rounds of .45 and we quickly ran through them.  

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 At one point Ben took the pistol and walked towards the targets while shooting at them.  The fear the worms must have felt I couldn’t imagine.  The bottles were happy to find themselves safe when the slide pulled back and the magazine was empty.  Shooting a pistol is a different animal all together from the rifle and shotgun. I knew the mistake that Ben was making since I experienced the same thing my first time shooting a pistol.  The simple phrase “squeeze, don’t pull” worked wonders for me.  Shooting a pistol has been pimple ever since.  We didn’t have the ammo for Ben to get the hang of it.  The pistol was a bonus for him since it was the expert rank he wanted for the rifle.  

 We finished off the day with the .22 semi auto rifle and got some practice in for squirrel season that would be here soon enough.  The metal target I own spins around when hit accompanied with a “pah-ting” sound.  Needless to say we were both dead on with the .22 but I still had problems with the tube fed Marlin getting jammed and not ejecting the spent shell.  I have yet to find if it is the mechanics of the rifle or the type of ammo used.

 At the lane next to us an older gentleman was practicing with a pistol on an old lawn chair.  After an hour of shooting the pistol the large Kaboom that caught our attention told us he had switched guns.  

 In his hands was a Kal-tec KSG shotgun.  I had seen one of these in John Wick and the compact firepower was amazing.  The shotgun features two magazines that can hold 14 2 ¾ inch rounds or 12 three inch rounds.  

 Ben immediately wants to shoot it.  

 We walk over and ask what it was and the guy offers the shotgun to Ben with two rounds in it.  Ben puts two into the chair and was acting like a child on Christmas.  Then the guy puts a three inch round in for me to try.  I put the buttstock firmly against my shoulder and aim at the chair.  The kick from the Kal-tec left a bruise on my shoulder I still have today.  I sat up and hollered “oh…..Fuck!”

 Ben and the guy laughed along with the two people at the lane next to us.  Needless to say I will not be buying three inch rounds for my shotgun anytime soon.  

 The firepower and compact size of the Kal-tec make me think of it as a great home defense weapon.  The price of $900 also told me only a few people could afford it.  

 I left the range on Sunday feeling confident with the guns I own.  The two .45s have switched to my primary home defense weapons in the last year.  The ergonomics and easy use of these two weapons has given me a confidence the shotgun did not.  Plus the back up piece of the pistol and the interchangeable magazines makes home defense less complicated in a high stress situation.  

 I’m still upset about the Marlin .22 but there isn’t much I can do about that besides write to the company and complain.  I’ll have to run a test one day and see if the type of ammo is effecting the rifle or if it was poorly designed.  

 The odds are it will be another year before I’m at the range again. Hopefully the world doesn’t go to shit before then.  

Matthew Gilman can be contacted on his author Facebook page and found on Twitter.

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