Monday, January 29, 2007

I Don't Know How to Think or Feel About This . . . Part 3


It was a rough beginning to 2006, with a miscarriage and a terminated pregnancy in the first three months. My wife and I each went about dealing with things in our own way. I went on with my teaching, which at least gave me something to do and a reason for living, even though I only had eight hours of class time a week. The rest of the time I filled with doing research on the Internet for future lessons, just surfing around, or doing Sudoku puzzles.

In the afternoon, I played basketball, to prepare myself for my duties as the basketball coach. A couple weeks later, I spent from 5 to 6:30 or 7 running practice. At night, I was in charge of the drama production being put together for the school competition. That helped, but there still was a nagging hurt and emptiness inside, that kept coming up like a bad meal repeating on you.

My wife had a more difficult time. For the first couple of months we were here, we stayed in the workers quarters. They looked as if they hadn't been maintained since they were built over 25 years ago, and they probably weren't in such great shape when they were first built, either. Even though there was plastic screening over the windows, all sorts of strange flying insects made it into our place, attracted by the lights. It was an entomologists dream, and a normal persons nightmare. Sometimes she would suddenly scream for me to kill a nasty looking something that was flying or crawling around. I ended up getting stung a couple times by wasps, one time on my lip when I rolled over onto one when asleep. My wife ended up with these strange looking marks from some unknown creature on her neck. Whenever we left our quarters, we had to close the windows, so the monkeys wouldn't come in and tear the place apart.

My wife would talk with the neighbors, and they were teaching her how to speak Malay. In the afternoon, while I was coaching basketball, she would play badminton with the gardener's family, and the daughter of one of the cafeteria workers. She really enjoyed that. Other than that, she did the household chores, and played "bookworm" on the computer. We had no TV, no radio, no refrigerator, no stove, just our clothes and the few things we were able to stuff into Mr. Wong's car.

I know it was difficult for her, but I tried my best to make it easier for her. We went for walks around the Lake Gardens, or walked through them to get to town to get something to eat from the hawker stalls. I brought her into the staff room after school was over, so she could check her email. I tried to get her involved with the drama, but she wouldn't have anything to do with it until the day of the competition. Then she acted as den mother for the girls, and was a great help. She was fantastic with the girls, they really looked up to her. I was so proud of her. She also didn't get involved with the basketball team until we went for the zone tournament near the Thai border, when she acted as an unofficial manager and assistant coach.

So I tried to be supportive, but also give her some space. Still, sometimes she would start crying for no reason. At least she stopped saying she was sorry.

We made love with out protection or precautions, but nothing happened. Not that we wanted anything to happen. We made love because we loved each other, not to make another life. We didn't want anything to happen other than to show our love for each other.

Despite my efforts, she was still scared. She said words that I thought I would never hear from her:
"Honey, I don't think I ever want to have a baby".

I couldn't blame her. To be honest, I felt the same way, but for more selfish reasons, because I thought that a baby would interfere with our intimacy, and the good thing we have going. Plus there was the insecurity- how am I going to support a wife and child? What kind of father would I be? So I was willing to let things pass. If something was going to happen, it would happen. We would leave it up to God, and see what happened.

Then we both had the same dream. In it, she was carrying a baby, protectively, just like a mommy would. Me, I was holding the baby up and away from me, like a proud father displaying his child to the world.

After that, her attitude changed. Now, it was, "Honey, I want to have a baby", just like it was before. I didn't cooperate at first, and that puzzled her. She wondered why I didn't sow my seed inside her. I explained, and she remained puzzled, but sweet thing that she is, she loved me just the same. After a few days I came around, and figured Que sera, sera.

So we tried for a few months, and hoped. A couple times she thought, or more likely hoped, she was pregnant. The first month after the dream, she was even a couple weeks late. The home pregnancy test turned out negative, and she had her period.

After that, she kept saying and hoping that she was pregnant, but it didn't happen. Doubt set in, and we both started to think that maybe we had lost our chance, that we wouldn't have a child. In the back of my mind I even thought that maybe God was punishing us for terminating the second pregnancy.

School was over, and in the middle of November, we headed to the Philippines to visit her family.

The first night in her parents house, we made love in the bedroom, very quietly, because the her mom, sister, two nieces, and nephew were sleeping in the living room, on the other side of a very thin wall. The delicious naughtiness of it all was very thrilling for her, and amusing for me. Afterwards, she fell asleep in my arms.

The rest, shall we say, is history.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Great Images




These images come from a blog dedicated mostly to sports, movies, and the writer's dog. It is called "A Muchness of Me", and is filled with all kinds of great images, and interesting movie posters. They are formatted so that you can use them as your desktop background. Really wonderful and interesting stuff, and definitely worth checking out.

I would leave a comment on the blog to tell the writer how much I enjoy what I see there, and asking them where they find these, but unfortunately they don't allow comments.

This site definitely goes into my "Blogs I Like" links.

Istana Kenangan



This is the Istana Kenangan, or the old palace in Kuala Kangsar. It is down the road from the Ubudiah Mosque, and across the street from the Iskandariah Palace, where the royal family of Perak live.

It was originally built in 1931 as a temporary palace for Sultan Iskandar Shah,
after the old palace was torn down so that the current palace, the Iskandariah Palace, could be built. It is a lot smaller than the Iskandariah, being more of a bungalow than a royal palace. It was built by a master carpenter from Penang without using a single nail, and without using any architectural plans. He made it in the shape of a traditional Malay sword, a Kris, in its scabbard, with the Sultan's sleeping quarters in the handle. The entrance doors open horizontally through the floor, in order to maximize space, and for safety, as it is harder to force open a door built that way. The walls are made of woven bamboo, and are painted white, yellow, and black, the colors of the flag of Perak. Needless to say, it is all very skillfully done.

When we went there, we couldn't get in, because it was being renovated. There were piles of old wood sitting just inside the fence, and a couple of Malay workmen sitting around smoking and having lunch. An old Malay guy on a bicycle stopped and talked to Mr. Wong, asked him a few questions about who my wife and I were, then asked him for some money to get something to eat. Mr. Wong, being the kind hearted guy he is, gave him a few ringgit, and the old man bicycled off happily. Before he pedaled away, he gave us a cheery smile and wished us well.

Kuala Kangsar is an interesting place, and one we'd like to explore more when we get a chance.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

My Story Writing Process

This is the kind of thing I usually write in my notebooks. In the form that this is in now, I would never show it to anybody. Basically, what follows is a rough first draft. Usually, it will sit there for a while, then I will get back to it a few months later. Then I will keep playing around with it, and changing it until either I go crazy, or just say forget it, it's done. In successive rewrites, it might change totally. Instead of the Marsalis family, it might end up being any American family. Instead of being a family of well known, well to do musicians, they could end up being a family of working class construction workers.

In the rewrites, things would be taken out, other things would be added, and everything would coalesce into something more unified that would make more sense. It seems that in my writing process, everything gets bigger, and bigger, until I sense it is too big. Then I start cutting down, and throwing things away, including the sentences, paragraphs, and ideas that I like best. Someone once said that editing is like killing your children. I know exactly how that feels.

Each story starts out in different forms. Sometimes, it starts out as a sort of script, as in the example that follows. Sometimes, it starts out in a normal story form, scribbled furiously in longhand, during the time of inspiration. The longer ones take several days, or even as long as a month. In the case of the longer stories, once I am finished with the initial writing, I get a genuine feeling of relief, as if a burden has been lifted off my soul. This is probably becaus as I am writing any story, I don't know what will happen next, or how it wil end, and I am as anxious, or even more anxious to see how it ends than any reader.

What I also find is that in every one of my stories, there are actually two, and sometimes three, different stories entwined together, and what I have to do is separate them from each other, and then work on them individually.

So here is an example of a first draft that I have written. It doesn't mean that I will ever rewrite it. Another inspiration might hit at any time, and this story will be forgotten over the next few weeks, months, or years, until I go back and read through an old notebook, trying to see what is worth saving or reworking. Once it is out, that might be it.

So this story is out, and has been given birth. If later I decide to rewrite it, and work on it. I will post the final result here. If not then this will remain here, as it is, just like it would in one of my notebooks.

_________________________________________________________________________


In doing some research about the Marsalis family, I found out that there are six brothers, four of whom have made successful careers as musicians. That got me to thinking- what about the other two? There is plenty of information available on the musical brothers, but I can't even find out the names of the non-musical duo. Why haven’t they followed their father and other brothers into the family business?

That got me to thinking. If you know me, you know that is a dangerous thing. You never know what kind of things my mind will come up with. Well, what it came up with was a scenario like this:

(Scene- The Marsalis family household. Father Ellis is in the living room, sitting at the piano, playing some soft, smooth jazz. Mrs. Dolores Marsalis stands next to him, her hand on his shoulder, smiling contentedly. In Walks the oldest son, six year old Branford.)

Branford- You wanted to see me?

Ellis- Yes, son. Your mother and I were talking. You are six years old now, and we think it is time for you to learn to play a musical instrument.

Branford- Really? Cool! So what do you think I should play?

Ellis- Well, your mother and I have talked it over, and taken your personality into account. We feel that the perfect instrument for you would be-

(He takes out a case and opens it up)

The cool saxophone!

Branford- Wow! Mom, Dad, I love it! Thank You!

(Branford walks out tootling some really smooth Jazz riffs)

(Scene- the same setting, one year later. Ellis is sitting at he piano, playing some ragtime. Mom stands next to him, without her hand on his shoulder. A young Wynton walks in.)

Wynton- You wanted to see me, Dad?

Ellis- Yes, son. Your mother and I feel that you have reached an age where you are ready to learn a musical instrument, like your older brother Branford. We have taken your personality into account, and feel that the instrument you are best suited to learn is-

(He takes out a case from under the piano) – the regal trumpet!

Wynton- A trumpet. Yeah. That’s cool.

(He takes it, looks it over carefully, then walks away playing some Miles Davis.)

(Scene- the same as before, a couple of years later. Ellis is playing a traditional Jazz tune. His wife is standing further away from him, with her arms folded, and a bit of a sour expression on her face. In walks the next in line- Delfeayo)

Delfeayo – You wanted to see me?

Ellis- (looking over at his wife, who rolls her eyes) Yes son, your mother and I have been talking about a few things. I feel that you have reached an age where you are ready to learn a musical instrument. I have taken your personality into account, and I feel that the perfect instrument for you is-

(He brings out a case and opens it up) – the slide trombone!

(his wife unfolds her arms and throws a little snit)

Delfeayo- (a bit goofy) A troooooooooombooooooone! Wooooooohooooooo! Yeehah!

(he runs over and hugs his mom and dad). I don’t believe it! This is soooooo greeeeat! Thanks!

(He walks away, playing some Dixieland)

Mother- (hands on her hips) Now why did you have to go and get that boy a trombone? What is wrong with you?

(Ellis just looks up at her)

(Scene- The same as before, a few years later. This time Dolores is standing way behind Ellis, looking at him as if he has lost his mind.. A moody looking Ellis is banging out a rhythmic and percussive tune on the piano. A glass of scotch rests within easy reach. Jason walks in.)

Jason- You wanted to see me, Dad?

Ellis- Yeah. It's time for you to learn to play the drums.

(He looks over at Dolores, takes a drink, and motions with his head toward a drum kit sitting in the corner.)

(Jason gets behind the drums, and launches into a loud extended drum solo.)

Dolores- That does it! I'm out of here!

(She storms out. Jason stops playing. Ellis just shrugs, and takes another swig.)

(Scene- Same as before. A disheveled and unshaven Ellis sits at the piano, drinking bourbon straight from the bottle, and playing some angry sounding free Jazz. A wary looking son creeps into the living room)

Unknown Son 1- You wanted to see me, Father?

EllisYeah, You have to learn to play a musical instrument, just like your brothers.

Unknown Son 1- (perking up) Really? Great! So what do you want me to play?

Ellis- (Finishes taking another swig from the bottle, and wipes his mouth. He nods his head toward a dark corner.) It's over there.

(The son runs over to the corner like a kid about to open up his presents at Christmas.)

Unknown Son 1- (He pulls out a set of decrepit looking, moldy bagpipes) Bagpipes!!!

Ellis- (Lets out a long, hard belch) Uh-huh.

Unknown Son 1- Dad, black people don't play bagpipes.

Ellis- So then, you'll be the worlds first black Jazz bagpiper.

Unknown Son 1- But why the bagpipes? Couldn't you have gotten me a guitar, or maybe a bass?

Ellis-Listen boy, your mother left, and left me with you boys, and nothing else. You're darn lucky that I was able to get you those bagpipes.

Unknown Son 1- But where in New Orleans were you able to find a set of bagpipes?

Ellis- I won them from a drunken Irishman in a poker game in the French Quarter. That, and this case of fine Irish whiskey. (He kicks at a crate, and several empty bottles tumble out and roll across the floor.)

Unknown Son 1-But dad, I don't want to play the bagpipes!

Ellis Don't argue with me son, bagpipes are a wonderful musical instrument with a long and proud history. Many a proud Irishman and Scotsman has gone into battle lead by a bagpiper-

Unknown Son 1 Yeah, so that maybe the enemy would kill him first and save them from the noise. I mean dad, didn't someone once say that, "If there is music in hell, it has to be bagpipes"?

Ellis- Ahhhhh . . . get out of here, you ungrateful little brat! I try to get you started on a musical career, and what thanks do I get? (Gets up and threatens to hit his son upside his head).

Now get out, and send your brother in here.

(He walks out dejectedly, blowing into the bagpipes and making the most horrible screech imaginable. After a couple of seconds, Unknown Brother 2 walks in like he is going to his death)

Ellis- You might as well go and get yours. It's over by the bookcase.

(Unknown Brother 2 walks over, and starts rummaging through a pile of junk. He picks out and discards various things- rubber chickens, empty Domino's Pizza boxes, various items of laundry, etc.)

Unknown Brother 2- I don't see anything.

Ellis -Do I always have to do everything myself? (He goes over to the pile, and starts rummaging through it. He pulls out a glockenspiel, and holds it up.)

Unknown Brother 2- A GLOCKENSPIEL?!!!

Ellis-Hey, if Lionel Hampton can play the vibraphone, then you can play the glockenspiel!!! Now get out of here.

(Unknown Brother 2 runs out, and Ellis sends an empty whiskey bottle flying after him)

Voice over- Things eventually got better between Delores and Ellis. They got back together, went through counseling, and their marriage became stronger and more loving then ever. (Scene- shot through a door- a hand throwing a vase. Sound effects- breaking glass, inaudible loud yelling)

Four of their sons- Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason, became famous Jazz musicians.

(Scene- the four brothers and dad happily playing a lively Jazz tune together on stage)

(pause)

But what ever became of the two unknown brothers?

(Scene- a full subway platform. A black guy dressed in a neon colored plaid kilt and regalia, with gold chains, a huge afro, and carrying a moldy looking set of bagpipes. Everyone is looking at him. He stops, puts an old pot on the ground, and prepares to play, trying to look dignified. He attempts to play a well known Jazz tune, but the result is so horrible that everyone falls to the ground holding their ears and begging for mercy. One person crawls over, and drops some money into the pot, begging him to stop. The bagpiper motions for more. Others crawl over and drop money into the pot, until finally the piper looks into the pot, nods his head, and walks away.)

(Cut to: The young Unknown Brother 2. He closes the door of the living room, and looks at the glockenspiel. He starts hitting keys on it at random. Suddenly, blue smoke starts streaming out of the glockenspiel. Unknown Brother 2 gives a start, and drops the glockenspiel. The smoke clears, and standing before him is a large, stocky, older Aryan looking man, with a full mustache. He is dressed in lederhosen, knee socks, the full German bit. The boy stares at him, bewildered.)

Genii- (gives a snappy salute, and stands at attention) Guten abend, mein herr!

Unknown Brother 2- Uhhhhhhh.... dad......

Genii- I am the Genii of the glockenspiel! Because you have played the magical combination of keys and released me, I must grant you a wish. Whenever you play the magical combination of keys, I must grant you three wishes. Remember it, and you will have whatever you want in life.

Unknown Brother 2- What's the combination?

Genii- I can't tell you that. You must know it, you played it.

Unknown Brother 2- But I don't know what I played! I was just fooling around. You have to let me know what it was!

Genii- (petulantly) Nope. What is your wish?

Unknown Brother 2- I want you to show me what the secret combination is.

Genii- Nein! I can't do that!

Unknown Brother 2- Why not? You said I could make a wish, and that's what I want!

Genii- Ja, I did.

Unknown Brother 2- So why can't I have my wish?

Genii- Because you didn't make a wish!

<u>Unknown Brother 2- Huh? Oh, OK. I wish that you would tell me what the secret combination is.

Genii- That's better, but the answer is still no.

Unknown Brother 2- Why?

Genii It's against the Genii code to reveal that information. It's right here in the handbook. (He produces what seems to be a gardening magazine)

Unknown Brother 2- What? I don't believe you. That's not a Genii handbook, that's a gardening magazine.

Genii Ahhh, bu you see, we Genii's are clever that way! It may look like a gardening magazine, but it is actually a Genii handbook in disguise.

Unknown Brother 2- OK, OK, bu you still have to grant me a wish.

Genii- Ja, go ahead and make a wish.

Unknown Brother 2- I want, Uhhh, I wish that I could make as many wishes as I wanted.

Genii- Sorry, I can't do that.

Unknown Brother 2- Why not? It's my wish!

Genii- Ja, but according to my gardening magazine- I mean Genii handbook, I can't grant that wish.

Unknown Brother 2- The what can you do?

Genii- I can grant you a wish.

Unknown Brother 2- But you've refused to grant anything I've asked you for.

Genii- Ja, because you don't ask me nicely.

Unknown Brother 2- Oh OK! (sweetly) Could you please grant me a wish?

Genii- Ja, und vat vould you like?

Unknown Brother 2- I would like-

Genii- -be careful-

Unknown Brother 2- What?

Genii- It's an old saying- "Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it!"

Unknown Brother 2- I wish you would stop interrupting me!

Genii- Ok, done!

Unknown Brother 2- Ok, now my wish is . . . (He looks over to see the Genii shaking his head). What?

Genii- I've just granted your wish. I've stopped interrupting you!

Unknown Brother 2- But that's not what I want!

Genii- That's what you asked for! Sorry, all wishes are non-returnable, non-refundable.

Unknown Brother 2- Auuuuuggggghhhh! You are so annoying!

Genii- No I'm not! (He sticks his tongue out at him).

Unknown Brother 2- Yes you are! I wish you would go away, and leave me alone!

Genii- Ok, that's three wishes! Auf wiedersehn!

Unknown Brother 2- Wait! That's not... I want my wishes...

(He starts banging again on the glockenspiel) Genii! Genii! Come back! I want my wishes! Geniiiiiiii!!!!

(His father and brothers come running.)

Ellis- Hey, What's going on here?

Unknown Brother 2- Well, I was playing this realy cool glockenspiel you gave me, when this German Genii came out and promised to grant me three wishes. Then . . . (The camera pulls away, and we can't hear what is being said, but we can see their reaction. They all obviously think he is crazy).

(Scene- A teenaged Unknown Brother 2. He is sitting on the floor of his bedroom. The lights are out, and the room is lit by candles. He has an altar lit by candles in the center of the room, with the glockenspeil sitting in the middle, and pictures of Boris Becker and Steffi Graf flanking it. Really loud "oompah" music alternating with polkas and yodeling plays in the background. He Takes a large drink from a huge stein of beer, then starts pounding wildly on the glockenspiel, trying to summon the Genii).

Unknown Brother 2- Ooooh Genii, Genii!!! Please come back to me, oh Genii!

(He leaves an offering of bratwurst on the altar. He bangs wildly on the glockenspiel, then replaces it, and repeatedly bows to the altar.)

Please Genii, be merciful to me, your humble servant.

(He picks up the glockenspiel. Just as he does, two men in white coats rush in and grab him. He struggles, and bangs on the glockenspiel. As he does, some blue smoke starts rising from the floor.)

Unknown Brother 2- No! No! The Genii is coming! The Genii is Coming!!!

Attendant 1- Yeah, yeah, we know. We've heard it all before. Jesus is coming, the anti-christ, Joan of Arc, and a whole bunch of others are coming, too. Now here's a little something to make you feel better, and make that nasty old Genii go away.

(He sticks a needle in Unknown Brother 1's arm, and he immediately goes limp.)

Unknown Brother 2- The Geniiiiii . . . the Geennnnn . . .

(Ellis walks in and looks around, and shakes his head)

Ellis- I don't know. I tried everything I could. All he talked about was this blue Genii who would grant his every wish.

Genii- (appears from the shadows in the corner) Und vat ist wrong vit dat?

(Ellis' eyes become the size of dinner plates. He blinks them a couple of times, shakes his head, then slowly backs out of the room and closes the door.)

Genii- (shouting) Don't you vant your tree vishes?

(Cut to: Unknown Brother 1, dressed as before, riding in a New York City subway car, playing an excessively screechy and out of tune version of "Puppy Love". The rest of the people are lying on the foor of the car, writhing in pain and screaming for mercy. He stops playing and takes his collection can around. Everyone starts putting money in his can. If they don't, he starts playing again, and the victim throws whatever money they have in their pocket in the can.)
(Cut to: a group of Army Rangers in combat readiness as the train enters the station. They are in full combat gear, and wearing huge noise canceling headphones.)

Leader- All right, get ready. Put on the headphones, and turn your white noise generator up to 11. We need to get in there fast! The boss says to take him down, but don't harm him.

(The train pulls into the station, and they rush aboard, weapons at the ready. They surround him, and cautiously approach him.)

Leader- Ok, put down the bagpipes, and put your hands in the air! do as I say, and you won't get hurt!

(Unknown Brother 1 stands there, terrified.)

Leader- Do it! NOW!

( unknown brother 1 drops the bagpipes, and puts up his hands. The soldiers cautiously approach him, and one gingerly picks up the bagpipes.)

Leader- Ok, don't worry, we're not going to hurt you. The boss wants to see you. He has need for someone like you.

(They march him out. The leader looks back at the people lying on the floor of the train.)

Leader-Kaczynski! Call 911! I don't think some of them are going to make it!

(Cut to: An office in the White House. Present are the Army Ranger leader, Unknown Brother 1, and Dick Cheney).

Dick Cheney- Yes, we've heard all about your work from our sources. You do incredible work. We could use someone like you in our fight against the terrorists, against those trying to bring our country down!

(Cut to: A joint session of the houses of Congress. The Democrats are already seated. The Republicans come in, lead by Unknown Brother 1, followed by Dick Cheney. They are all wearing the same noise canceling headphones that the Army Rangers were. Unknown Brother 1 starts playing the worst imaginable version of "Hail to the Chief" possible. The Democrats instantly fall to the floor screaming in Pain. Dick Cheney stands before the podium, watching his opponents writhing. Then he raises his hand, and Unknown Brother 1 stops playing. He puts it down, and Unknown Brother 1 starts playing again, as Cheney gloats with evil glee. Then he puts his hand up, and Unknown Brother 1 stops.)

Dick Cheney- I can make this stop, anytime I want to. All I need is a little cooperation, and everything will be all right. (he opens up his briefcase, and takes out a pile of papers).
Now, there's some business we need to take care of. Let's see, lets start off with some no-bid contracts to Halliburton, and some friends of ours, then we can talk about the war in Iraq, and-

(Fade out)

The End


(Legal Disclaimer- This entry is purely fictional. It is in no way meant to represent real happenings or events in the life of the Marsalis family, and should not be construed as such. This is just me having a little fun. )

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Interactive Writing Wiki Fun


Due to the outstanding success of my post:
Collaborative Story Writing - Chain Story
Where I tried to get people to interact, and write a chain story like in my ESL classes, I have decided to try something different.

I have set up a wiki for myself.

On it I have copied a classic Edgar Allen Poe short story, "The Cask of Amontillado".
When you go there, you can log in, and edit it to your hearts content, and change it to whatever you want. You can change the setting, change the characters, and do whatever you like. If you want to make the story on the planet Belgar in the year 2207, and change the characters names to that of famous serial killers, then go ahead. I won't stop you. Hopefully someone else will log in, and change it for me.

It's just a way to have fun, and maybe lampoon your favorite celebrities, political figures, or relatives. Whatever happens is limited only by your imagination.

I take no responsibility whatsoever for what appears on that page of the wiki. It's just for fun, Ok?

So if you want to participate:

Go to: https://johnsuniverse.pbwiki.com/

If the proper page doesn't show up, go to the "Change a Classic Short Story" page listed under the "Wiki Information" box, (the middle box on the bottom of the page).

Click the "edit page" button

enter in the password: 123456

Go and mess with Poe.

ENJOY!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

You're Not Getting Older, Just Getting Better . . .



HAPPY 32nd BIRTHDAY, BABY!!!
That's her, at 16, in her high school year book photo.
It's the earliest picture of her there is.
Any pictures of her before that were destroyed when
a typhoon blew off the roof of her house sometime in
the early 90's.




That's her, getting ready for our blessing ceremony in Cebu,
December 26th of this year.
She is about five weeks pregnant.


Love You Baby!!!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I Didn't Insult or Piss Off Every Member of the Marsalis Family


The meeting with Wynton was not the only time I visted the Marsalis household. I made a couple other trips there during my pizza delivery career. During one of the trips, I had the pleasure of meeting jazz saxophonist, and ex Tonight Show bandleader Branford Marsalis.

He sure was different than his brother. He was a tall and gangly guy, and very friendly. He came out to talk to me, and smiled a lot and cracked jokes. Definitely a cool guy to hang with. When I went to give him his pizza, he asked how much it was. It was the same type I had brought to Wyton, the same price.
This time, though, Branford gave me $20, and told me to keep the change.

Like I said, definitely a cool guy. Especially if you're a pizza guy who makes a living off of tips.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Famous People I Have Insulted Off or Pissed Off. Part 1 of a Series- Wynton Marsalis

Welcome to part one of a continuing series- "Famous People I Have Insulted or Pissed Off". My first victim in the series is one of America's foremost Jazz musicians, Wynton Marsalis.

How did I meet him, and insult him?

Well, it was 1986. I had graduated from Rutgers, and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and no direction. I had a degree in English, but no idea what to do with it.

I was getting a lot of pressure from my family, my mom in particular, to do something with my life. They expected me to find a cure for cancer, or become a multi-billionaire, or something else reasonably easy to attain. As for me, I could care less. I was happy enough washing dishes at Red Lobster, working on the loading dock at the local home improvement store, or doing other "menial" work.

I got fired from my job on the loading dock. The official reason was that I didn't wear my safety helmet. The real reason was because the general manager of the store hated me. I got along great with everyone else, but that seemed to bother him. He always looked pissed off whenever I got within ten feet of him.

So I was out of work, and I still didn't know what to do with my life. I couldn't get unemployment, because I had been fired. And you know what? I still didn't care.

I took a trip down to Virginia with my mom and grandmother, to visit our relatives there. Not exactly anyones idea of a good time. Our relations lived around the Richmond area, in New Kent and Chesterfield counties. They were doing pretty well.

My cousin Sharon never went to college, but had her own temp agency. She turned down an offer to be vice president in charge of construction for Hilton Hotels (or so I was told by my aunt, never the most reliable source of information), because she didn't want to take a pay cut. She married a guy who owned his own mortgage bank.

Cousin Susie and her husband Carl owned the Domino Pizza franchise for the Richmond area. They had a bunch of stores, and were doing very well for themselves. She went to school to become a nurse, but ended up driving a school bus before they got into the pizza business.

I liked the area. It was quieter and more relaxed than New Jersey. It was away from my mom and grandmother, two harpies who seemed intent on making my life a total misery. I felt like I had enough of New Jersey, and it was time to make a change. Plus, I had no idea what else to do with my life.

So I went down to Richmond to learn the pizza business. Cousin Sharons' son, Travis, had tried it, and almost ran one of the stores into the ground. He didn't have the best reputation. There was no way I was going to let anyone know I was related to them. Still, after a couple weeks people found out anyway, and acted like I had leprosy. They thought I was some sort of spy, which believe me, I wasn't. After a while, they decided I was cool.

I started off as a driver, delivering pizzas in an area I had never been before- downtown Richmond, which included Church Hill, and the hillbilly section, and the state prison. Beautiful Belvedere Avenue. I spent a few weeks learning the area, until I had an accident. Then I moved inside as a management trainee.

Some times we were short of drivers, and had a big rush of orders. At that time, Dominos still had their 45 minutes or less guarantee. If your pizza wasn't there in 45 minutes, it was free. In order not to spend the rest of the night giving out free pizzas, I would grab a bankroll, a hotbox, and a bag, and go on the road.

I got one order to go to one of our usual customers in the area around VCU. Things were slowing down, so it was going to be my last run. The pizza was a bit late. I looked at the name, but it meant nothing to me - Marsalis. So I was off to make sure Mr. Marsalis, whoever it was, didn't get a free pizza. Being the competitor that I am, if he wanted a free pizza, he was going to have to kill me for it. I didn't like giving anything away for free.

For those of you not in the know, Wyntons' (and saxophonist and ex Tonight Show bandleader Branfords') dad Ellis Marsalis, was a professor of Jazz Studies at VCU. That was his house I was going to.

So I pull up in front of the nice brick house, and ring the bell. A haughty looking neatly dressed black guy opens the door, and looks down his nose at me.

No "hi", or "hello", just "It's late."
"Not by my watch it isn't, and it's my watch that counts."
"How much is it?"
I can't remember exactly how much it was, but it was something like $9.87, or some odd number like that.

The customer hands me $10, which I pocket. Then he asks for change.
"What? You want change? You must be kidding me!"
"No, I'm not. I want my change."
The only thing I had that jingled in my pocket was my keys.
"I don't have any coins."
The customer complains, so I grumble back at him. He looks at me.
"Do you know who I am?", he says, pulling himself up and looking rather self-important.
"I don't know, and I don't care. All I know is that you're a too cheap to give a guy a few cents for a tip. That doesn't say too much for you in my book."
That stops him, so I give him the pizza and walk back to my car and drive away.

A couple years later, I am back in New Jersey, trying to start my acting career. I pick up the Sunday Newark Star-Ledger. It has Parade Magazine as a supplement. In it is an interview with - well, you guessed it, the high and mighty cheapskate. He talks about his music, and blah blah blah. Near the end of the interview, he talked about how you have to not get too full of yourself, and try to keep things in perspective, etc. He talked about the "surly pizza man who came to his door, and took him down a few notches.

Yup, that surly pizza man was me.

Next up: Bob Seger

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Most Beautiful Mosque in Malaysia

No, this is not some Arabian palace. This is the former state mosque of Perak, the Ubudiah mosque.

The mosque is in Kuala Kangsar, about 25 kilometers away from where we live.

Supposedly, that is real gold in the dome. I don't think so, because if it was, there wouldn't be a dome. Some metal thief would have had the whole thing melted down in his workshop in the Kampung.

Mr. Wong took my wife and I around Kuala Kangsar after the conference where he and I made presentations was over. It is a really nice, clean town. The Sultan's palace is also there, but it is not nearly as impressive as the mosque. Mr. Wong says that this is not the largest mosque in Malaysia, but it is the most beautiful. After seeing it, I have to agree with him. The blue mosque in Shah Alam is certainly imposing and impressive, but nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as the Ubudiah mosque.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Thomas Solomon - The Worlds Greatest Escape Artist

This is another one of my old friends, Thomas Solomon. No, he is not a dangerous psycho being restrained, (although some may beg to differ). The police are just assisting him for another one of his amazing escapes.

Back in the days when I was doing my acting thing, we shared a haunted house with a bunch of other guys. (Yes, there really was a ghost). The infamous 939 Summit Ave in Jersey City, in the Heights.

It was interesting sharing a house with Tom. Not only is he an escape artist, but he is also one of the worlds best card magicians. Let me just say that I know there is nothing he can't do with a pack of cards. You can take a pack of unopened cards, shuffle them, cut them, do what you want to them, then hand them to him, and he will deal out the cards, and tell you exactly what you have in your hand. Or he can do all sorts of other things with cards- from slight of hand to real magic!

It was doing exactly that at the casino in Monte Carlo that got him banned. All the ingredients were right- an empty table, a fresh pack of cards, and a willing audience. He had a volunteer shuffle and cut the cards to their hearts content, after which he started dealing out poker hands. He started with low hands, and discarded the dealt cards, until he got to the Royal Flush with the Ace of Clubs. Of course, he always dealt himself the winning hand. After attracting quite a crowd, security saw what he was doing, and escorted him out. Not that he could have played there anyway- he was under aged.

He originally started out jumping off bridges handcuffed up in Milwaukee and Chicago. Later on, he developed a nightclub act, mixing magic with escapes. In his nightclub act, he has a challenge. You can bring in any sort of restraining device and lock him in it or tie him up anyway you want. If he can't get out, you got $500. If he gets out, then he gets to keep whatever he escaped from. In this way, he has built up an impressive and large collection of restraining devices and handcuffs, including a pair of cuffs used to restrain one of the Lincoln conspirators. In case you are wondering, he has never had to pay out. That includes during a challenge for his Channel 4 BBC-TV special, where he spent 24 hours in Trafalgar Square with the same nightclub challenge.

All sorts of macho guys or bondage freaks have tried their best, but no one has been able to keep him restrained. Tom once told me that their was one time when he almost had to pay out. That was when someone used a special pair of handcuffs. The cuffs had two rings that basically locked your hands wrist to wrist, with the palms facing each other. In between the rings was a heavy cylindrical lock, purposely made that way so that your arms would tire and you wouldn't be able to lift your hands up. It had seven tumblers in the lock, so a key would have to be turned seven times to open it. It took him 45 minutes to get out of that one.

Of course, all his challenges are done in front of the audience, not in a box or behind a curtain.

He used to try out different magic tricks on me, and see what I thought. So I would be eating dinner, and things would burst into flames, disappear, and all sorts of strange things would happen with cards. He would try out his set up and his patter, and I would give him my honest opinion.

It seemed kind of appropriate that we had a ghost in the house, with Tom living in the basement with his collection of restraining devices, and macabre objects for his first off-Broadway show.

I gave him some advice and help writing that show. He had a writing partner, and where he found this guy I don't know. This guy wanted to make Tom's first show into a B-movie 1950's Sci-fi type of show camp show, which is the antithesis of everything Tom is about. So I read over the script, told him to ditch the writing partner, and just go with what you love. I read over his new script outline, and gave him some advice and ideas. For some reason, though, I never saw his show. I can't remember why.


After I moved out of 939, (or basically politely asked to leave), we kept in touch for a while, usually commiserating about our girlfriends. Tom had met an English girl who worked as a hairdresser on the cruise line he had worked for. He was crazy about her, and spent insane amounts of money on phone calls and plane tickets to see her. That, and and the cost of getting the effects and props built for his first show caused him to max out every credit card he owned. However, what they wanted out of the relationship was something different. Tom was focused on his career, and wanted someone who would support him, not so much financially, but emotionally. She wanted a guy who would work 9 to 5 and support them so they could have kids.
Obviously things didn't work out. One night he showed up drunk at my little efficiency apartment at 3 am. He was coherent and lucid, and we talked things over for two hours. The next day, he remembered none of it, and apologized for bothering me at such an hour. Ah, it was OK, because I knew he'd do the same for me.

Eventually he did find that woman, a theatre seamstress, who was all for his career, and they got married.

I recently got back in contact with him, and did a little catching up on what has happened since back in the day.

Some of the things that have happened since back in the day:

At the World Magic Awards, he was voted the "Worlds Greatest Escape Artist".

He did a Special for BBC Channel 4, and had other appearances on TV.

You can see video of some of Tom's escapes on youtube.com

So You can say he's doing quite well for himself right now.

Here are a few more links about Tom:

His fan site
Tom's Interview with the Magic Circular
Tom's Blog

Hilarious Line in New York Times "Alpha Dog" Review


I get updates in my e-mail every day from the New York Times. I got a nice laugh when I read this line in the daily e-mail update:

The cretins rule in “Alpha Dog,” which has much the same entertainment value you get from watching monkeys fling scat at one another in a zoo or reading the latest issue of Star magazine.


Of course, I had to read the rest of the review when I read that.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Latest News- But I Still Don't Know What to Think or Feel



Ok- She is pregnant. That much has been confirmed by Dr. Jaya. We saw the fetus, we saw the heartbeat, and there really is a tiny human taking shape in my wifes womb. We have the copy of the first sonogram to prove it, but I am not going to be gaga or corny and put it on here for you all to gaze at it with wild-eyed wonder. I'll spare you that. At least for now. As we get closer to the August 30th due date, I don't know what kind of craziness I will get into.

Right now, I am cautiously optimistic. Maybe optimistic is too strong a word. Hopeful, but prepared for the worst is more like it. My wife says, if she can make it past the first trimester then she'll be ok, and it will be time to get her hopes up. As for me, the giddiness and baby fever probably won't hit until after the second trimester has past. You never know, I am starting to feel little twinges of it right now. It's too early to start acting like a mental case over the pregnancy. I have enough other things to act like a mental case over, and with the pregnancy, daily more things are added that can turn me into a squirrel. I guess the most I can hope for is that I won't be banging my head against a padded wall if and when the big day comes.
Hopefully I won't end up looking like this!


My Heart is Back

My wife is back from her stay in the Philippines. She says it is good to be back home, that during her time with her family, she just felt like a guest, it no longer felt like home.
She feels that her real home is here in Malaysia, with me. I feel that my real home is with her, wherever we may be, because she has made a home in my heart.

Our house felt empty without her. For 44 years, I took care of myself, and I didn't mind coming back to an empty house, doing things by myself, or being alone. Now, when she is not with me, I feel like a piece of myself is missing. A good piece of myself is gone when she is not there- the piece containing her smile, her hugs, her kisses, and her gentle affirming presence. Now that she is here with me, that piece of me has been renewed, and brought to life again.

Words are too feeble to express what I feel. So I try to show her my Love by my actions, the things I do for her, the little gifts I give, the way I hold her, and the way I make love to her.

To my wife

"I Love You, Baby"

I say these words to you over and over, but I wish just once you could really experience the true feelings in my heart that these words mean. That someday, there would be an interconnection of our Souls, and we could share truly everything within ourselves, not with words, but with all our beings. All the hopes, the sorrows, the Love, everything.

Until that time, I can only show you my Love in these simple ways.

With all my Heart,
Your John

Last Statements from the Texas Death Row

I found this interesting. Somehow, while doing some research, I found myself on the Texas Department of Corrections information web page for executed prisoners. It was morbidly interesting, seeing what the prisoners did to deserve death. Some killings were so horrendous that there was no way you would want to share the same planet with this guy. Other killings were just plain stupid, over something as trivial as an argument over the price of a six pack of beer.

What was more interesting to me was that at the very beginning, there were more White prisoners being executed than Black or Hispanic prisoners, but as time went on, that changed.

I'm sure that White guys didn't stop committing capital crimes. Just that not as many were being executed for them.

This statement is from Henry Porter, a Hispanic male executed in 1985. I offer it without further comment. Make of it what you will, yea or nay:

"I want to thank Father Walsh for his spiritual help. I want to thank Bob Ray (Sanders) and Steve Blow for their friendship. What I want people to know is that they call me a cold-blooded killer when I shot a man that shot me first. The only thing that convicted me was that I am a Mexican and that he was a police officer. People hollered for my life, and they are to have my life tonight. The people never hollered for the life of the policeman that killed a thirteen-year-old boy who was handcuffed in the back seat of a police car. The people never hollered for the life of a Houston police officer who beat up and drowned Jose Campo Torres and threw his body in the river. You call that equal justice. This is your equal justice. This is America’s equal justice. A Mexican’s life is worth nothing. When a policeman kills someone he gets a suspended sentence or probation. When a Mexican kills a police officer this is what you get. From there you call me a cold-blooded murderer. I didn’t tie anyone to a stretcher. I didn’t pump any poison into anybody’s veins from behind a locked door. You call this justice. I call this and your society a bunch of cold-blooded murderers. I don’t say this with any bitterness or anger. I just say this with truthfulness. I hope God forgives me for all my sins. I hope that God will be as merciful to society as he has been to me. I’m ready, Warden."

Sunday, January 7, 2007

My Foraging Teacher- "Wildman" Steve Brill

OK, This is an old friend of mine (old as in I knew him, but haven't seen him for years), "Wildman" Steve Brill. Steve is an expert in wild edible and medicinal plants. He leads tours through the different parks in New York City, showing people how to identify the edible and medicinal plants that grow there. Steve is quite a character, and a lot of fun to spend an afternoon with, foraging through the wilds of NYC.

He taught me a lot. Not only how to find the plants, but how to prepare and cook them, or use them for medicine, and how to go mushroom hunting and find some of the most delicious mushrooms on the planet. Thanks to Steve, I lived a mostly vegetarian diet for a year, eating just what I could find on my hikes through the woods, hills, lake sides, and seashore.

Not only did he teach me, but I also taught him a few things myself. I acted as his assistant for a couple of private tours. We told the one tour that after the tour is over, you provide the entree, and we'll provide the salad. When the tour was over, they asked where the salad was, so we took a couple of plastic bags, and ran off into the woods like- well- wildmen, and 10 minutes later came back with all the ingredients for a mighty fine salad.

There was an opening for a Botanist/Naturalist with the New York City Parks Department, and Steve wrote me a letter of recommendation. I didn't get the job, or even an interview. At the time, Henry Stern and his guys in the parks department thought of Steve as some sort of eccentric moron who was trying to eat Central Park. Okay, I'll admit, he might be a bit eccentric, but he certainly isn't a moron!

After Henry Stern some Manhattan socialite was put in charge of the Parks Department, and was horrified at what Steve was doing. She was worried that people might pick something that a dog had just pissed on, and get sick. Steve contacted the CDC, and they assured him that you were more likely to get killed by a mugger, than get sick from eating a dandelion.

I collected a couple of specimens for his girlfriend at the time, Evelyn to draw for his first book:


Unfortunately, I fell out of touch a number of years ago with Steve. I saw this article on the Yahoo! homepage, and it brought back some fond memories of days gone by.

So I searched through Google to see what Steve's been up to. He got married, (but not to Evelyn), and has a baby girl now. Way to go Steve!

It's great to see someone you knew and liked way back when doing well.
I wish you and your family many years of happiness, Wildman!

CHEERS!

Steve's Homepage

Saturday, January 6, 2007

How to get 180 mpg (or use only 1.3 L of gas for every 100 km)

Wayne Gerdes can take an ordinary car and do some amazing things with it. No, he is not a stunt driver. He's just an ordinary guy. But just by changing his driving habits, he can get extraordinary mileage from an ordinary car.

How would that help us, the ordinary citizen, out? According to the article in Mother Jones Magazine:

Less consumption of Mideast oil would also make our economy less susceptible to spikes in the price of opec oil, which have triggered U.S. recessions. More than half the gas we pour into our vehicles in America is imported, and we send more than $4 billion a week abroad to buy oil. If we all got a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy (far less than the 50 percent improvement that Wayne and his hypermilers routinely get), we could reduce by half the oil we import from the Mideast for our cars. And then there's global warming. "I'm not just doing this for myself," Wayne told me before we met. "I'm doing this for my country and the world."

You can read more about Wayne the hypermiler and his ability to get 180 mpg in this article, "This Guy Can Get 59 MPG in a Plain Old Accord. Beat That, Punk."

If you are interested in getting more information, here are three websites hypermilers like Wayne use:

cleanmpg.com

greenhybrid.com

priuschat.com

Some links I found of interest:

http://peswiki.com/index.php/Main_Page You must check out this site! A brilliant site dealing with the latest alternative energy solutions!

http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/ All sorts of cool news about alternative energy. But I don't think they've covered this method:

http://www.energynews.gr/ Which is from a Greek guy who proposes electric power generation and production from magnetic tapes.

http://www.bone2.com/kt/po/peakoil_project.htm The Peak Oil project- a Flash site with a comprehensive presentation of the issue of declining oil and rising prices.

http://www.ringsurf.com/netring?ring=EnergyWebRing;id=254;action=list If you want to check out various sites concerned with hypermiling, the peak oil problem, and alternative energy, this is the webring for the sites.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

I Don't Know How to Think or Feel About This . . . Part 2

Yeah, it was hard to deal with emotionally after that. It felt like something had been taken out of me. It had been cut out of my world with sharp surgical precision. Something that I wanted, a child to validate my existence in this world. A chance to leave something of myself behind to continue on after I am gone. Instead, all that hope, all that expectation of happiness, the excitement of having a new life, which was a part of you, brought into the world, was gone. The anticipation of having a child of our own to watch grow up, to raise up the right way, and be proud of had exploded.

At work, they told me to take as much time as I need. I didn't need any time off, because that would just make things worse. The last thing I needed was to stay in our little dorm room, having a misery contest with my wife. I needed to be doing something, even if it was just sitting at the computer surfing the net. That didn't help much though. Sometimes I sat at my desk, or at the computer, and started crying for no reason. I wasn't even aware that I was hurting until it just bubbled out of me, like one of those little volcanoes kids make for science projects. I was trying to be strong for her, and support her, because I knew as bad as it was for me, it was worse for her. This was what she thought was a new life miraculously growing inside her. When it didn't, I knew she felt that her womb, her body, her being was somehow at fault. That's why she would suddenly blurt out she was sorry, and start crying. Then I would hold her, and we would both cry.

I did my best to reassure her. We were both obviously very fertile. We would have another baby, no problem. Next time there would be no problem. We would go back to Dr. Jaya, get a full blood work up, and see if we could find out what caused the problem.

Despite my best efforts to comfort her, I could see she still thought it was ll her fault. I almost had to yell at her to get her to stop suddenly apologizing for no reason, sitting with her and holding her hands and saying 'stop it, there's nothing you did or could do to change things'. finally she did stop saying these things, although I could still see she felt some guilt about it.

We went to get the blood test. She was scared, because she was afraid it was going to show some serious incurable infectious disease that we would both die from. Sometimes my wife is an optimist, just like I am.

A few days later, the results came back. We got a surprise. Yes, there were a few conditions indicated, but none we were going to die from.

The surprise was that she had Rubella (German Measles). In the good old USA, you get vaccinated as a kid for such things. But if you are from a poor family in the Philippines, the government and schools aren't so careful about what shots you get. If you don't get a vaccination for a certain thing, it's probably because the money for the shot went into someones pocket instead of buying the medicine. That's the way things are there- screw you and go to hell so I can live a nice corrupt life. Killing your own and putting them in misery so that you can live as a big shot.

There was more than just Rubella. There was also two types of non-sexually transmitted herpes indicated, and Cytomegalovirus. It s seems that you can get CMV from babies, and even though my wife loves to hold and coo over any baby she sees, it is just as likely that I was the one that gave it to her. It's possible that I got infected while working at the orphanage in China, what with 26 cute and active (and possibly CMV infected) kids climbing all over me.

So the doctor prescribed some pretty strong antiviral medication. We were told not to get pregnant while taking it, as it causes neural tube defects. Well, we were careful, except for one night when we got carried away . . .

Well, a couple weeks later she started feeling nauseous, and showing all the signs of being pregnant. We knew what that meant, and we didn't want it to be true. Another visit to Dr. Jaya confirmed that it was true. It was a completely normal pregnancy, and the baby was there and developing normally. All signs looked good. My wife would probably carry the baby to term, and have a normal delivery. Yet there was a big risk that the baby was abnormal. Sure, maybe it was normal, but it wasn't likely. More than likely, the baby would be born retarded, or with severe problems. Or my wife would deliver the baby, only to have it die a couple weeks later.

If only it had happened a few days later . . .

So this time it was no surprise, and we went in for another DNC. This time it was easier for my wife, as she had been through it before. A simple outpatient procedure, and in a couple hours she was resting at home, her loving husband doing his best to pamper her and look after her.

This time there were no tears. We had cried ourselves out the first time. This time, we were numb.

(To be continued . . .)

I Don't Know How to Think or Feel About This . . .

We're Having a Baby!?!?!


The cheap home pregnancy test we bought in Lapu-Lapu City came back positive. Well, the second one did, the first one didn't work at all. Her body hasn't shown any of the physiological changes that happened the first two times she got pregnant, and her morning sickness has been non-existent so far, except for a little nausea. She didn't go to the doctor after the test, because she wanted to wait until we got to Malaysia, and see her Ob/Gyn here. OK, I can live with that. I have to, like it or not, because it's her body, and you can't argue with women about these things. So we're not 100% sure yet that she actually is pregnant.

OK, so you might be wondering what the problem is. My wife and I both love kids. We both have been told we are great with kids. We both want to have some of our own. I have no doubt she'll make a
GREAT Mommy, although I do have doubts about me as a father. She is kind and patient and loving with children, and every time she sees a baby, she gets the brightest and most beautiful smile I have ever seen.

The problem is, this is the third time she's been pregnant in a year. During that time, she was pregnant a total of 5 months. The first time it was 3 months, the second 2 months.

The first time, it was bad. It was my first day teaching at my new job in a government residential school in northwest Malaysia. It was also her birthday. We had a nice dinner. To celebrate, we went to see Dr. Jaya, the Ob/Gyn at a local private clinic. Our previous Ob/Gyn near KL told us that next time we went for a checkup, we would be able to hear the baby's heartbeat. We were excitedly anticipating hearing the first sounds of the new life growing in my wife's womb. Dr. Jaya was very nice, talked to us, then took an ultrasound to check on the baby. That's when our whole world changed. No life was growing in my wife's womb. It was just an empty sac. There had been an embryo, and it had implanted, but it never developed. There was enough there to cause all the signs and symptoms of developing life, but no baby. Nothing.

My wife burst into tears, and I had a hard time trying not to do the same. We both really wanted this baby. Just a couple days before, we had gone to the local department store, and looked at the baby clothes, the toys, and all the things we needed to buy. We talked about who the baby would look like, and what the baby would be like. As we wandered through the store, we both felt like kids ourselves, laughing and playing, and excited that what we both wanted was coming true. In that one moment in the doctors office, all that joy seemed so useless and futile.

The same thought crossed our minds- the doctor was wrong, and there really was a living and growing baby there. You just couldn't see it. Just give it time, and you'll see.

The doctor spoke softly and soothingly trying to comfort us. She said we could take our time and think about it, but that it had to be done. When we were ready to deal with it, we could make an appointment.

We didn't have to, as things took care of themselves.

When we got back that night, she noticed a little spotting. It wasn't too bad. We went to bed, but her bleeding started getting worse. At 2am, it was bad. She went through two pads in 5 minutes. Being the eternal optimist, of course I thought the worst. So I ran to the Principal's house (we were living on campus), and pounded on his door. No answer. So I stood in the driveway, and called him on my cellphone, and he picked up. Then I had to run back to our dorm room, and get her.

She brought a plastic bag to sit on, so there wouldn't be a stain in the car. I could smell the blood from the front seat. We got to the Private hospital at 2:30am, and they called Dr. Jaya. One good thing about living in small town Malaysia, is that she was there in 15 minutes. She examined my wife, and cleaned her up a little. Dr. Jaya said my wife was OK, that the pregnancy was terminating itself. When Doctor Jaya came back at 9am, they would do the procedure- a "DNC". In the meantime, the nurses would come in every hour to take my wife's blood pressure, to make sure she wasn't hemorrhaging.

I didn't get much, if any sleep. The nurses got her ready, and just before they wheeled her in, my boss, Mr. Wong, and the head of the English panel, Zuraidah, came in to see how things were. Then the principal, Haji Jamaluddin bin Yussoff, came in to check on us.

Things went quick. She was in and out within 15 minutes, while I sat tensed up in the waiting room. I went back to the room with her, and kissed her and held her hand. She slept for a couple hours, so I took a walk around town to try to clear my head. It didn't work, as I had several emotions swirling around inside of me in various mixtures, fighting to see which one would get the most attention. When my wife woke up, the first thing she said was she was sorry. She kept saying she was sorry. I told her to stop it- it wasn't her fault, and she had nothing to be sorry about.

Then I had to run to the bank and get the money to pay for it. Just before we were ready to check out, Mr. Wong showed up and asked if we needed a ride. Good old Mr. Wong. He seems to have the uncanny knack of always being there when you need him. Whether you know it or not.

It was hard emotionally after that . . .

(To Be Continued)