Friday, October 26, 2007

A Time To Mourn

This week I lost a grandmother. I learned of her passing from my cousin last Thursday night. I was getting ready to leave for Richmond for Andy's wedding. Now I would have to add on a trip to Nashville, for something much less joyous.

I wasn't quite sure how this would work. Mom wanted me to drive to Roanoke after the wedding on Saturday. But I just knew that I wouldn't be done until late in the evening. And I was right. Mom was wanting to get on the road to Nashville and drive during the night.

Didn't happen. I got to Roanoke around 11:30. That's PM if you're not keeping up. So we hit the road early Sunday morning and drove straight to the funeral home. I have a lot of fond memories of Nashville. It's where the majority of my family lives. And even though we were all gathered under sad circumstances, I like to think that more fond memories were made.

Here's one from way back: When we were kids, and my great-grandmother passed away, we came to the very same funeral home. Again, sad circumstances, but there's a story that us kids are able to laugh at to this day. Well, I laugh. April kind of twitches and gets a frightened look on her face. See, while the grown-ups were gathered upstairs, meeting and greeting fellow mourners, the cousins were downstairs in a snack area. Across the hall from this snack area was the coffin display showcase. Beyond that was a door labeled: EMPLOYEES ONLY. We heard a noise, so April, the trusting sibling that she was, asked me, her trustworthy older brother, what that room was for. "That's where they cut off the people's legs. That's why they only open the top half of the coffin." Scarred for life. Good times.

You never thought you'd have that much fun at a funeral, right? But what are the first three letters in FUNeral? I joke. I titled this entry "A Time To Mourn" because really that's what we did. Grandma will be missed. She had a great sense of humor that was passed on to just about the entire Peck family. What made it especially hard for me was that this comes just over a year after losing Dad. During her funeral, a recording of him singing How Great Thou Art was played. After that, I was done. October will really have some bad associations for me in the future. But I'm okay with that. Because I still know that Dad is in a better place. And now I know that Grandma is there with him. Probably giving him a hard time. You know, they're probably both dishing it out equally. They were always like that.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A Time to Dance

Have you ever had trouble putting an experience into words? I am having that difficulty right now. It's not that I'm having a hard time understanding that I had fun this weekend. Or that I was a groomsman in one of my best friend's weddings. It's easy to convey that message. But just saying that I had a good time being a groomsman in my friend's wedding seems kind of boring.

Friday I made the drive to Richmond and checked into a hotel. I met Andy and his dad at After Hours to pick up my suit. They made me try it on, just to make sure everything fit the way it was supposed to. And yeah, I looked good. You should've seen it.

Friday evening was the rehearsal and dinner. I have to say, the rehearsal itself was a little dull. And we went through it three times. I get it though. You want things to go right on the actual wedding day, and if practice makes perfect, we got pretty dang close.

The dinner was at a little joint in Short Pump called Maggiano's. Faaaantastic. Pork tenderloin, four-cheese ravioli, chicken marsala, and spaghetti. And you didn't choose. No, you got all four entrees. Think The Home Place with an Italian motif. And of course the entire thing was set to the sounds of old friends telling and retelling stories about the college years. It's always great to see all of these people.

Then came the day we had been preparing for. Andy and Chrissy's wedding day. Ten months ago, it seemed so far away. Suddenly, here we all were. Getting dressed up in rented suits and posing for pictures at the front of the church. The ceremony itself went very well, just like we practiced (over and over). The reception was where the real party began.

After we were introduced, Andy and Chrissy shared their first dance as husband and wife. After the first dance, we all ate. After we ate, there was more dancing. Andy's brother, Joey, gave the best best man toast I've heard in quite some time. The cake was cut and gently shoved into each other's mouths. Then came a time that the singles either love or hate.

Usually, when you come to the bouquet throwing ritual, the single ladies jump all over each other to grab the flowers. But what about the guys with the garter? I've attended plenty of weddings, and I'm always reluctant to even take part in this. But once again, I found myself on the dance floor with about 15 other eligible bachelors waiting for that grenade of elastic and lace to be hurled toward us. I didn't even want to put my hands out there. But I was in the front. And I'm pretty sure that Andy was aiming for me. Reflex response. I caught the garter.

What's that supposed to mean anyway? Seriously, if you know the tradition, let me know. Am I just supposed to hang it on my rear view mirror? 'Cause that job's been done already. Maybe I should've told the bouquet catcher that I'd like a spring wedding. No? Too much? Right.

Unfortunately, not long after that I had to leave. I wasn't able to see the happy couple off or pelt them with rice or bird seed or whatever it is they use these days. There was a rumor about sparklers being used. I'll have to ask about that at a later time.

So to Andy and Chrissy, if you're reading this from Cancun, or from Charlotte when you get back home, I wish you all the best throughout your lives together. I love you guys.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Eatin' Bad

I have a progressive list of restaurants that I will never again give business to. The Wendy's at Crossroads in Roanoke is one. I learned after several visits that they did not deserve my money. The last time I went there (roughly 3 years ago) I ordered a Cheeseburger (only mayo and ketchup) and received instead a side salad, and nothing else. I can almost understand accidentally throwing lettuce and tomato onto a burger that was ordered without said items, but to neglect the burger altogether and give me a salad? That's missing the entire point of my order. They made the list.

The latest casualty in this franchise war is the Applebee's in Bluefield. During my fall break I decided to spend some time in the old college town and hang out with some friends. Monday evening several of us got together at the now infamous Applebee's for dinner. We ordered our food at just after 6pm. Half an hour passed and the only glimpse we caught of our waitress was when she was bringing something to another table, and even that was rare. She didn't check on our glasses to see if we needed more water. She didn't let us know that the food was coming or that things were slow going in the kitchen that night. Nearly an hour after we ordered, the food finally came out... in waves. I was the last to receive my food. And it was all cold. So I sent it back. This time, the waitress came back to let me know that the manager was cooking my food all over again, starting from new food. Great, this meant that by the time I got my food, everyone I was dining with would be finished.

After I got my dinner for the second time, the manager came out to have a word with me. Long story short, I got my dinner for free. Now, this is the first time I've experienced such poor service at this particular Applebee's. However, I don't often eat there, since I don't live in Bluefield anymore. The others said that it's always like that. Slow, poor service, etc. So congratulations Bluefield Applebee's. You are now on my list.

Please note that this does not exclude all Wendy's, Applebee's, or other blacklisted restaurants. I don't judge an entire chain based on one location's incompetence. But maybe Wendy and Mr. Applebee should know they're on thin ice.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

One Year Later

Do you remember where you were at this very moment one year ago? I do.

I was sitting in my basement bedroom wasting time on my computer and watching some TV. Nothing special about that night. Nothing special about that day either.

I got home from work at the usual 3:30pm and went down to my room to relax for awhile. At the time I was working as a counselor at Northside Middle School. Anyone who works in a school setting knows that it can be a draining job. That day was no exception. But overall, it was unexceptional.

Dad made dinner for me, as he usually did. I was spoiled living with him. Sure, I cooked for myself occasionally, but those occasions were few and far between. He knew his way around a kitchen, so if that's what part of my rent was going for, then I was gonna let it keep on happening.

He made dinner a little early that day. See, he had been working at North Roanoke Baptist Church (volunteering) during their Judgment House program. He was running sound in the sanctuary, which had been transformed to look like Heaven. Since he had to go to the dress rehearsal that evening, dinner was early.

Around 7:00, he called me from the church to remind me to give my mother a call. She had her gall bladder removed two days earlier. It wasn't that I had forgotten about that, I had just neglected to call and see how she was feeling. If I had known that it would be the last time we spoke, I would've thought of something more to say than, "Yeah, I'll call her. See you when you get home." But I didn't. It was just a regular conversation. There was nothing wrong, he was just calling out of courtesy, making sure that I would make a call out of courtesy.

Around 10:00, I was starting to get tired, but I didn't want to go to bed until Dad got home. And I started realizing that he should've been back by now. Then, at 10:45, just as I was about to call him, my phone rang. I was suddenly very relieved to see "Dad" on the caller ID. But it wasn't Dad. It was Darryl, the pastor. He called to let me know that Dad had an episode and passed out. He called to let me know that I should meet them at the hospital. And I knew.

I don't know how I knew, I just had an awful feeling that this time, things weren't going to be okay. He passed out several times in the three years that I lived with him. Each time we got him to the hospital he was fine as soon as we got there. But in the back of my mind, I wondered which trip to the hospital would be his last. It was always a thought... but never one that came to the forefront until that night, one year ago.

Jake, Dad's friend and music minister, met me at the house and followed me to the emergency room. We beat the ambulance there. But even when they got there, they wouldn't let me see him. They were too busy trying to revive him. But I didn't know that. Darryl, Jake, and I went to the chapel near the ER. They sat with me. They knew what I only assumed. Before the doctor came to deliver the news, Darryl prepared me for the worst. And even though I thought I was ready to hear it, you're never really ready to hear the worst news you've ever received.

He had been in good spirits that Friday afternoon. He had gone to church to serve in a way that he was able. He was his normal self on the phone with me that evening. And then, just after 10pm, God called him home. EMS worked with him for 45 minutes, but he was already gone. A friend who was with him believes he was gone before his body hit the floor. I pray that's how it was for him. That he didn't suffer.

I believe that he was here for the time that God needed him here. I believe that he is in a much better place now. A place where he isn't in any pain, he isn't teathered to the house by an oxygen machine, and he doesn't have to worry about his blood pressure dropping suddenly.

I miss him. Every day. Every minute. Toward the end, he wasn't just my dad, he was my best friend. He was the one person I went to with everything. That's what I miss the most. I miss being able to talk to him about how my day was. I miss asking for his advice when things are bothering me. I miss bouncing ideas off of him and getting his opinion. I miss his sense of humor. I miss the stories that he would tell over and over again like it was the first time he told them. I miss watching SportsCenter with him. I miss watching Star Trek with him. I miss making fun of him for watching Judge Judy. I miss kicking his butt at Jeopardy. Okay, really I miss him kicking my butt at Jeopardy.

It's hard to believe that a year has come and gone since the last time I saw him. It's been a long and difficult year. But I thank God that I can take comfort in the fact that it won't be the last time I saw him. I'll see him again. The in between times may feel bad, but it won't be all bad. Until that time, I only pray that I can become a man that he will be proud of.

I love you Dad.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What I'm Tivoing This Season

Can the word Tivo be turned into a verb? I like to think so. Can it be used as such even though I don't have the Tivo brand? I like "Tivoing" better than "DVRing." Tivoing it is.

The new television season is upon us and the networks hit the ground running. Here's a run down of the things I'll be watching regularly this season. Maybe not always as they're airing, but at some point I'll catch up. You know, when I have free time... ha-yeah right.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition - You can't go wrong with a show that tears down a house and puts a bigger, better, state-of-the-art house in its place in an hour (or two during sweeps). Plus those stories are a sure way to tug at the ol' heartstrings. You just keep moving that bus Ty.

The Simpsons - Sure the show is 20 years old (is that right, 20?). But it's still funny. No, I didn't see the movie this summer. I'm generally broke, so I'll wait for the DVD, which I'm sure will be hilarious. As far as I can tell, the show is still going strong. The fact that it has been on the air for 20 years says a lot about its writers. They're still able to make me laugh.

Desperate Housewives - This is a show that I haven't regularly watched until this season. Growing up I always had a crush on Teri Hatcher, so I have my reasons for watching. I recently caught up with the series on DVD through Netflix. It's funny and a little disturbing.

Family Guy - When the show first started, people complained that it was a pale knock-off of The Simpsons. These days, it seems that Family Guy has found it's own niche in pop culture. The opening episode of this season was a Star Wars spoof that had approval from George Lucas. While the show itself often crosses some strange lines, laughter abounds.

Chuck - This show is new this season, so I've only seen two episodes. Thus far, I think it's pretty good. Sure it has a totally unbelievable premise (a geek opens an e-mail and all of the government's secrets are imprinted in his brain), but it's good to see the nerd get the girl. I know that happens more and more on TV and in movies these days. But no matter how often I see it, it makes me feel like I've got a shot.

How I Met Your Mother - Funniest. Show. On TV. When the show first started I called it the new Friends. I stand by that. The chemistry between the five main players is great and it's one of very few sitcoms on TV these days that can actually make me laugh.

The Big Bang Theory - Okay, this one is new too. It seems to be a cute show, but really not great. I'll probably keep watching it, but that's mostly because between How I Met Your Mother and Heroes, I have nothing else. Plus, the possibility of the geek getting the girl again, nice.

Heroes - If you saw this show at all last season, then my reasoning needs no explanation.

Journeyman - When I first heard about this show, people described it as being a little like Quantum Leap. Growing up, Quantum Leap was one of my favorite shows. So far, this one is pretty good. Each episode is generally self-contained, but there's enough of an underlying mysterious subplot to keep me coming back each week.

Bones - Most people have the CSIs for their crime dramas. I like Bones. That's enough for me. And there's enough of that Moonlighting tension between the main characters to make you hope they'll get together at some point, but at the same time hoping they won't. 'Cause you know if they do, it'll screw up the chemistry and ruin the show. But for now, going strong.

House - This guy is slightly more sarcastic and cynical than me. While the medical drama part is interesting, Gregory House's banter just makes me laugh.

Deal or No Deal - 26 gorgeous women opening briefcases for an hour? Please.

Pushing Daisies - Okay, this show hasn't actually started yet, but it looks intriguing enough to give it a shot.

Bionic Woman - After seeing one episode, I'm interested to see where they're going to take their new spin on an old idea. I'm disappointed that they're not using the old sound effects for when she runs and jumps.

Private Practice - I like Grey's Anatomy. I like Addison Shepherd. Can she carry her own show? Time will tell. Thus far, I'm not that impressed, but I'll give it a shot.

Life - This guy (a police officer) was falsely convicted of some crime that I'm still not clear on. Pretty sure it was murder of some kind. See, he was sentenced to life in prison. Then he was exhonorated (I know I didn't spell that right, I'm just glad I could think of the right word). Now he's a free man, back on the force as a detective. Each week he and his partner will work on a case, and hopefully he'll get closer to solving his own.

Smallville - Ah, the adventures of Superman when he was a boy. They've gone in directions that I never would've gone in if I were in charge, but no one asked me. But the show is still entertaining. Plus they've introduced Supergirl this season. Good stuff.

Grey's Anatomy - Will the night time soap operas never end? They're so addictive.

The Office - Another show that I haven't been into in the past, but I've been watching the reruns and DVDs. Hilarious. I just have to keep watching.

Ghost Whisperer - Three words: Jennifer Love Hewitt.

Moonlight - I'm giving this a chance. For a few episodes anyway. The first episode didn't do a lot for me. See, I've been spoiled by how great Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel were. And I got used to Joss Whedon's vampire mythology. You know, vampires turn to dust when they die by wooden stake, sunlight, the usual. This show tells us that sunlight makes them sick, but doesn't kill them. And wooden stakes do nothing. And he sleeps in a freezer. I don't get it. I know, this is all prejudice speaking. Like I said, I'll give it a shot. But my patience is thin.

Okay, that really is a lot of TV. I really do read a lot too. I have to, I'm a seminary student. Like I said, most of the time I'll be watching these shows after they've aired. It's nice to fast forward through the commercials.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tales from the Qwik Pack & Ship - Chapter 3

Okay, I understand that part of working retail involves last minute customers coming in and taking up time that could be spent at home, since the store officially closed five minutes earlier.

Today, as I was closing up the register (at 5:59pm), a man came in with a huge 70 pound package. And then he got confused about what forms to fill out. And then he changed his mind after he started filling out what he later decided was the wrong thing. And while he's doing that (at 6:05pm) another person comes in wanting to make some photocopies. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

Did no one notice that the door has a posted closing time of 6:00? Guess not. I got everything taken care of, eventually. And I had to close out the credit card machine all over again. I left the store angry. I got over it eventually. And I'm sure it'll happen again.

Tales from the Qwik Pack & Ship - Chapter 2

I like kids. I really do. I say that, of course, to preface a blog to complain about kids.

Parents, when you come into a packing/shipping store where you have to concentrate on filling out paperwork for several packages, don't bring your small children. Because at that point, while you're writing account numbers and addresses on forms, your children are roaming around unsupervised. While you're not paying attention, I am. I'm seeing them pull greeting cards out of the rack to look at the pictures. I'm seeing them go to the computer and mess with whatever happens to be open on the screen, whether that be the internet or a shipping program that kinda shouldn't be messed with. I'm seeing them walk over to the paper cutter (which has a child safety latch) and trying to play with that too. Now, they're not my kids, they're yours. I don't feel comfortable telling someone else's kid to stop doing something when the parent is standing right there and should have the presence of mind to say it themselves.

And on top of that, other customers may come in while your kids are running rampant through the store, thereby dividing my attention between you, the new customer, and your kids. I'm getting paid to divide my attention between the customers. I'm not getting paid to babysit your children while you get your business done.

Again, I do like children. But incidents like these just remind me how very not ready I am to have kids of my very own. Yet.

Monday, October 01, 2007

A Bachelor Party - II

We finally made our way out of The Attic at 2:20am. At this point we were pretty high on great song nostalgia, thanks to Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. We weaved our way through the city, trying desperately to get back to the cars. Oh, and I didn't mention this, it cost $9.00 per car to park in the lot we were at. That's crazy.

We passed by a Starbucks and made the observation that a place like that should be open all night. Why? Because of the obscene amount of people coming out of these bars after last call. Think about it, these people are, for the most part, drunk-faced out of their minds. Wouldn't it be a good idea to stop somewhere and get a double shot of espresso to try and sober up a little? Not that I'm saying that these people should then drive, but you know there are some that do anyway. Even without the espresso.

And now for the long drive back to Andy's apartment. Well, not really long, but there is a story there. We were divided into two cars. In front was the Suburban (as mentioned previously), Brandon and I rode with Mark in his Taurus. We were cruising along the 485 doing a respectable 70 mph, and passing a truck on the right. I know that's not necessarily a smart idea, but he was in the left lane and we were going faster. Suddenly we see the truck's brake lights come on. I'm thinking, why is this guy slowing down so quickly? Then he locked it up. Tires squeal and smoke. The smell of burnt rubber invades our senses (well, one of them anyway) immediately. We notice the Suburban boys swerve to the shoulder ever so slightly. Then we see it...

Two headlights coming in our direction. On our side of the interstate. That's right ladies and gentlemen, this was easily a near death experience. This Mustang was driving west in the eastbound lane. Making a beeline for the 18-wheeler that was right next to us. Mark slams his brakes and pulls off the road. I mean, we hit dirt before it was all said and done. Meanwhile, the truck is pulling into the median. And it's a good thing too. The Mustang didn't even move. Didn't even slow down. Just kept on going.

What's going through that guy's mind? "I'm bettin' he's gonna swerve first!" "HA! I won!" Or maybe nothing was going through his head. Maybe he had killed a great number of brain cells by smoking crack that evening. That's the only way I can figure that someone would be that stupid behind the wheel of a car. He had to have been on that side of the interstate for at least a mile, because we were that far from the nearest ramp.

And let me take a moment to give a shout-out to the unnamed trucker. I know that most of the time I allow my own road rage to show and I take it out on truck drivers. Not to their faces, but you know, within the confines of my car with the radio blaring and windows up. But this guy, while he may have crapped his pants (as I surely would have done) maintained complete control over his enormous vehicle. When his wheels locked up, I was waiting for the trailer to jackknife and slam into us. As far as I know, there were no casualties that night.

I say "as far as I know" because I don't know what happened to Mustang Sally. He or she just kept going, with no hint that they were going to correct their situation. Like I said, they just kept on going straight. If that truck had not moved out of the way, you'd have been able to fit that Mustang into a coffee can.

We should get t-shirts made up that say we survived Andy's bachelor party.