uncle-alan

It’s easy for me to put things bothering me on the back burner. It’s easy for me to work 5 days a week this summer, go to shows, and hang out with friends all the time. I put my problems out of my view.

My uncle (Dad’s side) is visiting from Virginia and he had a talk with Neil and I tonight. I love him to death and I am so thankful for him. But shit got real. Talking about my living situation and my relationship with my mother. He talkes about how bad it is and to me and Neil about more terrible things she has done recently. I am at the point where I cannot concern myself with my Mom, that is too much for me. I’m done with it.

He told me that he believes in Neil and I beyond belief and that we need to believe in ourselves like that. Whenever he visits I get long talks about what I need to do to keep myself on the right track, and I appreciate it, because I don’t have that at home. I don’t have someone to put me in my place. He said it was time for Neil and I to move forward. And he’s right. I’ve been stuck for a long time. I’ve been down for a long time.

So I get on Facebook the other day and there’s a message waiting for me from this person I don’t know whatsoever named Joseph Usabuwera. I read it and it is someone my uncle met in Kigali, Rwanda when he visited on numerous occasions. I added  him because he asked and I thought it was so sweet that he went out of his way to find me and tell me how kind my uncle is. I know the basis of what my uncle does in Africa. He went there the first time to visit the memorials of the 1994 Rwanda genocide. After being affected by that, he went back to teach art and help the destroyed villages regain a little happiness by painting murals on the sides of their buildings. He scaled Mount Kilimanjaro and had people sponsor him per foot he climbed to put towards a clean water system in this village. He continues returning and has also helped them to create a sunflower oil business and is trying to help them earn money from it. He is a huge sponsor there and I admire him greatly for it. He makes me so proud, and I can truly call him my hero. I want so badly to follow in his footsteps and help do what he does there. Now that i’m eighteen I truly want him to bring me along so I can help make a difference in these people’s lives. So many people say that they want to go to Africa to help people, but I really mean it. With all of my heart. And I have a way to do it. With my uncle. Who truly inspires me every day that I can achieve anything. I love him. And I truly hope that I can get to Rwanda, to these people, and help.

I didn’t write my journal in a long time because I’ve been very busy with my job. But now its quiet so I will write. Also because I’m bored. My mom says that I’m trouble when I’m bored. Sometimes when I’m bored I like to visit my friends’ offices. Bill doesn’t like it when I visit his office even though we’re partners and equal. Bill also doesn’t let me drive anymore. He says I’m a “hazard to civilians”. We had a driving adventure. That’s what Nina calls it. She says “Gary, tell me about your driving adventure.” then Bill makes a noise and walks away if he’s close and Nina only asks me when he’s close. I don’t think he’s very happy when I talk about it. It’s because he yelled a lot. That’s what I tell everyone. Its true. I don’t lie. He yelled at me to brake and he was very nervous I think. I’m a good driver though.
My mom didn’t want me to work anymore with Doctor Rosen and my friends. Its because at dinner she asked me how work was going and I said that its a secret and need to know. And she said she needs to know because she’s my mom and that’s true so I told her. But then she got upset. Then she wouldn’t let me go to work but I went anyway when she was busy because I knew my friends needed my help. She wanted me to work with my uncle Alan but I don’t work for him, I work for Doctor Rosen. 
I helped my friends and I got to be in charge of a mission to help an Alpha. That’s because I’m an adult and I’m very good at what I do. That’s why I got to be in charge. But then a man held a shotgun at me. They’re okay guns but I don’t like it when they’re pointed at me. I told him I’m a secret agent but then Bill came and helped me because we’re partners. He’s very good at his job too. My mom shouldn’t worry about my job because my friends look out for me and keep me safe. Like Bill. He kept me safe. And Hicks kept me safe too. He made sure I didn’t get hurt by David Burton with the bad breath.
I have good friends so my mom shouldn’t worry. 

The Martian, by Andy Weir review by Aaron Downey Sometimes the stars align. I received this book for my birthday at the time I was editing our forthcoming book, The Boundless Universe: Astronomy in the New Age of Discovery by Sidney Wolff, and shortly before the New Horizons spacecraft wowed us at the pinnacle of its nine-year mission with amazing photos of Pluto. So outer space was on my brain,…

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Snake stories

The Observer’s boss, Uncle Alan, is something of a gentleman farmer on his spread up in Cabot, growing heirloom tomatoes and watermelons and crops of chiggers on property that looks like the perfect farmstead Lenny and George often fantasized about in “Of Mice and Men.”

The Observer’s boss, Uncle Alan, is something of a gentleman farmer on his spread up in Cabot, growing heirloom tomatoes and watermelons and crops of chiggers on property that looks like the perfect farmstead Lenny and George often fantasized about in “Of Mice and Men.”

Alan doesn’t have rabbits (not tame ones, anyway) but he does have chickens. The other day, he sent around a photo of what he found in one of the nests after heading out in the dusk with a basket to collect eggs: a large, black-blue snake, elegantly coiled there in the straw. After over two decades off the farm, the sight of that critter was enough to make The Observer recall some of our own snake lore.

The Observer’s father was an accidental naturalist, having learned to love and preserve the land in the oldest of old-fashioned ways: by being forced to survive there from time to time. Let’s just say Pa didn’t have a picturesque childhood and leave it at that. He grew into a man more at home with turtles and trees and streams than he ever was with people.

The Observer remembers, us about 6 or 7, Pa having rescued a beautiful and very pissed off speckled king snake from the brush pile he was about to burn, subduing it with a gentle toe and then a thumb and finger behind its head. The beast coiled about his arm, tail flicking, glistening skin like a damp night full of stars. When we asked if he’d kill it, he said, “No, this kills the poisonous ones.” He later let it go in the scrap iron pile behind his shed, where it would periodically scare the hell out of The Boy Observer until we saw that speckled hide and thought: friend.

The next one requires us to fast forward to 15. We’d just bought our first car, at a yard sale: a 1963 Chevy II two-door post, maybe the worst engineered car GM ever made. Paid $200 for it. The story went that the car had belonged since new to the grandmother of the owner of Bale Chevrolet. The guy running the yard sale had bought it for his teenage daughter, who, it turned out, didn’t want to be seen in an automobile that was once powder blue but had since caught a nasty case of psoriasis. So it became ours, and The Observer loved that car until its dying day, barrel-rolled into a stand of oak trees.

Our brother drove it home, babying along the slipping clutch. Once we got there, The Observer discovered the hood hinges were frozen up, allowing the hood to only open up six or seven inches. So we shimmied in through the gap with a box-end wrench, intent on removing the four bolts holding on the hood. It was only after we got the first bolt out that we noticed, there in the claustrophobic gloom, that a hose, not six inches from our arm, had scales on it. Closer inspection found that it was softly breathing.

Did we actually wet our pants a bit in the 10 scrambling seconds that followed? We’ll never tell. But we do know that eventually, our $200 car birthed a live, 6-foot chicken snake that had made the incredible journey home astride the straight six in our new ride.

Now, the last: The Observer was in college but still living at home. Ma and Pa’s big farmhouse out in the boonies of Saline County was un-air conditioned, the natural world kept out between May and September by screens and screen doors.

We were alone there one summer day when, heading up the narrow wooden staircase, we encountered a visitor on his way down: a fat and lovely copperhead, draped from stair to stair. We actually continued on up a few more steps, close enough that it rared back to strike, before our brain finally sent a message to our feet, apparently by Pony Express, that said: Yes, this is actually happening. We don’t know how we got down the stairs, but it probably involved a ninja roll.

That night, the snake dispatched and flung into the ditch, we laid awake and thought of the what-ifs: a hand, dangling from the bed in our sleep; feet jutting over the edge of the mattress; the blankets about us, so dark and inviting. How we ever slept again in that house without the benefit of a chain mail suit and human-sized hamster ball, we’ll never know.

In retrospect, it’s a good thing we had all these experiences as Young Us. We honestly don’t know if the ticker inside of Old Us could take the strain.



Snake stories

day 200 // 8th august 2015

say this all the time but today was SERIOUSLY incredible.

the majority of the canadian cousins and us met up at uncle alan’s for food and it turned into a massive water fight with everyone getting chucked into the pool! we made smores in the garden and my dad’s cousin also came up from detroit. we went to a fab italian for dinner.