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I signed up on E2 five years ago today. I think I first found the site through a link on Slashdot; that was so long ago, I couldn't say for sure. Afterward I peeked in every so often to see what was new. (The node on making your own bleach was pretty memorable for me; don't worry, I never tried it, I'm not that brave.) Over the years I had written lots of poems, but they were all stuffed away on my hard drive, or crumpled up in the back of a drawer. On a whim, I thought, "I wonder what those people might say...." So I signed up and started posting them. Now I know! To all of you who have supported me over the years -- with encouragement, suggestions, admonitions, or even just a silly joke left in my inbox -- to you, I can only offer my humblest thanks. To those of you who aren't fans of my work -- thanks for not downvoting me too much!

My only regret is that I didn't get here sooner. Too often I see excellent writeups written by noders who left years ago, with whom I will never have the opportunity to exchange a single word. I go back to some of those nodes every now and then, rereading them, and the tears still well up in my eyes. Like Atlases, holding up my world, unseen. I whisper thanks to them, hoping that some anomaly in the universe will guide my words to their ears. And for those who did not go willingly... I hope they're at peace.

Some of you have noticed that my writing tapered off over the years; some noders who have been here for a fraction of the time I have have stats that put mine to shame. I still scrawl things down when I get some inspiration, and if they're any good, I clean them up and post them when I get the time. I've been a few XP away from level 4 for a while now, and this writeup will finally put me there; I'm looking forward to C!ing that list of writeups I've been accumulating in my home node.

There have been times when this site was the only escape I had from the tedium of life, school... other things I don't care to mention right now. Last year I started looking for other escapes, in real life, with varying results -- but E2 was always there. Your words and thoughts have touched me in so many ways; if I've had even a millionth of that effect on any of you, I can count my time on here as having been a success.

Thanks for five great years. God willing, I will be on E2 for many more to come.


Before we left the house I asked each of my girls if they wanted to wear their mittens to the zoo. Outside I could see our tree branches were unable to resist the wind. When my youngest daughter wanted to wear a skirt I made her go back to her room for tights or leggings. On our way to the zoo we stopped at the grocery store and since going to the zoo with my dad and my sister was a treat I let the girls buy individually wrapped bags of mini-carrots even though normally I feel this is a waste of packaging. 

At the zoo the first thing my oldest daughter did was grab my gloves off the front seat. My youngest daughter started complaining that she was freezing. A girlfriend of mine honked at us as I was telling my children that they should have listened to me when I said it would be cold at the zoo. By the time the three of us had packed up our snacks my sister was there making fun of my youngest daughter who was wrapped up in warm wooly blanket I keep in my car.

Because my sister was paying for lunch I had left my wallet in the car figuring I wouldn't need it. Consequently I had to borrow money from my dad to pay for the new sweatshirts I bought for me and my girls to wear. By the time we made it out to see the actual animals the friend I had met earlier stopped to talk to us. While we were talking my sister told me we needed to keep moving. Throughout the day she hurried us past exhibits I would have liked to spend more time at.

Going to the zoo with my sister brought back some of the times I had taken my girls to the zoo when they were younger. Almost eight years have passed since I took my dad and my oldest daughter to the zoo together for the first time. It was one of the hottest July days on record that summer. My daughter had just enough curly blonde hair to frame her face. Looking back at pictures of her wondrous gaze makes me realize how much time has passed. Now she's reading signs and repeating facts to me instead of the other way around.

Seeing my niece and my youngest daughter walk hand in hand past the hippo house was in front of my eyes until I thought about the day I took my niece and my girls to the zoo with my mom. That particular day my youngest daughter was crying, both of the younger girls were babies on that occasion. I was pushing my niece in the stroller while my mom was trying to settle my own daughter down. We were talking as we walked, speaking of the past with me wondering how my mom had managed to take five kids to the zoo without losing any of us.

Before I could finish the thought my mom asked where my oldest daughter was. The last thing I remember seeing was the big cat exhibit constructions workers had been exiting. My mom started running back the way we had come from. It's impossible to describe the feeling you get when you realize your child is missing. Fortunately for us people started asking if we had lost a little girl. Eventually we found my oldest daughter hanging out at the wolf lodge with a woman who had two teenage girls.

When my oldest daughter went to school she wrote about being lost at the zoo. The other day I asked her if she remembered that event, she said she did, I gave her a hug and from my perspective one of the best things about the trip to the zoo is how nice my daughters were to me. After the zoo my sister and I decided to take the girls shopping for sandals. This was a mistake on our part although we didn't realize it at the time. The Stride Rite store at the mall I used to work at is closing. My youngest daughter got a pair of good supportive shoes but seeing that store go was hard on me.

For the past eight years I've counted on the experts at Stride Rite to help me find shoes that work for my girls. My own personal loss aside a lot of foot problems adults encounter could have been prevented had they been wearing properly supportive footwear as children. At work customers complain about the prices, our shoes and their foot issues. They get annoyed when I try to talk to them about what footwear that I think would be good for their feet. People who work in shoes and understand feet are becoming more and more rare. I would be out of a job if everyone wore hand made shoes but trying to fit individual feet into mass produced shoes is its own world of hurt that most people never even consider.

On an unrelated more uplifting note I've lost some weight recently. When I visited my favorite bra and panty shop the women in there worked with me and my body which is one of the reasons I go there. I spent a fair amount of money in there but I don't feel guilty about it because I have lost weight and all of the things I bought were things I actually needed. My sister had the girls while I was trying on pajamas. When I met up with them again I offered to buy my sister some tea but she decided to take my niece and my dad back home.

Dealing with my father has been difficult lately. I'm sure he has his side of the story but it seems that everything my siblings do is undermined by his stubborness and lack of cooperation. Despite my frustration with him I'm glad we were able to set that aside and have a good time at the zoo. My sister teased me the entire time which was good because it helped take my mind off my dad and his physical fraility. Today my sisters are some of the best friends I have. Hopefully my children will grow up realizing that friends come and go but your family is there to stay regardless of how you sometimes feel about them.

Spending time with my family has been higher on my priority list lately. Being sick means I've fallen behind on some of the things I should have been doing. The other day I brought a new pair of clogs home. How I got them is another story but I want to add that after the zoo I stopped at the store I used to work at. For the first time since I moved to the mall I'm at now I no longer missed working there.

I went to bed last night thinking about how today was going to be different. I have changed however I still get frustrated that I'm not where I want to be. Yesterday I spent some good quality time my children, my niece, and I have to thank my sister for helping me see the good side of my dad once again. Hopefully when I'm his age my children will remember this outing, maybe some windy March day thirty years from now they'll gather their children together and take me to the zoo.

I was English, or perhaps of recent English heritage, living in an inherited house, multi-storey on a deep, narrow lot, on the outskirts of London. I had a nine-year-old son, Caleb, and my wife was about, somewhere. Interest or investment income was paying the basic bills (just) and I was making money for frills by purchasing whole lots of household goods at estate sales then refurbishing and reselling them. My specialty was repairing not-quite-antique electrical appliances for upscale city-dwellers into 'retro' furnishings. Caleb had just discovered the power of electricity through curiosity about what was under the electrical tape of a spliced extension cord. He and a friend were having a great time applying the bare ends of the wires to various objects in the room. Somehow the wainscoting around the fireplace in the sitting room caught fire and they were arguing about who was in charge of handling emergencies while the flames really got going. Caleb was reluctant to scoop water from the large salt-water aquarium to douse the flames, but as they stood in the doorway trying to remember where the nearest bucket and water source were, the aquarium burst, extinguishing the fire.

There was a brief cartoon-like episode where Caleb demonstrated how he could fold himself into a box shape. He was all scrunched-up, with flat sides, and remembered his head was sticking out and then grinned and pulled it in, like a cubic turtle.

I had a vivid memory of driving on a country road in the Midwest during a storm. I pulled over and a tornado was coming right down the road at me. I moved the car a little, away from the roadside slope and ditch, then the twister hit. A section of barbed-wire fence fell across the car and a broken power line fell on the fence; I could see sparking through the windshield, inches from my face. I cut my left thumb very deeply pulling the wire from the car.

I went to the greenhouse-like enclosed patio at the rear of the house and exited through an open window, using the white-painted steel framing to lower myself to the garden. At the rear of the property was a small house facing a small street, a sort of mews house, that I sometimes let. There was a rectangular area in the mews house's front garden, about ten by fifteen feet, that had been dug about a foot deep, the soil used as fill dirt somewhere on the main property. I realized for the first time that this was quite unsightly when viewed from the mews and that I'd have to see to remedying it. I returned to the main house, climbing the greenhouse frame to the open window in a series of complicated gymnastic moves, swinging my legs sideways, then up overhead while twisting, steering my feet through the window and ending up standing on the deck inside, facing the backyard. The white paint was very thick and the last hold was very challenging due to the 'give' of the paint.

Inside I reflected on the fact that I was doing the same thing 'home' in England that I used to do Stateside and, adjusting for cost of living differences, making pretty much the same money and leading the same slightly-threadbare life.

Consulting some kind of statistical household expenses listing I found that Caleb was a popular name in England nine years ago.

I have a date today and I am terrified.

Me: "5 hours on the phone with a girl"
Friend: "Damn"
Friend: "Those 900 numbers are expensive"

I know my friend pretty well, I know he's trying to be funny. I even know it's not that bad of a joke. It's MY needs that get in the way of being able to appreciate the joke.

Even if my friend were the psychological prodigy I'd like to think I am, there wasn't enough time for him to grasp everything I was saying. Even as needy as I am, I can't talk to a woman for 5 hours if things are not going well.

So I'm scared.

I'm not the kind of guy, at least I THINK I'm not (it's so hard to be objective about your own life), that holds back with a woman because I'm scared. It's not like I ever shy away from talking about my feelings and all the stuff you associate with someone pulling away due to fear. I like to think my fear is very reality based. There are reasons for the patterns we find ourselves in.

What I fear is that I've found another off-the-charts-intelligent, ambitious (learn to spell it) woman who is going to fall in love with me but ultimately it won't work out because our goals in life our different. And what is my goal in life?

It's all about my unholy trinity, isn't it? Sex, comedy, and games. Sex for my body, games for my mind, and comedy for my soul. I am not a gambler, I do not want to risk serious amounts of time pursuing things I perceive motivate others but do not motivate me. I think fame, seeing places around the world, and lots of other things possibly equated with success in this life are good examples.

I'm scared that I'm the one who is right.

Maybe it's all the rich girl's fault. I dated a rich girl 10ish years ago. We were only together maybe 2 months, but I had fallen for her and got really hurt when she ended it. She hated when I called her rich.

"22 year olds do not own their own planes"

"My father bought it, not me!"

These ambitious, world changing women like to slum it with me though. I can be very seductive.

I suppose there is no use in my fear, though. No use worrying about it. I am not the guy that holds back. I am the idiot who watches a chick flick and thinks that is what women really want. I believe you have to give people the opportunity to do the "right" thing.

So why complain? Why be honest about all this crap? Because I think some of you will really love it. This is the story so many of you women want to hear. And it just reinforces those silly chick flick notions I have. It's all about love and romance and the excitement of meeting someone new.

She is so new. None of you knows her. She's completely unprotected. I don't worry "oh X might read this and know I'm talking about Y, and X wouldn't like that."

There is still the possibility of being cut down before we get started, too. Men get the bad rap about being shallow and what not, but isn't it just some basic attraction that women have labeled chemistry that determines if they let us into a position where they can REALLY hurt us?

That's right men, represent.

I am not delusional. When I played poker in Colorado and was joined by a stunningly beautiful cocktail waitress from another casino, I never actually thought I was on Candid Camera. I am talking about The Doubling Cube Woman.

"Oh, I love games, I grew up playing games."

Bullshit! Women do not love games. Not in and of themselves. Sure women take an interest in their boyfriends activities. Sure women go to Magic tournaments so they can have a throng of men and boys drool over them. But LOVE? Don't tell me about love. Certainly not when you dare use it in the same sentence as the G word.

G is so my favorite letter.

So she starts to convince me she knows something about games and Backgammon comes up.

"Do you use the doubling cube?" I asked.

I can't remember what she said. I can't remember if it was her voice or they way she looked. I only remember I had literally asked the stupidest question in the history of the known universe.

But I did good. In retrospect I would have tried to make something happen with her that (for those Freud lovers I would like to let you in that I originally typed "last" instead of "that" The math is left for the student) night. But I found her soon enough and I felt I had gotten to her in time, she asked if I would be interested in going to one of their game nights sometime and she got my phone number.

And when she never called I didn't give up. Not for the Doubling Cube Woman. I went back and talked to her and probably was completely oblivious to the fact I had missed my chance and I got HER number. I called. I left messages. It never happened.

I know what happened, and there is a damn interesting epilogue. You see, the night I played poker with her was special for another reason. I was so attracted to this woman I had always tried to flirt or just simply interact with her when she served me at the casino. She had never given me a damn thing to work with.

Until she played poker with me. Was it because we were on neutral ground and she wasn't at work? No. She mentioned eventually about her recent break up. And that is why I should have struck that night. Women are terrible at giving second chances.

So not too long after I gave up and stopped calling her I saw her with her man again and understood everything. They were obviously all hunky dory again. Who knows, maybe it was threat of bringing some young stud to game night that made that asshole realize he was fucking things up with a woman that knows you are retarded if you don't use a doubling cube. Oh, you play chess? Do you use pawns? Oh, I've played Scrabble, but tell me, Do you use the vowels?

And now the epilogue. I see this asshole responsible for me not having a chance with The Doubling Cube Woman in Vegas years ago. He is with another woman. Seriously? You bag of douche. I hate you. For once in my life, at least, I was non-confrontational.

So that was The Doubling Cube Woman. And now I've met a new woman. I've already pegged her. Oh, did I mention she did stand up comedy for 5 years?

Wish me luck. Tonight I'm dating The Woman that Cried when Carlin Died.

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