First Mow and the Pagoda of Honor

April 14th, 2006

Today being so-called Good Friday, I had a half day at work.

Time off is always good, especially when there is no quibbling about when the short day is over. It didn’t matter what time I got to the office today– my day was over at noon like it or not. They are building a new computer room and in order to do some electrical work, power to the entire building would be cut at 12 and would not be reestablished for several hours.

I didn’t take advantage of this loophole opportunity, though. I did a good job of getting myself up and going. I got there a little ahead of my regular arrival time and put in a decent four hours of hard labor. Well, as hard as sitting in a chair and typing can be.

We had plans this evening and I had a plan for the afternoon.

At 5:30 pm we were going to meet my sister and brother-in-law and their almost one year old son Gryffin at the Emperor’s Wok in Fairview Heights, IL but before then I was going to enact a yearly ritual of vast proportions with which long-time readers are no doubt familiar. Today would be my first mow of 2006.

When I got home though Ruth had another item on the agenda. Evidently my hair was getting a bit shaggy in certain spots- as was Isaiah’s and Gideon’s. She suggested the three of us take advantage of my half day to get haircuts. I thought it sounded like a fine idea and the boys and I went to the barbershop while Ruth went to the grocery store.

When we got there barber Bob was mowing a kid and it looked like there was one more kid and an older man in front of us. That wouldn’t be too much of a wait. Barber Gary was at lunch and Bob said when Gary got back he would be going to lunch, so we wouldn’t be saving any time with parallel processing today.

Gideon went first and his behavior in the barber chair could only be categorized as perfect. I don’t think it would be physically possible for a two year old to sit more still than he did. Isaiah, who usually doesn’t do quite as well, also did a good job in the chair. They’d also both been good waiting about forty minutes till it was time to begin the shearing. Isaiah drew in his notebook and Gideon looked at the Thomas the Tank Train book he’d brought and the magazines (I picked out hunting and fishing mags because he likes animals) he demanded I get for him.

I went last and while I was on the chair, neither one of the boys was as good as I’d hoped they might be based on their behavior up to then. Of course, as soon as Gary started sicoring on my Gideon started hopping all around the barber shop and acting silly. I’d tell Isaiah to get his brother to sit down and invariably the implementation of this request would go pear-shaped when Isaiah would grab Gideon’s arm and try to drag him to the chair and Gideon would squawk and resist. It was a test of my endurance watching those two scuffle and hassle while I was caught stationary in the barber’s chair, but eventually my hair was cut and we were ready to go.

Once we got home I was ready to begin this year’s first mow. I drug the mower up out of the basement, gassed it up, and rolled it down to the starting area. After pressing the primer five times like it says on the top (5X) it started on the first pull.

The weather was perfect and I was enjoying doing my thing. The only flaw was the tree that had fallen a few weeks before that was preventing me from mowing the first section I mow in the proper pattern, but other than that and the fact that I had to stop to eat something it was perfect.

I hadn’t eaten anything since supper the night before. I was anticipating putting on a good feed at the restaurant and wanted my gut to be able to receive maximum capacity. The only problem was that with the initiation of heavy activity with nothing inside it– my stomach started to clench. I’d made the same mistake once before in the past and knew that if I didn’t get anything in it my supper would be ruined because my stomach would not relax and I would feel lousy all night. So I partook of one of my favorite snacks– potato chips, sliced cheese, and Coca-Cola in my favorite manner– standing in front of the fridge stuffing my face and swigging pop from the two liter bottle.

Once I’d completed sufficient intake to neutralize the clench, I finished mowing. I didn’t bag the front, but it didn’t really need it. I’d decided to mow at exactly the right time. Actually this decision was a little out of the ordinary since Saturday is the traditional mowing day. It was especially out of the ordinary for me to perform a year’s first mow on an unorthodox day, but I’d made a determination that day.

I decided that I am going to start doing more things– and not put them off waiting for the right time. I resolved to turn my back on the lethargy and slack that have been too big a part of my life for far too long. I am going to start accomplishing and achieving instead of procrastinating and loafing. It’s really kind of strange. It’s like I flipped a switch in my head and it happened.

I’ve always had strong willpower, but my problem was engaging it towards things that mattered instead of dumb things or getting it to engage at all. (“I am going to write about that day last week tonight” I tell myself and then at 10:30 that night decide I am sleepy and can write the next day… and the next and the next and the next.) Well, I now seem to have engaged my willpower to not only operate, but to give me the determination to stick to the things I point it at. Maybe this year I will begin my course to self-actualization and becoming the person I want to be.

By the time I was done mowing, out of the shower, and dressed it was a little after the time we wanted to leave. Neither Ruth nor I had told the boys where we were going that night. I’d wanted to keep it totally secret until we left, but she had told them that there was a “surprise” so of course Isaiah was pestering me about it two minutes after we left until about thirty minutes later as we were nearing the restaurant I spotted a large crane in the construction area in the large median in the highway.

“Isaiah,” I said “do you see that crane?”

“Yeah. It’s pretty cool!”

“That’s a pretty good surprise, eh?”

“Uh… What?”

“That’s the surprise we came to see. Pretty cool, huh? Was it worth the drive?”

“That’s not the surprise, Dad!”

“Sure it is. As soon as we find a good spot we’ll turn around and go home.”

He didn’t believe me. In fact when we found “a good place to turn around” he shouted that he knew where we were going despite the fact that it’s probably been a couple of years since he’d been there, but his guess was right.

My sister Robin, brother-in-law Mike and the one year old man of the hour were already present and inhabiting the pagoda of honor. In one corner of the dining room is what looks like a sort of indoor gazebo that looks kind of oriental. The first time we all came here when my Dad was here from Arizona for Robin and Mike’s wedding way back when Isaiah was two we ate in the the thing and we nicknamed it the pagoda of honor. Well, it became a tradition. We don’t go to the Emperor’s Wok very often, but when we do we dine in the pagoda with family.

The boys and I had not yet met Griffyn in person. He sure is a cute little fellow and happy, too. When we got there he was putting olive slices on his fingers like rings and eating them. Gideon and Griffyn hit it off well making faces and talking to each other. It’s funny to hear two year old Gideon call Griffyn a baby.

Of course we all had a great time. The best thing about the Emperor’s Wok, in my opinion, is the Mongolian barbecue. There are big tubs of different kinds of semi-frozen meat and different sauces, oh and some vegetables and stuff if you like that kind of thing. You fill up your bowl, season and sauce it the way you like and hand it to the barbecuer.

The grill is about five feet in diameter. It’s a metal disk several inches thick above a great big honkin’ flame enclosed in a cylindrical screen for safety. The barbecuer dumps your bowl of stuff on the hot disk and kind of shuffles it around back and forth with a set of three foot long chopsticks until it’s cooked. It’s good stuff and fun to watch.

At one point Mike said “I saw the barbecue guy put a cooked bowl of nothing but meat on the counter and I knew Roger’s supper was ready.” Everybody chuckled because I am not much of a vegetable person. I like the potatoes and corn. Other than that chances are slim.

Long before we were done eating Gideon grew impatient and wanted out of his highchair. Isaiah was getting fidgety, too as was Griffyn. We let the three of them play and fool around in the corner of the pagoda. The had a blast just being little kids together. It was fun to watch them and listen to the noise they made.

Earlier in the day, the barber had told me a story about a BB gun he had when he was a kid. When he got older and left home, his mother gave it to his cousins. One day when he was visiting his cousins he found the BB gun laying on the ground in the woods all rusted and ruined. “Yeah,” I said, “What is it about cousins?” He didn’t know either but agreed with my sentiments.

I’m going to do my best to make my kids the good kind of cousins, but then I know Griffyn will grow up to be one of the good kind of cousins, too. Right now it’s just fun to watch them together. We’ll have to do a good job of getting them together often so they can enjoy each other growing up.