Thursday, February 23, 2012

CJ

I write about everything and I write all of the time. Occasionally, I share my musings through blogging, a column, or a bust (rhyme) but for the most part I put my thoughts to the keyboard and then safely away to the save folder. And that is it. Last week I stopped doing that, at a time when releasing emotions should have been at an all time high. I bottled them, knowingly and also unknowingly. February 14th, 2012 I received the news that two people in my life, who I care for, had experienced a tragedy. A couple. The Rhineers.

Christian James (CJ) had been struck by a vehicle while bicycling to work and regrettably passed on from this mortal life in to the post-mortal life, temporally leaving his sweet Keri.

A hard truth. A single sentence. One which will define the lives of so many in ways previously unimagined. So why could I not put these emotions and thoughts besieged by that very sentence in to a Word document? Why could I not, the person who writes about everything, easily tap the keys to the rhythm of my emotions? And then, when I knew I could write what I felt, did I stop myself? Why did I put it off?

This column is not going to be sports related, other than the acknowledgment right now, that CJ and I shared an appreciation for the Boston Red Sox. These words you are reading, they are my thoughts, often scrambled, and shared through the use of my inner and outer dialogue. I say everything that I think and feel because I want to make sure that I say aloud that I care dearly for my friends, CJ and Keri Rhineer. My notions—especially during this time—become jumbled, and I do not want anything to become lost when expressing myself. I am done putting my feelings off. I am ready to share. And Keri, if you are reading this, I want to directly say that I love CJ and I love you.

“Stop putting this off. Stop it.”

I have thought the word “stop” a lot this past week.

“When things stop.”
“Stop for a second and be calm.”
“Stop thinking about it.”
“Makes you stop and think.”
“Stop not thinking about it” and;
“Stop feeling this way.”


“STOP!”

“I am sick about it. Sick about what happened and sick about what is happening. More and more each day I am sick—that I am sick about it.”

At first, when Brittany and I got back from California with Becca and Richelle, I felt like my emotions over the week had become this water bottle. And this water bottle, over the first five days, was being shaken up. With each day and with each shake, the input of what I saw and every tiny, strange, and foreign thing I felt became these pinches of dust and particles added to the contents of this water bottle. Always shaken up, never still. It never rested. Only when I got back home, did the shaking stop, and the particles that had been mixed in the water began to settle. They began to separate, with the heavier and more valuable pieces sinking to the bottom like gold. I could focus on them. Observe and separate the differences between each fleck. I had no idea what this meant, and whenever I do not know something… I ask the internet. Google tells me it is called ‘delayed grieving’. It can kick in months—sometimes even years—later. For me though, it took a week before it started.

“But am I allowed to grieve? I do not know what to feel, or when to feel it and if I am doing it right. With each second that I truly think about this, I hate it. Stop hating it. Who do you think you are?”

By comparison, my grieving is not the worst, not even close. “So I should stop talking about it right now.” Putting these thoughts in to text speaks too loudly “… I think,” but I need to put them here, so I do not have to keep them in and think about them. Keeping them in and thinking about them all at once is not thinking about them at all. “Get them out.” Then it will stop and I can be. “Just be.”

This being is not even about being strong or something like it. It is as if I feel like I cannot actually be sad because I have no right to feel the loss this way or this much. I deserve no such entitlement. “Accept the loss, but you are not aloud to claim it. Stop being selfish.” I feel when I am acknowledging the emotion, that it creates this stupid guilt. And I feel guilty for that too. Each emotion begets another one, like an endless spiral, going downwards and downwards, never stopping, unless I stop myself from feeling. Stupid spiral. That is why I need to stop. “Stop it, Brady.” I am good at stopping feelings. It is an ability I have strengthened like a body builder does with muscle groups. I thank life-plaguing anxiety, for once. It can stop anything. Including sad. Right now the sad feels like there is sad box for everyone and that box is filled with emotion, and I am stealing the sadness, which was put there for the use of grieving. “Do not even dare take anymore than you already have. You thief.” But you cannot put it back, once used, it cannot be returned. “But I cannot stop. I am sad.”

When I think back to the day it happened, I remember waking up in the morning. It was Valentine’s Day. We were going to make breakfast for each other. Brit and I. Per usual I was last to get out of bed. When I came in to the kitchen Brittany had just turned on the stove and was getting the bread and eggs out of the refrigerator and the toaster out of the cupboard. Spanglish. She knows I love these. I told her let me help you, but she told me we had awoken too late and that she would not have time eat, and still have time to get ready.

“Let me make you breakfast then,” I said.

No. It was her idea in the first place. Ideas like that are always from her psyche. She is sweet like that. I am—as well as anybody else is—lucky be part of her day.

After breakfast, I cannot remember exactly what I did the rest of the morning or what I wore even. I do not know what I did at work or the drive to it. I remember the phone call in the afternoon though.

She was crying. Heavily. It was not the first time I had received a crying phone call. Brit is very passionate, and a woman after all. I have listened to a few tears fall now and then. “Her sister said this, an adjunct professor did that.” This was different. It was not about her but someone we both know.

“CJ.”

CJ had been hurt while bicycling to work. Unexpectedly, and badly. He was in the hospital. This is where the ‘stop’ pattern started. She had stopped staying what had happened through her end of the phone. I thought that was the all of the news. The end of her report. This was serious, definitely worthy of uncontrollable tears. But she had stopped with the news. The news was bad, but it was not the worst. Then she unstopped. She continued. I identify this part where the water bottle of emotion began it’s shaking. She told me—what at the time I did not process fully—that the result of the accident left CJ brain dead and on life support.

“Stop.” But it had happened already.

More blank spots. We went to Shelley’s and I talked to Danny on the phone. We decided to drive to California in the morning. And I did not sleep. “I cannot imagine Keri’s sleep.” After the twelve-hour drive to Cali, there were a number of things I was driving towards, a lot of them were things that I did not fully understand or expect. Some of those things I will keep to myself, memories I share with myself, but there is one particular event that I do want to divulge. It is about the Miller family.

I did not know Keri’s family. I had briefly met them on Keri and CJ’s wedding day, and the only ones I really remember were Keri’s mom and her older sister Kaci. And the only reason I remember them is because the two of them and Keri look alike. For all intensive purposes, they were strangers to me. Had this accident never happened I probably would not have interacted with them ever again. I do not know when I would have. Maybe if Brit and I were visiting the Rhineers, maybe for some reason or another, we go there for an afternoon lunch. “Who knows?” But in this situation, of being with Keri during her trial, I walked in to the Miller household, with all the pretenses and barriers and hesitation that normally complicate and stop you from truly getting down in the trenches and loving somebody… all that was completely stripped away. It was pure family. The feeling, the acceptance, the simple existence of its being—which a family is, it is practically indescribable—was what we were thrust in to. I am so thankful for that gift of really and honestly meeting them. It was core. It was legit. I developed a love I was not expecting to be blessed with.

Also, I realized how much I care for Keri and CJ. That knowledge was unearthed. And to be frank it startled me. It is deeper than I would have given it credit for a few weeks ago. Admitting that adds to that spiral guilt, the guilt of not being able to recognize beforehand, but I am not afraid to say it now. It is a declaration I do not stop. Another that I do not stop is calling CJ my friend. CJ is my friend. It is not said out of competition or claim. It is just said. It just is. I love CJ. I am lucky he is my friend.

When I talk to people who have not met him yet, like my parents or co-workers, they have asked me to describe what he is like. The perfect grammar always escapes me, and I can never do him his full justice, so I usually share this memory:

CJ and I were walking together in Salt Lake City towards TRAX. I think we were on our way to meet Keri and Brittany at the Gateway Mall to see a movie. Warrior. “The four of us like that movie.” We hit the brick and had a few blocks before we actually made it to the train stop, where CJ would retell this story from 2002 during the Olympics when his friend stood and announced to the crowed car that they had tickets (which they did not) to that night’s biathlon (or an event like it). By the end of the story CJ was in stitches. His laugh, that belly chuckle that you could not help but love. I can hear it now. Hearing makes me feel good because I know that laugh has not changed. On the way there the subject of ‘would you rather’ came up. Guys love talking about this subject. It is in our genes. This time the question was would you rather be the best baseball player there ever was or the best golfer ever. We discussed the pros and cons of both and the subject then transformed to what we would wish for if we had seven wishes. With one of my wishes I said I would wish for $300 billion dollars. “Why not?” And this is the part where I feel pride in calling CJ my friend. CJ’s wish, was for $1000 dollars and the know-how to turn that money, through hard work and savvy business investments, in to the $300 billion dollars. Where I wanted the easy gift of the fortune, CJ wanted to be the guy who was not given one, but made one. Christian James Rhineer. The hard working, honest person, whose curiosity and drive to understand how and why things were the way there were, define him as a friend, a person, a husband and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. That is how I describe my friend to people who have not met him yet.

I love him. I love Keri. I hate how my heart breaks. I love being able to find comfort to every "why" question tied to that heartbreak. I love recognizing how I will better live progressing forward. I hate the reason that taught the change. I love that with my friends passing he became—as Keri perfectly stated—a hero to six strangers. He saved their lives after his own could not be.

I know CJ’s personality and curiosity behind it all, is serving him well, as he is now serving the Lord.

Christian James Rhineer
December 18th, 1983 — February 14th, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Whine About It

You know that Geico commercial where the spokesman asks if you have been living under a rock because you do not know you could save 15% or more on car insurance? That is this column. Living under a rock, and only now, popping up in amazement to see how much has happened since last surfacing. The shock of what has happened is not even the astonishing part. The recognition of how long the column has gone silent is the shocker. And is not exactly like I have stopped writing, rather I have stopped posting. I was in a funk, what can I say?

It was not writer’s block, but more of a writer’s what-the-eff-did-I-just-write-about-no-one-is-going-to-read-this, you know, block. But then I had an epiphany that nobody reads this anyways—so why not publish and at least appear to be productive. At least I would have that going for me. Literally, I would sit down, punch the keyboard for a 30-40 minutes every couple of days and then send those 40 minutes, of whatever it was, to the save folder. Hopefully be forgotten like Tai Lung. (Weak Disney reference nobody got. Redo.) ... and then send it to the save folder to be abandoned like Christina Aguilera’s diet. (Bad fat joke. Plus nobody really cares. Plus that was a really crappy attempt at a joke. Plus you suck. Try again.) … to be swallowed up like a Christina Aguilera Krispy Kream donut. (No, don’t try another Aguilera fat joke, like, try another simil… you know what, just forget it. Don’t publish this.)

You see what I am dealing with? Poisonous self-talk. (Just stick to sports. Seriously.)

Okay…

The Seattle Mariners dealt their kickass pitching prospect, Michael Pineda, to the mother effing New York Yankees on Saturday because, that is what you do with a 22 year-old proven prospect who gets voted to the All-Star game in his rookie year. I mean, why else would you develop someone in your farm system since signing them at the young age of sixteen, unless you wanted to trade them away for… ???

(I would write their names down, but you would not recognize them, so I have omitted and replaced those names with three question marks for dramatic and illustrative writing purposes.)

But on the bright side we have learned one very important lesson here, so fear not faithful Mariners fan. The lesson being, that it if there is one thing Seattle Mariner’s know how to do better than anyone else in Major League Baseball, it is trading away a sure-thing, proven talent—for a no-so-sure-thing, unproven talent. So, as M’s fans, we got that going for us. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your 2011 season… 67-and-95 worst record in baseball… trying to shoot for 62-and-100 in 2012… Seattle Mariners. Give them a hand everyone. And then take those hands and give them the middle finger. I hate my life.

Eff word. Seriously, what the eff word? To quote Hall of Fame Mariner sportscaster, Dave Niehaus, who was often, found screaming this sentiment on various Seattle homeruns, “I DON’T BELIEVE IT!!” How do you do this Seattle?!! Or should I say, how do you do this large growth cap market Nintendo?! You are worth $17 B-I-L-L-I-O-N dollars! Spend some damn money on bats and do not trade away your pitchers to do so! Sending away the number two guy in your pitching rotation, really? For a gosh damn hitting prospect? JUST LIKE YOU DID LAST SEASON WITH CLIFF LEE FOR JUSTIN SMOAK?!@!!?!?!? I could kill somebody!! Justin Smoak hit .234 and 15 homeruns last year! Great trade.

I will never purchase a Wii for this very reason. Until Nintendo decides to dip that finger a little deeper in to the sugar basket, and stop gutting themselves (and the fans), I am boycotting their gaming platform/products. When the Supersonics were pillaged a few years back, you would think they would see this as the market opening up and break out the checkbook better. Hey, Mark Cuban, save yourself $400 million dollars and forget the Dodgers.

If the Mariners win more than 65 games this coming season, I will shave my head.*

In other sporting news, Jimmer Fredette plays for the Sacramento Kings for those of you who live outside the 801 and 435 area codes. And because I attended every Brigham Young University home basketball game for the last five years, it is safe to call me a BYU fan. If not, then I do not know why I am a season ticket holder for both football and basketball. Anyways, as a BYU fan, I can confidently proclaim that BYU fans are the worst fans on the face of the planet. I do not claim this because they do not turn out in support of their team or anything like that, but instead it is their collective idiocy in talking about any kind of sport, at any time. Any time I hear a sports statement made at a game from someone sitting behind me or in line, I want to commit mass genocide. It is the worst. Now, for those of you who have never read this column or do not know me, I am a Sacramento Kings fan and I have been since the days of Mitch Richmond. If you do not know what that means or know when Mitch Richmond played for the kings, read that as I have been a Sacramento Kings fan since I 1992 or the waning days of New Kids on the Block popularity. I think you can see where I am going with this.

When the Kings drafted Jimmer it was a bittersweet day. On the one hand I was excited to transition my Jimmer fanship in to my NBA fanship. I knew I would have to do less leg work in keeping up on his stats. In the other hand, there was that gut dropping feeling, knowing a slew of BYU fans—and more importantly—brand new BYU fans that hopped on during Jimmer’s senior season, would now become “Kings fans” or “Kings experts in every minute detail related to Kings basketball operatations”… only I did not know it would be this bad.

It is unbearable.

It is worse than when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, and you would turn on MTVs Total Request Live, and see the host (not Carson Daly, but the other dude) rocking a Sox hat, hamming it up to the crowd in a shoulder-shrugging, kicking the tires sad tone, “I’m bummed that the Sox lost today to the Yankees. We’re always getting shat on, or at least that is what I read on the internet and have heard in bars. I wouldn’t know because I’m not really a fan, but I hope that if I play the part of tortured fan, even though Boston won the World Series and can’t call themselves tortured anymore—it might help me get laid because some chick saw Fever Pitch. Go Sox.” I thought that was bad. This is much worse because the Kings still suck. We are talking about a team that went 24-and-58 and won more games on the road than they did at home last year. It is not like the Kings took home the title and all anybody has to do is like a good team. Now I have to deal with a bunch of idiots that think their crappy ideas will make this team the 1996 Bulls. It is unrelenting. This happened to me the other day.

The Boss and I were at the mall doing some shopping for her friend that is getting married next month. Another way to tell it is, we were at the mall waiting for my wife to buy an item that I frankly could care less about at Victoria’s Secret. If I am not going to be the one to wad the negligĂ©e in to a ball and throw it in to a corner on a sexy night, then I want nothing to do with the purchase. I would rather wonder in to a Brookstone and sit in one of those $5000 dollar massaging chairs for forty minutes. Which I did. This is off topic. During my search I wandered by a DirectTV kiosk and they had the Kings/Rockets game on. Naturally I watch, and naturally the sales guy walks up to me.

In a buddying tone, “Watching the Jimmer game?”

Rolling eyes and saying to myself, “No, I’m actually using my X-Ray vision to stare through this TV at the store behind it” but recognizing the obvious BYU fan that wanted to talk idiot talk, I answered, “Yeah, just watching the Kings game. I hope they trade Jimmer. If I see another person rocking a Kings jersey around town I am going to puke.”

Switching gears, to agreeing sales person mode who thinks I do not like Jimmer and probably BYU, “He’s not playing well this year. Thomas is playing much better. If they played Thomas more and got rid of Cousin’s they would do better.”

Pause. Fellow rookie, Isaiah Thomas, who I have written about before, had scored 20 points off the bench the night before. Other than that he has had a handful of DNPs. Furthermore, Jimmer is averaging 25 minutes a night and has started three games. For a rookie, that is pretty amazing, and a lot more than I personally expected this year. Anybody who thought Jimmer was going to drop 30 ppg like he did in college is high… or an idiot BYU fan. They are called rookies for a reason. Expect growing pains.

Since the Jimmer drafting anytime I hear a ‘the Kings should do X, Y, Z’ statement my immediate goal is to stab them in the neck, but seeing how that is illegal, I do the next best thing and turn in to a dick, “Mmm… I want to see more than one 20 point game before I pass judgment on either of the two rookies who have not even played 10 games in the NBA.”

“I just think he is better.”

“Why is that?”

Silence.

Me, “I’ve been a Kings fan since I was a little kid, and I like Jimmer, but I want him traded so I can go back to being a real Kings fan. That way my genuine fanship doesn’t blend in with all of these BYU fans.”

Getting defensive now (my goal is nearly complete), “Well, people can like Jimmer and support the team he plays for. I’m a big basketball fan and Jazz fan, and I now follow the Kings closely.”

“You follow the Kings closely?”

Defiantly, “Yes.”

With my trap now set, turning to homeboy and looking him dead in the eye while smiling, “Then tell me who their starting power forward is.”

By this time The Boss had finished shopping, and had been standing there for half of our conversation. She was uncomfortable, sales dude was comfortable, and I was relishing in the moment. He did not say anything because … wait for it… he did not know the answer. I told him to have a good night and we left.

Did I come off sounding like a douche. Of course, and to that guys defense, I think people can be “fans” of teams when they only know and like one player on said team. The particular problem in this case, is the vast majority of these fans that are now “Kings fans” are the terrible BYU followers I mentioned earlier. I cannot stand to be associated with them more so than I already am.

It comes down to this. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the LDS or Mormon church, owns and operates Brigham Young University. One could safely say that 85% of their fan base are also members of the Mormon church. It could be higher. Who knows? When you are talking about religion you are talking about a very personal and life defining thing, and because this thing can be so personal, individuals feel a special ownership. It literally is a part of them. Members of the Mormon church are asked to pay 10% tithing, and with this tithing the LDS church uses these funds for buildings, charity—a million different things—but also these funds go in to the operation costs at BYU. This includes their athletic department. Now you get these LDS people who are fans, and their ownership, which they feel towards their religion, now spills in to their fan ship. This pride, this imperiousness, and self-certainty, is a good thing to lay out as a foundation when talking religious faith. When it comes to sports… well, sports are way more black and white than religion. It does not mix well. By and large, most BYU fans do not cannot see it; they are too close. And you cannot tell them this, because… I just explained why.

Go Kings, go Mariner’s. FML.

* - This is on the contingency the M’s do not sign or make a deal for some blockbuster talent.