My High(s):

I didn't go to bed until 9 this morning, but I haven't slept the day away.

My Low:

I didn't go to bed until 9 this morning.

Listening To:

Cowboy Mouth:
"Here I Sit In Prison"

Last Thing I Ate:

KFC Crispy Strips.

Thinking About:

What Alex is thinking. And about going back to school. And how much I want my paper job to end but how I don't want to give up this firefighting thing yet.

the thirteenth day of august, 2000... a sunday.

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Quote Du Jour:
"You guess? Never guess. You gotta know. I mean you gotta know what you're doing. Because if you guess, you're leaving yourself wide open to suggestion. And that to my mind is what's wrong with this whole country. I mean it's going straight to hell. Everybody's open to suggestion." - Rory Calhoun as Earnest Tucker in "Pure Country."

Friday was set aside for the 90 minute trip down to school. I needed to get the ball rolling on this associate's degree thing... and I wanted to see Alex... and I needed to spend some time getting the school paper ready for the fall. I did all three, so I guess the trip was successful. But as with any good Thomas Fletcher experience, the trip wasn't without a little drama.

Thursday night, I went with three friends to a minor league baseball game in Franklin. I napped a bit on the ride home... but didn't go to bed as soon as I got home... that would hurt me later on. I crashed about three and woke up about 6:30 for an accident. The three-and-a-half hours of sleep and the small nap would have to do because once the accident was taken care of, it was time to head south to school.

I got to school, saw Alex and got a hug. For a moment, she seemed happy to see me. My soon-to-be Deputy Editor at the paper, Jonathan, was there, too. We sat around the office for an hour or so and talked. Alex was friendly... and seemed happy enough. But for some reason, I sensed some sort of distance that she put between us. This is the way our friendship has always been. One minute we are operating on the exact same wavelength. We have perfect moments (See July 5th). It's a beautiful thing. I think so. She says she thinks so. But then there are times when her unbelievably large independent streak pops out. And there is this air about her that says, "I need no one but myself to survive and be happy." For some reason, I was getting some of those vibes Friday... and they weren't as noticible as the other times I've seen them in our friendship... but enough to alarm me for some reason.

I had made a slight mention to Alex earlier in the week about us doing something together. You know, the two of us. But not in a date sort of way. Afterall, we're just friends. Right? I wanted to see the apparently cheezy "Autumn in New York." I got the vibe that it would be a good movie to see with Alex. Afterall, we had gone to movies together where people die at the end. And we enjoyed them. (At least I think Wynona Rider dies in the movie -- I haven't seen it yet).

Jonathan, another friend of ours and I were going out to lunch. Alex couldn't come, she said. Why? Well, it seems that she was going shopping and -- yes, you guessed it -- to see the movie "Autumn in New York" with some family-type people. What the hell is up with that?

Jonathan and I managed to rearrange the entire newspaper office. We've had some problems with piss-poor attitudes from staffers in semesters past. Lazy attitudes. We want to express to them that things are different. EVERYthing will be different -- even the furniture. We called up Alex after her little movie watching and shopping trip and the three of us made plans to go out and eat.

After Jonathan and I shared three pitchers of beer during supper, I was even more curious about what was going on in Alex's head than before. But I started with the simple stuff. I asked her why she didn't go to the movie with me. Her response was, "it wasn't a date movie." I replied, "that's good because it wasn't supposed to be a date. We aren't dating are we? Do you want to go out on a date?" She said no. She also said she went to see it because her family-type people paid her way. I told her I would have been happy to have paid her way... I think good friends can do that without making it "a date." She wasn't fond of that idea, either. This didn't make much sense to me. The combination of her words and the vibes I sensed from her made me think there was something else going on in her head. And I wanted to figure it out.

I told her that there were two sides of her that I'd seen. One was smart, warm, beautiful and wonderful... It was the side that showed on July 5th. I want to bottle that side of her. And then I told her that there is this other side of her. It is a "I'm happy as can be all by myself and I don't need anyone else" side. I was honest. I told her that that was the least desirable side. Her response was, "I'm not here to make Thomas Fletcher happy." (Yes, she used my full name -- it was like my mother was yelling at me for something I did wrong or something). I don't think she is supposed to make me happy... but I don't understand why she bounces around the mood scale. There is no center point for Alex. I don't know what normal for her is. Every day is something a little bit different. And I'm not the only person to think so. It's just that I've grouped her moods into two large groups... the happy & beautiful mood... and the ugly, independent mood.

When she jokes with me... and is afraid that she may have offended me or upset me in some way, she always comes back with the sentence, "You know I love you." After she told me that she wasn't here to make me happy, I asked her... "What do you always say to me when you think you've upset me?" She replied with, "You know I love you." I had been having this conversation in the doorway of her car in Jonathan's driveway. I replied, "This goes for both of your personalities... I love you to." I closed the door and waved goodbye.

Regardless of what's going on in her head... I know that the girl thinks about what I say to her. I hope that my final words Friday night stuck with her. I hope she thinks about them. I hope that she figures out what she wants "us" to be... and can let me know. I know that you have to like -- and love -- folks for who they are. You can't change them. But you can't change something if you don't know what it is to begin with. And with Alex, I just don't know where her center point is. I don't know if the wonderful side of her is "normal" or if the wacked out side is. And that's something I need to know. But perhaps, she doesn't know. If that's the case, I would love to be the person to help her find out. (0724)

Gee, that was long. I needed to vent. It's okay. I'm better now.

It's just that I need a sign. What is she thinking? What does she want? What should I do? Am I a friend? Am I more? What is normal for her? Warm and charming? Or fiercely independent? Can't she be warm, charming & independent? It's worked for others. I just need a sign, that's all. Then maybe, I'll be happy. Oh, that's right. She's not here to make me happy. [Note sarcasm] (0741)

After the last two months that I've had and how they've been so full of fire fighting experience... it's forced me to reflect on what I want to do with my life. (Okay, so it didn't force me... I reflected on my own free will). And all of this reflection has done nothing but reinforce what I've known for several years.

My involvement with the fire service came early in my life. My grandfather was the former chief of the volunteer department of his town and I grew up chasing fire trucks. I guess I never really grew out of the stage until I started riding them. And, actually, a recent fire truck ride sparked most of my recent reflection.

I was at the Central Station a few weeks ago when a report of a brush fire came in. Usually, I would drive to the location from where ever I happened to be at the time. Since I was at the fire station, however, I rode out with the guys on duty. This was the first time I had ever responded to a fire with the duty guys. This wasn't my first fire truck ride... but it was the first one that involved actual fire.

The fire wasn't big. It was easy to put out. I believe it was started by a kid playing with some matches. At least, that was the last story that I heard. But here is the deal, these folks had a problem. They're back yard was on fire and it was spreading to the nearby woods. They called us. We solved the problem. When we rolled up they were happy to see us. That's a feeling that I don't often get as a newspaperman.

When you cover a story, there is almost always someone that doesn't want you to be there. I know. I've been on the receiving end of some dramatic speeches about how the event in question "wasn't news" and I've been told "you don't belong here" a few times, too. However, what's harder to handle sometimes is not the people who openly don't want you there (because at least you know how they feel)... The real problems are the people that are evasive and take pleasure in making your job difficult.

Firefighters usually don't experience those things... at least not in my neck of the woods. The fire department rarely shows up uninvited. At least one person has to call them. And even if a fire is arson, chances are the arsonist will stick around and watch the show. Many arsonists want the fire department there as much as anyone. The point is that when there is a problem, people turn to the fire department. In the field of public service, the FD is the jack of all trades. The police? They do mostly crime. EMS? They handle sick people. Fire Department? Anything and everything you throw their way. They are here to help and most folks appreciate that. I want to be a part of that on a regular basis. News is fun. It's exciting. But firefighting, at least so far, is more so. And I'm dreading going back to school and giving it up for a while. (1543)


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