Tag Archives: Personal

Reflections…

I suspect I know what the root of it is, which I don’t see the benefit of going through here, but here lately I’ve doing doing a lot of reflecting.

GatesWhere I’ve been…

Where I’m goin’…

The folks I’ve met along the way.

The people who’ve made a difference…

And the people who loved me.

The people I’ve loved and stopped loving.

I’m sure it all had meaning whether I’ve seen it or not.

I’ve been blessed to see a lot of this world from Amsterdam to Cairo, Manila to Minneapolis, Atlantic Seaboard to the Pacific Coast Highway.  I’ve seen a lot and done a lot. I’ve been bad, I’ve been good and all points in between. And in the words of Jimmy Buffet, I’ve made enough money to buy Miami but I pissed it away so fast. Never meant to last.

I don’t know if I had a good childhood but it certainly has been a long one.
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It is the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.

~Marlene Dietrich

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Sixteen in ’69

Myrtle BeachSometimes I remember 1969. Sometimes I can’t. It seems like a lifetime ago. In many ways, it is. It’s a lifetime of years, marriages, jobs, stumbles, triumphs and education, good and bad, that took me from Myrtle Beach to right now.

I’m older in body, mind and spirit.

Everything up to the summer of ’69 was childhood. At 16, everything changed.

Let me make it clear that who I was and who I became is absolutely a progression of living and learning. I didn’t know it at the time but learning was my job – learn, learn, learn…

Oh, and I can tell you without any hesitation, I made mistakes. Lots of mistakes.

I would like to think I don’t have any regrets, but there are a few. I regret some decisions. I regret some actions that hurt other people. I regret some failures and a couple of successes. But even all those regrets are part of the journey that got me from back then to right this minute so in that sense, I don’t regret the regrets.

So what was it like in 1969?

Turn the clock back and remember. Richard Nixon moved into the White House in late January. His Vice President, Spiro Agnew, would leave the office five years later in disgrace, the only VP in history to resign in the wake of criminal charges. Vietnam was in full swing with dying American boys a constant barrage on the nighttime news. That July, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and in August, 400,000 young people gathered at the Woodstock festival in upstate, NY.

I stood at the intersection of intelligence and boredom, and rebellion blossomed like Mount St. Helens. The parental units were trying to apply 1950’s attitudes to a 1960s teen. You might as well try to fight fire with gasoline. It just made matters worse. I can see today with the eyes of an adult the whole situation unfolded exactly like it was supposed to.

I was just trying to fit in, something kids have been trying to do since Cain threw a rock at his brother. Frankly, I didn’t handle it much better than Cain did. I would act without considering outcome — never a good course of action.

Myrtle BeachThat Woodstock lifestyle appealed to me. I threw in with the hippies. The music was better than the jocks and the expectations certainly were much lower. I never made it to my Sophomore year in high school. I was too busy tuning in and turning on.

My parents didn’t know how to be parents and I didn’t know how to be a son. I didn’t know how to love or receive love. Maybe I thought the Woodstock Nation would be a good place to learn. Maybe I was wrong.

The fall of ’69 would be my last one in the same home with mom and dad for many years. I never considered the ramifications of that decision either.

Before I knew it 1970 was here and I was a victim of self-will run riot. But that’s another story.

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Cat Stevens elegantly and movingly explains the essential dynamic of every father/son relationship, in his song Father and Son:

Father: “Take your time. Think a lot. Why think of everything you’ve got, for you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.”

Son: “From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen, now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away.”[/box]

The Journey

The JourneyThere’s always a question that leads to another question that rounds the bend of an answer on the way to the next question. It’s the journey. We leave the womb and for the rest of our days do essentially two things. We learn and evolve. The actions are just part of the learning. We act, sometimes doing good – sometimes doing not so good, and paying the price either way.

We make mistakes. We have triumphs and failures. We turn left when we should have turned right and would not know until long after the turn was made. It’s the journey. We do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We want to turn from our mistakes but sometimes we repeat them in spite of the lesson.

I’m not some big philosophical giant with spiritual underpinnings that provide immediate buoyancy in the face of disaster or chaos. I’m very human with human frailties and flaws. I’ve made mistakes along the way. Haven’t we all?

Over the past several months I’m written something here every day, most of it mindless regurgitation of things that mean a lot to me and other things that mean very little. Stupid little observations about the world around me just to fill in the page so I could say I blogged today, and to what end?

What have you learned about me other than my ability to string a word or two together in some coherent way to inform, instruct, or on rare occasion bring a little insight into the author.

In the future I want to do a better job of writing about the journey. What brought me to this moment? And maybe even more important, what got us to this point. There is an intersection of journeys going on every day. People, animals, institutions, countries, politics, attitudes and ideals, all converging on this rock, on this journey, headed towards something.

I don’t know what or where that something is. All I know for sure is this…

It is a journey and, at times, quite the adventure. In the future I am going to do a better job of sharing my journey with you, the good, the bad, the ugly, and occasionally the horror. And maybe in discovering my journey it will allow you to see your journey from a different angle. If we all learn something in the process it was good work. I’m going to do my part.

[box] You should live every day like it’s your last day because one day you’re gonna be right. — Ray Charles [/box]

Okinawa – 1974

I’m a veteran. I spent nearly four years in the U.S. Army from January 1972 through August of 1975. My last duty station was Okinawa, Japan.
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“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

 – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities[/box]

Normally I wouldn’t whip out Dickens to compare my circumstances on a small Pacific island nearly forty years ago to the alcoholic attorney, Sydney Carton.

Still, it fits. It was the best of times and most certainly the worst of times. By bits and pieces I was beginning to kill myself in slow motion and didn’t even know it.

I arrived on the island around July of ’73. At that point in my life I hadn’t been to too many places outside the deep south. Beyond my ‘Summer of Love’ excursion to Atlanta and my last duty station in Tampa, the world was my oyster and I was looking for a Pearl. I was 19, married with a young son and had the maturity of a circus clown. It was not a good mix for the likes of me.

The next few months were pretty much a booze filled blur. I had some good times on the island. I got into Scuba diving which was incredible in the crystal clear blue waters surrounding Okinawa.

As they say, all good things must come to an end. My extracurricular activities got worse and I ended up divorced and in my first treatment. Looking back today with the benefit of vision, I didn’t have a clue how bad it had gotten for me.

The Army decided I was a lost cause, not a good candidate for rehabilitation, and in August of ’74 sent me home with discharge papers. I look back on my military service with mixed emotions. I was the beginning of a journey without end, an ongoing odyssey that continues even to this day. With sober eyes I have been blessed with the vision of where I went wrong and where I went right. Some days it’s a curse. Other days it’s a blessing beyond measure.

I’m not the man I would like to be but thank God I’m not the man I used to be.

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“I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.”

— Sydney Carton – A Tale of Two Cities

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The Birds Are Confused

January BirdsIt was knocking on 70° today. The birds were singing. I think the song was It Might as well Be Spring.

The birds are confused. Hell, I’m confused. This time last year I was breaking my back digging out from the great blizzard of 2011. Today I was out in the Harley getting a cool breeze in my face. There seemed to be a thousand other motorcycles out doing the same thing. What a difference a few months make.

You might remember just a few months back I was bitching about how hot it was. Day after day of temps over 100°. And then one day it was bearable again. It’s like it went from OMG to “isn’t this nice” in the blink of a porch light.

I have a theory I hope proves to be true although I have a poor track record in the prognostication department.

It was so hot for so long this summer it can’t get as cold this winter.

Well, it sounds good on paper but I was missing in action for most of my classes on theory.

I had a theory about Tequila and that didn’t work out too well either.

Winter is nature’s way of saying, “Up yours.” ~Robert Byrne

Years in the Mirror

I’ve seen a lot of years come and go. There are many New Years celebrations that are nothing more than a date on a calendar. I have no recollection of the events surrounding those, what I am sure were, magnificent  soirees.  I am the former life-of-the-party.

This is kind of a banner year for me. It’s 25 years since 1987, one of the worst years of my life and at the same time one of the best years of my life. It was a tragedy/triumph kind of year, a victory/defeat kind of year, it was a ‘you can run but you can’t hide’ kind of year.

I don’t remember January 1, 1987 anymore than I remember the day of my birth. I can only think in generalities. I know I was getting ready to go to Belgium to work. I was to spend several weeks living and working in a facility of the coast of Belgium.  Just before I was to head across the ocean, I got a phone call from home. My nephew had died in a car crash the night before. It was March 4th.

Two days later MS Herald of Free Enterprise, a roll on/roll off car ferry commissioned to ferry cars on the  DoverCalais route, sank leaving the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium. Over the next several weeks I was to watch that salvage operation. It was the worst maritime disaster for a U.K. registered vessel since the sinking of the Titanic, taking 193 passengers and  crews to a cold, watery grave.

I don’t remember much of being in Belgium. I know I stayed at the Holiday Inn in Brugge and spent evenings exploring the many bars and pubs the city had to offer. Weekends were spent exploring distant cities – Brussels, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, St. Pauli, London, and others.

Still grieving the loss of my nephew I massaged my pain with vodka. I returned from Belgium several weeks later in quite the state. From March to August I went about the business of drowning my sorrow. I honestly have little recollection of those months.

I know in early August I was back in divorce court. By the end of the month I was in the hospital detoxing from excess. Little would I know how much my life would change. I haven’t seen a drunk Christmas since.

The one constant in life is change. Days on the calendar click by like mileposts on the highway and we mark them with our presence. Life is not about what I could wrest out of it, it was what I could put into it. In my failings I missed a lot of life’s lessons but thankfully it’s never too late to start learning.

Here’s looking ahead to another year on the calendar where I have the opportunity to be of service. My part is to bring a willingness to serve and a humility to not expect anything in return. My favorite thing is to do something nice for somebody else and not get caught doing it.

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Only 363 Days Till Christmas

or… “How I Overcame Stress and Learned to Love Christmas”

Next ChristmasIt’s over. Christmas of 2011 sits two days in the rear view. The nog boxes are empty and Mannheim Steamroller has stepped aside for Maroon 5. The jolly fat dude with the tacky red coat is basking away at an all-inclusive in Montego Bay — sans Speedo. (Wrap your head around that one.)

The annual insanity has subsided and in a few days we’ll all be back to normal, complaining about the weather, the bills, the kids… bitch, bitch, bitch.

You have to wonder what it is about those last six weeks of the year, the days between Thanksgiving, starting off with the annual retail madness known as Black Friday, through a frenzied December to finally reach a crescendo of craziness on Christmas day.  And then to catch your breath for a few days before punctuating the insanity on New Years Eve.

Wal-Mart ChristmasWhat is it about the holiday season that injects a senseless imbalance on the retail landscape of America? What motivates people who struggle to make it to work on time, practically every other day of the year, to easily rise at 3:00 in the morning and then dash off to grab a primo place in the Wal-Mart line on Black Friday? It’s got to be some insidious form of dementia brought on by the holidays.

These are mad times, I tell you.. mad times.

I have my own personal holiday meditation method that I call Zen and the Art of Surviving Christmas. It’s a combination of acceptance, awareness, and amazon dot com. I did break my own rule this year and schlepped out to Wally World on Saturday a week before Christmas. I was amazed to find the aisles cleared, shoppers civil, and an open checkout line waiting for my arrival. I was slightly befuddled by the lack of Christmas shoppers and quizzed the smiling face scanning away at my stuff. “Has it been busy today?”

She stopped sliding the canned goods across the glass. She gave me that Wal-Mart corporate smile and said something that seemed odd at the time, yet brilliant in her deflection. She raised the Mountain Dew bottle in her hand and answered my question with a question, “Would you like to leave this out of the bag?”

I was no closer to solving the mystery of the absentee shoppers. I resigned myself to total ignorance of the retail riddle. I took the Mountain Dew bottle in hand, sighed and replied,  “Yes, thank you.”

She returned to her task and I to my puzzlement. After handing over my hard-earned money, I wheeled my overflowing cart through the parking lot and began to notice a strange phenomenon. Nobody was fighting for parking. There were empty slots near the front. It was like shopping in July except much cooler.

Where was the typical Christmas delerium I remember?

And then the light came on and I remembered things like 9% unemployment, election year, ObamaCare and the Gringe that ate D.C. People are hurting right where they live — in the wallet. People stayed home in droves hanging on to that disposable income because people are unsure what 2012 will bring.

Christmas morning arrived much like every other day with a couple of exceptions. Stockings were hung from the chair-rail with care and I discovered the best traditions are the ones you create for yourself. Dinner and a movie on Christmas is exquisite in its simplicity and lack of stress. The dogs showed as much excitement over the contents of their respective stockings than any child I ever saw.

The message I got this Christmas was simply this.

Christmas LoveIt’s not about the colorful packages under the tree or the food, or the red and green lights hanging from eaves. It’s not about the big game on TV or the new Xbox. It’s not about the stuff you get. It’s about the stuff you give that you can’t see. It’s not something you can buy at the mall or trade for on eBay. It’s something that comes from your heart.

I know, I felt it in abundance around our house this year.

It’s a crazy little thing called love.

The Broad Path

I’m convinced life’s journey is exactly what you make of it. Sure you are influenced by the circumstances around you; the job, the bank account, the lover, the geography, and everything else in your sphere of life. For example, it’s hard to go to the beach in Oklahoma and I sure would like to go to the beach.

I remember a time in my life where I was bound by my perceptions. At one time I had pretty low self esteem but looking at me from the outside you would have never known it. I was the proverbial duck in the pond, calm as a summer afternoon but paddling like hell underneath.

When I was bound by my excesses I would sit at home, watch TV and drink. I had quit being a bar drinker some time before that and chose to wash my demons away in front of Monday Night Football, Moonlighting, and MacGyver.

I didn’t like where I saw that train heading and before the big crash came, I got off. It was the summer of ’87. I was lost as last years Easter egg. I didn’t exactly know what the answer was but I knew the solution was not going to be found in the bottom of a glass.

The path was pretty narrow in those days. As I’ve matured over the years and began taking in what life has to offer, that path began to widen. As I’ve gotten in tune with who I am and where I fit I discovered that I had it all wrong all along.

I’ve heard it described as a disease of perception and I couldn’t see it until I could see it. Amid the chaos and challenges that life can bring it wasn’t the stuff that always seemed to happen to me. Stuff just happened—period. Usually it had nothing to do with me although I did not see that at the time.

Armed with that handy little bit of information the path widened in front of me. I could start enjoying life on a different level—inside. These days I absolutely insist on enjoying life in spite of life’s little bumps. I’m responsible for what goes on inside.

Life is good today and nothing spectacular happened.

Spaced Day

Boy that was close.

Here I was really excited about doing so well with Post-a-day-2011. I haven’t missed a day since lat October last year.

All of a sudden a few minutes ago it occurred to me that I haven’t blogged today.

It’s not because I was watching football– I gave up the NFL. It’s not because I didn’t have anything to write about. I’ve always got something to write about.

I just forgot. All day long until just before the calendar turned I forgot.

So this blog is about forgetfulness. As I get older my forgetter works better than my rememberer.

Does anyone know what is good for memory besides string on the finger and Gingko Biloba. Someone gave me a good tip awhile back about ways to improve your memory.

I forgot what that was.

Insane Clown Puppy

For those of you that haven’t met…

This is Shooter McGruder.

He’s oddly strange in a funny kind of way. He can look at you through the misty eyes of Beagle love. And in the next minute be in your face “Yarking” like an insane maniac. (Yark is shooter speak for get up and pay attention to me!)

He’ll get going around the living room like it’s the Daytona 500, racing around like Richard Petty headed for the checkers. And then he’s sitting in the front window staring at the neighbors like – “One of these days, mister… One of these days.”

This is the strangest little dog ever. He tries my patience. He has this look when he’d done something he knows he shouldn’t be doing. No, it’s not this look – not even close. He tilts those eyes in a way that says, “You’re going to mad but I can explain. I didn’t mean to — really I didn’t.”

He has the attention span of a deck chair and the sneaky mind of a spy. He’s scary smart. I’m convinced he has retractable thumbs. He’ll get stuff you would absolutely need thumbs to acquire.

I love this silly insane dog… most of the time. In my face yarking at 5:00 in the morning is questionable.