Chimp With A Smartphone Part II…

 

No essay this week.  No words.  Pictures.  Pictures only.  As my daughter says, I’m just a chimp with a smartphone and the social media habits of an 8th grade girl.  Guilty I am.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with an essay on my hatred of the telephone.  Until then, enjoy some pictures from Fallbrook, Bonsall, Oceanside, and a few from my own back yard…  Jhciacb

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Trauma Drama: The Return Of Schleprock…

This is what I know, and what I think I know…

I had just ridden to the end of the strand by the Oceanside pier.  I was half-way through one of the best rides in recent months.  It was a beautiful day by the water.  I stopped, took a picture of my bike against the waves, and walked around for a few minutes taking in all the scenes of the beach.  I then got back on my bike, ready for the journey home.

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I keep a workout towel wrapped around my handlebars to wipe sweat from my eyes when I ride.  I’m always cautious that it stays wrapped around the handlebars so it won’t drop into my tire spokes.  I must have been too at ease from the high of a good outing.  I had pedaled less than a mile and was just south of the Oceanside pier dodging between pedestrians with dogs, slow moving cars, and other cyclists.

I have no memory of this, but my sweat towel must have fallen from my handlebars into my spokes.  I was going roughly 20 mph.  In what was later suggested to me as a sudden and immediate stop, I was flung over the handlebars and knocked unconscious.  My next memory would be the paramedics transferring me from the ambulance to the helicopter for a flight to Scripps Trauma Center in La Jolla.

I clearly had a bad concussion – no helmet.  I know.  I know.  My shoulders and hands were in pain, and I had a gash beside my left eye.

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I was in the trauma center for a couple of hours.  A CT scan indicated that there was no brain damage.  I had a small fracture of my left cheek bone and a smaller one in my left clavicle.  I begged them to glue to gash beside my eye shut rather than close it with stitches.  The doctor agreed.  I was released and headed home with a friend who picked me up.  My bike is being held by the Oceanside police.

I’m pretty banged up.  Very stiff, pretty much everywhere.  My left shoulder is hard to move – it’s what I’m most worried about.  I have been on a tear of good riding, good strength workouts, and the best eating I’ve done in years.  I don’t want to see that progress fade.

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I hope to be back at work by the end of this week.  Possibly, on my bike again and in the weight room by next week, but we shall see.

I may be on social media a little less this week, despite that I have a little extra time.  This was humbling.  A closer call than what I’m letting on, and could have been much worse.  Funny, each ride in an ambulance or helicopter grounds me a little more, and helps streamline my priorities.

If there was one disappointment in all of this, while in the helicopter flying along the beautiful California coastline, I asked the flight trauma team if I could sit up and enjoy the view.  They said, NO!  Something about some spinal protocol and the board I was strapped to.  Pissed me off… Jhciacb

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Passing Thoughts…

I’m taking my cycling more seriously these days.  I’ve been taking advantage of the long summer days and recommitting myself to improvements in conditioning and fortitude.  Due to my work schedule and my responsibilities around the house, I’ve been riding early in the day, often just before or at sunrise.  And no, this isn’t about how I pass all the other cyclists I see on the road each morning as I ramp up my training intensity.  Actually, it is about that, kind of.

I pass between 5-10 cyclists each morning as I sprint around the perimeter of Fallbrook.  I blow by them these days.  When I pass by these other early morning riders, I feel like I’m on EPO.  I spy one ahead of me, push a little harder with each stride, and within seconds I pass him as though he’s a mailbox.  It’s as though they aren’t even trying.  Well, that’s because they aren’t trying—not to beat me anyway.

You see, the cyclists I blow by each morning could give a frog’s fat ass about me passing them.  They have no idea what a PR is, how fast they are going, or if they’re going to beat their time from the day before.  The riders I pass each day are on their way to work, and if they’re on one, a bike is the only transportation they can afford – if they are so lucky to get one from a thrift shop or a garage sale.

These are the grove workers and day workers that help support my community.  From the agriculture here, to the aesthetics of homes and businesses, my community owes much of its riches and beauty to the men who ride rickety bikes through the hills each morning at sunrise.  In their denims, long-sleeve shirts, and work boots, and with backpacks weighting them down even more, they ride early because their workdays begin early.  They don’t pedal fast because they need their energy for the physically demanding work that awaits and occupies them until the day’s light fades.  And when it’s all done, they ride home again.  It’s not exercise for these men, it’s transportation.  They ride The Tour De Opportunity.

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In truth, I take no pride whatsoever in passing these men each morning.  In fact, I feel equal parts shame, guilt, and humility.  Shame, that I complain about so much in my life in comparison to theirs.  Guilt, that my life is so sweet, so free, so and easy in comparison to theirs.  Humility, that I am reminded by them all I am and all I have, as I glide by grateful for it all.

Each morning I ride my bike by choice, in pursuit of achievement, thrill, and satisfaction.  Almost immediately though, and throughout my ride, I am reminded just how little achievement, thrill, and satisfaction matter in the scope of putting food on the table.  I bow down to the men I pass each morning, who pedal the same roads I peddle.  They do so for more noble reasons, and with much more fortitude…  Jhciacb.

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Onion knife

David Lynchbrook…

I’ve often said that that living in Fallbrook is like being in a David Lynch movie.  It’s as though an invisible cloud of dream-state hovers over this town made from particles of whacky.  At any moment, at least a few of the personalities or situations which surround me are peculiar, if not out of place altogether.  When these personalities and situations collide in front of me, it makes me question my own reality.  Last night such a collision took place.

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Fallbrook sits on the eastern border of the Camp Pendleton Marine Base and the Naval Weapons Depot.  It is common to see low flying attack helicopters and large transport aircraft overhead all-day long, and often into the evenings.  Fallbrook residents are so accustomed to this that seeing and hearing these aircraft is just a natural part of living here.  We are also accustomed to hearing and feeling explosions in the distance, from live mortar fire and occasionally larger explosives.  The larger explosions can cause the walls of houses to shake and pictures on the walls to vibrate.  The house I live sits on a hill less than one mile from the Camp Pendleton fence.  My neighbors and I feel these explosions regularly.

At the bottom of my hill, about 1,000 yards from my house and on the other side of Main Avenue, is a Pentecostal church.  The church is charming; an old building with a dirt parking lot and all the signs are in Spanish.  The congregation is exclusively Guatemalan.  Fallbrook has many Guatemalan residents and guest workers who make up a portion of our population.  They live here for work in the avocado trade.  This church plays live music 7-nights per week, and the music is always loud enough to be heard from my front yard and inside my house.

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Higher on the hill above me, are two halfway-houses where addicts transition from court-ordered rehab situations back into the workings of society.  The residents usually stay for a month or so.  These houses are here near the center of town so that residents are within walking distance to most necessities.   Because of their backgrounds, many of these folks don’t have driving privileges.  If there is a single archetype for the halfway house residents, it is this: Caucasian male, 25-35 years old, lots of tattoos, baggy pants, long hair or no hair at all, but rarely with a common haircut, no shirt, and often with skateboard.  They skate down my street all day long heading into town, and return walking up the hill, carrying their skateboards in one hand, and their supplies in the other.

So last night, as I was watering the garden in front of my house, I stood fascinated, if not confused, by the confluence of all the personalities and situations which collided around me.  I was immersed in a cloud of peculiarity.  The tinny sounds of drums and out of tune guitars emanating from the Guatemalan church band down below echoed.  Simultaneously, attack helicopters were flying low overhead, chopping the air loud enough to cause the bones of my chest to rattle.  In the distance, large explosions from the Marine base could also be heard – and shook the windows of my house.  All the while, a steady stream of tattooed stoners transitioned up and down my street on skateboards, and walked back up again with grocery bags of Gatorade, cigarettes, and Little Debbie oatmeal treats to take the place the of drugs or alcohol they are here to leave behind.

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As I was taking it all in, the Asian prostitute walked by.  Everyone in town has seen her.  She walks the streets of Fallbrook all day long and has for years.  She’s always in a mini-dress, carries a large duffle bag over her shoulder everywhere she goes, and most days has an umbrella to keep the sun off her head and shoulders.  I have no idea where she goes or what she does – she may not even be a prostitute, that’s just an assumption I make because of the dress and the duffle bag.  She has nice legs, but they do have that lived in look.

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Last evening all of this took place around me.  I just stood there, garden hose in hand, watering my succulents and taking it all in.  It was as though they all knew a secret and nobody was willing to share that secret with me.  The pilots of the aircraft overhead, the prostitute, the dudes from rehab, the people of the church – even my neighbors on their porches also taking it in.  Everyone here is very nice – outright gracious, but I just know they all know something I don’t know, and nobody is ever going to tell me what this town’s secret really is.

Nothing big happens in Fallbrook, but for the eccentricity.  The eccentricity here – the peculiarity is quite large.  It’s the best part of living here, and why I stay.  Jhciacb…

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The Value Of Weeeeeeeeee…

Road Trip Moment…

A car drives along a country highway, no sign of civilization in sight.  Up one hill, down another.  Up another hill, down one more.  A father whistles behind the wheel, mindful of his precious cargo.  His wife is beside him in the passenger seat, reading a book.  A young boy, buckled safely in back looks out the window in wonder, enjoying the ups and downs of the hills.  Suddenly the young voice exclaims…

“Daddy, I have to go wee…!”

The father responds…

“Okay son, in just a little bit…”

Five minutes later…

I have to go wee…!”

The father responds again, hoping to get in a few more miles before breaking the rhythm of his trip…

“Okay.  Soon.  I promise…”

Five minutes later and at the top of his lungs…

DADDY, I HAVE TO GO WEE…!”

The father abruptly pulls the car to the side of the road, shifts into Park and as dust from the road flies about the tires he looks back to his son…

“Okay.  Okay.  There’s a tree right over there…”

The boy unbuckles his seatbelt, throws his arms in the air, and as though he’s at the peak of a roller coaster exclaims at the top of lungs…

“Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

Again…

“Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

One more time…

“This drive is so much fun!  Weeeeeeeeee!!!”

“Okay, Dad, we can go now.  I just needed to get that out…”

The dad snickers because he knows he’s been played.  The boy’s mother smiles a secret smile.  Tires scratch dirt as they hit the road again fueled by a bit of family laughter.

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Losing Weeeeeeeeee…

Around the age of 10 or so, we abandon the concept of weeeeeeeee.  Letting go the idea of weeeeeeeee, is the first evolutionary step on the path to a life less fulfilled.  How different might each day be, of our dreary adult lives, if just once or twice a day we got to throw our arms in the air and go weeeeeeeee…?

I’ve often been accused of having a good attitude – as if it’s a crime in this era of perceived social turmoil.  Don’t get me wrong, I can go from zero to son-of-a-bitch in less than 2 seconds, but it doesn’t happen often these days, even under the worst of circumstances.  At the core of my good attitude, I am certain, is the calming effect that comes from making time most every day of my life to go weeeeeeeee.  For all my BS, the child i once was in that backseat, is still alive and well and living on my shoulder.

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Wake Up, Go Wee.  Then, Go Weeeeeeeeee…

Though strength training has been central to my exercise life, for most of my life, I have always found peripheral salvation in intense cardio activities such as running, hiking, swimming and cycling.  Due to the current structure of my life, for the past year and a half or so, road cycling has been the beer chaser to the straight shot of strength training I swallow each day.

Each morning, 7 days per week, I ride a 10-mile loop around my community.  This is an early morning ride that takes me roughly a half-hour.  My cycling friends who enjoy riding 20, 30 or even 50-miles on the weekends, may scoff at the idea of doing a meager 10-miles.  This 10-miles though, is a full-on sprint.

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Fallbrook is a community with almost no flat ground.  Throughout my 10-mile ride, I’m either going downhill or uphill, but am never flat.  I push the uphill sections hard – this this is where the exercise comes in.  At some points, my heart-rate may exceed 170-bpm.  Going uphill is where the challenge lies and where I find mental clarity.  Pushing my bike hard uphill makes me stronger, inside and out.  Since there is more work involved, and gravity works against me, the uphill sections take much longer to negotiate than the downhill stretches.

Downhill though, is where the weeeeeeeee comes in, and that provides a whole different kind of mental clarity.  As worked as my body may be, as much as my heart may pound and as dead as my legs might feel at the top of each hill, I always throw my hands over my head as I crest each hill, and glide to the bottom.  Even if I don’t say it aloud, I am thinking it as I ride; weeeeeeeee…!  I’m certain I always smile as I do this.

When my ride is done and my breath is caught, I am on top of the world, if only for a moment.  Part of that is from rising to a physical challenge of pushing the uphill sections hard while most still sleep.  Part of it too tough, is that a half-dozen times before my workday even begins, I get to go weeeeeeeee, just like a I did as a child.

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Footnote…

A running friend recently called me out…

“Roy, if you ran for that 35-minutes instead of riding your bike, you’d burn a lot more calories and get a much better cardio/conditioning workout…”

True, I told him, and then reminded him I have run marathons and countless lesser races; 5K and 10Ks.  There’s no weeeeeeeee in running, I told him.  When there’s time on the weekends, I may get out and ride 20 or 30-miles, but my 10-mile sprint each morning, with a half-dozen or so weeeeeeeee sections mixed in, helps keep me fit, and keep me young.

Like you, each morning I wake up and immediately go wee.  Within a few minutes of that, I also get to go weeeeeeeee, and that’s just one more reason to have a good attitude and a good day…  Jhciacb

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Camaro or Lamborghini…..

Every bodybuilder has two physiques; the Chevy Camaro, in which he his spends most of his days.  Or, the Lamborghini that he cruises around in every couple of years or so, but only for short stretches at a time.

The Camaro physique is not a bad one to go through life with.  It’s easy on the eyes, turns the occasional head and has some power when needed.  Though it might not be the shining star of every intersection, and may have occasional body damage, it’s better than what most folks get around in.  The bodybuilder maintains his Camaro physique with regular lifting, some occasional cardio and a mostly good diet.

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That said, when it comes to maintaining the Camaro physique, workouts are often skipped, cardio is always just an option, and the occasional or even daily ice cream or pizza won’t take too much away from the mystique of the Camaro physique.  In short, maintaining the Camaro physique is the act of being good enough and better than most – most of the time.  It isn’t though, the sum of one’s best efforts, and it ain’t world class.

Every so often though, the desire to take the Lamborghini physique out of the garage surfaces.  Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as pulling the cover off, charging the battery and checking the air in the tires.  Prepping the Lamborghini physique for a road trip takes weeks if not months.  This is a time when preparation is a 24/7 process, all the details matter and little attention can be given to too much else – which is why it doesn’t get driven too frequently or for long trips.

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To maximize the Lamborghini physique, there requires only the best fuel.  Constant attention must be paid to the surface – not a speck of dust anywhere.  Protection must be given from outside damage at any cost, so anything that is not consistent with keeping the body clean is left behind.

In short, maintaining the Lamborghini physique is the Siberia of living.  In exchange the sacrifices, one gets the luxury of being able to show off and blow off – anyone approaching or threatening to approach.  It’s a bobble of vanity, injects little value into society and lends nothing to the advancement of our species, but we all need hobbies and this one is mine.  Maybe, for short periods of time, it is a work of art.  The Greeks and the Romans thought so.

When it’s all said and done, the thing is this…

When one gets around in the Camaro physique, it’s a nice little car.  One wants to enjoy it – to fiercely accelerate on the freeway entrance ramp, change lanes with the flick of a wrist, leave the Prius at the red light in the dust, and draw looks from the lady getting out of the Mercedes in the grocery store parking lot.  Though it may not be Indy, driving a Camaro physique every day can be a lot of fun.  The Camaro physique is when most bodybuilders do most of their showing off in public.

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Driving the Lamborghini physique, despite its immaculate aesthetic and powerful engine, is a time when most bodybuilders drive 55 and keep it covered up.  The leaner I get, the more I tend to wear.  That’s the secret pleasure in possessing something so beautiful – so powerful yet not letting on to anyone what you have under the cover and under the hood.

For me, truth be told, I’ve only busted out my Lamborghini physique a half-dozen times in my adult life, most recently in 2013.  At that time, I kept it on the road for less than a year.  I’ve always been content in my Camaro physique, working hard enough most of the time, to keep it from turning into a ’67 Ford Falcon with one door caved in.  But it’s been calling me lately – the Lamborghini physique.  Perhaps it’s just some feelings of the unfinished business of my youth bubbling toward the surface.  Maybe I just need a distraction from a busy schedule and a home life with increasing demands.  But it’s calling me.  I’m already beginning to check the air in the tires, buff out the paint a little, fuel the engine well and may let it roar for a stretch.

This morning I was in the body shop – so to say.  Barbell rows and deadlifts to Supertramp’s Crime Of The Century album.  Breakfast was a variety of mixed vegetables and tofu.  And then it occurs to me; can a Lamborghini physique be vegan…?  Not sure.  Stay tuned…  Jhciacb.

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The Me I once was, Once Again, Maybe…

Last night I stepped into my weight room with all the fire of a teenage boy.  I approached my workout with wide eyes and wonder.  Energy was high and possibilities were endless. The consistency of both my eating and training over the past few weeks helped me to see edges and curves in my frame that have been hiding recently due to the stresses and time constraints of higher priorities.

Rather than stick to my usual workout soundtrack of books on religion and philosophy while I trained, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass filled the room.  It was a measured, but serious 60-minute session of gravity management – a golden moment at the end of a challenging week.  I was completely dialed in to the moment.

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Throughout the workout though, as always, the cynicism of an old man was trying to douse that fire.  It was another epic battle between the me I once was, the me that I am, and the me I wish to be.  The me I wish to be, by the way, has always been the me I once was, only better.  Funny how that works.

Cynicism is like witchcraft in the wind.  It finds its way through the smallest of cracks.  Youthful ambitions be dammed, they are as porous as a picket fence.  In-between sets and exercises, I chuckled at the ridiculousness of it all – of the very act of lifting weights, and condemned myself repeatedly for my childish play.

How foolish this all is, I thought.  One hour at a time, 6 days per week and over a 43-year period in the gym, I could have earned a dozen college degrees with that time.  I could have done amazing work on behalf of the poor.   I could have volunteered in my community.  I could have.  I could have.  I could have.  Always bubbling under the surface when I am working out, are those thoughts of what else I could be doing with that time and energy.

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I reflected though, if only for a moment.  I do volunteer in my community, though I could do more.  I do give to the poor, though I could give more.  And through all the hundreds of books I have listened to during my workouts through the years, I have cultivated and customized an intelligence that no college program could have offered me.

In that moment – at least for that moment, I got good with my passion for iron, though I know I will question it again before day’s end.

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Spot me, Bro…?

Last night I stepped into my weight room with all the fire of a teenage boy.  I walked out with all the fire of a teenage man.  And perhaps that is another evolutionary step in becoming the me I once was once again, but only better this time…  Jhciacb

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Landmines And Moments…

On Landmines…

My mother, in her late 80s, has lived with me for just over a year.  Though she’s largely independent, she requires some regular assistance.  Most of that, comes from me.  It’s no secret that being a caregiver for an aging parent presents many challenges.  Each day can be like a walk across a minefield.  I know they’re there.  I have no choice but to step forward.  I know I’ll hit one eventually.  I just never know when or where they will be.

The good news is, that stepping on one of mom’s landmines won’t harm me physically.  They will though, concuss my emotions and tend to blow me far off course from whatever I might be involved with at a given moment.  From my work, to my leisure, to my good moods and even the act of me trying to assist my mom herself, I am thrown to the other side of the day, a half-dozen times per day.  It’s hard to live like this, and still enjoy a day to its core as I have always attempted to do.  I try to be my childish self most of the time, but a more serious tenor underlies any good mood or any good day.

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Landmines in this instance, can range from the dropping of dishes, to forgetting medical appointments, abrupt mood swings or the failure to understand a simple question or statement.  A landmine can also be that paralyzing feeling I get when I see her watching TV with the volume completely off and a blank stare on her face.  This can last for an hour.  One recent landmine involved me smelling something funny, subsequently opening the oven and seeing a plastic dish melting away inside.

One landmine comes with regularity – her awakening each morning, usually between 5:30am and 6:00am.  The sound of her bedroom door opening sends a shudder through me.  She raises her hand, offers a weak wave as she ambles her way to the bathroom, her trembling voice whispering “good morning”.   I say good morning back, but with the knowledge that my early morning quiet time has come to an end.  This is the calling to order of all other landmines for the day.

That Which Ails Her…

My mother lives with two conditions which are the sole sources of her landmines.  The first being dementia, which has only recently manifest, but is on the increase.  The landmines of dementia aren’t terribly concerning.  They can throw me off course, but the recovery is usually quick and without incident.

The second condition she lives with is acute paranoia.  The paranoia can go dormant for days or weeks, but when it arises, the landmines are caustic.

A friend once told me…

“Dementia isn’t losing your car keys.  It’s finding them, and not knowing what they do…”

I have found that to be a useful metaphor.

Paranoia on the other hand, isn’t forgetting something that actually happened or what the function of an object is.  Paranoia is remembering things that never happened at all.  Most of these false memories involve blaming bad things that never happened on good people who truly exist.  I try hard to remind myself that no matter how ridiculous her paranoia seems at a given moment, these things that she is remembering – these things which never happened, are very real to her.

The latest example:  A live-in helper that I brought into our house has been either drugging or poisoning my mother for weeks, and systematically stealing everything from jewelry to cheap Corelle Ware.  Of course, the helper isn’t really doing this, but with mom believing she is, I go along with it.  The helper understands the situation and has been very gracious in dealing with it.  Still, the helper will be moving out next week.

Funny Bone…

Whether it’s been dementia or paranoia chipping away at our days, I have depended on humor as my primary shield of protection.  Mom has daily concerns about many potential threats, but the ones she mentions most often are rattlesnakes and the would-be killers in our neighborhood.   When we go to bed at night, she reminds me to lock my door…

I tease her, “How else will the killers and the snakes get in…?”

“Oh Roy…!”

She also worries excessively about the dog…

“Have you seen Stroodle…?” is a question she asks 8-10 times per day.

“Shit!  I left him out front.  If the snakes don’t get him, the killers surely will…!”

Again, “Oh Roy…!”

There is no using logic when confronted with dementia or paranoia.  There is simply the demonstration of false agreement in the attempt to lessen the impact.  What I lack in patience, I hope to make up for with humor.  Each evening before she retires, I always check her bedroom for rattlesnakes and killers.

“All clear, Mom!”

“Oh Roy…!”

The Real Me…

Here’s a truth I’m not always up front about; I’m less a mensch than I make myself out to be.  I can get resentful about all of this, and turn a cold shoulder just as quickly.  Not deep down, but definitely on the surface.  The surface though, is where I live most of my life.  I piss and I moan about too much of this, too much of the time to my inner circle.  I get angry, short-tempered and I let it get to me more than I should.  I am trying to improve.  The stakes are higher these days, and my use of humor may be coming to an end.

Yesterday, mom confronted me about our helper steeling another dish.  Mom witnessed her taking it to her car.  I suggested that as punishment, I’d get the helper alone and choke her to death to teach her a lesson.  “Oh Roy” never happened.  Instead my mom burst into tears insisting that she isn’t crazy.  I held her hand, kissed her forehead and assured her I would find a new helper.  In time, her tears will be forgotten, only by her though, not by me.

Moments…

I have rearranged much of my life to help guide and protect my mother during this transitional time.  I am honored and proud to do this, but that is the deep-down Roy.  Again, the surface Roy is a little resentful a lot of the time.  Everyone says that’s okay, that frustration and resentment are part of the process and should be expected.  It’s not okay with me, but I still can’t seem to shake it.

For every landmine, there is a moment.  Moments are those times when mom still laughs.  Moments are when she speaks lucidly about her childhood and does so with detail.  Moments are when I hug her, tease her, hold the door for her like a gentleman.   Moments are when I treat her to dinner at local café and take her for an evening drive when we’re done.  Moments are subtle – they are the opposite of landmines.  Of course, I hope that as I inch closer to my own senility, I will remember the moments with mom more than the landmines, though all things being equal, I’m sure to remember both – until I can no longer remember at all.

One can only write so many negative things about their mother without sounding like a horrible person, so I pared this down to protect her innocence and my own reputation.  Of course, I love my mother and am grateful to have this opportunity to help care for her.  And no, I don’t really think I am a horrible person for writing this.  For sharing it…?  That’s another story…  Jhciacb

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Dear Graduate…

Dear Graduate,

Well, you’re finished with school – at this level. You should be proud of what you have accomplished.  Like many, you’ll now be busy clearing the path ahead of you.  Also like many, you’ll be clearing it before you ever begin defining it.  Think about that.

Of course, your path will be largely defined by the influence of others, whether you are aware of this or not.  Ultimately, it is you who decides in what direction(s) your path will extend, and when it’s time to change directions, though you may not realize this until it’s too late. A good rule of thumb for marching through life – don’t just look at the feet in front of you as you step, but occasionally stop and scan the horizon.  The feet you are following may veer off the path without you realizing it.  This concludes my use of the term path.

On the occasion of your graduation, some pretentious asshole will stand up and speak before your entire graduating class. She will offer words of caution, of optimism and of inspiration. Because your parents and school faculty will be present, those words are likely to be tempered and sugar coated. I might use this platform to offer you some thoughts less sweet, which may help illuminate the roads you are about merge onto, which are certain to include many forks…

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Work, Bosses, And Co-workers…

The best job you will ever have is the one you just left, or the one you are going to next. Rarely will it be the one you are in. You may find yourself in some employment situations where you work for assholes, but love your co-workers. You may be in situations where you love your boss, and loathe your co-workers.  At some point, these may intersect and you will despise everyone in your workplace. However, the winds may blow just right one day and you may find, if only for a moment, that you love everyone you work with. Enjoy those times, for they are as magical as they are rare.

Through it all, there will be times when you thoroughly enjoy the work that you do.  Some of your time though, in the adult workplace, will haunt you far beyond quitting time and will disrupt your sleep on a regular basis. The older I get, the more I see this as being evenly balanced. Please remember though, that at the end of the day work is what we are here for, not retirement.

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Ultimately, if you can’t find a job that you love, or can’t learn to love the job you’re in, you may wish to create your own job and your own.  Of course, even when one is self-employed, a job is still a job. Self-employment is no guarantee for happiness, but it can put you in better field position.

Relationships…

Above all things, life is about relationships. Little else in your life will matter more than the relationships you experience along the way.  Appreciating the value of the relationships you maintain, and possessing the ability to understand why relationships so often change or deteriorate will be useful in finding your way in dark times.

People, you will learn, can be beautiful.  They can also be complicated, confusing, messy and tiresome.   At some point everyone gets dirty, bruised and ignored, and they will let you know it.  That they will let this bleed into their relationship with you only makes them human, not disposable.

You may be married someday.  If you are, that marriage may be wonderful, tolerable or tragic. If it’s like many, it will hold elements of all of those. It may also include divorce. Divorce, I have learned, is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of the marriage. Conversely, a sustained marriage does not necessarily state quality in a relationship.

Before marriage and beyond, there will be other relationships. Many of these will start off with promise, but will quickly dull. Others may end with you never really knowing why they ended, and wanting for more. You may ask yourself at some point; how many soul mates does one get…? At best, that question can create knots in one’s stomach. At its worst, it can paralyze you to a point of emotional stagnation.

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Marriage or partnership, if you are fortunate to find the right one, and able to ride it out for the very long term, it will not be without your share of sacrifice and second guessing. In relationships, it is best to wake up each day and do what you believe is correct that you win the day, even if it contradicts what you did the day before. That ideal by the way, can be superimposed over just about any situation or dynamic in life.

Loss…

You will have friends and loved ones who will get ill and recover. You will also have will have friends and loved ones who get ill and die. Nothing can prepare you for the shock you feel when a friend or loved one dies unexpectedly.  There isn’t anything you can do to prepare for how to handle this when it happens, but it will happen.

When it does happen, use these instances as perspective to better appreciate your own life, and those relationships that remain in it. Disease and loss never make sense, but they can make you appreciative anything and everything else, that much more.

Money And Freedom…

There will be times when you have money, and you will feel an overwhelming sense of security that fits you like a warm cocoon – don’t get used to it because it’s not likely to last. Other times you will be broke, question many of your spending choices and it will seem like the end of the world.  It won’t be the end of the world, though it should be the start of a new behavior.

At best, money is a useful tool, necessary to experience the freedoms and fulfillments that make life worthwhile.  That term, freedom, as most people know it, is an illusion destined to distort and disappoint. Ultimately, freedom means not doing the goose step down Main Street, and the proper use of money can help you avoid Main Street altogether – the road less traveled.

Lessons Learned…

There are lessons to be learned in every moment, every circumstance and every conversation you will ever have. Of course, you won’t find those lessons if you are not looking, listening and receptive to them.

Perhaps the most fruitful lessons you can hope to learn are those you will learn from watching others. Being a conscious witness to the joys, tragedies, triumphs and misfortunes of others is often the best way to assure your proximity to them.

Creativity…

If you can incorporate some level of creativity into your daily work, your life will surely be warmer. If there is no room for creativity in your workplace, finding a creative outlet beyond he workplace will help keep you whole, if not sane. Creativity is a gift we all possess, but very few take the time to explore it.  Exploring your creative side is just behind work and relationships in in the triage of what really matters.

I am reminded of the most formative movie line I know, written by John Hughes for the movie, She’s Having A Baby…

“In the end, I realized that I took more than I gave, that I was loved more than I loved, and in the end, I realized that what I was looking for was not be found, but to be created.”

That this was recited by Kevin Bacon, makes it that much sweeter.

You will be the creator of every single one of your days. I ask you rhetorically, what kind of day will you create today, that will be acceptable to you tomorrow…?

Taking 15 minutes every morning to build the day ahead of you, is an important exercise worthy of consideration.

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On Children…

I’ll suggest only one hard rule in all of this:  If you go on to have children, please don’t shelter them from the realities of life. Expose them to the beauty in life, but don’t screen them from the harshness and messiness of it all. Expose your children to life as it comes and teach them, as best you can, how to accept it. Be honest with them – all the time. Dishonesty with our children is the cause of more social decay than heroin and alcohol combined.

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Expose your children to who you really are without fear – regardless of how it may make you look in their eyes. Be humble when you are wrong, don’t gloat when you are correct, and when their names show up on caller ID, don’t ever let the call go to voicemail.

I wish you luck, graduate. Now get off my lawn!

Sincerely,

Still Learning

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Beyond Paris…

Over the last 24-hours, I have seen numerous reactions to the president’s proposed withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.  Within my circles, I have seen little support for the president’s intentions – none.  I have though, seen much outrage.

As a fan of the planet, I appreciate that outrage and harbor a good bit of my own.  However, caring for the planet – being responsible stewards of the globe that contains us involves more than being concerned over greenhouse gases, ocean levels, pollutant particles in our lungs or even jobs.

My cursory understanding of the Paris agreement suggests it has nothing to do with animal cruelty.  Since animal cruelty (on the surface) doesn’t effect climate change, that makes sense.  Non-humans though, make up roughly 99% of all vertebrate creatures on earth.

You see where I’m going here…

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“Getchyer blue skies here!  Get ’em while they last…”

I have a hard time with people projecting so much concern over the state of the earth, when they still support the idea of lambchops, corndogs and dino-shaped chicken nuggets.  While it’s true that that food system and the issues of animal cruelty within it are very complex, I have a hard time listening to all the screaming and yelling about ocean levels by people who could care less about the screaming and yelling in slaughterhouses.

I’ve got some bad news for you that isn’t really news – it’s something we’re all aware of, yet unlike climate, we ignore this problem with our planet: the last thing a cow thinks before she takes 20,000 volts between her eyes and subsequently gets her neck slashed to be unceremoniously bled into a trough, isn’t…

“Good day, humans!  I’m allowing this act of cruelty so that Joe Schlepasaurus can take a break between refrigerator deliveries, and enjoy a ¾ lb. patty on all sesame seed bun…”

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From the garden and the market,,,,

No.  I suspect that the last thing a cow thinks before the deadly stun is this…

“Holy living fuck, human, please don’t kill me….!  I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!! Please!  Please!  Please!”

Of course, cattle levels aren’t rising and threatening coastal homes, and the pigs and hogs who give it all up for the sake of corndogs and prosciutto aren’t ever seen by good folks like you and me bitching about the president withdrawing from the Paris agreement.

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Will they rise up against us…?

I guess all I’m suggesting here is a little consistency.  If you’re willing to sound off about the oceans and the air, make a little noise too for your future rack of lamb.  That, or keep your mouth shut about the president’s intent with the planet.  I know, I know, shut up Roy and pass the mint jelly…  Jhciacb

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