Friday, August 28, 2015


Ugh… I’m making some changes in my life. Not easy ones for me. I won’t go too much into detail here, simply because it’s of an extremely personal nature. No, I’m not gonna do what Bruce Jenner did. However; I am forcing myself to get more in touch with humanity and the people around me.
            This is not easy for me. I don’t like making changes in my life. I don’t like change. I like routine and basic peace and quiet. I like staying in my rut. Proof of this, for those of you who don’t follow me on facebook, is that at on at least three occasions this year, on days I was scheduled to be off from my primary job during my regularly scheduled work days, I ended up showing up for work. This was done out of habit. Or, in my case, most likely, auto-pilot.
            Which is something I’m sure all of you can relate to. Being on auto-pilot I mean. Think about your daily routine. Think about how when you get out of bed in the morning and go about your wake up routine. Do you really think about it? Or when you’re driving to work? Do you really think about where and how you are getting there? Not really. Unless there’s a traffic jam, accident or a train, you really don’t think about it. And when one of those incidents occur, you feel stress and pressure because you’re not going about your normal routine. You are yanked out of your peaceful auto-pilot life and forced to make decisions about how and where you’re going.
            It sucks. I know. I completely understand.
            After all, I’ve been working for years to maintain my schedule and not allow anything to interfere with it. Now, I find myself having to rethink and reassess my schedule and behavior. Which makes me very tired. Physically, mentally and emotionally. These choices have also left my body burning like a hotwire. All the pains and aches that I’ve been holding at bay have made themselves more apparent in my life. How I walk, talk and move in general. This also affects my mood. I’m more surly than usual.
            The worst part, the terrible part, the horrific part about all this for me is, I’m not doing this alone. I’ve called out to people I can count on to talk to me about these decisions. Support me when I’m at my wits end and even reach out to me when they are thinking of me and are concerned about how I’m coping with the changes I’ve forced myself into. They are great people and I feel like a total heel asking for their help.
            I’ve been told on numerous occasions, we, as humans, no matter how much we think we are going through life alone, are never truly alone. I hated asking for their help. Asking for anything from anyone for myself is something I’ve never been comfortable with. It’s my pride. I know this. I’ve been told this and I don’t like admitting this. I’m sure I’m not alone in this mentality.
            Somehow though, in this instance of my life. I need these people. I need to feel as if everything I’m doing is right and that one day there will be a light at the end of the tunnel of life I’m currently going through. That’s what everyone says. That is what everyone believes. That is what I hope for. To have at the end of this trek through darkness and pain, I’ll be a better, healthier and happier person. Also, that the people in my life, close people, distant people and the world in general around me will be a better and lighter place.
            I’m sure there are going to be some bleak times, hell, I’ve been going through one said bleak time this past week. Of course, these moments only came about because I tried to do things on my own previously. I tried to deal with the metric-ton of life’s debris on my own for years and unknown to me, it has taken a deep and stunning toll on my health, my happiness and those closest to me.
            Like those race horses on television, I’ve been wearing blindersfor years. Not really seeing the effects of my life and decisions tolls on the people around me. I couldn’t see. I was essentially blinded by my pride, my stunted coping skills and my sole focus on staying on course and maintaining my routine. A routine that pretty much has about crippled me. In all forms of the word. Now, I say no more. I know what I need to do. I know it’s not going to be easy and I only hope I will come out a better person in the end.
            So, if you have any in depth questions and feel you want to ask me more about this, feel free to. If I’m in a good mood, I will answer, if not in a good mood, then I will know you do care and won’t take offense to me being a surly middle aged man.

            Have a great week.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Confluence of Influence

As a kid I never really understood how people chose to do what they wanted to do for a living. I mean, sure, I was asked on numerous occasions what I wanted to do for a living. My answers were pretty normal; a cop, an astronaut, a cowboy, batman, a sailor, an engineer, an architect, a pilot and for a while, a deep sea diver. I guess I got my inspiration for what I wanted to do from watching television.
            I never thought I’d be able to do some of those things and I never thought I’d end up working in a museum. Which is what my primary occupation is. It’s pretty cool. Matter of fact; I love my job. I don’t think there is a better job in the world. Yet, never as a kid did I ever think I’d be managing antique toys and toy trains for a living. Preserving a part of the past that brought so much joy to so many children’s lives in a more innocent time in our history.
            I know where I got my love of trains from. I got the bug as a kid. I’ve even written about it on this blog. Yet I can’t honestly remember the one person or people who introduced me to them. Or, for that matter, many of my other interests. Electronics, video games, horror movies, books, motorcycles and football. Okay, the football interest comes from growing up in Green Bay and hanging out at Lambeau Field. I’m also sure that my love for trains can be somehow traced back to the National Railroad Museum in Green Bay as well. Yet loving trains, real ones does not necessarily equate to learning the history of toy trains and toys in general.
            I listen to a ton of podcasts on all sorts of topics. One of my favorites is StarTalk Radio, hosted by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I look forward to each and every new episode as well as any new youtube videos that are released featuring him. I usually learn something from what is talked about on his shows. Not to mention, Neil is very passionate about his job and has the rare ability to convey knowledge in an interesting, fun and well thought out manner.
            He, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, has spoken on numerous occasions on where he fell in love with astronomy. He has also spoken of the men and women who’ve influenced him. I’m a bit jealous of this fact. He has someone he can go back to and point at and say “This person, right here, changed the course of my life and I am grateful to them.” That’s pretty fucking cool.
            Now, in my life, there are a few folks I can point to and say they encouraged me to do things. Influence me? Not really. Take my writing for example. I never would have started unless an old shipmate of mine told me I should write. That I had a good voice. The fact he is a writer had a bit of an influence in my life but he did not influence my style of writing. No, it took a lot of trial and error to get to where I am right now, and I hope I can only improve with each and every passing sentence I put down.
            I’ve been writing this blog for five years now as well as writing some fiction and selling some of my short stories to publishers. Which is really cool. My daughter, my offspring, my compass needle that points to the north of my life, took up writing over a year ago. Mostly fanfiction on the internet. Also, she’s written several movie scripts and has even produced a couple into ten minute shorts. Very impressive.
            Today, she sent me a text message, it read “Dad, what are some good blog sites.”
            I responded with “I use blogspot, some people use wordpress. It’s all in your preference. Why?”
            “I want to start a blog.”
            “Awesome. What kind of blog?”
            “One like yours. A life blog.” As I read that, I teared up. Seriously. I had an extremely intense moment of pride and honor.
            Somehow, someway, through all my fuck ups in life, I had managed to influence my daughter to not just write fiction, but to write about life in general. To reach out to the greater world and share her views and experiences in life with little or no filter.
            Mr. Jefferson, the third president of this country once was quoted as saying “The earth is for the living.” I believe that statement to be accurate.
            I know, at my age, there is little I can do to change the world and the views of people in and out of my life. But, to see someone of her teen years, wanting to write, wanting to produce something of substance makes me proud. She’s not doing the youtube videos that are so popular, or the vines, nope, she wants to learn how to communicate with the lost art of the written word. It’s not easy. I know.
            So, I am going to include here the link to her blog. Why? Because she’s my daughter and she makes me proud. I hope you go and read it. I hope you understand this is her first blog and like a lot of firsts, it’s not polished, it has grammar errors as well as some spelling errors. Which is okay, she is learning and I’m extremely happy she has decided to make an attempt at taking up the mantle of so many great writers before her.

            Have a great week. Also, if you’re a parent, I’d love to hear of a proud parent moment from you. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Thank You

It’s no secret that the past three years have been more than a bit difficult for my family. My wife’s strokes, her unemployment, her recovery, the lack endless medical appointments and the loss of half our household income has put my family under extreme stress.
            Now, with a dim light at the end of our travails, with the help of some very close friends, we are hopeful. Well, the girls are. They espouse faith based platitudes to me. I know they hope that I take them to heart, and I try, but most of the time, those cliché’s fall upon an emptiness inside of me.
            It’s a void that is not always empty, no, sometimes it’s full, sometimes it’s half full and, like at the beginning of the week, it was empty. Then, without warning, but somewhat expected, the power to my house was cut off. Not because I hadn’t sent in a payment, but because I hadn’t been able to send in a full payment in almost six months. I’d been sending in partial payments. Which apparently the power company doesn’t like. I will say, in my defense, this is the first time in over twenty-five years my power had been turned off. However; it’s not the first time this year I’ve gotten something in my life turned off. It’s not a good feeling. Nope, not at all, it makes me feel like a complete and utter failure.
            It’s not a good feeling or position to be in. Actually, it sucks completely.
            The power guy, a nice man, when I asked him about my power, handed me a slip of paper with a phone number on it and told me that as soon as I pay my bill that he’d make it his priority to turn my power back on. I nodded and thanked him. Nothing else I could do.
            As he left, I called the power company, spent more than several minutes navigating the phone prompts, then over ten minutes on hold, and when I spoke with the lady who answered my call, she informed me there was nothing she could do until I paid my bill. You see, I didn’t have any at the start of the week. I then asked to speak to her supervisor, she was no help either.
            When I got off the phone, I was depressed. I was forlorn and I was at my wits end. Then, reluctantly I made a phone call to the one person I hoped could help me and my family. The call worked. Within an hour I had made my back due payment, my current payment, reconnection fee and even a new deposit.
            All of this did not make me feel any better. What it did was just the opposite.
            I’ve tried to never ask for help, I’ve tried to always take care of things myself. I’ve tried to be the man and follow the dogmatic belief that if you try your hardest, do your best and work hard, you will be rewarded.
            This is not the case… Well, it is for the most part.
            Ove the past few years, people have helped my family. Some folks help without anyone asking. Some helped because we asked. Asking never feels good. Needing help sucks.
            All week long I’ve felt like crap over having to ask for help from anyone over the years. So much so my stomach has done nothing but been a rebel to anything I’ve tried to ingest.
            Not today. Today, I actually ended up feeling pretty good about myself. Today, ah, today… I don’t even know what to say or where to start.
            Let me just say, today, for the first time all year, I was able to sit down, open my check book and pay off a stack of bills. Put the checks and bills in their envelopes, seal the envelopes, put stamps of the envelopes and then put those envelopes in the mail. Also, I was able to pay a couple bills online and over the phone. This made me feel human. Made me feel normal and made me feel as if I had accomplished something.
            Matter of fact, I felt so good I called a very good friend of mine, a friend who not only offered help without asking but has been more than understanding of mine and my families situation, and offered to buy him lunch. Unfortunately, he was out of town. So now, I’m going to go to lunch by myself.
            Lastly, I would like to officially thank everyone who has been there for my family over the past three years. I know we are not out of the woods yet, but at least we can now see the highway and the cars of life traveling down it in between the trees.
            Thank you all. You know who you are and you should know how grateful we are to all of you.

            Thanks, and have a great week.

Friday, August 7, 2015

No Pressure

I normally leave for work early. About an hour or so early. Not because I live far from work, actually, I live about four minutes from work. No, I leave early to help center myself and prepare myself for the day.
            The early morning is usually crisp, cool and invigorating. Then, there are days where the humidity is oppressive and the lack of wind makes you feel as if you’re stuck under water. Your only option, get on your bike and ride. Get the air moving over your body and whisk away the sweat and heat from your skin.
            I do this almost every day. The early hours of the day, when I have the streets all to myself, usually green lights at intersections mean I can just throttle through them and enjoy the weather. I drive along the harbor in the mornings. The glassine surface of the Elizabeth river reflects the buildings, boats, trees and orange morning sunlight. Postcard picture perfect.
            My mind is clear of worries, clear of troubles and my stress levels are at an all time low. This is a daily occurrence, and you know what, it’s not just once a day. It’s twice a day. The second time I feel my mind clear of the clutter of life is on my ride home. Only in the evenings or nighttime, I’m usually sweaty, stinky and ready for a cigar. My ride home helps decompress the bullshit of the day.
            Ya know, it’s always like that for me though. Every time I get on my bike and ride, I seem to relax. The comfort is fleeting though. As soon as I get off my bike, all the stress, strife and pressures of life come flooding back into my body. All this makes me wonder…
            I wonder about other drivers. People on four wheels, they remind me of hamsters on hamster wheels. Rushing as fast as you can to nowhere. Frantic looks on their faces, Knuckles white from the vice-like grip they hold on the steering wheel. Their eyes filled with anger and self righteousness against any and all other drivers on the road. The posture of their being inside their respective vehicles screams that they are the most important person in the world and everyone should get the fuck out of their way.
            Everyone I see in their cans are stressed. I’m not in a can. I’m not stressed.
            They get in their cars, they stress, I get on my bike and my stress goes away. It’s a strange dichotomy of drivers vs. riders. They get out of their cars, their stress lowers and mine goes up.
            In that vein, every car commercial I ever see, whether the car is speeding down a salt flat, a city street or taking a luxurious curvy road in the mountain, the drivers look relaxed, happy an without stress. That’s how the car companies sell the cars. By making driving look fun. I rarely see drivers having fun. I rarely see them smile. If they are stuck in a traffic jam, they curse and pound the wheel. If they get stopped by a train, a stop light a bridge lift… they sit in their air conditioned vehicle and seethe anger into their soul. No happiness, no joy, no peace like the commercials say. Nope. They sell you the idea, and that idea is quickly lost by the urgency and need for the drivers to get from point “a” to point “b”.
            Motorcycle commercials are similar; however, motorcyclists are not drivers. And, pound for pound, minute for minute, there are far more car commercials than motorcycle commercials on the tv.
            I just wish there were a happy medium for all of us. For me, to be able to stay relaxed and keep my stress and worry levels near my riding levels. And for the drivers, the ease and relaxation they feel when not driving or stuck in traffic or cut off by some other driver… If they could just lose those feelings and be a calm, burbling brook of water on a cool afternoon in the autumn.
            But there is no medium. There never will be. Or else after over one hundred years of craziness on the world’s roads, we’d have discovered it. Wouldn’t we? I’d like to think so.
            I’d like to think there is a way that we can overcome our stress and strife without having to undergo serious psychological counseling. Yet, I don’t think even that would help in today’s society. Simply because we seem to always pile the stress on ourselves without even realizing we are doing so.
            We buy into everything we see on television shows we watch. I would say commercials but in this day and age of DVR are where one can simply skip over the commercials, so the companies put all their products in the shows, the movies and on the internet. We can’t get away from it. We are surrounded by it. Invaded by consumerism.
            We’re told to have the newest this, best that, the fastest thing, and the niftiest do-hickie. But it’s all crap. We tell ourselves not to buy into all the hype but it’s hard to shut it all out. We end up succumbing to the pressure. Even when we tell ourselves we are only upgrading because we have to.
            That’s how it starts.
            Then, we end up, months, years later, surrounded by stuff that was supposed to make life easier but somehow, it is more difficult and we keep trying to find a way to simplify. There is no simple. There is no true answer, except one. Disconnect.
            Which brings another, even more difficult conundrum; can we truly disconnect? Can we give up the internet, on demand viewing, tweeting, facespacing, instapicturing and gratuitous photos of cats and obnoxious food?
            Can we stop the electronic social disease that has invaded our lives and been passed on to the progeny of the latest generations?
            I don’t think so. That is a bell we will never be able to unring. We are stuck for better or worse with the knowledge of who in our lives is eating what, going where, seeing who, and living why.
            It’s a growing pain I believe my generation was not ready for but has somehow embraced. Like with any growth though, there is a learning process. In that process is the knowledge of the unknown. In the unknown, is pressure. In the pressure, is anger. In the anger, bad driving.
            Glad I don’t drive.
            I ride. I disconnect, even for a few moments and it feels good.

            Have a great week.