Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Terminal E and Spring Break…

Two hours and forty-eight minutes in Hartsfield is about the longest you want to spend, but it seems that flying into Ontario, California from Jacksonville, FL offers about as much choices as a lemonade stand - you go when you go, you get there when you get there, and if you don’t like lemonade, well tough. I did my obligatory E Terminal to T Terminal laps, that’s, from what I am told, two miles round trip, and it kills about 28 minutes of the total wait, and you get to do some pretty fierce people watching. Atlanta Hartsfield is not terribly representative of the city, it is a true melting pot, everyone deals with the same gate changes, and waits in the same lines, and smokes in the same smoking rooms. Even the Delta Sky Club rooms are standing room only, and are merely a respite from the hustle of the terminal, and have a little more comfortable d├ęcor and free drinks. I generally avoid the Sky Club – when you live on Delta planes, apparently, that membership comes with the rent, and although they provide free wireless and squeeze tubes of hummus, I tend to reserve the visits to the Sky Club for when I am going on vacation, or trying to rebook my flight. Perhaps an internal sense of inferiority, but more likely, I like being in the terminal. The terminal is where everything happens.

Tonight, no exception, I had my regular three course laxative at Panda Express, that should kick in somewhere in between Los Angeles and Atlanta to the dismay of my fellow passengers, and followed with a quick smoke break in the Sojourners To Go smoke closet, keno hall, and bar down by gate E27. There really is no need to smoke in that room, you can just walk in, sit down, inhale for a couple of minutes, and then leave – mission accomplished. The room re-circulates all of the second hand smoke from all of the bars within a 60 mile radius, and pumps it directly, unfiltered, through the ice cold air blowing out of the ass level air conditioning ducts. I am not complaining, I am extremely happy that they have those rooms – they encourage me to put off quitting smoking for at least one more flight, and seeing how there are no warning signs blatantly posted on the walls that smoking is hazardous, and when coupled with drinking, could lead to a massive hangover and other less than desirable conditions, I figure I have another party to a lawsuit for creating an environment in which I am able to do further damage to myself. That’s what I started this post about, the victim mentality.

Terminal E shows the dichotomy that exists still in today’s world. This is the terminal where the 18 to 22 year old kids on Spring Break are heading to Cozumel and Cancun and Europe and all of the other fun places. This is where they are dressed in flip flops and loose fitting t-shirts with ripped blue jeans and hang out in swarms - giggling, laughing, getting loaded on seven dollar beers, this is where all of that happens. It also happens to be the same terminal that, on any given day of the week, there are hundreds of 18 to 22 year old soldiers in uniform getting ready to board their flight to Ireland or Germany en route to their 14 month stay in Iraq or Afghanistan. You see their scuffed tan boots and their slightly faded desert camo uniforms. They carry a backpack with everything they own for the next year, and for some reason, they are not getting loaded in the bars or telling jokes or bitching about how cheap their parents are for putting them on coach. They are guarded, reserved, almost somber – everyone in the terminal knows where they are headed – they know where they are headed, and they still have the ability to come together in groups, and you see them talk about the things that kids talk about – cars, girls, bars, but they also talk about things that most college kids never have to deal with outside of a philosophical discussion with their sorority sisters or fraternity brothers on the campus green over a hot latte. It actually stands out like a sore thumb. Granted, not all of those kids in uniform had to join, but I am sure, the overwhelming majority of those young soldiers did not have the same alternatives as the kids dressed in pink polo shirts and creatively plaid shorts – they did not have the alternative but to sign up for an $18,000 a year job, free health care, and the opportunity to make more whenever they are in harms way. It probably holds true that some of the kids on their way to topless drink fests and azure blue oceans had to work really hard to put themselves in that position – but I reckon the majority of them did not – they just did what they were told to do, and in turn, their folks rewarded them with four years away, and the best chance to avoid being shot at by zealots. It is ironic. I don’t see too many college kids protesting at the funerals of fallen soldiers where Christian zealots blanket the grounds with “God hates Fags” signs, and thanks their god for the death of another kid in uniform who was just looking for a way to make a better live for themselves, and ended up with a hero’s return and a flag for their mother.

Blogs are places for political views and dissent. I don’t think I do either – I just write what comes out, and sometimes it makes sense. This time, it does not even make sense to me. This is the way things are. Some folks have opportunities, some folks have better opportunities than others, and some folks just never get the chance. I think everyone of those young men and women in uniform that I saw today realize the opportunity they are working for. I am pretty sure that everyone of those kids talking about how Sarah really pissed off Jessica by sleeping with Tyler at the Chi Omega round up last week have little understanding of what opportunity they are being given. It almost seems like an entitlement. I don’t pretend to understand the way things are. I cannot provide any solace to myself that things are the way they are supposed to be – and I don’t try. I just know, that the more I see flag waving, god fearing folks yelling “nuke them into a sandbox” – if they know what they are saying. I wonder is anyone other than myself sits down and thinks about the Sixty-four million dollar price tag those tomahawks we hurled in the first volley (actually, if you take the weighted average with Research and Development costs, the price almost triples to $1.4 million each) – how many school teachers and classrooms and college degrees and clean energy projects could that money have funded? I certainly don’t expect to see that payback in my lifetime – just like I don’t expect other nations to assist us in rebuilding New Orleans, cleaning the Gulf, or rehabilitating our young soldiers.

I know I am starting to sound like an isolationist, and perhaps, to some degree, I am. I understand we have interests in the Middle East. Most of them, in my personal opinion, are in the form of the thousands of young men and women in uniform putting themselves in harms way to protect a dying energy source. Truth be known, I want my kids to be the ones dressed in pink polos and snazzy shorts. I tell them now, if it does not feel right, then it is not right – and I guess that is all I am trying to say – I can’t justify to myself what is in the Middle East worth dying for, and can’t do it for them either. I don’t expect to see folks from State Colleges replaceing the Goldman alumni or Harvard, Yale, and Columbia grads anytime soon, but at least, in most cases, they are not targets – theymay be tools for a bigger system, but at least they are not targets. My thoughts go out to each of the soldiers I saw tonight – and I certainly thank each of them for their service – and hope that they are able to make a difference for themselves.

Until next time –

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Family Fun Day...and Married Couples

Okay, I guess you can tell by the crowd that my kids live in a pretty gentrified protected part of the world, pasty white folks and hot plastic jumpy things packed into the school parking lot - but what a day for it - it could not be any nicer today with 80 degree weather, not a cloud in the sky, and a school parking lot filled with kids and Taylor Swift blaring over the loudspeaker.  I love being with the kids - my son is getting old enough now that he recognizes folks in the neighborhood (all the little kids look the same to me), and my daughter must have a million "BFF's" that all run and scream and hug when they see each other.  I think they actually saw each other yesterday, but I imagine a day away from your friends when you are in elementary school must seem like an eternity.  A couple of very important things that I noticed when going to a Family Fun Day in Northwest St. Johns County:

1.  All male parents must have baggy khaki or brown shorts.  Any diversion from this official color will register you as an outsider, a tourist, or a pervert trolling school grounds.  Please adhere.

2.  All parents, regardless of gender, must wear open toed sandals or their close cousin, the Teva derivative.  This shall be mandated regardless of the number of bunions, callouses, or warts that you may have on your feet.  No closed toed shoes are permitted.

3.  T-Shirts for men must be either from Old Navy, or have a local Sports Team on them, such as Creeks Lacrosse, Knights Football, Creeks Soccer, or the Mills Park baseball field.  No variance is considered normal.  Do not wear concert t-shirts.  Do not wear beer t-shirts.  Do not wear airbrushed Atlantic City T-shirts that you picked up on your last visit to the Northeast.

4.  If males choose to wear a collared shirt, you must keep the collar up and "popped" at all times.  Not only does this signify your allegiance to the neighborhood, but it makes you look just like everyone else.

5.  T-shirts must be untucked and appear tidily untidy.  Stand in front of the mirror and make sure to have the right hang.  Tucked t-shirts will be immediatly untucked.  Collared shirts must be tucked into your baggy tan or brown shorts.  They must be accompanied by a snazzy braided belt, or better yet, a rope material belt with yacht club logos on them.

6.  Old Navy must be worn by all children at all times.  Failure to do so will result in mocking and bullying from the other old navy children.  As bullying is punished severely, please do not make your child a target by dressing them in WalMart, K Mart, Target, JC Penney, Polo, Lucky, Gap, or any other clothing line.  It must be Old Navy.

7.  In order to keep your children well rounded, you must ply them with Cotton Candy, Hot Dogs, Cold Sodas, and other items that cost additional money outside of the $7 entrance fee.  This way, Michelle Obama will have a reason to visit and implement the new "Play 60, Eat 90" program.  It is a new program dedicated to eating our way to a better economy and exercising our way to healthier kids.

8.  If you own any other vehicle besides the trinity of accepted vehicular carriage, that consists of the Dodge Town and Country (Grand Caravans with various upgrades are accepted), a Nissan Sport Utility Vehicle (the make and model are insignificant), or a General Motors Tank with seating for 17, you will need to park in the "democrat" lot.  It is a short bus ride to the school from that lot, but please, they do not want the school to appear to have environmentally friendly vehicles.  If you must display your greeness, a bumper sticker on the back of your General Motors Family Bus for All that says "I don't idle when I take my kids to Lacrosse Practice" will suffice.

I realize that I am making fun of myself, and that I would not want my kids in any other neighborhood, this one is safe and clean and comfortable, but walking through there, I sort of felt this sense of alienation from the rest of the world - it is like the Creek is an island - and once you cross over, you need to assimilate, and do so quickly.  Today, at the eight am soccer matches, the moms and dads on the sidelines were discussing the $2,500 camps for the summer, and the $6,000 trip to Europe their kids were going to be taking.  My sabbatical and exploration stages consisted of mowing grass at a golf course, a $99 Greyhound ticket, and being granted leniency on a phone bill.  I just don't know how I would react if my son asked me to go to Europe, and then dropped a $6,000 price tag.  Hell, I have never been to Europe or equestrian camp or mountaineering camp - my parents idea of camp was dragging the 1954 pop up that smelled like mothballs into Northwest Georgia, and staying there for two months.  That was camp.  We found things to do and learned that the folks in campsite 14C were to be avoided after three pm, because that is when the beer started to kick in.  We burned things, we swam in murky orange water, we hiked when it was 400 degrees outside.  We did all of that without a CPR and Rescue trained guide, and pretty much made it back safe, but did recieve the occasional scratch, bump, break, or tear - that was just the way it was.  It is just a different world than the one that I grew up in.  I don't quite understand it, but at least I know how to play by the rules.  I did wear a concert t-shirt, but I made sure the hang was just right, and that the khaki shorts matched perfectly.

All the while, it was great to play with kids - they are growing up quickly, and for the most part, I can already sense that they view me as a necessary evil to provide food, shelter, compassion, and a ride somewhere.  With that being said, it is great to be needed.

Okay - so here is my non-scientific observation of the day.  Folks who are married do not take care of themselves as well as folks who are not married.  At least in the Creeks.  My ex is a perfect example of this - somewhere between 80 and 100 pounds have been shed, and it seems like all of the single parents at the Creek adhere to the same rule.  They just take better care of themselves.  I don't know what it is, or if they are trying to play the field, but I suspect it is that they are just happier.  I know that I am happier, and don't find it too difficult to go to the gym or not wear the same clothes that I have been wearing.  There was plenty of evidence today, and I am pretty sure the married couples that did take care of themselves were either swingers or vegan, or both, For the most part, the men were toting around beach balls in their shirts, and the wives either looked pissed, hot, tired, or frustrated.  The single slice pizza line was chock full of the married folks, and every ounce of shade was taken up by them as they devoured their winnings from the cake walk.  They just looked unhappy.  Don't get me wrong here, I am not making a commentary on the nuclear family and its importance in the rearing of a child (I think it is minimal - you can raise a child as two single parents, and if you can be happy doing that, and your child can be well rounded and intelligent and patiently think through things, then screw the nuclear family), I am just asking myself about this convention of religious marriage and the implications and consequences that it brings.  I think marriage, the way it is now, is a tax break, a way to not go home alone, and to have child care.  Sure, there are times of companionship and care and love and all of that other stuff - but you can have that without all of the other garbage that goes along with it.  I mean really, do I need to wear a ring, follow you everywhere, and let myself go to signify my undying unyielding love for another?  Do I need to pretend that the fact that I have gotten overweight and my ass produces more sweat than a cows udder produces milk makes me happy and that nothing, absolutely nothing is wrong?  It just seems to me that alot of folks just settle.  They just take it as it was dealt to them, and obliviously say that it is okay, someone loves me, and that's all I need.  They will always be there, we are a team.  That shit just does not make sense to me anymore (trust me, I was just as guilty as the next guy - kicking size 44 slacks and boasting a 258 pound torso) and I realize that I was just plain settling, and not willing to do anything about it.  Who knows.  I know some folks who are happy being married and who do not make excuses for things - I just don't know that I can make a prediction about death doing us apart or the whole trust and obey thing - I can say that for now, we are committed and enjoy each others company and that even though there may be more mature changes in a relationship, that there is still some real joy there - but like I said, today, it just looked like those folks were trying to suck every ounce of life out of a stick of cotton candy and two footlong hotdogs, counting the hours down until they could go to the house, sit on the couch, and drink a beer or twelve.  Next time you are out, shopping, at a concert, dancing, running, swimming, anything - look around and do some people watching - and believe me, you will notice it too - marriage is not what they make it out to be - it is compromise to the nth degree, and hell, in some cases, n is pretty damn big.

I knew I could type another one before the end of March -


Eight Days....On the Road...

First, let me start by saying, if you like this blog, forward it on - or hook up as a follower, and click a link or two - I don't know how else to get a shameless plug out there to eventually hook up with someone who can help me organize this into a relevant discussion about irrevalent topics, but hey, I read a ton, and based on what I see out there, this ranks up there with a least a little of Max Tucker's wit (okay, so maybe I am having delusions of grandeur, but cut me an ounce of slack, I have been at this blogging thing for a while now, and I know that even folks in Iran read it - why, I don't know, maybe their religious police are looking for poorly drawn images of the prophet or something, but they say self-advertising is the best way to increase traffic, and short of putting a you tube video of me dancing in a red sequined thong, this is what I can do).

You never quite get used to trying to do what it is you set out to do - my goal was one blog per week, sit down, write for an hour, post it, and eventually, compile 500 pages of stuff to send to some editor to put together in a crafty paperback, and see how much it would cost to self-publish.  Oh well, so much for the once a week thing.  It is more like once a month, and now March is just about over, so I will post one post in March (there is still a slight possibility that I may get the gumption to enforce my self-established rule that writing is good therapy, and sit down next week and try to get enough emotion together and thoughts gathered and motivation to put another few words out there - let me keep my fingers crossed) and move on to April and see if there can be 4 posts.  Much like all self-imposed resolutions, this one has gone by the wayside for less deep and intense exercise, like playing Zuma Blitz or watching the earthquake coverage (which, until yesterday and the announcement of our entry into another Middle Eastern country, albeit unilaterally, was the only thing worth watching) - but once again, as I do repeatedly, I digress.

Writing is difficult.  Particularly when you are writing about nothing in general.  I never set out to have a moral to every story, but usually end up with one.  I am not a high brow thinker, in fact, familiarization with higher levels of thinking confounds me, and I usually end up just saying to hell with it, and go and grab a beer out of the fridge and play more Zuma Blitz.  Some folks are really good at putting things together in coherent sentences, and have the end in mind when they sit down to pen and paper, me, it is sort of like gas - it just happens, and usually does not leave a pleasant atmospere.  Blogging is even more difficult.  People start to expect regular and pertinent posts about what is going on in the world - they say to get traffic, you have to talk about things people worry about - like money and finances, and relationships, and current events - well, I don't think about those things as much as I used to, it is what it is, I have very little control over most of them, and so I don't really write about them.  I read about them, and have them sometimes, but most of the time, I am more worried about what I am going to do with the kids next weekend, if the thing on my right ear really is skin cancer, and if I will get to spend a week in Seattle or St. Augustine next month.  So I suppose that is what I write about.  I just finished reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell for the second time about "Outliers" - and the ten year rule about becoming an expert at something - well let's just say I am about nine and a half years off that path, and am far from an expert about doing anything that may define a wider audience, create interest, or even spur a fledgling career as a professional at this hobby.  Hell, now I am starting to feel bad about myself - damn it, once again, I digress.

So, I left Florida 14 days ago - the eight days - that's a Chuckanut Drive song - that band no longer exists, they broke up to pursue other opportunities (like making a living, steady work, and the pursuit of the American Mirage) and that's too bad - but that's how I felt at the end of this trip.  I wish I could find a place to copy that link into here - eight days is a good song, but none the less, Back on the Tarmac is good expression of pretty much how I felt at the end of this trip...

Hell, since you have no idea what I am doing, I will go try and find the song on you tube, gimme a minute.  No dice.  You have to buy the song for yourself, but just trust me on this one, it is worth the .99 cents on iTunes.  Anyway, here's another freebee they have posted out there, and this one is pretty good too

Okay, so let's get back to where I started to go with this thing.  Fourteen days on the road is a long damn time.  That's how I am digesting my life these days, fourteen day spurts of activity followed by three days of inactivity, to be repeated over and over and over again (if the past twenty years is any indication) - and at the end of those fourteen day spurts, it is good to get back to the overpriced storage unit I invested in a few years ago, and walk in, and be pleasantly surprised that I turned off all of the water, I med my bed with fresh sheets, I did laundry, and actually had a few canned goods left over from the last three day stay.  This trip was particularly exhausting.  Ten hour days in conference rooms actually using my brain to comprehend (and anyone who knows me would be the first to volunteer me for a study in Adult Attention Defecit Disorder) and prior to that, a week in LA working on a new job with new challenges and new people - I did get to make a run to Temeculah and go to a winery and an Indian Casino and have some barbeque at Sweet Lumpy's, and have a few beers and listen to a good Southern Rock band.  There was some sort of Low Rider or Hot Rod festival going on, and it was fun to stroll through the town and look at all the cars and the people that went along with the cars.  It was also good to get somewhere that the sun worked, versus New Jersey, where there was a constant supply of snow, and it was good to spend a relaxing, if not short, three days with Cadence giggling, sleeping by the pool, and holding hands.  Still, all positives aside, the suitcase was a little heavier this trip, it was harder to load in the car, it was even more so by the end of it - almost like the floor of my condo had a magnetic attraction to it and wanted the suitcase and its owner to hang out for a little while, play the drums, goof around on the keyboard, use the microwave once or twice.  Perhaps that is why it was a long trip this time - I wanted to stay and enjoy the eighty degree days and sixty degree nights of the Florida spring, not fly that way to over there to fly another way to the middle to fly back.  I write about this often, and I get asked by folks - what is it you want to do - and therein lies the rub, the image of me sitting behind the same desk, everyday, doing similar things, everyday gives me the need to run.  Even now, just typing that out, a wave of fear came over me - and if I believed in ghosts or religious spectacle, I would define it as divine intervention or a message from God, but I am challenged in that arena, so I am just going to say that my gut instincts tell me that me in once place for too long is a really really really bad idea. Who knows, I have never really tried it, and when I did, my marriage fell apart, my family life was non-existent, and I had little concept of self - maybe now it would be different.  I doubt it, but maybe it would be.

The road life is a pretty good one - I get to shop for dinner at Trader Joe's, and my nightstand is littered with nifty snacks and Doubletree cookies, and there is always a Burger King close by.  I don't have to make my bed, clean my bathroom, or worry about taking exceedingly long hot showers.  I can open the windows and run the air conditioner at the same time, and never have to drive after going to the bar for a drink or two.  I don't have to worry about checking the mail, mowing the grass, missing doctors appointments, or sitting in traffic.  I just don't have to worry about those things that folks who have normal day jobs worry about.  I do miss alot - everytime I get home, my kids have grown two inches (or it seems like they have), I don't get to go to recitals, I miss their birthday parties and soccer practices and having dinner with them.  I don't establish long term local friendships with folks, more so acquaintances that I run into at the Irish Pub or the grocery, but nothing more, nothing less.  I guess in a sense, I lose out on being connected to the world around me - a flight away from whatever it is that I might have done and a flight back to a fresh new world every two weeks.  Being connected is a good way to describe it - by not being connected, I get to cherish my lowered emotional intelligence, get to back out quickly when it gets a little too close, and come back when things have cooled a bit.  Psychologists probably have a diagnosis for that, and if I actually saw one, I would write about it, but I am pretty sure that some folks like being ultra connected, and some folks just have a really hard time with it.  I do get to be connected in a way that other folks don't - with the cities and towns and little places I have visited.  I am pretty sure that there is a bartender in Portland, Maine or Edmonds, Washington or Lexington, Kentucky that would smile the minute I walked into the place, offer me a cold drink and a welcome back, and probably even an invite to dinner.  That's enough connectivity for me, I think, maybe?

You have to admit, to some folks, it is pretty glamorous and fun - and I would agree - it is fun.  Everything about what I do is a challenge - and the brain that I have been given does well with challenges, not very well with routine - that's why I do it, and the fact that the pay is good, and the folks are nice are added bonuses. I also have to admit that it probably is not sustainable - (catch phrase of the year) - and that one of these days, my back is going to give out from airplane seats, my willingness to go is going to stop, and my need to be connected is going to grow roots, and I am going to just say no more - perhaps that was the feeling this trip - the need to stop for a bit, don't worry, I worked through it, and found myself singing Johnny Cash at another Karoake Bar in the midwest, after long days...

Eight Days on the road, that's about what it comes down to.  Eight days, repeated, but for me, that is good enough for now.

I hope to get another one out there before the end of March - hell, I have a long Sean Lennon story to tell - and how he sounds horrible, has used too many drugs, and has followed in the musical footsteps of Yoko, and seems to have missed the musical ability to make music that is tolerable when not using illicit drugs - (really folks, I have been to a lot of rock shows, and I have to admit, that the Sean Lennon show with his band that is named something about Tigers or whatever, was more like walking into a tribute show or to a prayer temple and listening to craftily designed songs that make the listeners stomach ache just a little bit, all the while being entertained by witty banter and stories that don't have endings, just uncomfortable silence at the end...)

Maybe next time.