Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Freddy's Room

I had a dream of my Uncle Freddy last night. I hadn't thought of him in years. I didn't know him all that well because we lived far apart, in many ways both physical and… otherwise.

I was looking at a picture of myself, taken yesterday, and I was reminded of him. With a ball cap on, my full head of still dark hair hidden, my age shows. Dark lines hide white lies. Time Flies.

So Freddy was deaf, and mostly mute. He grunted a few things, could make an almost word now and then. He certainly wasn’t stupid or ‘dumb’. But he grew up in an era that saw him as such. The 1930’s. My Grandmother and Grandfather, old by the time Freddy came along, were too tired to put a lot of effort into training him to use sign language or sending him to some special school. Since Freddy couldn’t go to the regular school he stayed home. I think my Grandfather was probably grateful for the extra help around the dairy farm. A family farm, a lot of work for a man of age.

So Freddy worked, all his life in fact, on farms. When the family farm was sold, all the offspring cast to the corners of the country, Freddy needed a place to go. So his closest sister took him in, and put him to work on a Wyoming ranch. Rustling cattle, riding horses. He did that for a good part of his life; I think the work suited him. Freddy was short and stocky, built like a steel spring wrapped in leather straps.

The thing I remember most is his hands. Powerful hands, that looked like the roots of a hundred year oak tree. Itching for work, aching for the touch of dirt. The hands had a purpose, and wanted that purpose, and fulfilled it well.

When the sister got out the ranching business, Freddy got passed from relative to relative for a while, like a man without a country. When he landed with my Father for a time, he would walk a lot; restless, looking for something to do. Even when he turned 80 years old, his hands were still those of an oak tree. He would sit in his rocking chair, and fidget his hands.

The day my Dad died, I found myself back at my folk’s house, staring at Uncle Freddy. Trying to figure out a way to tell him his closest brother had just passed away, out for a walk and heart exploding in his chest, never giving him a chance to even call for help.

It was almost comical. I made hand gestures, Freddy laughed at me. I tried to be serious, but I almost laughed too, before realizing I’d never get the message through if I did. So instead I cried. I think the message got through OK, it was the best I could do. It was like passing a ciphered note in class and then remembering to send the key.

Freddy went to his room, sat in his rocking chair. He looked out the window, making those funny breathing noises he always made because he didn’t know anyone could hear them. He rocked and he rocked, trying to take it in.

Communication is a funny thing, even when we can hear each other. In lots of ways, I think we all sit alone in our rooms, waiting for someone to pass us a note or two. Maybe the best any of us can do is pass each other notes. Lets try and remember that we need to pass the key.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Ready. Fire.. Aim.

Contradictions and random pot shots from a hotel room outside Chicago.

I hate guns, especially hand guns. But I think the right to carry concealed hand guns is a good idea. I figure the bad guys won't know who is carrying and who isn't, so if hand guns are going to be around lets make them effective deterrents, even when they don't exist. The threat is better than the real thing.

I think anyone who wants to carry a hand gun should be the first one with their head examined. Or at the very least, a psychological profile completed. Seriously, if you WANT to carry a hand gun, you have issues. You might be paranoid, or have a phallic fixation, or your a man, and all men are perpetually twelve years old.

I don't get the whole thing about registering either. Seriously, if the government was big enough to come and find all those with hand guns simply because they were registered, well, the fact that they were coming to take it away would be the least of your problems.

I went to Arizona on a backpack trip recently, and one of the guys thought we should have a gun to deter crazy drug induced bad guys. First off, drug induced bad guys don't hang out in the remote desert. Second, he only wanted it because his dick is too small. Third, if we had a gun, he would definitely be the LAST one I would want to carry it. Second to last would be me, since it was likely that same guy would piss me off to the point I would want to shoot him. Having a gun nearby would not be a good thing.

Guns don't kill people. People kill people. The gun just makes it easier and more convenient. It removes you from the vicinity of blood. You ever notice on TV, they don't show the man with the gun AND the man getting shot in the same frame shot? They show a man with a gun, pulls the trigger, and then move over to the man getting shot. When you put them both in the same frame, it adds to the violence. It's much more personal. Its much more real.

Last, a stolen story. From somewhere on the internet.

An old prospector shuffled into town leading an old tired mule. The old man headed straight for the only saloon to clear his parched throat. He walked up and tied his old mule to the hitch rail. As he stood there, brushing some of the dust from his face and clothes, a young gunslinger stepped out of the saloon with a gun in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other.

The young gunslinger looked at the old man and laughed, saying, "Hey old man, have you ever danced?" The old man looked up at the gunslinger and said, "No, I never did dance... never really wanted to."

A crowd had gathered as the gunslinger grinned and said, "Well, you old fool, you're gonna dance now," and started shooting at the old man's feet.

The old prospector --not wanting to get a toe blown off-- started hopping around like a flea on a hot skillet. Everybody was laughing, fit to be tied.

When his last bullet had been fired, the young gunslinger, still laughing, holstered his gun and turned around to go back into the saloon. The old man turned to his pack mule, pulled out a double-barreled shotgun, and cocked both hammers. The loud clicks carried clearly through the desert air. The crowd stopped laughing immediately. The young gunslinger heard the sounds too, and he turned around very slowly. The silence was almost deafening. The crowd watched as the young gunman stared at the oldtimer and the large gaping holes of those twin barrels.

The barrels of the shotgun never wavered in the old man's hands, as he quietly said, "Son, have you ever kissed a mule's ass?" The gunslinger swallowed hard and said, "No sir..... but... I've
always wanted to."

There are a few lessons for us all here:
Always know who you are dealing with. Never be arrogant. Don't waste ammunition. Whiskey makes you think you're smarter than you are. Don't mess with old men, they didn't get old by being stupid.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Green Monster

So in all my dietary changes, I've had one area where I've been in complete denial.


Oh, I'm not addicted to it at all, but I am addicted to something else. Green Tea. Which of course, contains modest amounts of caffeine. Modest, unless you drink 7-9 cups a day like me. I managed to give up coffee and only drink it occasionally, no soda, no stimulants of any other drug, except one.

That green tea. Oh, how I love my green tea. Tazo Zen, is my brand of choice, I don't drink anything else. Unlike many tea drinkers, who always seem to drink anything under the sun, I am a monogamous tea drinker, faithful to my brand. I covet it, I search it out wherever I go. Fortunately, its a Starbucks brand, so its easy to find. I've been drinking this brand for 10 or 12 years. A long satisfying relationship.

Breaking up is hard to do. Maybe we can ease into it, just become friends. Good friends. Yeah right. All I need is a small taste, just to cool my feet, and before you know it, I am drowning. Man, that green monkey on my back talks loud and continuously.

The true test of our relationship came over a couple day period, when I went cold turkey. We need a break, I said. I'll be back. During that period, I noticed a marked difference in my energy. It went UP. I noticed a difference in my heart palps. as in NONE. As in this is the last piece of my health puzzle. Sorry Tazo Zen, I am gonna have to find another love.

Hey Starbucks, how about ZEN DECAF?

(PS: Two cases of Tazo Zen tea for sale! Cheap!)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Going Home

"Going Home" -Sculpture by Tinka Jordy

When we have no real home, we're like an aimless wanderer out on the road, going this way for a while and then that way, stopping for a while and then setting off again. Until we return to our real home, whatever we do we feel ill at ease, just like somebody who's left his village to go on a journey. Only when he gets home again can he really relax and be comfortable. Nowhere in the world is any real peace to be found. That's the nature of the world. Look within yourself and find it there instead. - Ajahn Chah

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rat Race

I spent last week in Orlando at a trade show. My company held it, with all the customers and suppliers and employees coming in from all over the country. 15,000 people! They even rented good portions of two Dizney resorts for all of us to stay in. I discovered something: I am NOT a resort kind of person, especially Dizney (yes, I know I am spelling it incorrectly).

You are trapped. Like a RAT. once inside the resort you are very VERY limited to how you move about. Buses. Everywhere. You are not only inside a resort, but you are INSIDE Dizney "town". It's in Orlando alright, but quite literally Dizney is a town, with miles and miles of its own highways. You go everywhere by bus.

For an ultra runner and outside enthusiast, its awful. Every day, I had to wait for a bus to take me exactly ONE mile to the trade show. Some days, for all the logistics, it would take me an hour and half to move that ONE mile to get to work. There literally was no safe way for me to walk, unless I wanted to dodge buses on all the bridges. Plus, get arrested. Yes. The Dizney folks saw fit to tell you that YOU CANNOT WALK HERE.

But here's the good news. I was there to staff a store within the trade show that sold our company logo merchandise to our customers, suppliers and employees. I have a whole new respect for anyone manning a cash register, or working in the retail business. I worked about 25 hours in three and half days ringing up sales of hats, jackets, and shirts. Sounds like drudgery work, how can that be the good news?

Well, the store was set up as a funding point for a scholarship program. All proceeds taken in to fund people getting education in the skilled trades industries: "Tools for Tomorrow". Personally, I came up through the ranks, working in metal fab shops and warehouses for almost half of my career. I have a special place in my heart for those people who know how to DO. Do things, weld things, bend things, fix things. In this day and age when young people expect to make a living doing not all that much, its great to provide the means and ways for some to go to school and learn how to get their hands dirty. The CAN DO people of the world. The fixers. The people trying to rise above the rat race cycle of unskilled assembly line and white collar data entry sweat shops.

Over the course of that 3 and half days, we raised nearly $90,000 for that scholarship program. Now that was a week well spent, even in Dizney hell.

I'll be going back for sure next year. Maybe we can break 100 grand.