Monday, June 30, 2008

I'll give you something to cry about.....

I have been listening to all the news stories about the airlines charging $15 to check a bag.
I started traveling with one carry-on bag after my luggage was lost for 11 days during a trip to Italy. My wife's bag was lost (delayed in airline language) for the same time period. I learned something. You need far less things than you might imagine, even in a foreign country where you don't speak the language.
BEG and I made a pact to never check an airline bag again. It has nothing to do with fifteen dollars. We learned exactly what is really needed and how to pack it in a carry-on size suitcase. We spent 2 weeks in France this past March with one carry-on bag each. No problem, no kidding. It can be accomplished sooo easily.
Cut to the television interviews. One woman at O'Hare in Chicago is whining like a baby about the high cost of flying for a family with six children. Six children? Lady, this is the smallest of your problems. Having cashed 2 kiddos through college, trust me on this one, airlines are the smallest of your problems. And not to sound all Chinese and everything; but 6 kids! Good planning.
Another lady traveler is bemoaning the fact that she is being charged to carry the child seat she is taking to her daughter in Omaha. Huh? They don't have child seats at WalMart in Omaha? Think people! Another man says he might have to shift from his normal first class to sit in coach if fuel prices keep rising. Oh Good God! No, tell me it isn't true!
Another man says this is killing his trips to Las Vegas to gamble once a month. Oh no!
Cut to the TV anchor with a furrowed brow, asking the field reporter if there is ANY relief in sight? The field reporter sadly replies "not anytime soon." My lingering thought is this is a lot of silly crybaby excrement we're hearing. I'm sure the powers in Dubai are laughing their asses off at the ridiculous and whiny Americans.

My dad used to say when I would tear-up as a child, "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about." Harsh? Sure. But I know at this point in my life what he meant. I recently earned a bad ankle sprain and haven't been able to train on the track, which has made me agitated (according to BEG, and God knows she is the one that would know). I tested the ankle on the track this morning and still no go for me after 2 weeks of shut down. I grumped my way up to 7-11 to buy some coffee. A patron at the counter bid me a cheerful good morning. He was sitting in a wheelchair and had no legs. True story; not kidding you. Happened this morning.

"I'll give you something to cry about"
Now I Get It....maybe
Sunday, June 22, 2008

Freckles and Sweat

Beads of sweat, invisible in the darkness of night, ran off his forehead. He closed his eyes. A quick swipe of his fingertips removed the dampness from his eyelids. The mattress below him had grown wet from his perspiration, yet it meant nothing in the world he lived in. He slept in his own sweat every night. There was no air conditioning in his house. This night was cooler than the ones in his bedroom. The slight breeze that came with the growing Texas night was beginning to cool the sides of the pick-up truck’s bed. It was Friday night, and a few hours before his dad had hauled the queen mattress out of the house and dropped it into the back of the 1957 Ford pick-up. From his spot in the back of the truck his senses filled with the voices of the women laughing as if they were rehearsing a TV scene with Lucy and Ethel. The men spoke softly and drew large hits off a stream of never ending cigarettes that glowed like small lamps among the cluster of men. He concentrated on the small orange glows as they danced up and down, their movement caused by the practiced art of men talking while also holding a cigarette in their mouths.

Fireflies darted across his face, daring him to chase them. He was content in the back of the truck; the soggy pillow below his head doubled up where he could watch the dancing cigarettes and hear the laughter and high pitched voices of the moms.

He was 8 years old. He had been to a handful of these church socials. He didn’t know why the church members gathered in a city park on Friday nights. They would all sleep in the park tonight, on cots and in the back of pick-up trucks. He knew the small frame house where he lived next to the railroad tracks was hot and that maybe that is why they gathered in the park on these nights. It was also noisy at his house as the trains roared by through the night no more than 50 yards from his open window. Late at night the hobos that walked the tracks and rode the trains would appear at one of the windows and wake him up by knocking on the wooden window sill. It always scared him, but he tried to not let on. He just told them they only had enough food and stuff for themselves, sorry. That’s what his dad said to tell them.

The vacation from the small hot house and the productive railroad tracks was what made these Friday nights so much fun. There was laughter. There were games before the picnic dinners, men playing dominoes and smoking, moms laughing and preparing food. Now the stars above him were glowing with a full brightness through the leaves of the oak trees. The leaves moved gently in the cooling breeze of the evening, a breeze that had begun to make the sweat on his face feel cool. The same breeze brought the distinctive aroma of smoke from the group of men and also seemed to heighten the sound of the ducks near the pond, their constant quacking mimicking the back and forth voices of the group of women.

He lost himself in thought about Rebecca. She was confusing to think about. Small freckles decorated her nose and cheeks, the freckles were almost the same muted red color as her hair. He liked the way her hair would fall across her face when she ran. She would have to slow down and move it behind her ears before she could continue running. Her red canvas shoes were always topped by white socks that sagged to her ankles when she played with the boys. He didn’t know why he liked to think about her but it made him feel good to remember her running and tending to her hair. He liked it when she smiled right at him and he imagined holding her hand, but he also knew he would never dare.

He was happy. No hobos and no trains, just laughter and stars and ducks on a pond. He swatted a mosquito away from his ear. He thought about Rebecca’s freckles and smiled. His eyelids grew heavy and he drifted into sleep.






Years later when he had all the things of value that life could bring him, when a generation of time had separated him from the boy and his personal wealth had grown, he would sit in his study and think about the happiness of the boy. He did it again tonight.

When we have so little, only dreams and an image of what comfort might be, why are we so happy? When poverty stricken children in third world countries chase a soccer ball across a barren field dotted with skinny cows, why does an enormous smile play across their face and why do their eyes dance with the fullness of life? Does ignorance of plenty enhance satisfaction with little? And if its true………….how do we return to the place where the leaves rustle in front of the stars and we care only about our dreams and the play that begins in the morning? Where do we find the place that we chase a soccer ball across a field of skinny cows, grinning like a child?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Million Pounds?

All day I have been working away at my job, but I have also had the cable news programs on in the background. Today President Bush upped the ante on the elections by pressing Congress to revoke the long standing legislation prohibiting off-shore drilling.
One startling overnight poll showed that Americans have shifted to being nearly 80% in favor of off-shore drilling, the percentages turning almost 180 degrees from where they have been in recent years.
For some reason that reminded me of the best joke ever written about prostitution. The joke is credited to Bernard Shaw.
He was at a party once and told a woman that everyone would agree to do anything for money, if the price was high enough.
"Surely not, she said."
"Oh yes," he said.
"Well, I wouldn't," she said.
"Oh yes you would. For instance, would you sleep with me for... for a million pounds?"
"Well," she said, "maybe for a million I would, yes."
"Would you do it for ten shillings?" he asked.
"Certainly not!" said the woman "What do you take me for? A prostitute?"
"We've established that already," said Bernard Shaw. "We're just trying to fix your price now!"

Sooooo....... I see the flip-over price is $4 per gallon.

Now I Get It...........maybe.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Don't Believe You

This post is like huntin with Cheney. I’ve got no idea where I’m aiming, but I might hit something if I just fire a round off.

My knee hurts. It doesn’t hurt like arthritis or any of that old guy stuff. It hurts because I have been banging the victim knee on hurdles. Fair enough, go ahead and wonder why a 56 year old man is jumping hurdles. Frustration awaits you if you seek an actual answer because the man doesn’t actually have a reason except that he thinks its fun to see if he can do it better than other 56 year old men. I never claimed to be motivated in enlightened ways. I lay claim only to being motivated, which of course was also true of Timothy McVea, so any association with the good implied by that statement is suspect from the time the light turned green at the front of the sentence.

Back to my knee. In the interest of going over the hurdles with optimum efficiency I am required to forcefully jerk my right knee over the top of the hurdle during the step over. Well, not required, but it helps if you want to win. Refer to the previous sentences regarding improperly placed motivations if you feel confused at this point. Several times in the course of a workout I manage to bring the right knee into serious impact with the hurdle. It hurts. The seventh time you do it in the same week hurts more than the first time. Here is what I said on the seventh impact. #(*^@$*@$*@&@*!!!!!.

So, being a fellow of diligence and serious motivation, however improperly placed or maniacal that said motivation might be when analyzed by a kind hearted counselor, and damn those guys cost a lot, I went to look for advice from a second expert. I found one only 75 yards away. A world famous track and field coach, that I call a friend, was working on the other end of the track with two Bejing bound athletes.

Understand that my coach friend is famous for his wit, wisdom and plain spoken passages about track and life. He is in his early 60’s, so plain speak is his earned province much like your old cantankerous uncle, whatever his name is in your case. I presented my hurt knee problem. Coach’s solution was quick and effective. He said “If I was you I would quit running hurdles. Crashing into them is what is making your knee hurt.”

Okeee Dokeee, thanks Coach. I wish McVea had asked for help too.

Last year this same friend told me something I have not forgotten and I want to talk to you about what he said. This is a man who has worked with literally thousands of college age athletes, many running at a world class level years after they leave his program. He has seen and accomplished a great deal in his profession and is widely known for his successes. Here is the wisdom Mr. Track Coach laid on me.

“People will always show you exactly who they are. The hardest thing is learning to accept that what they show us is the truth.”

I reflect on the relationships I have known of where abuse was present. The abused often stays around, refusing to believe what they have been shown. I had to make a decision in the past 2 weeks about a personal relationship based on a pattern of behavior that I had witnessed so many times before that it became crystal clear that this individual was showing me once again exactly who they are, and this persons behavior keeps repeating itself like a barroom parrot in a Jamaican bar.

Do you think this saying by my coach friend is accurate? Is it really possible that people always show us exactly who they are, but the hardest piece of the puzzle is fully accepting what we have been shown?

Speaking of showing us what you got, I’m going to Las Vegas for a wedding this weekend. BEG is going too so I have to figure a way to get her into one of the showgirl shows, you know the kind where 120 topless girls balance big feather things on their heads, which the women in the audience comment on, while the men wonder what feather head thing?

So while I’m gone, just talk amongst yourselves here if you want. Or come on out to Vegas. I’ll be at the MGM Grand showing Vegas exactly who I am. Ask for Seven Alevin, but don't be surprised if they think you want a Slurpee. Everybody’s welcome, but I don’t think you can go to the wedding.

Monday, June 09, 2008

An Old Coot Don't Need No Stinkin Gas

I have a privileged slot in the pecking order when it comes to buying gasoline. What I mean is that I don’t have to buy much of it. I work at home and 90% of my everyday commerce is conducted electronically. I emailed an entire construction specification manual today by email. It was the 4th book I have written in 3 weeks that reached its end user without my use of gasoline.

Taking advantage of the information age was a decision I made 10 years ago and it has paid far more lifestyle and financial dividends than I would ever have imagined. I don’t have to wear clothes when I’m working. I am able to do my run and weight training on a regular schedule since I don’t have a boss and can work deep into the night if I need to. I only drive in rush hour traffic if I happen to go temporarily brain dead and schedule a meeting in downtown Dallas or Fort Worth at a bad time. I eat the food in my refrigerator instead of fast food or restaurant food which is a necessity of my training anyway, but at least I don’t have to carry my lunch to work!

I’m not bragging, just feeling good about my circumstances. I know there are millions of Americans, especially young Americans with families that drive many miles to work for small wages. Surely this gas situation is a huge strain for them. I have empathy.

Still, maybe there is good that can come from the situation. Maybe more of us will learn to work from home and take full advantage of the new information age, lowering carbon emissions and simultaneously shooting a middle finger toward Dubai. Maybe we can learn to bicycle and plan our trips. It wouldn’t hurt Americans to lose about seven gazillion pounds collectively. My Lord, people surrounding me in public are just sooo fat these days! Riding a bike or walking like thinner Europeans can’t be as bad as the fattys might imagine. Maybe we will rediscover that we have neighbors living alongside us.

Maybe we will all stay home and become Guitar Hero legends. I can play Black Magic Woman now as well as any fifth grader on his second try and I’ve only been practicing for 2 months.

Maybe we will find something far more important. Maybe we will rediscover the simplicity of right now. That may be a confusing sentence without context, so let me explain. The frenetic pace of our culture has taught us to scurry like mice on a wheel. We run from here to there with a sense of urgency not limited by space, distance or the cost of fuel. In the course of that scurrying and the brain patterning that accompanies it have we lost our sense of simplicity, planning and the idea of being present in the now? Have we lost sunsets and meaningful conversation?

All that may seem a tad gray or old fashioned. Sorry for sounding like an old coot that don't need no gas.

Maybe what we will learn is that we have a new purpose and stewardship not only with our energy and environment, but also with our personal sense of where we are going as individual souls and why we are going there. Maybe we will have time to ask the question "why are we always needing to travel so far outside ourselves and at such a rapid pace." If we run fast enough might we be able to escape ourselves? A Jackson Browne lyric observes, "no matter how fast I run, I can never get away from me."

If we all had more time to sit at peace outside the immediate view of our steering wheels and gas gages and think about our lives and our perspective of the 'right now', is that really a negative?

You tell me.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Applause for Bigotry?

I’m curious about the media’s insistence on referring to Barrack Obama as the first black candidate nominated by his party. After his victories earlier this week the headlines across America lead their stories with some variation of this theme. I might be accused of picking knit, but the tiniest bit of research indicates Mr. Obama is neither all black nor all white.

It leaves me with the idea that this is merely a new chapter in American racial bigotry rather than the mining of a new vein of acceptance and race blindness. What dictates that a bi-racial man is black rather than white? Is it because his appearance presents the image that lives in our minds about what a black man looks like?

Is it more sinister than that simplistic observation? Is it possible that our culture is presenting that once a white woman or white man has produced a child with a black person that the child is considered black rather than white because of institutionalized cultural agreement on permanent blemish or social devaluation?

This is my question for America. Why do we not refer to Mr. Obama as the first bi-racial candidate nominated by his party? Is this insistence that he is a black man America’s hoping and dreaming that our prejudice is resolved by electing a black man, when we actually elect a man that is both black and white?

Is the prospect that two races have merged to produce a unique and talented individual just too underwhelming for journalism? Or, is it possibly the biggest story of the day, left unearthed by a media stuffed full of its own unobserved bigotry?

You tell me.