Thursday, December 27, 2007
Waves roll in…
Waves roll out…
That’s what I see from this bench
Overlooking the water, in a strange city
I came here to say goodbye to an Old Year
It was an old year; I’d grown to know it well
It had come around enough times
Like some people I’d knew
Old like an old coat
Comfortable, and ready to fall apart
This year, this old year had wrinkles
That were ugly, not wise
They showed time, not experience
It smiled with bleeding gums
And its hair was blown by the wind
It was an old bastard of an uncle
The kind that borrowed money
Its neck was bent with sleep and guilt
It was sometimes forgetful, occasionally cruel
It smelled like pee, and medicine
I had grown used to the halitosis
The stories it told over and over
Gave comfort, over and over
Because I never had to think about them
I always appreciated how
It would demand so little from me
Usually only my company
And the most passing of attentions
It’s hard to accept that it’s time to say
I’ve grown used to it visiting
So often, recently. But,
This old year has grown weary
And is dieing, from its own disease
So now it’s time
To honor, and grieve and remember
As much as this old year deserves
And maybe to learn
Everyone’s life is a story to tell.
Everyone’s time is a lesson.
And, just like saying goodbye
To a dear friend, or a bad relative,
Most of its memory fades
With its absence
I hope, Oh I hope, Oh I pray
That I’ll be that better friend
That I’ll be that better son
That I’ll be that better man
Because of the lessons that I’ve learned
From that crazy, decrepit, derelict, old year
Come 'round too many times before its passing.
I can see the New Year coming
I was supposed to meet it here
And I’ve never felt quite ready
For first impressions
Never shamed, always shy
And knowing that’s not quite right
But all there is to do is rise
A seagull flies overhead
A boat cuts towards the horizon
The wind pulls at my scarf
And the clouds will bring their rain
… waves roll out,
… waves roll in.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
I haven't been able to post progress on my barious short stories and other progress because I left my master disc in Tucson when I came to see my folks for the holidays in California.
I have just posted my most recent financial progress. It's slowly coming along.
I have moved out of my apartment, but don't have one to move into when I return. I will be staying short-term with friends until finances and PeaceCorps allign like a mythical constellation- or, more likely, for about a week or so.
As for PeaceCorpse, they contacted me last Thursday (December 19th) and asked if there was any way possible that I would have the holds on my application cleared by January 7th. I mentally glanced at my balance sheet, frowned, and said, no, there was no way. They thanked me for my honesty and informed me that they had had a posting in Eastern Europe come up at the last minute and that I could have gone to that. Oh well, back in the hopper for the Pacific Region, with the cautionary statement from PeaceCorps that postings may not be available again in the near future. *sigh*
But, Everything else is good. I will write more in the near future, like tomorrow, to provide more details. It has been a roller coaster of a couple of weeks, but we keep moving right along.
Take care, friends and loved ones,
And Merry Christmas,
- Starting Debt: $22,000
- Total Real Debt: $11,400
- (As of 12/5/7)
- - Settlement of Real Debt: $1,500
- = $9,900
- (As of 12/19/7)
- Settlment at 50%: 4,950ish
- - $ put aside to settle: $500
(As of 1/5/8)
$4,400 Left to raise
Sometimes it seems like I'm taking two steps forward and one step back. I withheld my payment for December in anticiopation of the holidays. I'll have a fair cash cushion going into the new year, but made minimal progress on raising towards the debt. The $1,500 of real debt settled was settled at only 66%, which also slowed down progress based on a 50% settlement.
But, we are moving ahead, slowly but surely. The ace in the hole is a client that owes me $4,000. If that comes through, then I'm golden. If not, then we just keep plugging away.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
- Starting Debt: $22,000
- Total Real Debt: $14,000
- (As of 11/1/7)
- - Settlement of Real Debt: $2,400
- = $11,400
- (As of 12/5/7)
- Settlment at 50%: 5,700
- - $ put aside to settle: $2,800
- - $ Fees ($300): $2,500
- - Recent Settlement Payout ($1,200): 1,300
- $4,400 Left to raise
Because of the recent calculation of fees owed tot eh Settlment company I have been set back $200 in my savings this month even though I have reduced my real debt by over $2,400. I am still satisfied with the service, though the settlements aren't coming as fast as I'd like. I am glad however that the offers are coming in at at least 50%. I expect to have the $4,000 from Shahid in the next couple of weeks- hopefully before the New Year. The last $400 would be my January payment to the Settlment company. All I'll need to do then is make the final settlement payments with my creditors as they make their offers.
It is a waiting game now...
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Stupid, stupid, stupid. This is what I get for trusting in things like Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and an Amicable Divorce.
The five-year time-bomb went off with spectacular dizzying results. The IRS's initial estimate is that I owe $72,000. Apparently they show that I sold a house and didn't buy a new one.
*She* has been less than responsive. Correction: She has had little to say about the taxes. Much to say about my personal character, integrety, and in one memorable voice-mail, my hygiene.
We have been using a neighbor as a go-between for a few years. The neighbor is happy to send over whatever documents she can to help with my filing, but I of course, deserve everything *She* has done in setting this up. Quite amusing, really.
The tangle's becoming untied, slowly. I went to consult with the IRS earlier this week and was told two important things. 1: As long as I don't owe any taxes when I file for 2002, I won't owe any late penalties. That's good, because right now I owe about $9,000 and change in late/non-payment penalties. 2: I learned that if I supply a letter declaring that *She* has declared the purchase and sale of our homes on her taxes, then I don't reckon those in mine. This is good because it drops my income that year by $120,000. hooray.
So, I'm off to start my filings.
If this gets resolved within the next four-six weeks, it should have no impact on my PeaceCorps application. If not...
I received some sad news yesterday.
14 years ago I, and My First Ex-wife, got a second cat. Our first cat, Jim, had to be put down in 2000 after complications following eye surgery. After my divorce in 2003, I took Janis in.
In May, 2006, I took a job where I was in-residence and on-call 24/7 at an apartment complex. I had to find a place for Janis to stay. My Second Ex-wife and stepson took her in and I visited at least every couple of weeks.
In May, 2007, Shanti told me that I had to find a place for Janis while she took my stepson to visit her parents in India. Janis found a home for a couple months, but then had to bounce around for a month. Running out of places for her to go, Janis ended up in an apartment she hated- it was smaller than I liked, crowded with people, and there was one dog in residence with another visiting. I tried to find other places for her, but no good option presented itself.
I was told a few weeks ago that Janis may have run away. She had disappeared for a few days in September, so I wasn't concerned because she was found hiding in part of the apartment. After three weeks of phone tag I received confirmation that Janis hadn't come back.
I have to believe that she was picked up by a loving family. She had a tag on and nobody has called to say she's found her in any kind of condition.
She has been my friend for 14 years. I miss her very much, and hope she is living out the end of her life with a little peace with someone who loves her as much as I do.
She was grumpy, affectionatie, and extremely loyal. Shanti said that she was like me, the perfect pet for me, because "She's very sweet and hard to live with." She was the best cat in the world.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Minor glitch in a tight budget. If I did this right, I still have the option of going to Mexico at the end of the month with Casas Builders to build homes with my father. If not, then I have enough money to spend a little longer in California over Christmas.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Work progresses on this story, and if all goes well, I may actually have it done by the end of the week. I will be happy to send complete copies to anyone who asks.
It was nights like this that I would usually take a walk- late, warm, thick, and heavy. I didn’t need any other excuses on nights like this, but I had crossed that fine line between needing fresh air and needing to clear my head that could prove the diference between sleeping at all, or letting the nightmares follow me into the morning.
Moot point, I conceded, directing my attention to the fact that the dreams were meeting me before I fell asleep. What chance did I have of fighting off the night terrors and the damned shakes that lasted all day afterwards, if I found dreams waiting for me on my ceiling before closing my eyes?
Mom was right; I needed a shrink. Of course, for her, therapy meant simply finding a wife who made great pie. Proper interpretation of Mom’s advice usually did me well. Maybe I should make some phone calls in the morning.
I put my hands deep in the pockets of the windbreaker, pushing the corners of the unzipped jacket into arrows that pointed towards my sneakers. I dipped my chin so the bill of the baseball cap hid my face, and trudged like a cliché down the alley, through fog and around heaps of garbage.
Not true, I countered. The image, the dancing couple, that had to do with light, more than anything else. I hadn’t noticed any shadows while they danced in their spotlight. Not my shadows, only theirs. For some reason, all the dark things on my ceiling held no terror for me, while they were there.
I clumphed through a gravel spill from some recent demolition work and ducked under a chain so I could turn down a driveway. I stopped dead.
The sky was an ambient orange-purple ceiling getting lower as the fog rolled in. The universe went about its business of shrinking us into pockets of isolation as walls of mist came up the narrow streets and fell off of rooftops as it always did this close to the docks this time of night, this time of year. There were streetlights here and there on the actual streets, but I was making my way, by and large, following habitual routes lit only by the occasional backlighted window pane from the apartments above, and the city’s own banked glow.
I had come around the corner of a high wall that separated the alley I was walking down from the driveway that ‘L’ed at the chain to turn into some kind of small loading dock. There was one harsh light mounted inside the small courtyard that spilled light just past its threshold, past the wall, and into the end of the driveway.
I stood with my back to the chain, my toes on the edge of the pool of light. Down the driveway was indistinct murk. To my right, was the darkness of the building facing the loading dock, not quite lit by the downcast spot in the dock’s courtyard. Beside and behind me to either direction were narrowing distances that closed off any light as alley walls came together in the veil of night’s gloom and poverty. My mouth hung open.
A man, across the yard, pulled a woman into the light. At first it parodied my earlier bedroom musings enough for me to close my eyes and shake my head to rattle something loose. When I opened them again, I could see that this was no set of dance partners. He pulled the woman roughly behind him by the wrist. He took three sloping strides into the center of the lot where a chair was set up in the middle of piles of crates that had been left out to be dealt with the next day. He twisted her arm, forcing her to stumble into the seat. She clung to its sides for support. I couldn’t make out what was said over the not-quite-distant traffic. In fact there was no sound from the couple whatsoever. No crunching of grit under his heavy stride. No scrape of the chair as the woman got settled.
Neither of them were in a position to see me, I figured. But she was turned more to face me, while the man was more with his back to me as he circled around to a nearby crate.
The woman settled herself into the chair, cool with contempt. I have to be specific here. This was the woman. I hadn’t stumbled upon some strange date-gone-wrong-and-about-to-end-badly after all. I wasn’t sure if that would have been worse or better. I shook my head again, but nothing came loose.
The man was not the man though. I should be specific again. He was dressed in a suit, but looked like a gorilla- wide shoulders, hairy knuckles, and all. He was a brute. And he didn’t like what she had just said.
He stepped up and slapped her hard across the mouth, just as a truck backfired a block away. A dog whimpered off to my right, and ran down the alley away from the noise. I looked back and saw that the woman was slumped back in the chair, blood trickling from her mouth in stark red contrast to her silver gown and pale skin.
Gorilla Boy went back to the crate he had been standing by and approached the woman again, carrying a length of rope that he used to tie her to the chair with. He was muttering the whole time the way bastards do when they want to justify hitting a woman. She began to stir before he was finished, but she didn’t struggle.
The cold fires came back into her eyes though, and I shivered despite the warm.
When he was finished he stepped back and talked some more. She said nothing. She just stared at him, chin lifted, daring him again.
Her eyes flicked to the side. In that instant the brute turned with her gaze, towards me.
And the light bulb exploded.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
The Anythieves is set in a shared, strange, universe. Each story is connected in at least one way- sequentially, by character, through passing reference- to at least one other story in the sequence. They are intended to be read in order. Since some of the stories are very far from completion, this may not be possible for quite some time. However, each story can be read by itself for its own sake, and be judged on its own merits.
What follows is a summary of the individual stories, and some commentary regarding my intentions as the author.
Jack, Mary, And The Anythieves- In Progress
This is the story of a proper woman, Mary, brought back into the strange, dreamlike, lifestyle she lived as an orphan in the back and south of London, when her former companion, Jack, finds her in her new life to help care for young the daughter of one of their murdered friends. Jack and Mary's youth was halmarked by a secret life, centering on the knack of some of their young companions to carve and enter tunnels in space that let them travel undetected all over London and the rest of the world. While the mortal embodiments of Peter Pan and Mary Poppins are distracted with the decision of whether they could or should fall in love again, they are driven from their sanctuary by a sinister force of hard, evil men known only as the Parliment Of Black Coats. The Parliment wants the child, that the three must flee or suffer the grizzly fate of their young charge's parents.
Author's Note: This was the first story I started writing and I'm still not satisfied with my progress in it. I have an outline and the first, small, chapter, as well as several excerpts throughout the story that need to be linked together. However, I have also found that by writing the other stories in the sequence first, I may be saving myself some editing down the road as I decide what details to disclose along the way.
One Night At Goodman's Place- In Progress, due for completion by November 31, 2007
Billy, a drunk in a bar, tells a story about a remote island in the Atlantic where he and a business associate attempt to locate and pillage an archeological dig. The discovery of the site and the nature of the treasure (and what guards it) wrap the characters into a literal battle between Good and Evil.
Author's Note: The story told by Billy is set in the early 1980's, and serves in some ways as a prequel the Jack, Mary, and the Anythieves. It was influenced by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, and personal historical research into the early church in England. I've patted myself on the back with this one by creating a narrator- a man listening to Billy's story in the bar- who doesn't have a name, and never speaks himself throughout the course of the story.
The Hour And The Thief- Completed
A young priest, Owen, is challenged by the vision of a boy breaking into his church and disappearing after pleading for Sanctuary. As the priest sees this happen repeatedly at hourly intervals he begins walking backwards through the conversation as he retraces the boy's path. He finally comes to what the boy is running from, and has to face his own demons before the night is through.
Around Eleven- In Progress, due for completion by November 31, 2007
A nameless narrator is haunted by both visions of a couple running from unknown danger and strange shadows that prowl the corner of his vision. The couple, in their own time, is troubled by similar visions of shadows that distract them from the web of mob intrigue they must survive in order to get out of town alive and together.
Every Kingdom- In Progress
A drifter with a shadowed past finds himself pursued by intrigue and occult magics as he tries to help a young woman escape a backwater town in the heart of the bayou.
Ring The Bells- In Progress
A priest, Matthew, is woke in the middle of the night by his brother, an unrepentant thief, who needs his help in covering his tracks from a recent burglary. A simple errand embroils the priest in assasination plots and a criminal underworld he had been blissfully unaware of. Meanwhile, his brother, Patrick, triggers a mystery, a curse, and a love story, none of which he feels equipped to cope with either.
Stay For The Pie- Completed
A small slice of strangeness just for the fun of it. A person is told a strange story for the sake of a writing excercise. This, is that story. It's and epilogue of a sort, a coda if you will, and a good way to tie things off until the next batch of stories come out of my head.
Author's Note: I was told the story in this story and was, in fact, requested to write it, just as the character was. The pie was my idea. I enjoyed writing this, because I found halfway through it that I was writing a story completely populated by dialogue- wholly in quotes without even as much as a 'he said' to distract the reader from what was being told.
This summer I picked the project up again. As is often the case with my strange fiction projects, I wasn't sure where it was going to go for some time after I had put the first words down. I had worked out the outcome and drafted the next section by my thirty-fifth birthday. I had decided by then to work it into a scope of stories, big and small, collectively called "The Anythieves", a name I was given in a dream about ten years ago, related to another story. The shared universe of this story cycle has connections of characters from plot to plot, and slides liberally around through time, exploring diferent themes. I am including below the first two sections of "Around Eleven".
Cap Mango, a Commentor to this blog and a Good Friend, has set an interesting challenge for himself in his desire to participate in a month-long writing contest. See his blog, "The Seven Day Quest" for more details on NaNoWriMo.
While plans didn't work out for Cap this year, he has resolved to be in training for next year and is writing towards that end. In a show of solidarity, I have resolved to complete two of my projects in The Anythieves Cycle- Around Eleven, and One Night At Goodman's Place. I will be posting on that project soon.
Enjoy the excerpts. I will write more on the cycle shortly.
The headlights of passing cars became spotlights that played across the smooth surface of another place. As the light paused and hung for a moment in the corner of the room, a man stepped from the shadows and brought with him the hand, and arm, and body of a tall woman. Her platinum hair was piled high over a graceful neck and a delicately exposed back. Her gown fell in shimmering waves of silver that caught highlights from the mirror on my nightstand.
They danced to the rhythm the night played outside my window. They spun and swayed with the rattle of trucks. They caressed and held each other in time to the arguments of my upstairs neighbors. Finally, they waltzed to the sultry blues of a well-timed, out-of-work musician practicing his saxophone on a fire escape down the alley.
The couple was joined by the shadows of cats dancing across a chain link fence. The figures moved to their music in perfect ballroom form. The flashing lights of a tow truck caused a crowd to form on the dance floor, swirling around, with them.
The man and the woman stepped out onto the dance floor and began their swirling circuit through the crowd. At first, all he could think about was how radiant she looked. Their movements were without conflict or hesitation, as they swayed and shifted together through the others just outside the shifting spotlights.
Anyone watching would assume the couple had danced many such dances in many such clubs on many such nights. No one watching would have guessed how his heart had leaped earlier that evening when the man saw the woman by the bar, ordering that too-dry martini. No one watching would know how the light catching the silver lines of her gown had sent electricity to his brain and had seized his tongue. No one watching would have known her heartbreak, or the soothing balm his quite-shy smile had laid on her soul. No one watching would know that they had just met. No one watching would know that their trip across the dance floor was a means to avoid the distraction of crippling, awkward, conversation, as much as the result of the attraction that drew her hand to his hand, and his arm to her waist.
But even as he moved with her, danced with her, and was lost in her, the man became drawn outside of his reverie by the shadows outside the spotlight. It seemed to the man, as he looked over the woman’s shoulder, that the walls of the club had been lost in a distance of glare, smoke, and shifting darkness. The woman’s arm tightened around his middle. She had noticed too. Outside the spot that remained fixed on them (and why did that damn light keep following them? the woman wondered), she saw the shadows move at awkward angles, and the darkness overhead form irregular, alien, and altogether too-large depths to what should have been rafters and light riggings.
“I know,” he whispered in her ear, “just keep moving.”
They continued to dance, holding closer to each other as they went, suspecting only they were what was real, as the dark prowled and flashed around them.
The lights got brighter and the music dimmed. Then reality snapped the other way and they were dancing once again in shadows as the strains from the band pit rose around them. Always though, the man and the woman stayed in their spotlight, holding each other.
From a life filled with derringers, stickball bats, and tommy guns, the man finally came to a place where he had met fear. Not the apprehension of the moment, not the uncertainty of death, but the knowledge, at the root of his soul, of something worth fearing. Even knowing that Dolczek’s men were in the club, that they had followed him there that night, he had not been afraid. But now, with her in his arms, he knew the mobsters to be a threat to be dealt with sooner than later, and the shadows the real reason he should be running, maybe for the rest of his life.
But, not without her.
“We need to get out of here,” he whispered into her hair.
“You think so?” Her steps remained light. He knew her voice was not mocking him, but offered general defiance of their circumstances.
“I have an idea, but I’ll need your help.” He spun them towards where the band faded in and out among the shadows outside the spotlight.
“Anything, let’s just go.”
“There’s a back way out, under the bandstand. You take the trap door by the drummer’s riser to the service duct and through to a supply room. I’ll meet you there, then we can make our way out.”
“How does that involve my help?”
“There are some people following me, like this weirdness isn’t enough,” he cocked his head to indicate the obvious. “We’ll need to make our way around them if we’re going to get out. They’ll be looking for a looser in a bad suit, not a couple out on the town, lost… in each other,” he finished lamely.
“You’re okay? Coming with me I mean.”
“We’re going to need to talk,” he could feel the half-smile as she pressed against him. “I may need to be asking you the same thing.”
“Then it’s decided. We shall Run Away together,” he declared in mock triumph. Then he caught himself. “So to speak.”
“We can talk when I meet you in the storeroom.” And with that he moved her to the edge of the floor and she slid from his arms and out of the light. He bowed slightly at her parting back, and then straightened as he saw her ducking behind the musicians. He dusted off his pants with his fingertips, and straightened his jacket with both hands. He still stood alone, in the spotlight, as the band wound down. The house lights came up as they concluded their set.
Strange. The shadows had gone. Reality had returned.Which meant there was more normal terror to be dealt with. At least muscle and bullets were something he had experience with.
Friday, November 2, 2007
Is it better for a person to be damned for the opportunities they've missed through indecision or ignorance?
Is it better to be damned for the opportunities they lose out on with the decisions they are making?
When you've had someone in your life that you care about and you've had years to let them know, but now only have eight weeks left in their community, should you keep your mouth shut and enjoy the friendship for what it is, or speak up and confess your deeper feelings, knowing you will be on your way in two months?
My First Ex-Wife (*She*)
I had spent the weekend trying to figure out whether or not I like my new phone. It was red and shny, which meant it was fun, and fast. I was able to adapt the screen to make it a high-contrast white-on-black. I had put in most of the old numbers from the church directory, and had to make some phone calls and send some e-mails during the week to get folks to call me the the rest I'd need. Monday morning I was experimenting with the alarm, but so far had not been able to get it to shut off- it kept sounding out every five minutes, and I couldn't get it to do it quietly, much less stop altogether.
Which is where I found myself while eating breakfast at the cafe next door to my apartment. At just about seven o'clock, French Horns and Kettle Drums rang out from my back pocket inbetween cups of coffee. The sun had just come up over the hotel accros the street, and I couldn't read the screen to see it. So, unwittingly, I opened the phone to try to silence the symphony.
I had a call.
A voice I don't talk to hardly ever was on the other end. I was going to have to figure out this caller ID thing.
"It's me (*She* said). I need a favor, and there's money in it for you."
Some days just start like that.
*She* has a trust fund worth over $3 milling dollars. You would think that that would have kept us out of debt while we were together, but no. The credit cards were all in my name with her as a cosigner. I was the revolving fund that was paid off at intervals as the trust dispersed cash munthly and quarterly to bring us into the black.
As I've said many times, in Life, like in all great Comedy, Timing is everything. Well I was dancing to a 2:3 beat when I got my 3:4 divorce. I walked off that dance floor with the core of what would become my debt burden. In addition, even though the court ordered that *She* assume all debts related to the home we owned, somehow my name got off the Title, but not the mortgage. The end result was a discrepency in my credit score that assumes an additional $1,000 of expenses per month (the mortgage) than I have been carrying, making it impossible for me to consolidate or borrow.
You would think I would have dealt with this five years ago. Fact is, I have. But every time dealing occurred, I would have to wait on *She* to fill out forms, sign papers, or even agree to talk to me.
Believe it on not, I had better things to do than sue my ex-wife.
So I kept probing patiently. Nothing new had transpired in several months with the exception that she threatened to sue me because she got a flyer in the mail addressed to me from the Mortgage company that said I qualified for a home-equity loan. That would have simplified my life, and the irony would have been sweet, but it wasn't my style and I just let the whoe thing blow over till she calmed down.
So there I am, sipping coffee on a Monday morning, when I hear:
"It's me (*She* said). I need a favor, and there's money in it for you."
Now this Troll has a Goat to chase. I swallowed my coffee.
"I've been overpaying my homeowner's insurance, I guess, they sent me a check. But I can't cash it. Your name's on it too. I'll give you $500 to show up to the bank and sign the check with me."
I told her when I was free, and we made arrangements to meet at 4:00 on Wednesday, if the bank was open. She agreed to check on that and call me later.
On Wednesday I got a message around 2:00 that said the bank was open. I called to confirm that with the bank (I'll admit, I didn't trust her information, I'd been sent on wild goose chases before for her) and made arrangments to get to the bank. I got called into a last-minute meeting and got a message off the *She* to make sure she could show up at 4:15. We were set.
My meeting was cut short and I got there by five after. *She* called at 4:20 to tell me she hadn't left the house yet, and once again I was left waiting for her. *She* arrived twenty minutes later.
It went well, and it was done. I hadn't seen her since she'd OD'd two years ago. She wasn't looking any better. I suppose it's good that I saw her before I've left. *She*'s heard that I'm leaving, but after seeing her, I don't think *She* knows it.
This chapter may seem anti-climactic, but it's still vaguely significant.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The Boy Scout Law has twelve points- A Scout is:
Little known but true fact: When the Boy Scouts of America was created, a 13th point to the Law was hotly debated. This was:
Not A Fool
It was finally decided that the 12 points indicated in the affirmative everything implied in the negative of the 13th. To put it another way, it was redundant.
Regardless, this bit of wisdom is passed around from troop to troop from time to time. I know that I was warned more than once not to be a Fool when I was growing up.
But, it's our nature to be foolish, isn't it? We make decisions every day, and they aren't always good ones. Even our good decisions aren't always made for good reasons.
For whatever reason, this is what's been on my mind lately:
What makes for the bigger fool?
Is it better for a person to be damned for the opportunities they've missed through indecision or ignorance?
Is it better to be damned for the opportunities they lose out on with the decisions they are making?
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I have been advised to bone up on my Q'ran.
I'm nearing completion on a project I started inadvertantly four years ago when I gean what would become a series of trips in and around the world. I have titled the project, "The World And How To Get There". It would be nice if I could publish this someday- a comilation of my travel logs over that year. Recently, I've gone back and written a very brief introduction to teh book. I've been taking time, like I did this morning, to transcribe more of the journals from my handwritten notebooks into a single electronic volume. Most of the Introducation reads as follows:
In the 367 days that passed between February 13th, 2004 and February 14th, 2005, a full leap year and a day, I traveled across the country and across the world. I saw the Southern Cross and the Midnight Sun. In between I fell in love, twice, broke up, once, and got married, by almost all accounts, on accident.
And there was so much more…
One man, one world, one year. These are those stories.
(Arbolus Kodakus Africanus)
Which does a fair job of summing up the plot. For the cast of characters, conflict, theme and setting, you'll have to wait at least until the transcription is complete.
I don't take enough time to acknowledge the people in my life who've supported me, inspired me, and helped grow me. One person in particular insisted that I purchase a journal the day I left for Africa. We made a special stop while running my last minute errands to do this, and she selected a notebook for me with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson screened accross the cover.
"Do not go where the path may lead. Instead, go where there is no path and leave a Trail."
She also purchased two small lapel buttons that she slipped into my bags, not telling me about them till we were on our way to the airport to drop me off. The first, I was instructed, was to be given to a deserving native of the African bush that I may come accross in my journey. She reasoned (correctly, as it turned out) that the rest of the world paid more attention to our politics and news than we did as Americans. She insisted that I find, in her words, "some tribal chieftan", and offer it to him as a token of friendship. It was a campaign parody button that read, "Re-defeat Bush".
The other button I was supposed to keep with me. It was a timely quote by J. R. R. Tolkien:
"Not All Who Wander Are Lost"
It's still in my wallet.
The same woman, four months later, while visiting one morning, turned to me without warning and convicted me, "It's the first day of summer. Start writing your book."
Sometimes life is just that simple.
Everything I've written in the last four eyars- all the stories I've started, the fewer I've completed, the many more I've dreamed- are the result of the momentum developed writing these logs. These are the people we need to remember to thank for the blessings they give and are.
I'll post more about the project as stages are completed. Right now, I've completely written and transcribed my trip to Spain, need to edit and completly transcribe my journals for Africa, Alaska, Memphis, and Venice. I need to finish the draft of the trip to Vegas that concluded that amazing year.
I'll conclude this entry with one grain of wisdom I've learned on those journeys.
It's not about where you're coming from. It's about who you are, and where you're going to.
Monday, October 22, 2007
His name will change from Shahid to Zishan to Shawn, depending on the temperment of the speaker (including how he refers to himself). There's no real rule to this, it's just something that you get a feel for as you get to know him.
Shawn's putting in a bid on some property near the University. He has an Uncle that comes to Tucson from England every year from January through June, and I think the idea is that he will be staying in one of the rooms in the guest house while Shawn rents out the front building to students. It's a pretty straightforward business investment that keeps Uncle from having to stay in the spare room of the office Shawn rents to run his businesses out of.
I know that Uncle has at least one other name. I was given one of them when we first met last year, but was imediately told to call him Uncle. Everybody calls him Uncle. Old cab drivers, young mechanics, every member of Shahid's family that I've met regardless of generation, every other employee and business contact Shawn has brought through the office calls him Uncle.
Uncle is 6' 4" tall with dark skin and a hawk's nose. Born in Pakistan, he spend the last several decades of his eighty plus years in England, which has given him an accent that lands somewhere between Sean Connery and Morgan Freeman. He is a devout Muslum.
Uncle is one of those interesting people who walks into a room and dominates it with his age, height, and silence. For six months last year I would be at my desk working on projects for Shahid, and Uncle would just wander in and out of the room throughout the course of his day. He managed to do this in a way that let you know you were noticed and not ignored, even though he would often not say a word to you in passing.
Not that silence is bad. More than once I've gone through the scenario where Uncle would stand in the doorway of the room, having just gotten up and come through the kitchenette some morning. Like some monstrous middle eastern Willy Winky he'd be standing there in his nightshirt, barefooted. The image would be vaguely incomplete because there was no long tassled cap like in The Night Before Christmas, and instead of a candlestick, he'd be holding a bowl of fish curry.
He's come in and sit down on the couch in the office and eat his breakfast. Halfway through, his meal he would stop after chewing and say from out of nowhere something like, "So tell me, you are a Christian, if the Jews say that Moses wrote the first five books of the Torah, why is it that God takes him to heaven before entering Palastine at the end of the second book?"
I'd usually have something clever to say like, "Well Uncle... I'm not Jewish,". A clever answer like this would make him nod and finish his curry.
My lease in the studio is up in December. Zishan would like Uncle to have a roommate. Aparently he's already called England and made sure it was okay with Uncle. Uncle is very excited.
I like lists. They provide focus and give clarity through inventory of accomplishments and actions. I make them out of habit. When I was told that I would be rooming with Uncle I composed the following list.
In the past 5 years, my roommates have included:
(In no order)
An Iowa Farmboy
A wolf hybrid
A very grumpy cat
6 teenagers (who didn't actually live with me, but seemed to always be there)
A retired Pakistani guerrilla turned London shopkeeper; veteran of Kashmir
I think I have a better idea now why I only sleep about 5 1/2 hours a night.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
You would think that after two years I was pretty well focused on the idea of leaving the country. Fact is, shutting down your life takes quite a bit more work than you'd think. As it is, God's given me my fair share of challenges (read: 'opportunities') in the past year that have circuitously brought me around closer to this goal.
Thing is, that prideful part of me wants to take charge and streamline some of the craziness.
I know it won't work.
I'm cursed with beautiful friends.
I'm blessed with unusual acquaintances.
I'm driven by a desire to change the world.
I'm constantly reminded of God's sense of humor.
It makes for an interesting life.
Here's where I was at in the middle of the summer. I'll bring you up to speed, for the sake of context, and we'll be looking at the individual areas as the blog progresses. This'll give you an idea on what I'm looking at by way of focus.
Every Troll Needs A Cave
My quest for shelter began in February. Since May, 2006, I've lived in a large studio apartment as part of an adult transition program for young blind adults. I had to move from a 2 bedroom house with a yard and a cat to take the job, but I helped design the program, so this was my chance to direct it in its first year.
But, in February, I was told that a new non-profit had bought in on the project and taken over the reigns from the foundation that had initially administrated the program. I had originally planned on being in the apartment for the first year only, so told the new directors to start looking for my replacement then.
I heard nothing back from them about this until August, when I received a phone call asking if I could be out in two weeks, they'd hired my replacement.
I was ready to go. The kids were great, and I'm still in contact with many of them, but that's a whole other story. The job was demanding. Late nights in the emergency room. Phone calls 24 hours a day requesting information about everything from directions to local pharmacies, application for state and federal benefits for the disabled. Polite enquiries about how to get bean stains off the ceiling, repair industrial washing machines, and whether or not there is a God. It was all part of the job, and I was tired.
In addition, when I got back from a business trip in the middle of July- the height of monsoon season- I found that part of my kitchen ceiling were collapsing. By the middle of August I'd basically moved to the couch to avoid the drips at night, and most of my possesions were under plastic in a corner of the bedroom or in the process of being given away or sold.
That's how I found myself in my living room, surrounded by work crews, plastic, cieling dust, and piles of my remainingo possessins, talking to the owner of my complex one afternoon. He had just been informed that I was moving out in the next week, and had asked what my plans were for the Peace Corps.
Now see, that's what's impressive. He didn't ask where I was going, or what I was doing now that I had lost one of my second jobs. He asked about the Peace Corps, the big goal he knew I was working towards. I gave him a quick up to date, centering on how I was hoping to be on my way, or know when I was leaving at the very least, by the end of December.
He just thought for a moment and offered me a place to stay at $100 a month. About a week later, his staff helped me move into my new studio, a much, much, smaller apartment. At this point I had no furniture, but the place came furnished. He made sure to put me in a room that came with a tv and extra desk lamps. Wow.
So, I have this place until the end of December. I'm down to half a closet and four drawers of clothes, three bookshelves of books, and assorted computer bits that let me post this blog.
I don't know what's going to happen in December, whether I'll still be in Tucson or not. But, I have some interesting options. More on that later.
Every Troll Needs A Bridge
The Bridge is where the Troll works, you see, and this one's no different. I have a number of bridges that I lurk under right now, and I need to pare those down before I go.
The old apartment job: 24/7 when I'm not doing anything else. (Finally replaced)
Full Time Teaching: Full-Time, three weeks a month. Currently about to begin second quarter.
Consult- Gas Station: 10-40 hours a week. This one's complicated, I'll explain it in a future post.
Consult- Crematorium: 2 hours a week+. New consult, more on this soon too.
AAABVI: Statewide recreation program for the blind in Arizona. I'm in the process of handing it over to new leadership.
Every Troll Needs a Goat To Chase
My Goat, right now, is the debt I'm in the process of agressively attacking. Peace Corps doesn't want to become the Foreign Legion of the New Millenium. They need you debt-free before you go. They perform background checks and make you account for individual creditors. As of July, 2007, I owed about $11,000. As of October, 2007, I'm down to about (hopefully) $4,500.
Every Troll Has A Story To Tell.
My writing has increased in volume in the past few years- my pace, my ideas, the scope of my projects. I am making a commitment to close out these projects and make more time for them as I tear some bridges down. Those who've read some of my work will understand much more of the references I'll be making in this area, but discussing my writing and crafting the story I'm living into words will be an important part of this blog.
So, Focus. I'm on a roller coaster ride heading towards the end of the year. I'm juggling the systematic dismantling of my life as I pare everything down to what can fit in a frame pack. Piece by piece I've got to take it apart. That's what I'm trying to focus on. Getting it done right in the right way in the right order.
More to come.
I suppose I should begin by answering this question: 'Why 'The Troll''?
'10 Weeks and Counting' is an attempt to put some focus on the things I want to be passionate about while I'm preparing to make some pretty substantial changes in my life.
The brief and misleading summary is that in about 10 weeks I hope to be out of a job, out of my apartment, and, God willing, out of the country.
About two years ago I felt a call to be somewhere else. I'd already traveled the world, and loved it, but I didn't want to just be a tourist. I wanted to go womewhere and put my God-given talents, skills, and education to a test. I wanted to stretch all of my muscles- body and soul, by finding opportunities for service outside of the place where I've been teaching and working for the past 12 years. I've been feeling like there was somehere else I've needed to be.
So I applied to the Peace Corps.
It took a year and a half to get my interviews and medical clearances. (Here's a fun fact that won't show up that much in the blog- I'm legally blind.) I'm now waiting for the last of my legal holds to clear.
Peace Corps wants me to clear all of my debt. I'm an American, so of course this was a daunting task. I've dropped my debt burden from $22,000 to about $4,500 in the past year and a half. I have plans in the works, you'll hear more about these later, to eliminate this debt and set my travel date. I've set an arbitrary deadline for the resolution of what's happening to me as December 31, 2007, 10 weeks from now.
So the name of the blog was easy to come up with. I've often talked with my students about needing to set goals in their lives and to always have a list of these goals to be working from to give their life direction. With more than a few things set on my list right now, all pointing to that brass ring of leaving the country for the next two years, I've found comfort in having a deadline, finally, for this project.
In fact, this may be a new direction for my life, setting that 10 week timeline. It's a good length to plan and execute any number of projects. So, this blog is more than just an experiment for writing and focus, it's an experiment to see if I can bring that focus I'm looking for into existence a little more clearly by giving myself these checkpoints for analysis.
BUT, Why adopt the monicker of 'The Troll?"
Because I finally gave up.
See, since I was a little kid, that's one of the more poignant epiphets that's been consistantly hurled at me. It's amazing really. Three elementary schools, two high schools, college, an ex-wife, the name keeps coming back. One summer when I was working a summer camp I was chosen to be the Troll in the Staff skit during bonding week. My performance was so well received I was known only as 'The Troll' for the rest of the summer to keep from confusing me with another less-Trollish counselor who had my same first name. Another summer I spent so much time visiting friends who had computer rigs set up all over their house that I was deemed 'The Garage Troll' for the duration, as that was where I ended up setting up shop for the months I was there.
Let's get some things clear first:
I don't grind children's bones into meal.
But I have eaten Goat.
I have spent time under my fair share of bridges.
And caves and trees.
But I've never terrorized a medieval village.
Annoyed, once, but never terrorized.
At any rate, I've given up.
I'm striking out into the world. I'm putting a new spin of focus and direction into my life. I am, in fact, reinventing myself.
So I figured I'd start by rediscovering myself. Warts and all. So I'm not fighting it anymore. I'll be The Troll. It's a place to start. I shall embrace my trollishness and bring forward everything good and trolly worth bringing forward.
Then I'll see if I'm still The Troll.
But, until then...
I've got a world to get at.