Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Revisiting Metropolis

This blog includes a few thoughts related to the preceding entry.

When you get outside of suburban areas, towns seem compelled to identify themselves by some trademark. International Falls, Minn., is battling to retain the legal rights to market itself as the “icebox of the nation.” I once worked in a small town that could come up with nothing better than the “land of 57 hills” or something like that.

While reflecting upon the otherwise forgettable southern Illinois town of Metropolis -- which deemed itself worthy of erecting a Superman statue and collecting Superman memorabilia under the guise of being the "home" of Superman -- I realized that 99 percent of the museums and city slogans you come across are warm and fuzzy. Nobody dubs their city “the armpit of Minnesota.” Herman, Minn., is famous for its effort several years ago to market the disproportionate number of eligible bachelors in its boring-ass farming community, and obtained a lot of national recognition for it. But you’d never see the city dub itself “land of undersexed farmers.”

And what are the chances of visiting a museum dedicated to the history of domestic terrorism? I’d happily spend a few hours in a sleepy little town learning more about the dementia of Jeff Dahmer, Charles Manson and the Unabomber. I’m not sure I want to see the contents of Dahmer’s refrigerator on display in a museum, but artifacts from the crime sprees would be as interesting as seeing Fonzie’s leather jacket on display at the Smithsonian, I am sure. I'm also certain that there'll be no Dahmer museum in Stinktown any time soon.

A museum isn't, by definition, a celebration of someone or something. There's a reason why there are war memorials and a Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. We have no problem with cable channels producing documentaries about tragic events and serial killers or authors compiling books about the same subjects, but why not interactive displays to learn about these same subjects?

I know, rubes won't flock to Stinktown to visit a Dahmer museum the same way they'll flock to see a bronze statue of the Fonz, anticipated to debut by Labor Day. That's a shame.

Metropolis, bluegrass, fine wine and Geritol

My recent trip to Gulf Coast, Alabama, was less than spectacular, but it wasn’t expected to be highly exciting. My mother recently retired and is spending two months there at a condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. (Mom did well during her years of employment; the condo she is renting is on the top floor of her development.) I went along for the ride, literally.

Since mom is spending two months there, she needs a vehicle to get around town. She didn’t want to drive by herself, so I was recruited to assist. Being young and allegedly healthy, I was more than up to the 1,400-mile task. Although not by design, I did a majority of the driving.

Our first day was a long, uneventful trip all the way to southern Illinois. We stopped a few miles short of the Kentucky border in the city of Metropolis.

I’ve heard of this town, and like many small towns, it needed an identity. Metropolis dubbed itself the home of Superman, since that’s the name of the fictional city in which the comic book chronicles the life of Clark Kent. Before departing Metropolis to begin our Day 2 journey we drove into town to see its giant Superman statue. It’s probably 18 or 20 feet tall. It’s nifty, but not worth driving out of your way to see.

There is, however, a nearby museum of Superman memorabilia through the decades. On a cold Thursday morning in January I was hard pressed to believe that many people were flocking to the museum at 9 a.m., but that’s when it opened. Had I been determined to see an authentic costume from the Superman movies of the 1970s and ‘80s I probably could have convinced mom we needed to stick around town, since we were there five minutes before the museum opened, but it wasn’t that important to me. Maybe next year, if there is a next year.

Day 2 quickly brought us to Kentucky, and although I’m not sure what bluegrass looks like, I saw some distinct patches of green as we traveled across the state. It’s easy to forget how much milder winter is by the time you reach southern Illinois. Sure, it was cold that day by Minnesota standards, but not ridiculously cold. To hear the local forecasters talk, however, hell had frozen over.

About an hour from Gulf Shores we stopped to fill the gas tank. I was surprised to find wine in the convenience store. Like Florida, you could buy 12-packs of beer and single cans of Bud Light from an enticing tub of ice right near the cashier, but the rack of unchilled wines, and the selection of chilled offerings next to the beer, struck me as odd. I realize there’s no reason a bottle of fine wine needs to come from a pretentious liquor store, but is there really that great of a demand for fine wine by the hicks of Alabama? I guess there is.

My two days in Gulf Shores were less memorable thanks to the fact it was cloudy and cool, with occasional rain. The average high in January is 60 degrees, and while Friday wasn’t bad, it didn’t top 50 degrees during my stay. Saturday seemed colder, thanks to morning rain and damp air throughout the day.

As one would expect, Gulf Shores is Geritol City. On Friday night we went to dinner with two of mom’s friends who spend their winters in Gulf Shores. One of her friends commented on the fact I was a fresh face in a sea of antiquity. She was right. With the exception of the hired help, those without Medicare were few and far between. I noted, however, that I’d fit in well with the crowd, thanks to my pacemaker.

Mom is in her early 60s. She keeps rather busy with a variety of activities. She’s young compared to most of her Gulf Shores peeps, and healthy. She’s retired and will be able to enjoy the rest of our Minnesota winter in relative warmth, playing cards, reading books, sewing quilts, socializing with friends and learning to operate her new laptop computer. She worked hard to get where she is today, and she deserves it.

I have seen it firsthand. If the ghost of Heath Ledger knocked on my door and offered me a choice between ascending to mom’s Gulf Shores throne when I turn 60, or checking out when I turn 58, the choice for me isn’t as obvious as it may seem.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Racism in America?

My employer recognizes the Martin Luther King holiday by giving its employees a floating holiday instead of closing the office for a day. In the past I would take the day off and spend a long weekend in Stinktown. This year I chose to work on Monday. Does that make me a racist?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Who wants to be a superhero?

Grab your spandex pants and join the revolution, you too could be a superhero.

Our local “alternative” newspaper had a recent story that I found mildly interesting, but mostly puzzling. It was the cover story of the latest edition, although I’m not sure why.

People around the world, but primarily in the United States, have decided that it’s not enough to create a fictional world to write about online. Having a “Second Life” doesn’t keep them warm at night, either. They need to live out the fantasy of being a superhero, and they’re doing it. They don costumes, have names and in some cases attempt to keep the streets safe by roaming around, usually armed with an arsenal of simple assault weapons, such as pepper spray or batons.

These nutjobs come up with character names and custom-made costumes to live out this fantasy. Some do little more than volunteer time to service organizations while in costume, others actually try to help fight crime. I’m not sure why these folks feel it necessary to dress up like pro wrestlers to do it, but more power to ‘em, I guess.

The Minnesota connection to this cover story was two-fold. A dude who runs around in a costume wanted to volunteer at a homeless shelter or something like that, and decided doing it in costume made more sense. And a dude who learned to sew costumes for his career as a pro wrestler has tapped into the superhero wannabe market.

There’s an online forum for these goofballs to discuss their life as their alter ego, and a few of them attempted to have some sort of caucus in New York last year.

They're like clowns for the new millennium: dressed up in costumes, mentally unstable and fascinating to children. I know, not every clown is a pedophile, but if there's a "Black Arrow" or "Red Hornet" running around your city, keep your children away!

I read comic books for many years, and while I’ve often thought about how great it would be to have the power of invisibility or the ability to fly, never once did I want to pretend to be a superhero, even on Halloween. (I may have had a cheap Spider-Man costume as a kid, I’m not sure, but once I outgrew trick-or-treating, no, there was no Batman costume in my future.)

At times I look at my life and realize how meaningless it is. Thanks to “real superheros,” or “reals” as some call themselves, I can feel a lot better about my life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Burn baby burn! (unedited)

A week ago at this time I was rather tired.

I will long look back upon Jan. 8, 2008, and remember it, for better or for worse.

At 4:44 a.m. my landlord burst into my apartment, asking me to call 911. We had a fire.

I’m not sure what led up to that point, or how the fire started. My landlord tried to put the fire out himself, I learned, but when exactly he made that effort I’m still unclear. I assume he woke up, realized something was wrong and attempted to put the fire out before calling 911. I’m pretty sure that’s how it worked.

My apartment was in the lower level of a house in an older part of the city…not your typical high-density neighborhood. I think my landlord had added onto the house twice, but it’s hard to tell.

His house, with its odd layout and gigantic garage, was the type of place you would suspect illegal activity of taking place. I never saw evidence of it, but it would be easy to cook batches of meth in his gigantic garage or grow pot plants back there. It would be rather easy to conduct a lot of other illegal activities on his property without anyone ever knowing, actually. That odd layout also made the building seem like a training compound for the next great uprising of the Branch Davidian cult.

There was no smoke in my apartment, so I had time to pull clothes on before exiting out the side of the building, onto the driveway. As I stood there calling 911 I watched smoke rise from the roof near the back of the building. As I reported the fire I thought perhaps it could be contained to the rear of the compound, and then we’d all be able to continue living in the main portion of the house.

As the first police cars arrived they began surveying the situation. Of course they left their emergency lights on as the parked there cars near the house, which is on a dead-end street. One was stopped in front of the house across the street. My landlord was running around frantic and in denial that his makeshift heating systems were about to cause a major fire to his house. (That’s my theory as to why the fire started, anyway.) As I stood in the driveway, not knowing what else to do, my landlord asked me to tell the police officer on the scene to turn his lights off because it made it seem like the situation was worse than it was.

I’ve been in a minor crisis once or twice in my life, and I don’t respond rationally. Neither does my landlord, evidently, judging by his odd request of me. I mentioned that I was doubtful they’d do so, but I wandered into the street, as if I was going to approach the officers, but of course I never asked.

There’s a fire hydrant in front of my landlord’s house. A couple of the first responders to the scene began opening the hydrant so the fire trucks could hook up to it upon arrival. My landlord managed to notice this while he was running around, trying to solve his crisis single handedly. He mentioned to them as he was about to run around the side of his house that he didn’t think they needed to bother opening the hydrant. God forbid they be prepared for the worst. Yeah, my landlord was just that delusional.

As I was standing out in the street about 5 a.m. there was an explosion in the center of the building, and a ball of flame blasted through a hole in the roof. That’s when I knew I didn’t live there any more.

After calling 911 I had went back inside the apartment for two things: car keys and socks. I had slipped shoes on to go outside, but I didn’t put socks on. I had grabbed my winter coat, and it was about 30 degrees that morning, so I wasn’t cold, but I knew my feet would be, so socks became important. I grabbed the car keys so I could move my car out of the driveway before the fire department arrived.

As I sat in my car watching the fire department put out the fire during the two hours after the explosion, I regretted not grabbing my wallet. It had cash in it, as well as credit cards and ID. If I was going to lose everything to the fire, I would have been far better off with my wallet.

As was pointed out to me later that day, it never occurred to me to try to save anything from the apartment in the minutes before the fire department arrived. This observation proved a point I already realized by that afternoon.

By 7 a.m. the fire was out and the last fire truck was preparing to leave the scene. I called my mom to let her know I needed to stay at her house for a while, most likely, since I was homeless.

My apartment avoided fire and water damage. All I had was minor smoke damage to my stuff. I grabbed about seven days worth of clothes, a bunch of my bills, my checkbook, stamps and my unopened cases of Diet Pepsi and headed for mom’s house within a couple of hours. The entire upper level of the building was significantly damaged, but not my area, I got lucky, allegedly.

I’ve been reminded that the important thing is that I wasn’t hurt. That may be true, but things could have worked out a lot better. Other than a few photo albums and other irreplaceable keepsakes, 99.5 percent of my stuff could be replaced, if I wanted to replace it, and most of it I wouldn’t.

It would have been a pain to improve to my insurance company what I had and how much it was worth, particularly the comic books and baseball cards of my youth. They may not be worth $10,000, but they’re worth more than a few hundred bucks, but I’m not sure how easily I could have proven what I had and didn’t have.

But given the chance to walk away from everything with an insurance check and start anew, in hindsight I’d take it. Unfortunately I wasn’t given that option.

My insurance will cover the cost of packing and hauling all my crap from the apartment, conducting the space-age cleaning they do to remove traces of smoke and storing of the crap until I’m ready to take delivery of it, which will likely be in April.

While I’ve cared less and less about possessions in recent years, it’s hard to simply dump everything in a Dumpster and walk away, valuable or not. A fire is something I’ve sort of wished for, and I came close to having my wish granted, but not quite.

Had I lost everything last week I’d be in the process of negotiating a check of up to $30,000 to start anew. I realized last week that a little fire and water damage would have given me the freedom to search for a new job anywhere I wanted without the burden of a bunch of mostly worthless personal possession. Had that fire been a little more intense, I might be starting a whole new life this spring rather than be saddled with the one I have. And believe me, the one I have seems less worthy of holding onto with each passing year.

Although I’m living with my mother until I have a new apartment, the timing couldn’t be much better. She is retiring this week and has a two-month vacation planned down south, so next week she departs. At least I won’t be in her way while living at her house. When she returns, I’ll be preparing to move into a new apartment, and this time I won’t have to move my stuff into it. I look at it as a small consolation prize.

I had hoped to move this spring or at the latest by early summer. I wanted that move to coincide with that new job I so desperately need. I wanted to pick a new apartment based upon where my new office would be. Unless I pull off a minor miracle and find a new job in the next two months, I’ll have to find a reasonable apartment in Minneapolis and hope for the best.

While I have to drive a lot further back and forth to work, I won’t be paying rent until April, so that will more than make up for my added fuel costs. Although I won’t be able to cash a fat check in the end, I’ll also get reimbursed from my insurance company for some of my costs associated with my temporary displacement. Yeah, my dark clouds have a few silver linings.

I have mixed feelings about this experience, obviously, and whether this is part of an aligning of the stars that provides a little meaning for my life in the coming year remains to be seen. I have felt like my life has been traveling down a dead-end road in the past few years, I hope this is one of the hiccups that takes me down a different path.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Sales pitch (unedited)

I am in the wrong line of work, I am sure of it.

When I went to college I intended to be a newspaper reporter. I enjoyed writing, so it made perfect sense. I never found anything better to do, and that’s a shame.

As a college freshman I accidentally attended a meeting for the campus radio station. I thought it was a general meeting about journalism opportunities on campus, but it was the ceremonial assigning of on-air shifts for our low-watt FM station. People filed in to get a weekly shift on the air, and although I never considered being a radio DJ, I wound up with a Friday afternoon shift.

I’m sure I was horrible on air, but I learned a few things during that first year, primarily by listening to others at the station. To me it became important to sound like a professional, not a college kid talking to his buddies in the dorms. I hated when people sounded as if they didn’t know what they were doing. I wanted to sound as if I belonged on the air. I actually put thought and planning into what I did by the time I graduated to a weeknight shift, the best shifts to have on our campus station.

I flirted with the idea of pursuing a career in broadcasting, but decided I was a better writer than broadcaster. Right or wrong, there’s a part of me that will always regret that decision.

I don’t consider myself to be a stellar public speaker, but when pressed into action, I do OK. On Wednesday I attended a retirement gathering in honor of my mother, a county employee for the past 29 years. A brief presentation was planned, so I made sure to be there, despite the hardships of the past two days.

I was surprised to hear several people speak about her. A handful of people had nice things to say about my mother, not all of them related to her career as a county employee. It was quite an event.

The last thing that occurred to me as I made my way to the seventh floor of the county offices is that I’d be speaking about my mother. But after watching several people speak about her, I wondered if somebody from the family should say something. After a handful of people spoke, it seemed obvious that somebody should. I quickly crafted a speech in my mind and then the emcee of the event invited anyone else to step forward and speak.

A few of mom’s co-workers accepted the invitation, so I waited my turn. Once it was clear nobody else planned to step forward, I did.

I’m not sure I delivered the best message possible at her party. My point wasn’t that she’s a great mom, as well as a great county supervisor. My point was more along the lines that she will continue to be a mom, even if she is retiring as a county employee.

I used a couple of events in my life to emphasize the point, and peppered them with comedy. While I didn’t say it in so many words, I think my stories helped emphasize why she is important to me as a mother, and how I still need her in my life. Even if I didn’t say it explicitly, I think my message came across.

Several people complimented me after the program was over. I was rather tired that afternoon, it had been a long day-and-a-half leading up to this party, so I don’t remember who said it, or how it was said, but I heard someone make the statement that I should be in sales. Somehow my ability to improvise in front of an audience makes me a candidate for a job in sales.

That’s not the first time I have been told this. And circumstances surrounding the other times I’ve been told this were equally as puzzling. I still don’t buy it, no pun intended. I don’t care for the mentality of many sales jobs. Having my paycheck tied to how many people I coerce into making a purchase they’re not quite ready to make holds little appeal to me. The idea that “if you can sell, you can sell anything” makes me sick.

Sales may not be the career for me, but my speech at mom’s party yesterday affirmed something I’ve known for a long time, there are better uses for my talents than writing for a weekly newspaper. I just have to find one of them. And I will.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Two-year anniversary (highly unedited)

I’m not sure if I’m going to commemorate every anniversary, but it was important to reflect upon this one.

Two years ago today I had heart surgery. It was minor surgery, as far as I’m concerned, but some people think any heart-related surgery is significant.

For the past month I’ve done a lot of thinking about this anniversary. I’ve thought about how my life has changed in the two years since my surgery. The sad truth is that my life hasn’t changed enough. It has improved, but is it a life worth living? Not really.

Since the fall of 2003 my life has been on an emotional roller coaster. But like all roller coasters, when the ride ends you’re at the same place you began. That’s a great summary of my life in recent years, and that’s not something to be proud of.

I have a bad habit of remembering dates associated with my heart. On Dec. 6, 2004, I was told I should have a pacemaker. I remember the mixed feelings I had about the news. I still have those mixed feelings to this day.

It wasn’t until Oct. 7, 2005, that I decided I’d have the surgery, allegedly as a commitment to a better life. I remember that evening well. Three months later I had the surgery.

While I occasionally have been inspired to try new things in life, I haven’t make it a mission to do so. I have been busy with plenty of trips, bicycle adventures and the usual annual activities and get togethers, but the sum of all those parts doesn’t keep me warm at night.

So here I am, two years removed from surgery, and my life is relatively meaningless. I’m such an ass for thinking that. I have family that counts on me, friends that appreciate me, yet my life doesn’t seem to be very meaningful. I’ve thought that for years, yet somehow I have failed to find meaning to it.

I have needed a new job for a few years, and although I don’t know when it’s going to happen, it’s priority one, because every week that goes by at the newspaper is another week that bankrupts my soul. I’m not sure where I go next, but I can’t afford to stick around much longer, on multiple levels.

I’ve had a few conversations with friends about various aspects of life, and one of the things that came up was a discussion of what the importance of a job is. Is a job supposed to make us happy, or is it supposed to be a means toward achieving things that make us happy? You could argue it’s some of both. At this point my job accomplishes neither, and I have to find one the provides one or the other, if not both.

But even if I find a job that provides both, will I be happy? I doubt it. Happier? Yes. Happy? No.

I knew years ago what would make me happy. I found out the hard way.

Nearly nine years ago I met Rebecca. I was minding my own business and relatively content with life when I met her. She took a liking to me, and before long, we started a relationship. It ended up being a relationship that lasted all of five weeks.

For five weeks we spent a lot of time together and pondered the future. She said all sorts of wonderful things to me. She told me how happy I made her, how wonderful I was...all sorts of great stuff. I couldn’t believe how happy she made me, and it came when I least expected it.

I’m still not sure what exactly happened, but after five weeks we spent a less than spectacular Friday night together. It didn’t seem to be that big of a deal, but she quickly started to withdraw from me. Within a week she pulled the plug on our relationship, and I was stunned. When I reflect back upon the sequence of events that occurred in that final 24 hours, I am still stunned at how crappy she treated me. She led me to believe she was a wonderful human being, yet she treated me as disposable with barely a hint of guilt.

The emotional scar that left upon me was stunning. I had no idea what I was in for once she disposed of me. Within a few months I learned enough to know that she was a lousy human being, yet that didn’t ease the pain. I remember several distinct moments in the months that followed my five weeks with Rebecca, and they weren’t pretty. I leaned on friends, I leaned on family, but it took a long time for the pain to subside, an embarrassing amount of time. I didn’t fixate upon it for hours a day, but I felt that pain each and every day for a ridiculous amount of time.

I remember moments of happiness with Rebecca, but the moments of pain after the fact are much more vivid. Perhaps that’s how I’m flawed as a human being. The pain tends to trump the happiness in my long-term consciousness. I wish it wasn’t that way.

I learned a couple of important things. One of the lessons I learned is rather cynical, but that’s to be expected from me. Basically I try not to forget that there are people like Rebecca, people who are capable of shitting upon you with little or no remorse. It doesn’t mean I expect and look for the worst in people. I don’t. While I can have little or no respect for people, I could never treat somebody the way Rebecca treated me.

I learned one other thing from that experience, and the soul searching afterward. I have expounded upon that lesson in the years since, but arguably it’s apples to apples. Thanks to Rebecca I learned that I wanted to get married. It may sound corny, but that’s what I learned.

By the time I met Rebecca a couple of my friends were marking three or four years of marriage, and a few others had joined the rank. I never thought much about if or when it would someday be my turn. Ironically I always thought I’d be the type of guy who would end up being too independent and non-conformist to wind up married. But thanks to Rebecca I learned a very important lesson about myself. Too bad I had to suffer such a deep emotional scar to learn that lesson.

In the years since Rebecca I didn’t set out upon a mission to get married. I’ve heard it said that you find someone when you least expect it, when you’re not looking. I thought I found that person in Anne-Marie. I was wrong.

I’m too tired to recap that relationship, but I thought we would one day be married. I still don’t understand how all the positives of our relationship were trumped by what seemed to be minor negatives, and I never will. While I didn’t have quite the deep scar at the end of the relationship, my life took a darker turn after the fact. The years since Anne-Marie comprise the roller coaster I spoke of.

So what have I learned in reviewing my life during the past month? I was right nearly nine years ago, I want to get married. But more than that, my life doesn’t mean much to me because it’s not a great job or riches beyond my wildest dreams, or the promise of them, that will ultimately make me happy. The one thing I want more than anything is somebody else to live for.

It seems a bit ridiculous and flawed, but it’s true. When I’m living just for me, I don’t push myself as hard as when I’m living for somebody else. I will never be as successful in life if I’m doing something just for my benefit. That seems backwards and wrong, but my life would be most meaningful if I lived it for somebody else, not for me. Part of me thinks that’s pathetic, but it’s also true.

If the ghost of Anna Nicole Smith came to my door and told me that I had two choices, I could either die tomorrow or I could live until I’m 58 years old, but would never find that person to share my life with, that person to live my life for, I’d ask her how to pack for the afterlife. But we don’t get choices like that in life, so I have to keep on keepin’ on, whether it seems worth it or not.

While I’ve wanted to get married, I’ve never felt compelled to have children. I’ve never thought I needed a family to be complete, unlike my buddy Roast Beef, who in an e-mail a year ago told me his biological clock was ticking. I didn’t think guys had those.

Right or wrong, I’ve never been inspired to dedicate my life to some broad, noble cause. I’m not opposed to the idea, but that’s not me. For whatever reason I’ve wanted one person to share my life with, somebody whose life I would put ahead of my own. In simple terms, I’m the kind of guy who wants to give my girlfriend more back rubs than I receive.

So armed with this realization as I commemorate two years with a pacemaker, what do I do? Some people actively pursue relationships. Some people evaluate those relationships in terms of whether or not they’re going to lead to marriage, and possibly a family. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not me.

Rush once told me that if he was single he’d try his hand at internet dating. It would seem that in this day and age it should be easier than ever to find someone. In theory it is, but somehow that seems a bit disingenuous to me. I met Anne-Marie through the internet, but not because we were looking for a relationship, we met through our mutual search for concert tickets.

But if I hold out for old-fashioned romance, I’m liable to die alone at 58, based upon my track record.

I learned recently that although my life is less than spectacular, it’s not a complete disaster, and perhaps I shouldn’t worry so much about having a life worth bragging about before I open myself up to the possibility of finding someone to live my life for. For me, that’s easier said than done, given my emotional roller coaster.

Since having pacemaker surgery I’ve become far more emotional, and sometimes that irritates me. I can easily be disappointed by life and let it get me down.

But as I sit here two years after pacemaker surgery, I’m compelled to keep trying to achieve the dream I had on Oct. 7, 2005. I’m not sure how I want to go about achieving it, but perhaps I need to turn to a few unorthodox measures, unorthodox by my standards, anyway.

If I don’t focus on my dream, then I might as well get hit by a truck tomorrow. I don’t care how many “Miss Congeniality” awards you give a beauty pageant contestant, if she never wins a crown, she’ll never be happy. I cherish my friendships and the people who choose to include me in their life, but thousands of friendships won’t trump the purpose of my life, a purpose that has yet to be achieved.

Unlike Roast Beef, I don’t have a biological clock that’s ticking, but I’m in a very real game of beat the clock. Wish me luck.

End of an era: follow up (unedited)

I received an unexpected anonymous comment on Saturday in response to my most recent blog, about the loss of my favorite blog and the possibility that at some point my blog may end as well:

“Keep writing. People are reading.”

I have no idea how many people, if any, read my blog. I don’t use any sort of device to track how many people visit my blog. And it’s not important for me to know.

I appreciate any feedback I get on my blogs, should somebody find them, but I don’t promote them. I don’t post a lot of comments under the Fonzie monicker, so the opportunities for people to find me are limited, and that’s fine. Some people write a blog for the purpose of reaching an audience, but that wasn’t my goal when I started the blog. It’s still not.

My blog isn’t meant to be a personal memoir, but at times I write about my thoughts and feelings. I try to write things that I wouldn’t be ashamed to have my mother read.

I resist the urge to rant about how lousy my employer is. I have done it a bit, anonymously, and I doubt I’ll start naming names when I finally walk out of there for the last time, but I know I’ll blog a bit about how ridiculous my company is.

I’m not sure when, or if, I’ll share my blog with my friends. I’ve only shared knowledge of it with one friend thus far, although there’s no reason why I shouldn’t share it with others.

As I noted, I have mixed feelings about my blogs, and the purpose of them varies from time to time. Sometimes I blog about bicycling mileage simply as a reminder, and inspiration, to myself as I push myself toward various goals. I do appreciate having chronicled about a few of my bicycle adventures, as I know I’ll want to remember the details vividly in the years to come, as silly as that sounds.

The bottom line is that I enjoy putting a variety of thoughts into words and being able to look back at them now and then. If things in my life change and I have to abandon the jukebox, so be it. I do it for myself, and nobody else.

But anyone is welcome to peruse and comment on my misadventures, it is appreciated, and surprising when it happens.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

End of an era

All good things come to an end, and I shouldn’t have been surprised by the announcement.

The inspiration for my blog – the reason I decided to take a crack at putting thoughts into words – is history.

There are no more thoughts from the D Nation, the fictional place my good friend D Cup posted his thoughts. He wrote far more thoughtful blogs about far more meaningful topics than I tend to write about. But he also wrote about his misadventures, and they were equally as entertaining.

For reasons I don’t know, he closed up shop last month. Part of the problem is that he wasn’t able to blog about politics or anything related to his work as a reporter for the Associated Press, and that took some wind out of his sails.

But he was able to continue blogging about his travels and his chance encounters with a colorful cast of characters. Those tales will no longer be told.

That’s disappointing, but life is full of disappointment. People disappoint us on a regular basis. Sometimes they intend to disappoint us, sometimes they have no control over it, sometimes they don’t realize they’re doing it. But life is all about overcoming disappointment, great and small, and moving on.

Sometimes it isn’t easy to overcome, but basking in your disappointment only makes things worse. If only there was a pill....but that can be said about so many things in life.

I never set out to blog for the masses, to entertain a group of random strangers who would fawn all over me, or for my friends and family, and thus far I don't. I never set a goal or mission when I created what continues to be an anonymous blog. I still don’t know what direction my writing will take, or if it will end. Part of me wants to break from my past, so sometimes it seems that blogging is counter-intuitive to how I want to live my life.

Perhaps I’ll have a better picture of where this blog, and my life, is going on Sunday. That’s an important blogging day.

But I don’t think my blog is going away, although there’s a distinct possibility it could.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Final thoughts from Florida (unedited)

So thanks to me, in a small way, The Queen and her husband can celebrate their anniversary on Dec. 29, instead of Dec. 30. Had somebody not fetched the marriage license, it wouldn’t have been filed until the 30th, and legally their anniversary would fall on that day.

Following the ceremony we had dinner at a seaside restaurant outside of the main drag of Marco Island. Dinner was uneventful. I was seated amongst the outcasts. I sat with two of the groom’s friends, the two who attended but didn’t make the groomsman cut. One of the two dudes brought his fiancĂ© with. She wasn’t a fiancĂ© when they arrived on Marco Island, but the night before the wedding he proposed. You’d argue that he stole the wedding couple’s thunder, but that honor belonged to Mandy the starfucker.

Speaking of Mandy, she sat at my table, too. She seemed rather interested in Bart, who had recently ended a six-year relationship.

Sometime prior to Saturday’s nuptials Mandy was informed to clean up her act. I’m not sure by whom, but I think an intervention would have been more appropriate.

And for the most part she was rather low key and well behaved. She mingled with the celebrity a bit, but toned it down quite a bit, much to her disappointment, I’m sure. At the end of the night they walked from one bar to another nearby, for what purpose I can’t imagine, but Mandy put on much less of a show than she did on Friday night. I might have been the only one who was disappointed.

This seaside restaurant and bar was pretty quiet after dinner, so although we spent a few hours drinking and socializing, nobody bothered the celebrity, except for a couple members of the wait staff at the end of the evening. The first time it didn’t seem obnoxious, but the second time it was downright ridiculous. Yet the celebrity was quite polite to the gap-toothed hillbilly who fawned all over him. God bless him.

Although I spent two nights hanging out with a bona fide celebrity, I never met him. I was never formally introduced to the groom’s buddies, and since I never had a conversation with him, I never met him. While he was more than happy to pose for pictures with everyone in the wedding party, I don’t have one. And while he won’t know any better, my actions were by design, out of respect for him.

Yeah, it’s neat to get a picture with a celebrity, but he was there to hang with his high school buddies for a wedding, not promote himself or pacify fans. Unless I wound up being introduced to him or talking to him, I determined I’d treat him like everyone else there, and if that meant I never got to shake his hand or get a picture, I was fine with that.

The rest of the weekend was enjoyable, albeit a bit anticlimactic. Several people were gone by Sunday, including the celebrity, and after three nights of mass consumption, New Year’s Eve was a bit tame for those of us who were left, particularly since we were all boarding planes the next morning.

But it was worth all the trouble to be there. A holiday respite in Florida is something I should make a point to do every winter.