Welcome to TAPKAE.com

"I don't see how anyone would want to read it all for fun." —Robert Fripp

Sunday
Sep092012

The 36 and a Half Dome Tour, Sunday

Sunday had that Saturday feel, actually. Waking up in that tent at the Housekeeping Camp was done to the sounds of kids out playing and yelling. It was eight in the fuggin' morning. Give it a rest, you monkeys! But alas, I realized that if it was Sunday morning, they were probably all on their way out in time for checkout and were getting some last kicks in before the check out time and ultimately, before school started the next day, maybe bringing their summers to a close if they had not been in school for the week prior.

Kelli and I made our way about a half mile over to Yosemite Village where the most familiar kinds of facilities were: restaurants, store, services, and among all that, things like the Ansel Adams photography gallery and the visitor's center with the interpretive displays demonstrating what the park has to offer. We milled around there and then availed ourselves of the free shuttle that works the path around the valley destinations and campsites. I had camera in hand and got a few snapshots.

Our big destination for the day was the Mariposa Grove of the supersized sequoia trees. There was a very scenic drive that is only about 30 miles along a very winding path on CA-41. It is very serpentine and scales a few thousand feed so it actually takes about an hour to do the relatively short path. As the road climbs out of the valley there is a gorgeous vista point that looks back on the valley. At the time we thought it was cool but we had yet to do the drive to Glacier Point: the destination for Monday, nor had we done the Tioga Road. But on the way to the Mariposa Grove, this was quite a sample of what we were in store for.

Despite going on the weekend AFTER Labor Day, the place was still rather busy for my taste. Of course I realize that even my being there is part of the problem. Arriving at the Mariposa Grove, able to take the humbling place among the largest of the living things upon the Earth, there were some moments of powerful emotions. Getting to the grove at just before 3 pm, and finding it a very hilly place we could never cover in the next three hours of daylight, we opted to take the tram at $18 apiece. The vehicle itself was a natural gas burning tractor truck (sort of like a drinking water truck) with an open air passenger trailer. It had a pretty good PA system with narration of the tour and comments from historians, botanists, park rangers, and the like. All the trees along the path had railing around them. There was no pavement, only a dirt path for the shuttle route and then other foot paths with railings along them.

You see, the completely amazing thing about these trees is that even though they are the largest living things, standing nearly 300' tall, they have a fragile, shallow root system. They spread out pretty wide, at about 100' around, but never very deep. We're talking about 6' or less for these towering giants. All the fences attempt to keep people from trampling that fragile root system, but it's probably too little since it's not really possible to cultivate a love for these trees by keeping people 100' away, especially where there are some trees that are close together along the path. While you can stand at a distance and marvel, the real powerful experiences come from standing at the bases of these magnificent, almost sentient beings, craning your neck to look up. One particular tree, the Grizzly Giant, looks almost grotesquely huge. A relatively short example at just 209', it has a ginormous trunk diameter of 28', and its primary branch has a diameter of 6' (with a staggering 96' circumference!) —larger than many trees most of us would commonly see.

It's an amazing thing, even taking the cursory two hours or so in the grove. It doesn't seem like that could possibly be enough. But I was ever aware that it's probably too much. For the trees, I mean. Too much for those trees to have hordes of humans stomping and driving around in a place that only the lightly-treading native population and just a scant few Westerners ever saw in its completely natural state. The park services are in an odd place, making these precious groves open to so many people. Even though the place naturally provokes reverence, anything being done up there is by definition a disruption of things. It's easy to look about the parking lot and to see just two hours' worth of crowds and to imagine this going on all day every day for a couple seasons a year could not be beneficial. And that is today's reality with a generally progressive conservation effort going on. Seeing what constituted tourism in the days of old could be rather disturbing. The one remaining tree with a car-sized path cut through its trunk is one such case. Yes, it's novel and exhilarating to stand within the core of a tree like this. But really, it's uncalled for to have paths cut through them. It just seems like a barbaric and unenlightened thing to do. But in 1895 when the cut was made, it must have made some sense. (This was the second giant tree we'd visited in our California tours. The first was during our honeymoon tour, stopping at the Chandelier Tree in Leggett over in the Redwoods up near Fort Bragg. That time we did drive our PT Cruiser rental car through it.)

Kelli had a rather peculiar experience that afternoon in the Mariposa Grove. A week or so before, a beloved and personally supportive member of her church (formerly mine too) had died. We'd not be able to get to the memorial which coincidentally happened about the same time as we got to the grove of the giants. Kelli, a bit sour that this great trip caused her to miss the memorial, blogged that she had an epiphany that she belonged among the trees that day:

I had already planned to be out-of-town the day that was scheduled for Antonia’s memorial service, so I did not get to share the impact she had on my life with her family at that time. I was in a grove of grand Sequoia trees at the time of her memorial. Minutes after I expected her service was over I felt the undeniable feeling of her hug surrounding me and I knew I had made the right choice in not changing my plans–that I needed to be surrounded by trees that were growing when Jesus walked the earth to continue my path of ministry. She knew this and knew right where I’d be.

The great wilderness can do that to a person.

Alas, all we had was about two and a half hours and we had a half cooked plan to bail on the grove and head out, up the road to the turnoff to get to Glacier Point. It was 5 pm as we were leaving the Sequoias, and with the forest being tall and dense, it looked later still since the sunlight didn't permeate the canopy. As we got onto the road, we did the math and had to admit that with the miles to the turnoff and then 16 more miles of this curvy and speed-controlling road, we'd get there but too late to see much of to take pictures. Just as well. There was tomorrow too, and it was getting time to take it easy. Not being avid hikers and hoping for some down time while on vacation, we opted to get back to the valley and get some dinner.

On the way down we were able to snap a few more pictures at the touristy vista point that we visited on the way up. It was more touristy, as everyone and his brother were there with cameras, ready for shooting all during the sunset period, with Half Dome and its peers bathed in the orange glow. We got our snapshots and bailed.

We stopped in at the little old wooden church in the valley, not too far from our campsite, and to our surprise, there was a small service in there. It was sunday night after 6 pm and there were about six people in there when we sneaked in like, well, church mice. Inside, the construction was quite nice for what amounted to a country church. The preacher was dressed casually and the few who were there even more so. The preacher man had his guitar laid over its case which in turn was laid upon the piano. That was the worship music, I guess. It was pretty casual. We were unimpressed in the five minutes or so we sat there. Preacher man was hopscotching his way through this text or that and doing some weird associations that didn't suit us. So we ducked out and headed to the campsite, but not before spying a few deer in the meadow near the church.

We retreated to our campsite after stopping in at the store and getting some fresh food. After the road snack kinds of food we'd been having, a salad was as refreshing a treat as the mist that we wish we'd been able to have upon us at one of the falls. Fresh fruit too. We had along with a 1.5 liter bottle of wine that we'd tackle a bit each night but to be honest, the drowsiness from the wine was uncalled for since those days, with altitude, heat, and walking around, were enough to make a person tired. For as primitive as the accommodations were, the beds, dressed in our own blankets and pillows, were comfy enough to put us to sleep. Sunday night was far quieter after all the families left. The opposite half of the concrete/tent structure was empty that night and the campground was also with many vacancies. The lack of noise and smoke suggested this wasn't such a bad place to be after all. It hadn't seemed that way on the first night, but now it was turning out to be okay.

Saturday
Sep082012

The 36 and a Half Dome Tour, Saturday

There weren't any morning prayers but the nun was there at the counter at 8:45 when we went down for our modest motel style breakfast of fresh waffle and a bowl of cereal. For $40 covering both of us, there's no sense in whining. The fact that they can afford to put a bed and AC unit in there for that price is kind of amazing. At Yosemite, we were looking at $96 a night to stay in a concrete shell with two tent tarps stretched over the top with some more flaps forming a doorway, with beds and a picnic table out in the little porch space. The bear-proof box does not have a parallel in any hotel or motel I've ever been in!

Getting on the road, we had to right ourselves after the last minute detour out of Bakersfield. We found ourselves just west of that town and found that the road outside the motel would take us straight over to the 99 freeway. Not too bad. That took 20 minutes and then we were off and running by about 9:30.

The central valley of California is a pretty forgettable place. It's known as America's Salad Bowl because it is such an agriculturally productive region. But on the roads, it's trucks, trashed freeways and mile after mile of farms. There is enough dust and particulate matter combining with the humidity in that huge valley that there is not a lot of visibility. In the summer, it's pretty hot and since it's so far inland, there's no cool refreshing breeze or anything. It's an oppressive place that just sort of needs to be endured on the way to one end of the state or another, or to get to places like Yosemite, Tahoe, and Mono Lake.

But since this day was one when we thought we'd relax and enjoy the route some, it was okay for Kelli to spark a quick drivethrough detour into Kingsburg, a town south of Fresno founded by Swedish immigrants, and that has that kind of small town charm that you can barely connect with in places like San Diego that are surrounded by more cities on all sides, all grown into one another. This was just a quick pass but it was enough to make me think there might be some charming places along these roadways that I have pretty much written off.

Today wasn't the day for investigating the valley though. We were here to get to the mountains and to check in to our funky concrete and canvas yurt at the Yosemite Valley Housekeeping camp. The one town I did want to check out was Mariposa, a place in the foothills some miles before Yosemite's gates. It is a town where I used to visit annually for most years in the 80s when it was the venue for a BMW motorcycle rally that my old man used to take me and (for a couple years of overlap) my step mom to. We always went there on Memorial Day weekend and from year to year I got to see familiar faces and did some day trips to Yosemite. But I doubt I went even in 1989, and if I went in 1988, I have forgotten about it. But from 1981 onward, I think it was an annual ride. The rally was held at the fairgrounds just outside of town, and it was a pleasant surprise to find that Kelli and I could drive into the grounds and just give her an idea of how those old days went for me.

We headed out to the town and stopped to walk around for an hour or so, taking in the old Gold Rush era town. It's kind of like our local mount tourist town Julian, but about 40 years older. We were able to meander our way up and down the two blocks or so of viable town, checking in at a few shops, taking a bathroom break, and stopping in the Yosemite visitor center to get our park pass. I didn't expect much, but it was nice to connect with the town again after over two decades.

All that lay ahead was forty four miles of winding roads, following the Merced river for many miles, upstream into the park. The river just below the road was crystal clear and shimmering in the mid afternoon sun. We came upon the one lane road that has a stop sign at each end of the half mile or so path that navigates a single lane bridge that crosses the river. The signs say it could take 15 minutes to wait out the other direction's traffic, but we got through in less than five. At the boundary of the park there was a gas station to provide the last minute opportunity before entering the valley where there were no stations for miles. It was priced accordingly: $5.01 for the cheap stuff.

The Yosemite Valley is a long and narrow place that is totally shrouded in trees and lined with the granite walls and giant boulders that define the park. The road is primarily a loop with one way lanes running all the way out and back and a few crossing points along the way to make shorter loops. Now having taken my seat as a passenger I was able to shoot the camera at anything and everything. On the one side, the enormous wall of granite, El Capitan, stood like a sentry watching over the valley. Ahead of us, the mighty Half Dome. To the right, Bridalveil Falls, rather sparse in this late season, compounded by drought, but impressive nonetheless. Beside us in the valley, the river and alternating patches of meadows and forest.

We stopped at the Swinging Bridge and enjoyed the water on our feet. It was cold at first, first fruits of the glacial icepacks that birthed it, but it got to feeling quite comfortable after a few minutes. Camera in tow, I was a bit timid about getting too far into the water but it was clear we'd have to get into the river a bit. Kelli watched in wonder and amusement as a duck sailed up right near her like she was an old friend.

After a day of driving what was really about a four hour drive, we decided to get to camp and get established before the store closed at 6. There were lights in the tent and patio but we were wondering if we needed a lantern. Decided against it and also decided against getting a box of firewood. That was a good thing. On the Saturday night before everyone made their sunday trips back home, it was noisy and smoky as everyone had their firepits going. It rather offended my respiratory system, compounding the shift already brought on by the 4000' elevation. I got a headache and found myself rather tired and depleted. But not before a pleasant walk down to the river just a short way from our tent.

The river was shallow and rather calm. It was flowing but not with any force. The valley is deep and the sun is eclipsed from sight about an hour before sunset everywhere else. With the trees everywhere, the effect is that it is getting dark rather early. But look to a higher point—Half Dome—and the sun is all over it, turning it harvest gold and orange. As we walked along the river, following its contour that provided a natural boundary to the campsite, people were out on the sandy shores, watching the sun set on Half Dome. Kelli and I walked along the pebbly beach up to another bridge. Realizing how fine the dust was in the campsite and knowing it would be hopeless to try to keep clean this weekend, we walked into the water again and at least chilled our heels. It was just as easy to kick at the sand some and to go rinse off again. Sweet. Eventually we got back to the tent and had dinner and some of the 1.5 liter bottle of wine we had along for the weekend. I barely needed that to feel totally out of it. Kelli read me something from a book and I dozed off on one of the beds. Needing to take care of the nightly routine stuff, I had to get up and make some effort. But then I was out. Nevermind trying to stay up till my normal 4 am. This was over with by 11 or so.

Stay tuned for more.

Saturday
Sep082012

The 36 and a Half Dome Tour, preparation

Kelli has been saying for a long time that she wanted to go to Yosemite park for one of our road trips. We've done Death Valley a couple times (with passes through the Kern River valley), Joshua Tree, Big Bear area, San Jacinto Forest via the Palm Springs Tram, Salton Sea, and for our honeymoon in late 2004, a run up the California coast to points up near Eureka. On our last Death Valley trip over Thanksgiving 2011, we did make a try at seeing some Sequoia trees in the Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park but were thwarted by snow.

This time I was more anxious about embarking on a trip since I have lost my unemployment insurance and therefore have no money coming in. Since it was Kelli's birthday weekend last weekend, there was really no way she was going to be dissuaded so she booked the campsite in Yosemite Valley. The housekeeping camp was described to me as being semi-primitive concrete boxes with canvas ceilings but with a store, bathrooms and shower/laundry facilities nearby. To tell the truth, it didn't really matter much because just three weeks before I was up at a campsite near Shaver Lake, not too far south from Yosemite park. I was at a men's spirituality weekend and spent the night outside in the woods with nothing more than a blanket and camping mattress pad and a pillow. As you'd expect, that wasn't comfortable but it did make Yosemite's modest accommodations seem rather plush. I worried the bugs would be a problem as they were at Shaver Lake but it turned out to be a non-issue.

Having a new car was a luxury to us that we haven't enjoyed except once when we rented a PT Cruiser for our honeymoon trip. For all the trips we've made since 2010 when all this California travel kicked off with a vengeance, we've driven my Toyota truck, a rugged little ride with no shell to keep stuff secure, so as we make stops in that ride, we have to move stuff into the cab and then set it back into the bed upon return. With our curious stops at various roadside monuments, trailheads, and other places that draw our attention, that could be an inconvenient thing to do whenever we thought we'd be out of sight of the truck. Now we went like normal people! And to have a CD player was also a first since the honeymoon trip. My truck just has a stock radio in it.

We planned to stay three nights in the Yosemite tents and knew we'd need to put our food into steel bear lockers. We decided to do what is now a fairly common move: escape Southern California the night before the ultimate destination so we don't have to lose at least four hours just getting through the stuff we've already seen and kinda hate to see again. All that stuff from here to Grapevine on the I-5 is just 195 miles of tedium. Kelli booked a room in "Bakersfield" and said she sent me the confirmation notice but I never got it. Being rather prone to distraction and a bit depressed of late, I procrastinated any trip prep until about the day before we left. I usually do some research on what I might like to see, map out the route and all, but took a real casual approach. We found out how casual when we got into the car. But more on that later.

Buber the Dog was ably taken care of by our friend Lois from MHUCC. She was willing to come up and stay for the four days and nights to look after the pup. She had taken care of him before when it was an easy drive across Hillcrest to our house, and when it was something where multiple people could help out in shifts. But now we're kind of far away and no one would just drive up, and it seems like no one is able to take him either, so it went to Lois who was flexible enough to stay here for the weekend.

The food situation was cause for some wonder. We aren't very well equipped for camping, particularly since there are such forceful bear-related demands in Yosemite. I borrowed a trunk of camping cookware and a burner from Lee Van Ham and then we packed up a bunch of the stuff that would make road food so that we wouldn't have to stop at McDogfood's a couple times in each direction. Without a cooler, we did what we could. At least there were some food options in Yosemite, albeit at some elevated expense. We hit the Costco for some road grub but would have to get the fresher stuff as needed. I made a bunch of sandwiches though we found we had no cheese. All was well though; they were made with Dudley's awesome breads like sundried tomato and jalapeno cheddar.

Lois came by at about 7:15 on Friday night and we showed her what she needed to know about and small talked while packing to go. Finally we set out at 8:30, got the gas and were leaving Escondido. There was some indecision about whether to go up the 15 or the 5 (thereby hitting any Friday night LA traffic which I have come to expect would suck). Good thing about the indecision. That's when we found out that Kelli's supposed hotel confirmation email never came to my desk, and therefore we had nothing to work with. Not only that, I had no idea where it was, nor did Kelli! It was in "Bakersfield" and with that, I presumed it was on the CA-99 because B-field doesn't really reach the I-5 which splits off from the 99 a few miles south. So we found we needed to return to get that printout. And then we could start our 3.5 hour drive in earnest.

We tried a new route up north, using the 15 up to the 91 for a few miles over to the 71 and on up to the 210 which then rendezvoused with the 5 again. Kelli had her work phone along so we were able to navigate on the fly as I drove. It was a bit clumsy since she wasn't used to using it for that and of course she was describing a path I had never thought of. We got through the greater LA area, slashing across it diagonally, but upon getting to the 5/14 split, somehow I missed that while blasting some Peter Gabriel and then found it necessary to do the night's second backtrack. As I say though, "I never get lost. I just don't always make the right turn first." Or, another one is like this, "I made a wrong turn by going straight." I never get worked up about such stuff. There are roads enough to work things out. But historically, when I drove for Mike Keneally's tour, Bryan Beller would get in a panic and go nuts about a time or two when I missed a turn. Jeeze. Anyhow, driving the Grapevine was a breeze in this car, made all the more smooth by the tunes that we could pump for the first time since 2004.

So we got closer to Bakersfield and it was time to look up the exit we'd take for the motel. We knew the name, but there was no sign of it on the 99. As I said, I just drove up the 99, not even thinking it might be on the 5. I confirmed it was in Bakersfield, right? That means it's on the 5. Uh... Kelli wasn't sure. She got on the Google map and found it was actually on the 5, now about 20 miles away. So it took a detour or two to get onto the detour we actually needed. This took us across the CA-119, a rural section of road between southern B-field and the 5. Our noses detected it was rural before our eyes did. I mean, does anything signal that like the sudden onset of industrial-grade cow operations? Oh, it was foul, foul, foul! I had to give Kelli credit for this one. She took down the address but not the Google map directions. If we had just taken the 5, we'd have missed this. To add a little more to this bit of navigational nonsense, she got on the phone with the motel and found that since it was just the Vagabond Inn, we could as easily stay in the B-field location, not this other one. But what the hell did it matter now? We were 3/4 there!

We got to the 5 and rode up a short way before we found our exit and then it all made sense and was just a thing to chuckle about. It was 12:30 am now. Kelli was amused beyond belief when she went into the lobby and found a nun at the counter. Upon getting to her room, she resolved to go down and half-snarkily ask if there were morning prayers she might join in on. She signed her name "Rev. Kelli Parrish Lucas" and noticed a look on the nun's face, a look of some surprise and bewilderment. As for us, we too were bewildered what in the world a nun was doing running the desk at this two bit motel on the outskirts of Bakersfield, CA.

With the car's trunk it's so much nicer not having to move everything into the motel room. Amen, sister! We didn't have a plan for what time to depart in the morning, so getting to bed at 1:30 am wasn't a problem. We just knew that the next day would be more scenic since the worst of the driving was behind us and we could just get up and sightsee as we went by places. There was some more valley time to do before breaking off toward the hills at Fresno, but the day ahead was to be enjoyed.

Thursday
Aug232012

Auf Wiedersehn, Deutschland +20

Some six weeks ago I wrote about the tearful departure on my first trip to Germany. This time, you get to read about the second trip, started a year and a day after the first trip concluded, and ending twenty years ago today, nearly six weeks after it started. This summer of 2012 has gone by pretty fast and in many ways has been an endless bummer, so even without my particular fondness for recalling some of these turning point experiences, I've found myself pining for what now seems like the best summer I ever had. Indulge me.

Six weeks can go by fast. And, after the emotional runup to the second trip to Germany—a period that essentially lasted the one year and one day between trips—six weeks seemed like a big ripoff. It proved to be enough though. Recall that most of my anticipatory time was spent with little on my mind but for this trip. I barely had a plan for what to do afterwards. But then all that focus was shattered by a girl. With Melissa appearing on the scene just two weeks prior to the trip, I found myself conflicted. Not about starting the trip. Not about being there. No, I'd say it was more that I had conditioned myself to not think much past August 23rd 1992, and here I was with a new girlfriend. My first girlfriend. And jeeze...that meant there was a reason to get homesick. A reason to come home. A reason to think of a future that consisted of more than taking three more classes at Mesa College and going out and wailing on the drums at odd hours in parking garages and other exotic locations. My plans sort of got spoiled with this girl stuff.

Of course, since Melissa was live and in the flesh, rather unlike the inaccessible and fickle Shelby, she at least served a functional role of being a girlfriend. She was young however and rather prone to the stuff of 16 year olds. I had no interest in the stuff of 16 year olds when I was that age, so that whole scene was not really anything of interest three years later when I was about to turn 19. However, since she did posess the body of a woman, I did take some interest. And with two weeks of a "taste test" before I left for Germany, I was of course now interested in returning to the exploratory prospects she offered. She proved something of a distraction from my great trip!

Oh, it got to be kind of an embarrassment when mail would be collected at the Rau haus in Garching. Melissa sent so much mail. One piece a day, I guess it was. Just halfway through the roadtrip, I got notice from Christoph that "[your] woman's crazy!" It was all that kind of coy, breathy, rose-hued kind of marshmallow fluff that 16 year old girls would write. Of course, it was totally welcome but I wish there was a way for it to not have reached the host mailbox. And then, you see, Steve and I hit the road for about half my time there and so the mail actually piled up for that time! I got the occasional phone notice that the pile was growing while we were gone. She may have timed some pieces such that I returned before they got to Germany. Jeeze. I wrote some stuff back to her but I can't imagine it being so prolific.

The Roadtrip


[View Ed in Germany, 1992 in a larger map.]

Steve and I did a road trip for just about two weeks. Originally my notes indicated we would have more of a crew going along, but it turned out to be he and I, which was probably as is should be. You can see the map here and if you follow from the cluster in the lower right, our trip headed westward from Garching (east of Munich) over to the French border via the towns of the Romantische Strasse (the Romantic Road, the charming and pretty well preserved Medieval towns that evoke old Germany) and then on up to Hildesheim and Celle, the northernmost point I have been to in Germany.

We mostly stayed in youth hostels while on the tour. That was an interesting thing because a lot of the hostellers were hikers, bikers, and other young itinerants from around the world who more or less arrived on foot and did larger leaps by bike or train. We arrived in Steve's dad's Mercedes Benz. Oh, it wasn't that the Raus were rich. They were comfortable, yes, but since Steve's dad Gerhard was a manager at a foundry just a few blocks from the house, he was willing to give up the car for two weeks (how cool is that?). If needed, Steve's brother Christoph was in town with the other car. Running around in the Benz of course meant I didn't get that quintessential Euro-touring experience, the Eurail trains, and the car's freedom did sort of cater to my American-ness. In some cases, at destinations along the Mosel River, there were some hostels placed in damn odd places, up the hills in old fortresses. I recall joking about that with fellow travellers and the ease of arrival thanks to the car. Hiking or biking some of those hills would have been a bear.

Other nights we camped or spent with a family friend or in the case of the few days in Hildesheim at the end of the roadtrip, Steve's aunt put us up in a gastehaus, a rather nice bed and breakfast kind of place. I think it was this one, just around the corner from his aunt's flat. In Saarlouis, close to the French border, we had a night at the house of a friend of Steve's father, who originated from that region. I don't remember our hostess but for the fact she entertained us for the day then drove us into town for the evening and gave us 100DM to spend on whatever, which must have been a bonus of about $70 of free money. Beers? Tasty dinner? Gelato? People watching? It was a steaming hot night and my notes recall it was a pretty good time before we caught a taxi back. That night was the last before it got so heavy it had to rain. For the weeks prior to that it was nearly unbearable. I remember sitting in the Benz, stopped at a parking space, just dripping while sitting still. Finally in Saarlouis, all that gave way overnight and the next day we awoke to the sweet sound of rain and a kind of permission to relax for a bit until we were ready to go.

I kept a notebook for the trip and it's actually of some use to me now, but there are plenty of Melissa distractions in there that I wish were piped down some. Not being a committed world traveller yet, I didn't have as much detail about the places I went. I wrote off a bunch of places as boring or tedious. Just recall I was there to see a good friend and to kill time. I couldn't really pretend to know or care much about the locations. Shallow American, I know. That said, while that is a failure of who I was in 1992, there is a lot of insight and understanding that even my shallow survey experience has added to my education that in the post 9/11 world has tempered my American blindness to the rest of the world.

Scattered throughout the journal book are some notes on the new food options that I tried: Greek (a little more than just a gyro sandwich from a mall food court, not to mention ouzo—an adventure for an 18 year old!), Yugoslavian, something more like authentic Italian, obviously several German dishes, including liver and onions, and a thing called leberkase (liver cheese). One night I broke off from Steve and had to suspend my Euro travels and do something familiar: eat Chinese.

Hildesheim

Hildesheim turned out to be a downer for me. Falling at the end of the roadtrip and close to the end of the six week trip, it naturally fell in that period of growing homesickness. Because it was not really a time of cafe-hopping and young person's fun times, instead spent with Steve's aunt Christina, with some family and social events (pretty completely in German, of course) during the time we were there, the fun went out of it in a big way. By that time in the tour my ankles and feet were complaining a lot. It also rained more and generally had a feeling of gloom over it all. Christina, a dentist and a socialite, did keep things happening with dinners, shopping (she bought Steve and I new dress shirts), and a day trip up to Celle a little farther north, but by this time in the tour my heart was already making its way home. This development alone startled me because of all the fervent anticipation that was building up before I landed in Germany. Melissa did her best to make me homesick, and I gather from reading my journal that Steve and I were getting a bit testy. He was probably impatient with me at points. It had that feeling that it went on about a week too long by the time we got to Hildesheim. It takes a distracted mind to do what I did then and consider all there was to see and do as "boring."

Last Days in Garching

On the 18th, we burned it on back across country from north to south in about six hours (the Benz on the autobahn was an asset here: my journal says we did some stretches at 120 miles per hour). All the sightseeing was done. No more stops but to take a piss and eat. Steve and I returned to our usual selves as we traversed the country and moved out of the area that was cloudy and gloomy. Once we were in familiar space and able to separate a bit, I retired to my domain there and read the stack of Melissa mail that had arrived while on the roadtrip. There were ten new pieces. I read all that and the ones I already had, twice through. My journal flowed with a couple pages of giddiness that today seems painful to review. We'd really only spent two weeks together and by this point, about five apart and I was dreaming of the future and looking for the great patterns of it all. Oy!

A couple days following our return were low key, amounting to time alone down near the Alz river behind their house, and making mix tapes from whatever I could gather from the Brothers Rau CD collection. (Steve had a quite cool tape deck that just seemed to mow down the stuff I had at home and those tapes are still in a box in the closet. Hearing them transports me back to this special period.) Little post trip duties like cleaning the car and tent and transitioning my pack to make ready to leave for San Diego were things that started to make the heart heavy as it was becoming apparent that the trip was indeed nearing its end.

On the 21st, just a couple days before landing in San Diego, there was one more trip out to Munich. This time it was the Brothers Rau and Steve's girl Ina who was along to see her brother in the hospital. We stopped in a huge music instrument store and Christoph bought a saxophone he'd been stalking. Steve bought a harmonica. For my part, I happened into a new line of Premier drums called Signia. It was a small jazz-fusion style kit with an 8, 10, 12, 14 set of toms that were some of the most amazing drums I'd heard to that point. I didn't realize that in just under two years, I'd end up owning a set of my own.

On the way back from Munich, we dropped Ina off at her home in Waldkraiburg. That was supposed to be the last I'd see of her. She was a lovely but timid creature who would write notes to me in English but hardly uttered a word in English. Later on that same day, the party at the church in Garching filled the evening. I doubt it was a party thrown in my honor but all the characters were there and I got a chance to see people who had brought some good times. Two girls, Simone and Pebbles (Baerbels), with whom a lot of fun was had that summer, were there. Simone had to leave a bit early but spent some time listening to tales from the trip. (I think she liked me. The pix all show her eyes set upon me in just such a way.) There was some free flowing drinks and a brewing thunderstorm that was quite the send off for this trip. Then, rather surprisingly, Ina appeared somewhat later on. Even more surprisingly, she spoke to me in English after not saying but a few words or sentences in all the number of times we'd seen each other that summer. She said that she felt the earlier farewell came up short so she got a ride over to Garching—about 16 miles—so she could say a nicer goodbye. No worries if she also planned to be with Steve too, but that was a sweet gesture. Once she did have to go, she offered a kiss too.

As the rest of the revelers were getting merry in their drink, there were fewer and fewer people to talk to. Fortunately, one fellow of about 16, Andreas, spent a couple hours from midnight till about 3 am talking about music and our novice philosophies on life. I seem to have enjoyed that talk as something of a substitute for talks that I'd hoped Steve and I would have had that summer. After Andreas left, everyone was making fools of themselves and that proved to be my recreation for the remainder of the party. I hesitate to report that the record indicates I dared do some karaoke singing once the crowd thinned. Even if it was just Dire Straits, that still makes me cringe, having some knowledge of what my vocal ability was in 1992!

The thunderstorm which was growing in intensity. I even naively tried to shoot pictures of it. While that was a silly pursuit, the thrill of waiting for the next burst of lightning was exciting. Not wanting to let the moment slip away so fast, in a lull moment, I had a chance to pull some pictures out and let my mind wander. Pictures of Melissa, Steve, and Shelby led me to wonder the ways the future would unfold, especially since now it would seem Steve would not be seen again—something that even these 20 years later has been proven true. At that time though, I was troubled by the distance that seemed to open up in the last week or so prior to this night of partying. It did feel that a period of history was closing and who knew what might come next. Eventually a very piss drunk Steve walked on home and finally at about 4:15 in the morning, Christoph and I sauntered on to the house too.

One Day Left in Germany

Saturday morning was low intensity. Eventually we all rose and got down to the church to clean up. On returning to the house, I packed up my stuff for real this time. The day had one of those quiet and reflective feelings about it. It was slower. The summer was still in force but since it was two months past solstice, the days were feeling shorter and of course the mixed feelings of impending departure and homecoming were heavy upon me. I milled around the yard. I went into the trees that lined the far reaches of the back yard. I visited the tree where I once carved EL+SD the year before. I updated it to reflect the current optimism embodied in the letters EL+MM. Christoph was playing his new sax in the back yard. Steve and I went a few streets over to where there were some horses. We took them a box of apples and fed them to the gentle beasts. The country feel of it felt welcoming and right. I was years and years from really feeling the rightness of it, but I got a glimpse of that slower pace, that more timeless world where even the technophilic Germans inhabit.

A further glimpse of that longer view on life was had while watching Steve's 90 year old grandfather Heinrich butter his bread that day. Or maybe it was that day that stuck most. I'd seen him do it over and over. A simple ritual repeated time and time again in his nine decades almost perfectly corresponding with those decades of the 20th century itself. I never got to talk to him directly, but his age suggests he might have been in World War One and of course deeply affected by the devastating Second World War. And all that rebuilding and change that followed. But I'll bet that as all that drama came and went, the task of preparing his breakfast didn't change all that much. I still think of what Steve's father Gerhard said to me about American bread: "You Americans have the best grain in the world but you make the worst bread ever!" In 2012, we Americans seek out "artisan" bread that tries to emulate the stuff Heinrich ate day in and day out for the better part of one century. We call those breads exceptional, but to the average German, bread is just a way of life. I can still see and taste the few of the endless varieties that I was able to sample while there. None of it is like the spongy and bland stuff we make here. To make it a bit more appealing, on the first trip I was shown the glorious goopy chocolate and hazelnut concoction, Nutella. A nice spread of full tilt butter and some good swipes of Nutella and even the most unusual dark grain bread was eagerly chomped up. For breakfasts, that and some of the best damned yogurt with fresh fruit mixed in, and full fat milk by the glassful was just like being in paradise. It was like that because back at home, all I knew was processed food. And, increasingly, food was more processed to remove fat and other bad stuff. But in Germany, I got a taste of real food, fat and all. It was glorious.

After dinner and some slide show of some pix Steve got, my night was real short. I got to bed close to midnight after saying all the requisite goodbyes to those who would not be seeing me off at 2:30 am. By that time in the summer, Christoph had taken a job at the foundry where his dad was a manager. (He had 3rd shift, starting at 10 pm, something that suited the insanely hot work around molten metal. Work like that was more a matter of financial independence and being responsible. He's since gone on to be a neurologist.) We left the house at 3:30 so we could get to the airport in Erding (northeast of Munich) by 5 am. This trip wound down in some ways like the first one. That is to say that the silence accompanied both of us all the way to Munich. But in some ways, this trip was far harder because there was really no idea of when we'd see each other again. It all seemed that maybe the trip had given us a week too much of each other. I had no visions for working at a place like Subway again so I could come back. This was it. If I was to travel, I'd probably want to see a different place for the simple reason that there are so many other places to see. It might be that we anticipated he'd come over to the USA for a trip eventually, but even these two decades later, that's not brought us together, even though he travels for work.

This send off at the Munich International Airport was brief and sorrowful, but for different reasons than the year before. This time words just failed us. Maybe silence would have been better than the poor attempts to cap the experience. "That's it." "Thanks." "Have a good life." "Keep in touch." "I can't come back next year." It led me to write thoughts on the plane trip back, thoughts that indicate some sense of a future I barely knew could exist when I was building up all that anticipation for the year prior. It seemed to me as I flew over the UK and the north Atlantic that Germany had filled the role it was to fill for me and that it was safe to move on, safe to get into whatever relationship would happen with Melissa. Even Shelby's departure for Alaska was something that made way for that.

The Return to San Diego

The fact was that as the sun was coming up in Germany on that Sunday morning of the 23rd, it was beginning the last day of summer for me before I'd have the cold water of a new school semester thrown upon my face. The very next day I was to sit in class, probably at 10 am. In fact, even that first day for me was everyone else's third day of class. I somehow got some pass to skip out since my trip was planned back in April and the semester dates weren't known. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. There was still one day to live. Most of it was going to be a travel day, but back at home there would at least be one special someone for me to see, and it looked like we'd get a couple hours to be together.

Eleven hours on a plane or two finally got me to LAX where I passed through customs without a hitch. There was some cause to worry about that because I was carrying three bottles of wine in a cardboard poster tube. I wasn't sure if that would draw attention and get this 18 year old in trouble. But nothing happened. Then, upon leaving the giant LAX airport with my old man, the first stop was just outside the complex at a Subway. Okay, I got trained on eating good German food, but I missed Subway. Despite all the drama at the store where I once worked, I was still of the mind that I ate better there than at any other place and better still than at home where my old man could be called on to make stuff that curled my lip and wrinkled my brow. I greedily gobbled down whatever sandwich I got there. And then we burned it on home to San Diego. At least it was a Sunday afternoon.

When I got home around 6 pm, I checked the mail, showered, and scrambled out fast so I could go see Melissa at her aunt and cousin's apartment just about a block from where I used to work at Subway. I went to get my bike from the shed and in my haste, I inadvertently knocked over a hopper of sand for sandblasting. I raced on over to the apartment on the bike, and must have been a blur as I carried that bike up to the third floor apartment. I locked up the bike out of view, peered in and sized up that I could make my bold entrance in one swift move. Striking a tough guy's rugged voice, I waltzed right in saying, "Hey, do I have to knock or can I just barge right in???" In no time, Melissa was off the couch! A few minutes later when we peeled ourselves apart, she started to shower me with little artifacts of devotion during that prolonged absence, et cetera, et cetera. Just recall that I had been gone almost six of the not quite eight weeks we'd been going together.

We walked on over to the local park and playground and found a place where we sucked face for a couple hours to make up for lost time. Around 9 pm we headed back toward the apartment but ended up at the Mickey D's across the street (and just across the lot from my old Subway, where I was officially on restraining order until May of the next year). I saw that buddy Matt was over at Subway so I sent Melissa over to give him the news that I was back. He came over and gave me a few minutes' greeting and rather surprised me by his being sort of not himself. That is, where did the rather crude and impetuous Matt go? This was a Matt who seemed to have missed me some. After he left, I dared walk by Subway on the way to the Baskin Robbins for a bit of a treat. Then it started to sink in how tired I was. I'd been up for 30 hours by that point. I woke up at 2:30 in Germany, which was like being up at 6 pm on Saturday night in San Diego. And prior to that I had only about two or three hours' sleep anyway. It added up to most of 50 hours if I was to consider Saturday in Germany. I was ready to drop. Melissa and I went back to her aunt's place where I collected my new collection of knickknacks and after a shorter than usual farewell, I made my way home on the bike. It was quite a day.

The Day After

I got to bed maybe around 11 and at 6 am the next morning I had to get up and take the rental car back to the Enterprise yard by 9. (The old man would ordinarily have a truck or motorcycle to choose from.) But before that I fixed up my room a bit and blasted some music that I'd brought back home, and some mix tapes that Melissa gave me. I don't know how many nights she had to sit by the radio, listening to the soft rock station KYXY, to capture those songs to a couple 90 minute tapes, but she did. (Even to this day, some of those crude starts and stops are so imprinted in my memory that hearing the songs played as complete recordings or with different DJ talk still sounds odd to me. I still have a soft spot for Chicago's You Come To My Senses for blasting out of the speakers that morning with punch and clarity. Okay... I digress.) I drove the car over to the yard and was nearly late to school. I recall racing that thing around like crazy, even though it was an automatic. Part of it was still a bit of adrenaline about being home, but really, I think I was just trying to emulate the style of driving I experienced in Germany. While there, I had a few minutes re-learning how to drive stick and must have picked up a "wait to brake" idea. I recall driving like a madman as I returned that car.

While at school, I found I was dropped from one class already and could not get one or two others, and then settled on a couple that I was able to get. There wasn't much to school that day except maybe that as I went to the restroom I took off my clip on sunglasses that I got earlier in the year and had worn all around Germany. I set them down on the porcelain and then walked off and left them there. Upon returning, I could not find them. Dang. I could get all around a foreign country with them but then I lose them in my hometown!

I rode off to get lunch at Subway on the way home from school. Stopped to buy some singles of hitherto unheard Def Leppard tunes and filled out an application at that same music store. I hadn't worked since mid April, so the funds were feeling low and the morale was still at a place of acceptability. That wore away as the months went on and I got more and more depressed as winter set in. As it happened, it took until December 18 before I got a job at Jack in the Box. Interestingly, that was the ticket out of a mounting crisis of depression that only earlier that day was being discussed over breakfast with Jerry and Judy, my pastor and associate pastor/youth leader at church—a place I had not really gone to in about a year. As for the rest of the first whole day back, my grandmother came over and helped me to run some errands in the car, and I told her all about the trip. Shelby called from her dad's place in Hayward, CA and we reconnected after the two months since we saw each other.

Life was just about to start all over. School. Job search. Playing drums and creating the basis of rudimentary songs with Matt. A new girlfriend who was new and yet not new at once. We'd been "together" for almost two months. I was planning to take her out to dinner later in the week when we'd mark our two month anniversary. But it was more like our three week aniversary. (I anticipated maybe one bottle of wine would go to that, but that idea was soundly trounced early on by parental pressure. So I donated one bottle to her parents.) 

Germany was in my rearview mirror now. Auf wiedersehn, Deutschland.

Saturday
Aug112012

I Wasn't Supposed to be at Work That Day +15

Put this under "it was a great thing at the time, but..."

Fifteen years ago today there was a damned interesting coincidence that for a few years to follow was something that perhaps stepped up my trust in the universe, God, or whathaveyou. It did defy logic, that's for sure and I held on to it like Gollum and his "my Precious." These days it's far less a thing, but I don't think I've ever told the tale. If you need to see it in context, you'd have to insert this tale into its rightful place, about five years before this TAPKAE blog really got started.

You people now have the benefit of reading a massive spoiler post I wrote a couple years ago about how the entire Shelby Duncan era came crashing to an end in one day. That letter was a hard one to write, and in some ways I wish I'd written it years before. There were plenty of times when a saner person than I could have seen the writing on the walls and just washed his hands of it. Where were those saner persons when I needed to be one of them?

But the stuff of the heart is messy business. The mind wants to map what the heart feels. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it is a miserable failure. With Shelby, for about 12 years, there was plenty of this going on. We were never an item, and of course, that persistent frustration, and the repeated attempts to change that, were the drama. There is no real kiss to tell about. Not even really a feel up. There is this imagination that things could be this way or that, but all that was elusive and as I've said before, all that was known well enough by 1991, just a couple years after we met.

A picture Shelby sent from Alaska in 1994. Before Skype, such an image sustained me, perhaps senselessly, until the next I'd see her. Unfortunately, the next I saw her crashed and burned for too many reasons.

1994: the Setup

But being the pup on a pantleg like I am, I was wayyyy too into trying to analyze things. But the time that seemed most final between us was during 1995 in the wake of a nine day trip up to Seattle, WA and then to Fairbanks, AK. It was something that put an end to a very long period of having not seen her in San Diego. Even with her being "just" a friend, it was a long time to go without in-person contact. I recall it being a year and a half prior to my trip. I booked the trip during a period of 1994 when I was just given an advance on my inheritance from my grandfather. I bought the ticket in September for about $900 and winced a bit at that but was glad to get on with the adventure of seeing her in two distant states, and for a week and a quarter. Such time was unheard of. The year 1994 was a good year. This seemed like a good thing. I was riding high.

But on August 13 of that year, things went changing. That's the day I met Robin at a Slaves by Trade band party and of course, the fact she lived in town and was "available" meant that we dove headlong into the stuff of relationship in a way that could never be accomplished with Shelby. But you see... after months of anticipatory talk, the plane ticket to see Shelby was bought in the first several weeks of this new relationship when we weren't yet bonded to the point where it seemed a conflict. So after those few weeks, the reality was that while I had my feet on the ground with one girl, I was heading off to see another for a week and more, and more so, it was to be in the weeks after Christmas and over New Year's. Yep. Alaska in the dead of winter! Robin might have ribbed me some about seeing another girl for that time and under such conditions as those (where who in their right mind would leave the house anyway?) It wasn't a big conflict or anything; I think I knew it was literally better to have the um, bird in the hand, rather than the two in the bush.

The thing is, I'm rather convinced Robin willingly played unprotected roulette with our intimacy. Chalk it up to all sorts of potential psychological reasons about unfulfilled this or that, but that is how it seems. I gather it was some need to escape a family situation, but just three months and five days after we met (November 18th), she asked me to marry her and for a few days, I was in that mood of going with it, but I cooled my heels and realized that at 21 and with her as my first sexual partner, I was not ready to even pretend. So five days later (November 23rd, the day before Thanksgiving), after a lot of that agonizing soul searching that goes on at times like that, I bowed out but said I'd still be interested in things as they had been for those first three months, but no marriage plans, or even an engagement. That was just too much.

The vitriolic letter my mom wrote to put me in my place in 1995, referencing the Thanksgiving snafu. Thanks for the compassion, mom.The vitriolic letter my mom wrote to put me in my place in 1995, referencing the Thanksgiving snafu. Thanks for the compassion, mom.

(It seems that was one of the more troublemaking decisions I ever made. On the heels of that declaration, I had to notify my mom that we were not coming to the first Thanksgiving dinner that we would have had in all the years since 1986. And since I had taken ill and was really in a mess, neither would I. Unfortunately, that firm decision was made on Thanksgiving morning, after she already started in on making a feast for the day. For four people. And two of us pulled out. She could still make a vitriolic statement about that even today if you were to ask her. She later decided to deduct $50 of payment from a $300 "loan" I made her in August of that year during one of the best periods I ever had in her company, just around the time I met Robin. But she decided to make that point months and months later in 1995, well after she had stated she'd pay me back. I've since come to find that my mom does that with other family members and with larger numbers. I digress.)

A couple weeks after that troubled Thanksgiving week, Robin and I engaged in one of those regrettable unprotected encounters that goes on to write a whole new history for people. Another roulette time that sometimes I've wondered about. Was it an intentional thing to be so risky just weeks after that big rejection of the proposal? Was it a trap? It's speculation, but plausible stuff. People do that. I'm as guilty as her, but at the age of 20, while young ladies can override knowledge of facts and figures and consequences with foolishness, ultimately, it was a decision of hers to participate (unprotected) in the whole thing.

If all that weren't enough, the presence of my odd friend Matt Zuniga was an odd thing to estimate once I got a girlfriend. The way he talks is suitable for the locker room or to accompany our midnight drum jams in industrial parks, but he was always inclined to be a tad more raunchy than I would like, particularly around Robin. Sometimes she played back with some equally suggestive talk. There were some times in the week before I left for my trip when I swear our relationship was on the rocks because of this. Since Robin didn't drive at that time, Matt drove me to the airport and Robin was along to see me off. After the weeks of them doing all sorts of flirtatious talk that I ordinarily don't engage in, my trip to the airport was littered with more such talk, and in light of all the innuendo, who knew what was really meant about Matt offering to "take Robin home." I flew out of town wondering how those two would conduct themselves while I was gone. There were later times when I was present in the room and when I got some idea of how things could have gone. But this is a family show...

Letter to my old man, chewing him out for charging me rent because I put a lock on my door to keep him from snooping.Letter to my old man, chewing him out for charging me rent because I put a lock on my door to keep him from snooping.

In addition, only two days before I left I was told by my old man that I might need to move my stuff out of the house so he could rent the place in January. Excuse me? He told me that just before Christmas. I left on December 26th and would be gone through the 4th of the new year. He offered to move my stuff for me. That was grossly offensive considering that much of that year was troubled by his intrusions upon my room, causing me to make the decision to put a lock on the door. That subsequently became his permission to start charging me $100 rent: all because he could not leave my stuff alone.

Shelby in Alaska in the dead of winter, holding her catA rare picture of Shelby, taken while I was at her place in Fairbanks, AK

The Alaska Ice at New Years

I'll have to cut this part shorter than it deserves because this post is really about Shelby and the August 11, 1997 event, but suffice to say, the trip was a troubled one though not for the reasons I suspected. Because it was bound to be awkward under the conditions of just seeing Shelby, or seeing her after a long time, I was there with a case of nerves that was just dismal. Being in strange new places (in the winter, there is just a few hours of daylight that looks about as bright as at 8 am here) was even more to dislocate me. And then the fear that Robin was late during the time I was gone added more anxiety. Calls back to her got me a "don't worry, it's fine" message that I distrusted as the time passed. I was really a troubled dude that week and a half and didn't make a good impression.

1995-1996: the Blackout

Coming home, the first order of business was to get Robin to Planned Parenthood on January 5th to see what fate awaited us. I think she was plenty surprised herself that she was pregnant and at five weeks already. Five weeks, eh? I know what night that was. Just days after that nullified engagement. Hmmm. She scheduled an appointment for a termination to be done the following week on January 12th. I paid my half of the $260 and took her there and did all the stuff that seemed right at the time. After that experience she was on the pill and at least there was a safety net that wasn't there before. People have already chewed me out for this whole episode, so refrain, okay?

Meanwhile, it took a few weeks before I wrote to Shelby to tell her how life was upon my return. First off, everything going on with Robin demanded attention, and really, I knew that the trip had not gone well and I was not sure discussing it would have helped much. But I got a letter off to her anyway. I suppose that at the age of 21 I did not have the tact she would have prefered me to have. Apparently I came off as crass to her (which was not hard to do; she was a harsh judge of things) when I wrote to tell her "the problem was solved." Fair enough. I didn't hear from Shelby until December, just before Christmas! And when I did, she chewed me out for being so crass and that while I was in Alaska I was "a pill" and condescending to her friends. Probably, given the weight of circumstances then. She apparently just forgot about writing to me for the better part of a year. But then something about Christmas (not even her holiday, as she professed to be agnostic) warmed her enough to send that lashing letter. She didn't even mind that there was an abortion involved. I hoped not. She was a flaming liberal pro-choice person according to her other rants. But she insisted I was too devoid of emotion or compassion to put it the way I did. And then nearly a year went by. I got that card just in time to "enjoy" my holidays. 

That was the end, for all I knew. I don't even recall if I wrote back. But I did not hear from her again. Now I can tell you the story I set out to tell.

My business card with full address to my apartment with my gear and all. That was dumb.My business card from 1997-1998.

Pizza and Beer... for Dolphins

Robin and I spent about two-thirds of 1996 in a slow breakup mode. Somewhere in the midst of that, on August 25th I got the pressure to leave my home of nearly 23 years (I moved nearly all I owned in two car/vanloads, done in a smash and grab motion that lasted about two hours on the following day) and after a few days or so at my grandmother's house, I took up residence in Robin's comparable childhood home in La Mesa. I was a two month guest more than anything and since that fall season of 1996 was filled with a bunch of stress and strife and life readjustment, that finally put the fire under me to seek out the kind of income that would actually let me get free of such drama. Feeling empowered by the newness of my truck, purchased on September 17th, I got a job at Pizza Hut in La Mesa, not even a mile from Robin's place. It was just about the beginning of October and by the end of the month, was moving into an apartment in Clairemont, now 12 miles away. The driving didn't hurt because with the tip money from being a pizza delivery guy, there was always cash in my pocket, and back then gas was about $1.25 a gallon anyway. But the time on the road might be a liability getting there at the wrong time of day when a lot of traffic out the eastbound 8 freeway would bunch up and make that a tedious drive.

Keneally's 1099 statement for me after the tour.Mike Keneally's 1099 statement for the tour

No worry though. Aside from Pizza Hut there was not much else to report to in life. I gave up working for Rockola once it was clear that Pizza Hut could more than pay for the $270 room I lived in and the few expenses I had. I had bought my truck outright in September so I never had a payment after the first two payments I made. The solitary room was indeed a new experience for me. Robin visited a couple times in November when it was a new thing, but for the most part, we were done. And then the big break happened. Mike Keneally called me to go on a tour as drum and bass assistant for his band Beer For Dolphins for five weeks, starting on November 18th, not quite three weeks after I got settled into the apartment and starting in just five days! Read bass player Bryan Beller's accounts in his blog from the period [Google listings show more of that.] In that period, I barely gave it a second thought. I told Pizza Hut I had to take several weeks off and if they could reserve my job, great, and if not, maybe I could work something out at the local Clairemont store. Essentially, I quit that lucrative position and went to work my dream gig for my favorite musician. It was a great injection of purpose and meaning for me after all the drama that the year had brought. Mike paid me out of his own pocket about $37 a day for 35 days—a flat $1325 when all was said and done. (The thing is, I had agreed to do the tour for even less than that but the situation on the ground was that I was co-opted by the Steve Vai crew to help out loading the truck upon which the BFD gear was riding piggyback, and Mike took that into consideration and paid a bit more than we agreed to initially.) That was no significant loss compared to what I was making, and being out of my usual, troubled space at home would do me good. It also helped put the distance between me and Robin that was necessary to envision a life not in that relationship. As it happened, we lasted about one week after I returned, then I broke up with her. I don't recall talking to her on the phone while I was gone, but maybe a couple times. I was glad to get free.

When I returned, I took about two weeks to regroup, did some local gigs including the incredibly arduous New Year's gig for Dr. Feelgood, where I had to break into my grandmother's house. (We had agreed I could store things, and over night if needed, so I could get some work from local musicians who had me move their gear and keep it at times.) In early January I was able to get a job at the Clairemont Pizza Hut and worked their until just after Super Bowl weekend in early February. Then I transferred back over to La Mesa because I found it more profitable.

So that sets the stage for the rest of this story. Now you know the oddness that is Shelby and the oddness that is her coming and going in my life. You've seen how I was involved with Robin and how that influenced Shelby to be even harder a person to deal with, cutting out of the scene for over two years. You see how I had this yo-yo relationship with La Mesa for a while thanks to Robin and Pizza Hut. So get this...

I Wasn't Supposed to be at Work That Day

My bedroom studio, a modest few tape decks, mixer, effects module, and some guitar around. I barely ever used the drums during the time I was at that apartment, except off site.My bedroom studio in mid 1997, shortly before I bought the VS-880, coincident with running into Shelby at the parking lot a couple days before.

Pizza Hut in La Mesa turned out to be a pretty lucrative job for me that year. I was newly free of my childhood home, newly free of a troubled relationship, and newly inspired by the Keneally tour (getting to watch Toss Panos play drums every night was just amazing, even when he was piss-assed drunk and angry). I spent my time working on my recordings in my little bedroom (they turned into Hog Heaven), and when I wasn't doing that, I went to work at Pizza Hut. I usually worked at Pizza Hut in the evenings and did about 30-35 hours there most weeks and probably brought in $1300, mostly in cash. I was living like a king, it seemed. I worked different days but probably had a few main days I could rely upon. I didn't do gigs unless they fit around Pizza Hut. For a while in the summer my roommate's friend and drummer in their band, let me record my drums at his house not far away. It was all very fluid.

So one Monday in August when I was not scheduled to work, I got a call asking me to come in to help relieve some shortage. I was asked to come in whenever I could. I cautioned that I lived 12 miles out and the rush hour would be slowing me down but I'd get in to help. That was good enough for them. They were desperate. I don't recall the specifics of whether I burned a path out there or whether I dilly-dallied or stopped to gas up but sometime in the five o'clock hour I arrived in the parking lot at 8000 La Mesa Boulevard where the Pizza Hut was. Maybe or maybe not did I stop to finish hearing what was on the radio. I wasn't being timed so I didn't hurry. Maybe or maybe not did I pay great attention to the many pedestrians moving in and out of the Vons store that my Pizza Hut was anchored to. Carefree. Today was bonus money, and just for a few hours. My calendar shows that it was 6-9:30 and that there were $29 in tips. Nice.

As I walked up to the store from about halfway down the parking lot, I heard my name called just about as I was to pass two women going by. Well holy hell! It was none other than Shelby! That warranted a double take. She was walking along with her mom. I don't recall if I knew that he mom lived there then or if that was news to me, but indeed she did live nearby on Mt. Helix, and Shelby was visiting from out of town. Only this time it was not from Alaska but a clear opposite part of the world—Louisiana. She was a student at LSU doing her Masters work, just about to start her last year there. We said a few small words and probably refreshed each other on phone numbers and gave a hug. She seemed happy to see me. And of course, having come to expect I might never talk to or see her again, I was excited to see her too.

She was visiting for one week. I just happened to be there on my day off. I was asked to come in whenever I could. I was in rush hour traffic for too long. I could have let one more traffic light or pedestrian slow me down. Or I could have been there one minute earlier or parked over one more stall. Immediately I set about the thoughts of what a remarkable meeting this was. You could imagine I could barely keep myself from bouncing off the walls. Yes, I remembered the troubled history. Yes I remembered the emotionally frustrating metaphorically slammed doors. I never lost that. But a day like this, after a year that was filled with its painful lows and empty accomplishments (working just for money never means anything to me, and aside from my recording, life was damned boring), it felt like I got part of myself back. It was a day to rejoice in, unambiguously. It was a gift from I don't know where. And it would be over three years before the tension mounted and broke again, in the form of that letter that I linked to above. For now, the order of the day was to be happy to have reconnected.

We talked on the phone that night. I don't know for how long or about what, but in those two years and nearly eight months since our last time being in the same place, it was probably quite a story. Three days later, on the 14th, we met at the La Mesa Barnes and Noble and got some lunch at Schlotzky's next door. It was a grand old time. I was over three years from spending a comparable day in La Mesa in late 2000, and one that instead of signalling the start of a great new period, signalled the end of the entire thing after 12 years. But that day at Barnes and Noble, it was electrifying again. It felt right. Some people do that to a person.

I've risked many detours to get to that story, a story that perhaps was far more magical when it happened than after I have parted ways with her, and after having told the Shelby story in many other ways here at this site. But let me just detour again to bracket this time in another way.

Hog Heaven Holiday Theme Music cover, a giant hog with some reindeer antlers upon its head, towing a sleighThe last "complete" feeling project that came out of Hog Heaven, December 2000. But HHS went on until mid 2005, usually with far less passion and conviction as during the three years when Shelby and the VS-880 were in some mysterious conspiracy.

Hog Heaven Halcyon Days, Shelby-powered

A parallel interest in the summer of 1997 was to upgrade my recording gear. I selected the Roland VS-880. I saved my cash during that summer and on August 13th, was prepared to buy the 880. Among the things that Shelby and I talked about was that new purchase. We were sitting there in La Mesa and that recorder was at that point just a new toy I had barely unpacked. Of course, that machine was the single best tool that helped me unlock a creativity that spanned for about three years and some change. It was the heart of Hog Heaven Studio, starting in mid 1998. I used it for everything there. The last project I did there (excluding smaller things that never really reached completion) was the Hog Heaven Holiday Theme Music disk I recorded in December 2000 in the two weeks or so prior to Christmas. It was the last explosive period of recording creativity that happened there before so many changes. It also happened to conclude within a day or two of the last day I saw Shelby, and the day that I finally put my long-bottled up thoughts onto paper and delivered them to her mom's house in La Mesa. You might say that the VS-880 era was Shelby-powered. When she was gone, that whole enterprise deflated in a huge way. Sure, there were other experiences and people involved, but that whole period was definitely fed by her as my muse. Especially the last year or so of it when Receiving was done.

It's pretty clear I overestimated what could be done within that relationship. After it crashed and burned she lambasted me for misrepresenting myself and the terms of our relationship. Yeah, maybe. I was scared to speak up until I was about to explode. And when I did, yes, it all did crash big. All these years later since early 2001, I've never once heard from her. She's a fickle person. And maybe that's not what I need in life. Other people of course have diverted my attention from the kinds of wishful thinking that I once indulged in. Kelli certainly is as present as Shelby was absent, and we live a life of availability to one another.

But something still amazes me. Over the years, I have Googled nearly everyone of interest in my life and Shelby is one who has such an amazingly low profile online. I did write to her a couple times, either to old addresses or once on Facebook, ten years after our blowout. Nearly all the other people I've contacted this way have responded to my thoughtful attempts at reconciliation and reconnection. Shelby is dogged in her avoidance of that. It's one of those things that, as it always has, will let my mind fill in the blanks. Be all that as it may, it doesn't change the story of times like the day when I wasn't supposed to be at work, came in "whenever," was stuck in rush hour traffic, waited for pedestrians, and then walked at whatever pace through the parking lot, and was nearly miraculously rewarded with a chance to rekindle a friendship that had brought me to both extremes of joy and pain prior to that as she often had some harsh criticism of the way I lived my life or how I naively expressed myself in situations that were like being under water, but that for a while—a day, a month, three years, kept feeding me somehow with the stuff of vitality and purpose in life. Even the rather disastrous collapse of all that can't take those experiences away.

Wednesday
Aug082012

Donate

Allow me to function as a beggar for a moment.

I don't sell anything at this site. I mostly tell a long story that probably interests no one but me and a few friends.

But for a couple years now I've been motivated primarily to do extensive volunteer work to do some web projects that I believe in. If you've been a reader at Jubilee Economics or a listener at The Common Good Podcast, or if you've been supporting the professional clergy women of Women Who Speak In Church, then you've had a chance to see the main body of web work I've done to help people around me. Much of it has been of my own initiative to see these causes get a higher profile, and to build community farther and wider than their local networks could facilitate. Collectively, most weeks while unemployed for a year and a half now, I've spent at least full time on one or all of these plus setup and a considerable amount of the social media and digital administrative work that surrounds the main sites, not to mention occasional bits of support for other tangential projects. It fills my time with more meaningful activity than just watching TV (which I've boycotted since 1997).

It takes a lot of time to explore and learn the ins and outs of software, evolving technologies, and to train people back at the orgs to use things. It's a full time job, and one that often spans nearly around the clock. Almost all of it is unpaid except in some cases when some software is purchased for me to use for the cause or offshoot efforts perhaps bring a bit of cash. But make no mistake; it's not an income to pay the bills. It keeps me from driving trucks or doing stage work, which I would gladly consider part of a past life. But I need to be empowered to move with what my gut tells me to do. Any support that helps me to be of service to orgs that really don't have a budget but do have a world-changing message is worthy of support. Maybe it takes crowdfunding to help float by.

All this is work I feel compelled to deliver on before I set about doing things that are my own work. Doing all this volunteer stuff not particularly time spent on this site, which is a pretty transparent document spanning a decade now, and one that says who I am and what I am about and how I've struggled with meaning in life. (By the way, this site costs $192/year in hosting and I have to pay it up in a week.) It's not time spent trying to reconnect with a nearly lost love, music. It's not time in my church community. It's not time seeing family. (You know from reading this site that with my family situation, that doesn't take too much time.)

I recently had to make the sad decision to tell Jubilee Economics that I'd have to back out of most of the work I've done so I could focus on the job search. I'd take that back if there was a way to sustain myself in a way that didn't so sharply demarcate the line between "work I feel compelled to do" and "work that pays a wage."

So I invite you to make a freewill donation of any amount with PayPal. Do it because you know what TAPKAE.com means as a record of trying to live an undivided life of some integrity, or because you know that the job market sucks. Or because you like what you've learned from one of the sites I've built and shepherded, or because you're just a cool person. Any of the above? All of the above?

Thank you.

Wednesday
Jul182012

The Model Moral Dilemma

The mind of a young man can be co-opted by the wrong stuff. And then it takes a lifetime to shake some of it loose. And furthermore, things may be things but they aren't just things.

When I was about 11-15 in the late 1980s, I was completely enthralled by military aircraft. A couple major reasons include the fact that my house in San Diego was just a scant few miles from the outer fence of Miramar Naval Air Station, the location of Fightertown USA, the home of TOPGUN. A certain famous movie by that name, released just before I entered eighth grade, was a kind of pornography, drug, and rock and roll all in one, at least to this boy just on the cusp of adolescence that summer of 1986. Even before that, I used to be able to sit on my roof or go a couple blocks to my middle school, or just ride the canyons on my bike and I'd see F-14 Tomcat and other jets doing laps around and around for hours at a time. Most flew within a mile or so, and sometimes, nearly overhead. The base was a naval air station then and the pilots were doing their touch and go exercises to rehearse the kinds of landings they'd need to make on the aircraft carriers.

Extending that interest in watching the Tomcats and other planes do laps, my retired Navy chief grandfather indulged me sometimes and took me to Miramar and let me take binoculars to the fence just outside the Fightertown USA hangar, where I'd just observe the activity, or the planes on the tarmac. In a similar way, the stretch of empty space along Kearny Villa Road, on the east fence of the base, just at the end of the runway, felt a little like holy ground where I could be right under the planes as they landed. Of course, there would be military security goons that would come and dismiss anyone watching from that perspective. That made it all the more interesting.

Watching the Blue Angels and getting to the airshows was akin to high holy days. The spectacular six-point convergent move that is done just over the audience (or nearly so since those things have proven disastrous) was sort of a 12 year old's religious experience. Back at home, I'd pore over the Blue Angels' show program with an eye to every detail, getting to know the pilots and everything else.

Passion for Plastic

All this fed a need to build plastic models with more and more accuracy and detail. I'd been at building models since about 11 years old—about 1985 or so—and I'd been developing the craft with each model I built. My favorites were Tomcats, but I had several F-16s, F-15s, and A-4s. There were several other types but I kept gravitating toward those Cold War stalwarts. By the time early 1987 rolled around, as a 13 year old, I was introduced to the International Plastic Modeler's Society, an organization that is comprised of hobbyists, car and military buffs, fantasy figure painters and other types. I went to monthly gatherings and quarterly contests.

The Command Post business card from when I actually worked there. It wasn't the same as the place I hung out at. They had moved three stores into one and the vibe and character was different. By the time I worked there, I was over half a year from having built any models.The knowledge of the planes and the building of the models fed each other in symbiotic relationship. I routinely shopped at a store called The Command Post, a place where I later worked (interestingly in 1990 after I got out of the hobby). There I not only bought my models and supplies, I also endeared myself as the kid who knew all the product numbers and actually got into helping out, receiving product, stocking and labeling, and running errands for the guys. I was doing this at the age of 14. They would reward me with product. That Hasegawa F-14 kit was a pretty hot item when I got it.

For about eight months during 1988-89, I rode one of my bikes over there two times every weekend, taking a long and convoluted path to the store so that the old man could be satisfied I was safer as I crossed the 805 freeway. Each of those days I rode over there, I stayed the whole day, or near that. I got into a habit of staying five hours on Saturday and the entire four hour day on Sunday! I'd usually learn all I could by listening to the real staff guys (one of which, Ross Shekelton, turned me on to music, most particularly Rush, but also with the band that launched my interest in drumming: Def Leppard), and after a while, I'd even be talking to customers about how to use this product or that, and often, fans of one type of plane or another would break into enthusiastic conversation about sightings, air shows, and the like. I'd read the books, study the pictures of aircraft, learning all about them. I was the runner boy for rolled tacos over at the neighboring Roberto's taco shop in the next mall over.

Refining the Craft

Taking all that to my bedroom or my grandparents' patio (at Quapaw/Hog Heaven) during the summer, I'd spend hours at the craft of building plastic models. It was the first craft that ever commanded that much energy and focus of me. It paid off when I got my models entered into the local IPMS contests and was egged on to greater success and technique by the help of an enthusiastic group president, Darrel "The Big Salami" Killingsworth. I learned the finer nuances of flat sanding parts taken off the plastic molding "sprue"; the vastly superior qualities of liquid glue; the optimal filler putties available from automotive suppliers (NitroStan) how to prepare your surfaces for priming and painting; airbrushing; applying decals without bubbles or yellowing. Creating dioramas or maybe how to use clear acrylic mounting rods bent in boiling water so that an aircraft model could be mounted "in flight." And so on.

My A-4 Skyhawk that won two awards, and the plaque and six ribbons from the other winners, all on the same night. I swept two categories by default.The April 1989 sweep

I had been plugging along at the local contests and each was a chance to get familiar with others, learn techniques, get feedback, egg each other on. There weren't many juniors so there was a pretty predictable "competition" between me and a guy named Jeff and a couple others. Or sometimes not at all. One contest in April 1989, I got seven awards for six models, I think because no one was there and I swept the categories of Best Junior/Aircraft and Best Junior/Armor and then got the Best Junior perpetual plaque. It was a rather pointless victory, but good for the teenage ego, especially because my female friend Traci Flint (more of a tomboy/engineering geek of two years my senior) was in attendence and saw it all. At the very least, it did make for some victory chatter and my stuff was seen and the night was memorable.

Award certificate, 1988.One of the certificates accompanying the Aerospace Museum winsOther competitions were a bit harder. In the county-wide contest held by the San Diego Aerospace Museum (sic, that's what it was called then), I did have to come up with the goods. On two consecutive yearly contests, I did win against bona fide competition, placing an F-14 (that had won a few contests) and subsequently, an A-4. The prize was good for the ego: my stuff was on display before the tourist public within the main museum hall for one year for each win, with my name beside it. It was a thing to take my church group and other buddies to. (I think it failed to inspire Shelby Duncan, but she's a freak anyway.)

IPMS National, 1989

One last IPMS contest was a national one where it just happened to be in San Diego. It was during this very week of 1989 (23 years ago now) when I got four awards for three models. I had just started building armor models earlier in the year, and one of them was literally painted the day before entering. Because it was a bona fide national contest, there were other Juniors in the competition, but of course, since few can ride their bikes across the nation with plastic models in a saddle bag or milk crate on their rack, the competition was still not as stiff as among the adults. At any rate, I did get four awards, one for a wacky alternative take on an F-14, the "F-14E" as I called it. (There really were people who asked about it, especially since I came up with a tech sheet that featured the new developments of the airplane. All were contrary to the F-14's longstanding, voluptuous design. It was a total joke but a well done one.)

The three winning models with their award plaques. Abrahms tank, my hoax F-14E, and a Sgt. York tank.The spoils of model building war... the F-14E got the two middle awards

That contest was my last, even as it was my best showing ever. In fact, by October, I had a change sweep across me that was sufficient to put an end to my model building life. I began to play drums just weeks after the contest, and by the fall, all my model projects were brushed aside and forgotten about. I was getting into music. I got all the Def Leppard albums, and at the start of the school year, I was getting into Jethro Tull and bought one tape a week. I also was getting deeply into the life at church [scan of a letter from one of the adults praising that], where I had just returned to active life in June. I was so enthralled by this new life. Schoolwork suffered. Only when I actually was called to work at the Command Post did I engage in the hobby at all, but I doubt I finished even one model. By the time I got the gig at Command Post, they had moved the store (did that in summer 1989) and it was not the same. The personalities I liked had moved on. I worked extremely part time there for about five months or less and never connected again. The money I made was paid me from the cash register, and I promptly walked across the road to Music Mart and bought drum gear there once they had moved into the location. Out with the old, in with the new.

My stuff in the national magazine following the contest.Two of my models listed in the IPMS magazine following the convention

Dawning of Moral Consciousness: 2001

Going to church then in the 1989-1991 period was not the thing that led me to the change that I actually wish to write about now. But it was an early period of church life that later on did affect a lot of change of heart and consciousness. I'd have to skip ahead to 2002 and onward.

I returned to church life in January 2002, one week after it became apparent that Kelli and I were entering a whole new phase of life. We'd sort of moved past "just friends" and at that time, she was like a candle in the window to me, and I found that in the post 9/11 world, I'd need some clues of how to progress. I was 28. Family upset about a year before left the landscape of my life changed forever. My grandmother died in April of 2001, and as you've all no doubt read before, the dynamic changed drastically with the struggle between me and the old man.

I became a quite devoted pew sitter that year and by the end of the year I was recording the sermons and by 2004 was working on the website, and was on the trustees. I was seemingly mature and stepping into adult roles in the congregation. But my favorite part of the new era at church was the sermons and the great pearls of wisdom that I gleaned from the relationship with my pastor Jerry Lawritson. There I learned more about human struggles, nonviolence, liberal theology, and a bunch of stuff that excited me. Names like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Elie Wiesel, Martin Buber, Paul Tillich, and others were the names I was surrounded with. They all pointed to a deeper life that was tugging at me.

Around that same time and in a parallel universe at Mesa College, an English essay assignment I worked on pondered the direction of American style growth-based economics. That led me to knowledge of peak oil. And that shocked me. By early 2005 I had started a website called EONSNOW and was showing a documentary called The End of Suburbia. I had some idea that all these new things were going to intersect, but they were not yet doing so in my mind.

Booted from Eden: 2005

Awareness like that began to seep into my consciousness. Being troubled by these kinds of thoughts, I set about trying to share them and find others who might be troubled in a similar way. EONSNOW was literally just getting launching three days prior to the day when I got evicted from my dear house seven years ago. That was a galvanizing event as you all know by now. All of a sudden, the focus had to shift from being world-aware to getting a bunch of personal affairs in order. One thing that had to happen was vast reductions in material stuff. I was cutting through the house trying to figure out what had to go. Up in my closet were a couple boxes of plastic models. Many were in some state of brokenness as it was. Landing gear, tail fins, missile rails... all that was broken and not likely to be glued up. The decals were yellowing. The glue was brittle in places. Was there ever any chance I'd put these on display again? The newest of them was 16 years old! The Cold War came to an end AFTER my model career ended. Yet here I was, so many years later, still storing all this?

Techgnosis

Detouring for a moment here, it seems honest to say that I still find the technology fascinating. It can't be argued that any of these planes are impressive at some level. Defying physics and the laws of nature is indeed impressive. If I were into all this now, I'd be gushing about the F-22 Raptor, a plane that can do things that my beloved F-14 could never dream of. I'd be building models of it and talking about its thrust-vectoring exhaust nozzles that allow it to do some of the most unusual stuff a plane has been seen doing. But the pursuit of all this development is what I have to draw a box around: they are all weapons of war, and such things as building models is a safe way of objectifying that, and forgetting what human ruin comes either from the firing of the weapons or the very stockpiling of the weapons, and equipping a standing imperial military. The budgets that are shaped with the "defense" of the nation in mind are completely out of whack, with "defense" being half the government's spending for years and years now. And, as I researched this entry using my cursory trip to Wikipedia for reminders of terms and other figures, the F-14, as powerful as it was, was never really put to much use in war. Apparently two Phoenix missiles were launched in Iraq in 1999 for the purpose for which they were intended, and both missed. Those things are a million bucks apiece! That's pretty steep a price to pay for something that can't accomplish what it set out to do. Pointing to two failed missile shots should suggest that with all the massive expenditures the Department of Defense makes, it's clearly going to overspend on waste, fraud, or outright failure. How many people could be fed for the price of just one of those missiles? How much student loan debt could be struck from the books for that sum? How many neighborhoods could be resurrected into thriving communities? How many blocks of blight could be turned into community gardens? And yet, back in the early days of the Cold War, old Ike himself, not a stranger to the military as a victor among the victorious, warned against all this military buildup.

Air shows and other times when military buffs and supporters get together, a saying that accompanies a jet flyby is "That's the sound of FREEDOM!!!" but now I am more likely to mock that with "That's the sound of FASCISM!!!" Did any F-14 or any other piece of 20th Century military gear get made without some cooperation of corporate industry and government that now are bound up like a double helical strand of DNA? Yeah, I thought so.

It was one thing to be technically enthralled by statistics and specs alone, but it took a more mature mind than my teen years could provide before I understood and felt the wrongness of all this. Knowing how much the national "defense" budget requires is a shocker and is far from the concerns of a young kid who thinks it "cool" that a plane can fire missiles or drop bombs to stunning visual effect. Even from my family, I did not get too firm a message to remember that all those stats mask the real power to destroy life and community, and even environment. To a teenager, it's all a game. After hearing Jerry's sermons for a couple years, and hearing them again as I edited and posted them to the church site, I was poised to make a decision about the models.

July 1, 2005: From Plastic Model to the Plastic Bin

In a kind of visceral disgust at myself for keeping them long past their useful dates, I heaved every one of those models into the big black trash bin in my garage. Most I smashed into the sidewalls of the bin. I felt I had to repent for being so blind. Another layer of concern was the fact that all these plastic models were made of petroloeum—oil—and I just happened to be launching a crusade to remind people the oil age is coming to a close and life will have to change. For my immediate future, I had to concern myself with that giant amount of stuff I had inherited, bought, and otherwise gained in transactions ranging from trades to getting married and bringing Kelli's stuff into the mix. It was all hell. Smashing the models was a spontaneous act but something that was brewing for a while. I've never missed them since.

Simplifying: 2012

Skip ahead to the present day. It's 23 years after the most recent awards at the national contest. It's seven years since the models themselves were destroyed. Kelli and I have moved together five times in those seven years. Every move, we cut back some items, but invariably some get added and the feeling of being on a treadmill persists. In recent months, I've been working with Gerald Iversen, a committed peace activist and practitioner of voluntary simple living. We've been working on podcasts for JEM and for the upcoming one, it was just the two of us (Lee was off for good behavior) and the topic was the power of STUFF over our lives. While I didn't tell this story about models and worldviews during that recording, I have indeed been grappling with STUFF, in part because I do not have total say about the STUFF that occupies the house. It might be like pining for a lost innocence, but before I was married, before I inherited a household of STUFF, and before I had a studio space dedicated to the craft of recording, there was a time when things felt manageable, and moving house might have been a two or three truckload thing because it was really just a bedroom with some drumsets.

The recent move to Escondido did pare back a number of items but it still feels overwhelming, and after a bit of a period of considering our option to get a garage at $50 additional rent, we found that we had still too much stuff and that it warranted that extra space, if only because some things are just dirty items and awkwardly shaped: old bike Kelli doesn't use, lawnmower of no use to us at our previous house with a rockscape now with wood chips and no lawn, washing machines we didn't sell before we moved, etc..

my shipping boxes full of stuff, filling plastic tubs of more such stuff from over the years

I keep personal archive tubs of photo albums, boxes or folders of documents and little things to remember, all classed by year or certain other criteria. Those get combed periodically, but such a thing as the collection of awards shown in the video above has escaped scrutiny. The shipping boxes I was able to bring home from a job a few years ago have been handy for making tidy packages, but at the last house, there was no garage and the closet spaces were filled pretty completely. Shit like this just isn't that important anymore.

Of course, there is nostalgia about things like this. All the awards I won at the contests have enough of a reminder to say what model and what contest, but the rest of the story is in my head. No one would be able to put much of it together except from some journals scattered across this last quarter century. And, like everything else you can read on TAPKAE.com, no one really cares. The awards are not going to matter to anyone. They don't particularly matter to me at a great level now that I've felt drawn to another set of values. I do think of the fun I had doing the craft of it, and there are times when I realize in certain moments when I am drawing upon a kind of skill that was learned in those days. Some of those skills proved to be transferable to other things I've done in life. Maybe I bombed algebra and the critical thinking skills that was supposed to teach me, but the mechanics of shaping things with tools and sandpaper, the thought process of moving from step to step from opening a box to airbrushing and placing decals, and the pride of looking upon my creation is all stuff that sticks and appeared in the myriad experiences since, and will do so here on out.

Well Founded Immortality

All that is my experience and my perspective, but will do no one any good in the physical form of award ribbons and plaques. Curating a collection of models of the machines of war is a pointless exercise when you don't any longer believe in the value of war. Retaining a collection of pointless plastic artifacts made from oil is of no purpose to a person who for years has been critical of the abuses of the oil consuming culture. Retaining the synthetic and chemically-drenched awards that celebrate a proficiency in all of those things is particularly useless. The plaques can't even be burned, what with all the chemicals that go into presswood and the veneers. They can't be too well repurposed except as a flat surface onto which maybe a picture can be mounted, or perhaps turned into a hotplate for the dining room table. Attributing any value to these particular items is not transferrable; children I am committed to not bringing to this world won't care, will they? From here on, my generation and several preceding it will have some 'splain' to do why things are the way they are. The least most of us could do is break ranks with some the minor fetishes we have with STUFF, needless technology, and that unthinking love of the military as the defender of much of anything except the stuff that's killing us.

I will not have attained immortality for the keeping of this stuff, and if anything will aid in the immortality project, it will be some evidence of an enlarged consciousness and heart for those I meet and the things I do.

To quote Gerald Iversen, "It's just STUFF!"

Saturday
Jul142012

Rückkehr nach Deutschland +20

...Continued from yesterday. But the story picks up a year later.

Not content with that Munich parting of the ways a year and a day earlier, I touched down in Germany once again and promptly kissed the airport floor. You read right. I did really kiss the stone tile floor at the Munich airport terminal on July 14th, 1992. The time between was a sandwich filler of, well, sandwich making at Subway, and a lot of filler time surrounding what little my life had been during that time of alienation and estrangement and frustration and even a legal matter that I came out the loser for. During the later part of that yearlong period, two things emerged that saved it from a complete writeoff of a life: the increased activity with Matt Zuniga, my fellow exiled drummer boy/death metal screamer, and the start of a new relationship just two weeks before I was due to fly off to Germany.

Pathetic Life

In the grand scheme of things, I had it good. But since it's a little like a fish not knowing what water is, my pathetic little life of broken hearts, work strife, the old man having a new girlfriend (and then just as quickly losing her) and adjustments after high school seemed to be the stuff of existential angst at times. Getting all the way through high school without a girlfriend does make one prone to panic or worry. Having your imaginary girlfriend send all your letters back after a misunderstanding over $4.20 loan for a sandwich did put me on edge during a period when so many things were new and unfamiliar. Hardly a one of my high school era contacts (from school) were durable personalities that remained in the picture that first year out. I was in an ambivalent period toward church. I began to let work dominate my life, with the sustaining community of church folk being pushed aside for the independence that work seemed to allow. The hours were pushing hard against church hours, and eventually I just stopped going. Meeting Matt at Subway was more of a shock than a salve to me then. But in that weird way, he did prove to be the leading buddy for that era, the guy with whom I spent time. I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel like a step backwards in those early days. Matt and Steve could not be two more different people. What a new thing, pondering that both had their place in my life. Sooner or later though, there has to be someone to help a guy discover porn!

With my return to Germany being about the only thing of any meaning to me that year, everything was just a hurdle or a pothole or other obstacle it seemed. It felt like I'd die if I didn't get back to Germany to see a friend. Maybe I invested too heavily that way, and maybe it would be a miserable failure or who knows what. But the trip was all that mattered. I had hardly any plan for how to live a meaningful life after it though. The late breaking developments with Melissa changed that — in my journal from July 13, 1992, I asked why that day had the extraordinary ability to make people sad (last year leaving Steve and this year leaving Melissa). But prior to starting up with Melissa, there was some hope of doing more exiled drumming with Matt, and a semester to return to at school.

(All you people should be happy that I'm telling you what a hard time I was having. That has been a longer thread in my life anyway, always having some existential discontent at work. I tell you this because if you were offered my sappy ass journals from the first months with Melissa — well, let me not even dwell there. I cringe at it. I'm a bit stunned by how fast my fretting about getting to Germany turned to the most saccharine and sappy fluff. Girls!)

The Teutonic Toil Trade-off

I'd also have to look for work. Having gotten fired from Subway in April, I guess I asked around for work for a little while, but probably didn't expect much, knowing that I'd be leaving soon and I'd be in an odd place to either explain that yes I was interested in the job but would need to leave for the summer. Or it would be a deal breaker to stay quiet and then make an announcement that I was leaving. More awkward still would be any request that my job be held while I was gone. At less than six weeks prior to takeoff, I pretty much gave up looking until my return in August. In June, local drummer Craig Zarkos was the first ever to ask me to be his drum tech, though his work involved trips to Los Angeles. I turned him down because I had other plans for the summer, and why the hell would I want to be a drum tech? The coming job search was gleefully delayed until my return to my default San Diego life, but even upon my return, it took most of four months to land a gig — at fucking Jackin' The Box. I do have to say though that by that time — December 18, 1992 — I was having my first real existential depression and suicidal ideation. Even getting the gig at JIB was cause to start to see life a little differently. It did just enough of that before the rather unfortunate e. coli scare nearly shut them down, causing dudes like me to get put "on call" for a month or so while all that got ironed out. Of course, I did not get called. Skeleton crew was good enough for them.

The miracle of getting to Germany was made all the more poignant because of the timing of the purchase of my flight ticket. I bought that on April 7, 1992 for something like $960 or so, but then was fired from Subway just under one week later on the 12th. When faced with a coincidence like that, the only thing to do is to take a breath and proclaim that Subway served its purpose. After that initial and financially bruising commitment to the trip, the next thing to do was to get a new camera that I would not be troubled by, and that would be automatically advancing and which would not let me do something so stupid as to rewind my film as I shot it! Maybe I had forgotten how hot it was the year before, and maybe I had no idea how hot it would be this summer, particularly since this trip would be nearly three times as long. Having not worn shorts for about seven years, I did not entertain the idea. Not long after getting there, it would become pretty apparent that my apparel was appallingly antithetical to the arduously antagonistic temperatures. I finally broke one day and some shorts were offered to me before the bunch of us headed down to the Alz river not far from Steve's house. Aside from all that, I was amply prepared to enjoy my time.

Fly Day

I had spent much of the Sunday before my flight with Melissa, and for part of the day, with Matt in a few hours of Rhythmic Catharsis jamming. I had this habit of making a note of how many hours Melissa and I spent each time we got together. This quantification didn't serve any real purpose except to make me a slave to stuff that never should have been. I guess it did have some use to a horny 18 year old guy who frankly got a little anxious about time slipping away outside of any relationship. Nonetheless, the record shows that on July 12, 1992, we spent 13 hours together. Understandable, considering it would be the last we'd see of each other for nearly six weeks. She had her mom bring her down for a special final send off that was documented as lasting 20 minutes on the day, just before I finally got in the car with my old man and drove off to Los Angeles. He had a few errands to run while in LA and my flight was not set to leave until 7:40pm and apparently it left an hour and a half later. We left sometime around noon, I guess.

I was impressed by the late setting of the sun in Europe. After all, the latitude is higher there and the summer daylight was just past its solstice peak. Getting to Munich at 9pm was still partially lit up. I was met by Steve, brother Christoph, their friend Werner, and most surprisingly, Steve's new girlfriend Ina. This whole girl thing threw us both off, compared to the experience of 1991. I think he'd gone out with her for a while but of course for me, Melissa was just a two week experience for me. Shelby, worth a mention because she was settling in a a friend after we made up following the nightmarish experience of her sending my letters back to me by USPS, was nowhere near the figure that she was the year before. While Steve and I have never been more than buddies who had some far-reaching conversations, of course, having girlfriends does sort of change the dynamic, and I think I must have felt something of a loss that after all those 52 weeks, things would not just be he and I. Of course, I did anticipate that I'd be immersed in his life among friends for half the trip or so, and then we'd go out for a two week road trip that was just the two of us. I don't recall having raised the issue. It would have only been stressful. 

Once I landed and kissed the airport floor, the whole crew of us somehow got to an outdoor carnival kind of event, probably in Waldkraiburg where Ina lived. I might have enjoyed it more if I were rested. Eventually we cut that short and were on our way to the Rau haus in Garching a. d. Alz.

My journal entry from the travel day (spanning perhaps more than 15 hours) was surprisingly short for such a momentous time, and also considering how long I was on the flights from Los Angeles to Geneva, then on to Zurich, and finally to Munich. In a lot of ways it was a total throwaway entry but there is a note to myself to refer to a microcassette tape that I anticipated would be my journal for the trip. I doubt I got more than a couple nights into that project before it lost its appeal. I think I still have the tape but no machine. I wonder what that kid would say to me if I were to play it now? I do still recall sitting in the Rau living room that first night, up until midnight or afterward, jet lagged and tired, but so bleepin' happy to be on German soil again.


View Larger Map

Friday
Jul132012

Auf Wiedersehn, Deutschland +21

Since about 2009, I've written a lot about what happened "twenty years ago‚" maybe to preserve memory or to finally take advantage of the richness of expression that the web allows. Today I'd like to push past that some. I'd like to tell about an experience 21 years ago. I sort of dropped the ball last summer by not reporting on my first trip to Europe. I was busy and of course, a trip of that sort is too tall a tale to tell in one post, or even a few.

I can't think of a time when a male friend ever evoked this feeling in me upon parting ways. Had I ever cried at such a time? Oh, I recall the summer of 1985 when my 5th-6th grade school pal Michael Lane moved to Porterville, CA (a place I first drove to only last year on Thanksgiving Day) after we got free of Longfellow Elementary. I missed the toilet jokes and playing with Transformers and whatever else, even a fondness for Garfield the cat. I do remember moping around when Michael was gone. I was about to enter 7th grade, with the sense of unfamiliarity that that could bring, even as I anticipated many of my peers there would be people I already knew from my time at Hawthorne elementary from K-4.

The lineup shot of four of us goofing off the day before graduationThe day before graduation: Trudi (exchange student from Germany, my prom date and Shelby's friend at school); Shelby; Steve; and me.

1991 Personal Zeitgeist

Years later—this time in 1991 after the next six year block of institutional brainwashing—I stood at a train station in Munich, Germany and had several months' experience come to a rather emotional close. This time, just weeks after graduating from high school, the future did indeed seem wide open again, and maybe too wide. What would fill the gap? Who was I in this new context? Was this the end of things? I didn't have any idea about a life after high school. I was only focused enough to anticipate the summer ahead with an incredibly twitterpated crush on my non-girlfriend girl-friend Shelby Duncan. She was due to return from her trip to Russia one week after this day that I am about to recall for you. And my heart was about to explode out of my chest all that time she was gone. But all that, as all you TAPKAE.com readers no doubt already know, was a rather futile form of masochism that I subjected myself to for some years.

Steve at the last dinner before graduation and his departure from San Diego

As the saying goes, it's better to have a bird in hand than two in the bush. On this day 21 years ago, that was really the case, though agonizingly so. The Shelby thing was already in decline by the end of high school. Most of the script was written by about a year or so before when it was made "clear" to me that she'd never really be interested in me, at least that way. Things had evolved somewhat, but never enough to really turn things around. But that didn't stop me from going to Europe and etching the various bits of lovestruck grafitti into park benches, trees, and even Alpine snow banks. I didn't let that history dissuade me from my imagination-run-amok. With Shelby, I had two birds in the bush.

With my German friend Stephan (Steve) Rau, I sort of had my bird in hand. Only it wasn't a literal "in hand" because we were just good pals in that second semester of my senior year. We had met in the first days of that special year, placed as we were in the Government/Economics class taught by Harry Steinmetz, the man who I still hold up as the model teacher in a school setting. (His father, Harry Steinmetz, Sr., is in the history books and was clearly an influence on the man I studied under on three occasions in high school and years later at Mesa College.) In that class Steve and I were in contact and had gotten to find some common interests and could enjoy having some lunch together in the courtyard with some others. But it wasn't until January when we finally spent any time outside of school. There was something to that. He did live about six miles away, which, when you consider the geography of San Diego from my house to his host family's place, was a bit of a challenge on a bike. Eventually, the spirit of carpe diem seized me and we went out to see one of the laser light shows at the Fleet IMAX theater in Balboa Park. It's amazing how fast a semester goes, and there it was, gone. I started to feel a bit like I could be a better host to show him a bit of my town.

Like Father, Like Son. Sort of.

In another universe, and for many years prior to senior year, my old man had regaled me with tales of his first trip to Europe—when he was 17 and fresh out of high school in 1963. Back in my own life, I had taken two years of German language classes in 10th and 11th grade. A lot of my interest in language was sparked that summer of 1988 just before entering 10th grade. I excelled at German in the controlled conditions of the classroom, and knowing something of German (the mother tongue from which English arose) helped my English understanding. For those couple years, I read up or otherwise was intrigued by German culture and history. Because those years were still in the Cold War era, there was still an East and West Germany. The old man, reading properly that I was interested in this of my own accord, fed my enthusiasm with trips to one or two of the German theme villages in Southern California. And then it started... he started suggesting that I could go to Europe after I graduated high school. After all, I had the money now. And then when he realized Steve and I were getting to be buddies, he stepped it up. I wasn't that interested in going to Europe. I mean, that money was for something else. A car maybe? More cowbells to complete my drum kit?

I rejected it at first. Not because I didn't think it neat to have a new buddy. Not long after the laser show, we found ourselves doing some weekend trips to local sights (including one day trip including Shelby that lived on for years later), but one day in February I stayed over at his host family's place, watching Monty Python movies (Life of Bryan, Meaning of Life) and probably listening to a lot of music, and most importantly, having a talk that really set the tone for a quality of relationship that I think we both were stunned by. Some conversations just put new marker pins on the map of life. This was one of those. But it still didn't really make me wish to go to Europe that summer.

My bank book with the deposit record of checks from my mom up until the trip in 1991.My bank book with the record of deposits leading up to the trip.

By April, the flow of events had brought Steve and I into more regular time spent together and getting to know each other, and the nudging persisted until finally I bought the plane ticket and started to anticipate the trip. Back then it was a simple thing to anticipate, and of course as things developed with my new friendship, the emotional investment in it developed too. Oddly, it was not a "gift" from him to me. At least not out of his pocket. You see, this is where the family stuff has to sour the story. Long story short, that $3700 in the bank was "mine" in an account bearing my name but that was not able to be drawn from until my 18th birthday in October 1991. What didn't really become clear until many years later was exactly how crookedly how that money came to have my name on it.

The Trip

Finally, graduation time came and the glory days of senior year were turning into history. The time we had together in San Diego was winding down and then finally ran out. Steve's father Gerhard flew in to watch the graduation in person and to have dinner with us the night before. Shortly afterward they took off to do a couple weeks of touring in the Southwestern areas. My travel plans were to leave on June 27 and to return on July 13th. But the trip would be essentially two experiences: the tour with the old man and at the end of it all, the four days at Steve's place in Garching an der Alz, a town in the southeast of what was then West Germany. It is about 60 miles from Munich.

The trip with the old man was primarily a tour of parts of Switzerland, including a couple days in Geneva (my first jet lag), a couple in Zermatt at the base of the Matterhorn, and a few other places that echoed his 1963 trip. The tour took us through miniscule corners of Italy, France (in the shadow of Mont Blanc), and a short half day pass through Innsbruck, Austria. By those little detours can I say that I've been to those countries, but I can't really say I've seen France or Italy or even much of Austria. By far, the feature attraction for me was getting to Garching and seeing what Steve's world was like. Of course, my four days there would pale in comparison to his school year in San Diego. We'd do what we could. The old man, my driver and tour manager to that point, stayed one night in Garching (where he regaled everyone with his tales from his 1963 trip and another to Berlin in 1989-90 just as the Berlin Wall was coming down) then went out and amused himself for a few days and left me and Steve to our youthful pursuits. We'd rendezvous in Munich on the 12th and fly home early on the 13th.

Since Steve had not been seen there in about ten months, there was plenty of social life for him to get back into. Family to reconnect with and games to play. Friends to see, places to go. Errands to run in towns like Muhldorf, Altoetting, Neuotting, and Burghausen. It gave an easy opportunity to bring me along to some of it. I had my first 35mm camera with me but knew nothing about it. I wish I had because then I wouldn't have unintentionally rewound the film after every shot. I went to one photo developer in Garching and found to my horror that most of my pictures while there were wasted! In some cases, Steve and I drove back to locations and shot some more, and others were just lost. The journal I kept each day told something of the story but doesn't age well, being filled with so many of the little in jokes and comic references that were the currency of the banter between Steve and I at the time, but has since lost its charm for me, and is therefore hard to read without cringing.

Drinking age there is 16 so for this 17 year old, I wasn't out of the loop when it came time to hang out and shoot pool, or to go to dinner with Steve and his father and brother Christoph. Christoph himself was preparing to go to the US for an exchange year in Utah, so he was inquisitive about the USA. We all liked music and were talking about it and even took an hour or two and jammed some—Steve on piano, Christoph on sax, and me on whatever I could find. I think my drumset was a music stand and coffee can or something. (When in town, we hit music stores as often as possible. I was in search of Jethro Tull bootlegs.) Their place was a generously sized house on a lot that seemed chateau like, and that extended some way back into the woods and that had a river (the Alz) just down an embankment. There was farmland everwhere, broken up by the forests that had not yet been cleared. It was a bit tedious a landscape but beautiful nonetheless because it was still respected and towns were not the anchors of sprawl that we expect here.

It was hot, hot, hot, and on top of that, it was humid. Being so far inland was a new thing for me, and I guess I never expected Europe to be so hot. My journal reflects that we were just trying to stay cool and relaxed unless there was somewhere to go. We biked down to the river and hung out in the water, but it would be a year before I would enter that river in shorts. Nope, my years-long exclusive pants-wearing personal habit would not be broken at home. I had to go to Germany in 1992 to find the heat so miserable that I donned shorts for the first time in seven years, and was subjected to ridicule for it! Those hot times made for a nice outdoor grilling experience. The food was always good, and I was able perhaps for the first time to eat a diet of "real" food. You know, full power butter and cream; fresh fruit and old world cheeses, meats, breads, and other delicacies. And Nutella! I ate and ate and ate like there was no tomorrow because it was like it was the first time I was really eating. The beers and brats of course were delightful on those hot days. I'd barely had any beer before getting to Germany so I had little reference, but there I learned to enjoy a good Pilsner as part of a meal.

Trains

Four days isn't long to take in and try to wrap up a friendship that developed over nearly a year. The time in Germany was spent doing a lot of things that were new and exciting and didn't really leave us the chance to talk at length like we had in the states. Maybe we didn't need to. Or maybe it was too hard to face the facts. Who knew when or if we'd see each other again? Finally the day came when Steve and I were off to Munich on the train. It would be the last half day to spend together. He had to get back and I had to fly home the next morning. The powerful emotions of the day were hard to push away, and it was clear that July 12th was a day when we both fought back the salties. A day of quiet as the morning breakfast goes about in near silence except for the goodbyes and deep thanks I had to say to Gerhard and the brothers' grandfather Heinrich, a 90 year old gentleman who spoke little and with whom I could barely communicate except through gestures and smiles. Christoph must have been in school still or had other business so Steve and I had to brave it alone and make the most of a day that made us both sore. Maybe this was the end of this trip, but I was starting to feel drawn to the idea of coming over again next year.

The train ride was mostly silent and awkward. I think I dozed off and was found with a bit of that loose jaw drool starting when I jumped to and caught Steve snickering some. We got to Munich, a mighty city of stone and people, of art and commerce, of ideas and history. And of music stores. We hit one giant store in the Viktualienmarkt where I hunted for some more Tull and Fairport Convention. We had to rendezvous with the old man on arrival so I could offload my travel bags at his hotel room, but I seem to remember being alone with Steve after that, getting lunch, sitting at a cafe, and sort of trying not to lock eyes because, well, that would make us all sappy.

nasty letter from the old man in the early days of my 3rd period with mom. he likes to try to remind me of the good old days and things he did for me, including the first europe trip that she paid for only by his manipulations of the law.Enlarge to read the manipulative language my old man uses to justify some nasty behavior. He loves to cite this train station experience as his handiwork and successful parenting.

The big moment eventually came about mid afternoon. We three were at the train station, and for probably half an hour before the train left, there was hardly a word passing between Steve and me. Getting out onto the waiting area near the train stop pushed all the salt water in me to just behind my eyelids. The old man, no doubt beaming in pride at the results of this rather carefully orchestrated idea that spanned many years of planning and arm-twisting, waited at a bit of a distance. He saw it all. Steve and I finally had to do that last handshake, that last hug and a muttered message of my intent to try to come back the next year, and his final exit onto the train. That's when the flood of emotion washed over me. This clearly was no Michael Lane moving to Porterville. Porterville, even at 300 miles from home, felt close, as if a day trip would suffice to see a distant friend. Even without knowing the kinds of dirty tricks that resulted in the money for this trip, it seemed a huge task to raise new money for a second trip and to plan the trip for next year. I had no idea how that would go. With no job and only about half as much money, it was a dream.

The face of a friend in the window of a train car moving the other direction is indeed rather like the movies make it out to be. I was dazed. It was small comfort to be milling around in Munich with my old man for the rest of the day. I might as well jump on a plane and go home to my imaginary girlfriend Shelby and pretend this never happened. But that flight would come soon enough even though it would be an agonizing week of suspense and heart acrobatics for me while waiting for Shelby to come home to San Diego after her sojourn in Russia during the collapse of the Soviet Union. Sure, I had a little something to look forward to: I'd have school to go to in the fall, starting classes at Mesa College, but my heart was with Shelby and Steve. And, as said above, I realized Shelby was a long shot and that things could very well not work out no matter how far my heart would leap out of my chest. So that left me with that feeling surrounding the knowledge that really Steve was the biggest loss since he'd been the biggest gain up till now. I was anticipating the long distance phone bill and the awkwardly scheduled talks we'd have, spanning eight time zones. I was also anticipating passing music back and forth with (get this...) cassette tapes. Before leaving Munich, I'd bought a couple packages of tapes at what was then a very satisfactory exchange rate of 1.78DM : 1USD.

Afterward: Yeah, Whatever

It was hot that day. Humid, and the clouds were building for a storm. Me and the old man did some walking around town and took in some lunch and a tasty Lowenbrau on the Hofgarten, the giant area where the Oktoberfests are held in the Bavarian capitol. Eventually we had to settle in for the night. The day ahead was one of travel from early in the German morning into late in the San Diego evening. Because I was not part of the original reservation at his hotel, and because he's a wily fellow, the hotel staff did not recognize me yet seemed quite interested in my status there. Steve and I had gone in earlier to drop my bags and were looked past as "assistants." I got in at night okay.

Sometime in the middle of the night I was woken by the most insane thunderstorm I'd ever experienced. Outrageously loud and bright. It seemed like it was directly overhead. The dense layout of the old city, and the stone construction of the buildings all led to it being explosive sounding. It was nearly scary. It kept the trip from ending on anything like a normal note, if that was possible. I probably lost some sleep. The next morning, we had to escape the hotel. I grabbed my things and did a dash past the woman at the counter who shouted out at me, trying to get me to come back, or at least to find out what my room number was. We just raced past her and out to the train station, bound for the airport.

To be continued in 1992...

Monday
Jul092012

The Cover Letter I've Always Wanted to Write

My old man and I when I was about seven.Me and the old man, c. 1981

The Making of a Know it All

When I was young, maybe in about 1981 or so, my old man bought a book for me called "The Volume Library." I think it was a rare time when a traveling salesman got an audience at the doorstep of my house. The book was a enormous blue volume of something like 3000 pages and the name in gold text embossed on the cover and binding. For all I knew at the tender age of seven or eight, everything there was to know was in there. It had a good range of topics that were presented encyclopedia style but divided into major groups of topics. It had some cool clear pages with layered images where those would do good, like for anatomical modeling. I never finished reading it but there were some things that attracted a fascination that persisted even after the book faded from novelty status. There were things that I kept reading over and over, or pictures that drew me back.

I haven't seen the book in years, at least since 1996 when I left that house at 22 and in a panic had to leave a lot of stuff behind back at dear ol' dad's place.

The WWW as Liberal Studies

These days, the Web is the place where I direct my curiosity, and it is usually richly rewarded. Wikipedia is the most clear heir to The Volume Library, at least in terms of my ability to go to one place and get at least an introduction to a topic, that will launch me in myriad directions. These days, the world becomes a very big place with the use of hyperlinks drawing me every which way, something that the would leave The Volume Library green with envy. In a period during about 2007-2009, I was fond of hitting the random article button on Wikipedia and getting lost for a few hours, perhaps a few nights a week. While I had my favorite kinds of topics to pursue, the rolling dice method got me out of my comfort zone, and I hit enough articles that they couldn't ALL be the worst ones on Wikipedia. I even edited a few here and there.

The studio door at Hog Heaven in 2005, just hours before it was demolished. The Magnificent Meatsticks sticker remained but I had to take down the two Richard Meltzer San Diego Reader reviews that were hung below it.The studio door at Hog Heaven in 2005, just hours before it was demolished. The Magnificent Meatsticks sticker remained but I had to take down the two Richard Meltzer San Diego Reader reviews that were hung below it.

Aside from the insane options that the web offers me solely as a reader, of course the thing that sucks me in is that it is all a two-way street where not only am I consumer but I can be a producer too. And this year marks ten years that I've put my self into the web, making it a place that isn't just "out there" but "in here" too. I was 28 when I got my first website bearing my identity exclusively (this site), and it was a year and a half before that when I was dabbling in such things as mp3.com, the first place my music appeared digitally. (And, interestingly enough, my most throwaway "musical" effort, The Magnificent Meatsticks, was given a higher profile because of mp3.com and some bold move to curry favor with old school rock critic Richard Meltzer [song NSFW] who actually wrote a favorable review because it wasn't formulaic dinosaur rock.) A quarter of my life has been spent online now.

The Web has been a lot of things to me, but I'd be remiss if I were to not say that it really has been a major classroom for my liberal education. Granted, it's not accredited, but the explosion of available information at all levels, and all aspects of life, has been invaluable in a way that I doubt four years of education could touch. Facts and figures alone are valuable, but because the web is fed not by some gatekeeping body that determines what is real knowledge, and what is not, I can get a feel for what life is like at the granular level in someone's own life. The authenticity is unmatched. As you devoted TAPKAE.com readers no doubt see, I have thrown in my lot with that, and still there is plenty I withhold even after the 3000-, 5000- and more word entries here. There is plenty I don't have time to report on, lest I miss living a life in the first place.

A banner outside my old middle school. See my gallery A banner outside my old middle school. See my gallery "Afternoon In America" for the caption.

Life from Outside the Ivory Towers

I didn't go to college except for several semesters of mostly humanities/arts/GE classes at the local community college. The semesters themselves were usually scattered from one another. In the 1991-1993 period I went continuously but part time; in the return period from 2003 onward, there were four more semesters scattered across three years. In some ways, I feel like I've failed myself. In other ways, living itself is a classroom, and the Web has filled in some of the informational gaps. I have consoled myself with knowing there are autodidacts out there like Frank Zappa who have done just fine without going through the education mill. In Frank's unsparing words,

Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mediocre educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom and go to the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts. Some of you like Pep rallies and plastic robots who tell you what to read.

People in their educated ivory towers will sneer upon sentiments like that, but the view from the outside is just as valid as the view from the inside. When I was 19, 20 in 1993, the cracks in the wall were apparent to me: news reports time and time again were telling us college students were graduating and hoping to win coveted gigs at McDonald's. At the very same time, I was wrestling with an early incarnation of one of my periodic crises of meaning in life. I mean, around that time, I was wrapping up a fourth semester at Mesa College (taking piano and basic musicianship classes, the two classes remaining after I dropped the philosophy class early on), during which I barely spent time at my job at Jack In The Box, due to the crisis of e. coli tainted meat that winter of 1993. I had barely started the job in late December 1992 during my first period of depression and suicidal ideation, only to be laid off for a month or so when the contamination scare hit the news. After returning, I was feeling hopelessly unable to bear with such a job and gracefully bowed out after one troubled week. Ironic, considering it seemed to be what more and more college graduates were left with as a viable option. Oh well. Let them have that shit. My heart led me elsewhere.

I took what I thought would be a semester or maybe one year off from Mesa College and then found that ten years later, during another crisis in life, I'd start up again. But let me not get ahead of myself. I've got thousands of more words for you.

Me at my slick drumset, 1993, outside in a concrete parking lot at an office park.Quite possibly taken on the same day as I am narrating in this post. I only recall being to this place once.

The Hero's Call to Adventure, put on Hold

In 1993 there was no World Wide Web. Not for me at least. That was the domain of the geeks and engineers with pocket protectors in the world I just checked out of. It'd be another two years before I saw the first email address in print. That summer, I was out with Matt Zuniga, doing some drumming and screaming out in a parking garage in Kearny Mesa. It was a hot June day about a month after my semester ended. I just got a job at Subway, which for some reason, I felt far more at ease with than at Jack In The Box. I don't know why that is, but it was so, even after the drama at another store one year before. I was having the first itches to do something that felt self-determined. I didn't know what. I thought of geographic moves but I couldn't determine where I'd like to go. I thought of stepping up the kinds of things we did as Rhythmic Catharsis but was aware that Matt thought all we did was silly and just a way to blow off steam. I thought of a few things. But my kryptonite stopped me.

It's a cloud I live under. Fighting back the feelings of futility and the depression that usually accompanies it is hard, and is breaking through it harder still. The latter happens at times and sustains itself for a while. And then something changes and the parted waters of futility come crashing back at me, and I get swept up in it all for a while, then get somehow dropped on another shore in life. In more recent years, I've accepted that there are spiritual growth lessons involved in all this and usually see the sense to it in hindsight, particularly if I was able to extract a kernel of lesson material in the midst of the chaos.

I spent my early online years not adding much but noise and dissonance to the Web commons. If I could, I'd erase nearly everything from 2000-2003. Of course, Google has its mitts on it and all are free to read it if one knows all the aliases I used during those years. I am willing to own it. In 2004, realizing self-criticism was perhaps more called for than criticism of others in certain real and virtual social circles where I operated, I turned more inward and backed out of most of the online boards and social forums where I had earned a name as a troll — or worse. At the same time, emerging from the nearly deadly depression of 2003, the world was shown anew to me in such a way that enlarged me again, putting my problems in a larger context that had first been shocking and disorienting, but then later paved the way for further development.

Route 66 Gas stationOne of several shots I took during the EONSNOW era of 2005, showing "independent" gas stations that appeared where name brand locations were closing down. All the names had some kind of nostalgic quality to them, evoking the good old days of automotive freedom, etc.

When I heard about peak oil in 2004, it was still a pretty esoteric, out of the way means of understanding the world's dilemmas, and one that few gravitated toward. Less than the particulars of how much oil is or isn't available, the reading I did brought me to grips with the big questions of ultimate meaning in life, but first by mercilessly promising to remove the comfortable life I anticipated I'd lead as a citizen of the empire. It all appeared on my radar in the same season as I got married at the age of 30. In fact, on the altar that special day, I had in my mind that the future could not possibly be what everyone was telling me it would be. Peak oil, which I still believe to be a valid shaper of macroeconomic reality, is something that forced me to see myself differently, relative to the world. It was a good bit of humble pie to munch upon prior to wedding day. It disabused me of certain expectations from married life and got me on a firmer ground of reality. In that way, the debate of whether peak oil is real or not is immaterial to me.

Kelli and I leaving the altarIt is accomplished!

The year or so after the wedding was given to a lot of reading on the topic, several blogs that showed the emerging consciousness I was breaking into, and then for a while, doing some film showings to share what I had learned. A site I launched, EONSNOW.org (long since deleted), was an intersection of those interests with my ability to do websites. I was able to ape other people's words and sentiments, but the inner work was not done yet. I knew the topics well enough but they were in my head, and nowhere else. Eventually, in early 2006 I dropped out of all the EONSNOW stuff and found that another group was able to take me deeper into those concerns, and with a kind of language that took some learning but that did a better of job of showing how deeply rooted our modern dilemma is. I'm talking of course of Jubilee Economics Ministries, JEM.

Jubilee Economics Ministries

For a season in mid 2006 I met with Lee Van Ham of JEM and read a book he gave me, The Biblical Jubilee and the Struggle for Life. It was uncompromising in its assessment of how modern economics are rigged against the poor in the Southern Hemisphere, and those "developing" countries outside the Western world. And it was fiercely faithful to the prophetic tradition in the Bible, a tradition that is best epitomized by the life of Jesus. It wasn't just spiritual fluff and it wasn't capitalist propaganda either. It was written by Ross and Gloria Kinsler, lifelong missionaries who saw the reality in Latin America, and who have dedicated their lives to helping the folks in those countries by giving them the theological tools that are needed to resist the neoliberal economics juggernaut that has displaced so many people and upset traditional ways, all so the industrial world can make and sell more stuff. It was really a life changing book, and one in which I saw my own struggle with a landlord father who made decisions for my life that didn't include me. That year, the macro of the world's issues and the micro of my issues were found to be related and in some ways, overlapping significantly. As I've heard it said, "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear." EONSNOW was my own attempt to make sense of this new understanding of things but it was limited in depth and as those types of topics can be rather doom-laden, sometimes it left more shade than light. Masked knowledge does that. Then, feeling like I had little else to add to the discussion, I called Lee in early 2006.

Lee Van Ham unwittingly became a spiritual father figure to me that year and since. Being a retired pastor helped justify calling him that, but I never knew him as a pastor. I did know him as a person who offered a frank and transparent account of his own struggle with the big issues, and more than others who preceded him in my peak oil related wanderings, he was looking for some way to live hopefully in the face of what is a tremendous challenge: living with the realization that this way of life we live is unsustainable and one day not far from now, will be untenable and will ultimately fail. My peak oil explorations suggested that was not far off, and certainly my lifetime will be the transition period. Lee paved the way for me to understand the Bible in a whole new way, with an eye to the economic themes that permeate it. He's been a great interpreter in that way, and he always surprises me at how he can take familiar texts that made no sense, and turn them into something that explains not just the text, but how the world works. Pretty remarkable.

So of course I wanted to be near that. A few years later, upon encountering Fr. Richard Rohr's teachings about fathers and male spirituality, I had the language for how I saw Lee: he was the spiritual father that emerged when my old man's role in my life came to an end, and when he could not lead me where I needed to go, Lee happened onto the scene as if it were a shift change at Jack In The Box. For the years from about 2007-2009, I met with him periodically, emailed, and if there was a JEM event or course, I went. But it was a bit less than in 2006. In late 2009, once I moved to North Park, one mile from his office, I offered to volunteer at the office for four hours a month doing rather mundane stuff so that Lee might have more time to be the visionary at JEM, with a bit less of the boring office work. At least I'd be able to talk in person some and keep the JEM consciousness alive in my life. As we spent some hours together that December, we got to talking media options, and he again asked me if I had ideas for the JEM website.

Pod-What???

It's always hard being diplomatic in those circumstances. I had sort of avoided talking about it thus far because I knew that it was done by Kyle, a volunteer, in earnest, but that Kyle was not really a web guy. And since everyone is a volunteer, I just accepted it was what it was, and maybe that's all they wanted it to be. The ante was upped however in early 2010 because a disappointing rejection letter arrived that announced that there'd be no funding for a DVD project that Lee was interested in putting together. Amid a flurry of brainstormed options, I suggested this thing called podcasting. I knew enough to describe it, but that was all. It seemed Lee had ever unfolding ideas that grew and grew and took explanation. He was a pastor, someone who did a lot of public speaking for inspiration and persuasion. Podcasting was something that I, as an erstwhile studio operator, was able to make happen so that his distinct voice and passion would register as it was meant to be heard. I didn't know about the web part of podcasting aside from a basic test I had done a few years before, but that would follow. We could come up with a plan for delivering sustained content, right?

Lee had never heard of it. When I tell the story, I usually mention that he said something like "pod-WHAT?" It's not much of an exaggeration. I explained it would take a commitment because of the episodic nature of the format. We drafted a list of how we might fill 15 or so episodes and decided there would be stuff to talk about for a while to come.

Lee and Kyle, being older fellows in their 60s then (and Lee in his early 70s now), were not natively immersed in this kind of stuff, so I found myself having to translate a language I was barely able to learn as I went. I think I confused them both more than I should have. As I produced a demo of the show, it became apparent that the web structure that JEM would need was far beyond the plain HTML site Kyle had curated for some years. So I got drawn into that. I first tried to get the XML feed happening there then thought it easier to redo the entire site in Wordpress. I started the transfer and then heard about Squarespace. And, since the idea was for me to turn it back over to them, it made more sense. Squarespace's interface is simpler and the site maintenance was taken care of since it is a paid service. I was burning out on Wordpress for my own site and welcomed the simple approach of Squarespace, knowing the guys would prefer such a straightforward platform. When the podcast had three episodes recorded and edited, I finally got the feed to be accepted at iTunes on the first try using the default Squarespace feed, and was relieved in a huge way. Previous submissions using a small XML authoring program were not accepted at iTunes even after five tries. So about two years ago now, we were all babes in the woods. Lee and I did podcasts together for four real episodes, and then detoured for a one off video episode giving a progress report on the new web developments. Then we got into interviewing guests. As of this writing, we're 27 episodes strong.

Media Not Just About Me

That same summer, I was fresh out of my male initiation experience in Arizona and at that life changing week, I found myself talking to another Lee, closer to my age, who was a great conversation partner in my struggle with digital media and the techno-treadmill. At the time, I had barely started the podcasts and sort of saw that I'd be drawn in to more digital life after letting my digital publishing interests fade for a few years. In the mean time, browsers were decaying, and I was enjoying nearly a year of being the facilitator of the young adults group at church. I was often heard to celebrate the in-person nature of that group, and was dismissive of social media. I was reporting all this to Lee the younger in the desert, and since then I've never talked to him again by any means. I guess he was meant to be one of those pivot people that you meet once and have your life changed, and that's all there is to it.

What emerged was a feeling that my new online work would be for others. It felt like a logical stage, building upon the stages that came before: self-interested young musician with a CD to sell; disruptive troll; reborn student of life and world issues but with a preachy tone; blogger who faded from all that into a period of self-reflection and some discernment; and then it seemed it was time to take all those experiences and insights back to the web. This time, the purpose would be to build community around a big idea — one that isn't even mine. In some ways, doing the JEM site work and the podcasting is not too different than what I did for my church in Pacific Beach; there too I recorded the messages of a pastor who had very keen world-aware insights, and then used a website to publish the audio. Without the XML feed, it was what I've come to call "proto podcasting" — delivering the same kind of content but without the subscription model.

Screen shot of a recording within Logic ProApple's Logic Pro where I did a lot of podcast episodes.

Doing the work far exceeded the four hours a month I anticipated giving to JEM. In some ways that was cheap of me anyway, considering the gift of life-changing, paradigm-shifting knowledge they had already opened up for me. So I accepted that my time was to be given freely to do what I could to multiply the effort and amplify the message. And then of course, to be doing so many things meant that for the first time in a few years, I was doing web publishing again, at a more elevated profile than before, and that would be resume fodder. Squarespace paved the way for me to be more creative with the visual aspects than I had been for years. It also gave me a platform where I could not break too much of the site at once. But by far the biggest new thing was all the social media options.

Social Media Quicksand

Now, THAT is the time suck. Editing a podcast episode takes too long and my method might be a bit heavy handed, but it comes to an end and the show gets released on time every month. Social media of course knows and respects no boundaries, it seems. And I didn't know anything about it all. I grudgingly entered Facebook for the second time in July 2010 so I could help launch JEM's page. I got on Twitter too. I had no idea about best practices or any of that. Even after so many years of using a blog for these long journals, I didn't really know how to use the format for actually moving messages. Somehow, early on I got onto a different track and only when I started to help JEM did I realize how far my approach diverged from what would be beneficial for a nonprofit org. The social media layer too was something that I feel I entered into without a clue, and sometimes, like today, feel that I still have no clue, if I am to gauge by the interaction I get on pages I manage. (I know there's probably some Human Resources person reading this bit of self-sabotage as they try to disqualify me, ready to toss my resume in the e-trash. Do it if you must. I'm self-sabotaging for a purpose anyway. I'm weeding you out just like you weed me out. I'm preemptively slamming the doors shut that I have no business walking through in the first place. More later.)

Kyrptonite

Here's where the kryptonite comes in again. I have done so many hours of volunteer work and reached into so many aspects of webmastering I never thought I'd encounter. But when it comes time to look for a job, a real job, and one that perhaps would let me finally put to use this kind of interest and that would help develop it, I freeze. I totally freeze in my tracks. When I read an ad on Craigslist and some nameless place wants a "designer" or "coder" I immediately know I am neither. In some ways I am more than both, and in others, less than either. Ditto for "social media expert" or "SEO expert." I've done ALL those things to some degree but not well. Having departed the world of Wordpress for the most part, I've gotten a bit far from that platform which by all appearances, was kind of a step backward away from the most commercially viable web platform out there. I just know that when I used it (and I did for about four years), I was scared out of doing my own web work, not knowing my way around editing the templates, or feeling hopelessly lost in database related work, updates, and actually losing data. In some ways, it was easier to justify driving trucks for a living. When looking for work now, like I have for the last year and one half (as of this week), I can't square with the lists of requests for this skill or that. I hate selling myself, so I sell myself short. Maybe. I've learned a lot of things on my own, but it's not been prep for any job, even the few internships that I've applied to — situations where I'd work for too cheap so I can prove myself worthy of MAYBE working for cheap. It seems like people have to be formed nearly completely for a fucking internship. How the hell?

I hate resumes with a passion. I have several. I've tried chronological resumes. I've tried functional resumes. I've tried the cute online resumes where I plug in my credentials and it looks like a hip designer did it (and yes, I realize that doesn't reflect well on my own skills in the field). But if I am to be somewhat complete, it gets weird and confusing for HR people, I guess. Maybe they work from some formula that doesn't let them parse how a guy with audio/staging experience, senior social service experience, web and audio production experience, and non profit experience could possibly get a job at their place, even if it was straight down the line what they're asking for. I am torn. I can't tell if I'm completely free or boxed in. And I guess if I don't know after all these years, no one else will, either.

What I really need is for my work with JEM and its related entities to pay somehow. It's hard to swing it though; JEM operates on a budget less than $10,000 a year anyway, and everyone is a volunteer. If anything, I'm holding on to a vague idea that someone will take notice of the stuff I've done and somehow change the picture. It's probably a lost cause hoping for that. If anything, the numbers have seen a downward trend during the recessionary years, just like other major orgs have seen. JEM lives according to the graceful delivery of Manna from Heaven each year. So the next hope is that someone who sees what I do will have some paying opportunities on other projects. But it's hard to justify that since I know that all the stuff I have done with JEM is more of a meandering, creative process that has taken hundreds or thousands of hours, and that even when reduced to 10% of that would be more than most people want to pay to get a site launched at so many dollars per hour. Since I never "designed" the JEM web presence as it appears now, it's hard to put a price tag on it when talking to people about their prospective projects. Not being a very good salesperson, and not being a good business person, I have a history of being rather trampled in the projects I've taken on. I hate to admit it, Ms. HR Manager, but I sort of suck at that. 

my name is on the in/out board at work. Big whooptie fucking doo!My name on the sign at AE Scantech while I was the shipping manager.

Dumb Jobs that Take Over Your Life

And that's why I keep looking at "dumb" jobs like driving. Ones that start at one time and end at another and have a record of paying the bills for six, twelve, or even eighteen months at a time. Within a few hours or days of my toil, I get paid. Fair enough. It is a safe feeling after having done always-on-call freelance audio work that paid erratically, or after trying my hand in 2002-2003 at studio recording or web work, none of which ever paid off much more than guitar strings or drum heads! To find a job where I punch the clock is both a breath of fresh air and a kick in the balls. I say that because the kick in the balls part of it means that to hold those jobs, my soul is sucked from me, my generative capacity to be creative put in jeopardy, and my energy usually sapped. During the period at AE Scantech, it was coincident with my breaking up with my church. In the six months or so that I worked there, I did little else at home but for gardening and web surfing. I was out of church all but the first few weeks there and for a couple months afterward. And with that, a lot of social life was lost. AV Concepts before it was dismal, being loaded up with the drama and pain surrounding the forced move from my home, and the fact they laid me off after their scheduling needs clashed with my need to get my head straight in the wake of eviction. The eviction stress on Kelli and I was great, and then she started school about the same time, on a commuting basis that took her away for three days/two nights every week.

Ten potato bags broke open this day in the big truck. What hell.While I could demonstrate mastery over the roads and destinations, it's harder to master a wet potato bag that opens up and dumps its load all over the truck and ground. Ten such bags are harder still to master.

Specialty Produce was better because eventually I was able to strike a balance between the daily work and the spiritual-social life at church and elsewhere, but in the early days, I dreaded the prospect of their ability to command up to 16 hours of my day for about 27 days a month. Somehow, every day after the fourth day there (in January 2008 when I called in sick with a wicked flu and was nearly fired for it) was a miracle. And that it lasted for one week short of three years was stupendously miraculous. And when they did let me go, it was probably again for the matter of scheduling and my need for boundaries so this work doesn't totally suck the life out of me.

Sabbath as Antidote to Jobs That Take Over Your Life

You see, a major lesson that Lee taught me by the words of the Kinslers and by his own example was that of Sabbath. The short form of the lesson is that Sabbath is a resistive measure against endless work, a hedge against being subsumed in the system. Yet for someone like me who tends to dive fairly deeply into things I enjoy for prolonged spells, it's hard to set up the boundaries. It was like that with building plastic models as a teen. Same for drumming which replaced it in high school. And more so when out of school and left to explore music more fully for some years at Hog Heaven. And now it seems that there's been two years or more of going full-tilt at web work, even for the organization that preaches the message of resisting the demands of the work world, the needs of the Market.

Meanwhile, the opposite is true in the "real" work life. I have to have my boundaries so I don't get drawn into the undertow. And I suppose it has cost me a few jobs now. It isn't coincidental those jobs come to an end. I am not putting all my energy into them. At least, not my soul's energy. I shouldn't be there, and after a while that becomes apparent. A favorite book of mine, Parker Palmer's Let Your Life Speak, has gotten a few readings in recent years, and there I learned that I have to admit the failure of these jobs to "stick" reflects the honest fact that I don't belong there, and that while there are lessons offered in each experience, they are all pointers toward something else, even if the process is a subtractive one marked by failure, discontent, hurt, and all that. As Palmer says from his Quaker upbringing and their keen sense of vocational discernment, "way opens and way closes."

These days, my days are spent with a lot of work that would be handsomely rewarded if I were on some company roster somewhere. It's impossible to say where things start and end because really my mind is one scattered mess with my computer screen indicating graphically a fraction of what's on my mind. I'm rather at wit's end now. Sitting down at TAPKAE.com and writing out several thousand words that no one actually reads is somehow my reward for all this. Don't ask. It's about the only thing that seems to get done in a contiguous block most of the time I sit down to do it. But all the rest of the time, I am nearly lost in browser tabs; email windows for my own stuff, JEM's, and sometimes other accounts; maybe recording/editing a podcast episode; tutoring Lee or Gerald (a newcomer to JEM's media world) via chat or Skype, or hammering out long emails or Google Docs in the same manner; maybe trying to take in a podcast or some iTunes music; often trying to keep up with social media stuff, including a number of RSS feeds that help confuse or deliver me to new prospects; and then there's certainly doing JEM web stuff like proofreading and cleaning pasted-in entries of the digital junk that accompanies that process. Oh, and a periodic revamp of the entire site to help integrate things I've learned along the way and want to implement. They're cool enough to let me play with it that way. They realize it's for the good.

Practicing Bleeding on Craigslist

And then I have to try to wedge in the legitmate job search, which to me is rather like practicing bleeding. To even fire up the Craigslist tab is a task I utterly dread. To decide to click on "nonprofit jobs" and search through things I am not qualified for because I have no degree, or that are just obviously insanely high turnover positions like political campaigning — it's depressing, though periodically something seems to fit. But really, do I want to do a part time, socially beneficial job helping seniors for $8 an hour for three hours a day every third day but split into two shifts from 7-8 in the morning and 4-6 at night?

Someone's work van stopped too close to the railroad tracks and the boom came down on it.This is the kind of absent mindedness that can plague a person in an unsatisfying work position. This is not me though.

The next category to be searched is usually "transportation" which is a tad more promising for actual living wage earning, but gets me downright depressed. I mean, really. I've done three jobs that were nearly exclusively defined by driving. I am good at it. I rank well. But let's face it... it is not anywhere near where my real interests or passions lead. I can do these things mechanically but not with any real feeling. I don't belong there. After a while, that becomes evident to all.

Next category, a step down from that, is "customer service" which usually cues me to get up and take a piss and stare at the mirror for a while in disgust of what I see. Who the fuck is it that is about to open up the ads and apply for some fucking barista job? Or for some other equally pointless job? It certainly isn't the Me I feel I am. Maybe some temporary inhabitant of my physical shell, but an alien to my soul. This character should be eradicated. Tarred and feathered, and chased out of town! What a disgrace. The movie Clerks is not just cinema for me.

Following that, I might start to check in the various Craigslist categories that might include web and media work. Believe it or not, this is what I am actually er, trained in, or have some experience in, and when the terms are favorable, actually enjoy. But because there is a gulf between the experience I have and the requirements they list, I cower. I run. It's time for another break, already. Time to get a drink. In Escondido, I hope for a beer to take the edge off. But fresh squeezed lemonade would help. Let me go pick some lemons. Oh...that reminds me, the dog shit needs to be picked up in the front yard. Let me think this out. How would my resume go? Should I write that email? Has Lee or Gerald responded in a state of greater confusion about the chat we had? Oy!!! Anything but looking at Craigslist will do for now. They want a UX/UI expert. They want Wordpress. They want SEO mastery. They want a portfolio. What am I to do? Prepare a resume for a place that I am clearly no fit for? Time to get back to doing what I at least pretend I do well. At least in JEM I'm a big fish and people seem to value it. It just doesn't pay. I don't like it much, but I like it more: picking up dog shit is somehow able to give me a sense of accomplishment.

Other Craigslist categories come to mind, and feeling like I need to relax and open up some, I look at others, including some of the off the wall stuff in the Gigs. I did find a one off audio editing job last week that I was extremely well qualified for, even though I had never done audio book editing. All those years cutting sermons and podcasts got me $212.50 for eight hours' work — $25 an hour which is adequate considering it's simple timeline bushwhacking with no real thought put into it. Woo Hoo! The mind has to wonder what that pay rate would have done for me during those church sermons and podcast programs which are edited even more completely. $212.50. But that's gone with two household bills. Back to that job I passed over in the Transport ads... but can I really see myself as a fucking tow truck driver?

EONSNOW page in 2006EONSNOW homepage, 2006.

The Breadcrumbs of Vocational Discernment

Today I was doing some of the routine chat talk with Lee and Gerald—guys I like and respect for their lifestyles and experience—and I was cracking as I was trying to negotiate redesigning the podcast's programming in the light of Gerald being a new creative partner in it all. But despite his background in public radio, church music and therefore church life, and PR and other things of interest, he still takes a lot of tutoring at new technologies and blogging. His message is impeccable and urgent and excites the part of me that set out to do EONSNOW in 2005, but his delivery will take some work in this new media world. But as I dive more and more into web stuff, I am confronted with a vast insecurity complex — kryptonite again. The more I read about best practices in podcasting, social media, blogging (all the stuff I like most about being online), the more I feel like I miss the mark, and that my own methods have perhaps worked against JEM more than for them. I could be woefully wrong, but that's the feeling. Even direct questions at Facebook do not elicit the answers or the participation. My pact with myself was that this new era of web involvement was to be for building web community has been met with a realization that I don't seem to accomplish that too well. JEM's ideas are not my own ideas. I see myself as a conduit through which Lee's or Gerald's ideas pass. That seemed like a better deal to make than in the days of EONSNOW when my ideas were naive and perhaps a bit vitriolic. In JEM, I do about the same thing as I set out to do with EONSNOW, except the ideas I move are those of others who have about twice as much life experience and authority as I have. And more education.

Magazine cover for school project. Dreadful.A mock magazine cover for an assignment in Quark. One of the insanely dumb things I did while at Art Institute of CA in 2001-2002. Totally worthless.

We Don't Need No Education

But I don't beat myself up about the education thing too much. I'm sure there are plenty of you HR people out there who are trashing my resume because it doesn't reflect my ability to put up with the rat race and hurdle jumping path of the education mills and their methods for teaching me next to worthless shit at considerable expense that will follow me for a decade to come. But let's remember, I didn't hear about peak oil at school. I didn't learn about the global economic picture's grave injustices from school. Nearly all my current web publishing knowledge did not come from a school (and the stuff that I did pay $6,600 for was essentially worthless even as it was flowing from the instructors' mouths). I did not learn how to befriend a homebound senior citizen at school. I did not learn how to podcast at school. I did not learn how to cook for my wife at school. I did not learn how to appreciate the Easter tree near Julian, CA in school. And I sure as fuck don't miss the debt that I would have racked up at school. I don't miss it in the same way that I don't miss ever making a car payment in my life.

The irony is, even to this day, I have a tenth grade worksheet that indicates I did learn about population dieoff back in the spring of 1989 at the education mill at 4899 Doliva Dr. in San Diego. But who was poised to tell me that it would apply not just to bacteria in petrie dishes and bunnies in Australia, and instead to all of humanity and the lifestyle I live? Okay, score one for the education mill, but it was up to me scouring the Web and serendipitously meeting wise people who could explain what it means when humanity finally ate all the sugar in the dish and is bound to dieoff because it's going to drown in its own shit. No class discussion on that one.

Sign for a thanksgiving day race to feed the hungry.A sign that I caption as "burning too many calories to help those who have too few," a form of misguided charity toward those with less.

Why Me, Why Now?

With an awareness like that, it's hard to wake up in the morning and go through the pretty mindless pursuits of going to work, or even looking for work. And it's a mind-scattering thing to have to play that game enough while getting some money from the state, all the while knowing that 99.99% of what I could locate in Craigslist is stuff that I am not called to do at any deep level. I might be an undereducated, polemic-writing, failure of a social media manager, but I wake up in the morning more enlightened than some who have dizzying amounts of education and a full alphabet following their given names. I wake up and often have the question on my mind, "why me? why now?" I live in the awareness that I am a part of the problem too, and that most days, I can't turn off the awareness that I am caught in a lie: either to be part of the system, or to pretend that I am not part of the system, but to work dilligently at exposing it. It's paralyzing, yes. It's a moral quandary deciding to use the tools of the empire to bring the empire to truth. Even Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, wrote in his manifesto, Industrial Society and its Future, that there is no good technology without a dark side. (I didn't learn that in school, see?) It's a tragic bind to realize the computer is both a major part of the problem and a vital part of some solution. Or to realize that rationalizing that is total bullshit too. When you wake up in the morning and know humanity is headed for a brick wall at full speed, it almost doesn't matter what you do, or how loud you wail in Cassandra's shrill tones.

A poster I made in 2004 with iconic image of Dubya saluting like a Nazi with a caption that declares dictatorships are good as long as he's the dictatorSome of Dubya's statements were unusually candid for those who operate the reins of power. In 2004 I thought it was a slam dunk that he'd be beaten. Shows what I know. But this and other posters contributed to the "war effort" against him.

When you are enlightened in such a way, you look at the world's issues with different eyes. There are more educated humans alive today, but less educated humanity. Do you suppose that there is a correlation between the sheer amount of university level education — unlocking the secrets of the world, the planet, the universe, even — and the problem all humanity is faced with today? Was there a time when humanity ever faced extinction, and the biosphere with it? Did such a time ever really happen before we got educated? Not only are the education mills rather dumb pursuits as Frank Zappa said, but it appears that they are outright dangerous, at least without the balancing effect of a deep spirituality that can reconnect what compartmentalized education breaks apart methodically.

Funny, the record shows that a young and cocky, uneducated but insightful wandering preacher 2000 years ago rocked the foundations of history and the course of the world. It wasn't because he was university educated. The irony was that by adopting the religion that bore his name as the state religion, the state ended up imploding upon itself. That fire was too hot to handle, even for the mightiest power the world had known to that point. And so it will be once more. And again. And then again after that. Score one for the uneducated masses who don't know enough to break the world.

The Test Came Before the Lessons

Did the 19 year old Jack In The Box worker bee have this insight in 1993? Not a chance. Did I know what I was hoping to accomplish when I decided my time at Mesa College was spinning my wheels for no discernable reason, and left for a year that became ten? Hell no. Did I know that the abortion my girlfriend had not too long after that fateful decision to leave school had would shape my geo-political perspective that says that having children in the Western/Industrialized world is contributing to the crisis? Of course not. Did I realize that heart-rending night when she and I were hours from breaking off an engagement to be married that I stepped off the bus going to a place I have no business arriving at? I was just working from the hunch in the pit of my stomach. Somehow, by evasive tactics, laziness, fear, loss, or other things, I've arrived where I am. But you see, where I am, what I know, and what I do is about as valid as anyone else's claims to same. Sure, my spell at reading endless Wikipedia entries during 2007-2008 is not a college degree, but it didn't do harm. It's not valid by one measure but is completely valid by another. Education comes in all forms, and I have Fr. Rohr to thank for that teaching, at least in that he was the first to make that thought stick. And, as a blurb on my site's sidebar now says, "we may misunderstand but we do not misexperience." Another tidbit that I'm pretty certain emerged from Rohr's teachings over these last three years was that "something isn't true until you yourself experience it." In September 2003 while I was in a residential therapy center for a week and a half getting my head straight after the single most devastating depression I have had (on the eve of turning 30, and just under one year before I got married), my experience was validated by a really cool therapist who walked me through all that. I still have the Oscar Wilde quote he wrote for me, "Life is the toughest teacher because it gives the test first and the lesson later."

A liberal education is given in all manner of class rooms, board rooms, chat rooms, and even bed rooms. But maybe one thing I look at differently is that eventually that kind of education puts the world back together into a whole, whereas the education mill likes to take things apart and to constantly divide reality. It's not to say that kind of education will permanently damage a person, but it will certainly take some para-scholastic experience to round out the person, and yes, it could easily delay the progress toward a rounded humanity. Life happens just as surely with someone who got their worthless piece of paper as it has to me, but sometimes the mind is shaped in such a way in the education mill that causes resistance to this other equally valid way of learning, or a sense of mistrust of it. And it isn't without consequence; life is not facts and figures alone, and the people who think that it is tend to also be ones motivated to move into positions of influence and power, who shape political, economic, and thought at the macro level.

When I work in the context of JEM, I am able to operate in a space where the large world issues and my own experiences are not dismissed, but looking at them with some responsible attitude is encouraged. I get to be creative and functional in a place where the incomplete and mixed up me is somehow an asset. Having the scattered experience and interests I have has served to make me more qualified in that setting, not less. It isn't that JEM is a pleasure dome I wish not to escape. I pull my hair out some days in the effort to pull rabbits out of hats there. But the work, while not always feeling like it's firing on all cylinders, does not feel pointless like delivering architectural plans a year after I was showing The End of Suburbia and shrieking like Cassandra about all that. I knew I sold myself out getting that job, but I needed something. At least after that job I waited out the temptation to take a job at a car dealership as a parts driver.

Naming and Unmasking the Powers

Indulge me a bit of Walter Wink-inspired thoughts on naming and unmasking the powers. And pardon me as I vent several years of frustration in the workplace. The Human Resources staff professional will be my pinata for the occasion.

So there you are, Madam HR executive in a cute little suit and high heels, bespectacled in cute little fake horn rimmed glasses and sporting that little tiny pony tail or bun with highlighted streaks that you corporate types seem to wear, evaluating whether I am fit for your widget wrangling position on the shop floor. Totally unfit. I'm not what you're looking for. In fact, throw that resume out but be sure to recycle it. Oh? It hit the bin long before I finished that sentence? The email delete button is a wonderful thing? What power you hold with that button! Maybe there's a thousand of me sending resumes in and you're there not only canning me prematurely but also looking to see who among your employees are worthy of being fired because they are looking for other work, and they just happen to have sent their resume into your inbox, unwittingly signing their own pink slip, or at least inviting scrutiny about their loyalty. Is this what all that education has done for the world? Given you the ability to pan hundreds of people from livelihoods without even so much as a polite response or a chance at a human encounter? Given you a place of power to cut people out of jobs while you hang out with your iPhone wielding friends, sipping fucking martinis in the fucking Gaslamp Quarter, ranting about how miserable your life is? Maybe it's because your position is a worthless one to begin with, the kind of makework that makes some people look good while others are sent to the bin according to some formula? Some of you use too many words in your job listings and dismiss people like me before I get the courage up to even try to fill out a resume. Others lead me in with sparsely worded listings that say next to nothing about the job, the compensation, the location, and the industry. It's okay to waste MY time responding to an ad to ferret out that kind of information?

I've seen you in town. I've worked for you already if you've known it or not. I was the the pee-on who delivered architectural plans to the contractors that turned your home in Clairemont into a McMansion. Or that built your new place on the outskirts of Del Mar or in the fire-prone hinterregions of Poway. I'm the guy who delivered the plans for that building you work in. It's an ugly monstrosity of glass and steel that shows no humanity or grace, and no sense of caring about the world around it. Yep. I was part of that too.

Me onstage with classic rock cover band Rockola, for whom I worked for a few years. I was on stage playing a bit of bass as one of the stage gimmicks.Sometimes I got to do this little bit of bass playing on stage with Rockola at Blind Melons club. All the rest of the time, I was side stage and in danger of being trampled by drunken fucks.

I've seen you in town. I've done sound at your pathetic corporate parties where you dance mindlessly to the music that used to be vitally important, socially relevant PROTEST music a generation ago (even the DISCO music that you mock with bullshit costumes stood for someone's liberation a generation ago), and I've seen you all twirling about, drunk and too stupid to exit the clubs at 1:55 in the morning. Some of you probably tried to kiss me then too while I was putting the guitars away, and no one seemed to mind that they were encroaching on my workspace at the mixer, or at the side of the stage. You know...that stuff I did there was work too, and my attention was supposed to be paid toward the performance on STAGE, not to your little song and dance asking for the stupidest shit: Can you hold the sitar or bang on the bongos sitting side stage? No! Could I put some more guitar in the mix? No! You got ten bucks and you want the five piece band to play (and the crew to wait) an extra half hour? Fuck you! It's bad enough we get treated like the fucking Guatemalan maids at these same hotels — or even worse — with a tip like that. I just didn't have my own iPhone and Facebook in 1999 when the parties were getting outrageous in corporate America or else I'd have put up videos or audio myself to show what idiots you and your executive co-workers can be in those situations. Oh, it was all a party, and the money flowed like water toward those parties. I'd presume so because the machine was getting finely tuned by the late 1990s. Corporate profits up, no doubt because the HR department was honed to a fine edge, able to excise all the riff-raff and keen on making the few remaining people simultaneously run faster and harder while looking over their shoulder where the axe was waiting for them too. Then the recession hit and the party was over. Good riddance. But you got to keep your job.

I saw this guy repeatedly while delivering to Gordon Biersch in Mission Valley. Sometimes I had some food to give him. And he was one of the guys who was still among the living.

Oh, I've seen you in town. You're the people who bought the fancy foodie dishes made from the produce I delivered to 101 fancy restaurants, resorts, and hotels in town where I got to enter through the ass-end of the place with grime and food waste and even — wait for it — laborers! I'll bet there were some who struck a deal to work under the table because they were undocumented and you were in need of a bit of margin so you could afford that die-cut embossed menu for tonight's wine list. You're the people who shit $100 bills and throw out half-eaten plates of gourmet food because you can. I can't say for sure how many of those homeless people out there were your own handiwork, but they are certainly the handiwork of the system you belong to. Outside those same restaurants you can be seen making fools of yourself, probably drunk there too, and likely oblivious to the homeless folks that line the streets in the area, and that are expected to kindly step aside and relocate to the outer reaches of East Village so you can go out for a nice night on the town. Maybe one day you'll get to meet them. And I hope it's not just a field trip experience.

And some years ago, when you were a little less drunk at lunch time, and when I used to work at Subway, you were the one who thought I was no one because of the stupid green shirt and hat I wore. I didn't like you then either. It was a gut feeling then. I didn't have a blog to rant on then, but I did control what went into your sandwich. Other far less scrupulous (and possibly disgruntled) people than I now make those same sandwiches. And you don't know what is really in that Taco Bell "meat," do you?

The funny thing is, you get to enter "my office" and essentially set the agenda with some inane antics and plenty of condescension. You come on to MY stages, you eat the food I deliver, you boss me around in MY office at Subway, or Jack In The Fucking Box, or even for Pizza Slut or Dumb, I Know's Pizza. But is the same true for my ability to enter YOUR office and call the shots? Not with that electronic fence you have around it that barricades me at my own computer browser. Not with that veneer of coolly isolated professionalism in shades of corporate blue and gray. Not with the minimum wage earning security guard who thinks he's someone because of the badge and the key to the gated parking lots that surround your ivory towers and your dark satanic malls (sic). Do I get to come in and make a scene in your office? Dance on your desk, let my cock hang out, kiss you in my swirling and oblivious state of drunkenness? Hell no. My office is in the world. Your office is behind closed doors. I don't get to meet you to talk about getting a job. I don't get to have a human exchange to explain myself. You really don't care anyway. Or if you do at a personal level, it's not your job to act on that feeling, professionally. It's a one way thing that gives you HR people some upper hand. For a time, maybe.

Okay, enough snarkasm. Even HR professionals are people too. A bit unaware of how offensive and useless their professional role is, but they're people who have a home and kids to feed. I just hope they wake up and repent for taking those positions and for aiding a corrupt system to ever more corruption.

Still, I've been waiting for the collapse of the corporate model as we have come to know it because the corporate form as we know it has outlasted its usefulness and the antics needed to prop up its validity are increasingly implausible. It has already jumped the shark. No one really likes it anymore except those still enjoying the party, and that number is growing fewer and fewer as the system eats itself alive. No one really faithfully shows up to support it. And an economy based in mutual fear can't last. In JEM or out of it, I learned that it's a model that is doomed to consume itself because of its own success and gluttony. I'd like to sit by and watch, and maybe even give it a shove on its way out of town. It might run a little past the end of my lifetime, or it might finish itself off by the time I get my senior discount at restaurants. I don't know. But be ye warned: the economy is here to serve humanity, not the other way around. And the big structures ALWAYS fail in the end —empires, churches, monarchies, and soon, corporations. As Martin Luther King said, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

The Soul of Work

I could think of myself as too poorly educated to join into the workforce, but I happen to think of myself as too well educated to join in the workforce. Or, let's say, at least a certain kind of workforce. It isn't that manual labor is below me. In some ways, it's far more gratifying than neuroacrobatics. As I said, even picking up dog shit sometimes gives me a bit more of a sense of accomplishment than all sorts of pixel wrangling and syllable splicing and I really dig cooking for friends (a completely separate task from picking up dog shit). Both keep me feeling grounded. It's far more grounded and integrity-filled than a lot of marketing and media work I might persue if I was actually good at this stuff. It's not any of that. It's that when you see what these jobs lead to in a big picture, it's damn hard to want to put energy into it all. More than depression that just brings me down, it makes my heart ache that people still believe in some of these pursuits. I'd gladly work in a bakery for the right reasons rather than being some overeducated fuck doing some kind of smart person's work for the wrong reasons, in a position that might be responsible for digging humanity a bigger hole than the current one. The workplace does not really earn the respect and loyalty of working people now because everyone knows the axe is about to fall any minute. The whole thing is rigged to fail eventually because as one market after another is squeezed like a lemon, eventually everyone will realize they've been had. The funny thing is, it won't matter until the educated, degree holding mostly white people find themselves at the short end of the stick before things will change. It's the people inside the system who are the last to see it for what it is. The rest of us are waiting for it to fall apart and for there to be a time when the entry fee is bearable, and the show is good enough to stay and watch all the way through.

But what do I know? I'm just a college dropout with a chip on my shoulder, right? And you read this entire thing and say, 'is that all?' It's no more a waste of your time than it is for me to fill out those fucking online applications with the psychological profile questions that give me all the choices to answer that suit you but not me. I've applied for enough of those and being forced to answer a question using four disagreeable options is not my cup of tea. What is the point of asking me if I would handle working in a noisy, busy, chaotic, hellish workspace and expecting me to answer the A-D spectrum from "yes, I love this kind of thing and my life is incomplete without it" and "no, I can't hack it"? If I'm applying to your fucking job and I have entered the place as a customer, don't you think I know it's a hellhole of a place to work with asshole customers and round-the-clock noise? Is anyone really made to live under those conditions, or just desperate enough to accept them so they can afford not to sell their children to some rich and smart looking HR manager who has a nice job and can buy such unnecessary items as surplus offspring from poor people made poor by the swift strokes of the pens that other HR managers hold?

Just Send Money

It's not that my attitude is bad. It is realistic. Work is not valued like it should be. The fact is, I give more time and passion to JEM than I gave to any one of the jobs I've had and I don't really get paid but for some new software and a nice share of "attaboys." I can't even make a plausible argument that my state unemployment payment for $1,404 approximates the value I offer to JEM. The sad fact is, as one of my early web design mentors said, "the problem with nonprofits is that they're too nonprofitable." My favorite jobs and duties have been in the nonprofit realm, but never at the places that get the glory. And when you think about what a disgrace it is that JEM flies so far below the radar, that's heartbreaking. I mean, JEM, a tiny nonprofit with a handful of people who care, is not even a speck of dust in the desert. But we show up and soldier on with some vision of how to do economics differently than the system that is going down the toilet now and taking everything with it. You'd think that this world-saving heroic effort would pay better, even if I'm a bit lacking in the real ability to get participation and SEO rankings. Living with a divided mind and no particular income makes it hard to know what foot to put forward: do I totally immerse myself in learning the web tools and services and best practices? Or what?What part of the 40+ hours I put in each week is not valuable somehow so that even my own relatively slim expenses can be met and some left over to squirrel away for a global warming induced rainy day in the mid summer?

So I spend my days with my scattered mind, unsure whether I should either dive into or minimize my JEM work. All the other options seem empty, pointless, backwards. The math works out that if I were only to optimistically reproduce my state income, even 30 people sending in $50 a month would do that, though to take it seriously, I'd need more to accommodate the deductions that would be required. Are there not 30 people out there who think that there's some worth in moving a message like JEM's and who are able and willing to help me get by so I can better answer a call to do meaningful work? One day the state payments are gonna be done, and I'll get into the desperation mode again and take whatever dumb shit emerges. Or maybe there will be some freelance work. But what the fuck does it take to actually cover my ass while doing the thing that comes closest to calling upon my training, my interests, and my experience?

It's five o' clock in the morning. Let me go to be so I can get up at nine and get back to my work. This was all done on "my time." Good thing I set up PayPal for invoicing that editing gig. Now I can put a "donate" button on my site too! This post took me about eleven hours over two days to write and edit this. It's nearly double the length of my previously extravagantly long posts, but obviously it's not without a bit of thought and passion that took these 38 years to accumulate. What's that worth to anyone? Your call. Thanks for reading.

Then again, maybe I could get a job being a roving salesman, selling print copies of Wikipedia as I go?