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Entries in exile (8)

Sunday
Nov272011

Stop Playin' Those Damned Drums!

You know how people talk about the seeds of opportunity packed within a crisis? This is a little like that. But you have to get into my 18 year old's mind to really get this bit of historical narrative. I suppose the word "crisis" is a bit much to describe the upset but there was an interesting opportunity that lurked in the experience and that it's fair to say, changed my life.

The first pic of my return to drumming, fall 1989I started taking drum lessons in the fall of 1983, though only half-willingly. In early 1985 I got a new drum set which was a prize for that effort. And not very long later, I fell out of interest with it all and was off to something that would get me more chicks—building plastic models of cars first, and then developing one of my first acute obsessive fixations on US naval aircraft, with a specialty in jet fighter planes, and ultimately moving to some armor kits. The thing about girls really never crossed my mind, actually. So I indulged the plastic model thing for about four years from 1985-1989 when I rediscovered the drums. I went from a damned quiet hobby that involved some filing and sanding and air compressor work for airbrushing, to the most obscenely loud hobby a 15 year old can engage in! And there was no hiding it from my neighbor, an old timer named Ray Merritt.

Prom dayThe room I played in was immediately adjacent to the driveway he parked his Econoline van in. He sat in that van for hours and hours. It was his mobile clubhouse. I think he had it decked out in some carpeted interior too. A good thing, because back in his house, his ultra-conservative Jehovah's Witness wife Fern ruled the roost. He'd sit out there in the driveway, listening to his radio, having his can of Coors, and blissing out. Oh, he did other work too, around the yard and garage, but this van time is a point of concern to this story.

Since my old man fancied my drumming as nothing more than a hobby (and seemed determined to keep it that way by not lending support to amount to much), there was really never any talk to find an appropriate way to contain the high sound pressure levels of the drums. No talk about how to seriously build anything to do the job. Willy himself was able to bear with it as he did his work or watched TV (he was known for making a ruckus too with his metalworking tools—all the grinders, drills, welding and cutting equipment was his life and he found happiness in industrial work that was pretty loud). But in either of the bedrooms I kept the drums in, both right next to Ray's yard, the most I could do to dampen the sound was to stuff giant thick pads of foam into the window spaces (single pane, wrong stuff for isolation) and to wrap towels around the large louvered windows, and to drape several blankets and comforters over the window. But drums are so loud anyway that no house walls really do much.

Within the first year of my playing, my old man already got sued by an upstairs tenant we rented to, but that was pretty clearly the case of my experimenting one day by setting up in the garage. This guy was whining because he was kept awake in the middle of the day. The old man donated a pair of earplugs, which the tenant found not so funny, and then decided to sue. Ray Merritt himself periodically could be heard at the end of some big cadential cymbal crashes, hollering "Stop playing those DAMNED drums!" Combined, they were the voices that started to change my old man's mind about whether I could play at the house. In 1990, as a 16 year old without a car, I tried the option of taking my kit down to a paid rehearsal facility but that was way more effort than I wanted to engage in. It required paying for the privilege of getting my family to drive me several miles, moving my gear so I could play in an empty room for two hours. It was doomed to failure. I think I've written this story a time or two here...

So by the end of 1991—in fact, this very day twenty years ago now—I was already getting to be a percussive pariah in my own house. And what emerged was almost a Candid Camera style joke played upon me. But as I said above, the crisis of this 18 year old did give way to something that resonates even today in some ways. Enter Matt Zuniga and the unlikely start of my recording artist career. (I'm gonna borrow what I wrote for the Subway, Center of the Universe entry earlier this year. References to work relate to our job at Subway, about equidistant from our houses. I was hired in late August and he in late October.)

One afternoon, October 20th or so, I was at the shop eating my Spicy Italian and this spikey haired, tattooed, earring-, torn jeans-, and Doc Marten wearing guy came in and asked for Steve. He looked a bit older than me, closer to Steve's ripe age of 27. He was actually 20, and was looking for work. Maybe he already had filled out his application. A week later I saw him donning a red Subway shirt and training behind Darius, a huge black dude who looked intimidating but was a pretty cool figure. His name was Matt Zuniga. I didn't know it then but I had just met the guy who helped shape my next several years and who was an unwitting impetus that led to my "recording career." I never would have guessed that his rather grungy looking self and my rather uptight and nerdy self would have interacted. But we found ourselves in our own respective states of exile with regards to family and society, and found that drums led us to help each other out.

It was quite well timed that I would meet him at the end of October. We worked together a couple times and eventually the topic of drums came up. He said he liked drums. And that he didn't have a set. The situation was becoming that my house was drying up as a viable place to play. Having heard about this, Matt promptly said I could set up at his house, and that he could keep them set up, all no problem if I'd go for it and let him play the kid. I was intrigued but really cagey about it. Who was this guy? He dressed like a punk or something. He was kinda unreliable at work. I barely met him a few weeks ago! 

Matt brought the drums over to his studio apartment on the day before Thanksgiving [20 years ago today]. With a lot of concern of my own and some urging from the old man, I wrote up a contract with a detailed list of the equipment and the terms involved if I were to do this. Matt kind of laughed it off but went with my uptight contract idea. He signed it the day after Thanksgiving. While I might have been to his place a time or three before that, this clearly made me interested in getting over there more so I could get the use of my own stuff. His apartment was a rather mediocre place that tended toward mid 70s decor and was made darker still by his inclination to cover the windows with heavy curtains (or maybe that was just to help dampen the drums). The drum arrangement brought us together to kill time and talk music. I found he was into some really extreme music. Grindcore? WTF did I know about that? I was just in my big Tull and Rush period, and at least he gave Tull a try. (He favored the harder stuff from the earlier albums. Anything that smacked of gritty Black Sabbath minor chord stuff, basically.) What we did find was a pretty immediate affinity for Rush. Matt was open about his love of porn so it was almost no time before he and I were hanging out and he decided to put some on while having dinner after work (which would have been about midnight or so). Hanging out with Matt was for a long time akin to eating forbidden fruit. Even working late was odd, so going to his place at midnight and coming home at almost 3 am was truly a new adventure. 

Matt's offer, scary as it was at the time, was just the thing that let me get drums out of my house, but also with access that didn't involve paying for studio space. He did more or less respect my gear, cobbled together as it was. It was his personality that was most jarring. 

The bridge in Mission Valley where DWA was bornOur little arrangement at his grandmother's house worked out for about five weeks before she responded the same way as I was already accustomed to. After that we found ourselves exiled together and in our frustrations, we settled for anything that didn't require payment for studio time. We took our show on the road. And that's no exaggeration. Sometimes we actually did set up roadside. Or in parking lots. Or parking garages (our favorites). The fact that we both wanted to play led us to do some odd stuff as we waited for the other to finish playing for 15 minutes or so at a time. The places we targeted suggested many opportunities for mischief. The random screaming and glass breakage eventually got recorded one day early in 1992 and, even considering how juvenile it all was, it was a fun record of our Sunday's "playing" and blowing off steam. I jokingly called our little project "Drummers With Attitudes" (DWA—yeah, after NWA, the irony was quite intentional that some suburban white guys were so worked up!) I created the first of a series of recordings with Matt that went on for the next year and a half or so, and which got me conditioned to think in terms of recording, which influenced an interest in songwriting along the way.

Alright, crisis was bit strong a word, but when you're used to playing drums "in private" in your bedroom, the thought of not doing so did loom frightfully. And I guess the answers come in the oddest packages. Who knew that such a thing would ultimately lead me to all the things I've done since? Even my JEM podcast work now is pretty much an heir to all this. I still record things and still package and create the supporting notes and information. 

Additional notes on this period (for the gluttonous or masochistic among you) can be found with images in the Sundry Music gallery.

Sunday
May082011

Mother's Day

This year for Mothers Day, I suppose I could entertain thoughts of women who have played mother-like roles in the absence of the relations that were my birthright. Nancy and Sharon come to mind. But this year my own mother's birthday was also on Easter Sunday, and today of course brings it all back to mind whether I like it or not. Across the ebb and flow of the years, we've generally had estranged relations, with a period of about five years off, and maybe one year on. Lately, I've been in another period of unease about the whole thing, this time a bit ahead of schedule. It has been three years since the last attempt crashed and burned.

The fact is, I know my mother has had a rough life before and after I came onto the scene. I know she's torn up by the sordid events she's narrated for me over the years. I know she's done what she thinks is right in the moment. I know we've had our own kinds of heartbreak and suffering at the hands of the same man.

What breaks my heart is that the damage seems so thorough that that message won't ever be made clear to her. Three years ago, the entirety of family collapse was such that I was half joking that it would be a good idea to have a public memorial service to mark the state of affairs. But that sounds a bit bogus. I mean, yes, I do live without support or even contact with people who once constituted family, but I can't pretend completely that they don't actually walk the earth anymore.

Some people have families die in car/plane/boat accidents or acts of genocide and war. Tragic as it is, the finality of that seems to at least take one to a place where it is inarguable as to what has happened. As for my situation, all of these people still walk the earth, breathe the air, and drink the water. Most are 100 miles away, one still in my hometown. Years of estrangement takes its toll. Years of therapy to move on helps get past particular crises but doesn't change the underlying reality that everything is shattered but still so close.

At the moment, I am not the football they used to volley or play games to win and control. I am a free person, except for the ghost that hangs around. In an odd way, this terrible and painful series of experiences has led me to understand both parents in more forgiving ways, and I am wrestling with how to channel that. I am also wrestling with the fact that history tells me that no real good will come of this for myself, but that in being so damned stubborn and persistent, I will be acting not so much in reaction but proaction. It could very well be that this is a dumb thing for me to concern myself with. Lots of people ask me to consider that.

My hero, Jesus, preceded me in understanding how family just doesn't get it when junior grows up and forms a self. 'No prophet is accepted in his hometown, etc.,' 'Who are my mother and brothers and sisters but those who do the will of my Father in heaven?' This has certainly paved the way for me to move toward other figures who offer more life and vitality as I struggle to molt the old skin of my identity as a son/brother/uncle/nephew to all the people who now keep their distance or are so toxic that I can't really be around. Still, the gravitational pull is strong. I know there is precious little that can be fixed; the brokenness is too great. I often feel I am the only one who recognizes it and perhaps has a scrap of a clue what to do about it. Everyone else is locked up tight, frozen at the soul level. I've done a range of things, followed a few paths to try to make sense of all this and at least set it aside so I could progress as myself.

The men's work that I have done primarily is built on one goal: to help men realize their beloved sonship of God. (No slight to the ladies out there: you can claim your beloved daughter status too.) This isn't radical or new. Mark's gospel puts it up front: before Jesus was the heroic, larger than life figure we know him as, he first discovered his innate beloved sonship. The rest flowed from that. He was able to relinquish all the other markers of social prestige and standing—"normal" family and clan relations first and foremost, and to love and live as he was loved by God. I wonder if the whole Joseph story was a way of conveying Jesus too was from what we call broken and dysfunctional families, and that the only father worth a damn was God, who he called "daddy," a title which otherwise would have been the term for Joseph.

What is clear from my own experience and from the path that Jesus laid out is that this business of beloved sonship of God is hard business. Who among us—the lay people, the clergy, the scholars—knows what happened in the missing years of Jesus' life, and what kind of heart rending questions drove him to join the cult of the crazy baptist at the river, and then go off and live so counterculturally, but with a particular message that only the Father in heaven matters? What sort of agonizing dissolution of normative relations did he have to endure before he was empowered to get past the birth-issued family relations and all the shit they can drag a person through?

My first answers to this kind of thing came three years ago when I think I understood the pain and rejection that gay and lesbian people might feel when faced with owning who they are, particularly before family members who spent a lot of years shaping them according to other ideas, other aspirations. Maybe it wasn't coincidental that the church I found myself drawn to was a place where such folks gravitated toward in order to feel the kind of safety to be oneself. I didn't know how similar it was until a few years ago I found myself on the outside of all the family I ever knew, all for the sake of exercising some self determination, or marrying the "wrong" person (a woman, no less!), and otherwise finding myself.

If claiming my beloved sonship of God is what I must do, then I suppose to ride for real, I have to let the training wheels go. In fairness, it isn't that they did me no good; it is that they have become limiting, in the way.

Sky, ever hungryA few weeks ago I was at a ranch in New Mexico where a mutt dog named Sky had her puppies in the space beneath the trailers. I never saw the pups with my own eyes. Maybe they were miracle, virgin birth pups since no father was present. Whatever the origin, I know I was oddly compelled to feed Sky. I was overcome with a feeling of compassion for her, and fed her almost obscene amounts of food, which she gobbled up as if her tongue was a conveyor belt! She drank a gallon of water at a single stop. She went on to steal into the trash enclosure and compost heap for whatever else she could find. I could not help but think of what kinds of things my mother had to do to protect her kids, even me.

In nature, there is no right and wrong. There is just survival. We humans make the laws that limit or even prohibit survival. We certainly have the kinds of laws that divide people unnaturally. That is the legal basis for the separation between my mother and I. But after that expired, on a few occasions of trying to reconnect and revive relationship, things went no better. A lot of times it has felt like death. Trying to earn my own mother's love feels like death, and is something I intellectually know is uncalled for and impossible. Jackhammering through all the layers of alienation and mistrust and hurt is a vast task that I am not particularly wise to embark upon. Been there, done that. I can't really change the hearts and minds of 67 year olds who have racked up so much hurt in a lifetime and never learned to deal with it. I know people do what they think is right in order to self preserve and to survive. I guess that is what happened here. Sometimes I feel like the pup that got dropped on the escape path and had to be forsaken for the greater good. For whose greater good, I can't say.

But there is also the parable about the 99 pups and the one pup for which God doesn't rest until it is found... That's it! (Okay, so I paraphrased.)

Monday
Jun082009

Exile And Return

Exile and return is a major theme in the Bible, and therefore in the lives of Jews and Christians. There is of course the Exile ("big E") of being carried off to Babylon for a couple generations, watching Jerusalem being laid waste and the agony of not knowing how or even if it would be possible to worship Yahweh while displaced from his favored city on earth. But more broadly speaking, the Bible as a whole tells of exile and return, starting with Genesis and being sent from Eden—the primeval state of undivided wholeness—into the world where division is a central fact of life. It seems we thought we knew better than our creator. From wholeness to being fragmented, we are exiled and through the bible, God does all sorts of tricks to get us back into one piece. None of them work too well or has much promise until a genius moment of presenting Jesus to the world, a figure who subverts all our typical understandings of what is required to live a faithful life. By the end of the bible story, the early believers and writers concluded that Jesus was the cure for this division in our lives. He was, for them, the end of spiritual exile. If we haven't forgotten it, even today he is the end of our spiritual exiles, as individuals (ah, I hate to say it: your "personal lord and savior") and also as all of humanity (through his commandment to love one's neighbor like oneself), offering the example of what we need to function as the community God envisions for us—the Kingdom of God.

My recent experience of joining a church by conscious decision has raised some questions for me. It is the first time I joined a church by intent, and not just by being confirmed into my existing congregation—an experience which does not seem to register clearly with me as a definitive moment in my life. Part of the reason for joining my new congregation has been that unlike the old one, there is a structure in place for actually doing some spiritual discernment and development work in a group setting, among many other ways to live a satisfying community life. My experience initially was a bit timid, but I was interested in being open with people. I actually didn't have plans to join as a member; that sort of grew on me over the last nine months or so. Suffice to say, having a setting in which to explore themes of how I experience the divine moving in my life has been an agent that helped me feel that this congregation was right for me.

If I do get any revelations from God, then they surely come in the "still small voice" variety such as Elijah experienced in Kings. I have to admit to being sort of dense in that regard. But revelations aren't always presentations of things not yet known; often it just takes a new insight to put together the pieces of many things already well known. Some write this off as coincidence. I have to wonder how it all works. But I am gaining in trust that it does, and that it happens for reasons we learn only on reflection.

So what compelled me to dig out a box of my journals and letters from the summer and first year after graduating high school (1991-92)? Especially since all that sort of stuff (filed neatly in annual collections in a series of boxes) now is garage filler, and no longer within reach in my closet like it tended to be for years before I began to move house every few months. For a long time, I did too much of this digging and I forgot to live in the moment, by hanging onto a detailed memory of all sorts of stuff that perhaps expired in usefulness before it was even written down! Having not had that opportunity in most of the Kelli years (since 2002), now it seems safer to periodically have a look. I draw some interesting revelations from this material.

This week I revisited the 1991-92 box featuring absurd amounts of pining for Shelby Duncan, a certain girl who never reciprocated my feelings (and with whom I kept that that dance going for another eight years or so—don't ask); stories about my early outside drumming under bridges and at other places because my home neighbors hated the noise; the news of an ever-growing drumset, with a few drawings indicating the changes; a few other minor tales of girls who never ended up being more than a fantasy or peck on the cheek; a considerable cache of letters from my first girlfriend Melissa; subversive correspondence from my stepmom who exited the family in 1983 but who wrote to me on the sly for some years before our early 1992 reunion; my early experiences and embarrassing writings at Mesa college...

But even more ink was given to how ridiculously bored I was, and how busy I was at work at Subway, and how I was often desperately lonely—enough to make a social life by going to work on my off hours!

The time I am speaking of is now approximately smack dab in the middle of my life. I graduated at 17 and started Subway and classes at Mesa a few months later, and turned 18 shortly after that. Now I am twice that age, nearly 36. One thing that I have always been aware of is how I spent roughly the last two years of high school as a pretty regular and committed churchgoing guy. I did a lot of things there. In fact, I did everything I could do there. It was my community. I wasn't really so connected to my peers; I was always more into adult conversations and concerns. (I went to study Martin Buber at an evening meeting when I was 16.) It was a good time on the whole. That is, until years later when I began to see them too as a family riddled with their own dysfunctions. Anyhow, let me not spoil what was perhaps a lifesaver on a number of occasions. At that time, ignorance was bliss. I felt cared for there, and put a lot of time into it for a while.

When I got the job at Subway, I was put on the closing shift, a shift that got me out of work at nearly one in the morning. I worked alone past 10 pm. My school schedule could accommodate that; class started at noon. But church started for me at 9 am, so for at least the first two months or so while the newly opened store got its bearings, it was closing at midnight. Eventually it changed to 11 pm and provided a partner, and things went better. But by then I had already made the critical decision: something in my schedule had to give, and the choice I made was one of economic benefit over community. I basically sent myself into exile from my community, for want of the sort of independence that having a first job seems to offer.

The journals for those eight months of Subway—and several months that followed—reflect an honest attempt to play by the rules and do a good job. If ever I played the part of the company man, this was it. I was the more senior of the closers after just two months. I really didn't know how to handle the task of delegating responsibility, even though I knew all the jobs well enough. I really put myself into it. Eventually, I took a day shift and got a bit closer to my boss, a delightfully sarcastic and funny guy named Chuck. I was third place after him and the manager Steve. In some ways, Chuck began to like me more than Steve and his complacency. But Chuck had plans to offload the store only about eight months after he opened it. I was apprehensive whether my hard work would amount to anything since new owners meant that I'd probably be reduced in rank or let go. Long story short, it didn't do me any good at all. In fact, it was really just rejected by the new owners, and sent me into a whole mess of drama that terminated in a court restraining order against me! Anyhow, I had internalized the values of the marketplace, and was living that story.

Meanwhile, I was desperately disconnected when away from work. I had Matt Zuniga as a new "friend" but he was way too weird for me. But we shared my drums when we went and did our outside noisemaking and from that effort to kill time came all my interest in recording music and making tapes and later CD's. My best friend from high school, Stephan, was an exchange student who had since gone back to Germany. I had gone to Europe that summer of 1991, and toiled mightily at Subway solely to pay for another trip to Steve's house in 1992, to more properly close up our in-person friendship before who knows what would take over as "real life." Matt, by comparison, was no one. (Of course I feel differently now, but he was quite a character then, unlike any I had known.)

Oh, what misery it all consisted of.

In my journals I noticed scarcely a mention of church. That's because I essentially dropped out as much as I had been in for a couple years. I don't suppose it actually had to be that way. I just had no sense of balance. After Subway began closing earlier in the evening, I guess there was no actual reason for not being able to go to church on Sunday mornings, or to do other activities. But for whatever reason, I stayed away, somehow feeling that this new world of work and school was more important. But wow! All the journals were quite miserable. Maybe it would have been better to stick around at church, to retain that community life. What I didn't know then was that my time off would last for about ten years, until I was 28. This Subway experience was just the beginning of a long dark period.

Fast forward to 2005 when I was developing enough of a sense of self to take a stand when employers threw me shifts that would intrude upon my life. Essentially, my firing from AV Concepts was based on my sticking to my guns for my own good. (They didn't seem to mind the request for Sunday off, but they chafed at my retention of my weeknights off so I could go to therapy to get my life in order after that disastrous summer.) That was one step in redeeming my 1991 decision to wander from church. And, early last year when I got my current job, I was in a dreadful way when it looked like I'd have no control over the hours I work because it seemed that they could get me just about any time from 4 am till 8 pm, seven days a week except for three Sundays I negotiated to have off each month. I did the math of the total hours they could draw from in a month and just about went into shock at how much of my life could be tapped for commercial work. This was quite upsetting since in 2006 after AVC, I was quite into learning about sabbath economics, and one central idea is that work should have limitations put around it so it doesn't take a person over. And that is just what it seemed might happen. Over several months, I played company man enough to negotiate a fixed schedule that has at least fluctuated within reason, and not by shocking daily jumps of five hours forward or back. I've been able to have Sundays off since September, and it has been good.

Good because I have the feeling of returning now that there is a niche of time carved for this purpose. Strictly speaking it is not a return to my old church life because that is history to me now. The return to feeling part of a community is running strong in me now. Having the time to take part helps, but having the will to do so is more satisfying. I mean, at any point in the dark years of exile, I could have chosen to drop by at church at least sometimes. I didn't. Somehow, I am taking back the decision to let the Market inform my value system. In 1991, it was an innocent and curious youthful enough move to see what another world is like. I didn't realize my age would nearly double before I found it in me to take my place in the body of Christ, with the conviction that that was a better choice to make. Some people, I suppose, never come back. And I suppose some don't get as far away as I feel I did.

I don't suppose people think that having a "real" job is an experience of exile. Much of the time it is deemed the only socially responsible thing to do, and the wise person makes all the time for what work requires. But consider the compromises that often accompany commercial work. And consider how things are torn asunder now in the "job market." The facade of the Market-as-deity is crumbling now. Maybe the crumbling of that—expressed by increasing layoffs in most sectors—will call people out of exile. Maybe it will call them out or even force them out of the individualistic pursuits of material gain over whatever community or family life they had to leave behind to accomplish that. What, but for the collapse of an economic system that is constructed on division of labor and division of relations, could be better? It sort of strikes dead the notion of "what's good for the corporation is good for America." Little by little, news reports and other anecdotes are indicating a shift away from the predominant story of the Market-god (upheld as it were by our sacrifices to it, in the form of our working hours and consumption that follows—giving back in money what we did not give in labor), and toward the types of community solidarity and togetherness that has been brushed aside, but that is the only thing that will save us and bring us back home from exile.

The urban life is a disconnected life based on consumption more than generation, a proposition which is inherently unsustainable. Our dilemma is a new one mainly because of our flight from the land to the city. It is no surprise we find so much alienation if we are fundamentally detached from the basis for our lives. The urban existence is literally an uprooting from the soil, from the ground people have traditionally been tied to, and where—for generations at a stretch—networks of relations have been constructed out of necessity. Some might argue that we have to embrace the new reality of urbanization and get on with it. But that is the way of death. We don't have that luxury. Just because we have a brave new world doesn't mean it's not foolish new world. No less a figure than Jesus spoke about the deadly trends in this type of lifestyle: his good news, his gospel, was that there is a life of vibrancy for those who reject such things as the world has created. I don't say this to be a Luddite-traditionalist, but the path of higher technology and more urbanization is the way of death so far, and we don't have time to mess it up anymore. You might think of it as "old is the new new." The ancient wisdom had it as right as we need it to be today. There seems to be a reawakening to this, and manifestations of it are turning up in various community efforts—in small scale agriculture, church community, arts, even online where things like Wikipedia restore the notion of the commons, where the world is seen as a place to be shared because of our common lot. It is a rejection of much of the centralized power and top-down order imposed by political and corporate structures of our time. People may think our present world situation is better off religion-free, but as I think theologian John Cobb would say, this is a profoundly religious matter. What we need is to get rid of the bad religion and bad myths that will destroy us if we live by them. Maybe what we need is the "religionless Christianity" that Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of.

The story of exile from Eden is a story of being separated from that which gives eternal (wholeness of) life, and it seems that it tells a story that narrates the move from decentralized roaming peoples who had what they needed for the taking from the common pot, into the world of cities and their inherent structure based on hierarchy, classification and division, not to mention scarcity from the not-natural notion of private ownership. Sure, for a while we've dabbled in our human knowledge and our economic orgies that glorify individual pursuits, but all that has been exile for us. Notice if you will that that system isn't doing too well now! The story of Jesus, by contrast, is the story of reinstatement to our whole humanity; by again living the life undivided from God and the divine plenty. Jesus didn't speak in terms of the modern corporate world, or of Adam Smith's economic theories. He spoke to us in terms of nature and its indiscriminate providence. No wonder we can't find our way. We've declared war on nature, and by doing so, we've declared war on ourselves. So a return from exile is needed. Repentance. Metanoia.

I've seen my little part in it in my microcosmic version of that struggle, and have decided to turn toward what promises the life I left behind for a decade and more. I feel like I got part of myself back when I got happened into community again—even though it is really not the same bunch as before. We are, after all, relational beings who gain our identity from our relations to others. Little surprise then that for a decade there, I really didn't know who in the world I was because I was cut out of so many life-giving connections. The last few weeks have had a remarkable feeling that I am coming home.

Saturday
Dec292007

Of House And Home

It seems that the last blog actually touched a nerve in some of the most loyal fans of TAPKAE.com, and a few unexpected ones came out of the woodwork in response to the part about my father. Even he decided to go the most circuitous route and contact not me but my stepmother (a softer path than contacting me directly, it seems, even though he has my email address, phone, and the blogs here often have comment fields, not to mention he could figure out how to leave a letter at places I frequent). He wrote to her in response to the last blog, saying something lamenting the way I talk about him and that he did not have my physical address, and that I never told him I moved house sometime in the last year or so. Well, that much is by design; most of my life he has owned the property where I have lived, or was a short way from inheriting it, and with a wife to cooperate with, his record with us says that we should not disclose such information since he has been quite a destabilizing force for the entire time (six years) that we have been in our present relationship.

His letter to my stepmother seemed quite flowery and well written considering the fact that his correspondence with me usually includes no greeting or goodbye, and often is cold and businesslike, reminding me it's rent day or some such landlord talk. But in this new letter, he said he'd be needing double hip replacement surgery in the next year and a half. Not clear what he aimed to accomplish with this notice, but either it is a legit plea for some help or it could lead to other strained relationship troubles, that for one year and a couple weeks I have been blissfully removed from. I've long hoped for some change in him but last year I decided I was off the project that might ever bring that, so after my words with him in the street at my last house, I had to let it go. In actuality now he does not control me, and I rather like it. That's not to say I am not swayed by the whole drama. It is after all, quite central to defining my path, whether I like it or not.

I think of my father as a cross between a few men of movie fame: Colonel Frank Fitts (of American Beauty), Ebenezer Scrooge, and Darth Vader. You can figure it out. They all have some part of him in the way they treat people as secondary to their needs for order, power, money. Two of them were redeemed eventually, one had to kill an innocent man who inadvertently found out his secret identity and the basis of his hateful attitudes. One had a forgiving son who realized he was being sucked into the same dark hole as his father had been, and he rejected that and managed to get both out of that hole together. The other had a nephew who persistently nudged and lived out an alternative value system not based on money. The other had a son who called him on his failings, and left. I am somewhere in the midst of these son/nephew figures.

What I am not into is being manipulated by money anymore, or being insulted and reminded that my place is to be a dumb teenager, or any such things. If my father can move on from the role he played then, then maybe things can go better. Sad to put it this way, but for the $515k he apparently sold my old house for, I hope he can afford the finest in medical care. He speaks of betrayal, and his veiled request to be in contact does set me up to fall into a sort of trap of how money has mediated and often dissolved my family relations over the years. A few people hearing this story now have dared me to act like the Christian that I supposedly say I am, and to "do the right thing." Well, the right thing is not clear to me and I don't think that a hasty "religiously correct" statement of any forgiveness will do any good if it doesn't come from a genuine place in me. Some can use such a sentiment to say I should continue to be trod upon (invoking the 'turn the other cheek' lesson—something that has been done plenty of times, I assure you). I really don't wish to be trod upon nor do I even wish to continue this stupid pissing contest with him. It sucks vastly more energy out of me than I want to give to such a losing pursuit. Hence, taking a year off. Not being trod upon by his economic ideas and his desperate attempts to externalize his own failings, fears, and hatreds has done me some good. I hope it has done him some good to have time to wonder why people don't wish to associate with him, including me. But I have no idea if he ascribes value to such things, or if it is just time passing and making his heart harder. Right now my most important project is my marriage, and establishing that as my new home since my earlier sense of home has been so patiently and consistently deconstructed in large part because of things my father has done. So, I beg a bit of tolerance too as I seek to make right what has been slowly toppled throughout my life, in a way that suits me, and with a willing participant who knows what it means to me.

I've been dared to see the good in him. Well, there is good in him, but he has done so much to eclipse it with his outward deeds, for so long, that frankly, it's barely visible. Like Darth Vader, his main flaw is that he remains dedicated to his cause after it has failed him mightily. Doing the wrong thing for the right reason is something one can take only so far. It is an addiction to being right, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that maybe it's the wrong thing to hang on to. The day I had hoped would lead us to some new era was when we talked candidly at the residential house I was at after my suicidal spell in September 2003. But it did nothing to change his behavior because even a week later he was up to exactly the same insensitive deeds that contributed to my despair in the first place. He could do that because there is an emotional dimension to life that he has managed to ignore, and so he was able to deny that I was sick and troubled by it. Imagine if I were able to just deny that he had arthritis in the same way as he denied I had any reason to be depressed or troubled. Even my pastor, in on one meeting at that residential facility looked my father in the eye and told him that he would have to accept that this depression of mine existed and that it has a real effect on my life, and that he must take it seriously. A week later, it was as if that whole range of conversations had not taken place.

The other unfortunate thing is that most of the good experiences that I might point to (the ones that he might like me to feel good about) were the sorts of things that he manipulated into existence, and as I uncover bits of that, what were my formerly great memories about a trip to Europe or going camping or even certain aspects of my relationship with my stepmother, or other stuff worth remembering, has been damaged by learning how they were contrived events or somehow tinged with a feeling of being "manufactured." (There are some things about camping trips that are too wretched to recall here, believe it or not, but he knows what the trailer meant to me and some of my siblings.)

This will be a long enough piece to read, so here is the last written and honest attempt I made to "meet" him while not refraining from speaking my mind on his approach to being a landlord, a role which eclipsed his ability to be a father, and one he seemed to want more than being a father. This is dated October 13, 2006, a day after my 33rd birthday, and shortly after I took damn near every last thing out of my old house on Quapaw, including all that I bought to spruce it up in good faith that I might be seen as a responsible contributor to the place: light fixtures, blinds, and spiffy stainless steel jack plates for the AC outlets. We "communicated" a couple times following this before the eventful blowout in the street on December 17th, triggering the year of silence.

Dad, I don't know if you are really wondering why I stripped the last of my stuff out of the house, or if you are content to believe whatever it is you already believe, but here is what I have to offer. I don't mean to make this confrontational, but I do plan to be straightforward with my reasoning and my requests. I did that primarily to make clear what that house has left after "I" leave and only "you" are left. Aside from the paint colors and some choice of hardware, "I" have left. The point is to show that maybe I did indeed add something to the place in terms of functionality and aesthetics. The house looks as it does because that is what you claim to own, and what I claim to own, I have on my patio right now. That stuff is essentially useless for me. I don't anticipate it has any real resale value. But you have a house that will sell for far more than you "paid" for it (even in a worst case scenario), and even with the expenses you have incurred in owning it, those costs are still nothing compared to what you stand to gain. Please think on that. You get a great deal, I get scraps at best. Now, maybe you had some plan to include me in this whole house selling deal. But such a thing has never been talked about clearly, so I assume that there was none. If you are prepared to talk about an equitable deal that includes me in some 50% share (in writing), you can have blinds and other things back and I will work with you. I don't really need them. To me, they are just a device to make a point, and are ultimately junk. To you, they are the bits of gloss that either make or break the appearance of a house worth living in. You either have to buy them new, or you can have this back from me. But I really need you to think about this business of making a fair deal to me and legitimating it in writing, not in some abstract empty sounding spoken statement.

You've said you felt betrayed by my calling the city. This comes years after I felt betrayed by the way you've managed that house in a way that shows a lot of disregard for how I felt (which on the whole was a continuation of many years of such instances). This was a very repetitive pattern for about three years from 2001-2004 mainly. One time after another, you hardly took any consideration of what I was asking for, and plotted your own course. But that should not surprise me; when I was a kid, I listened at one family dinner after another what your plans were for that house when either of your parents died or became unable to live normally. So, I know your designs on that house go back for over 20 years, and likely more. You considered it yours long before either of them died. And once your mother died, it was only three days afterward when the first piece of major change began to be enacted—the garage. This is always interesting to me because when you started work on the 26th of April 2001, it was just three months after you wrote a letter to me telling me to not call you or talk to you or set foot on your property. In your letter, you stipulated that I should not do any of that for one year, which would logically end at the later part of January 2002. But only three months later, when grandmother died and you had a clean shot at the house, you began work, thus cutting that one year down by nine months! What is it? If she had lived out all those nine months and more, you may have had no reason to do any of that work there, nor any legal justification for doing so. It was not yours. You and she were estranged for the last few months of her life because she didn't want your input on how to run her affairs. I can't help but notice that once the last of your parents were out of the way, that house became your play toy. And it did not matter how I felt about any of it.

In one way or another, the way I see it, you have done one thing after another to devalue it. When I was there, you did the two major projects that did not need doing (and that I did not want), but among the smaller ones were things like utterly mutilating trees for no good reason. I noticed this week that the tree that Kelli and I planted in 2004 to commemorate our engagement was cut back to almost nothing, its red flowers utterly struck from the front yard. Some time before, it was the dismemberment of an orange tree that has taken a few years to grow back. That same summer, it was the cutting back of the oleanders which hid the ugly side of the fence. And it was the removal of two of the hedges around the patio, and the removal of all the lower level (visible) branches. Or, among other things, there were choices you made to NOT carpet my floor, or to install a window right. What this means to me is that you take out some sort of anger or something on this house. I could understand if you actually lived there and had to make a decision to cut shrubs so you could work on a wall, or to do something that affected you primarily. But all the things I have mentioned are things you did as an absentee landlord that didn't affect your environment. If you never liked the house because it's not near three levels of schools, or because it's not close enough to a main street, or something else, that should not mean you need to come over and degrade it piece by piece, room by room, with no apparent care for me, who lived there and had to see it every day.

Your oft-repeated line about "raising the value of the house" is relative to nothing if it was something to be lived in. But you took it to be an investment property—it always had to be making money, even off me and Kelli. If not for renting or selling, why add a jail cell of a patio that no one wanted? Or a garage that was done illegally and with a lot of flaws and no real attempt to make it actually look good? Instead of doing those things, you always had the option to install vinyl windows in the bedroom I kept, or a floor in that same room. We finally got the big room done after a few years, and that was the only one of its sort. Instead of a garage, I asked that we get the big room done with a floor. Had you done that early on, that bedroom would have a nice floor, and not a painted one. The list goes on. I ask for something you won't give, and you give something I didn't ask for. And in the process, I got sicker and sicker of it. The value of the house, for me as a resident, actually went down as things got done that didn't need to be done, and things that needed doing took months or years.

I need you to realize that I think you sold me out first. I sold you out once I realized you would not give an inch on that place. That place was my home, both as a box to put my stuff, and as a place to have a real fondness for because it had many meanings. I don't know what it was to you, except the leading evidence shows it is just a headache to think about and to manage. That house for me was not just a box of stucco and wood and concrete. I can't put a price on what it was because all of my investment, once stripped of blinds and jack plates and light fixtures, is in my heart somewhere. It's abstract for me. It's a feeling. What is that worth? Living there was supposed to be one way for me to feel connected to people I can't ever be around any more, or to be a place to set up my own family future with Kelli. But long before I called the city and told them that you were doing illegal stuff, I was watching you dismantle and rearrange my home with no thought of what I wanted. Instead, from the get go, all I heard about was how that house was not valuable enough (this said while I thought of it as the best place I'd lived thus far). Funny, considering you had nothing in it to lose, only to gain. I watched how your house got repeated work done to it year in and year out, and it got worse and worse, more and more haphazard by the year. I didn't have anything to do with calling your house in to the city, but it got you in trouble for the same reason as my house did. Your workmanship, your ideas and attitude. If you had at least listened to me about what I though would work at my house, I would not have called. When all was said and done, that was why I called, period. And a week later, I wanted to knock myself off, it had gotten that bad. You think of my call as a betrayal. I think of it as doing what I was put there to do: to make sure no one harmed the house, and to look out for it responsibly. I gave you lots of feedback on each project you embarked on. You wanted nothing of it. You didn't listen. Your money was worth more than my well being? Is that not something of a betrayal?

I've seen both houses get trees cut down and ripped out. I've seen your specialty construction items go up at both places: walls, gates, fences. In other words, I've seen natural beauty stripped out and devices meant to divide people were put in. Your house is loaded with extra walls, gates, fences that went in since I lived there. What is it with you that you do this?

You own properties with a minimal amount of trees and a great number of walls, gates, and fences and locks. It speaks volumes to me. To me, that progression degrades a house because it betrays trust—it assumes fear is a correct and desirable worldview. It destroys the inherent beauty of natural life. A patio with poorly placed windows or no windows can only allow darkness to thrive. Both patios you built have done that—darkness where there should be light. Walls where there should be open air. Almost every tree and bush is gone from your yard. Many of those in my yard are trimmed back crudely as if to suggest it's only a matter of time before they are gone entirely. There is a theme here.

So, the final terminus, the point of destination in that line of thinking is that you have two houses, shorn of trees, and loaded with walls and gates. And the division has come primarily between you and me. Is that by design or just a necessary byproduct? I've seen one person after another driven out of your house, and now your house(s). Finally, it was me. Does this come when someone attacks your perceived wealth? Who else is left to drive out?

So you have a house that I used to live in, and it has a lot of stuff missing that makes it a house worth renting or buying. Kelli and I made it a home. There is a difference. The "home" went out of it in July 2005. Some parts of the "house" were mine to take too, and they are out of it. What is left is mostly your work, your effect on the place. It looked to me like you didn't like what you saw left behind. And even it was painted all a bland shade of white, it would still look bad with no fixtures, jack plates, window coverings, boring flat walls devoid of texture, and a patchwork floor that is different in most rooms. I worked hard within some limited parameters to make it look nicer than I found it. I did that because it invested me into that place. Kelli did likewise. We thought we had a home for some time to come.

If you want to sell it, that's your business. It's not my albatross on my neck anymore. I think you made your point already about being betrayed. I wish you'd give up this game now. You displaced me from my home where I DID work to show I was responsible. You made my life a lot of hell for a while last summer. I have thought about it. This is what I have come up with. You made your point. I made my point. You have already "lost" money off that house in the last year because you rented it for less than Kelli and me and two others paid for it. Then you "lost" money on it since the market has chilled out. And it will take longer to fix it any so that you can do either again, which is even more of a financial hit. My main point is, that house will be worth less and less with all this time passing. And even if you did get what you wanted for it, at the cost of a sustained difficult relationship with me, you really lost anyway. We don't need to have a sustained difficult relationship. But as I said in a previous letter, either you meet me on my terms in part, or we don't meet. I'm out of the house, you got what you want. But that you did come see Kelli preach, and made some efforts around your birthday shows something that maybe it's not all dead and gone. But I can't rest with that if I still have to be bugged that you got this house free and clear and refuse to share it in any meaningful way with me. I'm 33 now, not necessarily a 13 year old that you can set in his place with a glance or a word or a blanket dismissal: "you're wrong".

Let me put it to you this way. You share "your house", and I can share "my home" and maybe we can all do better than we've done for the last several years. One day you will need me more than I will need a box of stucco and wood at 4250 Quapaw. If you have some sort of old ghosts at work in your decision making about that house, now is the time to let all that shit go. It won't work. But if you choose to hog that whole estate and not share, I can still choose to associate with other people. It's that easy. Don't forget me, and I won't forget you. Remembering that my grandparents wanted to include me directly on their estate settlements is something maybe you could consider. This is not all your wealth to manage. They intended for me to have "something, not nothing," and not "nothing AND a strained relationship" with you also.

I assure you that I didn't just set this up by some trick. I enjoyed your birthday and that week when we actually could meet on another level other than this business level, and I wish that was all we had. But it can't be that way as long as I know you are so adamant about retaining that house all for yourself, or projecting an image of doing so. When am I going to be invited to the table to make a plan? When you can cut me and Kelli in on a fair share of half this estate, then you and I can resume what would pass for normal family relations. Otherwise, we have what we have. Periodically, I will try again, and realize that things are the same, then retreat for a while.

I know you went to see [a therapist we both know] at least once. I've had many instances when I thought maybe we should meet with a therapist there, but I don't know if you would do it. But I think that is the only effective way to get around all this and make something happen for the better. Your call.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday
Aug062005

Wrapping Up

I spent the first night in the apartment last night after a long day of gutting my house, leaving but a few things left to go to storage or wherever my guitars and electronics are going to go. I was hoping to have the computer up at the apartment but it will take till Monday before the internet is turned on for real. I still have a couple things to make fit in the apartment, but so far it's amazing that what we do have there seems to not be so overwhelming. There might be some stuff that can be dispensed with still, to storage probably. Most of the stuff we would use on a daily basis is already there and seems to have a place. The few stacks of boxes yet to be unpacked will eventually get out of the way somehow and it will settle down in a few days.

After untold counseling sessions speculating the dread I had for the situation before me, it's actually seeming to be less dreadful now that things are in motion. What choice do I have anyway but to move and finally leave the house that I thought would be mine to live in and take care of for ages? Pretty much after I lost my studio, I was aware that almost any place would offer the same basic amenities as this house. I latched onto this place for so long simply because I had the studio, but when I began to use it less and less, it was clear that I'd have to adjust to something else. But really, with it being a family house of 36 years (all of my life), it was simply home to me and would have continued to be. There are so many things that make it so, and I wanted it to carry on that way, but there have been too many experiences that have made it too hard a slog to keep doing that to myself.

This morning, waking up in a smaller place, it actually seemed a little nice. Less work to keep it up, but this apartment has a lot of new or fairly new fixtures inside so it's actually a step up from my house where things were always in some state of remodel or disrepair. I've been doing work at this house for all the years I've been here and it will be nice to let some of that energy go elsewhere while being surrounded with some things that make it seem more or less new. I guess some "new" doesn't hurt a person so much. Kelli is pretty broken up at having to move. She is broken up the way I was certain I would be, but I've just decided it's time to move on and get with the new program. The choice was made for me, so really all I can do is go with it.

Tuesday
Jul262005

Slow It Down, Son...

I have been busy lately. Well, I've kept busy for a few years now, and in the wake of a crushing depression a few years ago, that has been basically good. I've had far less time to ruminate on things that do seem to be overwhelmingly negative. And sure, there is plenty of that. But then one day I stumbled upon this paper on industrial society at CultureChange dot org, and it set me on another course.

Recently, a small group of folks from my church started a short class on Martin Buber's I and Thou. It is led by our minister Jerry Lawritson who is a student of one Maurice Friedman, who himself was a student of Buber and an authority on Buber's work. So our little living room class is in good hands. I took almost exactly the same class with almost exactly the same people back in 1989 when I was in 11th grade. I was the only 16 year old there, I believe. In fact, oftentimes, I took on many things that the adults did because I never felt any real connection to people my age. So I took on reading this short but immensely potent book with the others. My book went missing for years but magically reappeared a few months before this class was announced, with all my underlines and markings. I have no idea, reflecting on the depth of the ideas presented in the book, how I ever got anything out of it as a dopey 16 year old, but I assume I did get something. Even now, it's mind bending to contemplate, but it seems to be a supreme thing to be reading at this juncture in humankind's history.

Yet, as I am lustfully lapping up all the wisdom of Buber, Jesus, and many others who seem to think there are better ways to live more humanely, I am being dragged kicking and screaming the other direction, into a life that is more complex, materialistic, fast-paced, shallow, disingenuous. The last few weeks in particular have been wild. Utterly wild. The joke is on me—when I get a rest from this, it will actually mean I will be more fully absorbed into the life I didn't choose for myself. I guess that is why I am taking fervent notes on Buber, and unlike previous times, even in bible study. I guess this is my way for preparing for the storm. I can't get out of my head how now that the world is facing the oil peak and its resultant geopolitical mess, and this country is making worse and worse decisions about how to run its affairs both at home and abroad, I have to be thrust into all that at just the time it seems that the whole system will break. I've had a lot to weigh, and a lot to think about, but really I am scared, like it always seems I am, of failure. Or more now than ever, that my effort will come at a time when things are utterly falling apart. What a hell of a time to be thrust out into it all. As it is, I never dreamt of owning my own house if I didn't inherit it. For years, I've been able to be sort of bohemian and somewhat carefree, or at least careless.

The last few weeks have been just punishing in their constant demand for activity. Search for work, drive to Claremont to investigate up there, look for housing, packing, classes, counseling, yard sale prep and cleanup, storing stuff, EONSNOW stuff, sit on the porch and talk till asleep. I've done more driving since Kelli's car crapped out a week ago, and in the search for housing and work, and whatever. It has reminded me of my increasingly visceral intolerance for driving, at least during the daytime. Add that its been hotter than Hades here, and it's a large-scale bummer. Kelli and Glenn have been here to talk to, but really, after a while, I just want silence. Stillness. Freedom. Time to reflect. Time to utterly disconnect from the matrix (if that is still legal). I just want an I-thou with a bed, or a tree, or the moon, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings or whatever places no demands on me and might actually leave me with some refreshment.

My life has been a thinking life for a few years now, at least overtly. My life has been all I-it and not enough I-thou. The last few weeks have brought that to the fore. I've been distracted from my inner life for a while now, despite fueling it with study of things that will enhance it once they ease from knowledge to knowing. Things with Kelli have been real testy for a while now, and I guess that would have to be expected. She is on her way to grad school which will set her on her career path which she has entertained for nearly 20 years. And I am being sent out of my house of seven years, the closest to an ancestral home I might ever really know, and the one that started my marriage. But now is takes its place among the studs-and-stucco places all around me. The place is losing its romance for me. Right now, I mourn its passing because I will miss the space. Living in a one bedroom just makes me cringe. No patio, no three bedrooms, no driveway, no studio. My only experience really living outside of a family house was for a 20 month spell at an apartment, and that was back in 97-98. I just remember it being really restrictive. I had one bedroom of three, and the only other space was the bathroom, kitchen, and a nominal use of the living room. I did not watch much TV there (that is when I started my no TV period), so I pretty much holed up in my bedroom and recorded music, but with no drums. All the rest of the time it was work or stay gone. These days, after making my house a nice place to be with music studio, computer tasks aplenty, and wife who has helped make it home instead of house, it's harder to imagine losing the usefulness of all that, and with having to work to pay for almost all the rent, it seems that it will be sort of drab and stir crazymaking. I could be all wrong, but it's a tiny space, and there is hardly anywhere to play host to the range of things I'd be doing here.

I guess the thing that does excite me is that by making this arrangement work, we don't have to leave San Diego yet and so we can still call on friends and church folks, and have some satisfaction in knowing at least we aren't in greater Los Angeles. I guess we will have to make this work out at least until we can sniff out Claremont and get a comparable place there, but it would entail leaving the first somewhat-lucrative job I've had in years. Right now, I'm inclined to find the solution that will carry us to semester break so we can evaluate from there. I just want to turn my brain off for now and get into feeling something again, and maybe even take a breath again, whether I need it or not.

Friday
Jul222005

Deep In The Bowels Of Hell

What fucking hell. Utter fucking hell. It's the middle of summer, so we got our Florida-like humidity and heat that helps sour the whole experience even before the sleep is wiped from my eyes, and even waking up at 8 am is no help. (Hell, in less than two weeks, if I wake up at 8 am, I will be an hour late to work!) What a time to have to do this mad amount of work. Later on, I am looking at working primarily in a warehouse in the Mission Gorge area of town, where it's notoriously hot. Good times. But therein lies the ticket to my new life. Maybe.

The last two days have been just totally draining in every way. Arguments with Kelli like never before. We’re both in massive change mode, and it's worthless to figure out who is getting the shorter end of this moving deal. What I do know is that she signed up for a school with a commuter program so that she could live in San Diego and attend school three days a week in Claremont, with the option of staying in their on-campus commuter housing for the two nights that are obviously necessary, but possibly for a third, to make things safer. Her class starts rather early on Wednesdays and it's early enough that she can’t just take a train up there (timing doesn’t work out), and it's also early enough that it would make for one hell of an early morning commute to class (leave SD at 6 am and negotiate the two hour drive and whatever traffic too, and rush into class, not to mention getting up early enough to do all that in comfort). So she really should make the commute on the night before when early morning stress is not a problem, but it adds another night to the housing costs, an additional $35, bringing the weekly cost to $105 and the monthly to $420. And all that is ON TOP of whatever we pay to stay here in San Diego.

So for most of the last three or four months, the talk has been about commuting while she lived here, in this current house. So of course we were shocked to be issued a notice to leave. The next most possible option was to actually get one of the apartments the school has for students and totally leave San Diego. At least we were assured a place, and it was but a short walk to class. But it would still cost about $900 for a one bedroom on campus! About double what the commuter housing would cost, but a single price for a single place that is all ours to live in, instead of the dorm-like commuter rooms. Still, neither of us sounded ready to leave SD and neither of us were working at the time, so it would be a challenge, even if the housing was secured for us to move into. But we still had no assurance of any way to sustain that since we had no jobs. Even if we had jobs here, it would be meaningless; we’d have to start over up there, and it's harder to find stuff up there while perched at a computer down here. So for a couple weeks right after we got our notice to leave here, we perused Craig’s List and looked for work up in the greater LA hellhole, and down here too. I got not one single response to the LA area calls and emails/resumes, and when I looked at the map I found that some of the places were going to be a godawful distance to commute not once a week, but once a day! I think a 35 mile commute, or a 50 mile commute can actually take years off a person’s life!

After some fumbling with the LA work scene, and the other “opportunities” in the Claremont area (really closer to San Bernardino and Riverside), we resorted to looking down here again. We drove to Claremont to go to the school and do some administrative things, see the apartments, and taste the area. The lady who showed us the apartment asked us to be there at 9:30 am, which meant we had to leave here at 7. We got there with 10 minutes to spare. Then she told us she didn’t actually have an empty unit to show, so she arranged some Asian student to show his place, but he had three kids and another family member or two there visiting, so it was mad clutter and noise. Less than two minutes later, we were out of the apartment and I had not done anything more than stand in the living room and peer into the bedroom. Well, so much for that place. And they have no cable service whatsoever. DSL, if anything. The apartment complex was made out of block. Pretty soulless, but not about to be torn asunder by the southern California hurricanes and tornadoes. It was institutional. But it was a few steps from there to class. The school is utterly tiny, so distance is measured in yards, not blocks or such. The rest of Claremont, the city, is not far, certainly in biking distance, and it's a cute cute little downtown, totally cool for the peak oil/new urbanist guy in your family. But after traipsing about doing school related work and stopping in at a couple of the other colleges and their admissions offices possibly for my benefit, we got some lunch and it was already after 3. Hardly time to look for any real work. Nothing jumped out at me. Nothing seemed to be the sort of thing that would have gotten me the ideal $2700/mo to live in that $900 one bedroom apartment. I did go to the local Costco to once again try my hand at applying, but they said Costco only does online apps now. Fuck. We stayed and looked at the rest of the cute downtown of Claremont, and talked to people. Upon finding out that the commute to LA central is a 35 mile drive, we mostly were talked out of looking for work in the LA area. Most everyone suggested a far more local search. Then we drove home, and I filled out the Costco online app, complete with that absurd psychological profiling shit all the online apps have now. And it was an app for ONE store, not chainwide, or even a selection of stores!

So, since I had already been waiting a week and a half for AV Concepts to call, I called them that same day and told them I needed to start making some plans. They told me it would be until Monday (this was a Thursday). Then I called on Monday and was told that I could come in for a second interview the following Monday. This is now three weeks after the first one. So I am crossing my fingers like mad because I got the idea that this job could actually anchor me in town here and get us a new apartment, pay for storage at least until we can sell things down, etc. We’ve been talking about how important it is that we stay in SD because we have all our friends and church folks down here, and that is our life. We don’t know anyone in Claremont, and most of all, we have no plan for how to pay for that apartment either, so the talk was that it was far more risky to ditch our San Diego life entirely than to move within SD and keep with the commuting plan. I reasoned we could always complete the move later when commuting and separation became unbearable or gas got too expensive. We’ve both been unemployed for months now, so it seemed silly to totally bet the farm on a new life in Claremont when we could barely afford the move itself. Maybe we could get a running head start in SD for at least a semester or two, and when one of us gets some experience with the new place, we could have some idea of opportunities there.

So back to hell week.

We did our garage sale thing and it took three of us three days to get the thing done from early clean up and inventory to late clean up. We put a lot of stuff into two drive off containers. We still have a messy ass house. I still have all my music gear here in a corner and it still takes up about a third of a bedroom. Girl stuff is still scattered about—knickknacks, picture frames, plants, and other stuff still surrounding us. We still have a number of pieces of furniture that probably won’t make the cut and will have to be sold or stored. We still have mad amounts of half filled boxes and stuff. Closets left unmolested. All Kelli’s office space is intact. Bathroom and kitchen stuff is still unpacked. We got our work cut out for us still! I supposedly start work on the first of August. Shit. I have no fucking idea what to do about my music gear. It takes up space and is of high value. I can’t just shove it in a closet nor can I leave it unsecured, nor do I like the idea of leaving it with others. Not all of it anyway. It's pared down rather thin from my erstwhile glory days of studio extravagance. Still not ready to sell it. Right now it's a burden. I guess I could get another drive off container or storage facility, but that's added expense.

Well, I did finally get the AV Concepts job and started to look up and could finally release my crossed fingers that were getting sore after three weeks. After weeks and weeks of stress, one key piece came into place. We got a job that could keep us in SD. Starts at $1760 a month (to start, with more on the way in a few months, or so they say), which for me is pretty darn good. Add whatever Kelli can make and her financial aid, and it seemed that things were falling in line. We had exactly three weeks to get out of here. Miracles do happen, I guess.

So in the midst of all the other stuff, which everyone agreed was hell enough, Kelli’s car started giving her hell, and it became clear that the cost of fixing it would be silly and it's time to start looking for a new car, especially if she is going to commute regularly. So we have this fucking ordeal added into the mix. That just means more time is getting sucked up into criscrossing town looking at stuff. Time not spent packing or moving, or looking for another job. When I came home and told Kelli that I got the job, she did get excited but then found out that it paid less than I had been proposing, so she started getting all bent out of shape that there was no way we could live in SD and have her do the commuter thing too on that sort of money. Uh? What happened to her commuter housing being covered? What happened to her two weekdays remaining to work, or up to four if she wanted to bury herself with some weekend work too? Uh? I could not believe it. She started on gasping about how all her plans were falling apart, and how she might as well just quit school, and all sorts of other stuff.

So I suggested we just ask for money now, and so I reminded her that my old man had made some offer to help us with the transition. She protested, then she suggested we go, then protested, and back and forth. Finally, after going around and around on the issue, I just went over to his house on my own and started on the pitch to help us with some moving costs, and oh!, the car needs to be replaced too. Kelli really doesn’t like my old man much given the current state of things, but we are in a pinch here, and frankly, he could help. So I got to his house a couple days ago and she followed over afterwards, choosing to drive her little death trap on wheels to a place she would rather not be. After some negotiating, the old man went and collected a thousand dollars and gave it over. It was, in a strange reversal of the usual patterns of the universe, the best thing that happened all day! We so often think of a trip to his place as a disaster waiting to happen, but the last few weeks have been different, and he has expressed some desire to be charitable toward us since he can see an end to this housing dilemma here.

Kelli and I didn’t say much before we went to counseling that night, and I was thinking she would have been totally dumbfounded and surprised to have received a cash gift from my dad, so I thought things would be better. What I do remember happening is one of the most tense and overtly confrontational sessions ever. Just fucking hell. It was like the planets reversed their orbits that day—the best thing to happen was the exchange with my dad, of all things! Kelli elaborated how she thought we were going to Claremont after all this time, to which I had to say, well, then why the hell have the last two weeks been filled with looking at San Diego properties and jobs??? Shit, if all we needed to do was to move into the Claremont apartment, we could have done that a while back! But now I got my decent job in SD that can hold things together, it's not good enough??? I found myself in the odd position of defending two things I ordinarily am not known for: the actions of my father, and the prospect of my job (which of course is one that helps lift up the vanity of corporations, uses massive amounts of energy for nothing of any real use, and operates across huge geographical areas, but it's giving me what I need, when nothing else is).

So yesterday I got up at 8 and was ready to go apartment hunting by 9. Kelli woke up then, so we left at 10, and hit up a number of places in the North and South Park areas, University Heights, and the like. We finally found one place that for the price and the financial incentives was great, but it was actually a nice little place–a reconditioned place from the early 60s or so. Tasty and a nice step above the ghetto shack I anticipated we could get for the newly revised price we were looking at, if indeed we were going to pay the whole price together: $800. So we drove to the offsite manager’s place, which was another complex a few blocks away, got the apps and went to a restaurant to fill them out over lunch. Then on the way back to the manager’s place, I asked her if this was okay, and well, fuck me, the whole thing opened up again! All sorts of cries that we talked about Claremont this and Claremont that, and that this is only good for me, and what about her? Fuck, I lost it then. We got to the truck and were shouting like mad, finally I tore up the apps and threw them out and said we really need to fucking decide what town we’re gonna be in because this half in-half out shit is messing things up big time. She doesn’t have an answer for how to actually pay for any place in Claremont, and yet, for weeks we’ve been looking HERE, not THERE for work and housing, which finally turned up something and was about to turn up some housing too.

She might feel her world is crashing down, and maybe it is. We both feel that way. But being totally ripped out of home, studio, familiar settings, and from friends, all while being pressed into doing a new job that I am really pretty ho hum about is a bit much, you know? Add to that I have to store or sell stuff that I have used and lived with for years, and some of it is the last of the stuff I have to inherit from my grandparents. She faces the commute plan, and she could commute with other SD residents, or take the train, or whatever. She has to buy a new car. She has to go to grad school and work part time. Who is getting off cheap here? Me? Her? Each is being thrust into something beyond challenging, but what the fuck? If we were supposed to live in Claremont, why spend the last few weeks looking here and nonchalantly packing and filling storage containers here? We should have been in Claremont! Of course, then my new job here would be utterly useless. And any talk of living in two apartments full time is financially out of the question, and she associates that with a divorce. Well, what the fuck? One of us has a job, we both have lots of reasons for being in San Diego, her original idea was to commute. Hell, maybe we should just go up to Berkeley where she could go to Pacific School of Religion (first choice, and one that she could get, since our minister is an alum there and could help her in) and we would be VERY clearly out of San Diego and would give up the idea of living in two places at all! And, at least we’d be around some other smart liberal minds and nicer land when the shit starts hitting the fan in the post-peak days.

Bloody hell. That’s all I have to say.

Monday
Jul182005

Whoa Nelly!

It has been quite a heavy few weeks—stressful in every way for Kelli and me. For this last weekend, the Kelli/Glenn/Ed contingent somehow managed to clean out the total abortion of a garage that is left here, prepared for a yard sale, put on a yard sale, cleaned up after the sale and distributed the many leftovers to church and Salvation Army. And, if that isn’t enough, we simultanously started to pack a couple of drive-off storage boxes with stuff that we don’t want to rush to carry around or want to store because downsizing from a four bedroom house to a smaller place is a trick. Kelli got an extremely nasty cough and has since passed it to me, which I feel I should attribute to the overwhelming amount of dust and gunk that has been disturbed. However, usually, after a few minutes of such dusty work, I usually get a nasty sneezing fit that goes on, which oddly was not present this time, despite half a week of such work, and keeping a fire going, as I heave outdated documents, wood scraps, utterly worthless clothing, and other stuff into the pyre. Kelli got a temp job in the couple days before we started this whole project, so she has been already taxed before she even starts doing the packing or moving. Her back pain has been an issue for her for three years now since her car accident, so she is always the first to wear out, but she has been a trooper. Glenn has a part time night gig at the local pizza shop, and he’s been here for a month now, and has made himself useful in so many ways. I had some real strong reservations about having him here while my domestic situation dissolved into anger and frustration with my old man’s choice to sell the place, and Kelli and I having some great issues about it all. But Glenn has lent a measure of stability, coupled with some breakthrough with my old man who opened up to me at least enough to make some clarity for what I must do in the near future.

Glenn and Kelli and me all end up on the porch each night, talking into the wee hours about all sorts of stuff. Kelli and I obviously have our moving to do, and her schooling to look forward to, and our job search, but Glenn has been going through the ringer himself as his wife seems to have decided she doesn’t need his presence in her life anymore, and used the ostensible three week period as a cover to inch him away while her mother was in town from Russia. So understandably, he’s out of his mind about all that, and the last month has been quite a time for all of us to sort out all sorts of things erupting against our wills. Somehow, he’s been totally gracious toward us, and perfectly respectful of our place and our lives. He’s been a great help around the house, not just as one more person to do the small work, but as a person to talk to about a huge range of topics. He also was a huge help in this moving project. Since about a week ago when his wife dropped the biggest bomb on him, we all have been contemplating getting a place together, and have spent some time looking for a place, but with all three of us being mostly unemployed, it's sort of a silly proposition when a landlord/manager takes a look at us.

Well, and there is a new development there too.

Today I went in for a second interview at AV Concepts where after three weeks of waiting, I finally got the job. This gig is substantial enough that it seems Kelli and I can remain in San Diego where all our church family and friends are. If she has her share of rent, we could pull off living in a cheap place that isn’t this house, and if Glenn is onboard too, we can bump up the rate and get a two bedroom or more. It was looking like Kelli and I would be moving to Claremont if we didn’t find work down here. The idea of having to be ripped out of San Diego is one thing, but the idea of being ripped from our community at church and as honorary members of some of the families was the part that I wasn’t looking forward to. It does appear that this will work now, and just in time—we have three weeks left here as of today, and I am scheduled to start at AVC on the first, and Kelli to start school about three weeks later. AV Concepts will be the first “real” job I have ever had in show production/audio/music. (Actually, they are more of video company than I realized.) In fact, it is sort of the first “real job” I have had in years, but as far as gainful employment, that could mean going back to mid-2001 before 9/11 which really slowed down my music/audio tech work and led me into the more modest and frankly satisfying home delivered meals jobs.

So, the tried and true adage still holds: crisis equals opportunity. I’m surprised I’ve been able to cope as well as I have, but in some regards, I have little or no choice, and finally, it seems that my cushy days are over, sad to say. In some ways, my marriage is just beginning now, this summer, even one year after the ceremony, because it is finally falling to Kelli and I to make things work without any family deals or whatever. When she is in school, she will be gone for three days and nights at a time, so I can use that time to either screw off, or part time some other work, and it seems like my Sundays will be free to keep doing church recordings and all. I’ve been more and more willing or able to let some of this stuff out into the universe. The universe will provide. It seems like it is doing so now.