The Hike: Prologue

Monday, October 5, 2015

Even trees, (who don't have a brain) know when to stop
 -author unknown

In life, we sometimes find that there is a fine line between ordinary, everyday actions and plain stupidity.  We all have routines, needs and desires.  How we act upon them determine who we are and how accurate we are in our decision making skills. 

I am still pondering the facts of a recent activity that I found myself drawn to:  The Hike.  This was not an ordinary hike; I push myself harder than that, and specifically looked for something a little more demanding.  On a weekend trip to Palm Springs I chose a ‘moderate’ hike, one which would challenge me, and give me a sense of accomplishment.  I had in my mind episodes of Duel Survivor and Naked and Afraid (although I hadn’t yet determined if I would be taking off my clothes).

Taking this hike seriously, I loaded my backpack very deliberately with an assortment of items:  four bottles of water, a pair of gloves, a camera, a small notebook and pen, a hand towel, my wallet and cell phone.  I had thought about bringing along a lighter, but didn’t want to be even remotely responsible for any kind of accidental fire. Driving on the way to the base of the mountain, I stopped by a thrift store and bought a cap and scarf to make sure that my head and neck would be fully protected from the sun.  I scored on this purchase because those two items only cost me $1.25.

I know that I’ve already mentioned it, but want to make sure that the record is clear: I was in Palm Springs, and the air temperature was about 106 degrees.  Yes, I chose to begin my hike at 11:25AM.  I had also opted to take this hike alone because, why wouldn’t I?  It was just a little hike.  In retrospect these last decisions, although well intentioned, may not have followed the recommended protocol by licensed trail guides.  A more observant hiker might also have noticed that my car was the only car in the parking lot. 

With the concept of hindsight, being what it is, I imagine that there could only have been two possible outcomes to this hike:  1. A crazy guy that decided to take a hike in extreme weather conditions was found dead next to a large rock and some ants… or 2. A crazy guy that decided to take a hike in extreme weather conditions, living by his wits alone, barely survived to tell the tale.

*Spoiler Alert: I didn’t die during the hike.  Stay tuned for The Hike – 1st Attempt.

 (One of the selfies taken while I was still conscious.  You'll notice the lack of visible trails in the background.  I seemed to have veered slightly off course.)


Slow Burn to Lame Duck-ness

Thursday, September 3, 2015

You don’t hear too much about lame chickens or turkeys, and I’m pretty sure that there are only scattered footnotes (if any) regarding other types of fowl.  No, ducks seem to have cornered the market on lame-ness.  But what is a lame duck anyway?  Is it a duck that can’t walk?  Is it a duck that can’t fly?  Or is it an employee of a company that has just been told that his presence will no longer be needed and the smart money might be to start to looking for a new job.  Just for today, the last definition seems to ring truer to me than the ones involving the actual ducks. 

Was I really just fired?  I think so. Well, sort of.  It’s so hard to tell, because I’m still working.  I am on a countdown timer though, so that’s where the lame duck-ness truly comes in to play.  What’s even more interesting is that no one at the company even knows about it, except of course for the three people who were involved in making the decision.  So, I go along, talking to and emailing my co-workers every day. I also email and speak to my customers every day.  It's almost an out of body experience.  Except for the part where I have to look for a new job daily - a search that right now feels more like I’m blindfolded and trying to pin the tail on a donkey. 

Oh, if I could just be a real lame duck right now.  That doesn’t sound so bad.  I could limp around when on land, and float effortlessly when on water.  I would be able to eat, enjoy my surroundings, swim around and do the daily duck things that ducks do.  I’d be a responsible duck.  I wouldn’t bully the other lame ducks or hoard the breadcrumbs that humans would inevitably throw my way.  Of course, I wouldn’t have health insurance because… well, you know, the duck part; but I’ve got a high tolerance for pain, so I’m sure I’d be OK. 

They (the company that I still work for) told me that I could take another position in the company if I would be willing to uproot my wife, daughters, dogs and hermit crab from here and move 2,678 miles away to the home office - but I think they may have just been trying to be polite.  Even if I were willing to do that, I’m sure that I’d be outnumbered when it came time for a family vote.  My two dogs alone could win that election. 

They (the company that I still work for) didn’t even tell me of their decision to let me go.  They told a person that is very close to me, and that person thought I should know and told me a few days later.  It wasn’t for about another three weeks before the company’s president saw me in person, at the end of the last day of a sales meeting, when he casually slid it into the conversation. 

“You probably know what this is about,” he started.

“Finally!” I thought to myself.  “I was beginning to think that I was dreaming this whole thing up, or perhaps they had changed their minds.” 

He was very pleasant about it.  I suppose I can be thankful for that, except it would have been nice for someone in management to speak with me directly from the start.  They have offered a severance package – allowing me to transition at my leisure to whatever donkey tail my blindfolded self happens to successfully pin. 

So, for the time being, it will be me limping around nibbling on breadcrumbs.  I guess I’d rather be a free range lame duck than a fully processed turducken.  There’s no future in that.


NWA - Not Weally A (Movie Review)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

I'm not going to say that I was forced to go.  Nor can I say that I went against my will.  This wasn't the first movie on my watch list for the weekend; but my wife wanted to go, and she did buy my favorite candy as a bribe, so I said that I would tag along.  I'd heard of the group NWA, and even knew what the initials stood for.  I have to admit that I knew nothing of their music - other than it's not likely that any selections from their catalog would ever hold a spot on my Mp3 player.  My expectations, you could say, were not very high when I sat down in the full theater.

After having seen the film, along with seven movie trailers, I can confidently say that I recommend it.  Sure, the strong language, nudity and sexual innuendo made me question our decision to bring our 16 year old daughter along for the ride, but after a little explanation of what AIDS within heterosexual relationships and Suge Knight's violent tendencies were (really, I don't think any of those are spoilers) I left the theater with a desire to learn more about this group and their significance in the history of rap music and their struggle with the right to free speech.  When a film leaves you with a feeling of wanting to explore a subject in greater detail, I have to say that it has succeeded on many basic levels.

There were three main characters that carried the film: Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Eazy-E.  Through different scenes, each character was developed adequately to highlight their strengths, weaknesses and flaws.  One character dies (you can do the math on that one) and poor Paul Giamatti - well, let's just say that he's not cast as the same character you know him by in Sideways or, in one of my favorites:  Big Fat Liar.  The Suge Knight role is memorable, and for anyone that may have had any doubts about whether or not he ran over that guy at the liquor store recently in the news... well, lets just say that if you happen to be called for that jury, if you've seen this film you should recuse yourself in front of the judge.

The movie ran about two and a half hours.  My daughter felt that it was a little long, and my wife agreed.  I understand that in order to wind the movie down and give the dying character (see math problem above) respect, it takes time and that may have contributed to the slightly stretched ending.  I didn't run out of Sno-Caps, so the length of the film didn't bother me.

In light of heightened security, I should note that the theater employees didn't inspect our bags or run wands over our bodies for this film, as they did last weekend for Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (I'm not judging, just reporting our experience).  There were two long lines for the next screening after ours, so I can vouch for the accuracy of the $60.2 million draw on the opening weekend.

As I've said, I would recommend this movie to a friend.  You don't have to be familiar with the gansta rap music of NWA to enjoy the film, although I was definitely in the minority when it came to singing along with the musical score.  If you're easily offended by harsh language, poolside nudity and the suggestion of sexual activity, you might be a little more comfortable looking up the group NWA in Wikipedia and starting there.  It is an interesting story and proves the old adage that if you believe in yourself and follow your dream, you can become the person you were meant to be. 


Missing My Father Day

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Here we are again - Father’s Day.  I still think about my Dad almost every day, but on this day of the year the feeling is a little different.  I’ve already been alive on this Earth longer without a Dad than with one, and the missing connection is still raw and intense.  

Memories of parents, loved ones and even brief acquaintances are cast in stone.  The sands of time may alter some of the realities.  But the lingering memories, which remain in our minds, create the icon that we look to when reminiscing through our archives.  

My Dad was a consummate entertainer.  He was a ladies man and a man’s man.  He was also a salesman’s salesman.  His very presence in a room was captivating.  He told stories like nobody’s business and could easily reduce even the most staid person into a fit of uncontrollable laughter and happy tears.  He was equally comfortable in large groups as he was in intimate settings, a valuable character trait that even some famous personalities today would envy.

I have mostly positive memories of him, and still look up to him as a key role model.  Were he still around, I would be the first one in line to ask him for advice about all of life’s questions that keep tripping me up.  Yet, I don’t mind telling you that for a lot of my life, I was terrified of the man.  He had a commanding voice and, real or imagined, I sometimes felt scared and not quite good enough when he spoke to me.  As I got older and slightly more mature, I felt a closer connection to him.  It may have been my youthful insecurities that instilled a false sense of fear in my mind.  But toward the end, even when he was lying on a hospital bed in our dining room, unable to speak, I always wondered if he would just sit up in the bed and get agitated about something.  

There was such frustration on his part throughout the illness.  Brain cancer, late diagnosis and a brain surgeon who was missing the gene for good bedside manner – you couldn’t concoct a more tragic outcome.  One day he was lucid, literate and eloquent.  Then, post-surgery, his gift of speech and reasoning had been repossessed.  He hadn’t been told that he had cancer, so I can’t even imagine what he might have thought when he finally awoke from the surgery.  He was unable to speak coherently, eat by himself, or even move the right side of his body.  He was also not aware of his projected limited lifespan.  It soon became our family’s experience that whatever “it” was, it was always the worst possible version of “it”.  

These days, I have strange triggers for remembering him. When I am working out on the elliptical machine at the gym, and the ‘calories burned’ number gets to 419 (his birthday, April 19th) I think of him and smile.  He had invested (badly, as it turned out) in the hydroponic tomato business; and to this day when I smell tomato plants, I think of the times that we would drive out together to visit the greenhouses.  Every time I walk into a men’s restroom at a restaurant, I think of him and wonder if he would have approved of the level of cleanliness.  (He was known for checking out the bathrooms of restaurants before being seated.  Because he felt that if management couldn’t keep their bathrooms clean, could he really trust them to keep their kitchen clean?) He taught me how to drive a stick shift; that was fun.  He would tell me that, 'back in the day' (that expression hadn’t been invented yet when he told me) he learned how to drive in a bakery truck.  He would have to ‘double clutch’ to shift gears – that is, to shift out of gear into neutral, release the clutch, and then shift again into the next gear.  I enjoyed demonstrating that to my daughters when I felt nostalgic, but I don’t think they were nearly as amused as I was during the actual demonstration.

One of the funniest stories that my Dad ever told me was the night he went out for a business dinner with some clients.  While waiting for their table, drinks in hand, the phone began to ring.  It was a busy night, so the maître d’ wasn’t at the front of the house.  My Dad picked up the phone and began to speak, “Yes, table of six? When would you like to be seated? Yes, Mr. Jones, we look forward to seeing at 7:30.” Upon return, the maître d’ asked my Dad what he was doing.  My Dad told him that no one was there to answer the phone, so he took a reservation for him – Jones, party of six at 7:30PM.  The maître d’ was somewhat upset, not only because some stranger had answered the phone in his restaurant, but that some stranger had booked a reservation when there were no more open tables available for that evening.  My father never said, but I’m sure his clients gave him their business after that night.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.


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