Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Have car, will travel, BEWARE!" Chapter 2- 'Pas Gentile'

We set off, south down the main stretch of highway leaving over developed Cancun behind us. Passing by sign after sign of new condo developments- all in English by the way. All of this as we learned through our research on the area was pretty new. We could tell that we were in a part of the world that was very unique. The landscape is as flat as an Illinois corn field, but all around is the jungle creeping in from everywhere.

I had not driven stick in many years and while I had a shaky time, didn't have too many problems right away. It was of course highway driving and therefore smooth sailing, after all, once you get going on the highway there is no need to switch gears. The problems came as we entered into towns and had to stop and go. Let's just say that stalling in the middle of a Mexican intersection becomes a very dangerous game of trying to get out of the way, but also keeping out of the way of others. At first one can assume they are taking part in some sort of mass chaos on the streets with cars and scooters constantly zipping by. They don't have the time to wait for Mr. Guerro Tourist to get his car running and moving again, which went against the assumption that things slow down in Mexico. That people aren't in such a big rush to get to places.

What it truly means is that while no one is in a particular rush to get somewhere, they definitely don't want to see some white boy on vacation clogging up the main intersection.

Not my idea of having fun either, especially when you couple my frustration over not being able to handle the world's smallest car with my lovely travel companion's cackle at all the misfortune I have put us in. Picture this: a grown man whining "Baby... It is not funny! Help!!! I can't get the stupid clutch to catch... What is wrong with this fucking car?!?"

The first couple of times this happened, my girlfriend (now my wife) lovingly and gently let me know what I was doing wrong with some words or looks of encouragement. "You are doing fine- it isn't easy," was what she would say. After stalling for the seventh time in the last half hour, the comedy was apparent for her.

She began to respond back to me with a little smirk. Still with the same kind words, but the tone shifted a bit. More of a I-shouldn't-have-to-repeat-myself type of speak. She should have been used to this though, because she was a French teacher, and all teachers are supposed to remain patient even with their slowest student. The problem was that she was teaching at a highly respected University where even the slowest learner probably had my ACT score beat by double digits.

Smirking turned into chuckling. Chuckling turned into soft, reserved laughter. Reserved laughter turned into full blown hysterical, red in the face, tears streaming down the cheek, bellowing laughter. All this happening while being sworn at by those riding scooters around my stalled car and me pounding the steering wheel because I have no control over things.

Pas gentile!
Not nice!

All this became a part of the fun, and eventually I was able to laugh at myself a bit more. Not right away of course, but a few moments afterwards. Usually after getting to our destination and away from this car. So far, the problems were minimal. The problems had more to do with a lack of composure. My nerves would be tested over the next few days however.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Have car, will travel, BEWARE!" Chapter 1: 'Heed the gods' warnings young man'

The first trip I ever took that involved renting a car happened to be in Mexico. Specifically- the Yucatan peninsula, all throughout the state of Quintana Roo and small parts of the state of Yucatan. Beautiful land. Gorgeous sea. Amazing culture. Spectacular weather. And the vacation was long overdue, especially for my very patient wife (back then- my girlfriend of a few years) who for seemingly ever had been putting up with my very long hours at the office (something that was unheard of due to her, how can I say- Frenchness?) with very little time off. Literally the only other vacations we took were quick trips to places like Saugatuck, Michigan on a bitterly cold weekend in mid-October. That was supposed to be our Summer holiday- things just kept getting pushed back. Or there was the time where I thought I was being all suave by taking this poor woman to Midwest tourist hell, otherwise known as Wisconsin Dells. Needless to say, we both needed this time and this vacation to go smoothly and be fulfilling.

We arrived at the Cancun airport knowing that we had to find the little Dollar rental car hut just outside. Time was ticking and our seven day trip had been pre-planned almost down to minute intervals. We wanted to get the most out of this trip! The plan was to get in that car and drive the hell out of the over-developed Cancun area and head immediately south into the lesser-developed Riviera Maya, specifically to our palapa on the beach in Tulum.

We approach the counter with the understanding that everything has been taken care of, considering we booked the car ahead of time. Then time came to pay for the initial usage of this tiny, manual transmission car, and that was when I should have seen all of the problems that we would face over the next five days or so. Like the idiot that I am, I forgot to notify my bank that I would be in Mexico... Card denied.

Now this is a common thing for many travelers. How do I know? Well, you see, I WORK FOR A BANK and have to handle this issue for people all the time. You would think that lesson would have been learned by me through others' habitual mistakes, but no. Not me. I remain ignorant to the ways of the world. Which is why I was probably ignorant to the high probability that this would not be the last time we had problems with this little car.

Looking back on it, I am sure that I would have normally not have forgotten such a basic thing, but I chalk up my forgetfulness to divine intervention. Who knows- maybe it was one of the ancient Mayan gods looking out for my well being. After all, while this little car did take us all throughout the beautiful land of the Yucatan, it did also lead to quite a lot of head aches and frustration (not to mention neck pains, broken glass, cracked bumpers, bruised egos, and most importantly- terrific stories).

A quick call to my office, a favor to someone that probably still owes me more than she would care to admit, and a little negotiation with the Dollar people got us on our way only about an hour behind original schedule. What is great about it all is that the changes to the plan, all due to the fact that my card was screwed up for me not calling in advance to let them know I would be out of the country lead us to having to pay a little more per day on insurance in order to get the car right then and there. Choc Muhl or one of the other Mayan gods must have been looking out for us, because without these little changes to our plan, we would have been in a world of hurt (not to mention debt).

Onward bound we were, on our way to the most beautiful white sand beach and the coziest set of sticks bound together to form a little hut one could ask for. Excited doesn't describe how we felt. I just wish we would have heeded the Mayan gods' warnings to not get in that car. To stay in touristy and quite literally "American" Cancun and hang out with frat boys getting wasted poolside as they try to boss around a local to bring them another drink.

For that would have been the safe trip...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Have car, will travel, BEWARE!" Prologue

This is a fair warning to any and all that ever join me, or run into me while I am traveling. I am letting you know right now that I am in some way shape or form cursed in a very specific capacity.

I cannot drive while traveling for pleasure in hot climates without something very wrong happening.

Now I realize this seems way to specific for it to really matter, but hear me out on this. After all, I pride myself on knowing that I will at least try to do what is right for my fellow man, and therefore knowing that I have some sort of curse over my head in regards to self-operated transportation in a place that is approximately in excess of 75 degrees on average throughout most of the year, I feel that it is my duty to tell you now to keep clear.

Besides, I want to be the guy in the picture- relaxing and enjoying. What this picture doesn't tell you is that I had just been a part of the third major accident/issue involving motorized vehicles within a 48 hour period. Just call me the modern day John Candy, because whether by plane, train or automobile, I am sure to get involved in some sort of trouble.

I guess I should learn from past lessons that it is not a good thing for me to even try to operate cars, scooters, motor bikes, trucks, etc. while in these climates because too much damn stupidness happens. Call it stubbornness, call it ignorance, call it naivety- whatever. Just know that while on vacation, in hot climates, I don't plan on sitting around the Sandal's resort sipping piña coladas (the drink above was a piña colada, but not at Sandals) and watching Betty and Lou from Des Moines try their hand at hula dancing. I want to get out there and see things for myself. No matter the dangers involved. No matter the curse that has and probably always will plague me.

This is not a revelation by the way that has just hit me all of a sudden. No, the signs were there from the very beginning. So please enjoy the following chapters in a book (albeit a short and choppy one) I would like to call “Have Care, Will Travel, Beware!”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My friend, Eggs

For the past six years, one of the best friends I have ever had has begged, pleaded, peer pressured, coerced, bribed, prodded, and shamed me to come visit him in his newly adopted town in the middle of the desert. I, growing up as a Midwestern boy was never intrigued by the desert. I practically liquidate upon setting off into any situation in which the temperature climbs above 72 degrees or so.

Besides, even the word "desert" causes consistent fuck ups on my part. Any time I necessarily need to talk about either "dessert" or "desert", I almost automatically mix them up. It is to the point where every single time I need to type out either word, I go forward with my gut reaction, and then self-edit whatever I put down, automatically changing it to the other word, knowing it is wrong.

It sucks going through life knowing without doubt that you will consistently screw something up, the same thing up, no matter how conscious you are of it. Honestly, I just now looked up on Yahoo! what image would pop up if I typed the word "d-e-s-s-e-r-t" and a big piece of pie showed up. And here I thought I was going to see an amazing landscape of sand and cacti.

Which leads me back to my friend.

My desert-dwelling friend has lived in Tucson for the last six years or so, and has pretty much always told me that I would love it out there. Without giving much thought into why he was so sure it would be a town I would be into, I dismissed his statement simply due to the fact that this guy is one of the most outspoken people I have ever met. The type of guy who talks and talks and talks. Seriously. At times, I wonder if the man doesn't have a problem. I mean, how could any one person go on and on as he does- as he always has- and not get tired of himself?

Besides that, his quick to form and unshakable opinions have always left me with my guard up when it comes to him making claims about or against me. Including, and especially times when he would question my integrity as a man simply for not being able to come out and visit him. Some bold statements about pussying out on good times, or not having the balls to stand up against bosses who would not sign off on vacation requests, or choosing to go somewhere else during times when I was given time off. It always seemed that there were other things in the way of me heading out and finally seeing this town that my friend said was going to be impressive to me.

So with great pleasure, and a bit of finagling, I was able to get a decent chunk of time off this past week to finally head out to Tucson and the surrounding area with the promise of a free place to stay for me and my wife, a free car to drive around where ever we wanted to go, and with some good guidance on where to go all throughout Arizona.

The trip and the planning were not all hassle free however, considering getting time off became a major hassle and work in itself, not to mention the fact that my wife has barely met and knows my friend- nicknamed "Eggs." "Eggs" was all of our nicknames in high school- something that must have confused the hell out of anyone that was not a part of our idiotic group of adolescent young men.

We wondered what kind of place would we be staying in? Knowing my friend tended to favor living in run down apartments (what he called "filled with character") and what could be generously described as low-income neighborhoods while we both inhabited the boisterous city of LA- my wife and I both walked forward into this trip with a bit of trepidation.

What kind of host would he be? Would we be stuck on a twin mattress bed while he slept on the floor at the foot of the bed all because his studio apartment was the size of a small walk in closet? Would we be given full access to his vehicle only to find out that he expected us to chauffeur him to and from where ever he needed to go?

Or maybe the worst thing would be him following us around, every where, getting in the way of what was a most definitely necessary time for my wife and I to get away before the stresses of our jobs kicked in and as the cold winter approached. He was after all the guy who seemed to be the embodiment of the word "inappropriate," and someone who never worried about sharing his opinions of you or anyone or anything around you. That redheaded guy across the room? My friend is the type that would go on to talk (jokingly, but still) about how ginger haired people are inferior to the majority of the general population- only slightly higher on the social totem pole than Mormons.

Would my friend dare continue to talk and gab and bitch and quote and rant for no end? Until we both went mad over his incessant verbal diarrhea? Until we just couldn't take it anymore and decide to be dropped off at the airport six days before our originally scheduled flight back to Chicago? Besides, heading to this part of Arizona was not my wife's first plan for our time off. We both began to worry about my friend, Eggs, and his motor mouth getting in the way of some relaxation and a nice experience.

Which is the interesting thing of it all. I never get bored of his ramblings about what ever theory he is studying and how he has helped apply such theory to some urban redevelopment plan somewhere in Tennessee. Nor the stories of encounters with mass murdering cop killers who are responsible for his court subpoena to testify in front of a grand jury sometime in early October. It always amuses me to hear him rant about Phoenix housing developers and how they are the root of all evil. Or how he can go on for hours reenacting scenes from our favorite TV show in high school- The State. Or how he could talk forever about one of his secondary lives (his first being a PhD student at the local state university) as a bartender/semi-professional bike racer/outdoors man.

The guy is absolutely fascinating! Quite possibly the best part of it all is knowing that this is the same guy who in our early days as freshman at a private Catholic school in the western 'burbs of Chicago, couldn't put on his mandatory for the uniform tie the right way. Hell, not to call him out or anything, but he didn't even know how to properly tie his own shoe laces. Any semblance of an upbringing could be called scarce, and one by a father who could best be described as "aloof." This never seemed to bother my friend, though it is hard to say truly how much he was bothered by his lack of guidance or caring.

Any way you look at it though one thing is for sure, my friend grew up to be someone who I envy a great amount. Someone who I can honestly say is an inspiration to me, and for good reason. Independent- without a doubt. He lives his life as free as any living thing could be, and still has the ability to claim a home territory and get the most out of a place and its people. Smart- absolutely. He is one of the most intelligent and thoughtful people I know. Not just in a sense of theory or academia, but through most things practical. It is amazing to see just how much he has been able to accomplish and learn and live since the days roaming school with his laces pushed into the sides of his scuffed up loafers.

If I had to sum up the trip, I could easily say it was spectacular, but so much can and will be said of it in the near future, I hope. Details of the trip will follow in a series of posts that will hopefully capture the feel of what was going on around us. The desert is a truly special place, and I can see why people love it so much. There really is a unique quality to the air out there. And the people that live there really are a sight to be seen, listened to, and befriended. Including my friend Eggs, who deserves a massive thank you. That bottle of bourbon we bought for you could never be enough to thank you for such a great time and warm hospitality. Oh, and thanks for going the extra steps by sleeping outside every single night just to give us our privacy. It was unnecessary, but just another sign of your greatness!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Only vegetables are happy...

“People need trouble -- a little frustration to sharpen the spirit on, toughen it. Artists do; I don't mean you need to live in a rat hole or gutter, but you have to learn fortitude, endurance. Only vegetables are happy.”
-William Faulkner

What I thought at the time was a revelation became apparent to me one day, in the most likely of locations: philosophy class. It was my junior year of college and I was taking a Philosophy of Law course that was being offered by the small college I was attending in England. Brendan, the professor of this class, a pretty well-to-do Doctor of philosophy, known more for some of the students he once taught at one of the neighboring colleges (think Prime Ministers) was a very fun, engaging and hilarious guy- and that isn’t just because he rode a bicycle around town while wearing a kilt and waving at all recognizable students he passed by (though that added to his appeal).

Our discussion one day went the route of trying to define what the purpose of law is. Why are laws established? Attempting to get to the root of why laws even exist in the first place. Go ahead and try it out- it actually is a very difficult exercise. One in fact that we couldn’t even begin to grasp. So Brendan moved us along to something that should have been much easier.

Happiness: what is it?

While this is most definitely an easier thing to try to figure out, it really isn’t very easy. Many started describing situations, places, scenarios that brought about happiness- all the while without figuring out what it actually is. Happiness cannot truly be manifested, we figured. Happiness is not tangible. And so the class went, trying to place a brief description to prove to ourselves once and for all just what happiness is.

My simple minded deduction capabilities had me eventually look at things from a different angle. I figured if it was hard to state what happiness is, then I can try to state what happiness is NOT. Then it hit me…

Happiness is too difficult to define and comprehend unless it can be compared to its contrast. Happiness can only be quantified, and therefore, felt and eventually defined through analyzing how it goes against unhappiness.

I proclaimed to the class that happiness was therefore the absence of pain, anguish or stress. Complicating things- Brendan stated, “So if I were to some how drug you beyond the point of consciousness, and hang you up on the wall like that TV up there,” pointing to a television that was on one of those hotel-style platforms that are attached to ceilings, “would you be happy? You wouldn’t feel pain… No suffering… No stress, but is that happiness? Is living life as a vegetable the ultimate form of happiness?”

I replied yes, and as it turns out at that time shared an opinion held by Mr. Faulkner: “Only vegetables are happy.” Much to the horror of a few in the class who I am sure were picturing some medieval display of my freshly pitched up body being nailed to a plank while being hung from the ceiling- all the while with a stupid grin on my face due to the copious amounts of morphine being pumped through my body right after getting a serious lobotomy.

I was wrong of course. What I was describing was something beyond happiness. Some sort of nirvana, or oblivion- nothingness. Happiness cannot come without suffering. It just can’t occur without being able to compare happiness to its nemesis- pain. It is just one example of duality that keeps the world moving. I realize bringing up the notion of “duality” then opens things towards the religious realm. While I am not a practicing member of any set belief system, this sense of not having one (joy) without the other (pain) is something that I believe in whole-heartedly.

The thing about trouble, or frustration, or as so many people refer to it nowadays: drama- is that it needs to be a part of an ongoing process; a fluid system- a cycle that entitles the frustrated and troubled to some peace and security; some happiness. It is only fair.

Yeah, I know- our parents always had that golden phrase easily accessed from their pocket any time we as children had some sort of gripe about life.

“Suzy got to sit next to Bobby last night. It is not fair!!!”

“Well little Billy,” says Mom or Dad, “sometimes, life just isn’t fair…”

With fairness comes unfairness- more duality.

I often am jealous of those that live what I consider to be very difficult lives, and yet, can find wondrous amounts of joy in just about everything they come across. Their duality is living through the hard times, and practically creating the joy with their strong sense of will and peacefulness. A truly beautiful thing! I also get frustrated by the times when I judge someone else’s life as easy and therefore don’t afford them the chance to go through bad times and be able to suffer. “Why is he complaining? He just got back from vacation…” “What’s up with her shitty attitude? She’s rich!” “Why are they down? They have ME in their lives!”

I realize that judgmental behavior, as well as living life constantly jealous is no way to live, but of course this idiot just can’t help it. I want to be happy. I want to see the good in my life. I want to be happy even for others. I don’t want to be bitter or nasty.

Maybe it is because only through acknowledging my pain and frustrations, and making efforts to see the world in that different light can I be sure to have myself open to the joy when it does come along.

Life is beautiful. It really is. Life is also terribly ugly. It really is.

Monday, June 29, 2009

My father's crappy little car

As I grow older, I seem to be remembering more and more about my childhood in regards to what it was that helped mould me into who I am today. One of the clearest things of relevance to me happened around the time I was 12 years old. I don’t remember exactly what time of year it was, nor what things look like in particular- but I can remember the conversation that took place between me, and my father, while my younger sisters and I were being driven home from school one day. It is as if this conversation with my father happened five minutes before sitting down to type this.

My father and I regretfully have never been close in terms of him being the “friendly” father that many of my friends had. He was, and is to this day actually a friendly and likeable guy to basically everyone he comes across. He is approachable, talkative, intelligent, humorous, gracious, and actually a decently handsome guy despite his penchant for heavy drinking, smoking and overall neglect for his personal health. In a word- he has it. Whatever it is that makes certain people popular and likeable- well, my father has it.

This didn’t and doesn’t always translate at home though. Simply because of his job, he always had to be “on” outside of the home. In general, I would mark my father overall as a good one. He worked very hard but was always doing his absolute best to attend as many after school functions for me and my sisters as was possible- and in the end was very successful at it. He used his wits to try to teach us kids as much about the world and how to look at it (from his perspective of course) as he could. He always figured there was something that could be taught to us- and he would always make sure to show us the life lessons.

It is ever clearer now than ever that he had and has too much on his plate. Work was constant stress for him. Perpetually trying to balance work life with very active kids made things difficult not only for balancing his time and energy, but also the finances. Not to mention the fact that my parents made up their mind early on to send us to Catholic school all on meager salaries with very little gratification.

When he was home, and settled- he truly settled- mainly on the living room chair, with a beer or nine. His moods consistently changed; sometimes within as short a period as it takes to get through a crappy sit-com. One moment he could be jovial, asking questions about our day- genuinely interested and the next- reclusive, testy, and agitated beyond wanting to even be in the same room as anyone. One thing for sure is that it made my relationship with alcohol a story of caution and moderation.

With all of these problems, he still was and is someone I truly look up to. I know him to be a wise man, someone who really does know a lot about the world and the inner workings of people, social systems, and history and how it all relates to modern life. His sense of cynicism and snark can be one of the most annoying things to deal with. It can also be one of the funniest things. His kind words can be at times deeply touching and genuine and at other times forced and synthetic. He is filled with a deep sense of pride at knowing about 4,000 different clichés and if allowed to use them all- he would. He used to publish business management critiques and articles around the time I started high school. I remember reading one particular article that I really couldn’t grasp, but yet recognized no fewer than 16 obvious clichés used in a way that he always thought was clever and showed off his witty mind. The problem was this all happened within his three page article, and even at the time to me it came off as a bit contrived. Regardless of his love for the unoriginal statement, he has a definite gift for written and spoken word (many used to claim that he obviously loved the sound of his voice reading something “of importance”), even in song. He has a very good singing voice.

It was no surprise one day being picked up from school to find my father, in his little brown Hyundai stick shift awaiting us kids to take us home. On the stereo- his overplayed Eric Clapton Unplugged tape that was on constant rotation. At this time, he had been unemployed for about four months after being laid off of his job as an operations manager of a YMCA in the city. As frustrating as his job was, he enjoyed the hard work. Being unemployed was incredibly frustrating for him. He needed to feel busy.

I jumped right in the front seat, over taking one of my little sisters in pursuit of “shotgun” privileges (we never called it- we always just claimed it). Being in the front seat did have its disadvantages though- mainly the smack of beer breath spewing from our fearless driver. He made his rounds asking each of us about how our days were and if anything interested happened- his ritual.

I answered in my usual quick reply: “School was fine. Nothing special happened,” and then did the unthinkable. I returned his questions…

“How about you, Dad? How was your day? Anything happen with you?”

He smiled but said: “No… Nothing really… Nothing at all…”

As his smile faded, I could tell he was upset, or at least lost in pretty deep thought. No, it wasn’t the outright effects of alcohol. My father had built up a massive tolerance in those days and being picked up after school or driven anywhere in the late afternoon/early evening by my father was always preceded by at least one quick can of beer. The act of sitting around all day long awaiting call backs for interviews didn’t exactly help his over all sobriety. However, I never once felt like I was in danger getting in the car with him during these times. He always was at least responsible enough to wait to start his real drinking until after he was done with his “running around.”

“Let me tell you all something,” he said, breaking a long moment of silence in his tiny car. “Live life to the fullest, one day at a time, but when it comes time to make a decision on what you want to do with your life- like the shoe company says: just do it.

“I don’t care if it is as lawyer, doctor, police man, garbage man, tax man- whatever! If it is truly what you want to do- then just do it, and don’t worry about how others view you.”

This coming from my father, accompanied by so many instances of his favorite literary device (hello, Mr. Cliché!)? The same man who used to tell us that we were not allowed to cry in public because it would make others think we were weak? Who used to state that sometimes one had to do things that one hates in order to learn life lessons? The same guy who continued to suffer through his previous job for about 10 years, putting up with constant bull shit, hating it a large majority of the time, and eventually being dumped out on the street with little or no explanation.

Unemployment must have really opened his eyes to life, and how he had been living it.

I am not sure why I frequently remember this story. Maybe it is my minds way of conveniently trying to muster up enough courage and fortitude to make a bold move in my own life. I too have now spent almost six years straight working for a company that has very little regard to my well-being, not to mention respects me, my hard work, and my dedication. I understand it actually- it is after all very much a for-profit corporation based out of the United States of America. Major corporations aren’t designed, aren’t incented to look out for their employees. This isn’t about me complaining about the modern state of the working person. It is however, a blatant statement of my discomfort and frustration over allowing me to fall so deeply in the rut of working where I am at. Mainly, for NOT making changes in life when needed.

To sum up: I have a hard time deciding whether I should “shit or get off the pot.” (*my father would be so proud not only because of the cliché, but because of my use of toilet humor)

Analytically, emotionally, even physically, and especially with the most recent round of pay cuts- practically- I need to follow his advice and find something that I want to do, do it, and live a happy life.

Sounds simple but there are two problems. First- is my non-existent ability to figure out what it is that I want to be when I grow up. Second- my father ended up following his advice to an extent, and yet it still didn’t lead to happiness. He eventually landed a job that he enjoyed very much, despite the long hours and hard work needed. He dedicates so much time, energy and love into his work that he feels unsatisfied in other ways.

While I don’t have the same problems as my father, especially in regards to what makes us happy and feel fulfilled, I do have to say that I strive to attain that elusive balancing point that I haven’t been able to master- and that my father never has been able to in his nearly 57 years. I guess we all do.

In the case of my father’s life and that of my own- I am hoping that another cliché doesn’t come to fruition (pardon the pun): The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Foggy memories

At nine years old, I remembered with absolute clarity and could guide with conviction each and every direction needed to be taken in order to find whatever other animal my younger sisters wanted to see at the zoo. It was as if I was the hired tour guide giving out perfect directions and always being able to call with precision what animal would be around the corner. I was in charge of that zoo. It was all mine.

The amazing thing was that I had only been there one time before this trip for a few hours when I was six years old. I can remember after a few requests from my sisters to see various animals which would have taken us through a zigzag maze of directions and walk-ways, I was able to find the most efficient way to see everything they wanted to see without having to walk back and forth all of the time, while still effectively getting them to where they wanted.

Efficient and effective. Two things I strive to be, but honestly can’t lay claim to now that I approach my 30s.

Why does the above story matter? From a story stand-point, it doesn’t matter at all. In fact as a story, it is boring.

I could tell you all about how my youngest sister couldn’t stop laughing at the baby mountain goats jumping around the man made concrete mountain in their habitat, playing with each other.

I could also tell you all about my fascination over these stupid wax “
Mold-O-Ramas” that I quickly built an unhealthy obsession over wanting to collect them all.

Explaining with great detail how my father may have unintentionally killed a raccoon that day would also be easy to do. I could lay out how my father threw a cigarette butt on the ground in an outdoor eating area. How in turn a raccoon there, being part of a pack of vicious little gluttons, fought for and ate this cigarette butt because they eat anything that comes from human hands- including still-lit cigarette butts.

I could also try to explain the enormous amount of pride I had in myself for leaving that day knowing that I had concurred that zoo, its site plan, and all of the twists and turns of its pathways even before entering. All because I somehow remembered the layout with such clarity from a brief trip I had a few years prior.

I could explain a lot about that day. But I won’t… even though I just did.

What the story tells me now more than anything is just how odd the brain works. At least my brain and how it works. To be even more specific- the function of the brain known as memory, and memory recall. For whatever reason, mine seems to be dysfunctional.

I have not (yet at least) been diagnosed with any sort of condition that causes memory lapse. I have no reason to believe that I suffered from any sort of trauma- physical or otherwise- during my childhood that may have been the cause for me losing out on most memories. I have never used hard drugs. I drink, but not heavily or even all that often.

Basically, I was given a brain that is incapable of working in a way where I develop strong, clear memories that I can rely on. Maybe also I never really figured out how to use it properly where I could make it function better for my life. Make me remember more. Have it recall important facts, or interesting stories when the time is right.

The unfortunate thing is that most of my memories from my childhood and even in my teenage years come from small, trivial events. I can remember with an infinite amount of clarity about a five second time span in a basketball game I was playing in when I was about 12 years old. I can remember not only where it was, what I looked like, but could even remember who was guarding me (his name was Chris- and no, I had never met him before in my life, I just remember people yelling at this poor kid to change his positioning on defense in order to cover the wing more), what he looked like, what the weather was like that day, and how the play unfolded. I can see now who was in the crowd, and what both teams reaction was to the play. It all is crystal clear.

Yet on the other hand, why can’t I remember exactly how everything unfolded when my mother finally broke the news of her having MS to us kids? Why can’t I remember my grandmother, who according to my mother I loved spending time with? Why can’t I remember what surely was an amazing sensation when I did my one and only leap off of a tower only to have a bungee chord snap me back up in the air?

Part of the reason I decided to establish this blog was to ensure that when special things happen- good, bad, happy, sad, or otherwise- I will be able to store them before my short term memory is purged and those emotions and stories are lost forever.

Much like those
Mold-O-Ramas I hopelessly collected at the zoo.