Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Fran & Gary ...continued

A short work of fiction in 4 parts.

Chapter - 1, Pelicans

Chapter - 2, Pirates

Chapter - 3, Sentinals

Chapter - 4, Cubes

Gary kept his eye on the temperature gauge. It kept inching upward toward the redline and it made him nervous. He had been sitting in line for what seemed like an hour. His Corvette sat at idle in the 105 degree heat as he waited for traffic to inch forward.

This was the unbearable part of returning home. First the wait at the border, then the secondary check by INS several miles into the country, and now this. He had no idea what the delay was, but it had lasted over 30 minutes and he was getting frustrated.

The line of cars in front of him snaked over the hill a half mile away and disappeared. He had no idea how long the line was or how long before his car would start to melt in the desert heat.

As the line of cars slowly crept forward, one car length at a time, he noticed a turnout by the side of the road. It was a rest area with some covered picnic tables. Gary turned his car into the rest area and shut off the engine. "Better to wait here and save some gas than to just sit waiting in traffic." he thought.

The blast of desert heat overwhelmed him as he left the air conditioned cockpit of his mid-life crisis toy. "Dry heat my ass!" he muttered to himself as he walked over to the covered picnic tables Gary sat down and contemplated the barren scenery around him.

This was where reality started to set in. No more cold beer and warm ocean. He was smack dab in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. This was the road back to real life. The trek was seldom pleasant. All around him, tall saguaros stood guard at the entrance to the American dream. Gary pulled out his cell phone to see if he was back in range of the network. "Might as well face the music." he said to himself. He pushed the series of buttons that logged him back into the electronic grid that ruled his world.

“You have 5 new messages and 12 old messages. You are at the main menu. Press….”, Gary cut the automated phone voice off by pushing the #1 button.

“First Message, Sent Friday at 5:32pm......Gary, this is June. I was wondering if we could get together sometime this weekend, maybe have dinner. I want to go over the shared portfolio to see if we want to keep it joint or cash out and cut the final ties. I am going out this evening, but will be…..” Gary hit the save button and sent his ex-wife’s message to voice mail.

Next Message, Sent Friday at 6:41pm……”Yo, Gary! It’s Ralph. Hey, I need a favor. I think I deleted the Excel file that contained the revised annual report with the new numbers from Wednesday. Can you resend the workbook to me before Monday so I can have it ready for the…..” once again, Gary hit the save button. He sort of wondered if the world actually stopped functioning when he wasn’t around. Did everyone just stand around and ask where Gary was until he returned?

Next Message, Sent Friday at 7:05pm…….”Yo Gary! Ralph. Where are you man? I need to get the presentation updated before the boss shows up and…..” click, Gary simply deleted Ralph’s follow up message. He had been riding his coat tails ever since he started the damn job.

Next Message, Sent Saturday at 4:30pm……”Hi Gary. This is Brenda. We met at Rick and Fran’s house warming last month. You had mentioned that if we could find a good wine bar that served a decent Pinot Noir we should check it out. Well I just found a new place that might fit the bill and was wondering if you were available this evening. Its been a long week and I could use the diversion and some good company. If you are interested, give me a call before 6pm. Hope to hear from you! Bye.” Gary smiled for a moment. He remembered what Brenda looked like. She was pretty easy on the eyes and they had flirted quite a bit at the party. To bad he had missed the call. He would have to call her back and see if there were still some possibilities there.

Next Message, Sent Sunday at 11:35am…….Gary, its Fran. Look, I know this past weekend wasn’t any easier on you than it was on me. I…...I wanted to say I’m sorry for being such a bitch. This wasn’t your fault….and…..and I sort of feel that I may have been a bit insensitive. My insides are jumbled up right now, in more ways than one (she laughed) and I have had a lot on my mind……”

There was a long pause and Gary wondered if he had lost the connection. “I just wanted to tell you……”

As Gary listened, the wail of a siren and a revving engine raced past the rest area as a police squad car roared up the side of the road past the stopped traffic. Gary couldn’t hear what Fran was saying even though he pushed the cell phone close to his hear.

“……I don’t know if we can work this out. I suppose we should think about things. Things like this change a relationship. I hope it doesn’t change ours. You mean a lot to me and sure there are times when I have my doubts. But Gary, there are times when I think I would be lost without you...........”

There wasn’t any goodbye, just a pause and the sound of the connection ending. The dust from the squad car drifted over the picnic tables and Gary hit the repeat button combination on the cell phone. He listened to the message once more to hear it uninterrupted.

Gary listened intently and could hear a slight quivering in Fran’s voice. She was usually always calm and collected and rarely got emotional. But this was a different Fran than the one he had known for the past six months.

After the long pause, he listened…….”I just wanted to tell you that I love you……..” she said.

Gary closed the cell phone and brushed the sweat from his forehead. “Damn”, he thought out loud.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I wish I could have taken a picture. It would have defined the wonderment of life. But I knew there wasn't enough light and the time exposure would have required a tripod and a lot of luck which I did not have. I just had to burn the image into my mind so I wouldn't forget it.

This was the last trip. I had made the journey three times before, but had been thwarted by circumstance short of my goal. The goal was to hike to the Tall Trees Grove. This is where the largest trees in the world grow. They are located deep within the Redwood Forest. In my past attempts, rivers had been too high, bridges had been washed out, or the trail had been closed. But I loved the Redwoods. I felt at home there among the sheltering giants. I wanted to take one more crack at it.

As I drove up Highway 1 in California, I decided to camp for the night at the Andrew Molera Walk-In camp ground. This was a camp ground on the coast near the Big Sur River. You had to leave your car at a parking area and hike to the camping ground about a half mile toward the shore. I found a place to park and packed in my tent and sleeping bag.

The Andrew Molera Campground was a large open area about a half mile from the shore. It was late in the afternoon as I set up my tent and made camp. As the sun slowly set, I decided to walk the trail to the shore and catch a glimpse of the ocean. It was a beautiful summers evening, and the smell of the sea and the coastal flora was like an intoxicating perfume.

As I walked the path through the coastal vegetation, I passed an old one room school house that had been marked as an historic site. It hadn’t been restored and seemed old as the land it sat upon. In the cool moist air of the coast, I couldn’t imagine a time that it had actually been used. My mind wandered to the 1930s and the children that may have lived in the area and walked here to learn their lessons next to the Pacific surf. It seemed so far removed from the school buses and concrete classrooms that I had known as a child.

Past the school house the path followed a meandering stream that was Big Sur river as it trickled toward the ocean, taking water from the coastal mountains down toward the sea.

The path then made its way through a tunnel of ferns and shrubs and eventually ended on a cliff overlooking the ocean. High on the cliff was a bench where I sat and watched the sun disappear below the horizon. It was a scene of absolute tranquility with the sound of the surf and the smell of the sea mixing with the greenery of the California coast.

As the sun disappeared and the sky darkened, I witnessed something that I had never seen before. As the veil of night descended and the stars slowly made their appearance, they were reflected in the ocean as I looked to the west. The thousand points of light above my head ran down to the horizon where they slowly faded into the coastal mist and then re-appeared at my feet in the placid ocean as it rolled toward the shore and broke over the rocks.

At that point, I could have not been further away from civilization. I could not have been more at peace or appreciated more beauty. These were the moments that I took the trips for. Each time I went, I found something unexpected, something magical.

It eventually dawned on me that I had to make it back to camp and that the way would be dark and unknown. I had the foresight to bring a flashlight and headed back down the vine covered trail to the camping area.

As I walked under and through the bushes I once again came upon the stream that flowed to the ocean. While I had been on the bench taking in nature’s light show, the tide had come in and backed up the stream to its headwaters.

The babbling brook had been transformed into a mirror smooth pond and as the trail skirted along its banks I stopped in awe.

The stars that burned so brightly overhead where reflected like a mirror in the water at my feet. I paused and turned off my flashlight. There, in the coastal darkness, with only the sound of the distant surf and the evening frogs, the stars surrounded me. There was no moon. There was no other light. For that moment, I stood on the edge of the infinte.

There are times when your mind plays tricks on you and you have to rely on logic to show you the way. As I gazed around me, my eyes told me that if I stepped off that bank, I would fall into infinity. There was no ground, there was no water, there were only stars in a vast sea of emptiness. But logic told me if I took that step, I would get wet. My mind wrestled with the thought, and logic won out. It usually does.

I turned the flash light back on, illuminated the path once more, and headed back to the campground. The campground was teaming with life when I returned. There were fires raging in dozens of fire pits, with groups standing around singing, laughing and drinking. It appeared as though some medieval carnival had sprung to life when the sun went down.

I made some dinner and went to bed with the strains of guitars and laughter outside my tent. My mind returned to the dark bank of the stream and continued to question whether or not I would have fallen into those stars.

I knew I could never go back and find out. It was a door that opened for just one moment in time. A door that showed me something not visible in the ‘real’ world. I hope I get another chance to open that door. Maybe next time I will step off the bank. I will always be curious.

(clicking the picture shows an aireal view of the Andrew Molera State Park, with the cliffs and Big Sur river visible. The web site for the park can be found here )

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mother Knows Best

The Power of Baking

I have a step-daughter. She has a son. I suppose that makes him my step-grandson, but all these step designations get confusing after a while.

Let’s just call him 'Munchkin'. He is all of 4 years old, and when he runs into walls, he just falls down, gets back up and keeps on running. He has boundless energy without a lot of sense. Childhood, don't you miss it?

One day when he was all of two years old, Munchkin was visiting us and playing with one of his toy trucks. It was a big truck and he was standing over it as he pushed it around the floor of our home. Without a keen sense of the difference between tile and carpet, Munchkin ran his truck into the tile barrier between the living room and the dining room. The truck abruptly stopped. Munchkin did not.

He went head over truck and did a very proper face-plant onto the hard tile floor. You could feel the thud all through the house. It was painful just to watch, much less feel through your feet.

After he got up and wondered exactly what happened, he inevitably started to cry. He cried really loud. No one could blame him. We all rushed over to him to make sure there was no major damage. Other than the red knot that was swelling up on his forehead, he seemed fine. At least his lungs sure lead us to that assumption.

Without loosing a beat, his mother (my step-daughter) quickly ordered me to, "Get a Brownie" from the kitchen. My wife (munchkins grandmother....see how confusing this gets?) had made a batch of brownies that afternoon and they were cooling in the kitchen.

Considering that her son was screaming and looked like he had just been beaned by a line drive, I thought her request for a Brownie was a bit on the odd side, if not a bit selfish. "Your son is crying and you want to eat a brownie?" I thought.

I complied since there wasn't a lot else I could do. I went to the kitchen, sliced off a piece of the moist, warm baked goodness and returned to my step-daughter.

She promptly handed it to Munchkin and within a split second, there was golden silence. Munchkin was devouring the brownie and the swelling lump on his head was already receding into distant memory.

I stood there in amused amazement. Never underestimate the power of a brownie. Never question the wisdom of a mother. It is something men have a real hard time understanding.

A warm brownie heals all wounds.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


Gary and Fran - Part Duex

A short work of fiction in 4 parts.

Chapter - 1, Pelicans

Chapter - 2, Pirates

Chapter - 3, Sentinals

Chapter - 4, Cubes

It was still oppressively hot. Gary ordered his second Corona and turned to look out at the bay. The sun reflected off the sea and made him squint. The bartender brought the sweating bottle with the lime wedge stuffed into it.

“Cualquier cosa?” the bartender asked.

“No thanks” Gary replied. He shoved the lime into the bottle and took a long draw from the cold beer and wondered why it always tasted so much better down here.

Gary tried to understand how something that seemed so right in the beginning had led him to this place. After returning from the clinic, Fran had been quiet. Last night she hadn't felt like eating and spent much of the previous afternoon standing ankle deep in the surf looking out to sea. There wasn't a lot he could do to comfort her and he sensed that she knew that. That morning Fran left early to drive back across the border. He stayed behind to deal with his own lingering doubts.

He heard a child's laugh and turned to see a young family of four sit down at one of the tables overlooking the bay. They were probably in their early thirties with a two year old daughter and a five year old son.

"That could have been me in another life." he thought, as he watched the lime wedge floating inside the cold cervsa.

He wondered if he could ever go back to the way it was. He doubted it. He realized that it probably wouldn't be good if they did. "Relationships like this burn brightly and then go out just as quickly." he thought to himself. Their jobs, their families, their friends all hung in the balance, yet they were also the cause of the whole affair in the beginning.

As he reached for a chip to scoop up some salsa more patrons entered the little cantina and bellied up to the far end of the bar. They were two young college couples, dressed provocatively and well into their morning drinking binge.

"That was me a couple of years ago." he thought to himself. Gary smiled and mused over all the hard knocks the kids would learn in the next decade.

They ordered Tequila, lime and salt from the bartender.

"The good thing about Mexico is that you don't have to let your troubles bother you down here." he thought. "The worries of the real world seem so far away. Here, it is just cold beer, hot days and seafood."

Gary glanced out at the bay and saw one of the local shrimp boats heading back into port after a long night of trawling.

"Look Daddy!" the little boy screamed. "Pirates!", as he pointed at the boat chugging past the downtown waterfront.

Gary's mind played a subtle tug of war over his relationship with Fran. The better angels of his nature chided him to think of her family and their careers. But his lustful demons only had to conjure the feeling of her warm body and their passionate kisses taken in moments of reckless abandon. Whenever he tired to think of something else, the muses eventually returned and resumed their mental battle.

At the other end of the bar, the couples had started the spring break ritual of the 'body shot'. Firm breasts were pushed together into deep cleavage as eager young men licked lime from one breast and salt from another before pulling the shot glass from between them with their teeth and downing the tequila. Gary recalled that it was illegal to use your hands.

He downed the last of his Corona and pushed several dollars toward the bartender.

“Gracias mucho” was his reply

As Gary left the cantina, another young man dove into a treasure chest to retrieve the amber gold of his dreams.

Gary couldn't avoid his problems forever. He needed to head back, face reality, and retrieve his own lost treasure.

A Thousand Possibilities.....

....means fewer choices.

There is this concept that is coming called the ‘singularity’. Like a freight train barreling down on you in a tunnel, it is almost here. However, I don’t know if the visionaries of the future have really taken into account the marketing and the media regarding this whole issue.

There is this theme that I keep running up against in my journey through life. At first I didn't see all the connections, but they are becoming more and more obvious as time goes by. There is this connection between what we are told to want and what we actually end up getting. This connection can be manipulated. There are puppeteers out there....and we aren't always the ones pulling the strings.

The singularity will give us thousands of options. There are literally thousands of ways to do things already and to see how they all work is one thing, but to see how they all interconnect is another. We all have these options. The things that will expand our consciousness, yet most of us don't know it yet. We don't need to go out and buy anything to access this looming potential. The tools are already there, on our cell phone, in our televisions, behind the dashboards of our cars. But for most of us, we don't see how they all work together.

It dawned on me, that our lack of knowledge about how new technology is fundamentally changing how we perceive our world is creating a service economy because most of us simply don't have the time or the curiosity to figure things out. So we end up paying someone else to figure out life's complexities for us. When this happens, the Singularity is taken over by the few and not the masses.

I have a new television set. It is one of those fancy HDTV flat panel jobs. It has a super nice picture and all sorts of neat features. The thing has 7 (count them seven) inputs, so I can plug in my DVD, my Laser Disc player, my VCR, the Nintendo Game Cube and my iPod into it all at the same time! Talk about a techie dream. Only problem is, my wife isn’t that techie. I have come to realize that most folks aren’t that techie.

My wife simply wants to be able to plop down in front of the TV, push a button and magically have "American Idol" appears before her eyes. She doesn't want the thousand options. She doesn't want to navigate the system. For her, simple is better. For 90% of the population, simple is better. Just tell us what we want and then give us what we want.

This same concept can be expanded to almost every nook and cranny of society. Our cars, our phone, even our work space.

I chuckle at the advertisements for the New Cadillacs and Lincolns. Monster vehicles that have computer controlled climates, voice activated GPS systems and satellite radios. Yet, in the back of my mind, I have this feeling that the folks that plunk down 50K for one of these techno-vehicles don't really have a clue about how most of these things work. It usually comes down to three simple things. 1) Key turns it on, 2) This pedal makes it go, 3) This pedal makes it stop. Beyond that, I don't think that too many hands reach for the owners manual.

If you can't use a map and a compass, a GPS satellite navigations system isn't going to do you a lot of good. If you can't burn your own CD's on a computer, an MP3 compliant 12 speaker deck with Sirius Satellite radio may be a bit beyond your comprehension.

When the need to figure these devices out actually comes along, we end up paying for someone else to make them work for us, or at the very least train us how to work them. Common curiosity is not a real virtue these days. We are trained to believe that we "can't" figure things out and it is better to find someone else that can.

If the Singularity ever does come about, and we attain the potential to make quantium leaps in our ability to understand the universe, I think it will be in the hands (or minds) or a few. Those minds will tell us what we want and then spoon feed us like babies in high chairs.

It is past 1984….better start reading the manual folks.