Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Own Private Idaho

Welcome To "My" World

This might seem silly, and something that a 53 year old man really shouldn't be doing, but it is theraputic. Sort of like gardening, or organizing your receipts before taxes. It brings order and a sense of purpose.

This is my little corner of the world, even if it is just in my head. It is a city. A city I could walk in my sleep. I know where everything is, and how everything works. I know what subway to take to get to the airport. I can stroll through the zoo and then head over to my little cottage on the cape.

This is a city called "Hypocrisy" that I have created in SimCity 3000. It resides on a little (128K) thumb-drive in my office at work. I plug it once or twice a week and check on the little lemmings that worship me as a God (albiet a very benevolent one).

In my little city, there is order, purpose and lots of parks and fountains. It is eco-friendly and thoughtfully laid out with lots of mass transit. The welfare of my citizens is most important, not making short term profits for the fat-cats in the high rise glass towers.

In essence, it is a perfect place. A place of refuge and serenity in the very complex real world. If you click on the image you will be whisked away to a 'really' big map of my city, where you can roam around and check out the sites like: The Power Stations (wind turbines, nuclear and microwave), the light house on the point, the bread and breakfast community on the coast (completely powered by solar energy), the farm fields in the southwest and the rail line that cuts through the scenic mountains to the coast.

So much for fantasy...time to get back to work.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Road Trip

I really needed to get away

My wife and I have a little ritual. Every New Year's Eve, we fill up an old claw-foot bathtub in our back yard and take a bubble bath at midnight. It is usually freezing outside on January 1st, and the hot bathwater makes a cold fog in the backyard as we listen to the noisemakers and gunfire in the distance that rings in the new year. This year, while hunkered down in the tub, we both made the comment, that 2010 was going to be a good year....we just sort of sensed it.

Boy, were we wrong.

After my father passed away in 2005, my mother eventually sold her house in Tucson and moved to Phoenix to be closer to family. My mother had been a dutiful wife for my father for over 55 years. When my father passed away, she became a whole new woman. At the age of 77, she started her second childhood.

Phoenix Rental Car Terminal

She purchased her little dream home in an historic neighborhood near where we lived. Gone were the drab beige and whites of the suburbs that she had lived in for the past 20 years. This house was going to have color! She volunteered at local thrift stores. Took up jewelry making. She went thrift store shopping with us on the weekends. She rode her little electric motorcycle all over the neighborhood as well as downtown. She took the light rail all over the city to visit restaurants, see plays and go to the movies. She was finally going to have a chance to do things her way.

Abandoned Structure Near Tonapah, Arizona

Then she got sick. Mind you, this woman had NEVER been sick a day in her life. She had always been VERY independent and could never fathom being dependent on anyone else for anything. So her bout with kidney stones really hit her hard. She had never ridden in an ambulance nor been in a hospital. She didn't like it, but after the minor surgery, she sprang back. She was back on her little motorcycle within a month. That was in November, 2009.

Then she got sick again. This time, it was harder to figure out. The doctors diagnosed it as diverticulitis and gave her antibiotics. Only problem was, the doctors had it wrong. It was peritoneal cancer that had attached itself to her colon. By the time they had figured that out, 40 days of treatment with antibiotics had done more harm than good.

Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles, California

Around this time, we discovered that my mother-in-law (MIL) had spent herself into bankruptcy. She had not applied for the state grant money which would have allowed her to stay in her assisted living facility where she had been for the past 4 years. She claimed that she wasn't eligible. We later found out that she had never even applied. So come February 1st, 2010, she showed up on our front door and moved into our house. We gave up half our house and all of our personal space to fulfill our family obligation.

Then in middle of February, my mother had an operation to re-sect a portion of her colon. She sprang back from that operation for about 2 weeks, then found herself back in the hospital with more intense pain in her abdomen. Needless to say, the cancer was winning.

Griffith Observatory, Upper Deck, Los Angeles, CA

By the beginning of April, she asked to be moved to a hospice facility near our home. She willed herself to stay alert and awake until she got to hospice. Once she was there she drifted off into unconsciousness and was gone in four days. My wife and I spent almost all of our free time in that little hospice room, reminiscing about the strong, fiery, independent woman that lay in bed breathing heavily beside us. It was rough.

Finally, at 2am in the morning on April 10th, the phone rang. I know who it was, and I knew what they were going to tell me. After saying our final good-bye to her, my wife and I found ourselves at a Denny's at 3am in the morning. We couldn't go home and we couldn't sleep. The awful realization, was that we were now the older generation. Man, that was tough.

So the first 3 months of 2010 hadn't quite been all we had hoped it would be.

Los Angeles City Center by Night, from the Griffith Obervatory

In late April I found out that my best friend in High School, who I hadn't seen for 35 years, was going to be in Los Angeles. He would be within 50 miles of my other best friend from High School. I sort of figured I needed a break. My wife said ' need to get out of here. It will do you good.' So I rented a shinny new Ford and hit the road to make the trek from Phoenix to Los Angeles to see some old friends and clear my head.

It was a good trip. Long drives across vast deserts give us time to think about a lot of things. Things that we haven't had time to think about in ages. Meeting up with my old friends from High School was joyous and somewhat sobering. We hadn't lost any of our witty banter or child like innocence, but our bodies were old. We traded stories of what pills we took and who had the worse eyesight.

I think it gave us all a bookmark. Someone to compare our life's journey with. We had known each other's hopes, dreams, fears and optimism in South Dakota back in 1975. Those hopes and dreams had lead us all down different paths, but through some rip in the space-time continuum, we had all found ourselves standing ontop of the Griffith Observatory on April 23, 2010. As we looked at the twinkling lights that stretched to the horizon we all chuckled. We couldn't believe that we had made it. Back in 1975, we all thought we would be dead by now. But we had survived. With those same fears and dreams intact.

Four Hoppers, Cabazon, California

So now I am back in Phoenix, to try and pick up the pieces. It is going to take a long time. Life doesn't stop for you when you have a crisis. There are still bills to pay, birthdays to celebrate, and yard work to do. Contrary to what they told us. Life does not get easier as we get older. At least not this time around. And it has taught the importance of hitting the pause button and getting away from it all, before circumstance overwhelms us.

All images taken during the road trip, 4/22/2010 - 4/23/2010. Shot with a Panasonic Lumix Digital. All shots are HDR (High Dynamic Range), created from three bracketed images merged together with Photomatix software. Click the images to view them full resolution.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hitting The Pause Button

Time To Reflect

I have noticed a lot of exceptional bloggers have stopped. They have posted their fairwells and have gone on to bigger and better things. As most of them say, all good things come to an end. That me be true. Unless things change, we never really grow.

I like to think that there will be others that will take their place. Those that reach out to share, spread some humor and give the rest of us insight. It keeps nagging at me that the global conciousness and community that the Interent promised us in its infancy may yet come to pass. And way down deep, I hope some of the good ones return once they have sown their wild oats and walked the razors edge. If nothing else this blogging thing is a hopeful endeavor.

As for me, I won't be going anywhere soon. As many have said, this is cheaper than therapy and in some ways, I see this whole long process as my epitath. But instead of a small stone in the corner of the cemetery, I get a whole life time and a million words to tell those that come after me where I have been and what I have seen. At least I like to think so.

But I won't be around much for the forseeable future. At least the next few weeks. Things have arisen in my family life that we all must endure, birth, living and death all force us to take a break and give pause from time to time. Such is the case with me. But I will be back with more stories to tell. Until then, keep on writing. Although most of you may not know give me strength.

Friday, April 2, 2010

First Friday Flashbacks

Going way back to 2005 to mine this out of the archives. I was surprised that the audio presentation has been updated and it is a bit more current. Still funny / scary as all hell.....and much closer than you think. [warning, sound is required to hear this presentation]

First published June 2005

Pizza Palace Is Online

Click For A World Without Secrets

First of all, if you have not seen this little video clip, I highly recommend that you watch it. It is funny in the extreme and very well done. It made the rounds about 9 months ago and most of my friends saw it through e-mail.

However, that isn't why I am posting it here.

After I got done chuckling at this little skit and the paranoia that it was supposed to instill in all of us, I started thinking about 'why' the content was so funny.

The skit references a world in which 'big brother' has gone wild and can control our lives. There are no secrets, everything you do, buy, say and think is documented and can be used against you. Sort of George Orwell's 1984 come to life in the present day. The ACLU and the American left wing want you to be very afraid of this and want you to fear the idea of being 'exposed' for all the world to see.

Over the years, I have trained myself to ask the question "why" a lot. If someone tells me I should like something, or that I should be afraid of something, I ask "why". Seems to me, that too many of us take what others say (be it a friend, the media or the President) and take it as truthful.

If Exxon / Mobil says 'toxic sludge is good for you', I sort of ask "why". Could Exxon / Mobil be lying to me? What is THEIR motivation for telling me this.

So with this sort of warped mindset, I watched the ACLU's version of Pizza Palace and started asking some questions. Why is this so bad? If this type of world came to pass, what would it entail?

A world where neighbors had no secrets about one another.

1. A world where you knew if your new neighbor was a PhD scientist or a pedophile.

2. A world where you knew if they were taking out a 3rd mortgage on there house to deal with a gambling problem.

3. You knew that their last 3 houses all burned down within 2 years.

A world were no spouse had to worry about the other one cheating.

1. You knew that your spouse had filed suit against 3 previous employers, all for sexual harassment.

2. Your husband had really been at a strip club when he had told you that he was visiting a sick friend in the hospital.

3. That your fiancé was under the care of a psychiatrist for bi-polar disorder and extreme depression.

A world where employees and employers had nothing to hide and knew who was incompetent.

1. You would know before you took a job that the company has the highest turnover ratio during the last 8 months of their 15 year history.

2. You would know that your new female supervisor's maiden name was the same as the company founders and she had just gotten out of 2 years of drug rehab.

A world where your status and monetary prowess was known to all, and not masked by clothes, jewels, cars and homes.

1. You would know that the person driving the Hummer in front of you was in debt up to his / her ass and about to go bankrupt.

2. You would know that the bum on the street sleeping on a bus bench was really worth 8 million dollars and that he "chooses" to live the way he does.

3. You would know that the strange folks living across the street from you were actually using the home as a drop house for immigrant smugglers or a meth-lab.

A world where everyone knew what each others physical frailties where and they were all accepted.

1. A world where you knew what your friends, office mates, lovers and neighbors all had to deal with in their personal lives.

2. What diseases they had, what medication they were on.

3. What trauma they had faced in life.

4. How many kidneys' they had.

5. Do they know what chemotherapy is really like?

In short, this all sounds like the world of the 'good old days', when we all lived in small towns and knew our neighbors and everyone helped each other out and was compassionate to their plights.

Instead, the ACLU fosters the fear of having all your 'secrets' found out. We don't want people to know that we have AIDS or are about to go bankrupt, that we cheat on our spouses or don't know the first thing about our jobs. Because that would make us appear 'lesser' in the eyes of others and hurt our chances to 'improve' our situation through deception.

Seems that we are more in fear of having our ego's bruised than of having the world a better place and understanding others.

That was the answer to the questions of "why" that I kept asking myself after seeing this little video.

All of a sudden, it did not seem that funny.

Hmmm, I wonder "why"....