The Return

January 6, 2019

Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

 

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. They just get broken in the first week, and then I end up feeling like a failure and am not motivated to start over. But I do recognize the power that a specific date can have when making goals. And I have made a list of things that I want to accomplish this year. I haven’t set any concrete deadlines, simply that I will have achieved certain things in the coming year. One item on my list is to have written 100 new posts in my blog. Being that I published exactly four last year, and those all in three days in March, this may seem like a tall order. But it’s fewer than one every three days. I don’t have a set length for the posts, just have to write something. There really has been no issue with the number of words I can punch out on the keyboard. But the quality of my stories has to meet certain standards of my own making, so I spend lots of time editing or thinking of better ways to express myself.

So, very quickly, before the coffee shop closes down for the evening, a fast bit about the events of the last ten months:

In April, I began a second job teaching at a language school. When I returned to my first job in May, this made for a seven-day a week schedule which lasted way too long. I finally quit the government school right before Christmas. The money was nice, but I was killing myself and not doing what I came here for in the first place, namely exploring and learning about the culture.

I continued my relationship with a Chinese woman from Hong Kong who I refer to as “Mystery Woman” in my Facebook posts. I’ll write about her at length later on.

I was able to take one mini-vacation in southern Thailand in July, and a proper two-week holiday in Vietnam in October.

One of my best friends visited me in March, then moved out here in July. She’s doing great.

I wasted a ton of time on Facebook and Netflix.

The drowning pool has been empty and down for repairs since the end of September.

The ladies at the coffee shop are now politely eyeing me and encouraging me to make my exit. Catch you next post!

Whisper to a Scream

March 19, 2018

Chiang Mai, Thailand

 

The school was practically a ghost town when I arrived this morning a little past 8am to punch the time clock. There were only three other motorcycles parked in the small lot behind the cafeteria, where usually there would be dozens. As I walked around the corner to the main building which houses the administration offices, I noticed that all of the doors to the Anuban (Kindergarten) classes were shuttered and locked. Normally at this time there would be myriads of children running around and playing, but there were none to be found. I saw exactly four other people during the time I parked my bike, walked to the time clock, and then returned to the parking lot to leave. Two of them were assistant teachers. whom I recognized. The others, a man and a woman, were unknown to me. They were up on the deck of the drowning pool, looking at the green-tinged water and taking note of something. I returned to my bike in silence, pausing only to watch as two of the school cats were locked in a stare-down with each other. The black one with the short, twisted Thai tail had his back arched as he glowered at the calico miracle momma cat who looked ready to rip his throat out. Over to my right, the white bitch lay in the sun, chewing at her scabby tail again. After about thirty seconds, one of the assistant teachers walked up behind me to her own motorcycle, her presence snapping the spell, and the two cats unlocked from their cold war and moved on. The mangy white bitch continued her self-grooming routine, unbothered.

Today is the first official day of the school break. Classes will not begin for the new term until May 7. But because the Thai government decrees that the schools must be open for 200 days out of the year, my school requires that the teachers continue to clock in every day until the end of March, even though there are no classes. The pointlessness of this demand is just one of the things that I have had to get used to as I deal with the bureaucracy here in my new, adopted home. I gave myself the concession of not wearing my teacher clothes to perform this ritual, instead donning a pair of blue jeans and a polo.

In a way, this may be a good thing for me. It forces me to get out of bed instead of sleeping the morning away. I’ve become quite lazy in the past few months. My last post was from the end of October, five months ago. So I have decided to take the time that I would normally be teaching classes to be productive. I’m outside by the swimming pool listening to The Icicle Works while sitting in a lounge chair with my computer and coffee, shaded by the bamboo umbrellas as the air around me rapidly warms with the still-rising sun. Five small children have just invaded my serenity and are busy splashing in the pool, unsupervised. Well, four of them, anyway. One boy is just sitting on the chair next to me, watching the others having fun in the water. Maybe he can’t swim. I have many stories to tell about my first year of teaching here in northern Thailand. It’s about time that I started writing them. Hopefully without getting water splashed on me.

 

There goes my goddamn peace and quiet

 

 

 

 

Pick a Topic, Any Topic

June 10, 2017

Chiang Mai, Thailand

I have so many things that I want to write about right now. So, I’m going to just throw some scattershot thoughts out there for a bit.

If you have ever wondered what became of all of the old Singer sewing machine frames and treadles, rest-assured. They are not occupying landfill space. They are all in southeast Asia, repurposed as table legs. Many of the treadles still work, so it’s kind of fun to rock them with your feet as you sit down eating your food or enjoying an iced coffee.

Speaking of food, I went to the market in my little village this morning. There is a large, open-air space that is covered with a tin roof on one edge of town. Each morning, vendors can be found selling fresh vegetables, herbs, and meat. The meat is about as fresh as you could hope for, the animals most likely having been slaughtered the night before. Next to the different cuts of meat that are still being butchered, there rests the head of the unfortunate pig. The chickens are either sold whole, or in pieces. Beef, fish, other fowl such as ducks are also available. I wandered through the stalls marveling at the abundance of fresh produce. Last week, I purchased a toaster oven, an electric pan, and a rice cooker, all second-hand. I then went to a small general store and bought other supplies for my “kitchen”, such as a knife, cutting boards, bowls, and spatulas. I realized that I have not cooked anything (hot water over instant ramen does NOT count) since early December of last year, and I really miss it. So, even though it will probably be more expensive for me to do so, I want to prepare some of my own food. But, walking through the market today, I didn’t buy anything. I realized that I am intimidated. While I recognize many of the ingredients available, I am stopped because I don’t have little jars of spices with names in English at home. I don’t know how to ask for anything without pointing. I don’t know what herb that is they are selling. And I just know that if I do buy meat and vegetables to make a dish, I’m likely to forget something and it’s not going to come out right, and then there’s the storage issues and I’m going to have to clean up without a proper sink and all kinds of other excuses… Basically, I’m being a coward.

On the bright side, I discovered a small café/food stall that offers khao kha moo, which is stewed pork leg over rice. It’s one of my favorite dishes over here in Thailand. It’s served with chopped, pickled cabbage and sliced boiled eggs. On the side you’ll find a savory and spicy red sauce to add. It’s absolutely delicious. I have had it in the city of Chiang Mai several times at the stall operated by a lady in a white cowboy hat who was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s show. But I didn’t know where to find it in the village of San Kamphaeng, where I currently work and live. So, it was a nice find. I’m building a small collection of favorite places to eat khao soi, pad kapow, khao man gai tod, and pad thai.  I’m now almost confident enough to order these things without having to consult my pronunciation list, although I still screw up from time to time.

If I wish to become fluent in the Thai language, I’m going to have to dedicate time for lessons. I’m also going to have to lose my ego and just go ahead and start asking for help. I’m going to have to let myself make mistakes and have people helpfully correct me. In one way, it really helps me to be patient with my students, knowing how difficult it is to remember the words. These past couple of weeks I have been drilling my second-grade students in names of family relationships. “Father, mother, sister, brother”, etc. They have gotten those down pretty well, but are having more difficulty with “parents” and “children”. It’s repetition that is key, and the fact that I oftentimes cannot remember the Thai word for some object or food really helps me to empathize with my students. I’m possibly going to make flash cards for myself to practice remembering the words and proper pronunciation.

The ride into Chiang Mai from San Kamphaeng was beautiful. I am still in awe of Doi Suthep, the mountain on the west side of the city. The way that the clouds come rolling over the top of the peaks, shrouding them from view is still mesmerizing. I grew up and lived most of my life in flat parts of the country. While I did live for a year in the Mohonk mountain area of New York state, and then a few years in northern Virginia close to the Shenandoahs, I’m still taken aback when I see the majesty of the large, looming outcroppings. Chiang Mai area is surrounded by mountains, and the topography creates some interesting weather patterns. I hope that the weather isn’t the rainy variety when I get ready to ride back home later.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in the Nimman Road area of Chiang Mai while I’m writing this. I rode into town to meet someone that I connected with on a certain dating website. She’s also American, a few (okay, several) years younger than me, and it’s simply a friendly meeting. I’m cool with that. From our online conversations, she seems to have a great sense of humor and is wickedly sarcastic. She just sent me a message to let me know she’s walking this way. (For the record, Danielle, if you get to read this, I checked my phone, not to see if you responded to my message, but to remind myself of your name.)

That’s all the time I have for this post. Still have lots more to talk about. If you have anything in particular you would like me to write about, let me know. I’ll try to work it into an upcoming story.

Lighting a Fire

February 16, 2017

Chiang Mai, Thailand

motivation noun  mo·ti·va·tion \ˌmō-tə-ˈvā-shən\

enthusiasm for doing something      Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

I’m back in my apartment room at almost 1pm sipping on the remains of my iced coffee from earlier today. I should be out looking for a job. I should be out exploring possibilities. I should be out doing something. But I’m not. I’m holed up inside wondering what to do.

It’s been a week since I moved my stuff into this apartment. I purchased bedsheets and pillows for my sleeping comfort the same night. Unfortunately, the thread count of the sheet is about the same as for a burlap sack, so the comfort wasn’t really what I had imagined. I’ve also discovered that the Thai standard of bedsheets does not include a top sheet. To be honest, I don’t even know if it’s a Thai thing. The only fact that I know for sure is that in America, or at least everywhere I purchased bedding, there was always a top sheet included in the set. But I don’t know if this is the standard in other places. This would explain why many of my couchsurfing guests who stayed with me in Chicago didn’t seem to know how to use the top sheet, and slept between it and the blanket that I provided. I remember it causing me a bit of consternation, because I would have to wash the blanket in addition to the sheets each time I would have a new guest.

But after a few days of laying on a scratchy bedsheet, resting my face on a scratchy pillowcase, and keeping warm with a scratchy duvet cover, I saw a for sale ad from a guy who was one floor above me. He had been in Chiang Mai for a month, and was on his way to Pai, another smaller city to the northeast, towards Myanmar. He was selling his gently-used and much softer bedding set. Now, I’ve never been in the market for used bedding before, but I reminded myself that I’ve several times stayed in hotels and hostels where the bedsheets and pillowcases have been used over and over by multiple strangers, and that laundering with soap seems to work. Now my bed is much more comfortable, with a much higher (thus smoother) thread count, and the old(new) duvet being used as a mattress pad. I also purchased from him an electric kettle, which allows me to heat water quickly for the two cases of ramen noodles that I purchased six weeks ago before my class started.

Other than that major accomplishment, however, I haven’t really done much. I did read two books, which was a nice change of pace. One of them included “The Martian”, by Andy Weir. Yes, the same one that the movie was based on. It was as good as I could have hoped, and you should read it yourself, even if you’ve already seen the film. Now I don’t have another book, and thus no good “excuse” for staying inside. My stack of printed resumes sits on the desk, waiting for me to put on teacher-appropriate clothing and hit the streets applying for jobs. But I don’t feel the enthusiasm that is necessary to do so. I haven’t worked in almost two months, and having no income is a bit worrisome, but it hasn’t gotten me off my ass to change the situation.

Of course, I’ve not spent all of my time in the room. Nick and I usually go find some breakfast mid-morning. It may not be the breakfast that we are used to back in America. Usually, my first meal of the day now includes rice or noodles, and is many times pretty spicy.  If we eat in the street food court inside the mall down on the corner, I usually will spend 40 baht for my meal, and cool down my mouth with a 30 baht iced Thai coffee from the counter with the pretty girl with the beautiful smile. Spending $2 US for a meal with coffee is still pretty awesome, and I find myself balking at meals that cost 100 baht or more. I guess I’ve become cheap. I will splurge a bit on occasion. On Valentine’s Day, we joined a couple of our former classmates, Nicole and Nerissa (who were back in town just for the one day), at an absolutely beautiful restaurant for pizzas and beer. Named, “The Faces”, this place has adobe walls on the outside with narrow doorways that look like shutters for an entrance. Once inside, you realize that you are really still outside, as the restaurant has no real roof, just a lush canopy of trees and tropical plants. With the stone and terra cotta carvings of gods and heads, it has the feel of walking into a place where you would expect to find Indiana Jones appropriating some lost treasure or icon. That meal set me back 380 baht, which amounts to roughly $11. But it was worth it, as we spent a couple of hours with good people, laughing and reminiscing about the good old days that happened in January.

Last night after a cheap dinner, I had Nick come with me to the Bus Bar that sits right on the Ping River to the east of the old city. Every Wednesday night beginning at 8pm, there is a meetup of local and visiting couchsurfers there, and I had been wanting to connect with the group. Nick originally had reservations about the whole “weird and creepy” couchsurfing concept, but after about 30 seconds, he was deep in conversation with the people there, and even met another guy from Arizona who had stopped in Chiang Mai for a time. For me, it was just good to be around like-minded people again. I was able to chat over beers and exchange stories with some travelers from Switzerland, Poland, Germany, and Hong Kong. It turns out that there is also a language exchange meetup on Tuesdays that I’ll probably begin attending next week.

So, back to the motivation issue I’m having, I’m not really sure how to explain it. It feels like fear, which makes no good sense. I just finished up a tremendously difficult course in how to teach English, and it can’t get any more demanding than that. I think I’m afraid to go out there and be told ‘no’, there are no openings right now, or that I’m not what they are looking for because of my lack of a college degree. I know that these hurdles I’m placing in front of myself are bullshit, because some of the schools are just looking for (preferably white) warm bodies who are native speakers of English. Or maybe I’m a bit intimidated of having to report for work in a new place again, where they expect me to know what the hell I’m doing. Fear of committing to something. Perhaps that’s it.

Earlier today, I reached out to Steve, the British expat I mentioned before. Steve and his Thai wife, Dang, have a small cafe near the school I attended in Hang Dong, which is actually a bit south of Chiang Mai. He had offered to help out with introducing me (and others) to contacts who could recommend jobs and places to live in the area. He asked if I had gotten myself a motorcycle or scooter yet, and I told him that I was trying to get a job first. He laughed at me and told me that I was doing it all backwards, and said I was like an upside down crab. So, on his recommendation, I’m going to go rent myself a small motorcycle and make my way down to his place tomorrow morning so he can show me around and introduce me to people who can help. A little bit of wind in my motivation sails. It’s going to be just fine.

Meanwhile, what the FUCK is Donald Trump doing to my country???

Dead Poets Society

November 5, 2016

Chicago, Illinois

Today I began taking pictures of my belongings and throwing them up for sale on Craigslist. I came across a folding file with some of my older writings inside. I thought I’d share a couple of poems that I wrote several years ago, back when I was inspired to write poetry. Hope you enjoy.

The Lighthouse

Above the waters tall she stands

The great lady guiding me

Though beaten by the surf and sands

Unmovable and firm is she

Face to the wind, she does not stoop

Nor cower when fierce storms rage

She protected lives of countless men

Steering vessels in another age

If not for her constant light

That bright beacon from her lens

The world may have had fewer ships

The sailor fewer friends

Joceyln

At times when I am treading gingerly

The darkened alleys my mind has created

I gaze at her while she is sleeping

So peaceful, so trusting, so dependent

At this mountainous task I often shudder

This huge responsibility that is mine alone

Though not a journey that I sought

Despite feeling inadequate, I dare not fail

Her smile inspires me to find my inner strength

Her innocence, to pray for wisdom to guide my steps

For if I am successful upon this path

An angel to this world will be my gift

Warm Days, Hot Bats, and Technology Issues

November 1, 2016

Chicago, Illinois

Holy crap! It’s the first day of November and the daytime temperature reached 75 (where’s that key?…dammit!…must be some way to….) DEGREES Fahrenheit (24 Celsius) this afternoon. It’s unbelievably warm for this late into autumn. But I’m not complaining a bit. The trees are exploding with color, and outside is absolutely gorgeous. My roommate made arepas – a taco-like thing from South America- filled with chicken and avocado, and we decided to go outside and eat our dinner picnic-style on the grassy common area of the apartment complex. Maybe Chicago is trying to woo me into staying. If so, it’s pulling out all the stops. This may actually be a historic year. The Chicago Cubs baseball team is in the World Series for the first time in 71 years, and haven’t won the championship since 1908. After going down three games to one over the weekend, it looked pretty dismal. But they have clawed their way back, and tonight their bats are on fire, and they are currently up 7-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning. If they win tonight, then I WILL be watching tomorrow night along with the rest of the city. This place is going to be a madhouse.

I’ve decided that I need to move this blog to another platform. In order for me to keep a bit of anonymity, I changed my user name on the blog from my real name. Unfortunately, this had the effect of changing the name on my outgoing emails to Unknown Cynic, which is probably confusing as hell to those people with whom I am corresponding. I asked a friend who has been fairly successful in using her blog to support her travel what she would recommend for a blog service. Very quickly, she answered with WordPress, the hosting site she uses. It’s user friendly, she said. It’s got great tech support, she said. You’ll love it, she said. All of that sounded great, so I downloaded WordPress and started to create my new blog there.

It ain’t all that friendly. Not to me. I played around with it for about an hour, and still was unable to figure out how to change the headers and subtext from the advertisement and “your message here” sample text. Probably child’s play for…well, a child. I’m probably going to have to get a tutorial or take a class on how to use it. As seen from the beginning of this post, I’m not very good at figuring out the secrets of the computer. Pencils and paper were so much easier, weren’t they? But learn I must. Hyperlinks and plug-ins and HTML, oh my! I’ll feel so accomplished when I can add pictures and video to my page. But the stories will always be the important part.

Game 6 is over. Cubs 9, Indians 3. Tomorrow night, I’m watching history.

The Daily Grind

October 21, 2016

Chicago, Illinois

Happy Friday, Friends.

I’m sitting at my desk in the office of my workplace. It’s pretty quiet today. The office manager and I are mostly alone in here, with the occasional interruption of someone walking in to ask a questio…

hang on..

Okay, back. Angela, the office manager just told me sotto voce to “listen to the radio”, her code for me to grab my phone and begin dialing. For the last week, we (mostly her, but she enlists my help when I’m in here) have been trying to be the 25th caller at 10am, 12pm, and 5pm to the local radio station and recite the silly phrase advertising the station’s format. So far, she has been the 11th, the 15th, and the 18th caller. I was the 12th the other day, but mostly it’s just a busy signal that is constantly in my ear after dialing over and over. I find myself keeping my head behind the computer screen as I call, hiding a bit so the boss doesn’t suspect that I’m not actually doing any work.

Thought today I’d provide a little portrait of what my day is like at GND Machine, my place of employment on the southwest edge of Chicago. For the last several years, I have attempted to get to work early, say about 5:30am. This allows me time to adjust to being at the shop, taking in the smell and taste of the machine oils, hearing the hiss of pressurized air leaking from various pipe fittings and hoses while the compressor rattles and roars in an attempt to keep up with the pressure loss. I hate walking in right on time and having to switch my brain into programming and set-up mode instead of thinking of anything but that. I usually change my street clothes into work duds right away, then settle back into a reclining camp chair that I have stashed in a corner behind one of the CNC* milling machines that I operate. I use my phone to answer any messages that friends may have sent from other places around the world while I was asleep the night before. If I’m still a bit somnolent, then the last ten minutes before starting time of 6am is spent with my eyes closed in an attempt to dream happy fantasies.

When the sound of my workmates leaving the breakroom and walking out on the shop floor wakes me from my slumber, then it’s time to grab my cup and head over to the coffee maker. About seven times out of ten, there will be just enough of the hot, brownish-black, caffeinated liquid to almost fill my 12 oz black ceramic mug. Other times, some selfish jerk has left the pot nearly empty, being too lazy to take 30 seconds of paid time to make more for the next person. On those occasions, I irritably empty the filter basket into the trash can, replace with a new one, open up a pack of coffee from the box atop the cabinet (assuming that someone didn’t leave the box empty), pour it in and replace the basket over the top of the pot. Push the start button and heated water begins to pour over the grounds and seep into the vessel below. Simple. Except now I have to stand there and wait for the pot to fill before I can enjoy my morning brew. It’s always good to begin my day with a bit of aggravation.

Most of the time, whether I’m pouring or making coffee, I see Rudy walk into the breakroom from outside. He has being 6 minutes late down to a science. He’ll walk around me to the time clock while we both mumble “good morning” at each other, very possibly being the only conversation that he and I will have all day. I don’t have a BAD relationship with my workmates, just mostly a NON-relationship. The greater majority of them are Polish immigrants and they tend to stick pretty tight with each other. While I get along just fine with everyone, I’m not usually involved in their discussions of politics, soccer, or how much they are pissed off about the job. You’d think that after almost nine years I would have a somewhat decent understanding of the Polish language, but I can mainly just recognize and remember the curse words.

After grabbing my first fix of wake-up drink and wishing that I had a donut to keep it company, I wander over to one of the machines in my department and try to remember where I left off the previous afternoon. This is the first thought I will have about my job since 4:25pm the day before when began the ritual of putting back on the street clothes and walking to the time clock to punch my card. Hopefully, the situation will simply call for turning on the machine and pressing the start button instead of having to set up a new job from the beginning. I really don’t feel much like thinking or getting my hands dirty yet.

I work in a machine shop. We produce parts made mostly from steel or various other metals to be assembled into products for the oil and gas pipeline industry.  We also build conveyor systems for food processing and manufacturing companies. Other times we do odd jobs for whomever wants to pay us to make something for them. Some jobs are repetitive. Some jobs are more challenging, hence more interesting. And some of the jobs are simply a pain in the ass. Many times the blueprints or drawings don’t make any sense, or they have mistakes on them that haven’t been corrected for years. If I’m on top of my game, I will oftentimes catch the discrepancies before I begin drilling holes or cutting shapes. If not…that’s what the keeps the welding department in business. As my work title also includes Quality Manager, you would think that I could get these out-of-date prints eliminated from our system. But it seems only to be a title, as the owners and their sons who run the business don’t wish to take me seriously when I attempt to implement changes. I’ve resigned myself to being nothing but a figurehead as long as the paychecks keep coming every Friday. Somehow, the company has managed to stay in business for over fifty years without paying attention to basic, industry-accepted rules of quality, safety, cleanliness, or human resources. It has had the effect of keeping away many qualified prospective applicants.

One may wonder why I have stayed here for so long, if the work conditions are so pitiful. Because I could easily walk into another manufacturing firm where the rules make sense and are enforced, where the machinery is updated and kept in a good stated of repair, and where you could quite possibly eat off of the floor because of the high standards of housekeeping. Despite the maddening, constant state of absolute chaos and disorganization that exists in the entire enterprise, I choose to remain because the people for whom I work are dedicated to their employees. Even though they have no real people skills, and are at times frustrating as hell to deal with, they always take care of us. Not long after I began my employment here, a combination of factors almost put the company in the grave. The economy was in a death spiral, and not only were orders for new products beginning to slow, but many of the customers were becoming sluggish about paying their invoices. Added to that, the (now former) office manager and bookkeeper was propping up her casino addiction by skimming money from the company to the tune of over $1.5 million over the course of about 5 years. That alone should have tanked the business. But through all of that, not one employee was laid off or let go because of lack of money. They did cut overtime for a while, but everyone had at least a 40-hour paycheck. In order to make this possible, the owners, our bosses, took the drastic step of borrowing money from their own retirement plans and mortgaging their homes so that money was available for workers who at times didn’t even have work to perform. That kind of loyalty to employees is unheard of in this day and age. While many larger companies were cutting their workforce to keep the shareholders happy, this small, scrappy outfit kept everyone on the payroll despite the odds. So, yes, I get irritated and aggravated at the stupid bullshit that happens around here. But I’m never going to forget what they did for me and my co-workers back when times were dark.

That being said, it’s the stories about the irritating, aggravating, and stupid bullshit that are the most entertaining to tell. So expect to read about some of them in the future. Starting with “Make some goddamn coffee already, Asshole!”

Enjoy your weekend.

*CNC (Computer Numerical Control)

Lights

October 11, 2016

Chicago, Illinois

It’s 7:30pm on a Tuesday night. The sky is dark already. A few weeks ago, the sunlight would still allow me to see the greenery outside at this time of day. But we are marching inexorably towards the winter solstice and the sun sets earlier each day. I used to get a bit depressed about it. Summertime in the Upper Midwest region of the States is glorious. Especially when you are close to a body of water, and Lake Michigan certainly qualifies as that. When I lived in the state of Michigan, we used to hop in the car and drive down to the beach three minutes away to watch as the sun made its way down towards the water, changing from a beautiful and bright orange to a softer, glowing red as it sank beneath the horizon. These days, I can see the colors through the tall residential buildings to the west, or the reflection of the sunlight on the steel and glass edifices downtown to the north of my apartment. It isn’t quite as pretty as the sunsets on the lake, but I have full view of sunrises over the water now. Except that I’m gone long before those happen now. Days are shorter on both ends.

So now the light that I see comes from the city itself. White lights from the windows in the condominiums and corporate offices, yellowish white from the sodium streetlights, red from the navigational beacons atop the buildings, lest an errant pilot in a low-flying aircraft confuse downtown Chicago with a bean-field. I can see big, lumbering jets approaching the city from the west, only to bank and turn in a counter-clockwise rotation out over the edge of the lake before finishing their descent to O’hare International to the northwest of the city. Other aircraft heading to our smaller airport, Midway, fly almost directly overhead, their landing lights bright against the night sky.

All of this ambient light tends to block out the flickering stars. Those are probably what I miss the most about not living in an urban setting. I long to see the constellations and try in vain to count the individual twinkling lights in the inky blackness. Several years ago, I had an early morning paper delivery route in central Indiana, where I would be driving from farmhouse to farmhouse out past the cornfields. There was very little ambient light there, and sometimes I would pull my car over to the side of the road and lay out looking up at the night sky in wonder. I hope to find places in Thailand like that. City lights are beautiful and exciting, but can’t hold a candle to the celestial splendor above.

Not Worth a Title

October 6, 2016

Chicago, Illinois

It’s been a few days since I published my last post. I’ve had a busy week. Two of my nights have revolved around food. The first was an annual restaurant crawl put on by one of the upscale neighborhoods in Chicago. I try to attend every year that I am able to. It’s always fun, the food and drink are always plentiful, and it’s always on a Tuesday because that’s usually a slow night for the restaurants. The problem is getting up on Wednesday after going to bed on an over-filled stomach and a shit-load of alcohol in your bloodstream. The second was a mealshare (I’ll explain those later) at a home where the German hostess tries to stuff you like a goose in a foie gras mill. I’m not complaining too loudly, because the food was amazing. At any rate, I was eating instead of writing.

Tomorrow I am heading to Nashville, Tennessee for the very first time. I have a friend there who has invited me over and over to come visit, so my roommate and I will be heading to the Country Music Capitol of the World. I’m not the biggest fan of country music, but that’s no reason not to go. I’m sure to find some other things of interest. Perhaps I will be inspired to write about something I see or experience.

So this has simply been an exercise in trying to be somewhat consistent in writing. It’s late, because I was busy earlier with chores and packing, and then I had a phone call with a dear friend. Actually, before I started my chores, I laid down to rest for a minute and ended up spending a little over an hour watching the pilot episode of  Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” for the 8th or 9th time. I still love that show, and I’m still really pissed at Fox Broadcasting for cancelling it before it even finished Season One. If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend that you spend some rainy days on Netflix watching the 14 episodes that were made, then following it up with the motion picture, “Serenity”, which at least gave some closure to the story arc. Then please let me know if you aren’t pissed at Fox, too.

I’m not even certain that I should post this, as it doesn’t inspire me as a reader.  Maybe I’ll wait to toss it in with the next post. Or maybe not.

Just Start Writing Already

September 29, 2016
Chicago, Illinois

 

 

I decided that I better stop equivocating and just make the leap. I went ahead and purchased a round-trip ticket to Bangkok. Round-trip because it was cheaper than a one-way, not because I have any plans to return. I don’t. This is me, at 48 years old, finally spreading my wings and flying. At least I hope it’s going to be flying. Not tripping over the edge of the nest and flailing helplessly while bouncing off the rocky cliff wall like some of those hatchlings I’ve watched on Discovery Channel shows.

You may wonder what I mean when I say that I’m “finally” learning to fly at my age. It is true that I have lived as a grown man for most of my life now. I have been married and divorced. I have raised two children to adulthood. I have been employed and bought cars and houses. I have taken vacations, received jury summons and suffered prostate exams. But all of that was proscribed for me. It was assumed that I would do all of those things. I lived my life walking the path that was laid out for me by others’ expectations. And it was mostly ok, I thought. Being successful at doing what was expected was gratifying to me. But if asked what my personal dreams and aspirations were, I would be hard-pressed to give a cogent answer. I really didn’t know what I wanted, because I didn’t know anything different. That has dramatically changed in the past three years.

Before I begin telling my stories, past or current, I must first get myself into the habit of writing again. I’ve always loved the exercise of putting words to paper, or in this day and age, to the screen. The feel of the pencil between the fingers of my right hand or the gentle pressure it takes to push the keys of my laptop are both therapeutic. This is not my first attempt at blogging. I began one about three years ago. I got four stories in, and then let it slip away as springtime came and flowers bloomed and distractions took over my life. I hope to not let that happen this time. If I ever happen to find those four stories, I will repost them here, because they were an interesting snapshot of my life. But this first post is simply to get back into practice.

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