Sunday, February 22, 2015

In this culture, thin walls are one thing, hearing your neighbors pee is quite another. I figured I couldn’t go too long before something truly noteworthy occurred, and it has; I am moved into the studio apartment I was promised when we still contemplated Martha being here. And it was worth the wait, although I admit I had pretty much written off the prospect of it. Clean, quiet, and subject to Mr. Park’s endless fussing-over. Good God, the man’s married, you’d think Mrs. Choi still found something to look forward to in her wifely duties, but maybe not. And as much of a prick (albeit an HONEST prick,) as he is as a boss, I can’t imagine being married to him. But, I can ride out my eight months in place like this, hell yeah! Quiet, clean, elegant (dare I use the word,) and air-conditioned. It’s all I’ll be needing, thanks. At this pace, in this place, the “Rabbit Hole” will just be a long, descriptive dream, save for the faces, those who you never know if you’ll pass again. I expect I may be eating out more frequently, there’s a shitload of restaurants in this part of town, (Dongbaek2-gil, to be exact,) but we’ll see. I’ll survive till payday, and since Julie and Katie (two of the Korean teachers,) are now in Booyong, *everything* got moved, although I did get a new range, so I can boil and fry to my heart’s content. The other part of the Korean teachers being in Booyong is that I’ll have no trouble getting my mail. But overall, thanks be to God, because I know He’s played His part, as he always has in looking out for me. I’ll take it however it comes. I do sort of silently hope the expectation isn’t on me to stay past my contract date (by too much, anyway,) ‘cause whether Mr. P. likes it or not, I have a life to continue with, great start and big change, though, this has been. God has been the reason all of this has even begun to work, and I will praise Him endlessly. For whatever it’s worth, this journal is becoming more of an intellectual and emotional blotter pad, more than a nameless travelogue. The thoughts have been ranging from silly, here in my nice, new digs, (nice as this place is, I hope I don’t end up like Jack Lemmon in “The Apartment” now,) to, am *I* going to be some Korean kid’s favorite teacher? Could I be? Is it possible? Anything is possible, I suppose, but I’m not here to be cool, I’m here to each, and get on with my life. I am not brave; I simply cannot bear the thought of falling down again. It’s too hard to keep getting up. There. I’ve said it, and I meant it. And when this is all over, I can only presume that I will know my place in the world, and maybe less will seem strange, by comparison. It’s all about what we learn, and what we strive to pass on, and pay forward—some of which is just plain, old, hope. Maybe the faith in others to step out on the bridges of their own soul. Before I set out, I remember telling Martha that this was the bridge to my future, and she said, “are you sure it’s not one of those rope bridges, that threatens to kill you?” or something to that effect, and I think I said, “it very well might be,” which was probably more honest than any other response I could have given. But, of course, life’s a journey, not a destination. Thank you, Steven Tyler.
I got a call from Martha, saying dad had stents put in the blocked arteries in his heart. His great, big, somehow-over-time-it-got-that-wonderful heart. And sad as I would ever be if dad passed away, I know what he truly got out of life, and somehow or other it was all damn good. Four fantastic grandkids, at least one happy marriage, (near as we can all tell,) and bona-fide success as a man, as an employer, and as an individual. If I’m half that, by the measure of others when I die, I will have done well.
Of course, here I am in Korea. Probably the biggest story I will ever tell in life, and a lead-in to a lot of the rest of the stories. The rest of the story—it reminds me of how much dad loved Paul Harvey; and Roger Whittaker, and burnt peanuts. I miss him right now, as the rain falls, on and on. I know dad has been interested in my trip, and I know if he dies, he will be there, watching over me. And the only way I’m left to be inspired, is to simply take care of myself, and those around me. Call it a legacy, call it what you will, I want the chance to be as great as my dad. Pray God I can, and know I can; and not miss important chances, or the small moments. Take the important steps, say the important words, and go till you’re spent. But always, ALWAYS…..spend wisely.
“The Cobra shuddered and shook as it launched, as though it were having some huge mechanical orgasm.” It stands alone as the first reasonably creative thought I’ve had in a while. Hmm. And could I be, in the infamous words of Elwood Blues, “On a mission from God,” minus the criminal desperateness and destruction, or is it more like Ophelia’s dad in “Hamlet;” “To thine own self be true?” More of the latter, really, I suppose.
I found a few shows on cable from the Food Network back home, a British version of Motor Week, and the usual Korean assortment of baseball, infomercials, soap operas, and men whose attire would have them considered to be masquerading as pimps in America. None the less, I’m reasonably serene again. The weather is an evil, rainy, mess, and scheduled to go on for quite a while this way, as I’m told. It also occurs to me that I’m getting about as deep into this culture as anyone in my position can. I have no inner access to the average Korean family, which would be interesting, although if my boss and his little tribe are any indication, I’m really not missing much, except for them being the most unspeakable variety of neat freaks. Michelle, Mr. Park’s youngest daughter, is charismatic and intelligent, and Mrs. Choi seems resigned to her position as chief cook and bottle washer. And the man himself? He works, he cooks, he cleans…he seems ultimately to want a way out of the whole mess now, and I guess I don’t blame him. But, of course, we’re all still here, needing him to be responsible. And until that changes, nothing else stands to. Oddly familiar, and perhaps that’s the rub, really. So, here I am; ultimately on a mission trying to infect one of these kids with the simple ability to think outside the box. Have I succeeded? *Will* I succeed? Can I succeed? As I have stated, only time will tell. If one of them leads the next great movement in art, or gives us a vaccine for AIDS, hell, even the next Corvette, that will truly be telling. If one leads the great Korean women’s movement, or finally reunifies Korea again, that, too, will be great. But pride, rampant consumerism and shameless aping won’t take you very far.
And nothing, or no one, it seems, is immune from hair coloring, after seeing the Cockapoo with the green-and-yellow-dyed ears. I sincerely wish I could see something that inspired me, and filled me with wonder; I’d fill the rest of this book if I did. Instead, I seem to be a source of amazement, and amusement. And I’m not asking anyone to think like me, good God, one of me is enough. But just to get one of them to think for themselves, that would be the greatest blessing of all. For just one to say “Let’s try it this way,” that would be truly cool. I have seen hop of it, but precious little. Is being here and trying enough? I feel like it makes *me* better, but what of them? What of all my future? I know only in living it out. I have small hopes, Wendy, who has been known to dress up her diary pages with drawings of women, all very nicely done, Sharon, of course, who is unrelentingly Sharon, and all those who WANT to know. If I get them excited about learning,, even just in the time that I have them, that’s good. Then, too, there are the Graces and Totos, whose great success has been in letting the world see who they really are. Perhaps all is not truly lost. I just wish it weren’t quite so rare, or so seemingly stymied by the world at large. At least the world around them. Is it odd that I should see no harm in looking through this whole experience, rather than at it? Chief among things is a fear I have now conquered, something in life I have now lived out, and will continue to, as long as I am here. What am I truly to know of that I cannot fully grasp? I know I must rise to the challenge of making myself understood, and I will, so much as I am able to in 7-or-so months. Truly, I feel better about the people I have me, (mostly,) and just being able to say I achieved this. It would indeed be nice to see if there’s more to Korea than what I’ve seen, (I hope there is,) but we’ll see. I can’t say more.
To get through, I got two important things—an Elvis CD, and a Sinatra CD. And on the Elvis CD is a quote from him saying “Ambition is a dream with a V-8 engine.” I like that.  And the thought crossed my mind that many of the people I admire are referred to as “The King,” as I sit here listening to Elvis in my Richard Petty t-shirt. B.B. King, too. And if ambition is what Elvis say it is, what is passion? All of that unrealized? Unfocused? Just a fire in your gut? Can I hope to infect others with my passion? My joie-de-vivre? I know it doesn’t seem like it at times, but I’ve gotten in front of kids, and it’s like an audience, and I do explode in a lot of ways—is that passion? Wanting so much to teach these kids what you know, not accepting anything less than their full attention and effort? Is that so wrong? And am I now asking as many questions as I answer? Who knows. I feel, I give, I want of myself. That matters. And believing that the world could, and should be better. We, for the most part, could all care more, and love more, and I do my bit, as much as I am able. What is passion worth? Nothing else happens without it. Nothing. Good or bad.
Even in all that, I’m starting to hate the way Strattera makes me feel—I still can’t stay 100% composed, the way my Adderall makes me feel. Damn Korean laws. I like my art, and my passion, and my feeling, and my sense of myself, but the truth is, I can do more if I’m focused, and peaceful, and composed. Period. And I need to. A lot of what I have to say, I’ve already said; probably most, actually.
Judging by the unrelenting dog-and-pony show by all the candidates, it seems to be election time here in Iksan. Koreans love nothing so much as an event, big or small. Store openings, as I have discussed before, with the American music, dancing hootchie-girl Koreans (seemingly all of them are like, 32-AAs, but, hey, what are you gonna do besides put on more make-up?) and hype by the trainload. You know the routine. So election time has every candidate with a troupe of dancers, balloons, and FACE PAINTING FOR THE KIDS! Just kidding; actually, the face painting is for the campaign volunteers. And the soccer freaks, although Team Korea is unlikely to make it past very few of the European or South American teams. Koreans love to have something to get behind, apparently, even if only for a little while. Maybe that’s it, although I’ve probably spouted before that Korea just seems to have a total lack of continuity. It’s one thing to the next, ad infinitum. Ad nauseam, perhaps.
I was also out again last night with some of my fellow Iksan ESL teachers at the Red Rock, where all the ESL teachers hang out. Where everybody knows your name; sort of like Cheers in a fun-house mirror. It was dish-to-pass night, celebrating the fact that the owner of the place put a barbeque grill on the roof, mostly. Yeah; it’s like that. It was a lot of fun, I made this rice-and-sausage concoction that I just kind of threw together. It went over okay. Bald Neil, the other Scots, the Canadian Brigade, and a few of us scattered Mi-Gugs. (Americans. That’s the Korean for us.) Russ wasn’t there, more than anything I think he’s just counting the days. I can’t say as I blame him, and I know I’ll probably get there myself.
I think to myself after watching the news, and seeing technology, that I’m not really cutting-edge here, at any point; as a matter of fact, judging by what I see, English is to them about having the foresight to realize that life exists beyond Korea. But that, perhaps, is why I sometimes feel so out-of-place—this whole country isn’t about language, or the arts, or anything similar—it is math, and science, and computers, and computer games. You can achieve rock-star status playing video games here; no, seriously, that’s true. And here I am, writing by hand, in a huge book, with nothing but a pen. I’m surprised there’s no Korean law banning such an act. And it doesn’t excuse everything, or everyone I have encountered thus far, but it does shed some light on things. And I know my place, such as it is. But once again, this isn’t about me, or even them, necessarily, it’s about my future, and my peace of mind. My hope of feeling as though I haven’t wasted my life up to this point. Although perhaps I have, and I’m just looking to make sense of it all. And that runs deeper than anything.

All of this, too, does nothing to diminish how happy I am with myself, but none the less, it hammers on the awareness of where and how I need to be. Which has all been discussed. I pause to wonder at the net effect of inconstancy—I mean, I realize that even in America, kids change teachers every year (hopefully,) and fully expect to. And I suppose it would seem unnatural NOT to change, what would be unnatural is if a child DID anchor themselves to you. One might suspect that the child had nothing TO anchor to in life, which would be worse. But what expectations does that create in us? Might we then take infidelity as some trickle-down effect, and think nothing of it? Is there something in the idea that whatever intellect we cultivate should make us smart enough to be civilized, and know right from wrong, and know what must change and when? I don’t know. Perhaps no one does, or ever will.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Mechanic's stories can now be told (well, not all of them, but some of the good ones.)

1) Engineers may be creative, and good at coming up with new ideas, but their grammar, in many cases, is not what you'd expect. One of my favorites (and probably one of the only stories I will ever be able to tell from being at Roush Industries,) involves a term which is apparently fairly common for engineers; "Thermal Event." To the rest of us, a "Thermal Event" is an electrical fire. And, frankly, it sounds more to me like something you'd take a package of bratwurst and a six-pack of Leinies to; "Oh, look dear, the Johnsons have invited us to their next thermal event. Where's the sunblock?"

2) Engineering semantics is also at the root of one of my other favorite stories. When I was a technician at Bill Cook Imports in Farmington Hills, MI, we used to get a lot of work from the Nissan Technical Center, which wasn't too far away. I was handed a work order once, which read, verbatim, "When someone is in the back seat, they rattle." My immediate response to the service writer was, "Well, tell them to shut the hell up, then!" Apparently that wasn't the nature of the problem.

3) One of the only other stories from Roush I can probably talk about was an overheard conversation between two engineers about a '93 Cobra, which was, at that point, serving as the test mule for the 347-cubic-inch engine.One of them said, "yeah, something's not right with it. It's not making very much power. Used to be, if you shoved it in second gear and nailed the throttle, you'd be sideways." Yes power is a drug, I guess. Well....I KNOW, really

4) As a dealership technician, you get any number of strange compaints. Some of them you can fix, some of them you can't. One of my all-time favorites is still the customer with a Lincoln Navigator whose complaint was, "excessive noise with the sunroof OPEN." Huh?! Sorry, my magic wand is out being detailed at the moment, I guess you're just gonna have to deal with it. And, yes, I *did* take our in-house glass guy for a ride, just to make sure it wasn't REALLY obnoxious. It wasn't. To say nothing of the customers who come in with "vehicle vibrates over 90 mph." Unh-huh. And you're paying the ticket when I test drive it, is that right?

5) One of my other favorite engineering tales involves a Technical Service Bulletin for Viper GTS coupes. It seems the engineers didn't account for fuel tank accessibility when they designed the car. Solution? Have a technician cut a 2'x4' HOLE behind the seats, and create an "access panel." I kid you not. This is the factory-approved solution to this problem. All I can say is that I wouldn't want to have been the service writer, trying to explain this to a customer; "Mr. Phillips? Hi, John Smith at XYZ Dodge. Um, the good news is, we'll be able to replace the fuel pump in your Viper, but we're going to have to create an "access panel" first. How? Well, um, we have to gut the interior, and cut a huge hole behind the seats first, to get the tank out....yes, that's right.....Mr. Phillips....hello?"

6) A dealership General Sales Manager had me install aftermarket wheels and tires on his personal 7-series BMW, because, in his words, "it floats like a turd in a punch bowl." Perhaps the strangest euphemism on record, I think.


I was a used car technician, and did a lot of new-car preps in my time. And I have news for you; you will never drive your car harder than your technician already has.

1) One of my favorites was driving the then-brand-new Nissan 350Z. Preliminary inspection is done, time to take it out for the test drive. And thrash it a little. Called a friend when I was on the test drive. One of the first things out of her mouth? "How fast are you going?" "A-buck-ten, a-buck-fifteen, maybe, why?" "Okay, call me back when you SLOW DOWN, okay?!" Yeah, that.

2) The 1989-1992 Ford Probe GTs were some of the wickedest, nastiest little cars made in that period. And cursed with hellacious torque-steer that would punt you into the next lane, if you weren't careful. One of the other dealers I worked at sent a trade-in Probe GT to auction, after finding out it was $1,200 or so to fix the non-functioning alternator. Which meant I had to get it from dealer to auction house (across town,) on one battery charge, or risk embarrassment when someone had to come get me, in the days before cell phones. I had that car deep into triple-digits along the way, and have frankly never been so scared, but I made it to my destination. With no tickets. Mission accomplished. I think they were shocked.

3) Other used cars go to auction because, well, they're hoopties. They're barely worth what the dealer has in them, and getting the money back out of them will require prayer. Like the '86-ish Buick Riviera I drove to auction once that shook like a massage chair on Meth at freeway speeds. Most unpleasant. Or the dealer owner who had me drive one of his 1954 MG-TDs to auction, because I was one of the few people in the dealership who had experience with a crash-box manual transmission. Understand, an MG-TD has about the same horsepower as a similar-era farm tractor, and numerically-high gearing, meaning at 55 mph on the freeway, the engine is spinning at about 5000 rpm or so. with no permanent side windows it makes an enormous, ear-splitting racket, in combination with a side-to-side motion guaranteed to ensure seasickness every time a semi passes by. And doing the gymnastics required to get my six-foot-two-inch body into this wasn't fun. There was also the Sales Manager's '73 454 Corvette he wanted to take to auction; it was hell keeping it reined under 80 mph on the freeway, combined with the C3 Corvette's "sitting-in-a-packing-crate" view from the interior, and the terrifying 3/4"-or-so dead spot, right in the middle of the steering wheel. How did y'all survive these things?!

4) Other vehicles famous for that panic-inducing side-to-side motion? Ford Bronco IIs and Jeep CJ5s come immediately to mind. Older Fox-body Mustangs with Michelin's infamous TRX tires were terror-inducing because of their nasty tendency to slide all over the place on a surface that wasn't bone-dry. At which point they were unbelievable, but when you grow up in Wisconsin, like I did, that doesn't happen nearly often enough. And don't get me started on backup alarms; the ones that beep frantically if you get even REMOTELY too close to something around you. It probably saved my hide a few times in Porsches, but I still hate them.


Some cars are just amazing in and of themselves, for whatever reason. I love Mazda Miatas, probably because I can FEEL what they're doing. Driving doesn't get much more sensory than in a Miata.

1) For sheer size and mass, nothing will ever compare to an H1 Hummer. Nothing. This car takes up just about all of whatever lane you're driving in, and God Forbid you ever have one on a two-lane road. Stop, and compromise will inevitably ensue.

2) "Sweet Spot" cars are few and far between; the ones that are not so outrageously powerful or handling-endowed that they're trying to kill you at every turn, but do their jobs on the most unbelievable levels. The two I have encountered thus far were a '96 Mercedes 300E, and an early-model Lexus IS300. There are a lot of GOOD cars out there, and the memorable drives still include many. The Porsche Boxster S (which I'd take over a Carrera in a minute, simply because on the stick-shift models, my leg doesn't smack the steering wheel on a Boxster.) BMW 540 and 740s. The BMW M-Roadster. The BMW 318ti I drove that was blessed with a Jackson Racing supercharger, and other tweaks. What a ride that was. The Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V, although, in spite of its slingshot zippiness, I could have done without the vague (and that's being kind,) 6-speed shifter, and the torque-steer that's maybe only slightly less vicious than that of the early Probe GTs. Speaking of Probe GTs, the '93-'96 models were unspeakably slick with a glassy grace in every move and function.

More later.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ever just felt the wind totally sucked out of you? Just completely out of breath from everything that's gone on in your life? So far this year, I have been through two bouts in the household with pneumonia, two deaths in the family (my father-in-law, and my dad, within weeks of each other,) My mother decided she wasn't getting enough attention, so she scheduled her "birthday" (her real birthday is in January,) in April, while we were still in the midst of carrying out my father's memorial wishes. I still haven't forgiven her for that. We've all gone crazy lately, in the words of Elton John.

Anyway, after about eight years of my father's dementia, probably another five or so of my father-in-law's and all the drama and intricate little details that go into all of that, I'm physically and mentally exhausted. To say nothing of what Asperger's does. It's exhausting. The following is an excerpt from another blog on just exactly who it is that is affected.

Recently I encountered a problem while collaborating with a group therapist with whom I share a patient. My patient has progressed quickly in therapy, as do many adults on the spectrum.  However he did not start off as stereotypically autistic.  In fact, initially he presented as many of my patients do: shy, articulate, witty.  Good eye contact.  Appropriate affect.  Typical posture, gait and gesturing.

It took a few sessions to realize this fine gentleman suffered mightly with the symtoms of Asperger Syndrome, which he kept well managed and thoroughly hidden.  Contrary to the stereotyoes of adults on the spectrum, my patient displayed no "meltdown" behavior, was keenly (TOO keenly) aware of people's reactions to him and exhibited no bizarre special interests or encyclopedic knowledge of vaccuum models.

In fact, "Joe", as we'll call him, socialized quite well.  He seemed quietly confident and wry, intelligent and perceptive.  People responded well to him, really liked him, though probably none of them would describe him as a close friend.  No one realized - in fact he often went without realizing - that his baseline anxiety approached panic on a regular basis.  As soon as he was out of bed, existential angst was his constant companion.  His difficulty managing his thoughts made rudimentary conversations minefields to be navigated.  And navigate he did, dodging social errors with the same fright and determination one might actually dodge mines.  After even minor social interactions he routinely found himself exhausted, and would retreat to soothing, isolated activity: sculpture, writing, woodworking.  Not conversation with his wife.

Diagnosing this man was problematic.  He truly did not fit the criteria for Asperger Syndrome.  In fact, the only person to suspect he was on the spectrum was his wife, who puzzled endlessly about this curious man.  He seems so sensitive and kind, she would say.  Yet he ignores my birthday and hangs up before saying goodbye. He's so charming with others, yet so silent at home.  He never misses a deadline at work, yet cannot remember to give our dog his heart medication.

Partners of people on the spectrum are drawn to what they can sense is inside their partner.  Yet they feel shut out, left pining for connection with this special person who remains unreachable.  It can be a confusing relationship, and one that can easily lead to resentment.

So what was the problem I ran into with the collaborating therapist?  She found it hilarious - outrageous! - that Joe had been diagnosed with Asperger's.  When Joe would make an insightful comment during group session, this group therapist and members would share a hearty laugh, rolling their eyes that this sensitive man had been diagnosed as autistic.  When Joe would tear up recounting his wife's rage and disappointment, he'd hear "So Mr. Autistic is shaking because his wife got angry!  Ha ha!  Shouldn't you be indifferent and focusing on dinosaurs?" (I'm sorry to say this is a direct quote.)  The general public, even many clinicians, cannot believe someone like Joe can be autistic.  His social deficits are so well hidden that he has convinced the world his autism does not exist.  And he has perhaps convinced himself.

One person remains unconvinced.  His wife.  After a long day of running what he terms his "social program", feigning natural banter and hiding anxiety, he is exhausted.  His wife comes home to a man who has retreated to isolation as a desperate attempt to find peace and rest.

I'd like to write more about this "hidden autistic" phenomena.  Someone must.  Adults on the spectrum are often too good at convincing others they are fine, have no emotions, are robotic.  This is never the case, and the illusion can be dangerous to long-term mental health for autistics and their partners alike.

Yes, I know it's problem year.....and it's caused it's share of problems; a lot of hand-wringing over what happens when my wife can no longer work, which will probably be sooner rather than later. Although we did have a very nice vacation/honeymoon up in the Soo and St. Ignace; it will be 10 years in November. I also did something incredibly stupid in the aftermath, which I shall not get into, exactly, and to you, Martha Jane, I am sorry to the very core of me. I don't know why I did what I did, but I will never do it again, promise. Which I realize does nothing when the life is sucked out of you, as well, and there's no relief in sight. I promised to always love you, and take care of you, and I swear to God, I will. I love you too much to leave you hanging. But my weird is off-the-charts, frankly, and I know that. I couldn't survive in a normal job, so it'd be a question of getting the right one. Whatever that is. Jobs, maybe more, Hell, I don't know. What I don't want to be is constantly looking for a job, because I'm forever in the wrong one, because that has its pitfalls too. Sorry if this seems like such an ordeal, quite honestly, IT IS. Between a hernia, kidney stones, having thrown my back out once, Vasovagal Syncope, sleep deprivation, get the picture. This ain't gonna be like getting a job when we were kids. I wonder for myself if I could actually pass a drug screen, God only knows. I'll try, but ya gotta be patient. Easier said than done, I know. Just give me a modicum of credence. A little faith in me goes a long way, that's just they way my mind works. I agonize over all the things I seemingly can't control, either; fat lotta good it does me. Mostly just makes my anxiety worse.

So in case you're wondering why I'm such a babbling bucket on nonsense right now, it is mostly a mind which nothing will allow to stop, and circumstances that aren't helping matters any. A little peace and quiet would do wonders. In fact, it did, really, unfortunately, we had to come back and go back to work. Or at least you did, at the moment. Here's the bottom line, though; trying to SEEM like a relatively normal person is EXHAUSTING to me. I mean, I actually have to consciously remind myself to maintain eye contact with people. All those things you do without even thinking, all those social cues and quirks and conventions that are just natural....I have to CONSCIOUSLY THINK ABOUT EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM. Which is brain-drain, plain and simple. Kindly think about that, the next time it crosses your mind to chide me about when I'm not being my most socially acceptable. All I'm thinking sometimes is that I'd just like my damn brain to stop buzzing. My ears to stop ringing. My hands and feet and legs to be still. and yes, I realize my of my personality is exhausting to everyone else I come in contact with. Sorry. You try being me. It ain't as easy as it looks.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

It's been a hell of a long couple months in my world. We (and by we, I mean my brother and sister as well,) said goodbye to my dad, who was probably one of the heroes of all of our lives whether we were willing to admit it or not. This, of course came after years of fighting Lewy Body Dementia, 5 or 6 bypasses and manifold other medical maladies. I'm kinda surprised he put ten years on his brothers, even if they weren't exactly the best years he ever could have experienced. He's at peace now, and I'm really tired, not tired like my stepmother, who was as dedicated to this man as I could ever imagine a woman being. But I did my best. And, of course, it was great to see all the cousins and others, even if we do seem to be getting together more and more often at funerals. Funerals; they're not just for grieving any more. Especially not amongst the Klobucar/Babich/Tomacs. We see how much the kids have grown, and plan when we're going to get together and drink again. It's a Klobucar thing, you wouldn't understand.

     Speaking of kids, my own daughters were in attendance yesterday, dressed to the nines, and my oldest actually talked to me, and gave me her new phone number. Sydne wasn't quite there yet. That's okay, I'll wait; she knows I love her. She's fifteen. 'Nuff said. I also learned recently that Michigan is one of the stats in which marital infidelity is a felony; meaning had I had the money and inclination to fight it, I conceivably could have put my ex behind bars and commandeered my children, but of course, those were luxuries I didn't have, and pretty much still don't. I comfort myself with the fact that Karma is a bit*h, and marital infidelity is normally not a one-shot-deal. I fully expect that not if, but WHEN it happens again, whoever else is involved will be not nearly so charitable. So, mixed emotions, and a lot of weight lifted off my shoulders, but definitely more positive. I'm still tired from a hellishly long winter, and it may be a while before I completely recuperate, but as usual, it's a "keep your head up" thing. Par for the course. If I could go one-under, I'd be thrilled.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I had a long discussion last night with a Cherokee friend of mine about aspects of religion, which, of course, turned out to be a comparative anatomy lesson between Native American culture, and Judeo-Christian religion. I answered his questions the best way I knew how, being both Catholic and of Jewish ancestry myself. The upshot of his questioning, which included questions about the comparative place and history of Jesus, and what he had done to get himself crucified, (I answered the he responded to King Herod that he was the King of the Jews, and Herod being the paranoiac control freak that he was, then figured that Jesus was a threat to his power, and felt the need to have him eliminated to maintain control.) and the real nature, creation story of the bible, were completely at odds with Native culture, which essentially has no Bible-esque holy book. The Bible was basically written by the prophets and other writers, although frankly it was a little difficult explaining that the nature of the Bible was fairly dogmatic, and that a lot of Biblical teaching was teaching by parable and example; also that the Old Testament and New Testament Gods were of vastly different temperaments. I tried to explain that Jesus was God-incarnate so that He, as God would have a better idea of what it was like to be human, and experience fear, temptation, anger, etc.....all those things that make us human. Let's face it; The Bible is basically a lot of do's and don'ts, that, depending on your specific religion, and how you view the world, govern how you view the world, what your specific religion is, and other matters. You know if you're Jewish, you're not going to eat pork or seafood, hold the Sabbath holy, and never get a tattoo; to say the very least. The same goes for the tenets of other religions. The bottom line of his questioning was about why the nuns and priests in the boarding school he had attended relatively briefly were such seemingly mean-spirited people. What you come to in a case like this, (and if you've never heard about the Indian boarding schools, which operated from the 1800s up until about 1980, have a look here for starters,) or search on Facebook for a man by the name of Warren Petoskey, is that the boarding schools in particular were less about education and more about indoctrination, and stripping Native Americans of their culture, heritage and language. I think any right-thinking Christian or Jew would agree that this should not have been the goal of the schools, but basically was. Government agencies were empowered to remove Native children from their homes and take them to boarding schools frequently without their consent or knowledge. (Remember that there was frequently a language barrier between the parents and government agents; the agents spoke English, and frequently the Native parents didn't, so they had no idea why their children were suddenly gone.) Why did this all happen? That I couldn't explain, and probably never will be able to, simply because it wasn't a part of my culture. Obviously it wasn't a period in history that anyone who considers themselves a Christian should be proud of, but there it is. If I got things wrong, feel free to rebuke me, but I hope I was on the right track. I think the real point is, is that the dichotomy of the cultures in question is so vast that there will never be any way to fully reconcile what Judeo-Christian religion is and how it compares to Native culture, where the is no aspiration to a Heaven, afterlife, or paradise of any kind. the goals of religion and Godliness should be good; but given the nature of free will, frequently that is not the case.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Y'know...I haven't known how to go about this, but I'll be honest. I've made a lot of wrong decisions in my life. Ones I have, quite frankly paid dearly for. But that's just it; I was WRONG. No excuses, I made my choices, and whoever sees fit to hold them against me, well, I wish you wouldn't, but that's your mind, not mine. I made choices to be happy. I made choices that ended up in my having a better life; one I could deal with more easily. I ain't what you'd call "normal", but then again, who is? And would it really be good if you were? I have been wrong, and if I wronged you, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. Beyond that, I can't do anything but do my best, fix what I can, and move on. The past is the past, it is what it is, and if that's not good enough, well, I don't know what else to tell you. I'm not sacrificing my happiness, my sanity, or my capacity to live and do just to make others happy. And from now on, negativity is OUT, as much as possible. I simply cannot deal with it. I know what I have done, and not done, I know the children that I brought into this world, and who I would take a bullet for, if necessary. I love my wife, and pray that God grants me every possible moment I can have with her. I love all my friends. All of them. and for the first time in a long time, I'm reasonably happy. Things could always be better. But the truth is, you make your calls. And if you're honest and upright, you stick with them, and pray that God gives you a chance to make some of the ones that you didn't before. If nothing else....don't wish for more money, a bigger house, or any of that crap; wish for enough days so that you have a chance to have all the chances that God will allow. Wish for loving, understanding and benevolence. And like you mean it.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Has it been that long?! Yes, indeed, it's been 30 years since I graduated from high school. In what seems like a flash, I already have one of my children who has done the same. un-freaking-believable. If you missed some of those 30 years, and indeed, many probably have, especially if you haven't been keeping up on Facebook or Twitter, here's the recap; I have two daughters, Sydne and Shelby, who I love dearly, but who haven't spoken to me, for whatever reason in years. I suspect they might at some point, but at this point I just feel good being happy in my own skin. My ex-wife, Lisa, kicked me to the curb in 2003, and great loss. I loved her at some point, but the truth is, I never would have met Martha had I not been single again. THAT, as it turns out, would have been a great loss. Martha has put many, many, more than I can count sometimes, songs in my heart. She understands my jokes. And even if it is not necessarily her nature, she has grown to love my cars, sanctioned one of the greatest experiences of my life (teaching in Korea, which changed my life indelibly,) and has pounded more dents out of my weary soul than you can imagine. In short, Martha has repainted my entire universe. Well......Martha and another dear friend of mine from the immediate post-Lisa period named Ge-Anne Bowdoin, who managed to get my soul running again. Ge-Anne lives in Georgia, and there was a period during was a tough call about what to do with my life. In case you were wondering why my Facebook profile picture was a Phoenix for a while, hopefully now you understand a little better. And maybe only the guys will understand this, but...well...we as guys have all seen cars with so much motor that we thought to ourselves, "man, if that thing ever hooked up all the way, it would snap in half!" Which I guess is how I really feel some days. So blowing a little smoke is okay, if it keeps you from breaking in half. Which, by any standard, is bad. Who the hell knows where I've been?! Hell, I don't even know some days. It has taken a lot of noise, smoke, heartache and disaster to get to where I am today, but the plain fact is....I'M HERE. And I am probably better than I have ever been before, even if am excruciatingly weary. Many days, many miles, many gains, many losses...many discoveries, but a vastly improved overall state of affairs for me personally. Hopefully, I can keep this going for as long as humanly possible, and then die, totally spent, with little more than a smile on my face nothing could possibly erase. I agonize over if the dementia that has plagued a father I didn't know as a man for nearly long enough, is headed my way. I would wish more than anything to just die with my wits about me. If that means not living to be 90, so be it. I have herein cleared a great deal out of my soul, and God knows I will never make everyone happy. But starting with me being happy, and hoping there's enough time to get some more accomplishments in....I'd say that's pretty good, no?