Monday, October 28, 1996

This Perfect World

"Far from where people dwell he cuts a shaft, in places forgotten by the foot of man; far from men he dangles and sways. The earth, from which food comes, is transformed below as by fire; sapphires come from its rocks, and its dust contains nuggets of gold. No bird of prey knows that hidden path, no falcon's eye has seen it. Proud beasts do not set foot on it, and no lion prowls there. Man's hand assaults the flinty rock and lays bare the roots of the mountains. He tunnels through the rock; his eyes see all its treasures. He searches the sources of the rivers and brings hidden things to light. But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?"

There is one time a year when you get a guaranteed second chance, when you are allowed to turn back your clock and fix any mistakes you may have made during the past twenty four hours. This is an opportunity that many do not take advantage of. One day a year we get twenty five hours in a day and there are those who spend that extra hour watching another episode of Baywatch.

Despite the invention of Franklin Planners and computerized schedulers it is still amazing how much time we waste and let slip away. We may never figure out time. Seems like the older you get the faster time slips on by. I hate to continue to dwell on it, or in it, but it is becoming more and more clear to me that time is such a relative thing. Days that drag on speed up when as the old cliché goes, "you're having fun" or approaching yet another pressing deadline. There are days when things move in slow motion and it feels like you'll never make it through. Other days you could stay up all night and not get enough done.

One of the things I have come to most appreciate about my upbringing was my mother's decision to sign me up for piano lessons. There were times of doubt as I struggled through learning a chromatic scale or while butchering another Clementi or Bartok piece, and I'm sure I more than frustrated my piano teacher with all the time I devoted to learning the Beatles' catalog. Over the years however being able to pound out a song on the piano has been one of the best stress relievers in my repertoire. Whether it was through the lost lonely first few frustrating days of my freshman year of college or after one of those madcap Christmas rush days at Cheapo, going to my parent's house and playing some piano always got my mind back into a more peaceful state.

I always figured the day I could afford my own piano would be the day I could consider myself a success. Never seemed like a realistic goal and I never thought it would happen. To have my own piano meant being able to afford a place that could hold it. So last spring when I got my house and along with it a piano, there was the belief that after more than a few moments of struggling, I was on my way to at least some small amount of success. Unfortunately, as my time at the office piles up faster than the leaves in my yard, I really haven't had much time to enjoy my piano. It sits as a big keyholder in my living room. That old balance between professional and personal is as out of whack as my still to be turned back inner alarm clock. There is always some sort of compromise you need to accept to get to another step on that big ol' ladder of life.

Thus after a fifty hour work week the little fellow decided to take a breather this week. He decided to take a day off. That day off became but an hour off yet on an untypical Friday night he joined a group of friends for a pale Sam Adams at a local pub. Then afterwards he met up with another friend looking for a friend who showed him her new apartment after waltzing on down to the nearby Dairy Queen to enjoy a Heath Bar Blizzard. They settled in on her comfy used couch and watched Grease II one of her favorite movies, a movie made in the eighties taking place in the sixties when life was about a song and a dance, a girl named Stephanie and a mysterious man, the "cool rider," on a motorcycle.

It was all strangely familiar, reminiscent of things gone by, of another time, of the days of our lives of another familiar face. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of what is and should be important in our lives, of how valuable a quiet little friendship can be. He enjoyed the evening, her company, the setting, her enthusiasm in singing along with the entertainment, and yes even the time. What a fine Friday. It just goes to show that when afforded the rare opportunity of a second chance, sometimes you can get things right.

Monday, October 21, 1996

Buck Up Buckaroo

If you people know but one thing about me, it is that I am a man who loves his potatoes. Mashed, fried, steamed, boiled, broiled, foiled, doesn't matter how you fix them, I'll eat them.

It may not be fashionable to admit it but it is easy to admire a potato. You can beat it, smash it, peel it and cut it up but it always remains consistent. It is one of the few food items that can stand alone as the main meal, or play a supplemental and supporting role in a meal. It's the type of food that you don't rave about while you're eating it yet later on as you lie awake at night you realize how much it means to eat a good potato.

Yes, we all could learn a valuable lesson from our friend Mr. Potato. Few foods are as versatile, and even fewer people can do as many things as you can do to a potato. In the age of increasing specialization in the work force it is refreshing to sit back and enjoy the fruits of a finely cooked potato.

Thus it is my advice to the kids just out of school that they don't limit themselves to one area of their chosen vocation whether it be in the law (torts, contracts, tax, property, etc.), medicine (podiatry, nose ears and throat, pediatrics...), or musical genres. It is best when beginning, to expose oneself to as many different areas as one can and get good in as many different things as one can rather than perfecting one area in neglect of the others.

As careers increasingly become things of the past, as more and more of us switch jobs more and more often it is imperative to be adaptable, flexible and versatile. The changing nature of the workplace and of our colleagues in the work force may or may not be something unique to the times we are in, but certainly the tides of change are firmly established and woven into the fabric of our culture.

Just like Madonna's process of selecting a father for her baby, it is good to give yourself as many options, as many choices as you possibly can. America is after all a pro-choice country. You see it every day in your store. People like to be able to choose between buying the latest Iris Dement or the latest Shawn Colvin. The first Wallflowers disc or the second. They like the choice of new or used, vinyl or CD. Every day life is full of many choices. Cats or dogs. Republican or Democrat. KFC or Boston Chicken. Cable or satellite. MCI or AT and T. Public or private schools. Difford or Tilbrook. Heineken or Pabst Blue Ribbon. National managed health care or private scattered clinics. Expresso or cappuccino.

Independent thinkers like to be challenged rather than limited. Corporate capitalism thrives on competition. Diversity, a politically charged word that scares some and empowers others is perhaps the keyword to watch for as we cross the self proclaimed bridge into the 21st Century. Ohairi nasai. Much as we all like to have choices it is that which is different that bothers a lot of people.

Much attention will be given to that cross into a new millennium. All the visible and not so visible pundits will try to attach their pre-determined meanings to the new century. But a potato is still a potato no matter how you fix it and slice it up. This is to say that no matter what they tell you the year 2000 will probably feel much like the year 1999. Yet that doesn't necessarily mean we are headed in the right direction.

As the suburbs spread out towards the ever shrinking wilderness we may see more and more cougars walking around in our downtowns heeding no attention to the traffic lights or crosswalks. A deer in the headlights? We watch as the stock market hits new record highs as more and more corporations downsize it is about the choice of deciding whether or not this is what we want to be. Yes indeed it is wonderful to live in a land that offers diversity. Yet to take our freedom to choose lightly means losing some of that freedom. All it would take is another potato famine and there would be no more french fries. Idaho may not have a lot of electoral votes yet it is meaningful nonetheless. And it is still important that we at the very least take the time to acknowledge the bespectacled beauty of that which we don't recognize until it is far too late. A deceptive curve, an expected fast ball.

Monday, October 14, 1996

Fall of 1996

Itza bout time. Itwaz never bout anything else. As you rake and clean the mess, you will in time, see that. Days pass by in a whirl. Seasons color the morning drive. Patience thinning. Sun shines in your eyes. Blinded by the light of effortless originality sought. The original seer sought. Youngsters reaching into the playing field determine the outcome. A fifteen percent tax cut. Cross the board. Sleepless, shrinkless nights. Repetitive motion stress, stretched tendons dangle. Soft tissues wipe away the bloodshot eyes. Ultraviolet light wipes the memory off the chip. Paved path that leads right past her doorstep and right out of sight. Shelled pistachios, carbonated beverage. Unapproved baking soda toothpaste gets your teeth extra ultra white. Root canal. Grimaced smile of one left behind. Dripping candlewax spreads it scent across the white smeared porcelain top. An old postcard from down under. A note slipped in your doorbox. A cracked lip, an itchy stomach. Registered voters with no birthdays. A dial tone alternating with a busy signal. Unordinarily ordinary. Forwarded voice mail from another day.

A rash rush to conclusion. A new suit to play dress up. Pretend part of changing times. Cork. The Great Gatsby. Old Sport. Plenty of bills to justify the over the top work hours. Bags of recycled papers to track the news of all the days of all the weeks gone by. Dinner stored in plastic Tupperware containers cooked with microwaves, emptied into the whirling sound of the disposal underneath the suds. Scarf weather. Dusty spider webs beneath the hardwood floors. Limp. Scarred knees of another sort. Oil embargoed, sand war. Ripples of a glance of another sort. Moving to another place another voice to let another's existence (or lack thereof) forget. Fashionably forgotten songs on a shrink-wrapped tape. The cover of a slept on couch where the pillows slide back to expose the underlying folded up mattress of some other couple. Spell check Ecclesiastes. An apple a day to keep the variety away. Prison food. New international version. The new internal vision. A broken promise, a cross country trip an unfinished crossword puzzle with all its clues. Multimedia speaker system of an unknown long song. A bacteria virus. A disease. A pill. My pharmacist Bill's bill. A damnit doll, a smokeless friend. Fired up furnace burning. Kingdom come, peace and quiet, thumping bass of a rapped out car. SuperAmerica on every corner. A cloverleaf interchange, a rocking pickup truck that rolls back into me. Awaiting the light to change from red to green. Conspiracy theories of grassy knolls and FBI files. Aristotle. Nietzsche.

On the road. Again. Once more. Spit in the face of the wind. The podium fall. Explaining the ballot layout to a judge. A youngster's enthusiastic wiggle. A fifteen inch monitor. You get what you deserve. A phone call on Friday to a missing person. Eight hours of video tape. An optimist, inspiring another, what more can you do for someone? San Diego Zoo. Sittin on the Davenport in upper Greenwich Village, our nation's Capitol in U.S. News And World Report's biggest bargains of Universities, the University of North Carolina. An Arizona resort. An abandoned goldmine shaft. Ying Yang. Merging into oncoming traffic. Unplug the voting booth. Meeked out. I need you need we all need ICE CREAM! The voice of authority seeks the perfect display dictionary. Take the place of you. A struggle. One day at a time. Next time you'll know much better. Forced air heating. Circumstances dictate the action of reaction of interaction of the events of a folded card game. Dropping rocks into the board's divets. Feeding goldfish with a straw. Mare bear. Better days were had. Had by all. Guardian of a nephew. Recess. An angry clarinetist, a frustrated trumpet blower. Divest. Invest with lower interest rates. Escrow accounts. CDs of a different account. Scarecrow tactics that count. Bobbin the head. Blinking through the debate. Eyebrows. A hard drive failure. Crashing the levee. A soccer style football tackle. Painting the bat for another season in the not too far off distance. It's about time that lingers on. Bouts of time.

Monday, October 7, 1996

This Side of Paradise

If you can bet on but one sure thing during an election year it is that just about everyone will complain about the number of negative political advertisements that flood the airwaves. The telling sign however is that we live in a land where many will listen to these ads and base their votes on what they hear. "By golly he's right, I ain't gonna vote for that other guy..." We tend to limit ourselves and settle for that which is in front of us. The people who complain about having to vote for the lesser of two evils are the same people who accept campaigns in which the candidates go out of their way to prove they aren't as bad as the other, not that they have anything different to offer.

Another sign of the times is how little we can know about our neighbors, but know enough not to discuss religion or politics with them. Yet this is the time of the year when many don't have a second thought about displaying a sign in their yard in support of a political candidate. "Well if Edna and Harry are gonna vote for candidate X, I think I will too."

How effective are political signs? Do people get to a voting booth on election day, notice a name that they had seen on a sign and cast their vote merely on that small bit of name recognition? Probably. It is good to be living around people who share similar points of view, which can be demonstrated while driving into a neighborhood where a row of homes have the same candidate's sign posted in their yards. It may also tell you which parts of town you want to avoid.

Political participation is at an all time low and it seems many who do still participate do it only out of a sense of civic duty rather than any passion or conviction for a particular candidate or issue. We have raised a whole generation of voters who think the best anyone can do is be against high taxes, be tough on crime, and be the one who is going to ferret all of government's excesses. If all we need to do to fix what ails our country is to lower taxes, higher more cops, and make sure that everybody works hard and earns their own money, then I guess our country isn't too bad off after all. The relationship between the government and the disenfranchised, between our country and the rest of the world, the growing lack of job security, the growing distance between classes and races, hell who can be bothered with any of that?

When all of our campaigns are framed in terms of who is more patriotic, labels- who is a liberal and who is a conservative (what is the difference?), who is against crime and for a strong defense, who is more fiscally responsible, is it any wonder that people can vote their conscience based on a slogan, a sign, an advertisement? A Declaration of Independence, a Constitution, a Bill of Rights, the abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights movement- we are taught to respect history but to end up where we are is to ask the question "is this all there is?" Democracy strives for parity which leads to mediocrity. We are happy enough to find a detergent that gets our whites just a little bit whiter and if it doesn't, we can always switch back to our old brand. This year, our senator is new and improved...

People are fed up with the status quo yet the fear of change leads to another round of who has the better name, who has the better face, slogan, more positive picture of America. It would be nice if the rest of our lives were as simple. Despite the emotion it arouses, politics isn't seen as something that effects every day life. More and more everything is derivative of that which came before. While stopping to seek greatness we haven't learned to lower expectations. Always looking for the next big thing and hanging those expectations on whoever claims to have "new ideas," inevitably we are disappointed and disillusioned. Good night my love and may the Lord have mercy on us all.