Monday, October 25, 2010

this is what I believe part 2

Three Dog Night is one of my favorite bands in the oldies category. I still turn up Joy to the World and Old Fashioned Love Song will always be special because it was the first song I played on the radio for Prajna.
I disagree with Three Dog Night about the number one. Their song proclaims one to be the loneliest number. One isn’t lonely, one is a strong number and sits high where it can see all the other numbers stretching away.
Let me explain. I knew my numbers before kindergarten but the classroom is where I was formally induced to them and I perceived the numbers having personalities. For some the odds were masculine and the evens were feminine. Most were pretty agreeable, but not all. Two is blue, maybe because of the rhyme or maybe because two is moody. Three is the life of the party, unflappable and rude. Four is shy to the point of being quite a prude. The number five is the closest thing to a deity there is on the number line. Five is like the Apollo character in that Star Trek episode with cosmic like powers and even a soft gentle side. Six is conceited. Seven is mysterious and a little scary. Eight is pretty powerful too but tends to be a bit OCD.
And then there’s nine. My friend found a note I scribbled a few years ago and he sent it to me. I wrote the note after discovering some folks had put a bunch of chairs in stacks of nines. I wrote this:
Why do they have to stack the chairs in nines? Why nine? I hate the number nine.
Nine is asymmetrical. It's one less than mighty ten and one more than the helpful eight. But don't feel sorry for nine.
Nine is a wet fart on a hot day. It's the feeling of cheap peppermint gum when the flavor is almost lost.
Nine is a dinner guest no one wants to sit near. Nine salts food before tasting and scuffs the bathroom tiles.
Nine is the sound of a leaf blower in a stairwell on a Sunday afternoon.
Nine is the color of scrambled egg residue soaking on a skillet in the sink waiting to be scraped away.
Nine has the odor of melted plastic.
Yeah that’s how I feel about nine.
This blog has been pretty shallow. I can always justify that I’m just trying to keep the wheels from rusting up but that excuse is getting a little rusty too. So here is the point, I don’t take a whole lot of stuff seriously. So today was flippant. And it felt great.

Friday, October 22, 2010

compositions of the past

It doesn’t help to change the look of my blog to make it more readable and then write nothing. This is unless of course someone just wants to go back and re-read all the previous entries. But not even I really do that. Maybe in a few years, good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I can go back and re-read some. I say this because I have composition books from 14 years ago and maybe even some spiral notebooks from the fifth and sixth grade.
I discovered composition books in the 7th grade and since then they have always been my favorite thing to write important stuff in. I have one that I started in the summer of 1996. Harrison was two, Naomi wasn’t 6 months yet and Prajna and I were living in Kihei getting ready to go to Hungary. I journaled through training expressing how panicked I was. I wrote about a dream/vision I had that reassured me. The day after we arrived in Budapest I sat in the living room of our flat and wrote for 8 or 10 pages chronicling leaving Pasadena, the long plane ride and the night in Helsinki, the arrival in Budapest and our first two days there. Our second day in Budapest Prajna and I rode some public transportation and got ejected for not having valid tickets. We ended up walking home and that afternoon is when I wrote it all down.
I wrote about my first day at school. The following weeks I wrote bits and pieces saying what was happening and how I was feeling. I wrote how thrilled I was to learn we would have a third child and then I wrote an account of Benjamin’s birth.
My second year I wrote very little. I made deliberate entries at significant times including my last day at school. I wrote that last entry in the journal after being back in Hawaii for 6 months. I described the day Sarah was born.
I’ve got other composition books bulging with stuff. I wrote angry entries after losing Naomi. In the same book I tried to journal every morning for a while but they all seem pretty much alike whining how tired I am.
So the 1996-1998 composition book journal is one book I like to look back on. It has panic and joy and travel and comfort. It wouldn’t be too much interest to many others but it is something I will treasure forever.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I didn't tell her she had an ugly baby, but it was

When I graduated college in 1990 with a bachelor’s degree in communication the staggering question was: what now? I made a few feeble attempts to get a job at my favorite FM radio station. I ended up returning to the Pizza Hut that I had worked at the previous summer. I was one of the day shift workers with many other drivers having day jobs in the military.
In August of that year I took a plane trip to visit friends as a sort of graduation present. Sitting on by the window on the DC-10 before the night flight took off the woman next to me made small talk. The she was quiet for a bit while she made like she was looking causally through her purse until she pretended to accidentally find a snapshot.
“That’s my baby,” she crooned showing me the picture. I looked. It was a picture of a white BMW Three Series convertible.
The rest of the trip was thrilling with stopping over in Chicago and flying into New York. In the time I had though I began to wonder who I was. Back at home on Oahu weeks later I was back driving pizzas around Wahiawa. I got home and chatted with friends on a computer bulletin board service. A BBS was before the internet. Then I got up and went to work. On my days off I would go to the movies or visit my old college.
My life was going no-where. Then the Pizza Hut folks started talking about training me to be a shift manager. My instant reaction was to reject it. I tried to enlist in the Army. Still wanting to work in radio I wanted to get into the Armed Forces Radio Network. I failed the physical.
I didn’t want to be rich with a car as a child. I didn’t want to define myself as a pizza dude whose greatest bragging rights were how fast he could fold and assemble pizza boxes. I quit my pizza hut job and moved back to Maui in January of 1991. I had a place to stay there and a lead on a job that turned out to be nothing. But it all felt right.
Even in my foul-mouthed, cigarette smoking state I think I was being directed by God. By March I was weekending at a radio station and in another month I was full time graveyard shift. By Christmas I was dating Prajna and among other things she gave me a bag of lollypops to help me quit smoking. I was on the right track by then.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

the pipe and the tree

When I lived in Lahaina there was a day care center that used the church facilities. When we moved there in 1975 the preschool director told my sister and I that we could play there during operating hours if we behaved ourselves. Lahaina Day Care Center had no surrounding fences and until they finally moved and enclosed the playground to comply with child care laws no child disappeared.
The playground equipment included monkey bars made of steel strong enough that you probably could have driven a car into them and they would stay intact. There was a tall slide and swings that were just looped chain and no strap at the bottom to sit on. Best of all was a 40 inch wide corrugated metal pipe about 10 feet long. You could crawl into or through the pipe or if you were adventurous you could remove the 4x4 plank of wood from its side and roll in it. Referred to as ‘the pipe’ it could be ridden in with others pushing it and if you sat right you would go upside down.
The next coolest thing in the playground was a banyan tree. This towered 20 to 30 feet in a traditional tree shape. The trunk had no split or handhold for at least 10 feet up so it couldn’t really be climbed. The tree was high maintenance dropping leaves one season and berries another. Mynah birds lived in it and congregated noisily every evening. One night I heard a loud series of cracks like firecrackers. An upper limb of the tree fell off. The groundskeepers took this as a sign and basically decapitated the tree. The trunk stood bare and sunlight bathed the ground beneath for the first time in perhaps decades.
The day care center was under new ownership and called a preschool now. By then the playground had been moved to the back of the school where it could be properly fenced. The swings had com apart too much to repair and the pipe was fixed in place. Over the years the tree grew back. When I last saw it in 2005 it showed no sign of the barbering 20 years back. I’m sure the mynahs are back too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

uphill both ways

I was talking to my kids about growing up going to government school and how I had to get up early and walk to school every day. I don’t know why I put this off as long as I did but I looked up Clarkdale Arizona on map quest and got the distance from the house I lived in to Clarkdale Elementary School. I remember having to leave about eight in the morning and school beginning I think at quarter to nine. Clarkdale was weatherwise similar to Yucaipa except I remember frozen puddles every winter going to school, seeing my breath and being convinced that Chuckie was wearing lipstick one very cold morning.
It seemed like a very long walk. I would often hook up with friends on the way to school and it felt like miles. Well map quest told me that it was .78 miles. Another woeful tale is shattered there although looking at the route online I can remember I didn’t walk the quickest way.
The school district had a bus that brought in kids from Jerome and Centerville which were genuinely miles away. The bus took me home. I never pondered much why it didn’t drive the town kids to school but I can guess now that the out of town kids would have had to get up earlier.
When I moved to Lahaina, Hawaii in the third grade there was no bus service in either direction for kids who lived close to Kamehameha III school. My parents drove me or we carpooled for a while. I walked home a lot and rode my bike by the sixth grade. I finally rode the bus to and from school in intermediate school and high school. Even then I walked home once in a while.
.78 miles. I would have guessed it at least twice that. I never should have looked it up and gone on thinking that I had a real hike back then.

Monday, October 11, 2010

panic comfort and trust

Even if it has been a busy and difficult week for both Prajna and me there is no excuse for not blogging for so long. Tuesday is piano day and the only day that we’re really on a deadline to get breakfast done and leave. But it’s been emotionally taxing and that makes me tired and distracted and I can’t seem to write when I feel like that. Today I’m taking it easy with no work or homeschool but I still got up early just to get something written. The writing wheel definitely seize up quickly if not spun often.
My last day of my old job was Thursday and the first day of my new one was Friday. I tried to get as much stuff done as I could on my last day. There really was a good amount of stuff to do. Then I left my keys on the executive administrator’s desk and coded out of the building for the last time. When I showed up the next day at my new job I had to kind of figure out what to do. I knew that I needed to get the church clean and ready for Sunday and I knew what events were scheduled over the next two days. I knew where all the cleaning supplies were and I could find out everything that had been done. I would have been sure that was all I needed to do my job but I still had trouble getting started. In fact I found myself feeling something that I had not felt in 14 years. It was panic. The last time I felt panic was during training before going to Hungary. I had no idea what I was going to do or where to start. I don’t believe in panic. I didn’t feel panic at any time during Naomi’s illness or loss or when I lost my job several times. Friday night I didn’t panic. But I felt it and identified it. Once I realized with amazement that that is what I really felt I was able to keep my breathing under control and assess the situation. Later on I started cleaning offices. By the time I was vacuuming I felt much better.
Saturday was easier. People tell me that it will take months to acclimate and I know that they’re right. In a few months I will be settled into a new routine and be much more comfortable. But until then I will miss my old co-workers and cleaning cart and supplies and having only four keys to open doors.
It’s all good. I was asked to take this job by a man I greatly respect as a man of God. This makes me believe that I’m in God’s hands. Just like the last time I felt such panic and then everything turned out alright.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

the lesson

Only about half the jobs I’ve ever held I left voluntarily. But terminated or not it is never easy to move on. Part of this is because of the obvious reason, I do not like change. But the other reason is not so obvious at least to me. I don’t know if other people can tell this, but it is somewhere that I still lay on a lot of denial. I try to convince myself that I don’t need other people.
Now it is true that I prefer to work alone but I don’t think that’s unusual. But I am lying to myself when I believe that I don’t need to see anyone or talk to anyone all day. And another little corner of denial that I like to dwell in is that other people would not care to be around me. So I would tend to walk around work all day thinking that everyone is better off when I keep to myself.
But that was a deception that I created to shelter myself. And in the three years I have had at my current job that today is my last of I have enjoyed the company of my co-workers. I have had a difficult time this week saying good bye to people. I read the card everyone signed again sometimes.
These three years have been years of personal growth as I’ve learned humility, patience and perspective. But this last week has caused even more personal growth as I discover how much I’m going to miss working with a lot of people who really matter to me. It is a somewhat painful lesson but one of the most valuable I’ve ever learned. Thanks everyone.