Monday, May 28, 2012

Lightning in a Bottle

     Mark Twain is attributed as saying: “It is better to be silent and thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubts.”  This has been the little motto in my head most of my life.  Don’t talk too much and maybe I won’t make a fool of myself.  Say as little as possible.  
     Writing a blog once a week, posting it on Blogger and then linking it to Facebook is hardly keeping quiet.  It’s going out on a limb and risking the removal of all doubts.  Most Monday mornings I post the blog and link it between 6 and 7 in the morning.  I will feel a little doubt as it its quality, but satisfaction that at least I managed to go another week keeping up with my writing regimen.  Then last week I wrote a particularly stirring blog entry.  People seemed to appreciate the story and I was pretty pleased with it too.  Sometimes my blog entries are singles or grounders, there are some doubles.  There are definitely strikeouts. Last week was knocked out of the park.  Once in a while it feels like words fall into place just right and I’ve caught lightning in a bottle.  
As last week drew to an end I began to fret about what the next blog entry would be.  I do this every week.  I may have a topic in mind but nothing seems good enough and most Sunday evenings I am thinking that I ought to just take the week off or maybe just quit writing the blog altogether and start sleeping in on Mondays.  Last night was no exception.  I wanted to write about Memorial Day. 
I thought about how capturing the creative essence is sometimes called Lightning in a Bottle.  And as much as I might want to crow about how I liked my blog entry last week and woe is me for fretting about following up on it, none of my accomplishments hold a candle to the work and sacrifices of our veterans.  Last night I felt like just giving up blogging, essentially quitting while I’m ahead.  Then I wondered how many men and women in the armed forces felt the same way and kept at it, never gave up and now are remembered on this day for laying down their lives for their country.  
So I got up this morning feeling a little dyspeptic and discouraged but got this written down.  I don’t expect to top last week.  I wish I could.  But the best I can do today is thank the veterans.  I don’t know how many ever wanted to just give up and go home.  But sometimes even when I’m doing well, I get hit with self-doubt and worry that I can’t go on.  If any of our fighting men and women ever felt that way and continued on anyway, I feel all the more thankful.    


Monday, May 21, 2012

The day I lived

     Today is the 21st of May, 2012.  It might be an ordinary day for most people today.  It’s my day off so of course I have a lot of little things to do.  On the surface looks like a regular day.  But 20 years ago today I stood at a crossroads and my life changed forever. 
     It was on this day 20 years ago that Prajna and I left in separate cars to go to the dress rehearsal for a play we were doing.  We had been dating for about 6 months.  I had been a lonely and miserable wretch before meeting her.  But now friends noted how I looked and acted better after starting a relationship.  I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life.  I had a useless college degree and was having fun working graveyard shift at a radio station.  But I was 25 and aware that there would be decades to come where I really ought to be doing something significant with my life.  I had just quit smoking cigarettes and still had the image of myself as a loner who sat off and wrote dark poetry.  With Prajna in my life, I had an idea of sharing my life with someone.  But not being alone anymore didn’t seem right still. 
     Late that Thursday afternoon on May 21st, Prajna left in her Toyota Tercell a few minutes before me for the drive from Haiku to Kahului.  A mile or so from home I approached Maliko Gulch where the Hana Highway dipped down and through.  The driver of an oncoming car was waving for traffic to slow down.  When I got around the corner there were cars stopped and I saw that there was an accident.  Then I saw Prajna’s car up against the guardrail.  I inched forward with traffic around another car facing the same way with the hood crumpled and the smell of hot engine coolant in the air.  As I passed Prajna’s car I saw her.  We made eye contact and she cried out to me.
     As clear as I remember this whole afternoon, I have no memory of parking my car or going to her.  The next thing I remember was that I was at her side.  I took a tissue from a woman and held it to Prajna’s head where her sunglasses had broken and cut her.  Her Toyota had been struck at the front driver’s side corner and was totaled.  The windshield was smashed and the front wheel was bent down.  The car seemed to have been struck hard.  Behind her car the facing the same way was the heavy European sedan that had struck her.  Prajna told me that it had crossed the center line and hit her.  She also told me her leg was broken.  I stayed kneeling by her side and heard sirens.
     Soon there were emergency vehicles everywhere.  Firemen had no trouble pulling the car door open.  Getting Prajna out of her car and onto a gurney was difficult and painful.  I followed the ambulance to the hospital running red lights right along with it.  When I got to the emergency room I knew I needed to get in and see her.  Girlfriend wouldn’t sound good enough. I strode through the open doors that only authorized personnel could pass and for some reason I announced that Prajna was my fiancé.  This held weight with the staff. Even though I was ushered out of the room they seemed concerned for me too.  I called Prajna’s home and talked to her brother.  I explained that she was banged up but would be okay.  Prajna’s mom and brother got there soon after. 
We began a long wait as doctors came and updated us.  Yes, her left femur was broken and they had to put pins in it to fix the position.  They couldn’t use a general anesthetic but would give her enough meds to dull some pain and make her forget the rest.  Friends came to check on us.  Late in the evening a doctor came out and told us there might be a problem.  They were afraid there could be bone fragments in Prajna’s blood.  That could be fatal.  I got a cigarette from a friend and went outside. 
Here is where I felt the crossroads underneath me.  If Prajna died, I could be the dark brooding loner forever.  Was that what I wanted?  People would point to me in awe at the tragic coolness.  Then down the other way was me giving up that desire to be alone and sharing my life with someone. I remembered how miserable I had been over the past few years.  And I decided it didn’t matter. I didn’t want a tragedy in my life even if it enhanced my writing and no matter how cool it made me. I wanted Prajna to live.  I wanted to walk away from that dark loner and live my life with her.  I prayed that outside the E.R.  
Prajna was never in any danger.  The doctors had been taken aback by Prajna’s irrational talking, asking them if they wanted cream cheese on their bagel.  I don’t think that God wanted me to pray that night for Prajna to live as much as for me to live.  And I did.  We both did.

Prajna and her car about a month after the accident

this was my idea of what I would have been like without Prajna

This is most likely how I really would have ended up


Monday, May 14, 2012

All the Cool Things

     The best thing about driving the Chevy Nova in the rain was that the downpour made so much noise on the metal roof that you couldn’t hear the inferior slant six motor laboring and leaking fuel.  Forgive the tired cliché but it was a dark and stormy night. I was driving on the Hana Highway in Kahului.  I was holding the wheel tightly and wishing the window defogger worked.  The driver’s side window was down to keep the windshield clear.  But still, streetlights headlights and taillights all blurred though the feeble wipers.  I could also see ahead and off to my left the approach lights of The Kahului Airport.  The old car barely had any headliner between the metal roof and the passengers.  The rain was so loud I couldn’t hear the radio.
     Suddenly for just an instant the noise of the rain stopped and then started again.  I would have not believed it unless I was there, but it sounded just like it was just switched off for a second and then back on.  I thought there was only one thing that could have caused that, and looked out the side window.  There was an Aloha Airlines Boeing 737 about to touch down at the airport.  It had flown directly over me and for just an instant sheltered the rain from me. 
     I spent the rest of the evening pondering that incident.  It was a wonderful example of being in the right place at the right time.  A few days ago I paused while vacuuming and wrote in my notebook: all the cool things.  I sometimes write things in this notebook because ideas of things to write about can be capricious.  I wanted to remember some of the real cool things I have experienced.    
For example, when I was perhaps in 6th grade my dad performed a wedding for the daughter of a Navy Officer who captained a nuclear submarine.  The captain invited our family aboard the next day.  I got a guided tour of The Hawkbill.  I looked through the periscope and saw torpedoes.
     Another time when I was working for KNUI radio there was a restaurant going bankrupt that owed the radio station a considerable amount of money for advertising.  They worked out a deal where anyone from KNUI could go eat for free with as many guests as they wanted.  It was a somewhat fancy restaurant too.  We ate there only three times because it was a bit of a drive.  But it was still free dinner.  Among other things I had escargot and we didn’t bother to share deserts.  Mud pie for everyone.
     And right up there with these times is something that happened less than 10 years ago at church one Sunday morning.  Someone got stuck in a storage closet.  The door was completely jammed and there was no way to get it open.  There are times that someone who wears big heavy boots every day can only dream of.  And this was one of those times that everyone realized there was only one way to get the door open.   With the blessing of the pastor, I kicked the door open.  I felt high the rest of the day.
     Those are just a few things that I like to remember.  There were things that I didn’t really cause to happen and I just happened to be in the right time at the right place.  I wanted to write about cool things I got to experience, however, because last Friday made two years that I started this Roadwalker Blog.    I don’t think chance had a whole lot to do with me starting the blog that morning.  I had wanted to do something like it for awhile.  Then that morning the Word of the Day in my inbox was Navel Gazing.  It meant useless or excessive self contemplation.  It became my first blog topic. I thought that is all this blog would be.  Sometimes it is. Over the two years this blog has evolved.  There have been hits and misses. But sometimes, once in a while the self-indulgent rain is eclipsed by a soaring idea for just a moment and I have the chance to try to capture it, and then share it.  Thanks for reading.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Choosing and Accepting

     There were rules about riding in the car when I was growing up.  Being safe of course took priority, so seat belts were usually worn.  I don’t know how much good they would have done in an early 70’s Volkswagen Bus.  One rule was clear however, no sirens.  I had a knack for sounding like an actual siren to the point that my neighbors would look out their windows as I pedaled by.  My dad made the rule: no sirens while riding in the car. He explained that he would think there was a real emergency vehicle bearing down on us and have to pull over.
     One evening we were returning home from Phoenix.  This was a two hour drive we took every few months.  We had stayed at my grandparents and now were tucked in for the drive home.  My sister had a bed made up on the first bench seat and I was on the rear seat playing with cars.  We probably weren’t buckled up.  I knew the rule about sirens in the car.  But I had just heard a new siren on TV.  This was the European style “hoh-hee hoh-hee hoh-hee” and one of my toy police cars was going to engage this siren.  I wouldn’t be breaking the rule.  The local police and highway patrol cars were hulking Ford Galaxies with traditional wailing sirens.  There were no European Police cars anywhere so my dad would not be fooled or distracted by this new siren.  So I started in. “bee-boh bee-boh bee-boh”
     The order from the front came to stop the noise.  I continued, just a little quieter. “bee-boh bee-boh bee-”.
     Sounding very tired and angry, my father told me to stop.  I had halted on “bee” without completing the sound with a “boh”. I felt the sound in me aching to get out.  The van was so very quiet even the motor’s noise faded into the background while I wrestled with the last half of that sound.  It only took seconds and I gave in and spoke the last bit of the siren. “boh”
     I’m not sure what happened after that.  My mom may have had to take the wheel.
     I wanted to share this story as an addendum to my blog two weeks ago when I confessed to being “a destructive roughneck” as a teenager.  I had a friend point out to me that I really wasn’t the punk I may have been painting myself to be in that entry.  And he’s right.  I did manage to stay out of trouble, not just because I was slippery and never got caught, but mostly because I tried to do the right thing a lot of the time.
     But I wanted to make something clear.  When I did do the wrong thing (there were plenty of things I did wrong) I was fully aware of my actions.  Just like laying in the backseat of the van feeling the urge to make one little noise and knowing it was wrong and doing it anyway.  My young mind made itself up that evening to go against what was right.  I was fully aware that I would get in trouble.  I knew all of that and felt I needed to make that noise anyway. 
     The same thing applies to every other time I succumbed to temptation to do the wrong thing.  I knew it was wrong to tip an outhouse. The same goes all the other things that don’t deserve mentioning.  The unfortunate thing is that as I grew older, my self-destructive behavior was shrouded.  Things I kept at began to not seem wrong anymore because of denial.  
     There was a clear view of the right thing to do that I ignored in the back seat of the van.  Decades later it wasn’t as clear.  But I still knew what I was doing and want to take responsibility.  Stepping out of denial was the first step in my recovery.  It was one of the most difficult things to do.  But once it’s done there is a relief to it.  I feel better sharing the amusing stories and a little wary of the more sensitive ones.  But I just want to be honest and real.