To Belong To Ya

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Some of you know that if you pinned me down to what my favorite band is, I would have slapped with you with a fish and be insulted that you had to ask.  I love the band The Decemberists.  It’s a indy-ish, hipster-centric, Porlandia-symbolic, band known for their songs inspired by folklore, peasant overthrows of royalty, getting swallowed by a whale, and in one song the lead singer calls “the worst song ever written” Dracula’s Daughter (If you think you had it bad, trying having Dracula for a dad … see how that looks on you).  This year they released a new album, and they started off the album with a song that had an interesting spin.  Think about a time when you loved a band, and they put out a new album that just didn’t meet your expectations – of course you didn’t expect a ‘greatest hits’ but that what was different wasn’t what you were expecting.  The Decemerists took that concept and met it head on.  The song called “The Singer Addresses His Audience” starts with these lines:

We know, we know, we belong to ya
We know you built your life around us
And would we change, we had to change some

We know, we know, we belong to ya
We know you threw your arms around us
In the hopes we wouldn’t change
But we had to change some
You know, to belong to you

From there they continue on to address things like apologizing for turning the song you use at your wedding into a shampoo commercial, and understanding that your haircut match’s the drummer’s even though the drummer had to move on with a new do.

What stands out is that this band says to it’s fan — you wanted more, you wanted more, but to give you more we had to change.  Not that they didn’t get that we didn’t want them to change, but wanting them is to want the change as well.

So there in lies the rub.  You hope nothing changes, but what you want not to change is that changes happen.

All of this comes down to a vague, misleading, and probably unnecessary eyebrow raising blog post from summary based on this song in an effort to just write down concepts that are going through my head.  Friendships, relationships, and family are all based on the principle this song puts forward — we belong to each other.  To belong to each other, we hope we wouldn’t change, but we have to change sometimes.  In our own ways, we clamor for our next best thing, or next victory, our next way of living, our next paycheck – yet we do so hoping that it doesn’t effect those relationships around us.  Yet we can’t ignore that they do, we can’t ignore that change can hurt as much as it can help.  Yet for those of us that change often, change repeatedly, or change when it is needed – we have to ensure that you know that it is part of belonging to us that comes with that change.

What I am saying is – there are friends that changes are happening to, and whether you think you are those people or not know that I accept those changes in part because I know it is part of belonging to your friendship.  Also, I am never going to stop changing as long as I live – and for those of you who know me, who belong to me, I have to change some … You know .. To Belong to you.

Vague enough for you?  (And before you start guessing … no it’s not what you think)

Thankfulness

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There’s a book I want to read … probably more like need to read.  It’s called “The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible” by A.J. Jacobs.  I have seen it around, and thought to myself “Hey look at that – it’s another atheist trying to belittle someone just to justify a superiority complex”  (see all Bill Maher).   Not that I am a zealot or bible thumper on my own, but I come from the stock of thinking that what you believe in is what you believe in – who am I or anyone else to judge.  Yet last night I heard an interview with the author that goes into more detail of what led him to write it, and what he got from the experience.  While he touched on some of the more odd parts of the book (like when he got to stone an adulterer) he was able to explain key parts of the process that were fundamentally good for all of us.

One thing he mentioned was the biblical requirement to ‘Be Thankful’.  The way he described it, the literally interpretation he took with that was to be thankful for everything.  By everything, he mentioned, that meant everything.  Say for instance you walk into a tall building – when you press the elevator button, you are thankful for the light to turn on to tell you the elevator is on the way.  Then the door opens, you are thankful for that. Push the floor button, once again, thankful for the light to come on.  Thankful for arriving on your floor.  Thankful for making it to you meeting.  Thankful you have a bottle of water handed to you.

What this author said was the experience made him more thankful — which is like … DUH … but there is a point here.  It’s easy to get wrapped up on the things we hate, the things that bother us.  Yet what he was saying is that being thankful for everything made him recognize the good that comes from everything, and recognition is the first step to appreciation.  And Appreciation is an early step towards love.

The whole of the concept reminded me of the 100 Happy Days effort I made last year around this time, and made me wonder if I wanted to take a wack at it.  That was something thru Facebook where everyday I took a photo or wrote about something that made me happy that day.  While I wouldn’t mind doing that process a second time – I have this fear that came out of last year (where those ‘100 happy days’ were a run of very very unhappy days like I had never seen in my life) that I could be seeing bad times ahead.

What I just want is to recognize what I need to be thankful for.  I want to see the world through the eyes of someone with a more positive outlook.  I want Thankfulness to be a core thing of what I do, not the one that sees the potential black poison awaiting me at every step.

Things need to start changing in my life for me to me to be happier, but there are a lot of things that I can’t change.  The thing is, I want to be happy about those things.  When I see something — I want to be thankful for it, recognize it for what it means, appreciate what it was … and Love what it is.

And it all starts with Thanks.

For Serious …

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Yes, I need to blog more.  Yes, there are reasons I don’t.  Well, here’s a way to break that rut.

Inspiration!

From Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded”

I saw that being posted by the actress Sarah Michelle Geller this week in remembrance of Robin Williams.  On the days I search for meaning in my world, and on the times I choose to do what I do, I come back to a fundamental concept:

We are all put on this planet to leave it better because we existed.

Yet it took that paragraph from Mr. Emerson to bring the detail the concept requires.

So that is my focus this week – not to expect anything to end, but to ensure that if it does that I met Mr. Emerson’s definition of success.

Little Big State

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(Insert standard apologies for not blogging recently and empty promises to blog more in the future).  Good, now that’s out of the way …

Knowing that I have seen my share of the US the last couple months, let me challenge you:  Let’s say that on a given day I drove in a certian state, and the drive that day I only covered a third of the state’s length (maybe a little more, but not much), but still made about 250 total miles.  I took state highways mostly, which is mainly why I was on the road for about 7 hours, but was on an interstate for a while too.  The roads wound around a bit; but I can’t get across to you enough that I really did not see much of the total of the state … and I still drove 250 miles.  Saying all of that … Would you believe that I am talking about New Hampshire?  Yeah that tiny one up by Vermont and Maine. Honestly, in my opinion New Hampshire is the most underrated state in the country (not the best mind you, but the most underrated).

While interrupted here and there, I am spending a majority of my time in July & August in New Hampshire – visiting a plant in Laconia, NH and spending my nights at a hotel in Concord 30 minutes away.  Because the hotel had such a good long term rate that it was cheaper to stay up over the weekend, I had a day to explore the state.

I’ve already spent some time around Laconia.  They call that area the ‘Lakes Region’, so named for the four large lakes cutting across the country including Lake Winnipesaukee and it’s 255 islands and 288 miles of shoreline..  Driving on the roads in this area are an adventure.  You can tell that you are on what was the old colonial farmer paths now widened, paved, and not at all straighten.  It is so common that you have to go in the wrong direction to get where you need to go, the state motto might as well be “You Can’t Get There From Here”.

My drive brought me towards the White Mountains.  The gateway to the area on the Eastern side is North Conway (or Conway, I think there was a West Conway too that I drove through, they all kinda ran together).  Every other block had an ice cream stand, a small hotel, or a quaint shopping store.  For those of you back in Wisconsin, it was very similar in feel to Wisconsin Dells – including the amusement park (Storyland) and the threat of water parks.

My destination is a legend of the East Coast — The Mt Washington Auto Road.

Mount Washington is the highest peak in New England at 6,288 feet, and is the most prominent point east of the Mississippi.  I’ve known it as the highest point on the Appalachian Trail as it crosses the peak after a few miles of alpine paths above the treeline.  Mount Washington is also notorious for it’s weather – considered to be the most erratic in the world.  In 1934 from shed that was chained to the ground, weather observers measured a wind gust of 231 mph, a record that stood until 1996 and still stands as the fastest non-tornadic non-cyclonic non-hurricane in recorded history.  They see 250 inches of snow at some points, none at another.  The top could see snow while the bottom is dry, or it could be raining in the valleys and the skies are crystal clear at the summit.

Pitched as the oldest man-made attraction in the US, the Mt Washington Auto Road is an 8 mile long toll road that starts at around 1500ft elevation and climbs to the summit and observatory at the peak.  It takes up to an 11% gradient to get up and is known to chew up break pads and transmissions in the process.  Today, like most days, the summit was clouded over – which made for some harrowing points on the drive where you know there was a cliff to one side of you but the clouds/fog was so thick you couldn’t see much past your hood.  Of course, my four legged co-pilot took this time as an opportunity to go stupid in the car, headbutting daddy’s elbow just as cars passed and constantly running around the backseat, and crop dusting the cabin.  It isn’t the only way up, the famous Mt Washington Cog Rail – a train that grips a rail through a cog system to drive itself up the hill – runs up the mountain from the other side (I threatened to send the pup down that way.  He just wagged his tail and farted).

Mt Washington, as well as the other ‘Presidents’ (Mt Adams, Mt Jefferson, Mt Pierce, etc) make up the White Mountains, a range that crosses and covers most of Northern New Hampshire.  They stand out for hundreds of miles around, and are covered with green hardwood trees where the white granite rocks don’t jut out.  And parts of the range have the white granite jutting out everywhere.  The most famous jutting rock is no longer there but is still quite famous.

The ‘Old Man of the Mountain’ was a set of five granite ledges that when combined looked like a guy’s face.  For those of you who collected the old state quarters (especially when it seemed all you could find was the first ones that came out), New Hampshire had him on the back of thiers.  But, like what rocks will do over time, it started to crack and fall apart.  Then in the middle of a May night in 2000, it fell.  What’s left … well … kinda sucks.  But still to this day his profile is memorialized, not just on quarters but in the shape of their state highway sighs.

From there was the run back to Concord down I-93, including one of those rarities – a section of a US interstate that is only 2 lanes.

I’m back and ready to hang out with the pup in the hotel, which is enough for us.  Just hope he is done being gassy.

The Return: The Plan

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Wednesday, I begin to make the long drive back to Massachusetts to end the long stay on the West Coast.  Whether or not I am going to look back fondly or negatively to this long term assignment is still to be decided, mostly because I am not exactly sure I have figured out what I am leaving or just as much what I am returning too.  At this point, that doesn’t matter …

What does matter is that I need to finalize my plan to get back across the country, and of course – blogging about it will force the issue.

So here is the framework of the return plan.  Like my drive out, it will be broken into two weekends – it’s just that this time they will be two LONG weekends.  I need to be in Wichita, KS Monday & Tuesday July 6 & 7; and need to be up in New Hampshire (with clean clothes and a rested puppy dog) by Monday July 13th.  Beyond that, I need to make sure I am always heading in the direction of Dorchester, whatever that means.

The first leg will be five days zig zagging across the Southwest arriving in Wichita the afternoon of July 5th; each day with between 7 and 10 hours of driving.  It starts with:

– July 1, Anaheim, CA to Flagstaff, AZ.  7-1/2 hrs – 475 miles.  A departure day, meant to just get miles behind me.  In order to keep this lively and off the direct route, I likely will be heading through the Palm Desert and Palm Springs on the way to Arizona (versus a Barstow route, a more indirectly direct route out of the LA Area).

July 2, Flagstaff, AZ to Tropic, UT.  8-1/2 hours – 460 miles.  This is some big day for what I will see — Grand Canyon is the first on my list, and maybe the biggest thing in North America I haven’t visited yet that I want to.  Just a lookie loo then onward through the Vermilion Cliffs NM, a long detour through Zion NP, and then up to Bryce Canyon NP where we are staying up in the mountains in Tropic, UT.

July 3, Tropic, UT to Farmington, NM. 8 hours – 425 miles. This may be the trouble part of the trip, either where I bite off more than I can chew or make sure more than what I can chew has been bitten off.  This starts with a Northeast route up through the Grand Staircase NM, the Capital Reef NP, before cutting Southeast down to the Four Corners and Ending in New Mexico.

July 4, Farmington, NM to Denver, CO 9 hours – 480 miles.  Heading due north out of Farmington, this is a Rocky Mountain Holiday route, through Durango, Telluride, Grand Junction, Rifle (that is a throwback place for me), Veil, Eisenhower Tunnel, then down the Front Range to spend the night in the mile high city.

July 5, Denver, CO to Wichita, KS 7-1/2 hours (depending on who you ask) – 530 miles.  The long run across the flatness of flat.

Then comes two days in Wichita to recharge followed by the run east.  The details of this leg are still to be set (I have to find dog friendly hotels); but the current plan is a 4 day run:

– Wichita to Peducha, KY (or somewhere in that distance range) through the Ozarks and southern Missouri

Peducha, KY to the Appalachians around Gatlinberg, TN then up the range to Roanoke, VA

– Roanoke to Possibly Northern Virginia but somewhere along the western side of the Appalachians

– Hard run up through PA, NY, CT, to Dorchester

Hopefully, this trip home will be much more scenic, adventurous, and enjoyable.  We will see of course.

The Place with My Big TV

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I am not sure what I expected when I entered my Dorchester home, but this wasn’t it.  I guess I haven’t been too silent about the unsteady ground I seem to be in recently from not really identifying where I am from.  The running joke for me is when asked where I am from, I would say “I don’t know”.  Maybe I assumed when I got back to the condo some feeling of finding a ‘firm ground’ would come.

After leaving the pup at a pet spa Saturday morning, I hoped on a five-hour direct flight to Boston Logan.  It landed around 11pm local time, which meant by the time I got my luggage and a rental car I wouldn’t be pulling up to my place until near 12:30.  Some of what I saw pulling up was what I expected, easier driving and more logical parking since the roads were clear of the snow that was such the habit for my time there.  I parked as close as I could have hoped for a Saturday night in Dorchester.  Quick drag of the bags up the flight of stairs, a long fumble to find the right key to open the doors, and I was in.

I wondered how many smoke detectors would be beeping, or if some amount of food left in the fridge had decided to turn into a zombie, or maybe a squatter would have taken over.  Instead there were no smells, no beeps, no new house guests.  The clocks showed evidence the power went out at one point, and a couple of red bell peppers had turned liquid – but everything was in working order, even the quirky washing machine that went immediately to work when I got in the door.

In truth, you get used to things when you live somewhere for a while – even if it is a hotel.  I’m not saying the change of sheets or clean towels.  It starts with the sounds.  A two-story hotel made in the 90s sound proofed much better than a three-story 115 year old Victorian.  Every step taken by my upstairs neighbors boomed in my place making me remember how often the Auggie would freak out about it.  Wood floors on me feet was a relief from the carpet I got so used to.  And I won’t lie to you … I missed my TV.  60″ crystal clear HD beauty giving me a definition and picture quality I couldn’t really appreciate until I went without it for so long.

It was much of the way I left it,thought.  Which is to say, in rough shape.  Most of the unpacked boxes still filled my home office, the dining room was still nothing but a folding table and a printer.  I started to pick up papers and old mail to throw away wondering why I didn’t clear it up before – but I took a look at some of it and thought I might want to keep it.  The furniture I need to build for the home office, it still was in its boxes blocking the front room.  As I wandered around the place,though, it felt a little bit foreign.  Like I was staying at someone else’s place.  I knew where everything was, but it was still a house that didn’t seem mine.  Yet it also seemed like it wasn’t a house someone had lived in either.  Which I guess is true too.

By the morning and a couple hours after, I was re-packed for a work week in New Hampshire, just a couple hours up the road from Boston.  No food in the house, no desire to add things to the fridge, by noon I was clearly clearly hungry – but the burden of finding a place with respectful parking on a Sunday afternoon drew a blank.  So I just wrapped up at the place, packed up the rental and tried to find lunch.  I went downtown, near where I lived when I first came to Boston and again was strained by the lack of parking and lack of inspiration.  But down here, there were memories – places I went when I had the time, stores, shops, pubs.  There were places I wanted to visit, tours I wanted to take.  I started to head out of town and passed through parts of Medford where I saw some of the old New Englandy parts of town.  The radio played sports talking Red Socks and Patriots.  I saw all these things that I remember

I remembered the optimism.  The feeling I had when I came to town excited on the possibilities.  The ideas I was going to come up with to make a life here.

I drove on, to the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.  Five days here.  Which is the first of at least four weeks I will spend up here this summer — four if things go well, eight if it doesn’t.  And if it does, those other weeks will be spent somewhere else.

It’s supposed to get better.

But maybe it will be cool to keep coming home to that TV.

So It Ends (Or is Ending … Or Will Be Ended … Or Something)

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It’s been a while since I blogged, the result of a long long run of tough days and night in a job that is hardly blog worthy.  But to be honest, you faithful Bear Feeders can feel calmed by the fact that really nothing has changed much in the last few weeks.  Where the story left off — I was on a long term assignment in California to support a plant short of people; driving no less with Auggie the Doggie crop dusting the back seat across country.  As I write you today, that assignment is still ongoing and still loooooong term.

As of tomorrow, it isn’t.

While the plant in Los Angeles I am at is still in a hiring process for the open positions, we cleared some hurdles that would have drained the resources and the need for me to stay physically at the plant is now getting outweighed by other priorities.  Another way of looking at it is – there is a bigger fire somewhere else.

So if you are expecting me to say that:
Tomorrow, I am heading back to Boston by hopping in a car with the pup and hitting the road..

I would say you are close …

Tomorrow, I am heading back to Boston by hopping in a … plane … so I can spend a week in not-Boston (aka New Hampshire) then hop on a plane and come back to Los Angeles.  And the pup is staying here.

So the thing is, a fire sometimes can’t wait for the little things like … until I actually get back into town.  That’s why I need to fly out and fly back.

If you are expecting me to say that:
When I get back, I am heading back to Boston by hopping in a car and hitting the road.

Again … close.

When I get back, I am heading back by hopping in a car and hitting the road — just not directly to Boston.  I have to spend a few days in Wichita.  So Kansas first, then Boston.

… Kinda …

I made every effort to get to LA as quick as possible … but part of the deal making I did when I came out here was that I didn’t want that same effort going back.  I need to finalize my plans but currently, I am planing to take four days over the July 4th weekend to make it to Wichita; then over another four days make it to Boston.  Rather than taking the most direct route … and most boring route … like I did coming out here, I intend to take my time, take the road less traveled, and see the things in this country that I like to see.

But that is still a couple weeks away, and a few more blog posts for me to put off and forget to post.