What Eddy Had to Say

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I received an early birthday present from a source that I didn’t expect.

To be honest, I haven’t been incredibly successful with meeting people here in Boston – mostly because I live in a part of the city that really isn’t residential.  In fact, you can lump a majority people I know here into one of two categories: on my realty team (which is a bigger team than you think) and homeless.

Yeah … homeless … and before you feel good for me, don’t – experience from Anchorage’s homeless community has me a little skittish to help (let alone talk) to them.  Auggie has a lot of credit for being open to meeting some of Boston’s homeless crowd – he just doesn’t care who you are, if you scratch his belly he will love you.  Then if you have a routine (like my daily trip to Dunkin Donuts), you will run into the homeless folks that have a routine as well.

Yesterday, I took the pup outside for his afternoon “constitutional” he saw someone walking by jumped up like it was an old friend.  The man stopped, and started off saying something that just grabbed my attention.  He said: “Man oh man, what’s it like to be you.”  I thought it was just a play on my emotions really.  A guy trying to get a few bucks by making me feel guilty.  So when I pushed it off he followed it up more directly.  He said: “Here you are, a guy who lives here so he does really well for himself.  Yet he isn’t afraid to talk to me.”  Once again, I tried to downplay his comments.  It was of course the dog that reached out to him, and not me.  That’s when the conversation changed.

He introduced himself as Eddy, and was a self proclaimed ‘former Fire Fighter, but current homeless hungry black man’.  He wasn’t all that disheveled, but the longer I talked to him I could tell his button down shirt could use a wash, but his pants fit him better than mine fit me.  He didn’t smell of anything, like booze or drugs, and frankly didn’t look like he was on anything.  I don’t know how Eddy found himself on the streets, and he told me a couple times he wouldn’t tell me, but there he was – a man who seemingly wanted to be me, even against my own opinion.

Eddy said that most people don’t even take the time to talk to him.  It’s his opinion that it is a special person that does, that looks past someone’s standing to just stop and say hi.  He went on to ask about me, but it was based on what he believed about me to begin with — specifically that to be living here I need to be doing pretty well for myself.  Also, if I was doing pretty well for myself, I had to be good at what I do.  I had to be smart, I had to work hard.  He felt that just because I lived in an apartment in Boston Downtown, it made me good.  When I tried to downplay it  he laughed.  “Praise Jesus,” he laughed, “here is what you need to do.  You talk to you boss and you say ‘Eddy Says I need a Raise.’”  He backed down a little when I told him I hadn’t been on the job for a month yet, but his point was made.

That’s about when he laid in on my for my whole attitude.  He asked who my sweetheart was, who did I have to go home to.  I told him all I had was the pup.  “Let me guess,” Eddy said, “its because you don’t think you are good enough.  It’s because you don’t think that they would talk to you is it?  Well do this.  Next time you see a pretty girl you think you would like to talk to you go up to her and you say: ‘Eddy said I needed to talk to you’ then you see what happens. Praise Jesus.”

Of course, during the course of our 20 minute conversation, he told me some things about himself and some things he needs to do to get by.  Yet when I would ask him something more, he would turn it back to me.  He wanted to keep turning it back to me, he wanted to keep showing me why in his mind it would be great to be me.  While he did, he kept praising Jesus – and it reminded me of some time I spent at a bible study recently where I walked away with the task of asking myself “What Did God See In Me?”  It almost felt like Eddy was doing just that.

As our conversion continued, he got back to what he thought was the heart of what he thought was the source of it all: “What you need to do is to talk to your parents.  You say to your mom and dad: ‘Eddy Says Congratulations’.  You tell them that.”

I guess in the moment, I really didn’t need to have anyone say anything to make me feel better about myself.  In hindsight, it feels kind of uncomfortable to know that I feel better about myself from a conversation with a homeless man, but every time time I think about his words I can hear him saying to me “Tell yourself, ‘Eddy wants you to believe in yourself.’”

He told me I didn’t owe him anything.  He said some folk will buy him a sandwich.  I really didn’t have time to go into a place and get him one, so instead I grabbed my annual gift from my parents and gave it to him.  It’s going to get him a couple meals, and based on what he told me is enough to slip to a concierge somewhere to get a free bed in a hotel during a cold night.  I prey his luck changes, or whatever put where he is turns for the better.  In the meantime I can’t help to think that whatever I return to him isn’t half of what I got back from him.

It all had a big tie back to one of my favorite movies, The Fisher King.  Ironically, it centers on a fellow who is helped by a homeless man, who he in turn helps as well.  It’s based on a mythical story where a young king injures himself in a quest for the Holy Grail.  When the king grows old and frail, after years of searching for the grail, he is saved when a fool comes to his side takes water from a nearby cup and feeds it to the king.  The cup turned out to actually be the Holy Grail.  When the king asked how did the fool find what all his greatest men could not, the fool replied: “I don’t know about any Grail, I only knew you were thirsty.”  It felt like talking to Eddy was just that.

 

NoNo and NaNo

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I know, I know, I owe you lots and lots of posts of what life is like in Boston for an out of place bear from Alaska.  I’d like to say I’ve been too busy to write, but … well .. you know me better than that.  I have some updates, but that will be tomorrow’s post.

What I want to talk to you today is about two events that will define my November this year.  One fairly popular and one that is only popular in certain circles (but popular in its own way).

The first is a fairly popular trend these days throughout half the population.

I am participating in No-Shave-November (or NoShavEmber).  The rules are simple – you shave, then you don’t for a whole month.  Some do it for fun, some do it to be cute, some have other causes.  I first participated in it last year, in part in defiance with a version that was supposed to be cooler but only for those that grow a rain forest over night (Mo-Vember?  really???).  After I did it, I found out I liked not shaving … and then it became that I liked having a goatee.  Then I just got bored.  So I really haven’t shaved for much of the summer.  So to kick off NoShavEmber appropriately I would have to have the clean slate.  Half of what I needed to do it was a couple bottles of wine, but the other half was a good cause.

I am doing this to support the American Cancer Society — which you can support by donating yourself by clicking here!!  It’s a good cause (even if I’m not) so please consider a donation.

The other big event I am more excited about, mostly because it doesn’t involved the way I physically look.

I will be a part of is NaNoWriMo.  This stands for:
National Novel Writing Month
So, if you read this blog, you know that I like to write.  Usually if you read this you may even question if what I write is fiction.  Well, guess what … I am going to give a try at a full scale fictional story.  You see, NaNoWriMo is a world wide event that challenges writers to write an entire novel in a month.  It’s a program that’s been around since 1999 and this year expects to have over 300,000 participants.

The goal is to produce 50,000 words from November 1st – 30th;  which is about 1700 words a day.  While some plotting and pre-work is allowed by the rules – any previous work on whatever novel you will write is discouraged.  The concept simply is to allow the creative juices to spring forth during the  month through the writing process.  If it helps for a reference, my blogs run about 600 words; so 1700 is a fair bit — especially on a day-after-day-after-day creative process.

The point of NaNoWriMo isn’t to produce a 50,000 novel in 30 days – the point is to produce 50,000 words in 30 days.   What’s the difference, you ask?  Well, the biggest cause of writers block and other limits to the creative process is editing.  Ever try to write something, like a letter or a note, and you start going back to correct spelling or grammar and next thing you know you aren’t writing anymore?  Of course, editing is important to the finished process, but it slows down the writer from putting words on paper.  NaNoWriMo says ‘I don’t care if what you write sucks, you can edit it later – right now, just put the damn words down’.

As it turns out, NaNoWriMo is a social process here in Boston.  There is a group that had a kick-off event last Sunday and have a TGIO (Thank God Its Over) Party in December.  Not just that, but there will be write-ins nearly every day during the process that encourages writers to get together and try different activities to ignite the creative process (like a word war — someone sets a clock and you try to type as many words on your novel as possible).  The highlight here will be the Boston Marathon — a write-in event that bounces from hosting site to hosting site and lasts for a 24 hours straight (you’re gosh darn right I’m doing that).

So that is some of what November holds for me.  Let’s just hope the whiskers grow as fast as the words. (For what it’s worth, I am not counting the 745 words that are here in this blog … but I will probably regret that come two weeks from now.)

The Sherman Mantra

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I learned a lot from Laura Sherman.

Driveway Money, for instance, is that cash you find lying in your driveway that fell out of your pocket when you were digging around for your keys — see also, Free Money, or Desert Nachos.

ESPN Commentator and former NFL Coach John Gruden is in love with Laura, because every time he is on TV he looks right at her.

Laura Time is the actual arrival time she appears somewhere, in contrast to the scheduled time of arrival.  Laura Time could be, say, 3 hours after the start of a pub crawl, or minutes after the time you really wanted to leave for the airport when you were moving to Boston.

This past summer I had both the blessing and the curse of becoming good friends with Laura Sherman.  We learned to curl around the same time, but to suggest that she was just my curling friend is completely underrated.  We went camping, fishing (well, she did), watched football, gone to clubs I would have never thought I would ever ever go to, and even became real life hippies.  More often than not, she was a pain in my ass, but more often than not she covered my ass too.  She’s the kind of person that you can’t wait to hang out with, even though you are banging your head against the wall the whole time she was there.

One thing about Laura is that she had this way of saying things that leaving the town of normal but hadn’t reached crazy yet.  That’s the driveway money, or the John Gruden comment.  Though there was something she said to me that made some of the crazy make sense.  She said:

“I Refuse to Be Bored”

Think about it … it’s not that she hates being bored, we all do, but she refused to be bored.  What that meant is that she always had a plan for doing things.  For legal / privacy / decency  purposes, I am keeping the examples to myself .. but know that there was a lot of fun things she did.  Like what I will be doing the next couple of months, many of those things she did by herself.  For her, she wasn’t going to wait for her friends to come if they weren’t sure if they were coming.  For me, well, I’m just new here.  Watching her I realized that the beauty of all this was that she met more people then anyone I ever knew.  It was a simple concept – don’t look for friends to find things to do with, do things you like to do and you will find friends doing them.

So there was the Sherman Mantra:

“I Refuse to be Bored!”

As much as I miss that crazy woman, I must … I MUST follow the Sherman Mantra.  I owe it to myself, and I owe it to whatever fun I can find.

I REFUSE TO BE BORED!!

Now that I am approaching my first weekend of a Bostonian, I need to put that to the test.  Let me just say, it’s going to be easy to do that.

Here is the plan:

Friday
- Finish house hunting in Boston, and initiate an offer on a house.
Saturday
- Take the Ferry to Salem, MA for the last good weekend of the Haunted Happenings at the home of the Salem Witch Trials
- Check out the Halloween Costume Crawl (not specifically in a costume myself … maybe the pup will … but you know it will be terrific people watching)
Sunday
- Attend a Meet & Greet of Boston’s NaNoWriMo Chapter (more on what that is later)
- Packers Game at the official home of Packers Boston

I am still trying to figure out things to fill in time Friday Night and Sunday Morning, but that will come.  It will have to, because quite simply.  I refuse to be bored.

Gotta run … there is surely some Nachos calling my name somewhere.

Walkies

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Okay, I knew this was coming, but still … I was not ready to walk as much as I am.

Let’s set the scene here.  First of all, I don’t have a car.  My car is still up in Alaska, and won’t get released to ship south until the end of the month, and then will be 3-4 weeks until it arrives.  No Problem, I say .. I will live downtown Boston so that means I can walk to or take a cab or take the subway to whatever.  The T-Line (the Bostonian word for subway … which “The T” is the Bostonian letter for Subway) is just a couple blocks away; but that is just the entrance, and doesn’t count transfers.

Next, the pup no longer just gets a door open and he is free to run out to a yard to “do his business”.  Nope.  Now if he gets in the mood, we have to harness up, take the elevator down, go across the street.

Then of course, my full intention to drag my butt back into the world of getting into shape and moreso start losing the Alaskan Pizza & Beer diet effect.

So what’s wrong with any of this?

I just didn’t expect to have so much walking.  Seriously.  Okay maybe I haven’t had “so much” walking, but  …

Well, let’s start with the complication of the puppy.  He is my trooper, having adjusted pretty quickly to his new life, but he is not easy to walk in this new place.  He maybe 2 years old, but he maintains much of his puppy brain; most noticeable by his tiny attention span.   All you need is the slightest distraction and he is focused on something other than “his business”.  Those distractions, of course, include:  people, cars, other dogs, horse drawn carriages, buses, trucks, more people, people that sleep in the street people, more dogs, rain, wind, sidewalks, shiny objects, dull objects, in between objects, and (in case I left anything off) everything else.  So sometimes making a quick run outside has to become a long walk outside until the job is done.

Using the T too requires a fair bit of walking.  Sure you go into a sub station not far away, but then there is the stretch to the actual trains.  Then if you have connections, you have a few blocks between trains – and I am unlucky enough to be on a line that needs to connect a few times to get some places.

But to be honest, the real challenge is that I have some real work ahead of me trying to regain whatever bit of my old ‘wonderfulman’ self is still there.  My weeks of going away restaurants and sitting around waiting for the movers have left me so out of shape that lumbering around is a challenge.  My knee, still messed from ongoing curling injuries, screams after only a short time, and I’ve gone back to wearing a backpack alot to “counterbalance” my front load for my back.  It takes work, real work, to get anywhere.

That’s what’s got to change.

I want to walk everywhere, want to spend time out with my dog, want to use the T, want to see the city.  It just is going to take some changes.

But that is, of course, one of those changes you make when you make it to a new city.

Quick Like

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Faithful Bear Feeders who go way back with me remember that selling y house in Kansas was nothing short of glacial.  I spent weeks working my tail off getting that house ready for sale, and then sunk tens of thousands into it just make it listable.  Then it stayed on the market for 9 months before it actually went for basically the same price I bought it for.

Well, my house in Alaska barely made it a month on the market.  Today I signed the papers accepting an offer and putting the great wheel of real estate to work to get that place off my mortgage.  Sure, I hoped that it would have went quicker, but in retrospect it sure did go quick like.

That, actually, sums up my first week here.

I have to say, it was my “quickest” first week of work that I can remember.  I am used to that first week being the most bone dry, drag out slow process one can go thru. I remember that first week at Cessna, when my boss spent nearly all of it laid up with the flu to the point I didn’t see him except for an hour the first week, spent just hoping that the end of the clock could move faster & I can not just feel I am burning company money waiting for work.  I remember the first week at BP being hours of online training, reading corporate policies, and waiting for projects to come my way.  This week, my first at Bodycote, zipped by like nothing.  But there was pretty good reason for that.

For one — I had something to do.  Not just the numbing corporate slide shows and box checking … real tasks.  Hell, I had a request to revise the quality manual (basically the bible of my function) before I even had a computer.  I’m not kidding, a guy dropped it in my lap, while we were opening boxes from IT.

The schedule had some to do with that.  I only had 4 days scheduled this week (I have to fly out to judge marching bands tomorrow).  But I was benifited by some understanding office personnel on Monday saying “take your time coming in” then, and the time it took for me to settle into this “work from home” thing.  For instance, I needed to fill out some HR paperwork this week – which meant printing and scanning that paperwork to e-mail to someone – which needs a printer and / or scanner – which means if you don’t have one you have to find one.  A hike down to a FedEx/Kinkos, an hour trying to figure out that place, a couple retrys once things get done and redone, and boom you blew an afternoon on something that usually takes a few minutes in an office.

Also the pup became comfortable with his routine quick like as well — now that he doesn’t have a back yard to dance around on whenever his daddy is most comfortable on couch, its a real task to get him out the door to do the business.  He now realizes he has to wait to get a harness on, walk down the hall, ride the elevator, get petted a couple times by people he meets, not get distracted by the homeless people, then find just the right piece of gravel to “make his own”.  Daddy’s little trooper keeps up the good work.

More next week of the life here – once I start living it a bit more.

Well .. We’re Here

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If there ever was an opportunity to be culture shocked – this is it. Gone are the big yards and views of the mountains; replaced with more concrete in a short distance from home then there was in the whole of south central Alaska. The only thing walking distance from my house in Anchorage was a walking trail that led to … Well a path to another trail. Now In a 2 block radius I have no less than 10 restaurants including 3 Irish Pubs – and if that wasn’t enough, the subway is right around the corner. One week ago, the pup and I were riding through the Alaskan wilderness to a town so homey that a cat is their mayor. Now we live in a city with more politicians than cats. When Auggie needed to do his business back in Anchorage, I would slide open a patio door and in seconds he was relieved. Now we have to get his harness on, ride the elevator, cross the street, and that’s just if he is happy with gravel – when he feels the need for grass it’s a 10 minute walk … We are learning to hold it more.
Culture shock or not, we are here in Boston. After a stressy week and a hurry up and wait last couple of days, we left Anchorage just after midnight Alaska time and the clock struck 5pm when wheels were on the ground in Boston. I was a stinky mess – over dressed, out of shape, and without a decent shower since Thursday I was as miserable after the flight as I have been in years.
Auggie was a different story.
Ever since I made I decided to fly down I was worried about his experience. He was too big for the human cabin and with a special reservation was set to ride in a crate on the same flights I was on. He was used to a metal kennel, but the crate was more enclosed and smaller than his doggie cave. So we spent two weeks getting used to it. I gave him a vet recommended sedative just before heading to the airport and he looked like a drunk sailor on the terminal’s tiled floors. We had to show a vet certificate of good health, and after a quick inspection of the crate he was cleared at ticketing. One nice thing Alaskan Airlines does is they have tags attached to the pet information so that when he was loaded onto the plane, they tore off that tag and gave it to the flight attendant to give to me, so I knew he was loaded. Other than that tag, I had no idea how he was doing but assumed the best.
So picture baggage claim. The ‘oversized baggage’ came out a large steel garage door and down a wide metal slide. My seat partner was just asking me how I will know where he will come down from. As soon as she said it, the door opened and two people on either side of the crate were lifting him onto the slide. My first view of him – he was wide awake, in his ‘kinda unsteady’ three point linebacker stance, looking straight at me through the door of the cage. Sure he seemed happy to see me, but he also looked genuinely excited by the new surroundings and people. He didn’t seemed anxious or traumatized; just ready for what was next.
Today it’s about watching a Packer game, getting groceries, and a good night sleep. Tomorrow is day 1 on the new job.
But for now we are here .. And we are ready.

To The Last …

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So, this is it.  My last day in Alaska as an Alaskan.  It’s been two years, one month, and six days since I first put my feet on the ground in this massive state and looked with the forward vision to see what truly it had in store for me.  Nearly 10 hours from the moment I am writing these words I will be walking down a jet-bridge, onto a plane, and begin the a day’s worth of flights that will finish with the pup and I checking into our new temporary home – and importantly our new forever life.

It’s only really sunk in that this is happening the last few days, and you could argue that it still hasn’t sunk in.  Sitting here in a Starbucks with a beautiful view of the Chugach Mountains snow dusted & cloud tinted, I am not grasping the fact that this is something I likely will never do again.  Sure I plan on returning to Anchorage &/or Alaska again, but …  Sit at this Starbucks? See this View?  I had to wait out teenagers doing their homework today just to get this view – I come back to this place, and I’ll get laughed off like a tourist.

Maybe it isn’t sinking in because so much is different for this big move than compared to the past — in that it remains surreal.  It didn’t help that when I changed plans to fly rather than drive (for reasons I am not ready to blog about) I ended up with an extra two weeks to kill – which gave me ample time to just lose myself in my own head.  This job I will start next monday – it’s a big step up, it’s a lot of personal responsibility, it is critical to the company’s (and to a smaller extent, the industry’s) success, but it fits me and my personality so well that it seems like I am going back to what I am good at.  Then lump on that I will be moving to one of the biggest cities in the USA, Boston, and not just move there … my temporary home is buried deep into the concrete jungle of downtown Boston.  I’ve had this role on my mind since early summer, had this move on my mind for half that, and it always fit into that category of “too good to be true” – so for it to be true is just … I don’t know … surreal.

The tough part for me, though, becomes managing my “not quite sunk in”feeling with honest feelings for those I leave behind.  All due respect to y’all I met over my lifetime, but some of the friends I met up here are as strong and as faithful as any I have ever had.  To paraphrase from the old joke: I’ve always had friends in my life that would be willing to help me move, but there are some here willing to help me move a body.  In the short time I have known them, I have gotten to know people that were truly deep hearted, and truly caring.  While rare in many people, it was something I found in a number of friends here.  Today, it just feels like it isn’t fair that I leave them now without really returning that same level of friendship, or being the one to be here forever like a friend should.

Then I begin to think about those things I wanted to do, and either was too busy, too tired, or to much of a procrastinator.  How I wanted to drive back to Denali again, to do the triangle to Fairbanks and Glenallen, to go halibut fishing, to actually catch something dip netting, to see one more bear.

That’s really where my mind is that I enter this last few hours as an Alaskan.  I fight the negativity that tends to find my head – and this time it seems to want to be big and loud.  Two years fighting for a job that was never going to be what I hoped it to be.  Two years of letting my weight pile back on, and my aches and pains become my excuses.  Two years of wanting to do things, but not getting the right kick in the pants to do them. I feel now that I leave here with my tail between my legs, somewhat beaten by time and by the state.  It made me wonder if I thought I would have forever to work out all my challenges and overcome them in the great last frontier.

Then I saw a post from my old Band Director (Tom Cook) when talking about something else said this:
“Do be sad that it is over, Be happy that it happened.”

And that’s right!

I did see Denali … I actually saw Denali a lot … average tourists can’t even say that they saw it at all.  Sure I didn’t get to drive the big triangle, but I seemly spent every other weekend stopping off at Glenallen to somewhere last summer.  So maybe I didn’t catch anything dip netting, but I did go dip netting; and I did catch salmon from a boat; and I learned to fly fish; and I spent a few days on sea out of Seward that I will never forget.  AND I did see bears, three of them, momma and two cubs .. Right in front of me … AND NOONE can take that away from me.

In the end, in the great balance of my life, I am going to look back at these two years, one month, and six days as a unique experience full of adventure, happiness, and laughter.  All the things I never would believe I would have done, all the things that I would never have seen.  How many nights I was blown away by the beauty in this world, how many times I have been fascinated at what truly being away from the common world would be like, or how many times when I not just embraced being Alaskan meant .. but been embraced by Alaska itself.  To the last … this Great Alaskan Adventure will be a great time in my life.

So, my time here ends, and whether or not I am ready for it I am going to move … to start a new life.  Before I get on that plane, I am going to hang out with one of the best people I ever had the pleasure to meet … and chances are we are going to get nachos .. and I am going to be happy about that, right down to the end …

… to the last.