Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

June 30, 2014 at 10:13 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s a very good book. 

The real writing begins in earnest tomorrow morning, but I have this excerpt from a blog post I didn’t like and neglected to put up from a couple months ago while I was reading it. I think it belongs here as well as it does any other place:

Sometimes I read a particularly poignant passage in one of these books, and I find myself laughing and crying all at once…I see things as they are and not as I want them to be. A feeling of being right here with the world comes over me, and I wish I could stay this way forever. For better or worse you have to let those feelings pass, though, focus on making yourself see the world that way instead of letting a book do it for you.

I wonder sometimes if this is how Christians feel when they read the bible. When I was dating Chelsey in high school, she asked me to just read the bible and the book of mormon, that when I did I would FEEL the truth in the words on the page. I have read the Bible (the new testament twice!), and I have struggled through parts of the book of Mormon, though not all of it, and I never felt that way except maybe a tinge during the parables or the sermon on the mount. I wonder if perhaps my truth is not their truth. If someone happens to get their enlightenment from that source and it feels like I feel when I read about our interconnectedness then who am I to judge? True spiritual moments are only measurable by the people experiencing them. You know it when you feel it, at least I do. The world opens up and for a bit I understand. It all makes sense. It’s a great feeling. It’s how you’re supposed to feel, I think. Our egos just get in the way. We forget, because forgetting is easy. The world makes it easy. We search for temporary satisfaction when lasting truth is open to us. Pirsig writes about truth knocking on the door, only for us to say “go away, I’m searching for the truth.” We have to open our eyes and hearts; take off the blinders.

In any case, I still agree with that bit. Still searching!

 

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California Dreamin’

June 29, 2014 at 9:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

…moral decay is the number one challenge… BEEP

…my brothers and sisters, we need your donations to continue… BEEP

…the current instability in Iraq comes as they have tried to create a more secular government…

Finally – I have been clicking through radio stations 45 miles north of Redding, California, attempting to find anything at all to listen to that isn’t Christian radio. It’s rural, and I’m in the mountains, so my choices are limited at the moment. There’s a lot of static on the dial. This, though, sounds like I’ve found NPR – time to brush up on my world events. ISIS is serious business!

…the formation of which allows for more missionary work, so that we can share the gospel of Jesus Christ in the country…

Sigh.

I turn off the radio, and am alone with my thoughts. I’ve consciously tried to spend some of the trip without radio, to get in touch with ME again. At the end of the day, that’s one of my main goals. On the surface it might seem foolish to spend 20 hours out of a 2 1/2 day trip driving to the bay area and back again, but I think I needed to get away to spend some time with myself and to get out of the rut I’d been feeling. In that sense perhaps I should have been happy that every station was Radio Jesus, though in the moment I was merely annoyed.

I’m quite good at distracting myself – whether it’s the internet, my phone, a book, netflix, or other people. I feel strongly that a certain level of sitting with yourself and reflecting is something that’s good to do – I’m also rather poor at doing it consistently. 20 hours alone in the car doesn’t give you much choice in the matter, though, even the radio eventually fades away. So I had lots of time to think: about life, the people I love, where I’ve been, where I’m going, who I want to be, romance, sex, friendship, soccer, fitness, politics, religion, purpose, and a thousand other things. 

One big theme that stuck with me as I reflected was creativity. I’ll relay my trip momentarily, but it involved being the presence of a lot of creative human persons. I miss that facet of myself; I miss creation. The act of bringing forth something into this world that wasn’t here before. I realized that mostly how I create these days is through writing, and so I have resolved to get back on the blogging wagon. I’ll undoubtedly fall off again, but I want to remind myself that even if what I’m writing isn’t all that good, it’s still worlds better than doing nothing at all (that may, in fact, be a lesson that I should learn in regards to everything in life – take action!). 

Without further ado Let’s get to the main story.

…………..

I left work around 4:30 on Thursday, and the rain was really coming down. I sincerely hoped that the weather in California would be nicer, especially since I knew this show was going to be outdoors. I had borrowed by mom’s Acura (which was different than the normal car I drove, which was borrowing her Volkswagen bug) because I knew it would make her feel better (I mentioned often that the car was one accident away from certain death at speeds over 65) and because it had a radio. The stereo in the bug hasn’t worked for a while, and I drive it infrequently enough, at short enough distances, that I haven’t read the manual or gotten it looked at. The radio, if I’m being honest, was probably the larger consideration. 

I was stopping for the night in Ashland, Oregon, a 5 hour drive straight down I-5 to see my friend Jeremy. I wish I could have caught a show, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get out of work early and I found myself on the path to arriving while he was still watching Richard III (disappointing because a) a play! b) I really want to see Richard III c) Jeremy’s dad was playing the role he normally understudies for in that show). I’m capable of entertaining myself for a while, but the fact that I missed out is a bummer. The drive down was fairly uneventful – I got to listen to an interesting RadioLab about aging and death, but otherwise nothing worth spending many words on. I stopped at a Taco Bell in Albany both to kill a little time and because thinking outside the bun is something I enjoy doing on roadtrips. I always tell myself I’m not going to eat there, but I guess there’s a part of me that loves eating 3 shredded chicken burritos and 15 minutes of delightful fullness followed by 45 minutes of bloat and shame. 

I arrived in Ashland with about an hour to kill, and used up 40 getting lost trying to find somewhere with a bathroom and looking at Facebook on my phone before I headed to one of the bars Jeremy and I had discussed meeting up at. I figured I was capable of sitting alone in a bar for 20-30 minutes OK, but if I’m being honest I’d feel weird sitting alone for longer than that. The place is called Martino’s, and it’s on the second floor of this building up a somewhat narrow staircase behind a closed door. It felt a bit speakeasy-ish, but it’s rather cosy on the inside. I ordered a beer at the bar and found a good spot in the corner from which to people watch. 

Looking around from left to right, I noticed the following things: The bar itself (past that a small hallway where I assume the kitchen was, the waitresses kept heading back there for various implements; above the hallway a TV tuned to ESPN), four rather rowdy people in their early 30s at the far end of the bar (well, three slightly rowdy people and ONE really rowdy guy – I know that they were in their early 30s because one of them was 29, and this fact was loudly mentioned. My assumption is that it was a “gotcha” moment in a mild disagreement of some kind), some empty seating, a couple sitting at the center of the bar not talking about anything, two older gentlemen in a booth along the far wall, a woman and her adult son with their backs facing me from the bar (which I should mention was in a kind of semicircle against the wall) and then against the far wall a pair of men chatting at a tall table. Past me to my right was a small outdoor patio. In noticing the people, I found that there was something about them that was a little different than normal. They were shiny. It’s hard to describe what exactly I mean by this, but as someone who has spent much of their life surrounded by actors and politicians you notice it immediately – they exude a particular kind of aura. I don’t mean this in a negative way, but I do think that spending much of your life “on” does something to you. It’s a kind of gloss you get wearing a lot of masks. It’s not unique to actors and politicos, I don’t think, but that’s where I’ve seen it before. In any case, I came to this realization – they were ALL actors, or almost all of them. I shouldn’t have been surprised – Ashland is small enough that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that there are more actors than non-actors in town, also, let’s think about what demographic is drinking at 10:45 on a Thursday night – but I was. Let me also say that I absolutely adore actors for a number of reasons, before anyone gets the idea that discernment in this case equals disparagement. 

So I watched and waited, and after a brief half beer’s wait Jeremy arrived. I got to meet his parents, who are lovely people. After a fair amount of catching up on what we’d been up to and a second beer we decided to head back to Jeremy’s place and break out the scotch, whereupon we set our sights on the task of solving the world’s problems, as one often is prone to do under the influence of a bit of top shelf liquor. Eventually it was almost 3am, and we decided to head to bed. 

The next morning (slept in until 8 – it was awesome) we decided to grab some breakfast before he headed to an audition and I headed off to Livermore. Sadly the first option (an Ashland institution) had a bit of a wait and we headed elsewhere, but the our second choice was still quite tasty, and I can nearly guarantee that I’ll be back later in the year to actually see some shows on an Ashland-centric visit. We said our goodbyes and I headed off (though first I had to get some gas and swing by a coffee stand – any place called the Human Bean gets my business. Puns forever. I also had to instagram a photo of their sign. For science). 

It’s approximately 5 hours from Ashland to Livermore, although doing 5 over has a way of getting you there somewhat more quickly. People say that driving 70 instead of 65 (or any increment) isn’t worth it, but when you’re driving 1350 miles in a weekend that’s going to save you at least a couple hours of driving. You can assume that I was speeding (albeit slightly) throughout this entire story. Southern Oregon into Northern California is a nice drive, although once you get into the central valley it quickly becomes apparent that this is a hot dry place. The deluge I had left in Portland was a distant memory. I was able to avoid traffic for the most part, so that was nice, as well, in terms of time taken, since I was hoping to meet up with Kristin for at least a little dinner prior to her call for the show. 

Kristin and I don’t go waaaaay back, but what we lack in length of a linear timeline we make up for with a tangle of history. We’re like a parfait – sweet, healthier than some things (potentially slightly less healthy than others), and sometimes a spoon gets put in and things get all mixed up. Layers, basically. We’re a ways past any of the negative aspects in our relationship (it’s hard to date someone for a couple of years without a few raw places), and now we’re locked into a pretty well adjusted friendship. She’s one of those people that you have in your life that is as irreplaceable as family – it’s as natural to want to swing down and visit her as it would be to visit my sister were she doing theatre someplace. Eventually you come to a place with the people you care about of unconditional love – the family you choose. I am fortunate to have a good handful of friends in that category, and though they are scattered about the globe, they are close in my heart. 

The point is that I was excited to spend some time with her, and excited to see the show she’s doing with Livermore Shakespeare – Much Ado About Nothing, which I had never seen. I had been making a lot of jokes when we were texting back and forth about there being a bunch of ado about lots of things (namely me visiting) and it can be difficult to tell how your jokes are landing over text, but in my head I imagine that she was in stitches. 

I arrived and she showed me the mansion they have her put up in (no seriously, its a huge house. I shudder to think of what it costs…California property is crazy), then we decided to go get some dinner. We grabbed some pizza at this by the slice place along the main drag (decidedly mediocre, but fortunately pizza has a pretty high floor in terms of tastiness) and then some ice cream (delicious, but I got a sundae with two scoops and it was too much). After the food and catching up, we arrived at the winery where Livermore Shakes goes down. The winery itself was lovely, and the set was built abutting this historic home set basically in the vineyard. Super cool. I got a chance to meet a few of the actors as they were stretching, and then she left to get ready. Had I been thinking ahead I would have brought a book, but unfortunately I just finished Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and haven’t started my next adventure yet. Fortunately I was able to get my World Cup article fix via my phone. I also instagrammed a picture of the house and vineyards. 10 likes. I know, I know…I guess I’m just a wizard at using filters. 

The show itself was great – the actors were incredibly easy to understand (no small thing with Shakespeare), funny, loveable, and there were a few sections where the actors went out into the audience and (sort of) broke the fourth wall that were excellently done that I loved. Kristin had to sing a couple of songs and absolutely nailed them – I was very happy for her. The first act was enjoyable, though towards the end of it I was feeling the fact that I was running on 5 hours of sleep and 5 hours of driving. It also started to get rather chilly, not in terms of absolute temperature (~60 degrees) but rather because it was 30 degrees colder than it HAD been, and there was a substantial breeze happening. Fortunately Kristin warned me and I had brought my giant Seahawks hoodie, which I’ve had for years and is basically a blanket in addition to a sweatshirt. Everyone else was getting cold as well, and they began to put on their coats and hats and things. Many of them were 49ers related, and I got a couple of dirty looks, which I absolutely reveled in. Super Bowl champs! I had forgotten that we were squarely in San Fran football territory. Their disdain kept me that much warmer. I also got up at intermission and stretched my legs and walked around a bit to get the blood flowing. I took a picture of the sunset over the vineyard and mountains to the west, but I decided against posting that picture to instagram. The second half of the show flew by – it involved a fake death, duels, romance, more singing, and that Shakespeare thing where everyone has a Clark Kent/Superman complex that leads to a million misunderstandings. In the end everyone got married, though, so it’s cool. Afterwards the cast and crew had a photo call, so I got to hang out for a bit and wait. Ended up being somewhat helpful holding a light and being used as a human prop for one of the photos – I am more or less certain that I’ll be on the Livermore Shakespeare program or perhaps a billboard next season (in my Seahawks sweater, no less), so if you find yourself around there next year be on the lookout.

After that we got a chance to hang out with a few of the cast members from the show, which was a bunch of fun. I’m not going to recap the entire evening, but in a few wildly uncontextualized points some of what happened included:

  • Showcasing my comfort walking into other people’s homes
  • Getting the best high five I’ve had this year (maybe ever)
  • Me losing my Buddha necklace (this may have happened at a different point)
  • A glass being broken
  • Spooning
  • People jumping into the pool

Actors. I love them. There was much shinyness. These particular actors may also have just been really lovely people, but I won’t complain about that. In any case, it eventually was almost 3am and we decided to go to bed. 

The next morning Kristin and I grabbed a bit of breakfast and then said our goodbyes. She headed off to rehearsal and I began the trek back north. This time, sadly, I was in the midst of traffic, though the good news is that it was a Saturday morning and things weren’t too crazy. I was able to find the end of the Brazil – Chile game on the radio, and white knuckled my way through Chile’s last gasp crossbar bounce and then the wild sequence of penalty kicks that followed. I have nothing against Brazil, but it would have been cool to see Chile win – I was rooting for them. Mostly, though, I was rooting for excitement. I listened to part of the Uruguay-Columbia game later in the day, though that unfortunately lacked the same drama. I also realized about an hour in to the drive that I did not have my necklace, which I wear almost all the time but had forgotten about that particular morning. I’m not too worried, though – I lose it ALL the time and it always seems to find its way back to me. I like to think that it’s the universe’s way of teaching me lessons about not getting too attached to material goods, though it’s more likely that I just am a bit of a forgetful human person. 

The 10 hours back up made for a long day of driving. The bit about the radio that I opened up with happened. I also don’t know how this worked, but I ended up having to go over a toll bridge (I didn’t have cash, so I got off at the exit before, made a 10 minute detour into Martinez, CA and found a bank, then proceeded, five dollars poorer than before) which definitely did NOT exist on the way down. I am opposed in almost every instance to toll bridges – just pay for the damn infrastructure costs in the first place! Additionally, five dollars felt excessive.

I had a lot of chances to let my mind wander, to let it go all the ways it never does when there’s always something to pull at my attention. I don’t know that I came away with any firm conclusions, to be honest. I do know that I enjoy writing; that it’s something I should do more often for my mental health. I feel lucky to be doing the work I do where I’m doing it. I feel fortunate to have a wonderful network of other human persons in my life – an eclectic, talented, lovely tangle of humanity. I never want to stop learning. I discovered that Telomeres is an enzyme that helps stop aging, and is pronounced TELL-AH-MER-AYS; I always thought that it was pronounced TELLO-MEERS and that they were little nubs or something on the DNA that got worn down (thanks RadioLab!). I recalled that though there are many things I don’t like about myself, there are in equal measure things that I do. In the interest of any semblance of brevity, I will simply say that I thought of and about many things that will (I think) become the basis for me to start writing again. 

I will mention one last thing that happened, though. 

I was driving through Northern California, and I began to get hungry. Breakfast, by that point, had been 4 hours ago, and all the pigs and their blankies were undoubtedly digested. “What to eat?” I wondered. I passed signs that told me of food options, places like Penny’s Diner,The Black Bear diner, Aunty Joseline’s diner, and Patty’s Country Kitchen. None seemed appealing, despite the weathered logos on the FOOD signs. Then, like a shining beacon, I saw it. NEXT EXIT TWO MILES. FOOD. That gleaming logo of a bell. I knew in that moment I would be thinking outside the bun once more. 

What you may not be aware of is that lately I’ve been trying to eat healthier. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change (though that doesn’t make it suck any less). It’ll be MORE of a lifestyle change when I manage to stop liking beer, but we’re taking this one step at a time. I’ve been doing pretty well – oatmeal for breakfast, salads at lunch, more water, fruits, and vegetables…but being on vacation I figured I didn’t need to worry about that for a couple of days. 

I turn off the exit, which is maybe 10 miles south of Weed. I don’t know why Weed, CA, is named like it is, but if I’m being honest I can believe there are miles and miles of secret pot farms nestled just beyond the mountains into the forests that line the highway. It’s also the kind of thing that brings to mind Taco Bell. I miss the tiny turn off into the parking lot, pull a U-turn, and get into the drive through. I missed it because this Taco Bell in no way resembles any other Taco Bell I’ve ever seen. They have a certain look to them – if you’ve ever seen one you know what I’m talking about. This place resembled nothing so much as a mossy hut. That was red flag number one. It was also one of those KFC/Taco Bells, which is not ALWAYS problematic but often creates what I believe to be subpar service stemming from a lack of identity. That was red flag number two. Lastly, it took like 5 minutes for them to get to my order at the speaker, and then another 8 or so minutes at the window. There was only one other car in line and not many on the inside, either. Red flag number 3. Lastly, and this isn’t necessarily a red flag, the woman who took my order held eye contact for FAR too long. It was strange. Regardless, I finally had my food. I was going to experience the joy and shame I normally do consuming Taco Bell, and it was going to be everything I ever dreamed. 

I take one bite, and something is definitely…off…about this burrito. I take another bite, and it’s clear that there is something seriously wrong with whatever the sauce they put in it. It’s a strange color of green (though to be fair it is normally a different shade of green, so at least it’s near on the spectrum), and looks like it congealed a LONG time ago. I disgustedly throw it in the bag, take a big gulp of the Mountain Dew I bought (when you’re going to be disgusting in your eating habits, I find it best to just jump all in), and pull a granola bar out of my tote bag, of which I had several, because at one point I had this idea that I might eat somewhat healthily and save money on fast food. 

 

It’s probably for the best that I won’t be eating fast food again soon.

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