Thursday, January 26, 2017

The introvert speaks

I was PRAYING...that the loud bangs I heard coming from underneath my truck were simply those of a large rock or two that I had just run over. After all, the road I was driving on was "rough enough to rattle your teeth from your head" as my Dad used to say. And I was going a bit fast. I was enjoying the thrill of the slight fish-tailing feeling kicking up dust along old Route 66. The fun lasted until the moment I hit the brakes. They were virtually gone. Luckily for me I was on a straight road so I didn't miss a turn and wind up laying upside down in a ditch in the New Mexico countryside  with no one within earshot of me. My heart sank as low as my foot needed to go to get me to stop...all the way to the floor. When I finally did get J3 to a halt (J3 is the nickname for my truck, I'll say what it means later), I sat for a minute to calm down before I got out to check the situation. When I was finally able to peel my hands off the steering wheel and go look under the truck, it took a millisecond to see the problem. There, dangling in the wind like a monkey in a tree, was my driver's side brake caliper. One of two pistons, gone. Brake pads, gone. And like a monkey in a tree I could hear it mocking me with that monkey laugh. I'm 70 miles from Amarillo in the middle of nowhere. I was mad for about a second, but really there was no sense in it. What good would it do me to be mad?  I turned around and headed back east where I knew that I-40 was about 10 miles back. I looked for my piston and pads just in case I thought I could fix it. They were nowhere to be found. Lost amongst the tumbleweeds, jackrabbits, and antelope...and perhaps many other parts of vehicles that traveled the Mother Road over the last 70 years this stretch was used. This was Wednesday, just the second day on my adventure. By Monday I would have driven some 3600 miles, and not the miles I was looking forward to.

On Tuesday morning I woke up and just decided "I'm going to Colorado". Just like that. I had already planned a lunch with my mom and daughter, so I took my time packing my camera gear and some clothes.  Oh and some Lemonheads and Mike & Ike. Must haves for a road trip. Lunch with my two favorite people was great, then I headed west. I love the feeling of being on the road, especially when I know that on the second day I'd be spending the night in one of my two favorite states. My other fav is, of course, Wyoming. I was jamming out in a one person karaoke contest in my truck...and I lost. I can't sing a lick but I was smiling and enjoying the ride. I also knew that I'd be driving through the dreaded Dallas late at night, which, if any of you have ever driven through Dallas, know is as close to hell on earth as possible. Traffic is always a nightmare. To my delight, I made damn good time and made it through with no delays. Somewhere around Chillicothe I pulled into a rest area and stretched out on the back seat of my truck for some sleep. It was dark and quiet except for the wheels of the occasional car or truck going by on Hwy 287. It reminded me so much of my childhood road trips in our motor home. The sounds and feel to the air were very familiar and brought back so many good memories. At times I was that child again, laying there with my eyes closed imagining I was in my bed inside the motor home. The only sound missing was my Dad's constant snoring. I miss that. So many nights I either didn't sleep well or had to put a pillow over my head to try and sleep. I'd give anything to have him keep me awake at night with his snoring. It was a happy day, but I fell asleep a sad 10 year old boy.

I didn't sleep very well. Not due to sadness, but I just couldn't get comfortable. So about 5am I decided I'd push on so that I could spend some time along Route 66 before stopping the next night in Durango. I actually had a destination in mind, which is something I don't do often.  I made reservations at the always classy Super 8 Motel in Durango.  What could possibly go wrong?  I was Rocky Mountain High and I wasn't even in sight of any mountains yet.  I passed some familiar sights, like the Big Texan restaurant and Cadillac Ranch.  Just at the New Mexico border lies the ghost town of Glenrio.  I'd driven through here 7 years prior...and it looked exactly the same as it did back then. There are one or two people, about 6 dogs, and some chickens that live there.

For a few moments, I thought about getting back on the interstate and trudging on through the desert to Albuquerque and on to Durango.  But I figured I'd just keep on old Route 66 until it met up with I-40 later down the road.  This would prove to be a mistake.

For the first time in my thousands of miles of adventures, I ran into a problem I couldn't fix.  There was that one time in Utah I almost got stuck in the sand, but we won't talk about that.  No pics, so it didn't happen.  Anyways I was able to get back to the interstate and spend a lovely 17 minutes...yes a full 17 minutes, with roadside assistance trying to explain where the Texas/New Mexico border on I-40 was located.  No joke.  I said no less than 7 times...I'm on I-40 east at the Texas and New Mexico border.  She couldn't find it on the map.  Really.  I think that was the most frustrating part of the whole ordeal.  I sat for enough time to watch a movie, the Magnificent 7 (which was good by the way), and probably had enough time to watch another movie, by the time the tow truck arrived.  

The driver was kind of quiet as we started back towards Amarillo, which is where I...the introvert who hardly strikes up a conversation with a stranger...started to ask questions to get some conversation going.  Perhaps he is an introvert too...we probably would have both been fine if we didn't say a word to each other, except for the fact that it was a 70-mile trip back and this thing couldn't get above 60mph.  I wasn't about to start a karaoke contest.  I would have come in 3rd place even though there were only 2 of us in this nasty cab of a tow truck.  The ice broken, we talked a lot about life...and I realized just how lucky I am even though I'm riding shotgun with my crippled truck almost 1000 miles from home.

I have a horrible memory when it comes to names with faces.  So let's just call him Juan.  He told me about his childhood, filled with memories, like a horrible father and dealing with gangs.  He'd been in prison for robbing an inhabited dwelling.  Someone had stolen something from his house when he was gone, and he went and stole it back.  Problem was there happened to be someone home sleeping and he didn't know it.  Bam, instant prison time.  We talked about the old days when people would simply fight things out if it came to that.  Settling a score with a gun just was a rare thing back then.  Nowadays he carries a gun with him 24/7 as protection.  He's often sent to bad neighborhoods to repo cars.  His dad, a horrible father when he was young, now rides with him sometimes and carries heat with him protect the son he treated so badly as a child.  I was glad to hear that his dad had finally come around to love and do everything he could to protect his son.  That wasn't always the case.  I was lucky growing up.  My dad was an awesome, fun-loving family man.  As a child, Juan had to turn to the streets to find someone to protect him.  I felt guilty as I listened to him.  I've always believed in the philosophy that if you and everyone you know throw your problems into one big pile and you had to choose to take some problems back, you would find yourself picking your own to take with you.  Juan had to carry a gun to do his job and support his family.  Not to save others, but to hopefully save himself from harm.  He told me that being in the gangs has sometimes helped him get out of some hairy situations because he knew what to look for, how to act, and what to say, even though he may be forced to repo someone's car.  Someone who could easily pull a gun and shoot him. I can't imagine having to do that.  That hour and a half or so taught me a lot and put things into perspective for me.  I realized how blessed and lucky I've been my whole life.  I respect the hell out of Juan.  He told me if it wouldn't be for his family and his job, he'd definitely be in prison or dead right now...along-side some of his "friends" he walked the streets with growing up.  When we arrived at the dealership, I thanked him, told him how much I appreciated the fact that he had to drive so far out of town to get me, and wished him well.  I'll never forget that conversation and how it made me feel.  I had mixed feelings knowing his dad is there for him now to protect his son...even to the point of placing himself in danger for him.  He has a dad he can call whenever he wants.  I no longer have that.  But at the same time I never once felt unloved by my dad, which is what Juan wanted so badly as a child.  

My point in all this is to not judge people on what you see or don't know what they've been through or are going through.  Thank God that your problems are yours because others have it far worse than you or me.  I'll keep my problems.  I don't want anyone else's.  

More to come on the rest of the trip later.  

Oh, and J3 stands for "Jezebel 3".  I called my first truck, the Avalanche, "Jezebel" because she really "got around"...from Washington State all the way to Florida and many states in between.  J2 was my first Ram truck I bought in 2012.  It was only fitting that I keep the Jezebel thing going, since all of my vehicles have gotten around quite a bit.    

Friday, January 13, 2017

No animals were harmed in the making of this blog......

....however I cannot promise that feelings won't be hurt. I will NOT name anyone so as to protect them, and perhaps myself, from harm.

I have this recurring vision. The wedding reception is over, the bride and groom have had their send-off through a tunnel of smiling family and friends holding sparklers with shouts of encouragement and well wishes.  But the voices are now quiet where once people were hugging and telling each other goodbye...yet there I stand...alone...the fire in the sparkler has long since flamed out. All the guests and employees are gone, except for me there, in the dark, cold, and rain, just staring at what once was bright and full of life...and I can't move. I'm paralyzed.  More on that later.....

As a PSA, The paragraph you are about to read below is from a relationship that occurred FAR in the past...nothing recent:

A little while back, I received an unexpected email from someone which whom I'd had a past relationship. She sent it to me not even knowing if my email address was still valid or not. She took a chance that I'd see it, and I most certainly did.  This email, from the start, proceeded to rip me to shreds from one end to the other. As I read each sentence, my mind was already pushing my finger to hit the "reply" button and proceed with telling her how completely off base she was. This was literally the worst scolding I've ever endured in my life. I had to read it more than once to fully comprehend how much of a lowlife piece of scum she was portraying me to be. If you know me well, you know that I am who I am and I feel as though if others don't like that, it's their problem not mine. But this really bugged me because it was sooooooooo off base and uncalled for and I REALLY wanted to hit that "reply" button and proceed to tell her how wrong she was, and that by saying what she said, that she really didn't know who I am. Never in my life did I want to defend myself more than I did while reading that email. For the record, she interpreted things differently than they actually were, and it just made me realize how people absorb things differently. I never did acknowledge or reply to the email, just let sleeping, rabid, blood-thirsty dogs lie. It did make me think about how, in general, our actions and words are interpreted by others.

I've been confused about a lot of things lately, and sometimes with that confusion comes over-analyzing of every little thing. I've made some life-altering decisions as a result of things building up inside me over a long period of time. These decisions have not come without consequences that have had negative effects on others as well as for me. But I've had to make some tough choices, and some of that was based on gut, others on analyzing, and no doubt some have been a result of over-analyzing. The results have been mixed, with some good and some bad coming out of it. I haven't handled everything in the way that I'm most capable of, but sometimes pressure from outside collides with those pressures coming from within. The results can be disastrous if not handled with care.

I'm a friend, father, uncle, great uncle, brother, son, and an "ex" to some.  By no means have I been the best at all those....jack of all trades and master of none.  But at the same time, I do not believe I've been the worst either. The email I referred to earlier did make me think though....was there even a small chance that what I felt was off base, while highly exaggerated, true?  I can see how battles from outside and internal pressures can create a situation that reaches beyond one's grasp and give a sense of a loss of control. After all, we are not only a product of who we are as individuals, but a product of what we do and the environment around us.

I've suffered from anxiety and depression. Decisions I've made can be interpreted in many ways; are my choices due to thoughts related to anxiety or am I in "self defense" mode and doing what's best for me?  Am I delusional?  Don't answer that. I moved myself into a small condo to try and figure out where I'm supposed to be, both physically and mentally. At times it's s a struggle, and at times I feel it makes perfect sense. I've come to terms with the notion that if I'm going to be alone for the rest of my life...if that's my destiny...that I'm ok with it. I can be happy being a friend, father, uncle, etc. and nothing more to anyone. Is that what I want?  I don't really know. I don't have expectations, because with that comes disappointment if things don't go my way. I've done a pretty good job of controlling that way of thinking. I am grateful for anything that comes my way, be it a simple "thank you" or some payoff for working hard. If I never hear a "thank you" again, I won't be disappointed...because I don't expect it. See how that works?  It may be a bit unconventional but I'll never be upset if someone doesn't thank me for anything. On the other hand, I like to be appreciative and thank those who deserve it.

As I see myself standing there alone in the cold with a skinny piece if metal that was once a sign of life and celebration, I don't feel sad. I feel happy and excited about what's next. In my vision, the paralysis is overtaken by possibilities. I can sulk in the fact that the party is over and everyone has left, or I can celebrate the fact that something wonderful has just begun...for a young couple on a new journey, and for what's next for me. Maybe I'll grab my camera and take a road trip. Maybe I'll call someone to chat about life. Maybe I'll go home and rest. Or maybe I'll go find a pizza joint and enjoy a hot pizza and cold beer. I don't let the vision end with me just sitting there helpless, lonely, and sad. I'm too strong for that. I have too much that I want to do. More and more I'm looking at the positive side of everything. Lord knows the start of 2017 has been quite the test for me. But I haven't been beaten yet. I'm still going strong.  Life is full of possibilities. Some of the roads are bumpy and some are smooth sailing. Either way, I'm traveling it. I'm determined to make this a better year than 2016. Like a good friend tells me when he ruffles the feathers of others; "you have to crack some eggs to make an omelet". Well, I don't like eggs so I'll put it my way; "you have to squeeze and destroy some tomatoes to make pizza sauce".  I'll try to do a better job at dealing with the damaged tomatoes than I have in the past. J

As for the very slim chance that the person who sent me that email reads this blog, just know that while those words may have stung at first, I know who I am.  You obviously don't. I'll just leave it at that.