Friday, October 31, 2008


I woke up this morning, got dressed, and headed in to work. When I arrived, I walked over to the time-clock to punch in, but, much to my surprise, there was no longer a time-card with my name on it. Strangely, the bin which usually contains all of the blank time-cards was conspicuously empty. (!?!?!)

As I stood there, mulling over the possible ramifications of this situation, one of my more senior co-workers approached, with his best funeral-director face on, and informed me not to punch in (as though I could!!), and to just sit tight for a while, as the owner of the company wanted to talk to a few of us...... (That didn't sound good!).

I stood around like a knob for a while, and then the intercom announced an incoming telephone call for the shop foreman... (this has never happened in all of the time I have been there... so it certainly seemed significant....)

At this point, I send my wife a brief text message over the cell phone, as follows: "Luv U-     Lookin like I may not hav a job       wont know till mike comes in       this sucks"

Sure enough, the foreman went from person to person, had a brief conversation, faces went from surprise, to shock, to sadness... shoulders slumped, and folks headed for their individual work areas and began to collect their belongings..... I knew the axe had fallen when he headed in my direction.

"Mike just called... I really hate to have the be the one to do this... he always does this to me... Well, you don't work here any more... They discussed the situation, we are dead... there isn't any work... and, well, they don't have any need of your services any more.... your last check is in the mail. I'm sorry, I really like you.... Whenever he has to let people go, he disappears, and I am always the one who has to do it...."

So... that was it. No job. Surprise!

I went around and shook everyone's hand, wished them well... packed up my few things, and headed out on the lonely drive home.

Anybody hiring??

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Dying Practice

In one month, I intend to begin a year-long 'dying practice'. I have initiate a separate blog in order to explain and chronicle my experiences. Anyone who is interested in following my progress, or in joining me in this practice may view the blog here. The blog is entitled "A Year To Live" and the title is borrowed from the book of the same tite written by Mr. Stephen Levine, from whom I will be drawing much of the material for my practice. I highly recommend the book. I don't intend to go into the why's and wherefore's of the practice on this blog...that is the purpose of the other blog, after all! However, for those of you who may be interested, you are welcome pop on over!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Jury is Still Out... but...

Upon completing the first full week of work at my new job, I must admit that the jury is still out insofar as my overall pronouncement of judgment is concerned. There are things I like, and things that I am not quite so keen on... All in all I like the job, and, truth be told I am happy to have a job (the bills don't pay themselves!). As far as this job being THE Job?? -- I'm not really sure yet.. I do have a list of pros and cons;

  • PRO: The people are calm, proficient, and kind - no need to unravel the intricate knots of office politics here... particularly since, due to the sound of machinery running the entire day, one cannot hear what anyone else is saying unless they are literally closer than arm's length!
  • CON: The pay is not really very good as it stands right now.
  • PRO: They pay should increase as I learn the skills that will make me a more valuable member of the crew.
  • CON: I have no idea how long this timetable of learning and earning will take - and I can ill afford to remain at this pay level for very long...
  • PRO: The 'supposed' upward end of the pay scale for this job is pretty decent.
  • CON: There is no guarantee that I will ever see this upward end of the pay scale. I can only try.
  • PRO: I am more or less left alone to do my work.
  • CON: I am required to engage in a constant and intense level of physical activity that I have, apparently, become quite unaccustomed to.. every cell of my body is shrieking in pain.
  • PRO: I am on the long upward climb back to a semblance of fitness... I find that I probably don't really need to be sitting on my ass getting fat and out of shape all day... so that I can come home feeling sluggish and sit on the couch where I can get even more fat and more out of shape!
  • CON: I am on my feet the entire day.
  • PRO: I am burning calories the entire day. (It occurs to me that if I am actually burning calories and expending enough energy to lose a little weight ((which, honestly, I could well afford to lose..)) standing on my feet all day won't be so bad - since I won't be carrying so much weight on them!)
  • CON: I am no longer able to attend the early morning sittings at the Zen Center. I quite enjoy starting the work week with meditation practice, and find that the lack of practice leaves a void that I find disturbing.
  • PRO: I am busting my ass and hopefully will be in a good position to request permission to come in a wee bit late on practice days at the Zendo.. perhaps I can make up the time or they will simply write it off.
  • CON: I feel like a bit of a loser, starting from scratch at this stage of the game. Every job I have taken has seemed like a fantastic opportunity at first... and as time wore on, I came to realize that I had swallowed some line and that there was really no opportunity at all; unless you call a dead-end, go nowhere, be verbally abused and exploited type of position a golden opportunity! Somewhere in the dark, dank, sub-sub-basement of my mind I harbor a suspicion that I have been scammed again, and that I will one day wake up to discover that I am a fool who has dove in hook, line & sinker for another bullshit story... and it doesn't do a great deal for my self-respect, truth be known....
  • PRO: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. All I can do is use my best judgment, put forth my best effort, and trust in my boss to reward it. I can always leave and do something else. Maybe trusting in others... even if that trust turns out to be ill-placed, isn't exactly a portrait of my character; after all, I can only know what my senses offer as clues for me to process... and as more and more comes to light, perceptions are adjusted to reflect a more and more accurate picture of the situation. In this case, my best course of action is to do a good job and hope that the needs of the company will match with my needs in a timely fashion. At least for now, I have a place to get up and go to each day... and a paycheck at the end of the week. Hopefully, my body will quickly strengthen and I my energy levels will begin to increase... that's a benefit all by itself!!
So... that is my current assessment of the new job. I realized as I was working in the garden yesterday, under the sunshine, that there was a noticeable lack of dread concerning the Monday morning return to work. In my last position, although I enjoyed the work, and even my stupid cubicle, I had to put up with a great deal of verbal and mental abuse... and it wasn't really all that pleasant.... that is, thankfully (at least for now!), missing at this job; the people are surprisingly congenial and friendly... so I am happy for that. It nearly makes the pay-cut worth it!! (I probably would have paid the money to make the nonsense go away at the last job had I been offered the chance!).

Tomorrow starts a new work week. I am somewhat more comfortable now, I know (more or less) what I am doing and what is expected of me in my little piece of the process, and I don't really mind the prospect of getting up and going to work. This is much better than fighting my sub-conscious inclination to find some excuse to stay home in order to avoid the nastiness and unpleasant dispositions that I knew I was going to be confronted with!

Not too shabby, now that I think about it! HA!

Monday, April 14, 2008

First Day...

I am home from my first day at the new job. The people are very nice, so far.. which is a pleasant surprise...

I had a great deal thrown at me, and unimaginable amounts of stuff to learn yet (I am starting at the bottom of the ladder... this is a new thing entirely for me.. so this was expected).

The job entails a great deal of time spent standing, and a lot of lifting, carrying, bending and stooping... so I am a little smoked; I will have to acclimate to this having spent a good while at a job where I sat in a chair the entire day.

Tomorrow, I expect I will be sore... and Wednesday will probably be worse!! But, this is part of the deal... I have been through this process before (the physical process of acclimating to a higher level of activity), so I know what I can expect... I don't look forward to it, but I am not averse to it either.

The first three months or so will more or less suck, and then it wont be as noticable... all in all, I like the job, and I think I will do okay here... Of course, I am still on the new guy 'honeymoon', so its hard to tell, yet... at first glance, though, I think it will all work out pretty well.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Morning Thoughts...

I woke up this morning to bright sunshine streaming in through the windows.. the air is unbelievably clear this morning!! Everywhere I look, there are signs of spring, and new life...

This, (naturally, I suppose..) caused me to turn my thoughts to my own new life... well, my new *working* life, anyway; I start my new job tomorrow!

This is all new to me, which is exciting, to some degree...but a little bit stressful (which is probably good.. it lets me know that I am approaching the situation with due seriousness.. or something). I have come to realize, in this month of searching for work, how much times have changed while I was not paying attention. Also, I have come to realize that I have reached an age where my age becomes a wee bit of an issue to some folks... (this struck me as a somewhat unpleasant and un-looked-for surprise!) - the bottom line here folks, is that I can't just waltz into a job so easily... people aren't prepared to hire me simply because I am *me*. I cannot necessarily count on finding a decent job very quickly if I happen to find myself suddenly unemployed... and this situation is unlikely to improve with time.. at least under my present circumstances.

So... to put it lightly, it is a sobering thought.

Accordingly, I am not walking into my new job with a cavalier attitude, at all!! I am taking it quite seriously, and it is my stated intention to remain diligent, to work hard, and to find that balance between pleasing the boss, and not pissing off my co-workers... (not such an easy balance to achieve, I think.. but hopefully, still possible..).

I am very much hoping that I am not walking into yet another situation that appears, on first glance, to be a great job, but which, once the shine wears off, is simply another slog job that is fairly miserable and which will get me absolutely nowhere.. no matter *how* hard I work... or, a job where I am forced to deal with at least one person who has such a hideous control issue that it renders them nearly insufferable.
Rather, I am hoping against all odds that I have finally found a job where the drama is minimal, where I am given the tools, knowledge, and information necessary to excel if I am willing to put forth the effort to do so... and, if I *do* excel, it is recognized, without fanfare, and rewarded appropriately.

Lastly, I am hoping that the crew with whom I will be working will be happy to have me as an addition to the team.. as a welcome and appreciated member... and that they will not resent me, sight unseen, for some unfathomable and indecipherable reason or reasons as has happened at previous jobs... (I don't understand this penchant at all... it seems that so long as someone is willing to do their work and contribute to the group effort, that they would be welcomed at least as a fellow worker.. if not as a friend or social acquaintance... I can appreciate a co-workers efforts, even if that person is not someone with whom I would not generally choose to associate outside of the workplace... its confusing!! Anyway... I suppose I am reacting to this confusion by hoping that I will no longer be confronted with it...)
(Brief Explanation: in my previous job, my co-worker was extremely unpleasant towards me. I was told by other workers that this person reacted negatively to the very concept that an additional position was being created, so, essentially, the prejudicial view was not directed at me personally, but to the position that I would occupy... so, how do you deal with *that*??! Answer: I have no f*cking idea... you suffer, basically... it sucks. Period. -- this is why I am fervently hoping that this situation will not be present in my new job. I have dealt with it for longer than I ever would have hoped to in my lifetime.)

I expect to be starting at the bottom rung of the ladder, and I am cool with that... I don't mind paying my dues... actually, I prefer it, particularly if every other member of the crew had to do so... in this way, I remain on an equal footing with everyone else and avoid the resentment that would otherwise be generated. Also, by working hard and by dealing with the challenging bits without complaint, I am afforded a chance to show my mettle, and to earn some measure of respect. This was how it worked in an infantry squad, and I am fairly sure that this translates very well to any group of workers; New Guy gets the crap jobs... and is watched and evaluated under those circumstances... if he does well, he is moved on to bigger and better things... The good side of the crap jobs is that they are generally fairly cut and dried; you don't have to go crazy trying to figure out what it is that you have to do... clean up the stuff, carry the heavy shit.. etc. -- So long as you don't mind busting your ass, you can find a measure of peace in the work. This is a *good* thing!

At any rate, I have all of today to relax, to collect my thoughts, and to enjoy simply *being*. Tomorrow I start my new job, and I can look forward to learning a great deal, and, hopefully, to a whole bunch of new challenges.

Bring it on!

Friday, April 11, 2008

So... Now What??

I am sitting on the precipice of a new career.... again!! ... it is that moment when one set of routines is ended... most of what is familiar is gone... and I will be walking into an entirely new set of circumstances.

This is not a case of leaving one office job, one desk, one computer, file cabinet, phone, and whatnot and walking into another different, but similar office job... with a desk, and a computer... a file cabinet, phone... and all the other crap that is essentially the same wherever you go.

I am starting an *entirely* different career field... I will be training, as an apprentice, learning a skill... I will be working in a shop, and not at an office...

This is not entirely unprecedented, as I have worked in a great variety of different occupations, and have learned to quickly adapt to whatever set of circumstances I am confronted with...

... and yet..

Here I stand... not knowing what to expect... not knowing what will happen... what my days will be like... what sort of routine I will follow.... nothing!! I find myself in that strange drunkard's tightrope walk between freedom and the excitement of new things to come; and fear of the unknown and a shrieking, helpless plummet into certain death!! It is a way... certainly thought provoking... and it most definitely stirs my curiosity!

... but the cynical part of my brain simply wonders what sort of shit I will ultimately be forced to deal with.... what sort of people I will be working with, and whether there will be problems and issues, or whether it will go swimmingly well... I find myself wondering if I am falling for some load of crap, and will find myself shaking my head and wondering how I could have been such a sucker... and simultaneously hoping that it will be *the job* that I hope it is.. and that all of the hopes that I have will be realized; that I will be judged solely upon my performance... that hard work will be recognized and rewarded, and that I am limited only by my own reluctance to put forth effort to succeed.

Hope is a funny thing... I remember seeing a show on one of the Geek channels where a former interrogator from the KGB was being interviewed. It seems that this particular chap was responsible for eliciting a huge number of confessions from suspected spies... all of whom were subsequently executed for their crimes. Although some interrogators certainly used torture or other unsavory methods of obtaining confessions, it was submitted that our man did not, in fact, resort to such measures.

The interviewer, incredulous at this claim that such a huge number of otherwise intelligent and self-protective individuals would willingly confess to crimes that would most certainly be punished by a firing squad would agree to set down, on paper -- to memorialize treasonous crimes that they had perpetrated, and towards which their government took an exceedingly dim view.. to this man who quietly asserted that he did no more than engage these suspects in conversation.. that he never so much as deprived them of sleep, insulted them.. or even raised his voice to them!!

The interviewer asked whether this former KGB interrogator would care to explain how he so successfully pursued his goals... and was, thereby, instrumental in the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals?

The former KGB man cleared his throat, and very quietly explained that he would simply outline the nature of the crime that the accused was facing...explaining that they would almost certainly be executed. He said that he told each of them that there was essentially no chance of avoiding this fate... that they could pretty much count on facing a firing squad for their crimes. He would then say to them that, even though he did not feel that his influence would help them in any way, that if they wished, they could cooperate fully, throw themselves at the mercy of the court or tribunal, and that he would promise to inform the judge that they had given him their full cooperation. He admitted that, although he didn't think it would make any difference, it was really the only avenue that was available to them. In every single case... 100% of the time... the subjects gave him a full written confession... and were then found guilty, sentenced to death... and executed.

When the interviewer... after a brief, but awkward, silence, asked whether the interrogator had any idea why people would do this... essentially sign their own death warrant by admitting to capital crimes... so reliably; in fact, in every single instance!! His answer to this was, very simply, "There are no upward limits to the capacity for hope in human beings. They harbored a hope that they would somehow escape their fate, and they were willing to try any possible method afforded them to do so."

Facing certain death... they so hoped for reprieve that they were willing to try anything at all... and he gave them just one option; and so they took it, thereby sealing their fate. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.!

Obviously, it is my concern that my hope may be blinding me to the reality of my circumstances...

Since we have not yet found a method by which we can reliably look into the future and prognosticate events that are yet to come... I am left with the conventional method; Going forth into the unknown.. and experiencing whatever the moment unfolds to me.

And I find that I *still* hope that it will work out well for me.....

I went to meet my wife for lunch today... she is going away for the weekend to visit her sister, and it was last time that I will see her until she returns, since I will be working my second job when she arrives home from work, changes her clothes, packs her suitcase, and heads out to the airport. I won't return home until she is already at her destination....

.. as we ate our lunch, we discussed our day with one another, and the conversation turned to the various penchants and idiosyncrasies of those that we work for, and with... we pointed out, with ironic.. and sometimes black humor.. the strange issues and habits of former (and in her case.. current) bosses... co-workers, clients.. etc.

Why *do* people act in ways that are almost certainly not in the best interest of themselves or of the company??

I had a boss who would spend literally 20 to 30 minutes railing and ranting at me for asking a question that wasted no more than 15 seconds of his time!! It may be that my question was ill thought... or that it was a superfluous or otherwise unnecessary question (it/they wasn't/weren't!!) - but, it would stand to reason that if I am asking, I need to know!! I need to know not for my own interests and gain... but in order for me to perform my duties and responsibilities which are beneficial to everyone... since a business that is not performing properly will not long remain in business... and nobody will, consequently, have a place to work any longer!!

She has a boss that is deliberately antagonistic to the new employees in the company... and then he is somewhat mystified when they leave within a relatively short period of time...

I can go on... but everyone has experienced various examples of this type of behavior.

It seems somehow dreary and gloomy to my mind that we are forced by a necessity to earn a living, to have to deal with the neuroticisms, narcissism, control and/or power issues, obsessions, quirks, peeves, rudeness, cruelty and other random effluvia of other people's minds and lives. It is mildly depressing, actually... if I let myself focus on it... because it seems that no matter where you work, you have to deal with someone else's weirdness and someone else's shit! (as if our own bullshit isn't enough to have to deal with!!)

I suppose it is just part of the price of getting by... and since we can't much change it... those of us who are forced to work in a one-down sort of position, anyway.... we have to learn to accept it, and to find a measure of peace with it... or resolve ourselves to being unsatisfied, frustrated, and miserable.

Naturally, neither of us pose these questions with any realistic hope of actually getting or finding an answer... and even if we did, I don't think it would much matter!! -- i.e., Q: "Why are you being such a dick??" A: "Because I can. Feel better now??"

It was more of a way of expressing our thoughts and feelings about this difficulty that we share with so many other folks.. and perhaps finding a way to laugh at it.

Nonetheless.... standing here, on the cusp of a new era in my life, I find myself smack in the middle between Unlimited Hope... and fear of the underlying realities that I may be called upon to face.

All in all, I am looking forward to getting started.

This weekend will be for me, more or less... a contemplative retreat. I may write... I may sit... I may walk... but I will most certainly be silent... and spending much.. if not most.. of the time within the confines of my own head.

It is my plan to do my utmost to succeed at this new position. I want to learn and advance as rapidly as I am capable of doing... I want to increase my income potential to maximum extent possible, in the shortest possible time...and I *so* dearly hope that this is a legitimate situation, in which my efforts will result in some measure of success for me...rather than bitter disappointment, or fruitless efforts... I just want to do a great job, and be fairly compensated for doing so... rather than unfairly ridiculed or belittled by some abusive asshole with an inferiority complex.. To my mind, when I shake somebody's hand and accept a position, I am making a bargain... giving my word... that I will see to the interests of the company as though they were my own (well... they are, in a way!!), that I will be honest, reliable, dutiful, meticulous, and that I will do what I must to ensure that the job gets done in a timely and efficient manner. The other side of this two-way street is that I will be paid for my efforts, treated with at least a modicum of respect and courtesy, that I will not be unnecessarily exposed to danger or injurious circumstances, that I will not be asked to violate the law, and that I will be recognized for my efforts and promoted or compensated for them when such promotion or increased compensation is warranted and/or possible. I don't think it is a great deal to hope for, all things considered...

Wow... it's like I see it almost as a real JOB or something!!

In any case... I needed work, and I have found it. So.. I am happy with that....

Monday is a new beginning for me... I find myself wondering what will happen next?? Its sort of exciting, when you stop to think about it!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Gainful Employment

Update - I received a job offer today for the position that I was vacillating about in my previous post. I have accepted, and start on Monday morning.

It came just in time, too...... that was a close one!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

It can be hard to read the signs sometimes....

I went on a job interview today... I left with mixed feelings. I have had a running conversation going on in my head since I walked out the door.

"Well... he seems to like you!"

"Mmmm... not sure if it matters... the pay is pretty low..."

"Well, yeah... but only to start..."

"It'll be a while before it changes!"

"But it *will* change... besides... it's up to you!"

"Up to me??!"

"Of course!! Work hard, don't f*ck around, learn what you have to learn... and do a good job... he *said* he would reward good work/profitable performance as soon as he sees it... that he wouldn't wait!"

"Talk is cheap though..."

"Yeah.. it *is*... but he's in business to make money... if you learn to do the job, and do a good job, he will want to keep you... everybody there has been there a while... the shop is clean, everybody looked competent... it seems like a decent place to work!"

"But the pay really *SUCKS*!!"

"Your paycheck right now ain't lookin' much better, tough guy!!"

[BLUSH] - "No.... it isn't looking much better at all..."

"The phone ain't exactly ringing off the hook.... maybe the world is trying to send you a message... you need to do something different... and you need to start NOW!!"

"Yeah... but, it isn't the most glamorous job...."

"And every other job you had was?? It's honest work... and there aren't layoffs... he will recognize your effort, and reward it with better wages... plus, he said something about a benefit package that kicks in after 90 days!!"

"It probably sucks as much as the starting salary..."

"Asshole! Listen! You don't have *ANY* friggin' benefits... this job will provide you with steady work... it's about ten minutes away from your house, you don't have to use your personal vehicle, you aren't on a ladder or in a hole, or in the rain... and if you manage to learn this stuff and actually get good at it... you can make some decent money after a few years!! *DO* you have a better plan in the works??? You like sitting in front of your computer all day like a f*ck-in KNOB all day looking for work???"

"Not really, no... I feel like a loser...."

"... yeah... you feel like a loser... poor you! From where I'm standing... you're pretty much looking like a loser, too! an *unemployed* loser... so what are you going to do??"

"I'm not sure I can make it on what they're offering.... it's not good.... the money is tight..."

"Dick!! The money is friggin' RUNNING OUT right now.... you *can* make it, actually... you will just have to tighten up your belt for a while... besides, it won't last forever.... work your ass off, and you will make more money. Once you are an asset, they will want to keep you... this makes good business sense!! It's worth a try at least.... .. isn't it??"

"Once I commit to this... I won't be able to find anything better...."

"You won't be able to sit in front of your computer all day, you mean.... or poring over a newspaper...looking at all the marvelous opportunities.... culling through the PILES & PILES OF JOB OFFERS that you are getting all the time in order to choose just the right one, ay??"

"You don't have be so friggin' sarcastic... after all, you're me too, you know..."

"I think I do... you are hoping for something to be handed to you on a platter... all neat and tidy and ready to go... and I don't see that happening.... this is a chance to learn a trade... if the guy is a bullshit artist, you will still be making enough money to get by... until you find something else. The guy seemed ready to hire you on the spot.... from what I could see there, it doesn't seem like anybody in that place wants to judge you on anything except your job performance.... what the hell more do you expect?? You aren't working in filth... there are no dangerous chemicals.... the hours aren't awful... it's a job... you need to work.... the economy is tanking... and the company has been in business steadily for 25 years..."

"I'll be starting from scratch.... I don't know a thing about the job..."

"They're willing to train you.... besides, it's better to start from scratch at a new trade than starting from scratch looking for a place to live because you can't pay the bills.. isn't it??"

"It all sounds great when you put it that way... but I keep coming back to the money... and to the fact that the job probably becomes tedious after a while..."

"Yeah... the money is a big concern... but you have hope to improve it... and as far as the tedium?? Well, you never, ever, in all of your life before today... ever got up, shaved, washed, and dressed to go to FUN!! Did you??! It's a JOB.. and you can DO IT!! You can make some money, learn and improve... make more money, and maybe go to school down the road.. once you are earning a bit more... or find some other work if it becomes available.... this isn't a sentence... there are no contracts holding you there... if it doesn't work out, you will be right back where you are right now.... so what's the problem??"

"I don't know.... I am probably leaning more towards taking the job than not..... but I want to think about it and talk to Marcheline about it..."

"That's fine!! Talk away... think about it... but, just keep in mind that if you wait too long, the decision may be made for you... and you might miss a chance at something.... you need to quit thinking of this decision as an enlistment or something... if it sucks.. or if it isn't for you... or you decide it isn't working... you can find something different... this isn't rocket science, why are you being so freakin' wishy-washy.... don't be such a pussy!! You need a job.. and this is a friggin job. Period. Don't be a JACKASS!!"

"I will made a decision by business start-time tomorrow morning..."

"A mhaith-thú!! Good Lad!!"

".... :-) "

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Once more 'round....

Well... I have been scarce in these parts of late. I have some (to me, anyway...) valid excuses... I know that they are bullshit, but, Its my story... and I'm sticking to it.

We have been struggling a bit with the death of Marcheline's Dad. My cousin is undergoing chemo therapy right now... she has been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of lymphoma... so, although I am hoping that she will manage to fight through this, reality is following me around and slapping me across the back of the head with unfailing regularity.... obviously, this situation tends to be a bit upsetting... she is only about eight years older than I am... I can only give her emotional support, which seems pretty lame sometimes... I know down in the sub-basement of my heart that she wakes up crying and terrified in the middle of the night... and nobody is there to comfort her... ..

About three weeks ago... nearly a month now... I got called into my boss's office first thing on a Monday morning and was given the sack... the economy is tanking.. the company isn't making money.. and they can't justify my position any longer... sucks being the newest guy on the block. That is a long ride home... with your stupid box full of shit.

So now, I get up with my wife each morning... or earlier on the days that I go to the Zen Center for an early chanting service and meditation practice... and then I sit and send out resumes... to anything that remotely reeks of a possible job. I can see a huge difference in the job market... so, I am living with a slightly nauseating feeling of dread in my guts most of the time. I want to work. I want to carry my share of the load... what I hear from nearly everyone that I talk to is that folks are losing their jobs... companies are going out of business left and right... so.. nobody said that it was going to be easy, right??

On a happy note, we have a new tree to plant, just as soon as the weather dries up enough so that we aren't trying to shovel slop and sludge.... I just know that tree is going to look absolutely beautiful back there!!

I am still here... I just don't want to be a wet blanket, writing about crappy sfuff all the time....

Good comes... bad comes.... nothing stays the same... not even the mountains and the sky....

Friday, February 15, 2008


Hey Pete!

Why did the Siamese twins go to England?

...So the other one would get a chance to drive!

Did you hear the one about the guy who died and took a
little piece of everyone's heart with him?

Never mind... it's not really all that funny
after all, come to think of it...

23,024 ½ days...

January 15, 1944 ~ February 14, 2008

the lifetime of a dear friend and
much loved father, husband, brother, and one hell of a guy.

If you had a half-second more time on this
earth for every laugh you gave..
.. you would live to be hundreds of years old.

Godspeed Pete.. walk in beauty..
We all miss you dearly.

No more pain
no more fear

We Love You!

What do you say?

What do you say to your wife
when she has just lost her father?

How do you let her know
that the pain will one day pass,
and that she will smile again?

What can you do to help her find her way
when she is lost, and so very sad?

How can you show her
that her father's caress
is in the wind that touches her hair.. or,

that his voice can be heard in
the heartfelt laughter of strangers?

When her heart is sick...
and her tears are falling...
When the sobs shake her
and wrack your heart..

How do you tell her that
everything will be okay?

When the sun rises
on the first day of her life
over a world that her father
no longer shares with her...

... how do you teach her
that the breeze which dries her tears
is her father's soft loving kiss?

What do you say to a girl
who has just lost her father?

When you cannot find the words,
that will ease her pain,

sometimes you can find
a way to tell her
with your silent embrace.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Crisp Winter Moon, Skeletal Branches...

Oh! Young folk -
If you fear death,
Die now!
Having died once,
You won't die again.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Unpleasant Surprises & Continuity

The Backstory:

When I was in the military (I served first in the U.S. Air Force, and then in the U.S. Army -- This was in my Air Force days) I had a roommate named Barry.

The first time I knew that Barry existed was when I returned to my room (in which I had been the sole inhabitant) to find many of my belongings relocated to make way for the new occupant - who was not present at the moment.

Needless to say, I was none too happy at this new development.. preferring to have the room to myself.. and, therefore, none to eager to make whoever the intruder was feel all that welcome. This was exacerbated by what appeared to me to be an inordinate amount of vitamin and pill bottles which essentially took up the entire bottom shelf of my new roommates wall locker.

Irked, I rearranged my belongings on or in the pieces of furniture that were still mine to use, and went out.

When I next returned to my barracks room, my roommate was there. Truthfully, I was less than impressed. I thought he looked sort of dorky to be honest (looking back at photos of myself at the time, I have to say that I am *appalled* to think that I ever had the unmitigated gall to call anyone else dorky.. yikes!!).

I was thinking something along the lines of ("Just *fucking* great!! This is just my friggin' luck!"). The new guy introduced himself to me as "Barry", and I welcomed him.. by which I meant "I wish you would relocate to Antarctica - AND STAY THERE!!" and we went about the business of getting to know one another, setting out our boundaries, and testing those of the other occupant.

At one point, Barry pointed at my 'Do-Bohk' (Korean for the uniform you wear when practicing martial arts - literally 'Way-Attire') and asked me what I was studying. I told him that was practicing Do Hap Sool, and he asked me what it was. I explained, and he indicated that he would like to come with me next time.. and that he was interested in learning. I discouraged this idea enthusiastically... I didn't think that he could hack it, honestly... the training was tough, painful, and exhausting.

He asked why I was shying away from the idea, and, at a loss for a coherent and socially acceptable response, I asked him if he was sick or something.. weakly gesturing at all of the pill bottles. He explained that he was a runner, and that he needed the supplementation to stay healthy. This struck me as somewhat pretentious, and, scoffing, I asked him how far he ran... (How far would someone run?? 2 or 3 miles per day?? 10?? Why would you need all of this crap?!)

"Between 20 and 30, twice a week... and between 5 to 15 on the other days." he answered in what I came to learn was a very characteristic manner for him; softly, humbly, and very matter-of-factly.

?! ... .... ..... "Um... .. WHAT?!?"

He repeated it slowly, apparently deciding that I was addled in some fundamental way, and incapable of understanding human speech unless it was spoken very slowly and very, very clearly...

(30 MILES?!) (!!!)

"GET the fuck outta here!!", I blurted. Basically, I was telling him that I thought he was full of shit, without saying that I thought he was full of shit.

He stared at me, expressionless, for a few moments (I also came to know this quirk of his personality... I wish I had known what it portended at the time...), and he shrugged and said, "I'll make a deal with you; You take me to Do Hap Sool, and I will take you running with me."

I *HATED* running. DESPISED it. But.. the gauntlet had been thrown, and I saw no good reason for letting all of that testosterone go to waste.... so I agreed.

Off we went to the Do Hap Sool Dojang, where Barry plunked down his dues, purchased a uniform, and began his training (He subsequently earned his black belt, by the way.)

Here is proof! That's Barry - The Black Belt - seated front row on the right (the viewer's right)I am involved in the photo - but you can't see me since I was on the other side of the camera!

That same night, Barry explained that he was going for a 'short' run, and asked me if I would like to go along. I agreed, but admitted that running wasn't my thing.. and that I actually hated it, truth be told.

"That's because you don't know how to run." he explained.

Scowling, I replied, "Don't know how to run? What are you talking about?! Of course I know how to run! I run all the time!"

We put on our running clothes, tied on our running shoes, and out we went into the Korean night...

Barry explained that distance running was very different from running like one does when playing tag. He taught me how to carry my body, and how to roll my feet when I ran. He taught me the proper way to breathe... and most importantly, how to relax and to run effortlessly.

That first night, we ran... and we ran.... and we ran. Until...


We stopped... and put our hands in the air. A huge dog streaked towards us out of the darkness and showed us what big teeth it had. We were ordered to lay on the ground, face down, with our arms and legs outstretched. This was great sport, since we got to lay down in a bunch of sand, grit, and gravel.. and we were covered with sweat and all sticky.

We heard some radio squelch, and an unintelligible conversation taking place. At one point I started to wipe away a bead of sweat that threatened to run into my eye, but he dog patiently explained to me that it was an ill-advised idea which could, quite possibly, result in the loss of a limb, or fatal hemorrhaging.

We heard the sound of a tracked military vehicle approaching, and the beat of many feet on the ground as a squad of armed special response troops rapidly exited the vehicle from the rear ramp and took up positions from which they could most efficiently riddle us with bullets if the need should arise.

We were 'covered' and routinely searched... this was a brief affair, since we were wearing running shorts, running shoes... and nothing else.

Once it was ascertained that we weren't carrying any deadly weapons or devices, a grand poobah of the Security Police approached us and asked us why we weren't carrying military ID, what we were doing in the area (just to be clear... this area was one that we travelled freely during daylight hours.. we had no idea that it was off limits during hours of darkness...), what unit we were from, whether we wipe back to front or front to back, how many fillings we had in our teeth, and what our great grandmother's favorite color was..... after perhaps an hour, we were cut loose to continue our run in relative peace, and admonished to stay away from certain areas.

So... off we went.

We ran 15 miles that night. I had never, in all of my life, ran more than 2 miles in a single clip.

I felt that I had accomplished something amazing!! I had broken a physical barrier!

The next morning, Barry kicked my bed and told me to get up and go to breakfast with him.

I couldn't. I couldn't move. I couldn't even make it to the bathroom! Every single solitary inch of my being was shrieking in pain. My hair hurt. My bones hurt. I could actually feel every tendon and ligament in my body... and they weren't one bit happy about it. I thought I was going to die. I became terrified that I might NOT die with any immediacy... and that I would be forced to lay there.. in pain... perhaps for minutes... or even, Heaven forbid, up to an hour. I was miserable.

Barry showed his sympathy for me by laughing at me, and by going and finding everyone that he could rope in to come and gawk at me as I lay there on my deathbed.

He told me that the only way to make the pain stop would be to actually get up and force myself to move around... take a good hot shower... and get some food into me.

I told him that I was dying... and that I wanted to be left in peace.

Finally, he pulled me off of the bed onto the floor, ran the shower, and said... "Crawl if you have to... but get into that shower... and lets go get some chow! JUST DO SOMETHING... even if its WRONG!!"

(this became a watchword and motto which continues even to this very day! When I first met my wife, she drove a gray Chevy Nova with a bumber sticker that said "Just Do it!" -- I got a kick out of it, and explained that MY motto was "Just Do something!! Even if its wrong!" -- she most likely thought I was a dick... but, we became friends... and eventually married.. so there!!)

Barry taught me to break through my own limitations that day... limitations concerning my perceptions of others... my own physical limitations... including pain barriers. If not for that lesson, I never would have continued on to serve in the other units that I served in, which required a great deal from each member physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Barry and I became very close friends. We followed one another from Korea to the states, and back to Korea. He was there when my son was born... and I was there when his was.

We laughed, cried, sweat and bled together.

Eventually, I left the military and returned to the United States. Barry remained in Korea. Life moved in, as it does... and we lost touch with one another.

Which brings us to THE CURRENT STORY:

Last week I decided to try to find him... and I began to search for him on the internet. I found a person with the same name, listed as a Major in the USAF as being buried in an expatriate cemetery on the western outskirts of Seoul, Korea. But, Barry was enlisted when I last knew him... so this didn't really add up. I hadn't remembered him telling me anything about a father or grandfather that had served as an officer in the Air Force. Hmmmm.....

The last I had heard about him, he was a part owner of a nightclub in Seoul, and they had a billiards team. I looked up the team website, and clicked on Barry's link to have a look at his scores; they ended in September of 2004. The first trickles of dread began to creep in at the back of my brain... and cold fingers began to grip my guts.

I thought (and hoped) that perhaps the team had gone defunct. I clicked on some of the other members... and then all of the other members... and their scores were current up to the very day.

I stopped. I couldn't get my brain wrapped around this at all... so, relying on my training, I changed tacks and decided to attack the problem from a different angle. I decided to look up military alumni groups. I started with a DLI (Defense Language Institute -- Barry was a Korean Liguist) group; where I found this post -

Sad times for friends of the (Nightclub - name deleted)

Itaewon endured one of its saddest days in recent memory on Sept. 23, when the news went out that Barry ( DELETED ), who ran the ( Nightclub name deleted ), had died that morning in a motorcycle accident in Thailand.

Barry had been on vacation with friends, so it was they who conveyed the bad news to folks in Seoul. From there, word got out to Barry's many friends here via anguished phone calls and text messages.

That night an impromptu memorial service was held at the ( Nightclub name deleted ). Loved ones set up a small, touching shrine in one of the booths, with a big photo of Barry smiling happily, and an album for people to write their farewells. People who'd heard the news ¡ª and there were many ¡ª came by to share their sorrow with hugs and tears.

Barry's funeral was held last Saturday, at the Memorial Chapel of the Seoul Union Church in western Seoul. The church is adjacent to the Foreigners Cemetery, where his remains were eventually laid to rest.

The night before, his many friends had again filled up the ( Nightclub name deleted ) for a wake. From about midnight, 10 or 15 people gave short tributes, led by Sonny ( Last name deleted ), Barry's best friend and Air Force buddy.

Mr. ( Last name deleted ) first met Barry in 1979, when both were stationed at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. He said Barry proved right away to be an exceptional linguist and interpreter; both were assigned to the Air Force base at Osan in 1980, and they became close friends over the next three or four years.

But most people who knew Barry didn't think of him as a scholar or a cadet. They think of, and thank him for, the great bar he started, the ( Nighclub name deleted ), right after he retired from the Air Force in 1994.

The original bar, located where its successor the ( Nightclub name deleted ) is now, had loads of character; it was jam-packed on Fridays, Saturdays and even some weeknights. On Sunday afternoons, Barry would show movies on his big-screen TV, a special treat in those days. Hungover locals would try to get there early and stake out the best booths.

The ( Nightclub name deleted ) really took off the next year, when Barry expanded it to the second floor, where the restaurant ( Name deleted ) is now. From the get-go, the new section, more like a nightclub, was phenomenally popular. Some nights you couldn't get in unless you knew Barry, or Marcel the doorman.

Back in the here and now, the good news is that the ( Nightclub name deleted ) will remain open. Barry's 21-year-old son Shawn, who'd been helping out over the last year, will take over, and a co-manager, Eugene ( Name deleted ), will remain on board.

Mr. ( Name deleted ) reassured me that he and Shawn "won't change a thing." So yes, the ( Nightclub name deleted ) will still be there. It will still serve up the best steaks in town, and it will still be the friendliest place to down a few. But it'll never be the same.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing!! My friend was gone! ... He had been dead for over three years and I had no idea!!

The sounds of my crying woke my wife... who did her best to console me... I was very upset... I couldn't believe that this had happened. Even though it was 'old news' - to me it had just happened at that very moment... and I was very, very sad.

It was the last thing that I would have expected to find.

My Zen practice doesn't really help me to avoid losing my center when hit with something like this... what it does do is to help me to recover it relatively quickly... which I did. I am still sad to think of a world without Barry in it, but, in a way he is not gone.. just changed. I still miss the relationship, though.. and that is gone. This is one the more difficult things that we must all learn to cope with eventually, I guess...

There was nothing that I could do for Barry. What I did do was to contact his son. I have a wealth of stories to share with Shawn regarding his father... and a stack of photos that I can send to him. Photos from before he was born, photos of when he was a baby... photos of friends and family that may no longer be alive.

I told Shawn that his father was a friend of mine, which made him a friend of mine. I reminded him that I stood by his father's side on the day that he was born, and that he (Shawn) used to play with my son when they were children.

I received a message from Shawn this morning.. in which he signed off with "Friends for life!"

Yes... Friends for life...and beyond.

The Phoenix (Bul Jo Sa) was very important to the Koreans. So much so that the Phoenix was depicted on the royal seal. Here is an image of a phoenix, painted, I believe, by a Korean artist;

And another by a Korean artisan of long ago;

The Phoenix is still to be found flying in the skies of Korea. I don't ask you to believe me... you don't have to take my word for it. See for yourself!

A fitting symbol I think.... for a new friendship has been reborn from the ashes of an old one...

Barry lives on in my heart, it is true... but his blood still runs through the veins of my new friend.

I am happy.