Friday, December 31, 2004

Cyber hell

I am lost in dial-up Internet hell, so I won't try to get too elaborate here. I'm visiting family who live out in the middle of BFE in rural Eastern Oregon. OK, so that was redundant. Anyway, posting like this is nuts, so new pearls of wisdom may have to wait until I get back to my own computer and a stable Internet connection.

I guess home is where the dsl is.

And of course that is assuming I still have a home and my place wasn't washed away by the rains and flooding in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley this week. But all things considered, I think I'd rather take my chances with winter rains in Palm Springs than freezing fog here in BFE, which is what we have going on at my present location. We had snow today, rain and now freeing fog, making for black ice on the roads. My parents have a police scanner, so I'm sitting here listening to all the calls for cops and ambulances for all the cars spinning off the roads and flipping over on the Interstate.

I don't miss this cold weather and bad roads crap. Not for a second. Family, yes. Old friends, yes. But not temperatures below freezing.

Monday, December 27, 2004

All is quiet

My hosts have gone to bed for the night. My daughter is still awake, but she's in her room. So, I'm the only one left stirring in the house. Not much to do, but watch a little TV and get on a computer for a few minutes.

Portland really is a long ways from Palm Springs in so many ways. Once upon a time, Portland seems like a foreign land from the small town where I grew up. Portland still seems like a foreign land, but for a different reason now. While I still consider Oregon "home" when talking to family and friends, it is apparent that I'm used to a different place, a different pace and a more diverse environment. Portland certainly has more to offer than the small town in this state, but it no longer seems like such a utopia, as it may have once to me more naive mind. Even the Oregonian newspaper, once a publication that I dreamed of working for, now seems a little more like just another newspaper. And the TV news here may be a little more polished, but I'm losing track of all the spelling errors I've seen in the captions and on-screen info graphics they put up.

I don't think it is the place that has changed, it is my perspective that has changed. I hope that is for the better.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas, and I'm packing up today and getting on an airplane to visit family and friends for the holiday, like many this season. I'll try to post, if possible, while on vacations if I can get access to a computer and some private time. I'm not traveling with a computer, so I'm at the mercy of others' technology on the trip.

So, this may be my last post for a few days, or maybe even a little more than a week. Happy New Year to one and all.

Friday, December 24, 2004

A call for help

One of the assistants walks up to me in the newsroom Wednesday and asks me if I can take a phone call. There’s a guy on the horn with a story idea. I can tell from the tone of her voice it’s one of “those calls.”

The caller obviously didn’t want to leave a message, but he didn’t have a normal request or suggestion. He wanted to talk to someone about his idea. I happened to be the only editor at my desk, so I drew the short straw by default.

There is a strange phenomenon where people who don’t know what else to do or who else to call, place a call to the newspaper.

The call was transferred through, and the caller started talking. He was a talker. It was one of those days where I didn’t really have time to spend on the phone. The call came through moments before I was supposed to walk into a meeting. The caller had his own timeline. I missed most of the meeting hearing the pitch.

The man on the phone, John, has a suggestion for a “human interest story.” He knew a guy who was in a nursing home after suffering a life-threatening infection. John never asked for help for himself, but the more John talked the more it became apparent that he needed help for himself as much as he wanted it for his friend.

John said he had been trying to get his friend, Gerry, some help. But John was in no position to help Gerry himself. John had been staying with Gerry and his partner, but after Gerry ended up in a nursing come, the partner tossed John out on the street. John had slept outside the night before, yet he was more concerned about Gerry. Or so he said. And I think he even believed it himself on some level. But John’s call was a call for help on his own behalf. He was either wholly selfless, or a practiced con artist. As much as I empathized with John I couldn’t quite stifle my skepticism.

John talked for about a half an hour or so, until he ran out of quarters for the pay phone at Denny’s. But John called back later in the evening. John had tried to check into a motel for the night, but they required a credit card, and he didn’t have one. His debit card number was on a piece of paper in the mobile home he’d been kicked out of by Rick, Gerry’s partner. And John’s actual bank card was in his apartment, which he had been evicted from and locked out of by a vindictive property manager. Again I empathized, but couldn’t quite get past the thought that perhaps John was looking to see if I would give him my credit card number. John said he had no family in the area and his friends had apparently turned their back on him after he suffered an injury in some sort of crime, which he didn’t go into detail about. But he said he suffered physical trauma, and some mental effects from the crime.

John was calling for help, and I offered suggestions for different organizations that may be able to help. John had plenty of reasons why those ideas wouldn’t work. But one suggestion seemed to offer some promise for John, and the hour was getting late, so John was going to try to do something about securing lodging for the night. I wished him well and he rang off.

Maybe it’s because the call came so close to Christmas. I’m not sure what it was, but John’s call touched on a personal fear. And that fear is the loss of independence. I so wanted to help John because I so don’t want to become John. One of my biggest fears is having to rely on others. OK, so the fear goes deeper than that, because we all have to rely on other people from time to time. And I am no different. I have relied heavily on family and friends the last several months to get back on my feet, physically and emotionally, following the breakup with my former fiancée. But there was a period in the early days of that breakup where I felt as lost and alone as John must feel. My home was no longer my own, and I didn’t feel comfortable there. Yet, I had nowhere else to go. It felt as if I had no one to talk to either, and yet I really didn’t feel like talking. For a while it felt like I had no one. My fear was that I never would again. I was terrified of living – and dying – alone.

The upshot is, I did ask for help. I talked to a therapist. I talked to family. I talked to friends. And each day got a little better. I hope John finds the help he needs but seems so reluctant to ask for too, if in fact his story is genuine (again the skepticism won’t quite leave me). John was asking me for help in his own way. But it was obvious he had heard about the various shelters, legal aid and other free or low-cost services available to him. He just didn’t feel he really needed them. He still thought, all things considered, that his lot in life was not yet that dire. Either that or, he was trying to scam me, which is possible. But I wasn’t quite willing to buy into his story and assign a reporter to put it into print, nor was I willing to reach into my own pocket when he wasn’t taking advantage of other options for help available to him.

Who knows how many stories of loneliness and desperation there are out there in the world this holiday season. But John, in spite of his own sad story, seemed primarily concerned with helping someone else. And he needed someone to talk to, that much was obvious. Maybe that was the only help I could truly offer him. I hope John will take advantage of the help people have been trying to point him toward. Unfortunately, we often ignore the helping hands reaching out for us out of pride, vanity or shear stubbornness. They say in so many circumstances that the first step is realizing when you need help. Another key step is being willing to accept it.

I am so thankful to family and friends who have given me a shoulder to lean on, or cry on, when I’ve needed it. John’s call reminded me of what this season is all about. Thanks for calling John. I hope you find room at the inn, or at least a warm dry place to sleep this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Too much time spent on aesthetics

OK, so I spent time working on the appearance of my blog site tonight rather than writing for it. I guess maybe if I actually knew shit about html this wouldn't have been such a chore. All I was trying to figure out how to do was post a picture on here. I figured I've got photo experience, I know a couple of things about computers. Hell I even launched a Web site or two in my day (thanks to software programs that took care of a lot of that pesky formatting crap for me). I should be able to do this right? Hell no! Where's a 12 year old computer geek when you need one? I couldn't figure out how to get it in the rail on the right side, but I was able to get it up in the header. So, that will work for now. This is, after all, an ongoing project. The posts will be ongoing, and so will the refinements I suppose.

I guess I've finally found a new hobby. Or a new way to waste time. I'm not sure which. I guess only time, and the blogwatchers (if anyone even finds this fuckin' site) will tell. Although, I was quite happy to note that there was a comment posted to the previous post. How the commenter, who signed the post as ak, found this site it unknown (although ak does offer something of an explanation in the comment itself). I have no idea who ak is, but thanks for taking the time to post a comment my cyber friend.

I have also been spending some time the last several days looking for blogs about Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. I haven't found many, and several of the ones I have found don't seem to be very active. So, if anyone knows of any others, let me know. In the meantime, I'll share a few that I have found.

Florian's blog: Is a site about hiking and stargazing in and around the Coachella Valley. The desert and surrounding mountains are ideal for both activities, so if you live around the valley or are contemplating a vacation here with outdoor activities, check out Florian's blog.

Scary Obscene Offensive Agnostic Anarchist Activist Pinko Bi Switchy Fem Chick Geek Type: The site of a local graphic artist. There's some cool artwork here. I had to share this one just because of the name. It's a little long, but it covers a lot of ground.

Friday Fishwrap: I stumbled across this one while checking to see if anyone else had a blog with the name I thought was completely unique for my own blog. And it's a Palm Springs blog to boot (even if it does make my blog's name seem a little less unique).

Us fish wrappers gots to stick together!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Does technology aid or hinder relationships?

It's been about 10 years now since the whole Internet revolution became part of my life. Back in the old days. E-mail, instant messaging, chat rooms, and now blogs, have certainly changed the ways people interact. Isn't it funny how people will say things to other people, strangers really, about themselves that they probably don't say to their best friends out there in the "real world?"

But for some people, the online world becomes their world. I suppose I have been as guilty of that any anyone. Although not all voyages into cyberspace have been rewarding.

Back when I was on
aol lurking in chat rooms and getting billed by the minute, I got into an unhealthy pattern with some big aol bills for all the time I was spending online. Not cool. I discovered this whole subculture with this group of people who used to meet in this one geographic chatroom where people actually met periodically for parties and other gatherings. I even went to one. We all wore nametags with our screen names on them so people could put the face to the person they "knew" from online. It wasn't my scene. Going to parties with friends is one thing, but driving 60 miles to go to someone's house that I didn't know was outside my comfort zone. I guess I'm glad I went, but didn't like it enough to go back for another chatroom gathering.

A couple of times I met one-on-one with a couple of people I chatted with. Also an awkward situation. Didn't care much for that either. Although there is one woman I met up with a few times. We got to be pretty regular chat buddies online, and we had lunch a few times in the real world. The funny thing was, we got along much better online than off. We had quite the witty little dialogue going at the keyboard. It just didn't click face to face. And there were certainly no romantic sparks, which if truth be told was probably what we were both after. She later ended up marrying a guy she had met online and moving to Nebraska or somewhere. We lost touch some years back.

Now I mostly use online chat services to keep in touch with family and friends, people I know from the real world, who I maintain ties with thanks to technology. But there are two exceptions. One is a friend I met online, refered to in an earlier post as T. T and I started out as friends, became lovers, and came back around to being friends. I still hear from her occassionally, although I try not to interject myself into her life too often. She's now happily married (to a guy she met online) and living her own life. I get the occassional e-mail joke forwarded from her (God I hate those forwards, particularly the chain e-mails).

But there is one woman I met online and have known for more than 6 years now. I'll call her D. We've never actually met. In fact I've only seen a few fuzzy pictures of her, and one old photo of her. If I walked past her on the street, I probably wouldn't even know it was her. Yet, I know her probably better than about anyone in the world, or certainly so it seems, which makes it feel like I would know her instantly, even in a crowded room. We've chatted online and on the phone off and on over the last 6 years. The off periods have mostly been when one or the other of us -- or both -- were dating someone else. We've tried to get together a time or two, but fate (or bad luck or God's cruel sense of humor or something) has always got in the way. I actually had a plane ticket purchased once a few years back to fly to her Midwest locale, but she ended up in the hospital the night before I was supposed to fly out, and the trip was scuttled.

I had a lot of female friends when I was in school. Not a lot of girlfriends mind you, but female friends. There were a couple of girlfriends, but nothing really serious -- or really fun -- until I got into college. But the girls used to let me hang around. I was often the confidante, hearing about their troubles with this boyfriend, or the crush on this other guy and why wasn't he paying enough attention to her, etc. I guess I sort of fell in to the gay-male-friend role in my small town school, because we either didn't have any gay boys in our school or they were so far in the closet as to avoid getting their asses kicked regularly by a bunch of redneck farm boys otherwise known as the male half of the student body. Redneck farm boys didn't like the idea of man-on-man lovin' and they carried guns in the gunracks of their pickups. Anyway, I was sort of a geek, and not exactly popular with the popular girls in "that way," so I got to hang out with them by hearing their boy troubles. If you have to yearn, it's much better to yearn with the girl whispering in your ear, than yearn from afar while she whispers in some other guy's ear.

So, anyway, I like the company of women, and generally find conversations with women much more interesting than men. I'm not a great conversationalist, and can be vocally a bit monosyllabic. I speak slowly, haltingly, and have a habit some people seem to find very annoying, which is thinking before I speak (unless I've had a little liquor to lubricate the tongue). But that tends to make me a good listener, since often before I can respond to some comment or the other, my companion has moved on to the next throught. So, I've had many conversations with women over the years, although perhaps a bit one sided (which may be why the "real me" tends to come out more at the keyboard than over dessert at some cafe-de-courtship. But, I never had conversations with previous female friends like I once had with T and still have with D.

D is indeed a special case. About two years ago, D and I were talking about trying to figure out a way to end the long distance correspondence and actually get together, and with a real prospect of that happening within a few months time (after nearly 5 years, what's a couple of months right?). But then I messed up the plan. I met a woman that I was extremely smitten with here in
Palm Springs. So, what did I do? To put it simply, I told D so long and pursued the relationship with the woman here in town. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. That old saying about a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush seemed to apply, and there was an attractive bird at hand. So, I brushed of D.

Hated it.

Felt awfully about it.

But I did it anyway.

And I can't say it was a completely frivolous crush or anything, because the bird at hand (henseforth to be knows as the ex) and I did get together, moved in together. I asked her to marry me back on Christmas Eve of last year. So, it wasn't a minor schoolboy crush here. But to cut to the chase on that story, I got the engagement ring back in June, and promptly preceeded to watch the life I thought I was building crash down around my ankles like a cheap set of Legos.

Shortly after I started to try to reassemble my Legos, and reconfigure them from Legos-built-for-two to bachelor-building blocks, I decided I needed to try to apologize to D. Not that I expected anything to come of it, I just didn't like the way I left it and I wanted her to know I was sorry for just disappearing. There was that and the fact that my ex who thought I must be maintaining contact with D, actually contacted her (online) and quizzed D to figure out when I had cut the cord, etc. D called my cell phone to see if it was me or someone else online. D wrote me an e-mail after that to explain why she called, and I never replied. I felt bad about that also.

So, I wrote to D after I had got my own apartment -- and my own therapist -- and was trying to remember what I used to do when I wasn't part of that two-headed creature known as "we." So, I reached out to D, and to a lot of family members and old friends who I had lost contact with over the year-plus I was so wrapped up in the ex that nothing else seemed to matter. It was sort of like an alcoholic going through the steps, trying to atone for past sins. To my surprise D wrote back. More than that, she listened to me and offered sage advice on how to recover from a breakup. She too had experienced a failed engagement and a more recent breakup with someone she cared deeply about. She helped me get better. She helped me heal. She helped me find hope again.

And D and I have rekindled our online/telephone/e-mail relationship, now with the added technological components of text messages and blogs. I've never been able to satisfactorily describe our relationship to myself, let alone others. In many ways it is more intimate in its communication than any relationship I've ever experienced. And strong feelings develop from those deep, philosophical, emotional -- and yes often erotic and blatantly sexual -- conversations. When I can't talk to her, online or by phone, I miss her. She is now the one I want to talk about my day with, and frankly the one I think about building Legos with. The only problem is that we live more than 1,000 miles and two time zones apart. We've never looked into each other's eyes. We have never held hands or snuggled under a blanket and watched movies on the couch. Yet, she touches me in ways and places no one else ever has, or perhaps ever will.

Is that some false sense of Internet intimacy? Or is it real? It feels real, and I hold out hope that it is. Perhaps the answer to my query posed at the top of this post is written in her eyes.

I miss you D. Thanks for helping me salvage another year and the only life I've got. Here's to making 2005 the magical, mystical year.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Women are still a mystery

Here I am, rapidly approaching 40, and I’m not sure if I understand woman any better today than I did in my 20s.

I got a Christmas card in the mail today from my ex. My ex now lives on the other side of the continent. At this time last year, I was shopping for an engagement ring for her for Christmas, which I gave to her on Christmas Eve. And she accepted the gift and wore the ring for about almost 6 months before giving it back to me one June day. It’s a day I’ll never for get.

Well, it would be hard to forget the day when the woman you love and plan to marry tells you “not so fast buster. Take your little trinket back.” OK, so that’s not a direct quote, but the effect is the same. What the hell is a man supposed to do with an engagement ring, without a fiancée’s finger to put it on? I still haven’t figured that one out. So, for now the ring resides in a lock box, until I figure out how to sell it or what the hell to do with it. But if that wasn’t enough to etch that day indelibly into my mind, it was also my parents’ wedding anniversary and the day former President Ronald Reagan died. A historic day to be sure. Like I will need all those stories in the media every June on the anniversary of Reagan’s death to remind me of the day my world fell apart, let alone the fact that it’s my parents’ anniversary.

So like I said, I got a Christmas card from my ex. I’m not quite sure what to do with that either. I didn’t send her a card. I didn’t send out any cards this year actually. Just wasn’t in the spirit.

So, as one might imagine, it has been hard to separate memories of my ex from this so-called festive holiday season. I’d be happy to skip this Christmas, thank you very much. Let’s just get on with 2005. But interestingly enough, my subconscious mind was not focus on me ex this morning when I was awakened from a dream by the ringing telephone. I was actually in the midst of a great dream. A sex dream no less. But it was not my ex in the dream, or at least not that ex. Although I was dreaming about getting down and dirty with a former lover. But this lover was one from a few years past. We weren’t exactly boyfriend and girlfriend. That wouldn’t be an appropriate description, considering that my former lover was actually married at the time of our dalliance. She has divorced and remarried in the interim. I’m not quite sure why she was on my subconscious, sleeping mind this morning. But I’m not sure that sort of thing should be analyzed too deeply. Sex dreams are not to be questioned, merely enjoyed. If it weren’t for that damn ringing telephone, who knows how that one might have ended.

So, was thinking a bit about that former lover today. We’ll call her T, to protect her privacy and that of her family. But T was a good friend when I needed one, and certainly taught me a thing or three about male-female intimacy. I will forever owe T a debt of gratitude for that. Hopefully, she got some benefits out of the deal as well. We were never destined to be a couple. But we made more than a couple of good memories together. And we experienced a few firsts together as well. But the dream I was having this morning was not a replay of any of our erotic adventures. It seemed to be a completely new situation. If only that damn ringing phone hadn’t spoiled the dream. I didn’t answer it, but it woke me up anyway. I tried to go back to sleep and return to that blissfully erotic dream. That never works. I hate it when that happens. Especially when the only intimacy you experience is in a dream, and even that is a rarity, you certainly don’t want to miss out on those opportunities.

Even women in dreams are a mystery to me. But then again, a little mystery makes life – and dreams – much more interesting.

Friday, December 17, 2004

A tentative first step

I've been playing around with a blog on another site for the last couple of months, but it's not public. Only a few family members and friends have had access to the site. But I stumbled across another blog that blew me away, and was glad it was out there for the world to see. The site, is called tequila mockingbird, and boy can that bird sing!

I can't even imagine or pretend that I have the same level of talent, nor can I pretend I have anything as profound to say. But, I'm inspired to try. Inspired to give it a go.

This may all end up being so much digital fishwrap. But if it leads to some personal revelations about the wider world, or the inner workings of my feable mind, then perhaps it was worth the trying. Only time will tell.

I can't say there will be a theme to this blog, or even a cohesive thread running through it. I have no great desire to get published. My words get published in a daily newspaper every day (often under the nom de plume "staff reports"). I've seen my name in print. I've answered calls from readers. Messing up the crossword puzzle usually gets more reaction than all the big, hard-hitting stories newspaper folks are so intent on publishing. I seek no fame or glory. I merely seek a little better understanding of life and a better way to live it.

A blog may not be the answer, but how many times can a guy watch "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" on late night TV? Well, at least I haven't yet succumb to watching informercials.

Speaking of "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," which is on AMC at the moment, I have the theme song for that movie as a ringtone on my cell phone. But it only rings when one person calls. It's my former fiancee's ringtone... not that it rings much anymore (it may not even have the right phone number associated with it anymore).

Perhaps that's a story for another post: How the symbol of our relationship went from a diamond ring to "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly."

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