Human trafficking truck of choice

Some time last night someone attempted to steal my old truck from in front of the house. I’m a vigilant person by nature, so it didn’t shock me too much to find I had been victimized. On a certain level, I am always expecting reality to meet my darker, Hobbesian expectations. There’s even a feeling of resolution, as if, yes, I was proven right: it is wise to be vigilant. It can be useful to expect bad things so that you are not lulled into a false sense of security.

I just went out as I normally do to get on the road and noticed that the door had been jimmied open, breaking the plastic around the door lock and denting the door. Looking into the truck, the console had been opened and the glove box was hanging open with its former contents spilled onto the floor of the cab. At first I thought someone had just broken in to burglarize the truck. As I got in and looked around to see if anything of value was missing, I noticed that the ignition had been destroyed with a screwdriver or similar, which meant someone had tried to steal the truck. There was nothing else missing that I could see. I guess everything was opened to try to find any keys, cash, or guns.

I called the police to file a report and a crime scene officer came to collect prints, which I expect nothing will come of. But, he did mention that Ford F-250s like the one I have are popular targets. They often end up abandoned near the Mexico border. The seats ripped out to make it easier to smuggle people across the border into the US, which conjured all sorts of visions of desperate figures huddled in the dark cab of my old truck, crammed together like a college prank. The guy who fixed my ignition cylinder told me of an image he saw once of 20 people crammed into the cab of a Ford F-150, which has less than half the interior space of a truck like mine.

It’s easy to become scared or discouraged, but it made me feel better that my vehicle was probably targeted rather than the possibility that there is just someone out there trying to steal a vehicle opportunistically. That feels more vulnerable for some reason. It’s a small distinction, but it helps me. It means that I can take steps to make my truck less attractive to this community of thieves looking for trucks of my type, who are acting on a dubious, but ultimately rational basis. I can tolerate being a victim of a rational actor more so than an irrational, pure opportunist. If that makes sense.


Alone with myself

Altered StatesIt wasn’t long ago that I would have done anything to avoid being alone with my own thoughts. The thought of what might bubble up, when I wasn’t trying to look away to everything else, terrified me; if only because I had spent so much time avoiding myself. For years I was sleepwalking through life. If I happened to catch a glance at my doppelgänger self in the mirror, I didn’t linger.

But, my circumstances have changed. Many things that once scared me and drove me, have collapsed down to smaller proportions. The more I ran toward my own fears, the smaller they became, much like my own shadow. I still have fears and worries, but my worries are concrete and I am more grounded. And, after much work devoted to untangling various knots and maybe just making friends with the knots, I started to reconnect.

One of the first things to go, when you disconnect from yourself, is any creativity or sensitivity. When you detach from your own feelings, you develop a state of numbness because you want to avoid anything that might overwhelm, which could be anything when you’re holding it all down with white knuckles.

But, once I started to be more happy, I wanted to find out more about myself. I wanted to build a timeline of my own life, mainly because I could not remember much for long spaces of time. Even if I could remember the facts of my past, it didn’t feel like it belonged to me. I grew interested in knitting together a sense of my own story. I wanted to explore my own inner world that I had boarded up and abandoned. I wanted to move back home, I wanted to clear away the weeds, open up the windows, and dust out the various corners.

I came up with a plan to kickstart this inner exploration: floating in an isolation tank. Floating in complete darkness and silence with nowhere to go and nothing else to do; just alone with my own thoughts. If you’ve seen the William Hurt film, “Altered States“, you’re probably familiar with the concept. Luckily, Austin has a place where you can purchase 60-90 minute sessions of sensory-deprivation, Zero Gravity Institute. I don’t feel like saying much about it, except that you might give it a shot. The first session I had was very rewarding. After adjusting to the novelty of the situation, I had some of the most creative moments in recent memory. That’s where I arrived at the realization that it has been exactly 20 years since I started a small zine with two of my high school friends. It was called the Incredible Flaming Mechanism. We created 7 issues from 1994-1995, when we all went off to college. It was one of the most creative, exciting times in my life. I realized that I was coming full circle… from happy to unhappy to happy again and from creative to uncreative to creative again. So, my current idea is to do 7 more issues… from 2014-2015, so that I can close the loop. What do you think?



Try to see the beauty in things

It is easy to look at a situation and see the bad. Every situation could be looked at in a negative light. But, what does this attitude do but rob us of our initiative and hope? Focusing on the bad will stop you from moving forward. It is far better to accept the bad as it arrives, feel it and process it and then finally put it aside. Any other attitude goes against reality and is impractical. If you want good things in your life you will learn to let things go when it is time. Why do we try to hold on sometimes to the way things are not? It is an interesting question. Fear of the unknown? Avoidance of suffering?

Trick yourself into writing more

So, despite various resolutions to blog more, I’ve done little to nothing on that front. For a while there I was blogging only about once a month, which has not helped my relationship with Google, my coy mistress. Life has intervened, but I would be lying if I said I could never find time to blog. I can. Truth is, sometimes I just didn’t want to talk publicly about what was on my mind or going on in my little world and many, many other times I was just lazy. Writing publicly (inasmuch as this is public) requires a little vulnerability, a willingness to toss your thoughts and words out there for others to regard. Mentally, it’s a bit like bathing in the street.

Anyway, I may have found a system that works for me, finally. As with everything else I do, I simply need to trick myself. Here’s what I am doing differently:

  1. Think, then immediately write. Set the thought down into a blog entry before you lose interest. Right now in WordPress, I have 14 drafts of various aborted ideas I started to write about. I am unlikely to take them up simply because I no longer care about those particular ideas. However, at the time, I did, so I should have taken advantage of that fleeting moment of enthusiasm. Something interesting might have come of it!
  2. When you’re feeling productive, crank out as much as you can. I think today I wrote 6 blog entries. Other times, I’ll go weeks without writing anything. You won’t see these entries all in one day because I will schedule them to appear once or twice each day rather than all at once. Google likes this and it also makes me appear to be more consistently industrious.
  3. Keep to a schedule. Remove the choice. Right now I’ve got a daily recurring task in Remember the Milk for “Write a blog entry”. It gets created automatically every day and if I don’t complete it, it just sits there in my task list until I close it out. If I go several days without blogging, the tasks just add up like household garbage no one feels like taking out. Deleting the tasks or marking them complete seems cowardly, so after a while I just hunker down and write. Quite honestly, the recurring task thing is the main reason I’ve been blogging more.

Da Vinci on repeating one’s self

Leonardo Da VinciNow that I’ve been blogging for eight years I occasionally worry that I am recycling the same ideas without realizing it. When bothered by this thought, I search through my blog archives to see if I have already written about something, before I write about it again, though I know no one else would notice.

When this happens, I feel as if I should have done something final with that original idea, since it has bubbled up again like a submerged corpse.

Memory is unreliable. Yet, something about who I am dictates that I will re-create the same idea again and again, though I have no memory of it. It calls into question every idea you have, every plan you conceive of, since so many others amounted to nothing without a lasting record of their failure.

Then, as I read the daily dose of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Notebooks yesterday, I learned that much greater minds ran in similar circles:

Begun at Florence, in the house of Piero di Braccio Martelli, on the 22nd day of March 1508. And this is to be a collection without order, taken from many papers which I have copied here, hoping to arrange them later each in its place, according to the subjects of which they may treat. But I believe that before I am at the end of this [task] I shall have to repeat the same things several times; for which, O reader! do not blame me, for the subjects are many and memory cannot retain them [all] and say: ‘I will not write this because I wrote it before.’ And if I wished to avoid falling into this fault, it would be necessary in every case when I wanted to copy [a passage] that, not to repeat myself, I should read over all that had gone before; and all the more since the intervals are long between one time of writing and the next.

In other words, just keep writing and stop keeping score.

Wherein I realize my limitations

I flew back in to San Antonio after tying up some very loose ends in Dallas. I hadn’t seen my Dad in a few days and was ill-prepared for dealing with him. He’s gotten more belligerent and difficult over the last week. I thought my brother was exaggerating or just being a wuss about dealing with him, but clearly he was not. Dad is just very difficult as a result of his head injury, which is unfortunately rather typical in such cases. I had to run him back into town to the hospital on a Sunday afternoon and he didn’t want any part of it. It took me about 30 minutes just to get him into the car. Then it went downhill from there. The whole enterprise took three hours.

The thing that is hard to remember is that you cannot argue with a brain injury. There are certain things that he has to do like wear a neck brace and use a walker, but if he does not feel like doing it, no amount of bargaining, solicitation, or badgering will work. It’s especially difficult in my case since my Dad is 6’3″ and about 265 pounds and not afraid to mix it up even in his weakened state. A lot of times you feel like a lion tamer, dancing around with a chair and flimsy bull whip, ducking in to lob a quick, “Hey Dad, please wear your neck brace.” Luckily, he’s been good about taking his medicine and letting us give him shots. It seems to help if you can make him feel like he’s in control.

Anyway, the thing is, it’s tough. From the moment you get up until you go to bed. It’s not just dealing with Dad. It’s dealing with Dad and everything else you normally have to deal with, like making money and keeping the wheels on with the rest of your life. It’s harder than anything I’ve ever had to do before (Not that I have ever had it rough. I know now that I have not.). The upside is that everything else I have ever worried about in the past has become so much easier in comparison. All my previous problems and anxieties seem laughably easy. When he was first in the hospital and we thought we might lose him so we were there around the clock, I thought that was hard. That was really nothing. It was emotionally draining, but it was not work. Our present situation (which is way more complicated than I can go into) is both emotionally draining AND work. That wouldn’t be so bad except that it’s hard to see any positive outcome. Life is just different now. Everything is different now.

The Homecoming King

Today I will bring my Dad home from the hospital after nearly two months. I have no idea what I’m doing. But, we will figure it out together. We have to.

Love and tex-mex

All this heavy life stuff is happening and I want to write about it, but it just doesn’t feel right. You want to write things down so you remember how you feel and how things are, but it feels like voyeurism. Like life is too real to turn it into a story.

But, I do want to remember because I forget. What really matters. The truth of things.

Random stuff:

1. I ran into my best friend from 5th grade, Sheldon. He is a technician in the ICU. I hadn’t seen him since 1995. He recognized my brother before he recognized me. Maybe because I had a beard, but maybe because I just don’t look the same. He has an iPhone. He remembered a lot of things I had forgotten, like the time our dachshund, Ginger, bit my brother in the nuts. It’s funny how other people remember things you don’t, even though you were there, too.

2. The surgeon who fixed my dad’s face with titanium bands is a Merryman. She has to be related. I have never run into a Merryman before who was not related. She has the pale, heavy-lidded Merryman eyes.

3. In the hospital lobby, there was an issue of National Geographic from 1970 with Hutterites on the cover. That magazine was 38 years old and it was just sitting there like some joke about waiting rooms. Where did it come from?

4. I found a good restaurant near the hospital, Blanco Cafe. Lupe, the nurse that beeps people in during visiting hours, turned us on to it. I had to revise my tex-mex list to put it in the top 3, just after Mi Tierra. Breakfast all day. Sweet tea. Cheap and awesome. My favorite meal: beef enchiladas with a glass of Red Flash (I prefer Big Red with my tex-mex, but it’ll do in a pinch.) In the last three weeks, I’ve probably eaten there 6-7 times. The tortillas are fresh. You can tell because they are just slightly crisp and papery and you can feel the flour dusted on them. Bakery tortillas are moist from being packed into plastic bags after they come steaming off the griddle. It’s just not the same.

Fast Food Afficianado

Since I’ve been back in San Antonio for about three weeks, I’ve gotten to know the surrounding restaurants very well. Too well. In between visiting hours, I normally walk across the street to Chik-fil-A, so I don’t have to pay twice for parking. As far as fast food goes, Chik-fil-A is top of the heap. You can actually tell what kind of animal the sandwich came from. They also do things a little differently:

  1. The employees at Chik-fil-A always say “My pleasure” when I say, “Thank you”. Even if it is part of some cynical marketing ploy, I like it.
  2. There are fresh flowers on each table. The other day they were yellow daisy-like flowers. Today they were purple daisy-like flowers.
  3. Little Texas Pete hot sauce packets! I am all for condiment selection. Hot sauce is essential. (Don’t miss the Texas Pete Wikipedia article wherein someone gets a little free with the truth: “In late 2003, Chick-Fil-A opted to carry Texas Pete sauce (packet-form) in its restaurants nationwide. Same-store sales catapulted over 45% in 2004. Many analysts close to the firm heralded the decision to carry the sauce, largely attributing the company’s success to the sauce itself. In several third party surveys, Chick-Fil-A customers have exclaimed, “Texas Pete doesn’t go on the chicken sandwich, the chicken sandwich goes on the Texas Pete,” and “Best thing since the chicken sandwich.”)
  4. They play Christian music as background music. I don’t really have a problem with this except it’s generally bland and I don’t know any of the songs. That’s okay. Background music is not supposed to be good.
  5. Real lemonade. Tart and sweet. ‘Nuff said.
  6. At the entrance to the playscape, they provide the kids with little alcohol towelettes so they can clean their grubby hands.

Critical condition

Now that things have stabilized, I wanted to take a moment to explain where I’ve been for the past two weeks. On March 15th (beware the ides of March), my father was in a bad car accident. The situation is very serious and up until a few days ago when we started to see some improvement, the last thing on my mind was to write about it. Until I came home this weekend, I basically lived at the hospital. It has been a perspective-inducing experience without parallel. When things get better, I will share some of what I have learned.