Saturday, November 29, 2003

Home for the holidays

How do you project that spot on the calendar when all of a sudden it's not somebody else's home you're journeying to for the holidays, but it's your home everybody else is coming to?
It's not like my daughter has left us and comes home for the holidays (she's not quite 4 years old yet), but my house has turned out to be the gathering point for several disparate branches of loosely fragmented particles of a family brought together by circumstance. Most of the connections between us are frail at best, with some notable exceptions, and we get together almost exclusively on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I've tried to come to terms with this whole "getting together for the holidays" thing, and I believe I understand the phenomenon a little better now.
The truth is, days off from work are rare for me. It's hard to find any free time to do things around the house. On top of that, there are usually great games scheduled on those days, so dealing with extended family is a bit of a sacrifice. I'd rather use the time to change out the bathroom faucet or work on the yard, or just hang out in my boxers watching sports and drinking beer.
However, the obligatory ritual of sitting around a dead bird and exchanging pleasantries is a necessary device by which we rid ourselves of the need to make any other contact with our loved ones throughout the rest of the year. It allows us to stay in touch with those we innately care for, catch up on recent occurrences and share yet another experience that we can file away in our collective memory bank.
It's good to see everybody. After cleaning the house all week, spending a small fortune at the grocery store, and watching my wife (admittedly, I'm not much help in this area) slave away in the kitchen for the better part of two days, there is a warm feeling left at the end of the day when we find ourselves cleaning the house yet again. It's good to see everybody, but it's also good to see them go.
We'll meet up again for Christmas.
Happy holidays!

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Old friends

I spoke with an old friend yesterday. He called me on my cell phone out of the blue. I was walking around the mall with my Dad, killing time as we waited for my wife to show up for lunch (she's never on time!).
My friend Alvin says he's coming to Florida this week. His company is sending him to Orlando for some safety training, sponsored by his Union. He'll be there all week. It's about a three and a half hour drive from where I live. Not exactly around the corner, but certainly a lot closer than the continental divide we've had between us since I moved away from California 7 years ago. We both vowed that we'd make an earnest effort to see each other on this trip, whatever it takes.
Back in the day when Alvin and I first became friends, we were very different people from who we are now. Not only younger, but also driven by other motivations.
Alvin grew up in a small oilfield town in south-central California. One of the younger brothers in a large family of mostly men, he and his brothers were all athletes, and participated in most of the team sports the local schools offered. Alvin was the biggest and strongest one of them, a hulking 6'4" tall frame, with a back like a bull and 280 lbs of pure muscle. He was an intimidating presence wherever he went. In a town where you're only as tough as your last fight proved (and everybody had to be tough!), nobody ever chose to mess with Alvin. He'd established a reputation in town since his early days for being a fair and smart individual, a loyal and caring friend, but also a fist swinging bruiser with innards as hard as nails. He's the kind of guy you always wanted watching your back in a bar room brawl...not the one you wanted to face.
I met Alvin through the local bar scene. We both played darts at the weekly tournaments. We were decidedly the best two dart players in town, and we alternated as top dog for long stretches at a time. It was good, clean competition in a town where your options for recreation were limited. We had a lot of fun.
Our wives became good friends and, as has been the case for me before, Al and I became close friends as well, just by being forced into each other's company by our spouses.
I miss my buddy Al. As you get older it becomes much harder to become friends with anyone. The lack of time available to invest in the kind of circumstances that create the environment necessary to foment the requisite experiences that bring about true camaraderie makes it very hard for responsible, grown family men to bond.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

More on my midlife crisis

As the sun sets again, another day fades away. The clock ticks with ever increasing speed as I grow older; gaining momentum with each passing second. It's hard to be carefree when you feel the pressure of goals not achieved, and the finish line seems to approach you with the force of a freight train.
I gaze upon my daily accomplishments at night sometimes, trying to find worthwhile achievements in my monotonous lifestyle. It's important to award yourself points just for doing the things that a working society requires, such as keeping a job, obeying the laws, investing in the economy, paying your taxes, etc. Mundane though they be these are not effortless tasks, and they form the backbone of our way of life. It's for the good of all that a majority of the population perform in this fashion. But I feel lazy and repressed, inhibited by petty fears of losing my comfort zone. Otherwise I would venture further into the world and try to live up to my self imposed expectations. Seize the day! Rather than watch another one go by.
There was a time when I dared to dream of bigger and better things for myself. Not material things necessarily. More like intellectual, academic, and artistic achievements. Now I derive a slightly pathetic sense of accomplishment from simply completing an entry in my journal...

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Autumnal pondering

The colors of fall don't hit South Florida in the same spectrum-blasting way they do in the northern part of the country. There's gloom in the air and a sort of grayness dominates the scenery, and the leaves don't grasp for powerful tones before they wilt and die. They simply grow dull.
Some people equate the change of season with the natural progression of events that mark the passing of a year. For instance, Christmas with winter, 4th of July with summer, and so on. In that same way, they balance their moods and spirits for that particular time. Despite the tireless efforts by the ubiquitious members of the advertising world that splash every holiday into our subconsciousness with thoughts of commercial expenditures, a sense of what certain holidays should feel like still persists in our minds, albeit sometimes only in bursts of nostalgia and naiveté. Either way, it's highly probable that the events that created those childhood memories that we cherish, were probably as much of a task for our parents then as they are for us now.
When the passing of another season occurs down here, it is usually marked only by the telling of the almanac. It's summer or fall, only because we're told it is. But there is no correlating feeling to it, no indication in the weather. It's always hot as hell. For that reason it is often hard for northerners to adjust. Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas, and such.
Me, I just miss the colors that come with autumn.

Monday, November 03, 2003

What's next?

Hard to imagine what follows.
I've long since stopped believing in gods and the religions that come with them. Yet the physics question of energy always transforming itself into something else makes it difficult to imagine that it all ends when we die. Thus the common belief in a soul - the essence of what we are, at least energywise.
If our soul survives our physical death, what does it do next? Haunt the graveyards? Stick around to inspire the loved ones we left behind? Truly this last one is a romantic fantasy...that our spirit can look out for our children after we're gone...that we somehow still get to witness their development, the victories and failures in their lives.
I don't know. I stopped looking for answers to questions that can't be answered a long time ago. Yet every now and then I can't help but wonder.