Forgotten No More

8 07 2021

I’m back.

Nothing like a little adversity to push you to the keyboard. Life’s been tough but I have come to expect no less. I’m still at the warehouse. How my body has endured is a mystery, but if there is a silver lining from eight months of hard labor it’s that I’m damn sure physically fit for a guy my age.

Pushing tote tanks for 10 hours is still not something I want to be doing very much longer. On my own time, I am taking cloud computing classes. Learning new technical skills is exciting and I enjoy the challenge.

Last month I returned to Florida to see my father who had suffered a series of strokes. My mother is doing an admirable job caring for him even while she continues to work. My brother helped get Dad home from the hospital and I followed a week later to provide support in any way I could.

Mostly it was getting Dad up and down the stairs. I also sat with him as he watched old westerns at extremely loud volume on television. We didn’t talk much. He is still trying to regain basic functions. It was difficult to see him this way. As soon as I entered the house, I greeted him with a kiss to his temple to let him know I came with love.

It was nice to be back in the slow pace of the Florida panhandle again. Determined to leave politics and personal frustrations behind in Portland, I approached in a humble spirit. I was surprised to see the lingering damage of Hurricane Michael and realized the region is still very much in the recovery process. My time on the west coast had also sharpened insight for planning and engineering and I keenly took note of dimensions and intersections from the airport to my parents’ front door.

The humidity didn’t bother me as much as the string of unsequenced traffic lights on the main highway into Panama City. My rental car was a Toyota Prius which stuck out like a elite green thumb among all the loud full size pick-up trucks. It was a quiet ride to Port St. Joe and it took longer than the flight from Atlanta to Panama City.

Hence the nickname “Forgotten Coast.”

Coming back to where I spent my high school and college years was an emotional rush that triggered a lot of memories. Oddly enough, I was glad to be here, but wished the circumstances were different. I was optimistic Dad would survive but knew it was time for some difficult decisions to be made about care going forward.

I helped my mother bathe and dress him. He had done the same for me many years ago. Life’s unavoidable circle.





Taking Out The Trash

11 03 2021

Gonna go ahead and started writing again. I had hopes of hiring a literary agent and signing a book deal but no such luck. Probably have to put it all together myself and package it through Amazon. The ol’ boot strap way.

I’m still at the warehouse job. My body aches after every shift and I sleep mostly on my down time. The goal was to work backwards and starting on overnight shifts certainly fulfilled this mission. I could elaborate but why spoil the sequel. Next week I move to days having earned trust from management. This transfer, the hope is, will raise energy levels and improve mental health.

Still no communication from T but the hole in my heart remains.

In January, I took some PTO time from work and flew down to see my friend Alan in Los Angeles. A wise Chinese man, highly educated and well traveled, Alan sought to encourage me.

“Your life is filled with garbage,” he told me. “You need to take it out.”

He was right. In my slow and turtle way, I am doing this cleaning while trying to be fair and realistic. What can be recycled and donated for others to use and learn from? There are truths buried beneath the garbage. I’ll likely need a professional to explain why they are there and how to set them free.

Alan provided a nudge needed to begin the process.

He came to America on a mission with the church but has since left those antiquated institutions behind. He flows through the Holy Spirit now more than looking to God for answers. Religion, Alan says, is about following rules. Being a spiritual person is about believing in the heart.

“Pastors were the biggest hypocrites,” Alan told me, his tone direct and tinged with anger. “I got tired of the lies, cheating and fake bullshit.”

Alan said he left the church behind so he could be himself — happy and free.

My journey to see Alan came as a new President was inaugurated and southern California was under another coronavirus lockdown. The touristy places we visited — Santa Monica Pier, Griffith Observatory, Hollywood Blvd. — were nearly empty. A unique experience to remember for sure.

Alan instructed me to bring only one outfit. He gave me a bunch of clothes. It was his gift to me. They were nice clothes, reflecting a distinguished sense of style and fashion. If anything needed reviving from my time in the Oregon rainforest it was my fashion. The pandemic and overnight shift work had me surrendered to sweat pants most of the time.

In a guru like way, Alan pushed me to break out of my depression.

“You’re a winner,” he kept telling me. “Stand Up!, Speak Out!, Act Up!”

Although I have come back from the cliff of ruin — on more than one occasion — I cannot deem this latest turnaround a success just yet. I am still searching for my forever home. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to live in a place where more than one person can use the kitchen at a time and the bed is not in the living room. Solace, at its basic level, can be taken in the fact I am not on the streets in a tent as that population seems to be multiplying here in West Coast cities.

I strive to be altruistic with my new resources. I look for ways to help by increasing donations to charitable causes, lifting up friends in tangible ways and staying in closer contact with family. David and I continue to support each other in a manner partnerships were designed. We are lucky to have escaped the deadly virus.

Romantic love, meanwhile, is on hold. There needs to be time for healing.

T showed up in a dream the other day. Wearing a light colored sun dress, arms full of books and walking briskly out of a house where my brother and I were standing, talking in the front yard. I followed and tried to catch up but my movement was like slow motion and she disappeared in a crowd of people on a busy sidewalk. I came to a row of shops and looked in the windows to see if I spotted her but she was gone. Then a tiny sail boat full of happy people sailed away. Then I woke up. I wrote down all the details immediately.

I’m hoping to see a therapist soon. I want to feel that kind of love again. The next time I’m not gonna let it get away so easy.





Prologue

26 12 2020

In Ulysses, the great Irish writer James Joyce wrote “Think you’re escaping and run into yourself. Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

And so it is, I stood on the street corner that cold, rainy October day. Emotionally naked, I watched her drive away for the last time. Little did I know, though there were hints, but T would go on to ghost me. Not a word from her since. She was irritated with my stagnant life choices. My decision to take an entry level warehouse job had particularly annoyed her.

“Have you thought about starting your own company?” she asked at our last breakfast together.

Weeks later, I would find myself inside that warehouse working amid a coronavirus outbreak. Masked, gloved and trying to learn at a distance as noisy conveyor belts, alarms and honking forklifts sounded throughout the long, hard overnight shift. My world had changed drastically.

I was severely depressed and paralyzed by fear. All I did was work and sleep. My marriage was over, but unraveling its entanglements so that we could both exit without too much financial hardship was the challenge. An old bus driving buddy from Glacier moved into the area and reached out which got me out of bed on my off days.

The virus had taken its toll on the country and in the Democratically-run Pacific Northwest, restrictions were harsh. The election, thank God, is over, but a bitter divide remains. At the warehouse outside the city limits to the east, I find more diverse opinions expressed than at the hipster grocery store in the city’s affluent northwestern hills. The lack of enthusiasm here is striking and I sense a backlash brewing among some of the workers.

T — ever beautiful — still shows up in my dreams and the more I ponder our affair the more it seemed as if I had been looking in the mirror. She complained about her back hurting right before she dropped me off on that street corner. A couple months later, just days before Christmas I sat in the warehouse breakroom — its tables and chairs separated by plastic partitions with masked workers lumbering exhaustingly in and out. On the walls were words from the corporation’s list of leadership principles. This one hit home for me:

Have Backbone. Disagree and Commit.





Goodbye In Her Eyes

5 11 2020

It’s over.

Another obsession run its course. Like the others it hurts and I beat myself up for traveling this path yet again.

She was so kind during a time when kindness was in short supply. Beautiful in appearance: Slender, athletic, a near flawless complexion, perfect teeth and a presence much larger than her petite dimensions. There was this indigenous and playful spirit between us and we laughed often. It was nice.

“If there’s one thing I know about you, it’s that you’re a badass at work & in real life and you’ll over come this tough time,” she wrote in a letter from California after I got fired from the grocery store job.

That was where we met. I consider that job a gift from God and she came into my life at the right moment.

We went through the pandemic together, offering encouraging notes of support, sharing our struggles and pushing each other to be better. Our attitudes were reflective in a theme of fierce determination to succeed independently — To project confidence despite the world falling apart around us.

A chance for redemption. That was the hope.

I loved how she moved with purpose. She would tie that dark brown hair up into a ball on the top of her head and flash contempt at the oligarchy. Our blunt conversations reaffirmed so many of the principles we strived to achieve.

We trusted and confided in each other. We lifted each other up. That’s why it was great.

I was transparent about my situation and interest, maybe to a fault. I wanted more, but was unsure and too fearful to make a complete change. She was never far from my thoughts and when idle I would gaze into her photos and wish I was 15 years younger.

We held hands on the sidewalk and made out in the back of her car. It felt so natural. It was the affection I was starved for.

Our nascent relationship took a challenging turn last week as we ventured into the gorge for an overnight escape from the city. I sensed an awkwardness set in and soon it became clear the ideas I had for a future together were misplaced. “We’re just having fun, Johnny” she said.

My desire for more was a fantasy to her. I felt trapped by circumstances, commitments, guilt and regret. The pressure was nauseating.

The next day was tough. In the rain, she dropped me off on the street corner and in our departing embrace the disappointment in her eyes was overpowering.

“Don’t apologize,” she told me.

“I love you,” I said.

“I know,” she replied.

Thank you T for opening my eyes.

Thank you for waking me.





Vulnerability

19 09 2020

Sept. 14, 2020

What day is it? I don’t know anymore.

Smoke has covered the city for a week now. Hazardous air conditions added to the on-going health pandemic and civil unrest in a city that has become a magnet for political extremists.

I had intended to finish the travel blog about our train ride to Wisconsin, but plans change.

The job at the grocery store is over. I’d rather not go into the details there. Not now.

I’m still writing. It’s what I know and I can do it well and quick when needed. The election is seven weeks away although I doubt it will be decided during the first week of November — or possibly December.

Uncertainty, much like the smog in Portland, hangs over America. There are more than two camps out there even though we are given just two viable options on the ballot.

And while I’ve been pushed around, gas lit, humiliated — the list goes on and on — I am determined to persist.

Change has to happen. New communities are being born out of the novel coronavirus as leaders survey what matters most in life. The old ways are going up in smoke. Disinformation campaigns are fully operational. The foolish easily duped by silly and often outlandish conspiracy theories. Blame and condemnation get attention, but the real work involves trying to understand how government agencies function and what opportunities are available in the private sector.

This is where anger must be cast out. Let’s not degrade public service into some sick soap opera reality show and strive to have a healthy and prosperous society. Leaders have to be bold now and grasp the FACT that the country is on the wrong track and it’s time to make adjustments.

Change must take place. I feel it brewing inside my soul. I will not give up. I know what I want and need. I am not naive to think I can go it alone nor do I want to. I miss friends. I yearn for affection again.

We’ve seen the worst.

Now let’s go be better.





Building Update

3 09 2020

Hi,

Yes, i am still in America. It is not as bad as they say.

We visited a few Midwestern states for vacation. Traveling in the age of COVID-19 takes some getting used to. We took the train on this trip. Mandatory mask wearing for coach travelers and no access to the dining cart. It was a projected 46-hour ride — both ways.

We chose the Empire Builder.

It was a beautiful ride, sleep be damned. I did not realize how enchanting fields of corn, grain and sunflowers could be.

Cascadia

From Portland, Oregon, train travelers have multiple options. Amtrak operates routes to Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and beyond. The Empire Builder ends in Chicago. We got off one stop before, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was quite a journey.

The Washington stretch is nothing short of amazing. Traveling along the Columbia River Gorge, we were front row to spectacular views of mountains, waterfalls, farms, villages and fishing boats. Looking back, the train made good time.

We climbed out of the gorge and onto a plateau near Spokane, Washington. Once in Spokane, we hooked up with the train coming from Seattle. The Seattle cars were placed up front behind two engines. A dining car and an observation/lounge/cafe car separated the Seattle section from the coach and sleeper cars that had originated in Portland. The train was far from full, which allowed for proper physical distancing.

Yes, pandemic protocols were still in effect as we were required to wear face masks at all times, except when eating and drinking. I did my best to stay properly hydrated. Sleeping in coach chairs proved to be a challenge. Our car’s air cooling system had no problems. Perhaps Amtrak was testing its future chill car.

From Cascadia, The train makes one stop in Idaho and then tours through Glacier National Park and into Montana. This could be considered the high point of the route. Jagged mountain tops and crystal clear rivers. We were lucky enough to see Glacier and Blackfeet Nation lands on the “to” and “from” routes.

Eastern Montana and pretty much all of North Dakota are grasslands. Fields of grain and crops.  On some parcels of land there appeared to be the presence of hydraluic fracking operations. Wells extracting natural resources. Designated by a flame.

That process is called flaring. This is where we are now.

Good night, America. Write soon.

John

 

 

 





Still Here

10 07 2020

I’m still here and if you’re reading this so are you.

That’s a good thing. I hope you are not ready to throw in the towel. This has been one ass kicker of a year. I have aged and matured at a much faster rate in 2020 — that I can tell you.

There are still special moments. Those should be mentioned.

David and I drove out to Sauvie Island the other day. Gorgeous scenary just outside Portland. It’s early July and the sun is concealed by the clouds. This is a reality of living in the Pacific Northwest, along with the rain. I’m at acceptance with this.

SauvieIsland

There were not many people on the beach and of those we saw all, respectfully, kept their distance.

The wildlife here is amazing. Huge bird nests sit atop poles near the island’s northeast shores. Watching these sea hawks soar is interesting. We saw ospreys and eagles on our most recent visit. I shared an awesome moment with an osprey, it was one of pure synchronicity.

The bird flew over the Columbia River, letting the wind fill its strong wings. I stood on the river’s edge, upright at attention. I lifted my arm slowly above my right shoulder and held it in the air, palm open. The osprey responded with a cry.

It was beautiful.

Later, a plump bad eagle burst from a tree behind our spot. Taking off over the river, the bald eagle stretched its talons above the river’s waters, showing off it’s capable talents. Was this an exercise or serious salmon hunt, I wondered.

The visit to Sauvie Island was a relaxating, soul-restoring trip. Nature has always been my great healer. So many fond memories of those summers working in the parks. Yellowstone’s Wolf Lake will always be special to me.

Back to reality and urban city life during election year in America amid a pandemic and racial tensions. Tear gas, rioting, vandalism — have all come to town. Unbelievable. Even if the videos are being distorted to intenionally provoke an emotional element of society, it’s despicable.

Are we great yet?

I have a few questions for those of you who still care: What’s it gonna take for you to be happy? To be satisfied and content?? How hard is it to be considerate of others???

That’s all for now, folks. I’ll try to update ya next month.

Peace,

John





Pandemic Pains & Wisdom

19 05 2020

I am writing this to you wearing a surgical face mask. We are now entering phase two of this pandemic.

But all is not lost.

The buses still run in Portland. Ridership is down and unemployment rising. More people appear to be living and sleeping on the streets. Not a pretty sight in some cases. COVID-19 is turning the old town and Chinatown sections of the city into slums. I have been witness to awful screaming and fighting among the homeless. The city, much like the nation, often challenged to do more for the mentally ill.

The pandemic has brought forth all the pain America has to bare.

Personally, I’m in decent shape all things considered. Last week, an oral surgeon took three of my teeth. Extracting wisdom, as we say. The process of discovering a health problem was painful. X-rays determined surgery was needed and for the first time in good while, I drifted off to sleep. When I woke up the teeth were gone and my mouth full of bloody gauze. They wheeled me down to the car where David picked me up and drove us home.

Four days later I’m writing to you, readers and loyal followers to say thank you. Thank you for reading and supporting my endeavors through the years and the wonderful journey life has provided.

COVID-19

These are truly challenging times. I have lost dear friends to this pandemic. I have listened attentively to my friends, neighbors and co-workers concerns about society and government. The Coronavirus has impacted so many lives and created intersections that are not always fatal.

I have been privileged to meet the acquiantances of and become friends with some truly remarkable people. You will never forget those people you worked with through this pandemic. The level of learning I have experienced is off the charts. Not exactly the original job description of a housekeeper.

Helpers, scoundrels, the naive and dumb, egotiscal tech bros, mama hens and grizzled veterans have all been exposed. I have found who cares, who acts and who sits on the sidelines.

I have fallen in love at times and felt the sting of disappointment as well.

How we got forth as a world will be interesting.

We must re-evaluate what we prioritize, fund and take care of. We must change our behaviors and consumer habits. Most importantly, we have to look out for each other beyond wearing masks and checking symptoms.

Don’t let relationships reach a dead end without seeking or asking for help.

Pull yourself together and check on your spouse, partner, friend, family member, pet, building superintendent, area supervisor, etc. etc.

And remember, you got this.

See ya on the next travel adventure, hopefully.

Ciao for now.

John





Notes From The Virus Front Lines

22 03 2020

Where does one start when seeking a literary agent? Who should I approach? Is my story even worthy of book status?

All valid questions. I do think I have lived a remarkable life and walked a different path. I have also enjoyed the privileges of travel and being in place for important happenings.

Mexico was another example.

Play ball

I had pleasant interactions with locals in Oaxaca. In a clothing store a few blocks from the Zocalo, a young man helped outfit me with some Guayabera shirts. He tossed a few compliments my way and we bargained back and forth over the cost.  I wore one of the shirts to church Sunday morning. Ron invited us to a tiny Episcopal congregation where we met American missionaries and Mexican Christians. It was a delightful service in a modest setting.

Unlike the grand temples and cathedrals constructed under Roman Catholic eyes, this tiny Episcopal church felt more like a small, nurturing school. Here, we climbed to the rooftop and got our first panoramic view of Oaxaca. It was a nice moment to share with David.

After a couple of days, securing a tour to Monte Albán became the prime objective. This ancient mountaintop site was Mesoamerica’s first metropolis. It was breathtaking and worth the process of ascending to these sacred grounds. That process involved paying for a driver and guide. We rode in a small van with other tourists up the winding, dusty road to Monte Albán.

At the gates of this world heritage site, we were split into two groups — one for English interpretation and one for Spanish speakers. Getting past some of the vendors was challenging. They swarmed David as we hopped out of the van. At the mountaintop a man appeared promoting his reproduction of an ancient artifact — an Aztec ballplayer. David purchased the little athlete as our guide explained the history behind this long ago community.

Danzantes

Disease eventually came to Monte Albán, our guide explained, wiping out the people of the clouds. Evidence of this suffering is depicted in the Danzantes or rock art carvings found around the temples.

Where did this plague start? Was there no quarantine issued? No social distancing practiced?

The disease apparently was stronger than any medicine. And just like that a civilization disappeared.

As I write this blog post — going back through my notes and photographs — a new disease has its death grip on the world. These are difficult times to say the least.

Trying to describe what I have experienced recently is a hard task. The range of emotions expressed in my daily interactions here at home include stressed out grocery stores, cavalier attitudes by twenty and thirtysomethings, anger from the marginialized, concern for the sick and vulnerable and a lot of fear both justified and irrational.

I have also witnessed hope and courage from heroes. Not the costumed variety of an over-manufactured Hollywood model, but heroes in doctor’s masks and nurses’ gloves. Heroes driving trucks of supplies. Heroes bagging groceries and heroes working in sanitation.

Our better angels are winning. We will get through this.

 

 

 

 

 





The Hunt For A Literary Agent

11 02 2020

The search is on.

If I am to discover the book publishing process, maintaining this blog is essential. It’s time to get some of these stories in print before I lose recollection of them. The adventures are adding up, you see.

We just returned from Mexico, a week-long excursion into the southern state of Oaxaca, a valley community known for its “Day of The Dead” celebration.

Boy, do I feel dead alright.

I’m not sure what I picked up on the plane but three days after returning stateside I felt like I got run over by a tractor trailer. This wasn’t one of those Moctezuma’s revenge illnesses, but more a long the lines of cognitive paralysis.

Couldn’t type, put thoughts together or even rise from my bed for that matter. I was in this state for three days. It was horrible.

And, of course, it was cold, windy and raining in Portland. This is, after all, one of the primary reasons for traveling to Mexico — to see the sun again, near its zenith.

So let’s roll out of bed and retrace our steps south of the border. I worked my tail off over the holidays in order to have a “vacation.” The old days of two to three weeks paid time off automatically are a relic of the corporate past, almost like a supermarket checker.

With time off secured after a busy holiday season, I booked the airfare and going by one simple presentation to a group of seniors, decided Oaxaca was the place to get away to. It certainly satisfied my desire to do something different. Often when you mention Mexico the first thoughts are of the coastal resorts where cruise ships docked.

No, I wanted to go somewhere not yet ruined by ugly tourists.

So off to Oaxaca we went. Ron, our guide from the cathedral, booked us at his hotel. After 14 hours and three flights we arrived late at night. There was a note at the front desk from Ron saying he’d meet us for coffee in the morning. The hotel was certainly not luxurious by American standards, but had cozy rooms with tall ceilings, running hot and cold water and a quaint hacienda style patio feel.  Most importantly, it was in a central location to museums, restaurants and other historical sites.

At coffee the next morning, Ron pointedHotelOaxaca out the important places from the lending library where Western ex-pats gathered to the pastery shop where you could score a delish chocolate crossiant. The Zocalo, he said, is where we would find a browner, more indigenous population.

Ron took us, via the side door, into Oaxaca’s magnificant Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman. A beautiful baroque style structure, the former convent would serve as one of our landmarks for the week, it’s bells often ringing in the dawn and dusk hours.

TemplodeSantoDomingo

Our size set us apart from the locales. Here, we were tall. Ron, a seasoned traveler, said I had the look of a southern European and I did my best to engage the locals in a Spanish tongue, sometimes pulling off the conversation and other times steering the dialogue to Francais, English or letting the local define it.

Wherever we went I never felt like there would be a breakdown in communication. The delicate dance was to be as respectful at all times of the Mexican culture and customs.

And to have a good time. This was our mission.

To Be Continued