Sister Soothing House

14 05 2018

Julie was reading the book Sister Parish. We stayed with her for about month. The Oregon countryside was soothing.

We unloaded the Uhaul into a storage unit in the Portland suburb of Tualatin. The Jeep finally broke down on the way to the city so we had it towed to Corvallis for work. Julie graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in education. Corvallis, OSU’s home, reminded me of those small gritty college towns I had traversed as a sports writer early in my career. A small college town with a lot to prove.

The first week at Julie’s was tough. I had trouble breathing at night. It was cold. There were cats in the house and for some reason I began to have difficulty breathing. One night I was gasping for air so bad, David almost had to take me to a local hospital — none of which, he said, were highly rated online.

David prayed for me and the nerve attack subsided.

We prayed a lot at Julie’s. I started calling them ‘lift up’ prayers. It helped steel my resolve to our current situation. I continued to do phone interviews for writing work as we looked for apartments to rent in Portland, where the goal of landing a “real job” was the plan.

The weather was mostly wet and cold. “Welcome to Oregon, it rains a lot,” Julie said with a smile. Her house was surrounded by farms and timber. The neighbors had cows that would wander along the hills and moo loudly when feed trucks would arrive.

Seeing David connect again with his sister after all these years was special. Julie showed me family photographs from David’s youth that gave me joy and a new vision of the man I married.

Covered bridge near Scio.

The central Oregon farmlands were beautiful to these Florida strained eyes. Scio, Oregon is billed as the state’s covered bridge capital. The old wooden bridges were typically one-way quick bursts by vehicle. The farms near Julie’s sold eggs, milk and bison meat. I had never seen so many different farm animals. The children’s song, Old MacDonald Had A Farm sprung to mind.

At nights Julie would cook. David and I drove into Portland to look at apartments on most days. We said lift up prayers every morning. TBN disappeared from the cable television in our room, but David managed to find sermons on his smart phone app. One of the cats would tolerate my presence but they were still shy about touching. Maggie, the skinny calico, liked to sleep in our bed under the covers and would hiss if you got near.

We got lucky on the fourth place we looked at in Portland. The phone call message was surprising. A deal we had not previously heard — certainly not in Fort Lauderdale. We told Julie the good news and David’s brother Russ helped us load up the Uhaul again.

We spent about a month at that hilltop cottage with Julie. I learned how to breathe again. The quiet peaceful farmlands had provided time for reflection and rest. We were ready for a new challenge.

 

 

Advertisements




Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star

30 04 2018

From San Antonio we continued westward into the southwestern desert. The BMW got an oil change in El Paso and I pulled off the interstate in Tucson, Arizona to do a telephone interview with Crater Lake National Park. I talked for about an hour with a recruiter for the park’s lodging concessionaire. We had a delightful conversation and agreed nature is a great healer.

The Uhaul got an inspection upon entering California and was quickly cleared when no plants, fruit or tropical fish were found. In Blythe, we stayed at one of the scariest motels I have ever set foot in. It was so dirty, I slept on top of the bed fully clothed. You get what you pay for and $47 basically got us a roof. We hit the road before dawn and began a beautiful drive through mountains of wind farms. We bypassed Los Angeles and stopped in Bakersfield, staying at a much better hotel on a street named for the late country music legend Merle Haggard.

On our final night in Redding, California, I received an e-mail from the Crater Lake recruiter indicating they would be pursuing other candidates upon receiving an unfavorable reference from the concessionnaire at Glacier National Park. This stung greatly considering the dedication I demonstrated during that summer in Montana and the many friendships forged. I could only surmise there were some shenanegians at play and decided not to inquire further. I felt betrayed.

The final leg of the trip into Oregon was one of the lowest points in my life. I began questioning all of life’s moves and wondering why God had brought me to this point. I was filled with extreme sadness — not only for myself but for David. My inability to provide equitable financial support during our 10-year relationship was embarrassing and had placed us into a situation beyond hardship.

And then the cold hit. Temperatures dropped as we entered Oregon. David’s sister, Julie, lived on farm land near Scio in a lovely English style cottage house on top of a hill. Julie had come to our aid like no one else could or would. She gave me a big welcoming hug when we met. I needed that hug in the worst way.

Oregon farm land

Julie is a few years younger than David and a widow. Her husband passed away a few years ago. He was President of the federal metals credit union. Her house is the most organized and clean home I had ever seen. Julie lives with two cats — Maggie, a calico and Fergie, a plump ginger. The cats, however, didn’t take warmly to their new visitors. They hissed at me whenever I would attempt to pet them.

Julie laid down three rules as we unpacked:

“No politics, no preaching and no marijuana in the house,” she said. “I don’t think we should be a nation of stoners.”

I was ok with all three. Julie’s bookcase revealed she was a conservative thinker. She also differed from her brother on religion and did not appear to practice any sort of spirituality. Three thousand five hundred miles and eight days later, our trip was over. We were in a new house in new territory yet to be explored.

 

 





Bottoms Up

26 05 2017

Here we are starting over again. Looking for work after a brief flirtation with politics. In the gutter looking up at the stars, wrote Oscar Wilde.

The summer approaches again in Florida. I have become numb to the lasting heatrays and all of the complexities of urban dwelling. I rarely go to Miami anymore. I don’t have enough money to go many places.

David and some friends have encouraged me to get back in the gym. I’ve been playing golf and basketball again and swimming regularly. I’m surprised how well my body has held up.

I considered running again for the state house but after two months on the trial determined it was the wrong district and wrong role. I remain in contact with friends from the park service and maintain hope a position will open up. It would be nice to breathe fresh mountain air again.

Last week, David and I attended a presentation from the Sierra Club. Members of the executive committee discussed pollution of Florida’s waterways and various other environmental concerns. I asked one of the speakers if she felt South Florida had an overpopulation problem.

“The world does,” was her response.

The arrival of more and more people in Florida means draining the swamp to house them. There is another way, however, but it would take acts of kindness, sacrifice and generousity to get there. Not exactly known traits a keen political observer would recognize from current Republican leadership.

In many parts of the South Florida shoreline sit towering condominums and apartment buildings. For half of the year they operate at significantly less capacity due to retreating Canadians. There are quite a few old buildings on the east side of Interstate 95 in South Florida. Old properties, in some cases. In dire need of rehabilitation.

And condemnation.

After recognizing a problem, it takes a community — or village, if you prefer, — to improve a habitat fit for all humanity. Good deeds, Pat from Palm Beach tells me.

“You can only resist and be against everything for so long before it wears you out,” Pat said during our recent phone conversation.

Living positively with a can do spirit while avoiding the pitfalls negativity produces is the plan. This my inner call to action.

It won’t be easy. Florida is such a weird state. It’s diverse melting pot is, at times, exhausting.

I take comfort in the fact that periods of hardships strengthen resolve and make families better when they emerge from a struggle. My friend Geraldo is doing so much better. His recovery brings tears to my eyes. My brother is settling into life as a divorced father. I wish him patience and compassion to continue giving the girls a healthy upbringing.

And now I look to David, my loyal husband, an offer a humble plea. After rehabbing our reps in Florida, I hope we can visit your family on the West Coast. Our eight years together has not been equitable in meeting the in-laws. I’d like to change that.

For the better, of course.

Koreshan State Historic Site

 

 

 





Holiday Hibernation

13 12 2011

I’ve been sleeping a lot lately. Much more than even I am accustomed to. I’ve always had a passion for sleeping, which has aggravated my mother to no end.

“You’re sleeping you’re life away!, John!!,” she would declare when I would come home from college and stumble downstairs around two in the afternoon.

One year I spent the holidays with my aunt Tammy and uncle Doug in Montgomery, Alabama and took a job at the neighborhood Winn-Dixie, working the “graveyard” shift. I was part of a stocking crew that would arrive at the store as they were closing the doors to the public. We usually worked from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and, as I remember we had a supervisor who was a real joy to be around. Sarcasm fully intended.

Looking back, I can understand why he was such a jerk to me. I was the college kid, working a few months to have some spending money for the next semester. And he was a small man in stature, and having found a smaller person to boss around was surely a delight for him.

I do not remember his name, only his chain smoking habit and coke bottled glasses. This will be the last I write of him.

So after working the graveyard shift, I would come home and eat breakfast and then go to bed. This seemed to aggravate my aunt Tammy, who was pregnant at the time and experiencing the lonely housewife blues.

My uncle Doug even gave me the nickname “Rip” — short for Rip Van Winkle.

When people often remark how young I look for my age, I usually credit the complement with my many years of sleep.

“I’ve slept a lot,” I tell them.

And it is the truth. The last two months, I’ve no doubt been horizontal much more than I have been vertical.

David calls it a destructive pattern. He’s probably right.

I’m over living in Panama City, I’m over being unemployed, I’m over being broke and I’m over fighting losing political battles.

So I have gone inward and slept. And slept. and slept some more. Each day waking with dwindling hope for the future.

I realize only I can break this behavior and, thankfully, there is incentive. David and I will spend Christmas in Port St. Joe with my parents and little brother who is bringing his young and growing family down from Alabama. Being around his new baby girl should brighten the holidays.

And then there is a blast from the past arriving soon.

Bjork, a longtime friend, from my Texas years, is coming to visit at the end of the month. He lives in England now and is a college professor. We haven’t seen each other in nearly five years and it will be exciting to catch up as Bjork has arranged for a short sidetrip to New Orleans, providing a refreshing change of scenery.

And I shall be well rested for the occasion.





Adopting a New View of Parenting

15 03 2011

We’re in the midst of ‘Spring Break.’ An American rite of passage. And I’m staying as far away from the action as I can.

Been there. Done that.

As a college prepster at Troy, my fraternity brothers and I made the annual trek to PCB to engage in the festive atmosphere. We would hit the beach during the day, chug a lot of beer, talk about sports and gaze at the girls before getting cleaned up for a night at the clubs.

Places like the Boardwalk and the Summit are still etched in my mind. I was such a dork back then. I wasn’t much into physical fitness in college, not like I am now. I was more concerned with equations and hypothesis, particularly when it came to sports teams.

So, I kept my shirt on at the beach. No need to let — as some of my fraternity brothers dubbed it — “the bird chest” out of its cage.

They say college is all about self discovery. I discovered, thanks to my fraternity, the differences and similarities that bring young men together. Beer also breaks down a lot of barriers.

These days, most of my fraternity brothers are married with children. I wonder what it’s like.

Tonight, I attended a presentation on adoption in the State of Florida. The attorney, a Harvard educated Jewish woman from New York, explained the situation for same-sex couples and for the first time, I thought long and hard about fatherhood.

There are so many children in the State’s system in need of loving and caring homes. Crime and poverty have left innocent children yearning for a positive parental environment. This being another discovery from the campaign trial.

The fact that I am no longer drawn to the beach parties or long nights clubbing is a sign that I am ready to begin a new chapter in my life. My relationship with David has truly made me wiser and healthier and I would like nothing more than to continue on that path through mentorship.

Through the course of the campaign, as I visited community after community hit hard by the recession, I came to realize how privileged my childhood was. My parents made many sacrifices in order for my brother and I to live comfortably. This I now see clearly. By the same token, thanks to my travels and adventures as a journalist, I am keenly aware of the dangers out there and influences that can lead to broken homes.

So, in conclusion, if I can make a difference — for the better — in the life of a disadvantaged child, then I feel it is my duty as a humble public servant to volunteer.

And with this I have graduated from ‘Spring Break’ as we have known it.

 

 

 





Petition Drive: The Final Week

10 05 2010

Mother’s Day is over. Thank God. But we will not go into that angst.

This is the final week of the petition drive. It will be a miracle if I qualify, but the process has been enlightening to say the least.

Things I have learned: 1. Bank employees aren’t real big fans of Democrats 2. Young people could care less about voting and move around way too much. 3. There’s about two degrees of separation between me and the District’s current rep.

Nevertheless, I have talked with a lot of people and listened to many concerns and issues. Never once has my sexuality been an issue.

This week includes more meetings and events and I will continue to forge ahead. I would write more, but, quite frankly, I’m exhausted. Good night.





A New Perspective on Family

9 03 2010

I woke up around 10 a.m. Sunday morning. It was one of those rare mornings on the trip that Jim didn’t rouse me at the crack of dawn. And for that I was grateful.

I called Keith and he said he’d be by the hotel in about an hour to pick me up. I was looking forward to spending the day with my brother, Courtney, his loving wife and their beautiful baby girl Dillan.

Keith took me back to their townhouse in nearby Irving, a suburb of Dallas that for many years was home to the city’s beloved professional football team — the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys were my childhood favorite team and I watched many a game on Sundays after church. Dad usually watched them with me, but for some reason, he never rooted for the Cowboys. Dad always sided with the team playing the Cowboys. Maybe this was his way of establishing a rivalry between us.

Keith always rooted for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, even when they won just a couple of games. He was loyal like that. Still is.

But on this Sunday, football was far from anyone’s mind. At the townhouse, Courtney pulled out their wedding album and suddenly we were skipping down memory lane. They had been married just a few short years, but the images seemed like so long ago.

For a guy my age, I haven’t been to many weddings. Just not my scene. Maybe one day I will tie the knot. They say it’s a life changer. Much like having a child. My little brother has done both and I am very proud of him.

Looking through the photos with Courtney was a bonding experience. My mother looked so happy. It was fun dancing with her at the reception.

After looking at pictures, we went shopping in the SouthLake section of Dallas. Turns out, dining with a toddler can be quite entertaining. Dillan was well behaved but she requires a lot of attention. You gotta make sure she doesn’t put just anything in her mouth. And luckily, she didn’t throw her food at anyone. I’m pretty sure I did that as an infant.

After we were finished, Keith left a hefty tip. “We like to eat out just like everybody else,” he said.  This was a new perspective on family.

I was impressed at how well Keith navigated the stores, especially that bustling Barnes & Noble, with a loaded down stroller. It made me think about the summer in New York and noticing all those young couples pushing their baby strollers through Central Park.

Strolling through SouthLake

I remember the look on their faces. For some, it was a look of sacrifice, while others appeared downright miserable. And then, there was the couple whose smiles could light up Broadway.

That’s what I saw from Keith and Courtney. I guess you would call it joy.

That night, after baby girl was put down to sleep, Keith helped me download some songs to my I-Pod. We talked a little about the upcoming college bowl season and then it was time for me to leave.

Courtney gave me a big hug and she asked Keith to take a few pictures of us. When I left, she had a tear in her eye. I hope it was a tear of joy. I really don’t care to be pitied. It’s way overrated.

On the ride back to the hotel, Keith and I mostly talked about the economy. He said the recession was starting to creep into his health care sector and, like most of us, he was none too thrilled.

“It’s going to get better,” I tried to assure him. At that point, the entire trip’s air of optimism had taken hold, “And, we’ll all be stronger for it.”

When I got back to the room, Jim was already fast asleep. We had a 12-hour drive back to Panama City ahead of us.

And I was ready to go home.