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.





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.