We’ll Never Own

August 8, 2009

It is a life in a city where seasons never get a fair shake. Expecting dusty air and a warm blanket of modest humidity you are greeted instead with an unexpected sense of cool comfort, nearly causing you to look at your neighbor taking the garbage out to meekly state, “A bit chilly.” It’s far from a true chill in the air – 85 degrees and approaching midnight; this observation leads you to declare that everything is relative. The smoke from a cigarette drifts away from you gently rather than clinging to the air in a static position when you can see it backlit from a yellow streetlight, but some things remain static – the neighbor at the computer in the upstairs window, glancing down at you on occasion with an air of familiarity even though he never waves back when you see him in the front yard, hoisting cables and receivers into a windowless panel van early every Sunday morning. The crowd at the coffee shop remains static, but comfortably so – an ever-expanding group of people you smile and nod to for five weeks in succession before making small talk at the bar, only to be followed by another two months of the same until idle conversation begins – about the weather – outside at the tables stained with round watermarks of previous drinks, evidence that life before you has, indeed, existed.

The gust of cold air in August, replacing the expected monsoon, leaves one with a lack of reference for what is to be expected, even for what is acceptable bundled weather. Suddenly those nights of walking barefoot in the foam of breaking waves on Redondo seem unacceptable, but those nights of warming whiskey shots on a deserted pier behind the Embarcadero seem well placed. Music echoing from the open bedroom window is distant but near, making you nostalgic for memories you don’t have, for lovers you never embraced, for tear-inducing sacrifices you never had to make. It does stir in you, though, that maybe your second chance at getting things right never got a fair shake; circumstances clouded the best of intentions, but if we can’t weather this, then I can’t even begin to see the fucking point. The cigarette is burned without more than two humble drags, and another summer night in the city where the seasons don’t even get a fair shake is lost to the future emotions that we’ll never own, but we’ll always claim.


Atheists vs. Inauguration: Who Is Right?

January 17, 2009

I found this article from The Orange County Register to be quite amusing. Apparently, as the article summarizes, a group of atheists are suing Saddleback’s founding pastor Rick Warren in order to block him from referring to God at the inauguration of President-Elect Barrack Obama. A couple of things that make this interesting:

1) From what I’ve studied, individual atheists heavily dislike being identified by a singular agenda. I will fault to referring to atheists as a class of people in this short article, since we are clearly discussing a group of (relatively) similar people (atheists) against another group of (relatively) similar people (Christians). Nonetheless, just as atheists do not believe in God, they do not believe in organized beliefs of relatively any kind. I do not believe that atheists as a whole are being hypocritical here, just the 11 or so atheists who are apart of this lawsuit. The very fact that these individuals have united under a common agenda or belief (that God should not be mentioned) goes against the very foundations of what they are supposed to stand for. Of course, it’s hard not to label a group who are united by their lack of unity, but that’s the seemingly obvious problem for those atheists whom subscribe to that theory. 

2) I will readily admit that I believe wholeheartedly in the separation of church and state. On a fundamental level, I passively disagree with any marriage of the two. In my mind, nothing would be scarier for myself or this country than a president who runs things according to his own (naturally) interpretation of faith. I would much more readily vote for a moral atheist for president who looks at things concretely and subjectively than an evangelical Christian who promises to do everything by the Word of God (think: Bush). 

That rant aside, I do readily agree that mentioning God in an inauguration speech deeply insults and infringes on the rights of atheists in this country. Conversely, I also agree that not mentioning God deeply insults and infringes on the rights of Christians in this country. While the atheists argue separation of church and state, Christians argue tradition. Both, in this case, are valid arguments. If you don’t believe “tradition” to be a valid argument, just wait until the atheists play that trump card if religion is suddenly introduced to a government ceremony where it was previously absent. 

In essence, the second portion of my rant is that atheists are wanting to embrace the same right that they currently are angry at the Christians for having. This is just another example of both sides hating on the other for completely hypocritical reasons. If a person was trying to truly embrace the “correct” and “moral” sides of this continual argument, you would be stuck in the middle as both have glazed over the rights of the others in order to advance their own agenda. In actuality, it’s just sickening. 

My opinion? There’s no such thing as “equal rights” in this country. Atheists are never going to have equal rights to Christians, and vice versa. If the scales were ever tipped in the “favor” of the atheists, they would be embracing the same rights that they claim are unfair for others to have. So who is right? Neither side; they are both wrong. Obviously, with the inauguration looming, tradition will hold. Does it suck for atheists, Buddhists, Hindus and other American citizens whom do not participate in one of the three monotheistic faiths? Completely – and it is unfair to them. However, these citizens also need to realize they live in a global community – and “tolerance” is a concept that seems to be forgotten on both sides. If we ever become advanced enough in this country to consider a non-Judeo-Christian president, and then that president is forced to swear on a book he/she doesn’t believe in (The Bible) then that is when the argument against God and the Bible will have a foothold, and that is when the practice will cross the line from tolerance and custom to strong-armed majority rule and wrongful enforcement.

Rick Sanchez vs. Joe the Plumber

January 16, 2009

I have a new and profound respect for CNN’s Rick Sanchez. Once again citing the  non-thinking American’s political hack Joe the Plumber, and his recent comments in Israel where he lashed out at the media, this happened: 

How to Use the Restroom in Jerusalem

January 13, 2009

Working late tonight at 1:30am, I wanted a smoke but was out. So I headed on out to my local Chevron. The guy in front of me in line was chatting, rather knowledgeably, about the Hebrew language with the cashier. As I was buying my smokes, I continued the conversation with the cashier on the Hebrew language – he has studied it quite a bit through his Bible study, and we got to speaking about the old and new versions of the language. I told him about my time in Israel nearly three years ago and relayed a rather humorous language story that happened to me in Jerusalem. 

David, Jamie, and myself were having lunch with Jamie’s friend Sean (from Phoenix but living in Jerusalem at the time) in the newer portion of Jerusalem, off of the trendy Ben Yehuda Street. I had to use the restroom and couldn’t find it in the two-story half-bookstore half-cafe restaurant. I ran into a waiter whom didn’t speak English. Using the little Hebrew I knew at the time, I asked in Hebrew if he could point the way to the restroom. Problem is, I confused the word “sharoutime” (restroom, roughly translated) with the word “sharoute” (taxi), and basically asked the waiter: “Excuse me, sir, where is your taxi so I can urinate?”

He was confused. 

I view this experience as having been of great value, forever setting the two similiar words apart in my mind. Otherwise, this blog may have ended up being titled “Place to Urinate” in Hebrew.

Hostel Response Revisited

January 5, 2009

On July 7, 2005, I woke up at Mike Skon’s Rancho Santa Margarita apartment. It was meant to be a final day of fun in Orange County immediately after returning from my solo Pacific Northwest road trip. Instead, while making myself breakfast, I turned on CNN and saw the London bombings on television. I wrote a blog about it that morning, using a recent scenario as an example of peace. Not three days before, on Independence Day, I had been at Hosteling International’s Fort Mason location. Originally in the room were myself, a Londoner named Simon, and a Japanese backpacker named Mark. The three of us that day met (on seperate occassions) two new members of our shared dorm room, Sammy and Hazib. Sammy was from Israel; Hazib was from Palastine. 

The three of us became concerned about what might happen that night when they meet in our dorm room. None of us knew what to expect; they each seemed pretty passionate about their backgrounds. After watching the fireworks from over the Bay and all of us consuming our fair share of beer and cheap wine, we eventually all sat down and had a large group discussion until 3am. Sammy and Hazib hated each other at first; the next day, they went out in the city as two friends to explore San Francsico. I wrote the following that day, and I think it is still applicable for the horrible war going on right now between Israel and Palastine. It’s my personal belief that hosteling should be a mandatory part of growing up for all humans:

“There is no room for hate in the hosteling culture, and that is one of the goals of hosteling: for young people from different and often opposing countries to come together and sit and talk and find peace, with the goal that the same thng can happen on a larger scale someday. Utopian, yes. Simplistic, perhaps at times. But when you see hate expressed on such violent levels from both the “good” and “bad” sides, you can’t help but think that some problems could be solved by community, by friendship, by taking the time to sit and talk, have a beer, and understand your fellow human being.” 

2009 Goals

December 29, 2008

I’ve never been one for the New Years Resolutions; I feel there’s too much negative emotion and connotations behind it. If it works for you that’s great, but I just can’t seem to put resolutions in a positive light. Sure, everything sounds good (even those resolutions you don’t tell others) but then they begin to dwindle down. And I hate doing things from the get-go of the New Year, because eveyone invaribly asks with a chuckle, “Is that a resolution?” The advancement of the year just seems like a marker of the reminder of the last time you did something – whether it be smoking a cigarette or having a delicious fried chicken nugget. Last year I sincerely had things I wanted to work on, things I wanted to start fresh on, but I got sidetracked in all that around mid-April, as previously described. 

This is the first year I’m going to set some actual goals to achieve. I believe it’s far easier and productive to reach a specific goal rather than make an empty resolution: “I’m going to be nicer to people!” Can we get more vague? Some of these goals of mine are a bit vague, yes, but can all be measured. In addition, beginning the last week of January, I’m going to revisit each of these goals at the end of every month on my blog. This will not only serve as a reminder for me, but will also be a form of accountability for myself; I’m laying all of these goals and intentions in front of you, and to be honest I’m rather prideful about some of these things and don’t want to lose face. Also, I hope that the goals and monthly evaluatons will serve as a bit of encouragement to you, as well. Feel free to write your goals and updates in the comments, and follow along. It’ll be an interesting way to keep ourselves on track in 2009!

Goals for 2009:

  • Lose 50lbs – I’m chubby, and don’t like it. Twice in the past two years I’ve started with personal trainers. The first time, I fell down the stairs and broke two ribs; the second, I was in a large car wreck. I’m not doing that a third time. Rather, I’m just going to begin daily excercise and eating right. Sound simple enough? I’m at 245 now, and want to be below 200. 
  • Finish and Release History Book About a year ago I started work on a history book for kids in conjunction with one of my freelance clients, Paper Models, Inc. The past year of medical fun got in the way of that. I’m going to finish it and get it out. 
  • Continue Developing Writing Business The past two months have been spent slowly stepping in to the freelance writing pond and seeing what’s out there. I’m now going to be more aggressive in my approach, and continue my buildup of corporate clients as well as sending out queries for magazine articles. 
  • Get My California Site in Google’s Top 5 Lofty goal, but I think it can be done. The site will be launching in increments over the next several weeks, and we’ll begin doing advertising shortly thereafter. 
  • Become 100% Debt Free – This is probably the loftiest of all goals, especially considering that I technically own two financed cars at the moment and my medical bills for the last year are outrageous. Assuming the insurance claims all go through okay, there are some other issues here and there. Achieving this goal will go hand-in-hand with the success of the writing buisness and the California site, as I will be throwing money at this best until it is dead. 
  • Take Two One Week Vacations – At the same time, I’m not going to burn myself out. I want to take one week-long vacation with Justin back to the Bay Area (we want to explore more of Napa and the Redwoods, too), and then one week-long vacation backpacker-style by myself to some place I’ve never been. I’ve really been wanting to explore the East Coast or go to Tokyo, but I promised Justin he could accompany me on those trips. I would really love to explore Toronto (I’ve been there, but just as a layover), Mexico City, or Belfast.
  • Read Two Books A Month – I love the library; I don’t know why it took me so long to get over Gilbert’s sorry excuse for a branch to actually appreciate the library again. In addition to the slew of business and marketing books I browse through, I am committing to actually reading two books a month. I got a slight head start for January (sshhhh!!) as I’m working my way through Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. I don’t have a second book selection for this month yet; any suggesstions? I prefer non-fiction.
  • Be Within One Year Of Obtaining My Degree: Self-explanatory. 
  • Take part in NaNoWriMo ’09 The National Novel Writing Month is each November, and each year thousands of writers commit to pounding out a novel in one month. No pre-done work, no rough drafts already written. My upcoming book Avenue of the Giants originated in NaNoWriMo ’05 – yeah, I know it didn’t get done in a month. I list this as a goal, but unlike all my other goals, this cannot be followed up with each month. The reason I list this, however, is to remind myself. Invariably, every year since 2005, I forget until the second week of November. I have no idea what I want to write; a couple non-fiction book ideas I have swimming around my head would take too long, but I would like to compile a book of short stories. 
  • Release Book 4, Avenue of the Giants. Long story short: “Avenue of the Giants” was originally supposed to be a book about my road trip to Seattle, with parts of the Christian/gay struggle thing being told along the way. I then decided to include my Israeli trip in the book, and it became “Over Israeli Skies” and “Peace and Destruction from the Ramparts At Damascus Gate.” Well, I dropped the gay/Christian back story and told that in blog-format in a seperate book, Dear World – A Novel that I released last month. The book then sold to a major New York publisher whom I’m not allowed to really name. But you’ve heard of them. My deadline was extended, and now my book is on hold until the economy stabalizes. They’re releasing other books in the meantime, just not mine. Or the other dude’s book that was supposed to be released alongside of mine. You’d really think they’d release his book; you’ve heard of him. But nonetheless, my book is in book purgatory. Come April, if nothing is done with a new release date, I have the option of cancelling my contract and taking it to a different publisher. Oh, and to double the trouble, they decided that the Israeli content (which was a good chunk of the book) was too controversial at this point in time (who knew?) so that part of the book was cut off. The editor decided the book did well just as a narrative of the Seattle trip, and wanted it to end – I kid you not – at Huntington Beach. Because I don’t need a third book that fucking ends at Huntington, we compromised and decided it should end at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, waiting for the plane to Israel. If I take it back and shop it around, my character may just board the damn plane and actually fly to the Middle East. 
  • Join Or Begin A Local Writer’s Group – The ones I’ve tried to attend so far in the Valley blow. Just because you’re overwright, opinionated, and own a laptop does not mean you’re a writer, guys. Just because you’re a redhead with nine cats and a non-sexual fetish for year-round Christmas sweatshirts does not make you a writer, gals. I want to begin something new, preferrably along the light rail line. 
  • Become Involved with 1 Film Project – I’ve done these before, and they were among the most exicting work I’ve done. I will keep an eye out for opprotunities to do more of these. 

So those are my goals for 2009, or some of them at least. What are yours?

Goals for 2009 – Part 1, The Review

December 24, 2008

I have a feeling this might be a long post. 

I’m not quite sure how to begin, so I’ll just dive right in: 2008 has been weird. I’m not going to be one of those people whom says it completely sucked; it had it’s good moments. There are some goals I wanted to achieve for 2008, and some hopes I had. Unlike New Year’s 2007, which felt like any other day, something about 2008 made it really feel like a new beginning (to me, at least), and I am sitting here relatively surprised by how the year progressed. 

At the beginning of the year, I was in my final semester at Mesa Community (I’d been balancing general education classes on the associates level with upper-division courses at University of Phoenix; a backward way of doing my degree, but it was working) and was doing great in work, school, and life in general. In February, Justin and I (not together at this point) took a trip to San Francisco, using up an airline credit that had been previously accumilated while we were still living together (under the coupe to attend Skon’s wedding together in Orange County). On the trip, we realized we missed each other, but none of us were ready to admit it yet – which was probably for the best at the time. A month later, we were back together. The year was continuing to go great, and I had even secured a book deal for my (at the time, second) book, Peace and Destruction from the Ramparts at Damascus Gate. It was due to the publisher on April 15. A week before, feeling that I was rushing it, the publisher called to give me an extension to September 15th. 

While April 15th proved not to bring a contract and royalty check, what it did bring was a massive five-car pile-up on the I-10 on my way to work at University of Phoenix. I was the first car hit in a chain of four, severely hurting me and totaling my Suzuki Forenza. Ironically, not even 48 hours before the accident, I was driving on the steep and bumpy Apache Trail near Roosevelt Lake, taking it extra easy on my car so as not to cause any damage. That accident, just like the one I had in late 2001 that totalled my Chevy Blazer (also not-at-fault) was a change in course that altered the majority of my year. I was in severe pain for months on end, and could only halfway function via a nice cocktail of muscle relaxers and pain killers. Of course, this caused my job performance to take a downward spiral – not only was I only working a 40-hour a week job about 15 hours a week for several months, but I was completely high on the medications when I was at work. I also had to drop out of school for the semester. 

Of course, the insurance claim for the accident took forever due to five cars being involved and the length of my treatment (it’s just now being resolved). Other things started happening which took their toll, not the least of which was Justin’s collapse at work causing his head to split open and a few key vertebrea to break. That happened in May; he just returned to work two weeks ago. While my job performance only partly recovered, I parted ways with University of Phoenix in mid-October. After a short stint at a coffee shop, I decided to begin pursuing my freelance writing full time. November supported me well, but December has had it’s setbacks, which is expected during the holidays. January looks promising, as do some other gigs I have lined up in the freelance world for the next part of the year. 

In an effort to end on a high note, I was also able to release my (now) second book, “Dear World – A Novel” on the three-year anniversary of the release of my first book, “Churches, Pubs & Hostels.” I am currently reviewing some goals I set for myself the year previous; and also looking at what I can set out to accomplish this next year. It is amazing what I feel is possible with having – really – all the time in the world to work on my projects and learn what I need to learn. It is exciting and overwhelming to not have to be anywhere in particular every single day. When I was chained for the past four years in a cubicle, I would often daydream about the things I could accomplish if time were not an issue. I can’t yet say that money is not an issue – it most certainly is, but one that is being taken in with a bit of smarts and personal restructuring. For now, time is not an issue. I can write, read, dream, and think about what the next steps are. 

Even in these last two months as a freelancer, I’ve been operating to a fraction of my potential. If I had to go back to a 9-5 tomorrow, I would feel that I’ve relatively squandered the last two months – even though I accomplished a good deal. I’ve allowed myself to do this as a way of relaxing and looking ahead to what I need to do – and with the new year and the end of the holidays, I have nothing but a desire to dive right in. Never before in my life have I had no major hinderance to some of my key goals – now or never, right? If I don’t go for broke and succeed, I have no other external factor to blame. 

More to come soon.