Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Two things happened. I was down visiting the fam a few weeks back and my aunt Lisa had her laptop logged in to Facebook. Most of my family have accounts. She was showing my grandma and my cousins photos of my wedding, my mom and uncle's drive to get there, and old family photos from when they were kids. For the first five minutes or so, I sat in a recliner, uninterested. Then I pulled the stick out of my ass and joined in. We scrolled through all kinds of photos, most of which my mom, aunt, or uncle had posted humorous comments on. Lisa and my grandma told stories as the old photos stirred up the old memories. It was a lot of fun.
The second thing was this morning. I was laying in bed and I was just thinking how disappointed I was in myself in terms of the kind of friend, son, nephew, etc. that I am. All I could think about was all the people that are so important to me that I had not called in so long. I realized while I so often think about these people and what they're going through in their lives, I don't go the distance to let them know it hardly as much as I should. And it was overwhelming to think of where to begin. I get up in the morning, I do my exercise, I go to work, I blog (gulp), I come home, take out the trash, cook dinner, do the dishes, maybe watch an hour or so of TV, maybe write, then I go to bed. This is the typical day and there is not a lot of wiggle room in there to be all that I wish I could be to everyone that I care about. I'm not Mother Teresa, of course. I do still require some time to work on my own stuff.
It was around this time that I began to reconsider my anti-Facebook feelings. Ideologically, I still felt I was right about the whole concept. But I was also faced with the guilt that I was out of touch with my friends and family and overwhelmed by the task of making it right, especially when so many of them live so far away. Which was more important to me, to be true to my ideology or to be current and more involved with my loved ones (Joe, you are a "loved one," fyi)? My mom was on Facebook and wanted to see photos of her son for crying out loud! Was it maybe time to get off my high horse a little and sacrifice some pride? It might just be.
After all, I can shape my experience to be exactly as I want it. I don't have to turn into a junkie; I do have the will power to use it and not become enslaved by it. Therefore, if I do decide to join, I vow to go by a certain code of Facebook conduct:
I vow to never update my lame-ass "status message," much less do it every five minutes with the most asinine reports imaginable.
I vow to not take drunken photos every time I go out with thought of how they will make me look on Facebook.
I vow to not devote 56 hours to creating a profile so detailed and nuanced that it could serve as my clone. If you know me, you know me. Don't come to my profile to learn about my deepest fears and favorite pizza toppings.
I vow to not stalk or be stalked by every person I had a class with in high school. Long lost friends, sure. Lab partners from sophomore year, no.
I vow to never take one of those childish, brain-squishing quizzes that ask me "Who was the last person you texted with?" or "do people say you're pretty?"
I vow to not make important, life-altering announcements on Facebook. The big stuff is still for phone calls and face-to-face.
Above all, I vow to not revert into being a teenager. I vow to not let Facebook lure me into thinking that my life is my own personal reality show or that people look to me for entertainment.
I'm not saying I'm ready. I still need to sleep on it. But I think we both know where this is heading. By the way, I am fully aware that the arguments stated above in favor of Facebook are arguments very similar to those made to me by some of you enthusiasts in the past.
To quote Fletch Lives, "It takes a big man to admit when he's wrong. I am not a big man."
Monday, June 29, 2009
--For about the same stretch of time, I have had a constant craving that alternates between Mexican food and pizza. Coincidence? And it's insatiable too. I have one, I want the other. Scratch one itch, the other kicks in.
Wow, last night was a redeeming night for the new Largo. Even though it's still a great venue, I felt like it lacked the intimacy and freeflowing, you-never-know-who-might-show-up-to-play spirit of the original. And then last night.....the old magic.
We went to see Punch Brothers, Bernie and I. We must have some sort of strange, good concert mojo because the previous time we went to a show, it was also an all-timer. So anyway, we're there. Second row. Chris Thile and company put on a show that was simply mesmerizing. They played a few new songs that sounded quite sweet. They need to record them and release them as soon as possible. Fiona Apple came out and sang "Walkin' After Midnight" like Patsy Cline, Ella Fitzgerald, and Janis Joplin fused into one soulful voice. The Watkins came out and jammed and, being the Nickel Creek lover that I am, the reunion was emotionally fulfilling. Just a really fun, surprising show. And that was only the first half.
Prior to the show, it was announced that Sara and Sean (Watkins) were coming down and would be playing in The Little Room following the Punch Brothers' show. It would be free and first come, first served. Luckily, our primo seat location allowed us to get a good position in line. This second show was just really special. It felt like the old Largo family that I used to love to see coming together again (sans Glen Phillips) playing more as fun in somebody's living room than a "show." I felt like they were just jamming and having fun and I was a fly on the wall, almost like I wasn't supposed to be there and could booted at any second. Chris, Fiona and Fiona came in and played again. Benmont Tench joined on piano. Greg Leisz emerged from a dark corner and played the steel guitar. They had a drummer(don't recall his name) keeping rhythm by slapping on--no joke--a yellow legal pad. There was no set list. They would discuss amongst themselves what to play next, sometimes even quietly reviewing how it went before they actually started it. We, the audience, just watched and waited and drank it all in. This was all in a small corner of the room no bigger than 6x6. And did I mention they have finally started serving beer again?
All together, we were there for about five hours. Five hours on a Sunday night after a long weekend and yet when we walked over there, I was giddy with excitement. I was pumped. I could have gone all night, but, alas, there was work to attend in the morning.
I dropped Bernie off and elected to get back to the 10 by way of Fairfax. As I drove past the old Largo, I still got a little nostalgic, but the tinge of sadness was finally gone. One good night.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
"The Center of the Atlantic Ocean" By James Taylor
Once I made a passage up the center of the Atlantic, from the Caribbean to Martha's Vineyard, with a good sailor on a beautiful boat. It was an old wooden sailboat made of teak, strong and seaworthy. The masts were tall, and we operated the sails by hand. I was part of the crew.
Our captain, Nat Benjamin, who is a boat builder on Martha's Vineyard, is an expert at deep ocean sailing. We didn't have satellite navigation. He simply knew when weather was coming. We would shorten sail for a storm, the storm would hit, and we were ready for it. We went through one thrilling night with seas the size of huge houses passing under us. We just ran before the storm, feeling complete trust in our captain.
We had started our trip from the island of St. Martin and after about five days got to the Sargasso Sea. The surface was a floating mat of sargasso weed, which has a unique variety of flora and fauna within it, with eels breeding and other animals living there - a sort of ecosystem to itself.
The Sargasso Sea is in the Bermuda Triangle. We were becalmed there, as is often the case in the Doldrums, so we let down the sails, stopped the motor, and just sat on these oily, calm swells. And to while away the time, we went swimming in the center of the Atlantic Ocean. The depth of the water beneath us was something like three miles. To think that if you stood on the boat and flipped a quarter overboard, it would be falling and falling and falling for a day and a half before it hit bottom that gave me an amazing feeling.
On a boat, everyone takes turn standing watches around the clock. At night, you watch the polestar and see the entire cosmos revolve around it. It's a remarkable awareness you get of being on this planet in space. I know that as astronauts look back at Earth, they get a great sense of what it is. On our boat, I could feel myself on the surface of this water planet.
In a way, it was similar to two trips I've taken down the Grand Canyon in wooden dories. It takes 19 days to get through the canyon, and it really takes you away from ordinary experience and timetables. The fact that you're drifting with the river, and not motoring down or powering through it, also has an effect on you. You're in this great geological picture book, which goes back in time as you get deeper and deeper. It gives you a profound experience of the planet to be at the bottom of this great slice through time and into the depths of Earth. You pass a layer that was once the floor of a sea and eventually get down to the Vishnu Schist, which is two billion years old, some of the oldest rock on the planet. To see this stuff, to drift past it, to live with it, changes you - just like being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
I was never taught a particular religion growing up. My father was a scientist, and I think, being from the South, he had an aversion to the available organized religious forms. So I was never given a strong religious connection. But I have a very strong spiritual need. And getting into nature is going to church for me. It's my way of surrendering to the bigger picture, to the whole.
I feel the skin of life on the planet as a sort of coevolved life form. It has a type of consciousness that we humans - with individuated consciousness and an ego-based world view - see as alien. But it's my own belief that it is alive, a single organism on this amazing, rare, and perhaps unique planet. I really need to feel that connection.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Portland, OR - Actually going on this one for Zach's wedding, but I'd love to stay a week instead of a quick 2.5 days. Brewfest on the waterfront, Powell's books, McMenamins' many brewpub movie theatres, The Tex-ass Challenge at Voo Doo Donuts. It's too much! Then again, Bill Brasky won't talk to me since the Lakers won, so I might not have as many friends up there as I thought.
Atlanta, GA - Conradical! The Dirty South! What more do I need to say?
Austin, TX - I have heard nothing but great things about Austin and, as a music, food and film lover, I have wanted to go for years. Lindsay, Austin native, was talking recently about rafting and whatnot in one of the rivers nearby. Sounds like good late summer fun.
Houston, TX - I never would have guessed there would be two places in Texas that I ever actually wanted to go to, but Wayne is there for treatment at MD Anderson and I wish I could go visit.
Rapid City, SD - Good ol' fashioned family trip in the fall would be a lot of fun. Test my hot streak in Deadwood. See if I can't reclaim my manhood by testing my luck against Val at beer pong. Our last trip there was only the second time I've been when it was NOT the dead of winter. I had forgotten how beautiful it really is when there's green on the hills, leaves on the trees.
Beach near Oxnard, CA - Renting a beach house for the Fantasy Football Draft. Inspired by the cabin experience in South Dakota, this was a great idea that Kissen came up with. Fifteen people (mostly guys) in a beach house with a boatload of booze for a football draft. What could go wrong?
Camping, some other beach in CA - I haven't been camping in a loooong time and the last time was not one I want to leave as the lasting impression. I would love to just be sitting by a campfire, looking out to sun setting on the Pacific with a skyful of stars overhead. Nothing for days but swimming, reading, drinking, and playing board/card games.
Sonoma/Napa, CA - Ever since we went with Wayne and Val, what was it--2 years ago, I have fantasized about going back.
Buenos Aires, Argentina - Charles says he's going for his 40th birthday in January. This would be unfunkinbelievable. Argentina is very high on my list of places to go and when there is an actual occasion to target it just makes it all the more tempting. If only I were rich or tickets weren't over a grand. So maybe this one stretches my promise of realism, but there is an actual invitation to consider so I say it's okay.
San Luis Obispo/Big Sur/Monterey/Carmel/Pacific Grove - Just a relaxing road trip up the coast with Redwoods, ocean bluffs, small coffeehouses, PCH seafood dives, wine, and a kickass road trip soundtrack.
Las Vegas, NV - Both Jackson Browne and Counting Crows have shows at this oasis just outside of town. I've only done it once, but seeing a concert in Vegas is pretty awesome and seeing one at a small venue at an isolated casino would be....fun.
Some part of Japan - Adam, if you're reading this, I haven't forgotten about you, buddy! (He's stationed there for the next couple years)
If only this antiquated notion of work didn't always get in the way. I know this makes me a lazy, unmotivated drip. But a fella can dream, can't he?
Thursday, June 18, 2009
My findings: what a complete fucking joke.
$5000 deductible with 40% coinsurance after the deductible? How can you still call that insurance?
Are you familiar with this concept of coinsurance by the way? Maybe I have lived a sheltered life until now, but I had never heard of it until today. The word itself sounds ridiculous to me. If you don't know:
"Having a health plan that requires you to pay a coinsurance, or percentage participation, rate means that you’ll essentially be splitting the cost of your healthcare with your insurance carrier."
Pardon my French, but since when are we expected to go Dutch with our insurance companies? That's the whole reason they exist. Their sole purpose is to pick up the check.
The problem is I would like to go see a doctor, but I don't have a gajillion dollars to pay for it. So I figure I should look into health insurance. Now explain something to me, insurance companies....If I have to pay for the first $5,000 of my tab, how is that any different than having no coverage at all?
Not to beat a dead horse, but let's run through this one more time because I just don't get it....Let's say I pick one of these plans. I pay $200 a month as my monthly premium. Then I get sick and I want to go to the doctor. That costs me $30 in co-pay. Let's say they need to run a couple tests, an x-ray or some mild lab work. The bill for this little visit comes to $4,000. I now pay 100% of that too because my deductible has not been met (despite the $1,200 I have sent in as premium payments for the last six months). So let's say I need some sort of outpatient procedure done and that cost is gonna come to.....$5,000. I'll have to pay the first $1,000 which finally fulfills my deductible, but I'm not done yet! According to the co-insurance, I am still responsible for 20% of the remaining $4,000 which comes to $800. But I am now, thankfully, healthy. Let's summarize those numbers:
$1,200 = 6 months of premium payments
$30 = Office visit co-pay
$4,000 = Office visit bill including x-rays, tests
$1,000 = Outpatient surgery portion to reach deductible total
$800 = 20% coinsurance amount of remaining surgery bill
$7,030 = Total paid by me for this medical issue whatever it may be
$3,200 = Amount paid by my "insurance" company for this issue (80% of the surgery subtotal)
Somebody, please, I impore you, tell me I am wrong and explain to me how it is not as royally fucked as it seems to me right now!
To be fair, I was able to find one or two plans that gave me the coverage I was looking for, $0 deductible, reasonable office-visit and ER copay, no coinsurance, and a small copay for generic prescriptions (I'm not even looking at vision or dental for fuck's sake!). They do exist....for a mere $445 a month. Somebody hand me a pen, I've got money to burn!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Is it as simple as attributing it to 9/11 and TV shows and movies like "Lost" and "Cast Away" that graphically depict air disasters? I guess it could be, but if that were the main factor, it seems to me that our fears would gradually decrease over time, but I feel like the opposite is true. I am more afraid of flying now than I was flying to New York two weeks after 9/11 and I saw "Lost" and "Cast Away" years ago.
There have, of course, been real life crashes to inspire fear, but they are few and far between and we've all heard the statistics that say it is dramatically safer to travel by plane than it is by car.
Is it a natural increasing sense of our own mortality as we get older? I am sure that is some part of it, but that doesn't explain the specificity of this fear.
So what is it then?
Monday, June 15, 2009
So I'm sitting on my couch watching my Lakers celebrate, wondering if I should head downtown and join in the looting of a discount shoe store, when my doorbell (text message alert ringtone) rings. It's T-Bone. He says John Mayer just posted on Twitter that he's doing an impromptu show at the Hotel Cafe at 11:30, five bucks. Five minutes later, I am in my car. Even coming from the west side, I beat the crowds, slipped in before the line had begun to form. If you haven't been there, The Hotel Cafe is about the size of a large coffeehouse. We abandoned prime wall position for the sake of proximity, shuffling to within 7 feet of the stage. And wouldn't you know it, a mere 12 minutes after he had said he'd be there, in strolls Mr. Mayer right behind us and up onto the stage. For a solid hour and a half, it was just JM, his electric guitar, and a hundred or so of his most attentive local fans. It was just awesome. He played mostly new stuff from his upcoming album, mixing in some old stuff here and there. He did do "Free Fallin'" and, I wanna tell you, he owned it. He was funny, frank, and surprisingly candid, admitting at one point that for a long time he had been an "arrogant douchebag," but now had a better perspective on life. At one point, he picked up a cell phone from a guy right in front, said hi to the stranger on the other end and then excused himself to go play another song. Just a funny, playful, relaxed vibe. When a girl shouted "I wanna be inside you" between songs, no one laughed like they might at a larger show where such things waft around without identity like a fog of marijuana smoke. It was as awkward as if she'd said it at a dinner party. When the show was over, he signed whatever anybody asked him to sign, he posed for seemingly every photo he was asked to take.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Not to get all "Waking Life" on you, but do you think dreams really mean anything? Obviously, some are fairly clear in their apparent meaning. If you dream about accidentally showing up naked for the first day of school the night before the first day of school, it's not hard to figure out you are nervous about the first day of school. But what about the weirdest, most random dreams? Do those have meaning?
No, I did not smoke out at lunch today. I'm just reeeeeeeally bored at work.
Quote of the Day from Christine:
On why I strike her as Canadian:
"Because he's very nice and puts things in Tupperware."
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating--in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.
--Anne Morriss, Starbucks customer from New York City
I really like that quote and I absolutely agree with it. To me, that is always a huge challenge, to make that commitment and "remove my head as the barrier" to my goals or aspirtations.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Monday, June 08, 2009
After 4 hours of test drives, furrowed brows, long pauses, walk-out threats, and the requisite fascade of honest dealing, I am the proud owner of a new automobile.
"You think you hate it now, but wait 'til you drive it."
Did I go higher on my monthly payment than I said I would when I left the house that morning? Yeah, I did. But I was also talking about a lesser car with a fraction of the mpg. At the end of the day (literally), I got the car I really wanted at a fantastic price. I feel good about this.
"Believe me Honey, if you're gonna drive the whole tribe cross country, this is your automobile."
For a guy who hems and haws over the most insignificant decisions, you can imagine the weight of my agony in making such a substantial commitment. If I had walked out of there with a brand new Porsche for $10,000, interest free, I would still be going gray with second guessing. Getting married was easier than this.
It's over now. It's me, my Jetson-mobile and the open (or traffic jammed) road. Damn it, I feel like driving to San Francisco right now. Make that San Francisco and back....on 1.1 tanks of gas?
P.S. Also still mourning the loss of Big Erv. I can't shake the last image of him sitting there, naked without all my personal junk he had been needlessly holding for all those years. Stripped of his Angels Baseball license plate frame. Sold for pennies on the dollar to a collection of strangers intending to do God knows what with him. It pains me. Okay, I really need to get a hold of myself with this kind of talk. It's just a car...it's just a car...it's just a car...
P.P.S. Despite the now apparent danger of personifying one's automobile, I think this new ride needs a name. The license plate letters are no help there so it's going to be more work to come up with something.
How about (Pri) Fontaine?
Thursday, June 04, 2009
The Setting: 2009 NBA Finals, Best of 7 starting tonight in Los Angeles
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
So this day, all day, has been spent weighing my options and looking at cars online. Good thing I didn't have any work to do today.
Man oh man, it was nice not having a car payment for.....a whole year? One-point-five? (Sigh).
So the decision has been made to let Big Erv go. This is tough to do. I realize it sounds ridiculous to be emotionally attached to a machine, but tell me you didn't get misty when they lowered Arnold into the molten metal at the end of Terminator 2. It happens, folks. I would venture it's even more likely to happen here in Southern California where we spend half our lives in our cars. A bond forms, damn it. Big Erv was the first car I ever bought on my own. I made for every cent of him with my own hard-earned dollars. I washed him. I changed his oil. I took him to Vegas. We're carpool buddies. I know this is temporary. I haven't thought about my car previous to Erv in ages. I know when I get the new car, whatever it may be, I will be swept up in the romance of new car love all over again. But right now, it hurts.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Flying in, it was lightly raining when we landed. We connected to our next plane and were waiting to pull away from the terminal when they told us there was a mechanical problem and that we would have to unload and reload aboard a new plane. Better to do it while we're on the ground, I say. So an hour or so later we get on the new plane, but by this time the light rain has become frequent lightning and rattling thunder. They have to call in the grounds crew that was transferring the baggage. We sit on the plane for three hours as I look out the window at the lighting, wondering if I will be spending the first night of my honeymoon in the Miami Airport. When we do finally take off, the lightning is not completely gone and I begin wondering if the plane can withstand a strike. The flight is bumpy and rough, but it does land safely. Luckily, the Jack Daniels was free because I might have blown my wad on that tab. Throughout the week, we met a couple that had flown in from New York and had the same problem. Also in Miami, also on American Airlines.
On the way home, the weather was fine. After a three hour layover, we took off on schedule. About three or four minutes after takeoff, we noticed we had already leveled off in altitude. Sure enough, the pilot came on and informed us we would have to turn back and land again in Miami. The windshield was overheating and possibly cracking*. At this point, I am losing it inside. When we touch down back in Miami, the emergency trucks are all there on the runway waiting for us, following us with sirens blazing as we move toward the terminal. Having not used any fuel, we were overweight and they were concerned about the gear. After some inspection, they decided to get us off that plane and onto a new one. Thank God. Another three hours later, we took off again, this time for keeps. My friend John Daniels was there again to ease my anxiety and fear of death. Again, it thankfully free. This time, the flight attendant gave me two bottles at once. My desperation must have showed.
Three AA planes in one airport inside of a week. Is it time to update the fleet, ya think?
Anyway, I don't meant to compare my experience with those who died tragically on Flight 447. What I am able to imagine about their experience makes me sick with horror. I connect the two only to better explain why I am done flying for a while.