Saturday, March 29, 2008

A day at the Zoo

I took a walk around the Lowry Park Zoo here in Tampa today with my friend Sarah.

She works at the zoo and is one of my favorite people I got to know during my time at Big Cat Rescue (or as I greeted her today "my favorite ball of sarcastic wit"). It was pretty cool to just walk around, chatting and mostly poking fun at the animals...the ones walking around, not those in the habitats.

This zoo had all the normal stuff. You can pay 2 bucks to feed a cracker to a giraffe. You can buy a notebook with paper made from elephant poo. You can also pay to have your kids face painted. I think it would be a much better value if in addition to the usual "cat face" and "butterflies" etc. that you should have the option of having a better looking child's face painted on.

On the topic of children, all couples who propose to have kids should have to spend a day at the zoo before being allowed to conceive. It's the only way to be sure.

Still no word from the Peace Corps. Oh well.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"One" question...

After spending the last 24 months acting on a new commitment to take care of No. 1, I have just one question:

What number am I?


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

F the Recession!! Viva the power of a dollar!!

Who says a buck doesn't get you what it used to?

The impending economic recession is the new Global Warming. At least according to the paper, the internet, the television and any idiot who makes money by panicking the sheep. The rising cost of gas is absurd. The logical, economics-based reason for the increase is still more absurd. What pisses me off the most is not that the Oil industry can manipulate their own trading prices (and by extension, their profit) by creating false demand by cutting back production, but that the media insists on over reporting the stories of economic doom. Self fulfilling prophecy anyone?

Still, with the "black cloud" hanging over my investments, I discovered today that even though the dollar is nearing its weakest point since I started earning them, you'd be surprised what you can get for a buck.

Today, I was working at my new, temporary job (Best Buy Loss Prevention...for another 4 days) when I noticed a Mother and her son leaving the store. I wished them a nice day, and they smiled and walked out. A few moments later, they came back into the store. The Mother sheepishly told me her son had been carrying a dollar he had been saving to buy his father a gift and that he had lost it somewhere in the store. Clearly, she held out no hope that the money would be found and that it wasn't that big of a deal. From the look on his face, it was a big deal to her son.

The kid was about 9 or so, had red hair and kinda looked like I did back in the day. The thing that struck me was the look on his face. The mixture of profound guilt and despair. Those hundred pennies may not mean much to us, but to him it was a whole dollar. He knew he had it...and he lost it...and it was nobody's fault but his own. He diligently searched every place he had been to to no avail. He reminded me of me.

I remember losing fifty cents once from a pocket in my shoe leaving me short on a movie ticket. I spent an hour combing the mall floors trying to reverse my foul fortune. Beseeching strangers proved to be humiliating and fruitless. I imagined that he must feel now, the same as I felt then.

When he came back to the front of the store, holding his mother's hand he seemed resigned to his fate and ready to deal with the consequences of having lost the money. I stopped them on the way out and produced a dollar bill from my shirt pocket. The mother said that I didn't have to do that. I told her I knew that, but that everyone deserves to be delivered from a bit of sadness from time to time. The kid's eyes lit up and suddenly all was right in his world again. He walked out, but came back in again to thank me on his own for the dollar. I told him no worries and to be a good boy. He nodded his head vigorously that he would.

What can you get for a dollar? The moral of this story isn't what the boy got out of receiving my hundred pennies, but rather what I got out of giving it to him. For the low, low price of a dollar (largely forgotten in my shirt pocket) I got to make a positive difference in two people's day. Actually my low budget deus ex machina made three people smile.

I'm still smiling about it now. Money well spent, recession be damned.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Waiting and the Tightrope

There have been some damn frustrating days of late. I'm checking the mailbox on a daily basis, looking for the envelope with "Peace Corps" on it that will finally let me know where I'll be going. Nothing there. The waiting is insidious. It's pervasive. The waiting is a sour ingredient turning me off of my daily fare. The waiting drains the fun out. The waiting makes me cranky. The waiting makes me even less likely to put up with the ridiculousness of other humans. The waiting makes me much more likely to speak my mind minus the diplomatic cushioning I've perfected over the years.

Everywhere I look there are stale pages. The story old and over told. The waiting amplifies the fact that I've evolved beyond my surroundings, and it's time to move on. It makes the usual mundane, and the bland brutal.

I've started a new job. It's only a time filler, part-time, but the new faces are good. Still, I wonder if I would have been better off to do something that served the hungry part of my soul. I'm making some money, but not enough to matter. Part of me wants to seek what adventure I can now, in the meantime, and cheat the waiting.

I'm a fixer at heart...I want to do something.

The legendary circus performer Karl Wallenda said it best:

"Being on the tightrope is living. Everything else is just waiting."

I'm over the waiting. Bring on the tightrope.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Treadmill, The Calling, and the Cold Hard Ground

I try not to confuse action with achievement.
The infinite universe moves beneath my feet,
Electric humming, footsteps drumming out
Uncounted strides. Empty promises of progression.
The sweat stained trappings of a life improved,
yet here I remain...unmoved.

It takes 38 years to learn the language of the clock.
Deciphered, the cadence mocks me,
Makes pillows prickly, steals sleep.
Daydreaming, dying to bound and leap.
Anchored by indecision and clouded course,
Forced to creep.

The Calling is risk, challenges accepted.
Testing the cold, hard and uncharted
Leaving behind paths familiar and soft.

To really get anywhere
You have to get dirt on your shoes.
Though I offend the comfortable rhythm
I step off.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Ants, Evolution and True Power

Today while I was running, I came upon an elaborate network of small ant hills. Trying not to break my stride, I had to do a pretty ungainly tap dance to avoid demolishing the carefully crafted mounds. It occurred to me briefly that, not knowing I was trying to avoid playing Godzilla to a tiny ant-sized Tokyo, other people on the trail may have thought I'd lost my mind, my balance or both. I imagined myself one of the passers by asking themselves "why did he do that?". Why indeed?

I can remember back when I was a "young'un" (as my Granny would say) many an anthill became the object of my scrutiny. With nearly scientific deliberateness, I would observe the comings and goings of the ants. Then, with no malice or rancor, I would plop my foot down on one mound at a time and then observe the resulting chaos in ant land. (Author's note: I realize acts of violence, committed against a society at large, without malice or rancor are consistent with psychopathic behavior. To the best of my knowledge, I was not, in fact a psychopath, although by this definition, most of the kids I knew sure were. Not me, I'm damn well adjusted! ...quid pro quo Clarice..)

Now as an adult, (my Pajamas no longer have feet in them) I look back and understand this behavior as a demonstration of mankind's fascination with power. In a primitive sense, power is truly defined, only truly realized when it is exerted by one party over another. These demonstrations are everywhere, some natural, some necessary, some needless: The cat making a morsel of the mouse; The bully in the schoolyard; the tire-smoking, redneck peel out from a stop light; nations at war; and yes, the foot of a juvenile Godzilla crushing an anthill.

True power is something more subtle, more sublime. By introducing civility into the primitive equation we can observe true power. True power is overcoming the primitive need to apply your power at any opportunity. True power is being comfortable with one's ability without the demonstration.

So I no longer go about crushing anthills. I encourage this evolution in others where I can.

Chat at ya soon!


Friday, March 7, 2008

Dorothy refuses to hold the Lion

A possible sign of Armageddon. For some reason, some friends and I got into a debate involving the Wizard of Oz. Yes, the movie. Yes that movie. Anyway, I overheard someone trying to remember which character got what from Dorothy at the end of the film. There was a brain mentioned, and someone got a golden elbow...and one ring ruled them all. Sad...just sad. Clearly these folks were not schooled in the ways of the Emerald city and had their facts...well...twisted.

Now I love movies. And while I will never claim to be a great fan of the Wizard of Oz (or that musical abortion "The Wiz") I do know who got what. I assured them that the Scarecrow got the brain, the Tin Man got the heart, and the Lion received courage. This was met with puzzled stares. "What!?" I said. Well, they explained, it didn't make sense that the first two got body parts, organs actually, and the Lion got courage. They could grasp that Dorothy could hand the Scarecrow a brain, the Tin Man a heart but how do you hand someone a concept? A virtue?

Well, it's a little known fact that this wasn't always the case. In fact due to the prudish nature of the movie's star, Judy Garland, the producers were forced into an incongruous last-minute change to the script. So the Scarecrow got the brain, the Tin Man got the heart and, in the end, the Lion got courage, all because Judy Garland said there was no way she was going to be on film "giving a pair of furry balls to a damn lion!! "

What a bitch.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Holy Crap... I'm Blogging!

Well, It was bound to happen sooner or later. This blog is the latest in a long series of valiant attempts to capture wit, worry, whimsy and God knows what else. Keep your fingers crossed and one eye covered. Like J. Phoenix said in 8mm... "some things you can't unsee."

Here is what I know: I'm 38 years old. I've spent the first part of my life (post formal education that is) evolving from primordial ooze ( read "retail management") to a semi-sentient larvae (Corporate tadpole). I don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Ever since my corporate intervention (layoff) forced me to kick my material habit I've come to learn only one thing clearly... that what I've been doing up to now isn't doing it for me. I want more.

Since around July 2005, I've been in what I'm calling my Pupa stage. A period of fundamental transformation. The caterpiller turns into the butterfly (awww... such imagery... ). Over the past two years, I've been camped out inside my chrysalis, refusing to emerge until I feel like I'm ready. After all, a butterfly without wings is just a roach...or roach-like bug... you know what I mean. I've volunteered at an exotic cat sanctuary in Tampa, sold my house, moved to Arizona, took a whitewater guide course in Utah, received a Wilderness Medicine certification, worked for an outdoor school gear shop in Wyoming for a summer and finally, joined the Peace Corps. In all of these things, one mantra has guided me, helped me justify certain sacrifices and kept me from getting too happy with my comfy cocoon: I wish to live an unlikely life.

So with that in mind, here I am. Currently I'm waiting for my Peace Corps invitation which will let me know, finally, which country i'll be off to. I've been through several application stages, multiple interviews, legal background checks, psychological evaluations, been poked and prodded in every conceivable way by all the doctors there are (you using the whole fist doc? Moooooon River....). If you can contract it, I've been tested for it. And inoculated against it. It's been a long seven months since I started the process. Unless something is changed at the last minute, I should be teaching English somewhere in Asia (Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia, China or Cambodia). I'm ready to go.

This blog will help me keep track of some of my rants, ponderings, insane ramblings and other silly crap as I progress through my transformation. Literally and figuratively, I have no idea where I'm going to end up. I'll be heading where the adventure takes me. That will do until I get my wings.