Monday, September 6, 2010

I Am A Rock, I Am An Island

Someone I know from college writes a blog about writing. Every Tuesday she diligently posts something about her life or an observation she had that week and then ties it back to the task of writing. Sometimes she makes very astute observations, like her post about cheap beer and Walter Matthau. Other times they are humorous and only vaguely relate to writing but then occasionally she makes me wonder why she bothered at all that week, like the post about the escaping biscuits ( Really? Like biscuits will motivate me to write? I couldn't help but to think that if you don’t have a topic that resonates, why bother writing anything at all? Today as I’m staring at several gaping holes in my apartment walls, I suddenly understand her biscuits. It’s the same as my story about the flower.

Back in third grade, we had a story contest one day. Every kid spent the afternoon class session writing and illustrating a short story. We weren’t exactly little Hemingways though, with a pipe clenched in our teeth as we pounded out a masterpiece on a typewriter in the Caribbean sun. No, these were really short stories, like about five pages long on wide rule paper and in the big block letters we had just recently mastered, accompanied by some hilariously bad drawings. At the end of the class, we read our stories out loud and then voted on which was best. My story was about a flower, not exactly a typical boy subject and I have no idea why I picked it, but what I did was change the perspective of the narrator. I wrote from the point of view of the flower and how he- yes, at least it was a boy flower- felt about what was going on in his world. Of course, a flower’s world is pretty narrow. It’s all about getting watered, avoiding bugs or cutting shears and not liking the taste of bug spray. Still, this was a different approach from everyone else in class and it struck a chord with them so they picked my story as the winner. I got the prize- a LifeSavers candy storybook (5 LifeSavers rolls packaged to look like a book.) Aside from my first taste of the delicious flavor of butter rum LifeSavers, winning the contest was an amazing feeling and probably the single biggest reason I became infatuated with story-telling.

That’s what the biscuits were really about. Trying to imagine the biscuits’ motivation for escaping their tube was the same as my flower story. It’s not so much the topic as it is about the exercise of writing and trying to uncover something that makes a connection. The connection can be with the person reading the post, it can be about tying into the themes you’ve developed previously or even about digging into your own mind and seeing things you had never consciously thought about before. These gaping holes in the walls were making me do that right now. About two months ago, my condo association informed the tenants that the windows on our building were thirty years old and needed to be replaced as part of some long-term improvements to the building walls. About a month ago, they told us how much it would cost and where to send the check. No credit cards would be accepted. So not only do I have to pay to replace windows which still work fine, but I can’t charge them. My bank account does not like that.

Now there are guys standing in my bedroom, using hammers and crowbars to smash out my window frame, spraying caulk and wood shards everywhere. The carpet is peeled back and all my furniture has been shoved aside so they can get to the windows. If my home is supposed to be a castle, then I’m being invaded right now. The barbarians have breached the gate and are determined to give me a home makeover. I’m a little bit shaken right now because I have issues with change. I enjoy a modest change of pace, like when I’m deciding where to go on a vacation or if I’m picking a place for dinner. Also, I voraciously listen to new music; you are much more likely to find me scouring the airwaves for something new to hear than tuning in to the retro station that plays “oldies” from the 1980’s. I’d rather hear the new song from Crystal Castles or Interpol than I would hearing Journey or Madonna played yet again, much as I love “Into The Groove”, “Material Girl”, “Separate Ways” or “Stone In Love.” (Although it was awesome to hear the cast of the show Glee cover those artists and songs, especially “Vogue” and “Don’t Stop Believing”- plus a WTF cover of Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance”.)

Still, this doesn’t overcome the fact that major upheavals bother me. I’ve built security into my life, deliberately and probably even unconsciously. For example, I don’t job-hop. I’ve had three jobs since graduating college. I might have been able to find more money if I looked elsewhere but I’d also be the new person and face an uncertain future. Would I fit in with everyone? Then if the economy turned downward, like it has recently, I could be the person who gets laid off. I could also be bad at my new job and get fired, which is something I worry about. That’s why I’ve tried to find things I can do well and make my living doing them. It boggles my mind that one of my previous roommates had jobs with six different companies in the two years I knew him. I couldn’t do that. When I leave a job, there has to be a really good reason, like the company is about to go out of business, which is what happened with my first job.

I’ve also been cautious about making friends with new people. Yes, part of that is because I’m a bit shy but also people can be crazy. You never know if you’ll find a lifelong friend or if you’ll run into the person who texts you every hour to see “wassup?” For every friend I make at school or from work, there are a dozen people who are like Alex Lee, who thought the CIA was spying on him with cameras in the walls or like Jim Beahm who moved out suddenly because the bill collectors had finally found out where he was. I value the friends I have and try to keep them. Nothing kills me so much as a friend who disappears. I’m still upset about Daniel, one of my best friends from high school, who I haven’t heard from since junior year of high school despite my efforts to keep in touch through college and the first few years afterward. Now I’m worried about Amelia, my sort-of “pen pal” from AAA, who recently moved back to Virginia but didn’t tell me her new address, email or phone number. I might have thought it was deliberate but since she will read and comment on my blog, I’m still hoping it was unintentional. And don’t even get me started about Julie. That’s a really, really long story.

As a trained psychologist would probably assume (when doing a case study about how nuts I am), I’m very particular about my possessions too. I hate loaning out books or DVDs because I worry about how people will treat them. I hate cracked spines on paperbacks or torn dust-jackets on hardbacks. Also, I still don’t understand how rental DVDs get scratched up. You take them out of the case, put them into the player then back in the case when you are done. The only way to scratch them would be to put them somewhere other than those two places but why on earth would you do that? Nor do I let people borrow my car and I would think someone was crazy if they wanted to borrow some of my clothes (and I would definitely question their fashion sense because I’m not exactly cutting edge.) Not that I don’t want to share or I couldn’t buy another one if something happened to them but if they come back damaged or worn out, it messes with my sense of security. That’s part of the reason I don’t have a roommate anymore. I liked having another person around, despite my “people are crazy” comment, but they weren’t as concerned about protecting my stuff and maintaining my sense of comfort. They would smoke inside and not care that they burned holes in the carpet. They didn’t take out the trash or clean the bathtub. Sometimes I’d come home on a Wednesday night looking forward to having some peace and quiet only to find a dozen people in my place having an impromptu party. Of course my roommate wouldn’t clean up afterward. It drove me crazy. If I can’t maintain control over my own things and my own space, how can I control the rest of the chaos that exists in the world?

So maybe you can imagine how I feel about the windows being replaced. The windows in the sunroom, the second bedroom and the master bedroom, including the floor-to-ceiling window, were being torn out. These guys weren’t careful either. When they were done with a drill, they would rest it on top of my books. Buckets of caulk sat on the carpet, no one covered or removed their shoes after walking across the lawn and their McD’s drinks left wet rings on my shelves. Heck, one of the guys even made fun of me for having so much stuff in my bedroom. Yeah, I got mocked by a stranger in my own home! Another guy did such a poor job of caulking a window at first that I could actually see outside through the crack he left uncovered. I had to get him back in to finish it up, otherwise all the creepy crawlies from outside would be have a big doorway in and my existing slight spider concern would be more like that William Shatner movie Kingdom Of The Spiders. (It was on TV in the 70’s, right during my impressionable years.) I should have been a sobbing mess curled up on the floor. I wasn’t though and that was a big surprise to me. I felt worse the day before when I was moving the furniture away from the windows than I did when my walls were getting indelicately gutted.

The reason I didn’t feel that bad is quite paradoxical. Now that I was standing in the opening they made in my bedroom and looking at the results, I saw that my apartment was really just a bunch of concrete and wood put together thirty years ago by some unknown workers who could care less if everything was perfect as long as it passed inspection. Slap on some paint and add carpet to make it look nicer and that was my place. When it was being built, I’m sure there were old coffee cups strewn around and there was sawdust, nails and broken sheetrock everywhere and besides, someone else had lived here before me. It wasn’t an untouched sanctuary or some stronghold of perfection. It was the place lived in by a guy who hates to dust, who leaves his jogging clothes lying on a kitchen chair, who pounded dozens of holes in the wall to hang pictures and who has mold he can’t get to in the cracks of his shower stall. I have slowly added to the imperfection of this place. Home & Garden will not be featuring me in their magazine. So as I stared at the peeled up carpet, I thought about my friend’s blog and wondered what she would do with this situation. If she could use biscuits to find some insight into writing and to her view of the world, surely I could do something with major property demolition. I started thinking about why I felt so strongly about having some constants in my life, why I hung onto possessions, why I didn’t naturally seek out big changes. In other words, why I was basically a wuss.

I finally decided that it had a lot to do with moving around as a kid. I think that made me adverse to impermanence or shaking things up. I was an Army brat and moved every couple of years. I was born in Maryland, in Aberdeen, but my family didn’t stay there too long. By the time I was four years old and living in Germany, I had already moved from Maryland to Florida to Sweden and then Michigan. In Florida, we stayed with my grandmother and in Sweden we were with Mormor and Morfar. At an early age I was around many people who loved me. Then we left them for Michigan. And then on to Germany, all by age four. I might not have been old enough to think rationally most of those four years but some impressions or feelings must have sunk into my psyche. One of my very first memories is from Germany and it’s about loss and attachment. A neighbor lady locked herself out of her apartment but her kitchen window was open. I was playing nearby with some other kids and she wanted me to get up on the trash dumpster and climb through her kitchen window and unlock the door. I thought it would be fun to do that but I was hesitant about her suggestion to leave my toy guns and holster behind since I might not fit through the window with them on. I liked climbing but I didn’t want to take off my holster and leave it on top of the dumpster. What if the trash truck came and took it away? Even though the lady promised to keep an eye on it, I didn’t want to do it. Some other kid ended up going in because I couldn’t leave my stuff behind, much as I really wanted to climb through a window. Why would I be so concerned about my stuff at such a young age? Didn’t four and five-year olds leave toys lying around everywhere? I must have already developed some attachment issues.

After Germany, we went back to Florida for a few weeks and then on to Fort Lee in time for elementary school. On base at Fort Lee, I made friends with some neighborhood kids. Pat Kelly and Mike Gunnels were my main friends but I did play with Matt and a couple others whose names escape me. We watched cartoons, played in the woods and creeks, pretended to be Star Trek characters, climbed trees and drainage pipes, tore down rain gutters, all the things kids did. My grandparents also came to visit- Morfar taught me how to ride a bike while Granny and I looked for rocks in the creek. It was nice. Then we moved to Chester. Middle school was all about Chester. That’s where I met Paige Bowles, my first “real” girlfriend, Chris Hubbard, my new best friend, Scott Gregg, my next-door neighbor and friend but also the first person I got into a fist-fight with. There were also some other kids, like Clint Arthur- the KISS fan- and Janelle Pope. Chester is what I consider as my typical childhood period. Right at the end of middle school (Carver Middle School), we moved again, to Colonial Heights. I’m not sure why this move happened. Dad wasn’t relocated because he still worked at Ft. Lee and we only moved about a dozen miles away. Still, since I wasn’t driving age yet it meant I only saw Chris and Paige at school but since Paige was older than us, she hung out with other kids at school. This is when I also became friends with Daniel Nabors, Vince Remcho, David Eaton and John Dobbin. Just as it became time for high school, the next big period of a kid’s life, I was in a new house. Naturally this move put me in a new school district so two-thirds of the people I knew from Carver went to L.C. Bird while I went to Thomas Dale.

I lived close enough to John and Daniel that Mom didn’t mind driving me over there sometimes and later I could drive myself over sometimes but still I had to make some new friends at my new school or it would be a very lonely four years. It seems like each year I added a small new group. One year was cementing friendships with the holdovers from Carver, another year was getting to know the comics and D&D group like William Guyther and Darryl & Terry Midgette. Then there was the German Club years where I met Carla Boardman, David Gardner, Jesse and Herschel Alexander, Cheryl (now Cat) Thornton, Jody Rothhaar and the rest of that gang. And of course there was the year with Julie. Eventually, I was driving and working at Ukrops so I had my own mode of transportation and a little money. I made a few work friends too, people I played volleyball with on summer evenings after work or that I went to school with and got reacquainted with, like Daniel or Kevin Blevins. Things were going well. Then John moved to northern Virginia and I had no official best friend anymore, except Julie but don’t get me started on Julie. A whole set of abandonment issues came from just that one relationship. Still, I had a nice group of friends and I was starting to feel comfortable. And then I graduated and went off to college.

Only about five people from my high school went to my college and none of them were more than casual classmates. I went to William and Mary and most of my friends and classmates went to UVA or some other school like James Madison. The rest of my friends were still a year behind me so I lost them too and had yet another fresh start in front of me. During my first year in college, I think I had literally four old friends that I was still in touch with. If I wasn’t already sensitive about losing friends, that would have done it right there. Freshman year was a struggle because I had to reconcile separating from the friendships I’d finally developed and maintained for more than two years plus my family I’d been with during every move and I was in a new place where I had very little that was mine alone. College ended up being great though because it was four years in one place, relatively speaking. Yes, I did move around campus- first Faquier, then Giles, off-campus to Monticello, then Old Dominion, Chandler and Chandler again- but it wasn’t like I wasn’t able to see people. It is a fairly small school. Heck, sometimes I was in other people’s buildings more than my own, especially if you include computer labs. Still, in the back of my mind was that concern that I would have to leave people behind. I knew either graduation would come or people would eventually disappear. At one point, I was even trying to deliberately isolate myself from feeling connected to anything because I knew that the same thing that happened before, that happened after high school, would happen again. Junior year my favorite song was Simon & Garfunkel’s “I Am A Rock” because of the lyrics- “I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty, that none may penetrate. I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain…I am a rock, I am an island…I have my books, and my poetry to protect me; I am shielded in my armor, hiding in my room, safe within my womb, I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island, and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.”

In one sense, I knew it was a sham. I understood that the song was about needing people even if that need causes some pain eventually. It made me feel good though to repeat the lyrics and to think that maybe, just maybe, it was possible to avoid those feelings. It was just a matter of time though. School wouldn’t go on forever (although I tried to stretch it out with an extra semester and a summer school session.) In fact, I was already getting a taste of the inevitable. One summer I was at Ft. Bragg for six weeks for ROTC and then right after graduation I was at Ft. Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis for three months so I was again separated from people and in a new place for an extended period of time. (Just to wrap up all my moves, after school and the Army training, I was in Williamsburg for a couple months and then Centreville for two years and then Vienna until finally ending up in Oakton.) I couldn’t make anything stay the way I wanted it. People were fluid, life dictated location. That’s why I tried to think of my apartment as a fortress. Here, nothing changed unless I wanted it to. I could be near my friends- my parents couldn’t make me move somewhere else and lose them. Again, that was a sham. Elizabeth changed jobs, John got married, Steve moved to Seattle, Leona got married, Trevor fell out of touch, my parents moved to North Carolina, my grandparents died, roommates moved out, people stopped keeping in touch. Life happened even if I was pretending it didn’t. There was nothing I could do about it. That’s what I contemplated as I stared out the windowless window, at the huge holes in the walls and in my psyche.

Nothing in life is permanent. That’s a hard fact for me to accept. I’ve spent decades denying that, trying to hang onto things, to people and to the past even though I got hints to the contrary, both big ones (my grandparents dying, my hair disappearing) and small ones (girlfriends dumping me, my little sister having a baby). Heck, I’ve kept shoes and clothes I can no longer wear just because they remind of an earlier time. I doubt I’m ever again going to put on the Cub Scout uniform hanging in my closet and I’d be embarrassed to wear that electric blue sleeveless muscle shirt that Julie gave me for my birthday in 1985. I was embarrassed by it when it was still in fashion (i.e. the summer of 1985). I’ve let myself become petrified in both senses of the word. Fear has kept me frozen in place but it also made me feel comfortable about my immobilization- because a rock feels no pain- but I’m beginning to feel differently. As I move my furniture back where it belongs, I think that it might look better arranged a different way. I decide to toss out the pair of running shoes I used in ROTC since they hurt when I wear them now. I pull a box of mementos out from under the bed and decide to sort through them. I look at the curtains and window shade and think how old, faded and dusty they are. Maybe they should be replaced. Something with a nicer color, maybe light blue.

I think about the first time I played Texas Hold’em poker with someone besides John and what came out of that. You might be surprised to learn that I usually don’t get involved in social situations on my own because I’m no good at superficial conversation. Rather than make small talk, I’ll say nothing, which isn’t an effective conversational skill and doesn’t really endear you to a group of people. Unless you are really good looking, which I clearly am not, because then anything is excusable. On my good days, I pretend that I’m “Not Ugly”. One evening I overcame my inhibitions and walked into a bar by myself and talked to a bunch of strangers in order to play poker with them. I came back the following week and did it again. That took some effort for me but I ended up making some poker friends that I can now talk to during a game, which led to a group I now periodically play poker with on weekends. I’ve also done a few other things with the group that doesn’t involve poker at all. When things get set in motion, all kinds of things can happen and sometimes those turn out to be good things. If I hadn’t left Chester, I would never have gone to Thomas Dale and met my German Club friends. If I hadn’t left Waxie Maxie’s or Forbes, I would have been out of a job when the companies folded and the locations became a nail salon, a Baja Fresh ad a Target. If I hadn’t won that story contest, I might never have started writing.

Other things have started to change too. I’ve started talking to strangers when I’m on vacation, which has led to some really fun trips lately. I’ve stopped thinking that I have to become best friends with someone I meet. Instead, I can just enjoy them for who they are and for however long we are in touch. That’s a big difference since the days of writing to Elizabet Alm, the girl I met in Sweden who lived near Moster Iris and Morber Sven’s summer cottage. It turns out that transatlantic pre-teen pen-pal friendships with non-English speakers don’t work too well. I’ve learned to accept the temporary nature of some friendships and be able to enjoy the connection while it’s happening. Betsy & her husband and Kirk & Millie from the Black Sea trip were great to know, even if I won’t see them again and wasn’t anywhere near their age range. I loved having them ask me if they should save me a place at their table that night- it made me feel like I was one of the characters from Cheers. I’m glad I could hang out with the girl I met on a 6-hour tour with my parents while in Iceland even if I never saw her again after the tour. Tara was a marvelous person to talk to on the Danube trip. Not only was she intelligent and witty but most of all she reminded how it feels to make new friends and why it’s worth doing. The meals and tours I shared with her and her mom were much more enjoyable then they would have been on my own. She helped me remember there are so many interesting people in the world that it would be a shame not to try to meet them. At some point, every one of my friends was a stranger before I got to know them. Why stop now? What other fun experiences are waiting among the other 5 billion people in the world?

Where I live is just concrete and wood. It isn’t who I am. It’s a reflection of me, but it isn’t me. Just like a wall can be torn down, I can change what I do. I can be remodeled too. I shouldn’t be scared to demolish things and rebuild them if it might make them better than now they are now. When this thought came to me, I realized this explains my fascination with checking out houses under construction. When I see a new house being built, I’ll go inside and check it out. I love to walk through them and see the unfinished walls and imagine what the rooms will look like when they are done. I imagine where I would put furniture, where my den would be and what countertops will go into the kitchen. The construction represents new beginnings and possibilities. You can make the house into what you want it to be. Each house is a little different from any other and what you fill it with makes it even more different. Subconsciously, I embraced the idea of change and reinvention. If I love new houses and unpacking and organizing a room, why wouldn’t I want to do that with myself? I can’t do the impossible, like keep every friend I every made, have absolute professional and financial security, live where and in I want (a castle in Sweden; See, I said impossible)- but at least I ought to take some steps to start getting as close as I can. That means changes.

The other day I watched the recent remake of the movie The Women. Aside from the fact that none of the new women could match Rosalind Russell from the 1939 original, two other things stood out. First, I couldn’t connect with the characters and not because they were stereotypes. I couldn’t relate to their surroundings. These women lived in houses that I drool over. If I can’t live in a castle, their places would be a nice second best. The other thing that stood out was the plot’s crucial questions- who are you and what do you want? Meg Ryan’s character had defined herself as her husband’s wife until he started cheating on her and then she had no identity left. She looked at what she wanted out of life and what needed to be done to achieve that. She made the necessary changes in her life to find long-term happiness. This meant becoming a clothes designer, something she had dreamed of in her youth, and getting her eventually chastised husband back, on her terms. She got both these things, because it is a Hollywood movie starring Meg Ryan. My life is more like Memento, a series of sidetracks and false starts, self-delusion, and the inability to put the past behind me and find love. Still, the questions are legitimate and honest, even if they came from the Hollywood cliché factory.

The windows have now been replaced and I can easily see the lapses in craftsmanship. The caulking was done hurriedly, the carpet was not put back securely, there is debris in the screen and the walls are scuffed up. The area is a bit messed up but still serviceable. It’s definitely not perfect but then nothing is ever perfect so why delude myself that it can be? As if to drive this point home, I got a call from the condo board contact the week after the window went in to tell me that it wasn’t installed quite right and the workers needed to come back and adjust it a bit. So they stomped back in, tore up the carpet again, removed the caulk, refit the window and then smeared more caulk around the edges. I put all the furniture back in place again, glad that it was all over and tried to figure out which is better- to change radically or over time. Two days after that I got a call saying that things still weren’t right. So the workers needed to come back yet again to readjust the window they just finished adjusting. My fortress was invaded by incompetent assailants, again. The world will get in and mess stuff up no matter what I do. Another song came to mind at this point, not doubt stirred up from the fog of the past by my thinking of my living space as a fortress. Yes, Sting’s song "Fortress Around Your Heart".

The lyrics seem to talk about someone building a fortress around their heart (duh!) and keeping everyone out. If you take a closer look though, it has the same deceptive slant that the Simon & Garfunkel song has. The fortress isn’t supposed to keep people out- it was built by Sting to keep the occupant at bay, to cut them off from affecting him, until he realizes that his only chance for happiness is to topple the towers and reconnect even though it will be dangerous because of what he had done before. Here are some of the lyrics: “And if I built this fortress around your heart, encircled you in trenches and barbed wire, then let me build a bridge for I cannot fill the chasm, and let me set the battlements on fire… Then I went off to fight some battle that I'd invented inside my head, away so long for years and years, you probably thought or even wished that I was dead… This prison has now become your home, a sentence you seem prepared to pay. As I returned across the lands I'd known I recognized the fields where I'd once played. I had to stop in my tracks for fear of walking on the mines I'd laid”. If Sting can admit he made mistakes- at least as the lyrics imply- and should make amends and changes, then surely I can do the same.

As if to drive the point home, my hair dryer finally died around the same time. (War metaphors, hair dryers- yeah, Sting and I are simpatico.) I had owned it since college, when it was still necessary to dry my hair so it looked okay and I wouldn’t catch a cold by going out in winter with wet hair. Nowadays it is more of a pointless habit. Still, it was another sign that I couldn’t live in the past. It would eventually die off around me and I would be left out to dry. (See Sting, I can do metaphors too. Or is that a bad pun?) Next, my hallway got flooded. One day at work, I got a call from the condo association contact that the apartment below mine was getting flooded and had something burst in my apartment? Not being home, I could really answer that question but I sped home to check out the situation. When I arrived the carpet in my hallway was soaked, the sofa was wet and a picture had fallen off the wall because of all the water coming down from the ceiling. It turns out that the water heater in the apartment above mine had burst and water poured down the walls to drench my apartment and what little didn’t soak into the carpet continued on down to the tenant beneath me. I spent more than an hour using towels to soak up the water from the carpets and then eventually peeled back the edge of the carpet so air could get underneath and dry things out so mildew wouldn’t develop. As if it wasn’t enough of a sign to have my windows bashed out, I was now getting rained on indoors. How more permeable could my sanctum get? The rug was being pulled out from under me. Or at least washed out from under me. Could things get any more obvious?

Apparently, yes. There was one final sign to come. At first, I was going to wrap up this blog by using the water-heater as a metaphor for my life and the need to change. It was a good analogy too- about how I need to periodically make adjustments and replace/change things before the pressure built up too much or else things would burst and spill out, destroying everything around me. It would make sense since I had asked myself the questions from “The Women”, which are who am I and what do I want? I already know who I am. I don’t need to go Eat Pray Love to find myself. I also know what I want. No Visionquest required here. What I didn’t have was the motivation to seek out these things that would make me happier than I am now. I was afraid to make the effort. I wanted to stay in my fortress, locked deep within my room, with my poetry and sarcasm and rituals to shield me. To be a rock and an island. It wasn’t working though. It gets lonely and boring if you think friendship only causes pain, if you touch no one and no one touches you.

That’s when the third sign came about. You may not believe in signs but if you start looking for connections and odd coincidences, you’d be surprised how often you find them. For instance, I saw the movie Machete the other day. It was stupid fun and I like how some older, semi-forgotten stars were called back into action, kind of like a PG-13 version of The Expendables. Machete had Don Johnson in a major role and as I got in my car after the movie, the very first song playing on the radio was “Heartbeat”, Johnson’s lone pop hit, from the 1980’s. How often does that get played nowadays? Coincidence? Maybe but it could also be a sign of universal synchronicity. Anyway, my home sent me one last kick in the pants when my clock radio stopped working. Well, more accurately, the alarm function stopped working. The time displays correctly and the radio still plays but the alarm stopped going off. I had this particular clock radio since right after college, when my roommate Trevor gave it to me as an un-housewarming gift, when I moved out of the apartment in Centreville to relocate closer to my job in Bailey’s Crossroads. If I was looking for a sign or appropriate metaphor for making changes, it can’t get more obvious than this- I needed to find a new way to wake up because my old way wasn’t working. My wake-up call wouldn’t happen unless I made some changes.

So what started with people smashing holes in my walls ended up with an “ah ha!” moment about biscuits, which reminded me of the flower, which triggered thoughts of globe-trotting and songs about fortresses and rocks, the benefits of poker and how an indoor waterfall was a sign from the universe that it was time to get a wake-up call from a non-functioning alarm clock. It seems pretty clear, right? It’s time to get off my butt if I want things to be different. Change happens regardless of whether I want it to, so I should start embracing it and trying to steer it in the direction I want to go. I’ll have to come up with a new song to like. Maybe Twisted Sister because of the opening line “What do you want to do with your life?” But then again, no- I should stay away from rocks from now on. As I look through my CDs though, I don’t see anything that jumps out at me. Most of the songs about change seem to be about mortality or finding new love and that’s not really what I’m talking about. I guess it is appropriate that I can’t find the right thing in the past I’ve accumulated. I’ll just wait for the right song to find me, something that is new and yet to be discovered, the way life should be. Let’s hit the road, Jack, because life is a highway and time keeps on slipping into the future.

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