Archive | June 2013

There are Only Two Stories-

-Someone comes, someone goes. The rest is just detail.

It seems I am going this time around.

What an interesting three weeks. After twelve years in our home in Salt Lake, we are moving (back) to the suburbs. The reasons are relatively simple. The house is: Newer, bigger, has a smaller yard, closer to Sheryl’s work, in an area with more children, newer schools. The choice was not an easy one; it still makes my heart hurt. There was a time when both Sheryl and I were certain this would be our only house. We liked that idea and did all our remodeling the way WE wanted, choosing materials in colors and styles we liked. We have nearly gutted every room, painted, sanded, carpeted, repainted each corner. Every plant in our yard was planted by us (mostly by Sheryl). This is home in almost every good and bad way.

But there was always a pull, a desire for something else.

I wrote before about the result of my move from West Valley to West Jordan and the way it allowed me to reboot my life. My kids need that chance too. Most of their lives, they have been at the mercy of adults around them, with very little choice about where they lived or for how long. They moved from place to place and later, from family to family. They might not have realized it, but they needed some stability. Hopefully, the five years they have lived here gave them some of that.  Now, they need a chance to dictate the course of their own lives. Their history can be theirs to share, not at the whim of some adult (me included) who thinks everyone needs to know the whole story. Rarely do we get the chance to change with such a clean slate. I am trying to impress on them the significance of it, knowing full well they won’t, maybe can’t understand what an opportunity they have in front of them.

I have loved living in and near the city for these past 17 years (five at our apartment on Windsor Street). I was firmly convinced I would never return to the suburbs. Part of me is frustrated, but a larger part is convinced it is finally time to do something that is more for the kids than for myself.

As the house nears selling and the move more imminent, I start to see this area differently. Maybe it is just a different perspective, or maybe I am purposely looking for the negative, but there is a substantial change in the way I am experiencing my neighborhood. A certain level of hostility has emerged that I did not expect and while there has not been any overt meanness, some reactions to our move have been less than positive.

One realization (and I have known this on some level for years)-I have very few friends living right around me and almost none of my friendships have anything to do with geography. There are people in this area I have fondness for, and those friendships will most likely endure, but most of the people around here will slip out of my memory as I am sure I will from theirs.

I will miss the proximity to the city, being fifteen minutes from anywhere (yay for interstates) in the valley,  huge trees and quiet streets. I will miss tennis partners, backyard neighbors, music comrades, religious leaders who never judged me or my family, but rather welcomed debate and honest conversations.  I wont miss the underlying sense of entitlement or false humility that has filtered into interactions with many others.

No place is perfect and anyplace can be home. This has been home but now it is time to go someplace else, where there will be flaws and faults, happiness and friendships.  “A voyage of discovery”

Two stories. 

Everything in its Right Place

Thanks Radiohead.

Sometimes it is easy to know when it is time for a change. Lives get bogged down, become more difficult, and rather than wallow in misery, or give in to the circumstances, we fight through towards something better, or at least something different.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t always present itself that cleanly. Sometimes, when you’re  most comfortable,  when so many things are finally coming together and your path seems so crystal clear, some lagging, nagging feeling washes over you, followed by that sickening sensation that things need altering, refocusing, or maybe drastic reorganization.

“But, I love this______ ! I am finally completely happy, where I want to be.”

I remember when I knew it was time to quit the library. Sure, it had become something less than I wanted it to be and much of what I loved about SLC Public was gone, but I loved the core of what libraries are, what they mean to communities, and there was that voice in my head that kept saying-“You worked so hard for this, what are you without it?”

I’m still figuring that part out, but the change had to come and I finally trusted that realization.

When my family moved from West Valley City to West Jordan, I was not ready for that sort of change. I was 15 and just starting to come into myself. I had good friend. A new Jr. High opened that year, and after two brutal years at Kennedy Jr, I was starting to feel safe at school. Like any kid, I didn’t want to move away from that and start over.

It ended up being the right move. I went to a  high school, rather than Jr. high, formed friendships I still value, that have endured, and though I desperately missed much of my old life, the move opened up opportunity and experiences that helped me grow. Certainly I would have had similar stories if I had stayed in West valley, but I sincerely feel this move was necessary. Most importantly, I was able to start relationships with an almost blank page. All my past history was irrelevant. Sure, it was still what made up most of my personality, but the new people I was meeting didn’t share those stories. Our friendships were based on what they saw in me now, now who I was in elementary school, Jr. high, or any other place.

I left an area where I witnessed terrible things, friends who (rightly) feared their parents anger, who never felt safe anywhere, where I saw kids beat the holy hell out of other kids just because they could, people who had next to nothing, and moved to a place that wasn’t perfect, but on the surface seemed infinitely safer. That appearance made all the difference.

I have to remind myself of this. I am such a different person than I was at that age. Much of what I believe and who I am would shock my younger self, and it is easy for the current me to be very hard on the younger one, how he grew up, his affection for the suburbs. If I am being honest, if I say what I really know, that part of my life is invaluable.

A Reflection

When I decided to no longer be afraid, I was amazed at how much of my life had been dictated by fear-filled decisions. Sadly, rather than learning to move forward, let the choices of the past guide me to a better, less fearful future, I determined to lash out in anger at everyone and everything I perceived had slighted me, lead me down a path that really wasn’t my own. In many ways, that period of my life was the worst. I was caught in a spiral of frustration, anger, misplaced passion and self destructive behavior.

It took me years to work through things, longer still to find a better path. I learned the same lessons over and over until they finally started to sink in. I didn’t know everything, didn’t have every answer. In fact, my current direction had kept me just as stagnant as living a life of fear had.

Learning I really knew very little, that any wisdom I had amassed was embarrassingly small  frustrated and embarrassed me. I felt the insignificance that always accompanies that sort of revelation. My thoughts, my ideas, my life, they were just tiny drops in a massive ocean. For the first time, maybe ever, I was humbled, not by fear, or guilt, but by and actual moment of understanding. It was a very good thing.

After that moment, I finally began climbing out of the massive hole I had buried myself  in, one handful of dirt at a time.

A life long process of letting my past alone, letting people around me make their own decisions without my useless judgments. I stopped blaming other people for my mistakes. Most importantly, I stopped worrying about what I didn’t know or didn’t understand. If I had questions, I asked. I still make mistakes, we all do. I regress, progress, stagnate. I still know very little and am often amazed at the amount of things I have yet to learn. I still feel insignificant at times, still feel like a tiny drop. The ocean is as immense as ever.

-Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops- David Mitchell


Forty Minutes at Ikea

A few years back, Sheryl and I moved our bedroom from downstairs back to the original man level master. When we first adopted the boys, they slept in the back bedroom, right next to us. I never liked sleeping with the kids so close.  I never really relaxed and every noise had me wondering if one of them was awake, needing help. Both boys would talk and walk in their sleep, which was discomforting for parents who did not get the first seven years to learn the ins and outs of how children grew and developed. I was always surprised when one of them would be mumbling by my bedside at 3 in the morning. Moving downstairs seemed to slow those instances.

I am a selfish person and I wanted an office for writing, so we banished the boys to the basement and Sheryl and I took over the upstairs rooms. To make myself feel less mean, I also brought along my music collection, giving that side of the basement to the kids for homework and internet use.  A small basement flood had warped the bottom of my old CD racks, giving me the chance to upgrade to better stuff. We found some perfect replacements at Ikea. Tall and full of space, I went from almost five bookcases to under two and a half.

I didn’t stop buying music. Last week, I realized I had enough music to fill the last bookcase, and most likely the first shelf or two of another. It was time to venture back to Ikea. Saturday afternoon around 5, we walked in the front door. Usually, we like to take our time and wander the isles, looking at the displays, often finding ideas or products we like. This time, we had been out and about most of the day and both of us were tired.  I took the initiative, and just walked straight to the storage shelving area. A quick once through failed to locate the item I wanted, so I went to the first fine employee I could find. Apparently he worked in desks, and though he was right at a inventory computer, my inquiry about the shelf was met with, “that product is over in that department.” And a point to the storage shelving I had just perused. Well that was certainly helpful. Let me go over there, fine sir.

I saw a young woman who was metaphorically chained to the storage shelves area and asked her if they still carried the shelf I wanted. She walked to the rear of the department and checked the inventory. Sadly, that product was discontinued, though she did try and find a suitable replacement.  Everything they were selling was too short to be a perfect relpacement, but we did find something we could live with.

Off to the self service area, and let me remind you if you have forgotten-self service is exactly what it is. We easily located what we needed and were making our way towards the check out area when I remembered I also needed some shelf pins for a last remaining shelf I had in the closet at home.  Two yellow shirted fellows were wandering about, putting discarded or misplaced merchandise away. I approached one and asked him about the shelf pins. “Ask in as is.” was his mumbled response. I tried to imagine working for Ikea and being unable to move from my designated work station. I looked fruitlessly around the yellow shirted ruffian for some device that would set off alarms, or maybe explode if he wandered too far afield. It must have been cleverly hidden as all I saw were bad tribal tattoos, skinny legs and a really terrible haircut.

Off to the ‘as is’ area. Here, I rang a doorbell for service and then asked another young man for some shelf pins. He returns with one in his hand and I think to myself finally, I have found not only what I wanted, but an employee who helped find it! Nope. He hands me the first pin and says, “Here’s one. You can rummage through that pile of extra hardware for some more.” I turned to see five or twenty drawers filled with screws, dowels, pins, plugs, twisty things, plastic odds and ends tossed together in no describable order. I looked back at this kid, thinking to myself, “seriously, you couldn’t just grab three more while you were already back there,” but he was already gone. Ikea is a busy place.

I rummaged, then rummaged some more. So many interesting tidbits, and after a bit, I found three more fantastic pins and could make my way to check out (by the way, they wanted three dollars a bag for random hardware, any guesses on how much I paid).

Before continuing, I want to say that I enjoy self check out  at most stores, most of the time. It is often faster and very convenient when you only have a few items. It is however, not convenient when everyone in line has multiple large items and seem unable to manage the machines. Ikea had one non self service station open on a Saturday afternoon, where one frazzled cashier was trying her best to move the line along. Meanwhile, five to seven other employees ran back and forth from one self service station to another, editing prices, changing quantities, controlling lines, and in many cases, checking out each and every item for confused shoppers. The one plus-Each of these workers actually seemed to enjoy their jobs, or at least were able to put on a pleasant smile. While they were the most busy of the Ikea family I encountered, they were the most helpful, going out of their way to help each other and all the crazy people who were obviously struggling with the check out process.

This entire shopping excursion took 40 minutes and was by far the most unpleasant experience I have ever had at Ikea. I hope this is just an anomaly and not the new trend of service I will get. The merchandise would certainly not be worth the effort if that became the norm.

Someone to Save Us All

Every few years, some new band, writer, artists, comes along with a clever idea. Sometimes that artist radically changes the course of their given art form. Other times, the artist hearkens back to a past time, offering a new perspective on an old idea. Almost every time this happens, the relevant media (magazines, reviewers, etc) lauds the artist with too much praise, or criticism. One common phrase-(Insert artist here) has saved (insert art form) from certain demise. Fresh roses after piles of manure.

So and so saved rock and roll, modern art, fiction, film.

Nope, not in the least.

Every art form has peaks, valleys and plains. Some periods are more interesting to more people but no particular period is an eternal determent to the entire art form.

Publishers, record labels, major film studios exist to make money(and there is nothing wrong with that, right). They exist to provide entertainment and education for people, at a cost (again, which is fine). These organizations work best when good art and profit combine. Good being as subjective a term as you can imagine it to be. It is the theory that talent scouts, agents, etc. are seeking those with the most talent to write books, music and film. I like to think art being displayed at a gallery is of high quality. We expect the music we buy to be performed by talented musicians, the books we read to be by written by good storytellers, good researchers, good writers.  Sometimes it is.

My experiences in music have lead me to believe that rarely are the best artists getting paid or getting big record deals, which leads me to wonder the same about other art forms. I don’t know enough about underground writing, art, movies to make a judgement, but when I look at music, I see the best are often making music in obscurity.

Which leads to this- If you find the current trend in art, fashion, film, music or fiction to not be your cup of tea, do some searching. You will find that your favorite medium is not in any jeopardy. Someone, many actually, are out  creating some of the best (insert medium) you have ever seen, heard or read.

Our current information age lets more of us find each other, discover art that moves, music that inspires and books that spark imagination. Not everything being self-published is worth finding, but then again, neither is everything put out by mainstream organizations.

One of my favorite authors gave this speech on why self-publishing sucks and publishers rule

It’s mostly crap, but there are some good points. Quality editing is a must. If you write something, let someone else read it with the sole purpose of finding mistakes (there will be plenty), but good editors are not exclusive to publishing companies. Good marketing is the best way to get your work widely read, heard or seen, but the advent of social media has made it much easier to reach a target audience without having to resort to paid marketing. No good works are ever produced in an isolated vacuum. Art is at its most poignant when it is shared. This includes the creation process. Getting opinions on ideas, direction, whatever can only serve to make whatever you are creating better. Again, this is not exclusive to publishing houses, record studios or the like. People you already know or can easily seek out are just as valuable a resource.

American literature is not in trouble, nor is music or film. It is as it always has been, shifting, progressing, regressing at times, but the more of us involved in making it, the better off it will be.

Missing You

Playing on YouTube today, I came across several classic 80’s videos. It reminded me of a time when MTV programming was actually about music. Yeah, I know. Pine for your lost youth someplace else.

Here are some of the wonderful songs and videos I rediscovered.

A-Ha-Take on Me: So cutting edge at the time…plus, such a pretty band.

Alphaville-Forever Young: 80’s prom gold!

John Waite-Missing You: Dangling earrings and payphones.

Cindi Lauper-Time After Time: Awwww, tears.

Rick Springfield-Jessie’s Girl:Leather jackets AND suits? Say it ain’t so.

T’pau-Heart and Soul: Star Trek themed band name…one hit wonder.

Pat Benatar-Love is a Battlefield: What could be hotter than dancing hookers? Not much.

Richard Marx-Right Here Waiting:Mullet power!

J Geils Band-Centerfold: Lots of blank faces in this one.

Human League-Don’t You Want Me: This is a serious video!

There are certainly more and better videos out there. Find any?

What We Hold Close

“Saturn comes back around. Lifts you up like a child or
Drags you down like a stone to 
Consume you till you choose to let this go. 
Choose to let this go.”  

The quote above is from a Tool song called ‘The Grudge’. It happens to be one of my favorite. When I listen to it, I hear the music moving from a place of tension (holding on tightly to a grudge) to a place where a choice is made to let go.  I often feel a heaviness leaving me when I focus on letting my own grudges go as I listen. I let my body and mind connect, stop fighting and stop trying to analyze everything to death. For that moment, I really believe I have let go, that I am ready to move on to other things.

Sadly, things are never that clean.

Days later (weeks, months, sometimes years), those same old wounds make their way back. I go through the obvious reactions to those moments-What brought this back? Why now? Does this mean I really never let anything go? Which leads to all sorts of self doubt and frustration. I feel weak, cowardly, deceitful.

Another song pops into my head.

“There’s nothing too special about getting hurt,
but getting over it, that takes the work.”                -Glen Phillips-

And there it is.

Too often I hear people argue that people just need to “let go” of whatever it is they are worrying about. Stories follow about the relief, the clarity that come from such a decision. And I don’t doubt them; I have felt the same thing, but there is something crucial being left out. Letting go of a grudge, an addiction, an emotion (whatever it is), is not a single moment of decision. That sort of thinking diminishes the massive effort needed in getting over anything.  Yes, there is a moment when we choose to change, and that moment of choice is always preceded by many hours of contemplation, wallowing, anger, frustration. Somehow we come to a point where we feel this is a destructive and futile path. We clear our heads and say, “Enough.”

Then the real work begins.

That one moment of clarity can easily be forgotten and we may have to choose to let go again and again. Work. There it is. Everything worth having takes work. It reeks of cliche’ but it is also one of the few true things. That work is different for every situation, every person and we have to decide for ourselves what that process will be. We try, fail, then try again. Some things work better and longer than others.

When I remember this simple thing, my recurring failings, falling into the same emotions  feels less damaging. I keep working.

Keep keeping on.