Monday, November 16, 2009

Writing for myself

As folks may notice I write a lot here and the other five blogs and the many Web pages on my Website. Sometimes it's the old adage about verbal diarrhea, just a lot of stuff with no substance. Ok, I know that and live with it, because you can always just skip it or ignore it. You have the choice of reading it.

But it's why I write that's important to me. It's less to inform, but often is, and more to release. To release what I want to say. I had a father who rarely said more than a few words to his three children and even less to me, his third. He was a very private man who took a lot of experience to his deathbed and grave.

To his friends, however, his never stopped talking. But they were almost always his friends from the service. You see, he loved the 23 years he spent in the service. He loved the friends he made. And he loved meeting other veterans his age. In retirement, he spend every morning at a coffee shop with them.

You've seen those groups of older men. I see them around where I life. Commonality. They live in that and nothing else besides their families and other friends. It's also sad to me. They miss so much of the world and people, and complain so wrongly about generations. It's the world they're comfortable in, and my Dad was no exception.

It was also after he passed away Mom found a drawer full of iou's people had written Dad for money. Not a small drawer either. And not one of those did they repay my Dad. He simply gave the money to friends, all servicemen who worked with or for him. And not one marked paid.

The truth is he never expected to be repaid, and it's likely Dad told them, "Don't worry, pay when you can." And the never did. She didn't bother to add it up, because she feared how much he had given away during their marriage, which all be a few were from, the rest the 3 years between his enlistment and their marriage.

She also found stocks he had bought, none of which were worth much anymore, and papers about money she wasn't told, let alone knew about. Dad never said anything to her. At best he never told her the truth and at worst lied to her all those years. He kept his checkboork and account locked in the desk with all the papers and iou's.

I'm not him. Nor do I want to be. But, I'm also so much like him. it's what my Mom saw and told me once, "Whatever you do in life, don't be your Dad." She knew him better than anyone. And she knew what he did to us children, but she had little power to change it, only advise us to get away and change.

Sadly, my brother tried didn't succeed, and didn't have a happy life., And my sister didn't but was eventually rewarded for her loyalty with the estate. I left and tried never to look back, but family is family. I wasn't understood and barely rewarded, something I accepted, but not without some regret. But I was and am better and happier for it.

When I retired I worked toward building my photography business and projects and buidling my Website. The latter included blogs I had planned to finally release what I knew, thought, felt or whatever. As noted on one blog, often just opnions and ramblings. In short, I didn't want to leave here without at least being vocal.

It's not that my life, work, experience, ideas, etc. are out of the ordinary. Far from it, quite ordinary. But it is my life and it's what I am and what is. It's why I decided to talk about my Dysthymia. Why I decided to talk about my long study, albeit infrequent and mostly superficial, of Taoism. Why I decided to write about my life.

Simply put, I'm not my father. Or trying not to be.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Our life is full of choices. Always choices. If not just do or don't, but always choices, more often multiple choices, some never going away, patiently persisting on the sidelines of your mind and memory, "Oh, I forgot about..." And then, there in the foreground of your mind. We make the moment we wake up (to rise or stay under the covers a little more) to the time we put our head on the pillow and close our eyes from the day.

And when we retire, choices don't disappear. They don't even dwindle to fewer or lesser ones. It's the nature of life today. We face the same choices just to get through life. It's age independent. But when we retire we are faced with the ultimate one, what to do with time. Our time.

When I chose to retire, I also chose to start a new career, to further develop my photography into something better and a personal business. Little, and naively, did I know how much that entails for time and effort. I also added I wanted to get back into shape from sitting in the office for too many years. And then I wanted to develop my own Website and work on a photography guide to Mt. Rainier NP.

And now almost four years later, I'm still working at all of it, but I'm also noticing the choices aren't disappearing or dwindling but adding as I get older. More to do and more to learn. And the world keeps getting larger with even more choices every day. Nothing is constant, especially the choices, and not even me.

I didn't realize how the photography work would go. I bought a digital camera system to help and a 4x5 system to enjoy and learn. I expected to get the personal business started in 3-5 years, but to o what I didn't know. I now produce photo cards and prints for family, friends and others wanting them for gifts, announcements, thank-you's, etc. I haven't yet decided how much to become commerical.

The problem I've learned is that every time I do photography I feel guilty I'm not working on something else or just taking care of all the stuff of life I've put aside all these years thinking retirement would be good for it, but I haven't done it. And I've discovered that approaching 60, my health and fitness aren't what I had planned, so doing photography is more work than before or thought.

So, there are weeks the camera bags sit ready to go. They pick up their ears when they hear me coming into the office, and they stretch their feet to wander toward the door to get in the way and remind me what camera gear is for, taking photos. And all too often this last year or so I've simply stepped around them or moved them aside for other things, saying, "Sorry, guys, maybe another day."

I also didn't realize where the photography guide would go. I only knew I wanted to produce the first book version in 5-7 years. I knew I wanted to develop the book to market to a publisher, and if not, then self-publishing through the Website. But to do that I needed to learn the production side. And alas, I learned what it takes to get, run and use a computer for photography, Website work, and a book.

In short, more time than I had, after you subtract life and everything else that knocks on the door wanting your attention and time, and expending energy chasing problems or something you didn't cause, didn't want, but found you anyway. It's the rule of entropy of life, more energy lost in the friction of situations and events, not contributing to anything except being spent.

The fact is that sitting still or doing nothing anymore will only find yourself going backward relative to everything else. And the reality is that not only is the body just not what it was, it's slower and less able, meaning just geting old. And it seems true to form, problems wait until you're retired to find you.

In short, the harder I try, the more tired I get and the longer the body takes to recover. It's not new, just new to me. And it's the limitations my body has, as we're given. The reality of being and being older. There's no choice there except keep trying and keep going. Otherwise, the alternative isn't all that fun.

And I'm always living on the edge of my Dysthymia. Again, no choice there, it's what I'm given. Only the choices are how to live with it and get on with life. Sometimes like the evening winter rain here, darkness outside, rain falling all around, and only the light I make inside to see. The weight of the world, life and all the choices, many not made or lying around waiting.

And that's it. Simply choices. And those we make, whether we make them or not.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

January 2, 1973

I was listening to a story on NPR about 1973 and they asked people what they remember about that year. After a moment, which wasn't a long moment, it was easy to remember that year. On January 2, 1973, I was discharged from the US Air Force after my 4-year elistment was up. I've written about some of my experiences during my service, but not about that day.

When I was discharged, due to previous circumstances with my bosses, I was given my full and complete discharge. Normally you're given a discharge from active duty and put on 2-year inactive reserve (the 6 year service). They decided that them and I should part company, so I was excused from inactive reserve duty and given a full and honorable discharge.

I can't remember much about January 1st, only I was married, we lived in an apartment in a suburb of Sacramento, California. I had already registered for classes at American River College, and was already working the graveyard shift at a local gas station. This meant, working nights, school during the day and sleeping evenings. While it worked for me, it didn't work for Linda (wife).

She worked days and didn't like coming home to find me sleeping, getting up at 11 pm to work midnight to 8 am. I also grew to dislike the graveyard shift. It was the only shift where one person manned the station. We were just off an interstate and one of the few stations open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And graveyyard was when you locked the station except for two doors (the front service entrance and the lobby to the bathrooms.

Since the station was just outside McClellan Air Force base, we got the civilian shift workers going home. Midnight to about 2:30 am (when the bars closed at 2 pm) was always busy. But then from 3 am to 6 am was pretty much quiet. My job was to clean the outside of the station, the gas service area (one on each of two sides), the windows, they lobby and bathrooms, and whatever else the boss left a note to clean.

All had to be done by 6 am for the morning commuters. Most nights I was done between 4 and 5 am so I had about an hour to find something to do. Fortunately next door was a 24/7 restaurant, so I would lock the doors, turn off the pumps and sit in the window booth getting warm. Remember it was winter when I started and worked this shft. The waitresses knew to leave my coffee cup and table alone when I left to service a car.

We were a full service station then, no self-service, and we checked the engine, cleaned the windows and anything else on the car the customer wanted. At that hour, most people just want gas to go home or back on the Interstate. The only other work was the service contract we had for the cars with a package delivery service. All 6 cylinder white Plymouth Valiants.

They were a Sacramento based company and serviced the entire middle San Jaquin-Sacramento Valley, going about 60 miles north and south and to San Francisco (downtown). They worked mostly overnight so their cars were coming in at all hours for gas and service. They were the only customers I was allowed to unlock the service bay door to work on cars. After that I could only do that for travel emergencies, for the mechanic in the morning.

In some ways I liked the job, the free time after the cleanup. I could read, study and do homework for the day. What's ironic is that I never got robbed. Only the occasional person who drove off without paying. The boss allowed some loss to that (if I reported the crime), but not too much as it may appear I'm selling gas on the side.

Anyway, after about a year at graveyard I moved to swing shift, 4 pm to midnight. It was always busy until about 9-10 pm when there was little to do, but there was always two people there. Once they learned what we could do as mechanics, we were often working on cars in the bays for the next day, usually just routine or minor service and maintenance. And we could sell and service tires.

After that, beside the job and school (went year around, even summers - GI Bill), there wasn't much time for the marriage, but we managed, which was mostly pack the 1971 VW Bug and travel around the area and visit San Francisco. At least one weekend and often two weekends a month just travelling and visiting.

In retrospect, it was probably one of the best years I've had. Nothing spectular, just ordinary, but free of the service and exploring life. In hindsight, Linda was and still is a great person and woman (divorced in 1984), but our marriage was almost always tenuous at best, a compromise between to disparate personalities and characters. I cherish the time, but I also realize how naive I was not to have done more and better.

But that's all history, a year in a life. And thanks to NPR, a jog to remind myself of a time when.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


You said something about interpersonal communications?

I kept this next to my workstation at work visible to everyone who came in my office to sit and talk. It was aimed at those people who always came it to say, "I want to talk with you.", really meaning, "I want to talk to you.", which translates to, "I talk and you listen." This applied to almost every manager and supervisor and senior scientists. Arrogance knows no job position when the person is closed-minded and condescending.

Everyone know the tune and tone there.

I'm not sure if they got it, since those people don't, but it doesn't mean I can't try, which I did. My policy was simply. I treat you as you treat me. Not the Bible, just common sense about human decency. I respected everyone who was open, honest, respectful and fair, not matter their job title or position. My job was to help them do their job better and if I can help them or give them new or more information, great.

And I also treated people with humor. I may take my job and work seriously, even passiontately as many knew me or heard me at meetings, but I never took myself seriously. And I found often people came in to chat. I didn't mind. Sometimes productivity is improved when people can just chat or think out loud. And always see things anew.

And to those who got too serious, which I sometimes was a sounding board, I would listen, offer advice and then say, "Ok, remember it's just what it is, and sometimes just not that important." And I'd ask them to talk a walk around the downtown area where our office was to see that life goes on, regardless of their problems or issues. In short, get a perspective.

And I also found myself telling myself the same thing. It's why 3-4 days a week I took a lunch hour walk. Since I couldn't eat lunch beyond a snack (long different story), I'd pick a direction and just walk for 30 minutes and then turn around and walk back. it sure did help the perspective.

Anyway, there's not much here. I just wanted to note the picture and saying. And yes, there were some folks, I would love to be Ralph (the Sheep Dog).