Friday, October 29, 2010

Morning Meditation

I like to try and start my day with a bit of reflection and prayer. Growing up in a Christian household I discovered early on about the benefits of getting out of bed in reverence of a Higher Power. As I have grown older, many days I have woken up feeling no need of nothin’ from nobody! Ninety five percent of the time I have been wrong thinking in such a manner. The mornings I do wake up and “get spiritual” I am filled with energy. Coffee seems unnecessary when I start the day off right. Usually, there is no grand epiphany; no lightning strikes inside the apartment. I read, I reflect, I pray, I check Facebook, and I get out of bed.  However, this morning I came across an interesting passage that could not have been read at a better time in my life. Proverbs 29:9 reads, “When a wise man has controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.” (New American Standard Translation) Today was a good day to be reminded to choose my battles wisely.

In my youth I often avoided confrontation. I chose to remain silent and endure ridicule or even run. As I got older and more weathered I started to stand up for myself and even involve myself in situations that were best avoided. For a while there I did not grow older and wiser, but constantly donned the hat of the jester. But everybody goes through different phases so I eventually stepped out of the fog and began to focus my energies in more positive directions.

This weekend I begin another phase in my life. On Saturday I begin to share space with another person. Anyone who knows me will attest to my strong need for independence and a predisposition toward selfishness. These are not good qualities when it comes to choosing battles. Because of my ways, moving in with someone is a step that I once swore I would never take. Such a vow was declared at a time in my life when I was frequently misguided, misinformed, and inebriated. Today, I do not know how much of that has changed but I do believe I have met someone who knows what she is getting into.

Starting tomorrow the pace of the relationship will change dramatically. For the last couple of years we have moved very slowly. We have taken our time getting to know one another and not rushed into things. This move feels right. It feels good. There are nervous apprehensions as well because now the relationship will demand work. From here on out it will be of the utmost importance to choose wisely when choosing battles.

Being in the middle of a good mystery novel, I almost passed on meditating this morning. A sense of urgency took over and I reached for the Good Book instead of “Crooked Letter Crooked Letter” by Tom Franklin. At verse 9 I realized I had made the right choice. In the ensuing days I will need to adapt my lifestyle to include another person. In order to be successful I will need to be more self-disciplined and patient. In order to be self-disciplined and patient I will need constant reminders to adjust. From this day forward I am quite sure it will prove very beneficial for me to wake up the right way so I will choose wisely when considering a scuffle.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Public Apology

I need to apologize to those that visit this site. The offerings have not been as grammatically sound as they should be. Part of the reason I decided to take on “An Eccentrics Take…” was to get back in the habit of writing on somewhat of a consistent basis. Too much time has passed since I wrote with care and precision. I once thought my prose had luster. However, carelessness has impeded some readers from being gratified after reading my sentences. Over the last several years of hastily written emails and late-night texts I lost my attentive eye. I let my own set of standards fall by the wayside.

Back when I first started dabbling with technology (meaning the internet, emails, and cellular phones) I noticed how quickly people began to lose interest in adhering to proper usage. Many correspondences from friends and colleagues were atrocious. I wondered how anyone could send out such poorly constructed communications. During my stint as a high school teacher I started to use the Internet on a more regular basis. Student emails were on an elementary-school level. I began to threaten my students with grading their emails unless they started paying more attention to grammar. I swore I would always attempt to maintain a certain standard in all my forms of communication.

Once I stopped teaching, finished graduate school, and grew disenchanted with the prospects of becoming a famous novelist, my own laziness took a strong hold. Grammar had always been a lot of work for me and I was tired. (My thesis at Johns Hopkins had to be withheld from publishing until the grammar was attended to.)  Things got really bad when grammatically incorrect text messages were being sent from my phone. Too much time had passed since my words had been held to any standard. I fell in with a majority of America by being hasty and unconcerned when it came to correspondence. Now is the time for change. Now is the time for a return to fundamentals. If only my Chicago Manual of Style had not been lost in the flood…  

I am well aware of my mistakes and weaknesses. Through practice I hope to regain a keener eye for any misuse of the English language that may occur. Already this morning I am taking more time to construct each sentence. Also, I have decided to get rid of my Iphone. Technology had a hand in my undoing so I am getting rid of all applications offering any kind of shortcut for anything. While I did enjoy playing Scrabble with my friends overseas, I am going after more productive and hands-on ways to pass the time. Send me your home address and I will be happy to write you a letter by hand or type it out on one of my antique typewriters! I know my first few posts were in need of the dreaded red pen, but this morning I ask for your patience for I am on the mend.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Judgement Day

Judge Elden Fox may go down as one of the worst judges in the history of jurisprudence in the state of California. Handing down a sentence of a stint in rehab to Lindsay Lohan for violating her probation is appalling. She is a repeat offender displaying no signs of recovery. I am positive that such an obvious statement may not even need to be put into words at this point in time. The press has provided plenty of information on the downward spiral of this troubled actress and many wonder how did she avoid being sentenced to jail. There is no mystery to the exploits of Ms. Lohan. The only mystery seems to be how to properly deal with the troubled star.

In rehab she can still carry on her business dealings with the outside world. As a woman of privilege and beauty she may even be treated as a celebrity within the confines of the Betty Ford Clinic. What she needs are confines that will re-introduce her to the harsh realities non-celebrities face in this world. What she needs is jail time.

As a wayward youth I found myself sprinting down the wrong path at a frenetic pace. I felt invincible. There was nothing I wanted to do that I could not do. If there was something I did not want to do; I felt no need to do it and rarely dealt with any long-standing consequences. I could put anything into my body and still manage to maintain a normal schedule. I had everybody fooled or so I thought. Just when I thought I had reached the zenith of adolescence; it all came crumbling down. The devil-may care life of the irreverent joker turned into three years of misery. The consequences I had been skirting around culminated into a an early summer vacation spent inside the Rappahannock Security Center.

And I was lucky! I was treated as a fortunate son. Ten years incarceration was the maximum sentence; I was given 30 days. Many people in the community spoke up on my behalf. Rumor has it, that I was to receive no jail time for the laws I broke but my parents demanded that I serve some punishment in order hopefully learn a few long, overdue lessons. Judge R. Miller put his stern reputation on the line for me. It was a risky move on his part. I am thankful for the support people showed during this time. Ms. Lohan could use a stronger show of support based on discipline and accountability.

Throughout the whole ordeal my parents constantly told me they were fully behind me but they would not rescue me from any situation that deserved punishment. Early on the path of self-destruction I was warned that I would always have their love and support but I was to face the consequences that resulted from my actions. My mother told me how hard it was to watch everything unfold during this time period. Her strength and wisdom provided the foundation for the positive changes in my life.

I worked on "Just My Luck" in New Orleans, which happened to be around the start of Ms. Lohan's downfall. Back then she was, I believe, 18 years old, a major celebrity, making tons of money, and on location in New Orleans without any adult supervision. What would one expect to happen? At this point she was still a beautiful young lady with an infectious smile. At the wrap party we had some very minor interactions and I became a true fan of her not only as an actress but as a person. Years later, as the stories of her unravelling were brought to light I felt an affinity with Ms. Lohan. I understood what was happening and early on I predicted what I thought would be the only solution to the self-destructive behavior.

Today I am very thankful for what I went through. My step father told me that he had no doubt that without serving some time in jail I would have ended up dead in a gutter somewhere. Rehab only works when one makes a clear choice to desire to put an end to destructive behavior. Jail can work on anyone who breaks the law because the ability to make choices in life are, for the most part, taken away completely. You are assigned and considered a number, not a person. The privilege of being regarded as a person is stripped away. To put it blatantly - you messed up and are no longer eligible to be a member of society. Jail is a method of correction so one can try and re-enter society having learned from their mistake(s). Inside, time for reflection is all too abundant. Inmates are forced to think and stimulation from the outside world is very limited. It is nearly impossible to avoid evaluating one's place in life.

On the morning I was released from jail I went home and immediately opened up the refrigerator and poured myself a glass of orange juice. As I held the orange juice up to take I sip I paused for a moment. Right then and there I started to realize everything I had been taking for granted over the last several years. A simple glass of orange juice in my parent's kitchen became the point of embarkation toward clarity. After some probation time and a few more years of bad, but not quite as consequential, decision making, I discovered how fortunate my position was in life. I finally appreciated the love and support of family and close friends. Most of the good came out of this due to expert parenting.

The lessons my parents hoped for were learned. It is my sincere wish that Ms. Lohan will find her way back to the correct path and that beautiful and talented girl with the infectious smile will return to the big screen. Maybe this stint in rehab will work, but if it doesn't what will happen next? I guess we will all just have to sit back and watch hoping for the best...

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm Going Book Shopping...

Last year I signed up for Direct TV. The first rule I set was - no junk, movies and sporting events only.  I thought I would be able to exercise self-discipline and not succumb to surfing through all the channels to keep some kind of background noise for companionship purposes. Not much time passed before I was breaking this rule and watching shows like "Hell's Kitchen", "Pawn Stars" and yes, even "Jersey Shore." Despite my lack of strength, I was able to live with my quick collapse. These shows weren't too awful. I even learned some cooking tips from Gordon Ramsay. However, for some reason I found myself in the middle of watching the T.Ocho Show on Versus. It was then I realized how far I had slipped.

I doubt there has ever been a more useless and absurd half hour on television. Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, two talented NFL wide receivers, have built stronger reputations for disruptive behavior rather than any accolades on the football field. Both have had other reality shows on VH1 and one must wonder if these distractions have affected their focus and abilities. Last time I checked, neither have ever won the NFL's Most Valuable Player or Offensive Player of the Year. Despite the bravado displayed by these two athletes they only have one Super Bowl appearance between the two of them. (Terrell Owens appeared in Super Bowl XXXIX with the Philadelphia Eagles.) I find it to be a sad commentary on the current tastes of our society that these two are worthy of a half-hour television show.

I desperately need to address my time management issues. Before I had cable, I found many more productive ways to pass the hours. I exercised both mind and body without the distraction of background noise. If I was bored in the evening I would take a walk and people watch. Senses were stimulated by viewing and being a part of the world outside my living room. Time without cable television also started my love of crossword puzzles. Many hours were spent trying to solve puzzles from various newspapers and now the crossword is part of my morning ritual. I also read a lot. Most of my free time was spent with books. Closing a book after finishing the read felt like such a positive accomplishment compared to hitting the "off" button on my remote.

This weekend I am going to go book shopping. I need to return to the hobby of reading rather than watching. At 41 I should work on sharpening the mind rather than dulling it. I am not saying all television is bad; I just need to become a choosier viewer. There are a lot of hard-working authors of the present and from the past who deserve to be read more than a lot of reality stars need to be viewed. The time to revolt against awful television has arrived! But this doesn't mean I'm going to miss the Redskins game or the Martinsville race this weekend...     

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's the Way I Was Raised!

My mother told me that as a child I loved sitting at the kitchen table and reading the newspaper in the morning. This early morning ritual stuck with me for most of my adult life...and then came the invention of the internet. However, that changed nothing for me. No laptop, Iphone, Kindle, or Ipad is going to change my love of going to the newsstand and buying the paper. 

This morning I look forward to bundling up against the fall breezes and heading out for the New York Times. For most of this past winter I was unable to do so. Money was extremely tight in my household and I had to cut out any and all expenses I could. Coffee went from the French Press method to instant, entertainment became whatever was on TV, and I had to read my newspapers online. I absolutely loathed having to pull out my computer to read the headlines and attempt the crossword puzzle of the day.

The sensory pleasure of reading the news was gone. I missed the smooth feel of the paper. There is nothing like the feel of a fresh newspaper in the morning. From the fold of it during the walk home to the peacock-esque unraveling as I took to the couch for the morning read. Holding a newspaper feels so much better than hanging on to some electronic device that could drop and malfunction. If one drops a newspaper you dust it off and go back to your article; if one drops an Iphone there is no insurance if it breaks and the application usually shuts down. Technology can make the simplest of pleasures quite frustrating. 

Opening the newspaper is a grand gesture that makes quite the statement for the reader. You see one sitting or standing behind an open newspaper you know that person wants to be left alone. Said person is in his or her moment and by the way, he or she looks awfully smart with the world's news at their fingertips. You see one hunched over their e-device reading their e-paper they look cross eyed. That person will probably end up needing botox after focusing on a much smaller plane for any length of time. The e-paper person also seems so much more withdrawn from the society they are reading about. The traditional newspaper reader appears alive and ready to take on the soon as he or she puts the newspaper down.

I always snapped my newspaper open to start my morning ritual. The sound of fibers becoming taut was my "gentlemen, start your engines" for the day. Here is when the cup of Folgers kicked in and I finally felt awake. While reading the news, I loved the sound of the pages rustling together or the gentle utterance that came from turning the page. To me, there is nothing so pleasing as a peaceful setting with the occasional clattering of a newspaper. No more getting interrupted by text messages in the middle of reading an article on my Iphone.

The reports of the state of the newspaper industry are very disconcerting. I wish everyone would feel the urge to put down their devices and go out and buy a newspaper. This industry is important to society. I especially think that sensory participation is important to young readers. The newspaper is a great learning tool for young students. To some it may be a "green" thing to read online but recycling may offer a satisfactory solution. Trends tend to make comebacks in fashion I hope that one day in the very near future the newspaper will become a must as an accessory. Save Itunes for the music. Today I am going to head to the newsstand to do my part to not stop the presses.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Airport Observation

Traveling back and forth between Chicago, where I live now, and the East Coast, where I am from, offers me many opportunities to observe the human form in one of my favorite locations...the airport. Usually I sit back and take it in the varying scenes without feeling and bias. Something happened this weekend. I don't know if it was the relentless sinus pressure from a head cold or feeling beat down after a strenuous week rigging on Transformers 3 but it was different.

I first noticed the boy and his father in the security line. One could not help but notice the boy. He looked to be in his mid 20s standing just shy of seven feet tall and displayed a wide and unceasing smile. Close to his side was the father with a tanned and weathered face, like one who has spent his life working hard and honestly in a profession that required being outdoors. Under his thick crown of gray hair was a pair of dark eyes that could only be described as gentle. It did not take long before I lost track of everything else around me and remained focused on the boy and his father.

Having lost my own father at the age of three I am always drawn to the interactions between fathers and sons. Sometimes the behavior I witness almost makes me glad circumstances came about as they did and sometimes I am indeed envious. No matter what I observe I always wonder what I would be like as a father. I used to dream about having a family. Then I started watching my friends and other family members start having kids. I could not fathom all the sacrifices that needed to be made and all the energy being a dad required. The demands seemed overwhelming. I quickly determined myself to be incapable of properly raising a child. After this weekend, I realized how selfish my way of thinking has been.

By the time the boy and his father reached the screening station it became clear that neither traveled very often. The TSA agent had to lead them through all the nuances of passing through security. For a moment the smile on the boy's face turned into a confused look but as soon as he grabbed his suitcase from his father's hand the smile returned.

They walked toward the bench where I was sitting putting myself back in order. As soon as the boy sat down next to me the father got down on a knee and began to put the boys shoes back on and retie the laces. The gentleness in the eyes I saw from a distance was confirmed. I felt the tears begin to form in my own eyes. watching this interaction one of the most beautiful scenes I have ever witnessed. 

As the father worked on the boy's and his own shoes, the boy pulled out some sort of reading material and set it down on the bench beside him. Without being too obvious I snuck a look as I got up to head my own way and saw that it was a full-color brochure for Walt Disney World. Hence the reason for the boy's unceasing smile. I remembered my own happiness the first time I went to the Magic Kingdom when I was around five or six. My emotions really started to get a hold of me. Instead of heading to to nearest Starbucks I had to find a quiet corner where I could gather myself. I was afraid if I went into a restroom I would end up in a full on cry.

The walk through the airport helped me gather myself. I said a little prayer of well wishes for the boy and his father and tried to focus on my own happiness due to the fact that I would be back in Chicago soon. There was so much for me to look forward to. I would soon be seeing Gracie and the Mongrels, having a beer at the Ale House, and moving into a new apartment to start a new phase in life. However, I could not think about anything concerning myself. I wanted to know more about the boy and his father, but there was not much more I could do but just observe them for a little while longer.

The next flight to Orlando was departing from Gate A2; I headed that way. The boy and his father were wandering around looking for the gate when I reached the concourse, the father in the lead the boy moving his tall legs as fast as he was able. I wanted to help lead them the right way but figured I was already intruding enough. They did make it to the gate in plenty of time and even fell into conversation with someone nearby. Only the father spoke. The boy remained silent and just stood there smiling, the brochure still in hand. I could not help but feel disappointed that I never heard the boy speak. I felt as if hearing his voice would offer a kinship, as if the lessons I learned from my observations weren't enough. Once the boy and his father boarded the plane and went out of view I went on a walk to try and let the air dry out the moisture in my eyes. 

I was touched by this boy and his father. Watching them made me begin to rethink my outlook on a lot of things. My words fall short of giving the beauty of their interaction justice. Like all relationships I am sure there were/are frustrations and trials to accompany the trips to the Magic Kingdom. As I begin this next phase of my life in Chicago I want to continue the maturation process. Toward my family and friends I want to make sure that I work on stifling the selfishness and bringing out the gentleness in my own eyes. And I hope the boy and his father had the time of their lives at Disney World.