Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking Back at 2009

This is the time of year when people remind you that this is the time of year when we all look back at the previous 360 odd days and make judgements on all the crap that has taken place, then with a satisfied grin, look ahead, confident that the year is now placed firmly in a dull cardboard box labelled, "2009". But just because it is the end of the year, that doesn't mean the future won't be affected by it. Time doesn't begin and end, time is continuous. I wish it wasn't. I wish Time Machines were available on the open market or via rentable booths near Starbuck's. I'd use it now, for instance, to go back in time and knock that breakfast burrito from out of Past Me's hands. That guy's a jerk.

I won't get personal, or at least not too personal. I don't know you THAT well. We aren't drinking after each other so don't assume you have access to my soul.

Did you know I had Crohn's Disease? Oh, the blank look. Yeah, I get that sometimes. Increasingly common, however, is the response, "I know someone with that." Which helps. I won't bore you with details, click on the link if you're the curious type and hopefully not a cat. It's not cancer. You don't die from it you just live a crappy life with it as it accompanies you every damn place you go. Unless you are in remission. Oh and there's no cure. And get this, they have no idea what causes it! See, all the research money goes to AIDS, a disease you gotta work to get for the most part and let's avoid this road, come, take my hand as we make a tiny detour.

I've had it since puberty and blah blah blah in January of this craptastic year I ended up in the hospital to undergo surgery, the first time I'd had to do that. Then follow that with an infection in February and I spent a combined total of 2 weeks in a hospital bed with a phone that didn't have internet service. Pretty sure Hell blocks out all wifi access. Try it, go a few days with no internet. You shuddered just now, didn't you. Sorry.

In February I joined the social networking time sucking website known as People of Walmart Twitter and promptly judged it "stupid". The months after February until maybe the middle of June saw me lose a couple of pounds per week, get nausea, have extreme lethargy, and ballroom dance. Because dance is my muse. Doctors, plural, didn't know why this was happening. An odd symptom was that the texture and taste of food repulsed me. Everything tasted horrible and felt like chalk in my mouth, which turned me off of food, along with the nausea. What about water, I hear you in the back asking. Okay, FINE, water was okay. Don't get picky with me. There wasn't a doctor I saw who knew what or why this taste aversion thing was happening. Even an Ear, Nose,& Throat Doctor who appeared to be in his early 120's said he'd never heard of it.

Finally my sister inserted her forceful self into the process, finding me a doctor that prescribed me Prednisone, a steroid. When I swallowed the first pill I weighed 108 pounds. By the time the prescription needed a refill I had gained 10 pounds and could taste food. But long term, the stuff is very bad for you so I am off of it now.

Got better sure, but then in October Crohn's flared and the drug I inject into my thigh or stomach doesn't work. So at year's end, I have more bad days than good. Also, I was on my ex wife's health insurance and on October 1st the coverage disappeared because she lost her job. A month later I signed off on divorce papers and after dropping them off at the Post Office, got into my truck to hear "Come Out And Play" on the radio which made me think this was the right thing.

About the time I was in the middle of taking the refill of the steroid I tried Twitter again and figured it out. It is something of a gobal chatroom and if you are reading this, chances are extremely good that you are on there. Yeah, okay, I see you waving, hello. Oh cool, you're here, and you, wow, didn't know you came here, thank you.

So I met and ontinue to meet some amazing people there. I even talked with Ashton Kutcher. Wil Wheaton. that guy from that NFL team whose name I cannot for the life of me remember now. Shaun something. So, yeah, important people and regular people alike are finding out what I had for lunch and reading my witty, touching, and superawesome tweets. And I read theirs. And some tell me their secrets, and some I tell mine to. And some I don't really understand, and some I envy and some I really, really, really want to meet and will in 2010.

And no one close to me has died, and my nephew and his gf have treated me well since my return to this sunny place and my 13 year old truck still works great and golly life is wonderful or at least not too horrible and sometimes I make some pretty good food and often I enjoy eating it too and a few times there is no pain afterwords.

I took down one shed and put up another. I received a text from Ron Artest. I went to the beach a lot. I walked my dog. I felt an earthquake on my birthday and I read 37 books. And I started a blog, duh! and I've written a book...(if you add all the 13,000+ tweets together and assemble them onto numbered pages.) and I consider that a nice feat to have accomplished.

So I am tossing this year in that cardboard box over there, the one next to the roll of packing tape and after closing it up, shoving it in the garage. I see the box containing 2010 is at the door. I sense there are some great things in there amidst some bad things. But that's been the trend and I am old enough to accept it.

I hope your 2010 is filled with more good than bad, and slip some awesome in there too.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Orleans, Five Years Ago, And Today.

The Ghost of Christmas Future should have accompanied him five years ago this month. Did he know what he had? He thought he did. He didn't know, however, how easily it could leave him.

He drove south, to New Orleans, with his newlywed bride in the car passenger seat, sleeping. She always slept on car trips. Something about the motion of the car, the sensation, lulled her off to dreamland every time. This left him free to play whatever he wanted on the radio. The lush green trees on each side of Interstate 59 giving way to more and more swampland as they entered the area of Slidell, Louisiana. She awoke for this sight, for it wasn't something either of them had seen everyday.

Then crossing the bridge over Lake Pontchartrain, a bridge seemingly without end. This being five years ago, it was pre-Katrina, and unsullied. Then: New Orleans, the huge stadium, the city, the aura; all compelling. He drove them to their hotel, The Hotel Monteleone, where they had reservations. A stunning hotel, awash in Christmas decorations and many posh displays of the holiday season all over town.

This was their honeymoon. And the Ghost should have told him to hold her hand more. Look at her more. Talk to her more. BE there with her. Treat her special, something.

They toured the city, the music live, vibrant, and ever present. Over the next two days they saw the Mississippi River up close, toured an outdoor market where she bartered for this or that item. They had beignet's, she had coffee, he, Coke. They ate lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and thought it pretty decent, especially the waiter quizzing them on all the minutiae of the film, Forrest Gump. They dressed nicely for a romantic dinner in a candlelit restaurant where they sampled gumbo and etouffee.

They walked around a lot. Watching street performers, so many of these. Carriages pulled by horses. The Ghost would tell him, now, to grab one for her, but he did not. So many opportunities for romance, but the Ghost wasn't there to prod him into acting. The man took his bride for granted.

They attended a marvelous church choir celebration in a stunning church where a young couple who sat next to them told them their life stories, eager to be best friends, quickly. He and his bride chuckled over this. They visited an old used bookstore, each of them wandering off to different sections. They went to Central Grocery for a muffaletta sandwich, that he didn't care for as much as she did. And it was so large that they took it back to their room. They took a trolley around town.

They walked the city, night and day, avoiding Bourbon Street for it smelled pretty bad. They drank, but not overly so. And they loved. Overly so.

They took pictures, but now, five years later, he does not have these photos. So many rolls of film were rolling around in a junk drawer, the New Orleans roll added to it, they never got around to developing them. His bride may have them now, if so he would like to see the one of them, arm in arm, in front of the hotel Christmas Tree. But maybe it's best he doesn't see it. Yes, the Ghost of Christmas Future would tell him it's best he only has to deal with this image, the memories, only in his head, and not on photo paper. It's easier to forget them this way, and since he isn't listening to the Ghost about BEING there, soaking her in, learning to be with her, he doesn't deserve any memorobilia. Except for the coat with the hotel's logo on it she bought for him right before they checked out and headed for home.He will always have that.

The Ghost of Christmas Future could have told this man, five years ago, things that would have led him on a very different path. Or perhaps not. When we have the opportunity to do something over again, will we truly act any differently? Are second chances really all they're cracked up to be? Maybe the future unfolded the way it did for a reason, and any altering of it would alter other things, better things, that await us in the future. This is perhaps why we don't get any "do-overs". Why a future self can't whisper in your ear and advise you. Because you are going to do what you are going to do, no matter what, and you learn from these mistakes.

The man and his bride had a glorious time for their honeymoon in New Orleans five years ago. From then it got worse, until the inevitable heartbreak happened. But the memory brings smiles. And given opportunity, the path probably wouldn't have been altered, so enjoy what was. And learn. And go forward with that knowledge, using it in the future, so that a trip with someone else is a memory both can look back on and smile. Together. As they hold a photo album. Of photos that have been developed. With captions. And flair. Because it's nice to have memories somewhere other than in your head.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A redneck dog goes Hollywood

This is my dog, JJ. Today is JJ's birthday. Maybe. Who knows, it very well could be. My ex wife (let's refer to her as Ivy from here on out) got him when he was just a puppy from a woman who took in rescue dogs and gave them out to homes she felt would treat the dog right. He was a few months old when we got him and he instantly became attached to me, for I am something of a dog whisperer Jr.

JJ is half black lab, and half whatever you want. People have said they see everything from pit bull to German Shepherd in his features. After much family discussion the name "Coffee" arose and nearly stuck, but I dislike coffee, the beverage and the name, so thought "Java" a cooler, hipper moniker. And because I am a writer, I had to edit the name by adding "Joe" to it and though, "Java Joe" is nice, "JJ" stuck for good. (Technically he is "JJJ" because my last name is Johnson, but let's not get out of hand.

JJ is a big baby, scared of many things, but his deep bark betrays this. He does not do kisses, saving any licking for himself, I suppose. Generally quiet, he is also good at whining. If you know of a home for JJ...just kidding, I had begun to sound like I was selling him or listing his qualities to give him away. You can't have him. Born in Alabama means he has a penchant for eating a lot. He goes through the Purina One like crazy, and really likes table scraps, comfort food y'all. He killed a possum the other night, but didn't eat it. Was waiting for someone to fix it with sausage gravy I assume.

When going through incredibly difficult times a year before I left Alabama, it sometimes felt as if JJ was my only friend there. I made the 2000+ mile drive from Alabama to California with him riding shotgun in my truck. Also, some doggy tranquilizers were involved. Some I even gave to JJ. He became accustomed to the hours long drive each day and, though he was obviously confused, he was relatively hopeful too. Mirroring my own outlook by the way.

He lives at my sister's house now and they all have welcomed him into their home. He appears happy and after a year here, still sees me as his pack leader, even though I only see him once a week at best. The weather is nicer here and a lot sunnier, so he has to wear sunglasses, just like a true Californian. No I don't have pictures of that. He is adapting well and for that I am glad. Merry Christmas JJ.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Twtr means 2 me.

Allow me to demonstrate, through metaphor, my experience thus far with the microblogging website, Twitter. Imagine Twitter as a giant party you invite yourself to, the partygoers only people you want there. The only gatecrashers are people who quote non-partygoers and singer Britney Spears chowing down on someone's knee.

At first the room in which the party is being held is empty. People who don't 'get' Twitter place celebrities at their party and make a few comments about the room. The celebrities don't talk to them and they leave declaring Twitter, "stupid". I did this myself, at the start. Why I came back I don't know. But I did.

I used the Find User option and added names. Just names. Then I read what these people were saying. Soon, my party had a lot of people. The ones who never talked to me were escorted out. Here's an analogy: There's a room with millions of people, all with their back turned to you. You tap them on the shoulder (hit Follow) and they turn towards you and you can hear what they are saying. They cannot hear you until they tap you on your shoulder. Now you can, potentially, talk with them, have drinks, dance, whatever you like, it's a party.

Soon, many people are tapping your shoulder and the party gets interesting. Sometimes people laugh at what you say, sometimes you laugh. Mostly, though, you connect with people. People you never knew existed.

You can wear a mask at your party or you can dance completely naked. The extremes with which people are willing to share runs the gamut. I have chosen to be myself, generally. The best, wittiest version of myself. Outside of the party you would find me somewhat inhibited, more guarded. But at my party I try to put the lampshade on my head and sing bad karaoke. It helps to take me away from a downward spiralling life.

A few partygoers have touched me deeply. THIS is the surprise of Twitter, to me. I've been involved in social media for 15 years in the form of message boards and Yahoo chatrooms. I even met my ex wife in a chatroom, which should tell you a lot about me. Some of my closest friends are people I've never met, face to face.

I have enjoyed the company of many partygoers. Isn't this why we go to parties? For social interaction? For a good time?


That is to say, not necessarily. Some people come to the party to sell something; a product line, a blog, book, service, or even themselves. Some people only want attention. Slap a star on their forehead and they're happy. And that's all great. Good for them. Sell, sell, sell.

I follow some people like this. But I think most people are at the party to connect with someone. This isn't bad, for, as I stated earlier, the party has millions of potential guests, so there's a lot of potential for reward. I have connected with a few. Some I didn't expect to connect with. Maybe you yourself have been surprised at the level of closeness you have developed for one or another partygoer. You dance well together, in perfect step, to a tune you both enjoy. When he/she talks to you, you know there's something special going on.

But it's just a party. It's not real life. And the partygoers aren't there for you. The music has to stop sometimes and the dancing, the incredible dancing, ends. And it's no one's fault, really. But you need to step outside and take a break. Reevaluate things. Having fun at the party... is it worth it when you can't take the dancer home? And it's sure as hell not fun when you can't dance with her at your own party.

If you think this blog post is about you, you're right. You can read yourself into most things.