Monday, November 30, 2009

Music Video Monday: Toto

Today's music video selection is dedicated to Christine. One song has been playing in my mind a lot lately. That would be my second favourite Toto song, "I'll Be Over You" (their "Africa" single is my favourite). This song came out in 1986, when I was enduring my first heartbreak with a girl I consider my first love. We became penpals after meeting in Independence, Missouri. For whatever reason, she stopped writing in 1986 and I was really devastated by it. Since this song was playing on the radio at the time, I naturally associated it with her.

Of course, I did eventually get over her and there have been a few more heartbreaks over the years. Now, I am experiencing heartbreak, again, as the lady I consider my "best friend in Portland" moves to the Netherlands tomorrow to finally be with the guy she has been in a long distance relationship with. In the two and a half years I've known her, I really thought establishing a good friendship and going to fun events would be enough to win her heart.

I admire that she's taking a huge step in faith for the sake of love. I hope it is everything she believes it to be and wants for her life. She's a braver soul than me, because I certainly would not give up my life in the USA to live the rest of my days in a place like the Netherlands. Only France, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada are the countries I could see myself living in for the rest of my life if I were to meet and fall in love with a citizen of any of those places. But the rest of the countries of the world is a no-go for me.

Sunday was emotionally wrenching for Christine. A few people shared some favourite memories of her. I loved former pastor Brad's comment that Christine had told him when they first met that she was tired of watching televangelists at home and wanted to attend a real church. I never knew this, so I had to get more details from Christine. All the more reasons why I admire her. She found her way into this church through her previous boyfriend, whose grandmother was a member of the congregation. When the relationship ended, the boyfriend stopped attending, but Christine remained.

I wanted to share a few things, but after a few people spoke, I could tell that people's attention were starting to drift off into various conversations at their tables and my voice wouldn't carry well over the din. I gave Christine a small blank book that had a beautiful watercolor painting on the front cover of a familiar Portland scene. I used the first seven pages to make my farewell "card" to her...with a couple pictures of her and I as well as references to some of the things we've done in the past couple of years. I also wrote some nice comments. Her eyes teared up as she told me that she had never done a scrapbook before. I almost started crying when she did. I'm proud to say that I managed to keep the tears at bay, though internally, I was feeling an ache deeper than any I've felt in a long time. This farewell is hard. Too damn hard!

In the evening, my brother called me. As typical of his past few conversations, he always inquires about Christine and asks way too many questions. He also wanted me to pass along his phone number to her so she can call him and he'll talk her ear off about uninteresting things (he does that with way too many people and its annoying. Does anyone really want to hear his plans for his apartment?). I informed him that she was leaving on Tuesday. Not to be deterred, he asked if I'd pass to her his address and email so she could write him. Man, I was getting furious at this point. My brother has this bad habit of wanting to be friends with my friends. In the past, with women I was no longer interested in, he would pester me for their phone numbers and would get angry when I refused to give it to him. He should get his own women and not depend on me.

After the phone call, I just stewed in frustration over my brother and his bad habit of coveting my friends. His problem is that he responds to kindness. That means any pretty woman who is kind to him automatically translates in his disabled mind that she's attracted to him. He doesn't seem to understand that kindness doesn't necessarily mean romantic interest. I noticed this flaw in his thinking when he thought a flirtacious waitress was interested in dating me, when I knew full well that it was to get a nice tip. That my brother has an obvious crush on Christine is proof that she is naturally kind, because my brother kept mentioning her kindness in the conversation (I told him very little about Christine, because I do not like talking about the women I'm interested in to my brother).

Some day in the spiritual realm, I will learn the reason why my brother keeps doing this all my life. I wish he would not covet my friends, especially the female ones. When I first moved to Portland, I tried to keep secret some dates I went on but it was hard when I got calls while I was staying in his apartment. He actually wanted to go with me on the first dates to meet these women, having no clue how strange that would be. He takes personal offense when I refuse, but what can I do? My brother is not a good conversationalist...and besides, meeting family members comes much later. Its not a first date thing by any means. I wish he could understand that, but I suppose its part of his mental disability.

His pestering me about Christine, though, really bothered me...especially when I was still feeling very heartbroken and torn up about Christine's leaving. I've already decided that I will end my involvement with MAYAs at the end of the year. When I told Christine that, she made her cute pouty face and tried to persuade me to continue with it. She doesn't want the group to die out just because she left. I understand her view, but its just too painful for me to participate in future MAYAs events without her. She and I were the most loyal members of the group, besides Rachel and Jarom (who married each other this past July). I know that attending MAYAs events without her there will be too painful for me to put on a happy face and fake it. I need distance and the presence of new members. I'll still participate with YAPS, of course, because there's no painful memories to deal with.

Anyhow, I love the lyrics of "I'll Be Over You":

Some people live their dreams
Some people close their eyes
Some people's destiny
Passes by

There are no guarantees
There are no alibis
That's how our love must be
Don't ask why

It takes some time
God knows how long
I know that I can forget you

As soon as my heart stops breakin'
As soon as forever is through
I'll be over you

Remembering times gone by
Promises we once made
What are the reasons why
Nothing stays the same

Its the most perfect song to express what I'm feeling at the moment. I've been through this before, so I know I'll get over it eventually. But for now, I just have to process through yet another loss to add to my decade of losses. If God is merciful, I'm due for some major good luck soon. Its been too long since something really good happened in my life. Can't I get something to make up for the decade of heartache? Just one thing?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Sad Farewell to an Awesome Lady

Pictured above is Christine at the MAYAs' 2009 New Year's Party (we had an 80s theme). Today is her final Sunday at the Portland Community of Christ congregation, with a farewell potluck in her honour. On Tuesday, December 1st, she flies to Amsterdam for a new life with her Dutch fiance. I suppose if my life was a romantic-comedy, I would chase her to the airport and ask her not to go. But, I'm thinking my life is more like a tragedy so the best thing for her is to let her go, even though it breaks my heart to see her leave. Portland won't be the same without her.

Its amazing to reflect on this year. I always harboured the hope that her long distance relationship would not last. On a three week visit this year, he popped the question to her on or around her birthday. The marriage is in June and her original plan was to move to the Netherlands next year, within a couple weeks of the wedding date. I wasn't too thrilled about that idea, because it hardly gave them time to really get to know one another. I personally don't believe long-distance relationships work. Its one thing when a couple meet and fall in love when they live near one another, and then a circumstance like work separates them for a few months or longer. Its a completely different thing when one falls in love with a person who lives far away but only visited on vacation, and thus the majority of the relationship is separated by distance, save for a few weeks one year and a few weeks the next.

How can one really know a person's essence with such a separation? I've read that it takes about 90 days to really get to know who a person is, because that's how long it takes for any masks to get unveiled. People can keep up a facade for a short time, but most can't for a longer duration. Also, with such a long-distance relationship, its easy to create an ideal fantasy of the person that might not reflect reality. The separated individual can be whoever you want them to be. Thus why I'm happy that Christine is moving to Europe six months earlier than planned. This will give her time to adjust to the different culture, to really get to know her fiance with all the little details that come out when one lives together, and perhaps even to truly know if this is what she wants for herself.

The photo of us above was taken at Obama's May 2008 rally at Waterfront Park in Portland. It remains one of the best days of my entire life. I managed to convince Christine to skip church to spend the day with me waiting in line to get in, and then waiting some more at the park for Obama to appear, and then wait some more as we exited the park with the 70,000 other people after Obama gave his speech. It was that week when I realized that I really liked Christine and could realistically see myself spending the rest of my life with her. Not only did she agree to spend the day with me at that rally (she was leaning towards Hillary, I think), but she also agreed to attend two political election night parties on Tuesday just a few days after that event. She's not a political person, so I knew that it was because she wanted to spend time with me as much as I wanted to spend it with her.

In this post, I wanted to recap my experience with Christine and why I feel like such a jerk. She is a much better person than I am and I've learned a lot about spirituality and being non-judgmental from her. She is probably the most kind person I have ever met. I realized this when she had mentioned feeling guilty about laughing when American Idol judge Simon Cowell called an audition reject a "Bush baby." No...not that Bush! The animal from Africa that's known as a "Bush baby." A Google search revealed that yes, indeed, did this reject look like a "Bush baby." But Christine felt guilty about finding Cowell's comment funny. That simple comment spoke volumes to me about the type of person she is and why I loved spending my time with her. I always felt good in her presence. She fed me intellectually, with bits of information that she learned which I had never heard before. I'm a pretty smart guy, but I don't know everything. Thus, I've always been attracted to intelligent women who tell me things I don't know. The quickest way to my heart is through my brain.

She passed my "brother test" when she met him this past summer at the Flicks on the Bricks. Because my brother is developmentally disabled, he has been subjected to some of the cruelest people. I wouldn't be surprised if my long-time dislike of superficial people stems from the way I've seen them treat my brother since elementary school. My brother does have an interesting perception about people, so I enjoy hearing what he thinks about people he interacts with. Unfortunately, though, since my brother responds to any kindness, he often falls for charming con artists in whatever get-rich-quick scheme they talk him into. He's unable to detect a false kindness that some people display to him.

Christine was a natural when talking with him. No apparent disgust or disinterest showed on her face. She was completely at ease, friendly, and conversational. My brother told me later that he was impressed with her kindness. Its such a rare quality. Really, it is. I speak as a person with a slight mean streak that comes out occasionally, thus I definitely need a kind woman to tame that aspect of my personality. Christine's kindness inspires me to be a better person. She's such a natural!

The above photo of us was taken at the MAYAs' Lewis River Retreat in the spring of 2008. I'm wearing the sweatshirt of my first ship in the Navy.

I first met Christine at the Portland Community of Christ congregation in May 2007 when the pastor held a Young Adult meeting. It was informative and I only knew one person at the time, Rachel. At this meeting, I think about 8 people showed up, including Andy who was also a Navy veteran. I wrote down in my notes who all attended and mispelled her name. All I remember is that I was attracted to her at the start. After the meeting concluded, she, Rachel, Andy and I walked outside and Christine said something about it was nice seeing me again. Again? I don't remember meeting her before, but she claims that we did. Since I had moved to Portland in August 2006, we might have seen each other at church but I didn't pay attention. I think I would have, though, because I've always been on the lookout for any single young ladies at church!

We'd see each other at other MAYAs events over the course of the summer and into the fall. I really got to know her when we went to the Mt. Tabor soapbox derby in August 2007. On that day, I also met Erik, who was visiting from the Netherlands. In September 2007, a big contingent of Young Adults from Portland caravaned up to Samish Island in two cars for the Young Adult retreat. I was quite happy with this, since the previous year, I was the only one from Portland who attended (though I did meet a lady at the retreat who was from Vancouver WA). Erik was also part of the group that drove up to Samish.

Recently on Facebook, I learned that Erik considers "their anniversary date" to be September 22, 2007, even though Christine had told me before that the relationship did not really begin until his final weeks in the U.S., which was November 2007. What's so significant about September 22nd? To me, it represents the day I made perhaps one of the biggest mistakes of my life. It was Saturday, at Samish Island, during the Young Adult Retreat. Christine had never been there before, so she wanted to walk the grounds during a free afternoon period. She asked me if I wanted to walk with her. For reasons I don't even know, I declined. STUPID! Stupid, stupid, stupid! In retrospect, I feel even worse about it now because every time I have asked her to do something, she has always said yes. The rare time she asked me to do something with her, I said no. Thus why I feel like the biggest jerk.

Back in October, when I finally told her how I've felt about her for the past couple years, she told me that after I had said no, she asked Tim (another member of MAYAs) if he would walk with her on the grounds of Samish. He said no. Then she asked Erik, and he said yes. The rest, as they say, is history! It only makes me wonder what the heck happened on that walk that sparked this romance. Was this something intuitive with her...a test to see which guy she was meant to be with? I failed that test! Like a chump. Now, by making that their unofficial anniversary date, its really just a slap in my face.

Its happened before, though. Back in D.C., the lady I was attracted to had accepted my invitations to do something but when she asked if I wanted to see The Road to El Dorado, I had declined because I had no interest in seeing that kind of animated film. One of my best friends, Nathan, told me that his first date with the lady who became his wife was to see some animated film. Maybe these are subtle tests that a woman gives a man they might be interested in. And I fail because I just don't want to see that film or go on a nature walk. Interestingly enough, though, I did make that nature walk (alone) at Samish Island at this year's Young Adult Retreat.

This is Christine and I, taken at the Lewis River Young Adult Retreat in 2008.

The photo above is of Christine, me, and my brother, taken at one of the Flicks on the Bricks (I'm thinking it was during Ghostbusters) this past summer.

So, what do I do with all of these memories that I have with Christine? We attended the Retrofits concert, various political rallies and parties, movies (The Kite Runner, Marley and Me, The Golden Compass, This Is It), walking around Lloyd Center mall, MAYAs events, retreats, and best of all, we spent election night 2008 together when Obama was declared by the networks to be our next president. I was building the kind of great memories that couples have in the courtship phase, but participating with a woman who will be some other man's wife next year.

The picture above was taken at the spring 2008 Young Adult Retreat at Lewis River campgrounds. That's me on the left, with Christine to my left. Tim is the guy sitting in the chair (the second person who declined to walk with her on the grounds of Samish Island). The standing lady is Susan, who was our instructor at that retreat. She's a retired Portland city government employee who first warned me about Commissioner Sam Adams being a not so nice guy to work for or deal with. She was also the lady who rescued Christine, Chris, and I when Chris' (a lady from church) car broke down on the way back from Rachel and Jarom's wedding.

Like I many fun memories between Christine and I! If life were a romantic comedy, Serendipity would be our movie, where both leads are in relationship with other people, who are good and decent people, but as the audience knows, not the ones they were meant to be with.

The right thing to do, though, is to wish for Christine's happiness and to let her go. There's a quote about how true love sets one free, and if they return, then you know it was meant to be. If they don't, then it wasn't. I truly do wish her the best in her new life and I hope that it will be what she desires for her future.

I cannot influence her decision at all, because it is entirely hers to make. All I can say is that I've appreciated getting to know her these past two and a half years. She has been an inspiration and a blessing in my life. I will always cherish the memories of our times together. I wish it could have led to something more. A conversation that never ends.

When I have the thought enter my mind that says, "I could spend the rest of my life with her," that is a good sign. Christine did inspire that thought. I know from personal experience that it will be difficult to find another woman who shares her best qualities (intelligence, kindness, spirituality, interest in learning, a desire to travel, a willingness to do interesting things). She is beautiful inside and out. She inspires me to be a better person.

The above photo is of the MAYAs group, taken at the Samish Island Young Adult Retreat in September 2007. The guy sitting in the second row is Erik from the Netherlands. The two guys on the floor are Jarom (on the left) and Tim (on the right). Jarom married Rachel (second one on the left) this past summer. Their relationship began as a friendship that blossomed into a romantic relationship later on. To me, that's the best way to create a strong marital bond. The friendship must be strong.

Too bad it hasn't worked for me thus far. Nathan says that I move too slow and he probably is right about that. However, the times where I moved too quickly, I actually lost interest pretty quickly too. I have to go slow in order to "build" what I consider a strong foundation for a relationship. I have to see the lady in a variety of situations to get to know her true character. And I have to know that what I'm feeling is actually real love and not simply an infatuation or a lustful desire. Like I said, logic rules the day with me, even when it comes to love.

The search goes on for someone new to enter my life. I'm sad to see Christine go, but relieved that she'll have a good six months to really get to know Erik before the wedding. It is my sincerest wish that Erik is everything she wants him to be and more. I'm grateful that I got a chance to know Christine and nothing will take away the positive memories I will always have about her. Of course, I wish the circumstances favoured me, but as I learned from THE MAN (that'd be Al Gore, of course)...when you've done all you can but things simply don't go your way, you rise up from the humiliation of a defeat that should not have happened and you become even greater than you would have been otherwise. I will grow from this and be better for it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Frustrations in Finding an Equal Partner

Please forgive the arrogant sounding title of this post. I'll explain what I mean later in this post. Occasionally, I'll check out the personal ads on Craigslist. Most of the time, I'm not impressed. Many of the women who post the ads are obese (BBW, as they call themselves), which is a major turnoff for me (sorry if I sound "size-ist", but from a historical and global perspective, the epidemic of obesity in our country is a reflection of our lazy culture of over-abundance and over-indulgence). I lived six of the most impressionable years of my life in Europe (ages 13-16 and 19-22) and did not see very many overweight people. Unfortunately, overweight dependent wives of sailors were subjected to the scrutinizing stares of Italians, who could hardly contain their fascination with our obesity problem.

Because of this high percentage of obese ladies posting ads on Craigslist, I find very few that interest me enough to respond. Some of their demands are hilarious. They want someone tall, handsome, athletic, ambitious, in a well-paid career, with a car...yet what do they offer in return? A lot of cushion for the pushin', that's what! Sorry if that offends, but I am one person who does not find an excess of blubber and skin to be sexually attractive. I know that what truly matters is the soul within the body, but what can you do? Obesity is not attractive to me. We all have our preferences. People can't change their height, so I find that to be a silly requirement that many women require. But body type? There's no reason at all for obesity to be the epidemic that it is.

I don't have a good history with obese women. When I first moved to Portland, I had spent one day with a lady I had communicated online with for a couple months before I moved. I knew from her picture that it would go nowhere, but I went out with her just to be nice. It was obvious right away that there was no connection. Besides my finding her unattractive, she also misrepresented herself as a spiritual person. Each time I tried to talk about a spiritual idea, she would change the subject to sex. It was always about sex with her. Finally, after she had changed the conversation too many times, I had asked her why she didn't indicate in her ad that she was mostly interested in sex. She looked at me with a surprised expression and replied that such an ad would only bring out the freaks! Well, duh! She was a bit too freaky for me, but most importantly, her obesity repulsed me. That's not sexy to me. French women are sexy. And there's even a book out called French Women Don't Get Fat. The author is on to something. I believe a couple of the reasons for this was pointed out in the book that French people eat smaller portions and walk a lot more than Americans do.

After that single day I spent with this lady, she had called me a few more times but I ignored her call and moved on to the next lady on my list (I had been communicating with three different ladies before I moved to Portland). Last year, I experienced some bad deja vu when my office hired a single lady in her early 40s for the part-time position. I had written about this lady earlier this year when we had a falling out over my honesty regarding her question about why the office would not hire her for a few full time positions that became open. She was unpopular at work because she made many people uncomfortable with her comments, behaviour, and overbearing personality.

I had the impression that she was interested in me at some point and kept trying to find ways of getting invited into my apartment (such as wanting to form a job seekers group and holding it in my apartment). When I invited her to my apartment complex's Christmas dinner in early December last year (as a friend only), afterwards, she had asked to see my apartment. She had been insistent about that for quite awhile. I've never known a woman who was so determined to see my apartment, so I was naturally suspicious. I thought it would be dangerous, because my earliest impression of her was that she had a similar personality as Monica Lewinsky (she even kind of resembled her). I could imagine her in my apartment, taking advantage of the vulnerable situation as she threw her weight around and possibly give me a Lewinsky special. My willpower might not have been strong enough to resist, thus why I always rejected her self-invites into my apartment. I simply wasn't attracted to her. Her obesity was an issue, but even if she was lean, her personality would still have been an issue (though her neuroticism may have been due in part to her obesity and needy desire for a man).

In my personal experience with women, obese women seem to be more sexually aggressive / forward / blunt with me than lean, fit women. Ever since my Navy days whenever I saw a lean man with an overweight wife, I always had the impression that the woman was the aggressive partner. Some of these men would even make jokes at their wives expense to the guys on the ship, which I thought was sad and disrespectful. I understand that weight is a sensitive issue for a lot of people. Our country has not done a good service for its citizens with all the fatty and fast foods, and our culture of convenience and laziness. I would even go so far as to say that one of the reasons why my office environment is the most dysfunctional place I've ever worked is because of the high percentage of obese women who work there. The misery of low wages, low energy, and bad diet is a terrible mix for office morale. One lady who quit a year ago even mentioned to me this phenomenon of how her unhappiness at the office drove her to eat, which caused her to gain weight and be even more miserable at work.

I was relieved when this lady was fired by the organization in April. I learned after her departure that she had flirted with many guys at the office, making sexually provocative comments to many guys, married or not. I wasn't the only one who felt uncomfortable with her sexually aggressive personality. That was a relief to know. Once, when she and I had talked about dating life in Portland, she complained that her prospects were low because she was fat. Who's fault was that? Don't people understand that obesity is not a natural state of being? Are people who are not attracted to excess weight "shallow"?

The office manager once told me that she believed that this part-time employee only wanted to work here to meet men. I laughed when she told me that, because she was the one who had hired the lady. No one else would have (I have noticed that the male managers who hire their assistants have a preference for lean, young ladies). Her replacement is a lady in her upper 40s or early 50s. She's lean and attractive with an excellent work ethic. I remarked to the office manager that we should have found this lady more than a year and a half ago. Her two predecessors were unprofessional and had no real place in the organization.

Anyhow, because of the number of obese women placing ads on Craigslist, I usually don't find ads worth responding to. Thus, I was surprised when I came across the following ad. She's just the kind of lady I'm looking for. She meets many of the attributes I find attractive, so of course I responded.

seeking: life partner, mostly normal

Date: 2009-11-11, 4:13PM

I’ve never been married. Definitely want kids.White 5’7” thin. Bike
commuter. Drink occasionally. Don’t smoke. Speak English and Spanish. Politics: extra-liberal…pretty much socialist.

Things I like: eating sweet things, small carbon footprints, glitter, the
rain, all kinds of music. i volunteer as a medical interpreter, and it makes me
think FAST. i like that.

For fun I read (fiction or non-), garden, hike (urban or nature), spend
time with friends (often cooking/eating), volunteer (Sunday Parkways, Bus
Project), listen to NPR (this american life), be crafty, cook large amounts of
indian food

For work I work for the public health department doing sexual health
promotion/STI Prevention. Last year I taught a class at PSU in human sexuality. I love public health because it combines social justice, community organizing, education, and service.

My ethnicity Norwegian, Irish, German...but the most tangible connection is
the lefse my dad and i make at holidays, so i'm not terribly connected to my
ethnic heritage

School I have a master’s in public health from Columbia.

Places I like locally: forest park, the central library, bike lanes

travelling: anywhere. i've spent a lot of time in central and south america
and would like to explore southeast asia. Or Turkey.

The last thing I read *Guests of the Sheik-anthropological account of a
woman's two year stint in an Iraqi village *What is the What-fictional/autobiography of a "lost boy" of Sudan *Ghost Map - One of the "everybody reads" books for the library next year. They’re looking for guest facilitators of their book groups who work in public health. Sounds fun!

Pets 2 chickens - Estanislao and Pulitzer

Religion. i'm an atheist, but interested in religion in an anthropological
way. scared of fundamentalism in all forms. find most organized religions
irksome. like unitarians. believe in science.

Things I don’t like I really don’t like TV. shopping. Conspicuous

What I’m looking for: I've been thinking about relationships a lot lately
(obvious, no, here looking for love on the internet?). Many things in my
everyday life get switched over to love-land. For example, I went to hear a talk
at the Arts & Lecture series last week and the speaker read some super-short
stories i really liked.

Here's mine: Seeking: Life partner, mostly normal.

Then later at work I was reading about epidemiology and screening tests for
Hepatitis C. Applying the concepts to dating led me to think about a test with
high positive predictive value for internet dates: High sensitivity=dud dates.
High specificity=missed gems. I'm kinda nerdy. in a public health way.

My test might read as follows: Give yourself a point if you... -Like to eat
vegetables. -Ride a bike more than you drive a car. -Regularly volunteer. -Think your parents are pretty cool.

Not sure how sensitive or specific it is...

And i've always loved the Harper's Index.

My version:
*Countries lived in: 3
*Days without water while i re-plumbed the bathroom in my house: 6
*Inches of height added using elmer's and knox gelatin for by
faux-hawk-themed 28th birthday party: 6
*Countries visited: 16
*Passport stamps from Honduras (where I technically have not been):
*Pride parades marched in: 10
*Guinea pigs eaten: 7
*Spices included in homemade garam masala: 7
*Age at first act of civil disobedience (painting shadows on sidewalk with
parents the night before hiroshima day): 7 years
*Worms in my closet worm bin in NYC: 2500
*Times thrown from a mule: 1

YOU: 28-38
Live in Portland
Body type: Fit
Faith: Preferably atheist…but agnostic is ok. Or Jewish, Buddhist,
Unitarian…those sorts
Education: lots is good.
Smoke: No Way
Drink: Occasionally is cool.
Have kids: No
Want kids: Definitely
Interesting set of criteria, right? Well, after I responded to her ad, I got a response the next day. It was short, but she did send a couple pictures. Not only was she lean, but she was cute and wore glasses, which really looks kind of sexy in an intellectual way. In my response to her ad, I had mentioned reading The Abstinence Teacher, so she asked me what the book was about. Strange, I thought. She could easily look it up online. Why ask me? I wrote many things in my response, but that was the only one of two questions she wanted to ask me? The other question was about my job. I knew that might be a tricky one, but I answered honestly. Never heard back from her. I'm kind of disappointed about it. What's wrong with getting to know someone a little bit more before writing them off so quickly?

Earlier this week, I checked the ads on Craigslist and noticed that she had re-run her ad! Apparently, she did not get the responses she wanted, so she's trying again. Maybe if she would make a point to get to know a person beyond a couple of emails, she might find someone interesting. I'm not saying that its me, but it could be. I'm the type of guy who likes to give everyone a fair chance. I don't think its possible to truly know a person from a couple of emails or phone conversations or even a single meeting. For me, the biggest deal breaker is the "bait and switch" (such as the woman who had placed an ad for a spiritually-minded guy, but when we met, all she wanted to talk about was sex, not spirituality). Its not that I have an objection to talking about sex, because with someone I feel chemistry with, its perfectly fine. When the woman is obese and talks about sex, I'm actually repulsed by the thought.

The lady who posted that ad I quoted here may be searching for a long time. Her list of attributes puts her in a class of people that is difficult to find, thus why I wish she would have corresponded with me for several emails with a possible meeting set up so we can talk in person. I realize I'm not the kind of person who's going to attract someone at first glance. My success has always been over the long haul. The friendship that becomes something more...before I move away (the one big disadvantage to my vagabond life). In contrast, one of my roommates in D.C. had the amazing ability to attract people into his life, but after two weeks, they were burned out. He had the highest burn-out rate I've ever seen in a person. I knew that he was pretty shallow from my first conversation so we weren't going to be friends. I suppose he was my opposite, as I tend to maintain friendships over the long haul. I guess the best comparison would be a sprinter versus a marathoner. I much prefer getting to know a person over the long haul. Friendships and relationships are never quick and easy for me. I like to get to know a person over time. If I pursue a lady I feel an instant attraction to at the start, I generally lose interest in her, thus why I prefer to take things slow.

In looking over the life experience, intelligence, and interests of this woman, she already has a tall order that she may not find. I know from personal experience that I find deeper connections with people who have been outside of the country, and especially lived in a foreign country. I've read a few books on dating and relationships and was not surprised when they mention that successful couples tend to have the same level of intelligence and life experience. Those important bonds are strong ones. Whenever there's an inequality in intelligence and experience, the incompatability or insecurity may play a huge role in conflicts.

When people say "opposites attract", I think they mistake a superficial observation for being true. In my experience, I find someone who is more extroverted than me to be attractive. An extroverted lady would draw out my "inner" extroversion and make me feel more comfortable in social situations. That's the only real opposite that I find attractive. In D.C., the fellow BYU interns kept wanting me to hook up with the most conservative girl on the program. Though I thought of her as a friend, I wasn't attracted to her. Least of all, politically. There was not any point of commonality between her and I. She was LDS, I was RLDS. She was a conservative Republican Bush-supporter and I was a liberal Democratic Gore-supporter. She believed that the United Nations was "one world government" trying to take control of the world, I was an internationalist who saw the U.N. as a powerless deliberative body that couldn't even prevent a genocide in Rwanda or Bosnia.

That semester, I did fall for a lady, who had the right mix of opposites and similarities. She was extroverted and a Republican. But she was pro-choice and against the fundamentalists in her party. She was also a fellow church member. That's the kind of mix I like: enough differences to make things interesting, but enough similarities (in intelligence, travel, interests and life experience) to really bond us. Well...despite my best efforts, she fell for a "bad boy" who didn't seem to have much in common with her. So much for that idea.

So, this post is just a lament over my frustrations with women who don't give a guy a decent chance. The sad thing is, I've seen many of the same ladies post and repost ads on Craigslist for the past three years! You would think that they wouldn't be so damn picky at the outset. What have you got to lose by getting to know a person more in depth before dismissing them? I am completely okay with meeting a lady with no expectations of being in a relationship with them. Let's start off as friends, get to know one another, share in our mutual interests and see where it leads. What's wrong with that?

I will admit, though, that the only iffy part of that lady's ad was her "atheistic" beliefs and preference for someone of similar mind. It could possibly be an issue, and maybe it was (I was honest about my beliefs in the first email to her). Again, this is another point of frustration with me, because I do not have a personal issue with someone being an atheist or a member of any religion. What I take issue with are the people who are not comfortable allowing someone to be what they believe, so they want the person to conform to their religion or non-religion. For example, while I could easily fall in love with and marry a Mormon woman or a Muslim woman, according to those faiths, they require the man to be the same religion as them, which would put pressure on me to join their faiths, which I will not do. So the issue is really that they have a problem with non-members than I do with their religions.

With this atheist lady, though, I would bet that my spiritual beliefs might be problematic for her. My interest in reincarnation, metaphysics, psychic phenomenon, synchronicity / coincidence, and ESP might be things that she would dismiss outright due to having a logical mind that rejects anything that can't be proven in a science laboratory. That's a shame, though. She really sounded interesting and someone worth knowing. I'd love to just talk about her travel experiences. Where else is she going to meet a fellow well-traveled individual with a lot of life experience and intelligence to match hers?

One thing I've realized in my life...I have not met many people who have been to 25 countries or to all 50 states like I have. I've met people who haven't traveled much and I know enough that it would not be a good match for me if the woman had not traveled much. This happened with one lady I had received an email from earlier this year. She didn't realize that I had responded to her ad three years ago. She's originally from New York City, where her parents still live, but has never traveled outside of the USA. In fact, when she told me that she thought she might have been to Canada as a girl, she didn't know where (I had asked if it was Ontario or Quebec). Gosh, when my family went to Canada on vacation in 1979, I was just 7 years old, but I knew it was Quebec because people were speaking a different language I didn't understand. To me, her response showed a lack of curiosity about our world and I never called her again. I know some might accuse me of not taking the chance on her, but I didn't get a whole lot of energetic dialogue from her in the conversation. I would still be open for meeting, but its not like she showed an interest in me either. So, I moved on.

When I meet well-traveled people, we're all in the same league, essentially. So, my message to that lady whose ad I've posted on my blog...good luck finding a guy who matches your level of intelligence, experience, and travel. Don't be so quick to dismiss a guy just because you don't like his job or his spiritual views. I'm going to laugh every time I see your ad on Craigslist, because it tells me that you're still looking. You might have missed your chance for "Mr. Right" when you tossed responders aside because of some superficial criteria.

Tomorrow's post will be a tribute to a woman I'm really attracted to and whom I'll miss when she moves away on Tuesday.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback Friday: The Christmas Newsletter

Today's Flashback Friday is about the notorious Christmas newsletter. I've heard and read about people's complaints regarding the newsletter, but I've never understood why. Since my teenage years, I loved reading the newsletters that my parents received from people I may or may not have known. It was interesting to see the differences in paper, writing styles, and what happened in people's lives over that year.

My favourite newsletter was the one my dad (as well as my grandmother) received from a lady from church back in the Midwest. I would always laugh so hard reading it, but it wasn't because she was funny. Her newsletters every year always recounted everything bad that happened to her. It was one tale of woe after another. It was obvious that she had a pessimistic outlook on life.

At my grandmother's funeral in 2005, we were going through her stack of letters and I had found a copy of the pessimistic lady's newsletter from the previous Christmas. Of course, I just had to read it and couldn't believe how many bad things happened to her in 2004. My Great Uncle Jim saw me laughing and wanted to read it, so I handed it to him. He had a shocked expression on his face (one thing I love about him is his facial expressions) and then said, "I don't find this funny." He loves to tease, so of course he was getting on me about how I could find that woman's travails so funny. I had to enlist my dad to my defense, and he told Great Uncle Jim that it was true that this lady writes such negative newsletters every year that readers are left wondering how she can endure it all and live to write about it. My dad said that you'd think it was a parody of a newsletter if you didn't know the woman. It reads like a parody, only its actually real.

From adolescence onward, I asked my dad if he would ever write a newsletter. He keeps saying someday, but he wants to make it funny. What's so hard about funny? I've been writing one for ten years now and have gotten great feedback from quite a few people. More than a few have told me that my annual newsletter is the highlight of the ones they've received. Aw, I'm touched. I truly love writing them. However, because of the nature of this year being a huge disappointment in terms of finding a better job after searching for 35 months, I wasn't sure I wanted to write a newsletter this year. I was afraid that I might've turned into that pessimistic lady and her tale of woe every year. Then, I got inspired and did a writing exercise back in August to see how it might read if I wrote it differently than the previous years. I loved it so much that I kept it, only tweaking it here and there through the end of last week. It is without a doubt THE BEST newsletter I've ever written, and hopefully the funniest (I personally think its hilarious, even when I honestly share some of my struggles). Just remember, if you're one of the ones who will receive one...its okay to laugh!

In honour of this tradition, I wanted to go back over the past ten years of my newsletters and share some insightful excerpts that only time brings. In case you're wondering, I have a binder in which I keep a copy of each year's newsletter in a protective plastic cover. In this binder is also a copy of every Christmas card I've sent and mailing list of who I sent cards and newsletters back to 1987.

I started writing a newsletter in 1999 because I was busy in my last semester at BYU and did not have time to write the same information in card after card. I was hesitant to write a newsletter because of the perception that people hate receiving them. Christmas newsletters get mocked about as much as Christmas fruitcakes and Chia pets (which sells mostly between Thanksgiving and Christmas, presumably because its one of those grab and go last minute items that people get when they can't think of anything else to get someone they feel obligated buying a gift for). I didn't want to contribute to the groans people make when they receive yet another newsletter bragging about one's "accomplishments." But with a lack of time to personally share the same news to all my card receipients, I had to write one to enclose with the cards that year.

My first newsletter in 1999, I used a Christmas-themed paper with holly and ivy forming the corners. The boldface title was a tri-lingual greeting: Merry Christmas / Joyeux Noel / Feliz Navidad.

Famous people referenced were Evan Bayh, George Stephanopoulos, and Jesse Ventura.

Choice Excerpt:

"The good news is that I will be moving to Washington, D.C. on January 7, 2000 and live there for at least the next ten years. I will be an intern somewhere in that great city for the first four months of the year. Not sure where yet, but I should know by December 10th, in the midst of final exams. I'm looking forward to settling down finally, for all of this moving around has kept me disorganized and on my toes. I plan to live in D.C. through one or two more Democratic Administrations (I am hoping that Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana will be president someday). My goal is to be the "next George Stephanopoulos" for a future Democratic President (but without the media spotlight). My real goal is to become a writer though, and if I can make a career of that, I plan to leave the east coast for good (for Portland, Oregon or Coeur d'Alene, Idaho--the most beautiful place I've ever seen on earth!!!)."
Its interesting to reflect on that passage, because I did move to D.C. (I arrived on 6 January 2000) but didn't make it beyond seven months. When I printed the newsletter, I had no idea where I would intern, but my parents received a packet from the White House over Thanksgiving weekend and called me with the news that I had gotten accepted for the internship program. During my internship, more than a few people had mentioned that I kind of "resembled" George Stephanopoulos, which I found odd but flattering. His role in Clinton's campaign in 1992 was what got me interested in being a political aide to a politician someday. At the time, I saw Senator Evan Bayh as a future president, but I don't think that will ever come to pass now. He did have an exploratory committee in late 2006 / early 2007 and realized quite quickly that he didn't have a real chance (lacks charisma, voted for the USA PATRIOT Act and the war in Iraq, member of the DLC--which is the corporate wing of the Democratic Party). However, I believe he was probably Hillary Clinton's top choice for Vice President and would most likely be serving in that capacity had she won the nomination and election.

One thing did come true: I moved to Portland, Oregon. Still waiting on that writing career to materialize, though. And I still love Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Would love to have a summer home there to write my novels surrounded by the beauty of the trees, hills, and lake.

I closed the newsletter with a play on my name, with "Saint" and a reference to A Christmas Carol. People often compliment me on my "Christmasy name."

For 2000's newsletter, I once again used a paper with the holly and ivy motif. The headline was "What a long, strange year it has been..."

Famous people referenced: Al Gore, Chelsea Clinton, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, John McCain, Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, and Bill Clinton.

Choice Excerpts:

"The night of the State of the Union, I was introduced to Vice President Gore as his intern. For the rest of the semester, I would attend one of his press conferences, give him coffee at a meeting, and see him again on Earth Day when he met with all of his interns. A few of us were lucky to ask him a question, and in response to what I said to him ('I read that when you were a young man, you wanted to write a novel. I was wondering if you still had dreams of doing that one day?'), he replied, 'You ask that question because you would like to be a writer, yourself, right?' It was a response that has remained with me ever since."

"With two good friends of mine getting married the same weekend, I couldn't help feeling a little bit left out, with no prospects on the near horizon for my turn at the altar. However, with my inability to find a job and the freedom of being responsible for only one person, I realized that I still have many options available and the ability to explore those possibilities before I'm ready to 'settle down.' My new goal is to permanently move to Portland, Oregon next year."
I closed with the same play on my name as the previous year, but adding a line that said "Twenty-first Century Philosopher."

Interesting how some things haven't changed. It took me 6 years to save up for the move to Portland, and Gore did write three books (though I'm still waiting for his official "memoirs"). His daughter Kristin did manage to write two hilarious novels, so she carried her father's ambitions and made good on it. My newsletter did not mention my true feelings about the 2000 election results, though. I knew some of my friends supported Bush, so I did not want to be too political about it, even though I did feature on back of the envelope Bush's face on green paper and wrote "The Grinch Who Stole Florida." It was a hit among my liberal friends.

2001 Newsletter:

Paper featured the holly and ivy border

Headline: "Stuck in a Moment (I finally got out of)"

Famous people referenced: U2

Choice Excerpt:

"...for most of the year, I was stuck as a low-wage slave working for the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, desperately trying to find a job that pays a living wage as well as escape the horrors of sharing a cubicle with a fanatical fundamentalist with a limited view of the world. This was my first post-internship job and after applying in vain to many more appealing jobs, I thought I was 'stuck in a moment that I couldn't get out of,' but in August, the universe finally aligned in my favor.... I can't say that my job has been the one of my dreams, because I soon realized that even though it may be a 'non-profit organization,' it still runs like a corporation and in getting to know the other employees, I never thought I'd say this, but this job has made me miss the Navy, because at least the Navy had some sense of teamwork and camaraderie, whereas my office is a den of lying, backstabbing vipers."
Damn, some things REALLY never change! Or as some New Age spiritual books state, I obviously have not learned my lesson, thus why I'm doomed to repeat them until I am ready to move on. Help!

The closing signature featured the same play on my name, adding only "Beatnik" to the mix. I had "discovered" Kerouac and the Beat Generation that year, though I did not mention that in the newsletter. The tragedy of 9/11 only merited a single sentence, in the context of a great book I had read that year (Spirit Matters by Michael Lerner).

2002 Newsletter:

Paper featured a line-up of stockings across the top edge. Gone was the holly and ivy "tradition." I had gotten this newsletter paper for free at a White Elephant gift exchange the previous year.

Headline was another quote from a U2 song: "In New York freedom looks like too many choices..." (U2 -- "New York")

Famous people referenced: Michael Dukakis, Jack Kerouac, and John McCain

Choice Excerpts:

"...we spent a day in the New York area...6 hours in Manhattan, where we paid our respects to those who lost their lives at the World Trade Center site, feeling the magnitude of the loss as we saw the hole in the ground and the sky. We walked a total of 80 blocks of Manhattan, ending in Times Square at 11 PM, which is the most amazing place I've ever been to. Times Square feels like the center of the universe, with the crowds of people, bright lights, larger than life advertisements, and jumbotron television screens."

"In October, I met Senator John McCain at a booksigning, which was four days after his excellent guest appearance on Saturday Night Live. I urged him to consider running for president again, but he seems to have put those ambitions behind him. ...[I]f he had offered me a job, I would have definitely taken it without a second thought."
Interesting about McCain. I still admire him a great deal, but his choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate in 2008 is just so illogical that I really would love to know his real reason (some have speculated that he did not really want the presidency so he picked her to "destroy" the Republican Party from within by exposing the lunacy of the evangelicals within the party).

My signoff returned to the regular play on my name, with a line beneath it that said, "The Beatnik Bohemian of Buckhead."

2003 Newsletter:

I used paper that had ugly snowmen on it. I would have never bought this in a store, but since I received it for free from a lady at work, why let it go to waste? For the first time, I utilized the back side of the paper, photocopying my picture and write-up in my organization's newsletter when I had been selected as the Employee of the Quarter for the Spring of 2003.

The headline was another song lyric: "I see the promise of your light as we sail these dark oceans of change" (Johnny Clegg, "New World Survivor")

Famous people referenced: Louis Armstrong, Howard Dean, Sonny Perdue, and George Orwell

Choice Excerpt:

"I was deeply disappointed this year with my fellow Americans for having so much hatred towards France and the French people, which for those of you who have known me through the years know how much I love France and the French people. I don't understand that, and I do hope that our next president will make strong amends to our greatest and longest-enduring friendship in history: France. The French have been nothing but kind and charitable to me in all the 12 times I've been to France. I had hopes of visiting France in October of this year, but due to finances, I couldn't make that trip, which is a shame, because if its true that less Americans visited France this year, ths would have been the year to go."
The closing line was promoting a book I had read that year: "I hope 2004 will find you safe, joyful, and not loving Big Brother (unless its the reality show on CBS). If there is one book to read in 2004, I hope George Orwell's 1984 will be on your reading list!" It was my impression that America had become similar to what Orwell warned about in that classic novel. He was just twenty years too early.

I changed my closing signature line. Now it was: "Peace Nick. Patron Saint of Buckhead."

2004 Newsletter:

The first time I did not use any Christmas-themed paper. I had a stack of old newsletter paper featuring clouds in the sky that I wanted to get rid of, so I figured why not?

Also new this year, I added printed images in the header and closer. Not only had I liked the tradition of using a song lyric in the headline, but I also used two other song lyrics (within the main body of the text and as a closer). This edition also broke my one page rule. Now, I had gone front and back. Every newsletter since this one has been two pages. I can't even imagine writing a one page newsletter anymore...but I won't go over a two-sided page due to the cost of mailing.

The images I used included an old fashioned streetcar, Uncle Sam sitting on an unlit stick of dynamite, the TransAmerica Pyramid and Chinatown rooftop of San Francisco, George and Barbara Bush with a sign that read: "We're so sorry America" (my jab at Bush's reelection), and a picture of Johnny Clegg that I took backstage at his concert. He's holding a Utah license plate that I gave him which was personalized with his former band's name, SAVUKA.

Famous people referenced: Jimmy Carter, Howard Dean, Keb Mo, Johnny Clegg, Barack Obama, Bill Maher, Jesus, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, and Monroe.

Headline: "The eyes of the world now turn, and if we think about it, and if we talk about it, and if the skies go dark with rain, can you tell me does our freedom remain? Put down that weapon or we'll all be gone..." Midnight Oil, "Put Down That Weapon."

Choice Excerpt:

"For my vacation this year, I went to San Francisco and Portland. I wanted to be in the most liberal city in America on election day if the worst-case scenario came true, and I pegged it right, as I enjoyed the beauty and atmosphere of that great city too much to be heartbroken and depressed about the defeat of a candidate I wasn't too thrilled with in the first place.... With this election, I guess I'll have to give up on the idea of being a political aide in a Democratic presidential administration...that is until Senator-elect Barack Obama becomes our first African American president in 2012 or 2016."

"Portland was every bit as great as I remembered it from my 1999 visit. I rode Amtrak roundtrip from San Francisco to Portland, and it was the first time I rode a train in the U.S. and I found it a great and relaxing way to travel.... When I returned from my vacation, with visions of scenic beauty in my head and feelings of solidarity with blue state citizens, I'm once again entertaining thoughts of moving to the west coast in a few years. Vancouver, British Columbia is still the city I most want to move to, but Portland, the Olympic Peninsula, the San Francisco Bay area, and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho all remain high on my list. I am growing tired of my job and will be ready for a big change in a couple of years..."
I called it right on Obama. I saw him as presidential material since his electrifying speech at the Democratic National Convention. However, I wouldn't have guessed that he had a realistic chance of winning just four years into the future. Times have changed in such a short period! That vacation in 2004 did refresh my memory about Portland, thus why it was not a surprise when I ultimately decided in favour of it over San Francisco or Washington, D.C. just two years later.

My closing lyrics were: "Woman be my country, 'til my country can be mine, hide me deep inside your borders in these dark and troubled times, remember me my innocence before I drown in a sea of lies..." Johnny Clegg and Savuka, "Woman Be My Country" (my favourite Johnny Clegg song; the lyrics expressed how I felt about my country that re-elected the disaster known as George Walker Bush).

My sign-off was "Beat Nick. Deanocrat through 2020."

I guess I'd be considered an Obamacrat now, though.

2005 Newsletter:

In honour of the scandal at work involving faked membership known as "ghost scouts," I had to go with Halloween stationery that featured friendly ghosts.

This was the first newsletter to feature an actual title, which I came up with: The Carillon Scholar. I've thought about offering a contest to my newsletter readers to see if anyone could guess where the title comes from (with a prize for the correct answer). Maybe next year. I also added the Volume number and the year at the top, beneath the title.

The headline song lyric was: "Now every time I go for the mailbox, gotta hold myself down...I'm walking on sunshine and it's startin' to feel good" -- Katrina and the Waves.

I picked Katrina and the Waves for obvious reasons (it was my not-so-subtle reference to Hurricane Katrina and the waves that drowned New Orleans at the end of August). The lyrics were a perfect reference to my submitting queries of my novel to literary agents. I was so excited in the process, before I gave up after rejection letter after rejection letter. I plan to restart the submission process again, though.

Famous people referenced: Morpheus from The Matrix, Adolf Eichmann, Kool and the Gang, Bruce Willis, Adam Gopnik, Charlie Rose, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Jerry Seinfeld, Joseph Smith, Harry S Truman, Lewis and Clark, and John McCain (geez, he gets more shout-outs in my newsletters than Al Gore does!).

Photos I used in this newsletter include a picture of my church's Temple in Independence and my grandmother's wedding photo when she was 22 years old (in memory of her passing that year).

Choice Excerpt:

"Whenever we thought the scandal was over, it continued to pop up every few months like Osama Bin Forgotten, as the local media focused on each new wrinkle in the story. The biggest shock was the resignation of our...executive on 31 May, who took full responsibility for the false numbers (even though the consensus is that the person most responsible was the one who got the promotion out of here). When I left the office on the day we got that news, even the universe was attuned to my feelings. The radio played Kool and the Gang's 'Celebration,' which was exactly what I did. No one should worry about the...executive though. With his smirking, good ol' frat boy demeanor and Enron ethics, he makes a perfect candidate to join the rest of his kind in the crony Bu$h Corporation. Maybe he can help our country get out of the Iraqmire...or help strengthen the levees in New Orleans by replacing 'Brownie' at FEMA. He definitely meets the Bu$h standard of competence and would do a 'heckuva job' (though I'd worry about everyone working for him)."
Damn! Can you tell that I did not like that man? He was a big phony and had some subconscious aggression going on. A few of us speculated that he probably had a mistress, as he looked like the type who would cheat on his wife with a younger lady. His wife was cool and very artistic. What she saw in this guy is beyond the level of human understanding. She was deep and he was shallow. Maybe they balanced each other out that way. I thought, though, that he was made to be the fall guy when the person most responsible rode the wave of false numbers to a promotion. He's still in that executive position the last time I checked.

My closing signature was "Neat Nick (because I'm not)." Yeah, I was trying to be funny.

I also used a quote from the final Star Wars film below my signature: "So this is how liberty dies...with thunderous applause." Senator Padme Naberrie Amidala.

Interestingly, some Palinista used this exact line on Palin's Facebook page in response to the Democratic Congress passing their Health Care Reform bill. Proof that the Palinista don't get the whole point about Star Wars. Senator Amidala is obviously a liberal (she was against war. Duh! She'd most likely support universal health care). I hate it when conservatives can't seem to get the message of movies like Star Wars. Didn't George Lucas make it obviously clear when he used a George W. Bush line about terrorism ("You are either with us or you're with the terrorists") and put it into the mouth of Anakin Skywalker ("You are either with me or you're my enemy" he says to Obi-Wan Kenobi, who rejects the formation of an Empire)? There was no subtlety there for anyone to misinterpret.

2006 Newsletter:

I found paper that featured a mountain peak by a lake, which was appropriate for Oregon.

The headline song lyric was:

"There's only so much you can learn in one place, the more that I wait, the more time that I waste. I haven't got much time to waste, it's time to make my way. I'm not afraid of what I'll face but I'm afraid to stay. I'm going down my own road and I can make it alone, I'm working, I'm fighting, I'll find a place of my own..." Madonna, "Jump"

Famous people referenced: Cindy Sheehan, Al Gore, Jim Wallis, Barack Obama, Audrey Tautou, Paulo Coelho, Po Bronson, Taylor Hicks, and Madonna.

Choice Excerpt:

"In April, I surprised my supervisor, office manager, and co-workers with a resignation letter, but it was a decision a long time in coming and sometimes I doubted I had the courage to actually do it. Ultimately, the difficulty of being car-less in a car-dependent city like Atlanta left me with few options (and a severely soul-depriving non-existent social life). Since my 2004 vacation to San Francisco and Portland, I was struck by the relative small size of both cities and great public transportation options (I love streetcars). Instead of envying the people lucky enough to live there, I kept thinking, 'why not me? What's stopping me?'....At the end of July, I was ready to make my way to the BEST Coast...[s]o I boarded Amtrak for a four day journey with layovers in Washington, D.C. and Chicago. In D.C., as I ate lunch in Union Station, the memories of my time as an intern there came rushing to the forefront, causing tears to fall. D.C. remains the city of broken dreams for me, but funny how I lacked the money to move to my second choice of Portland after deciding to give up on D.C., and here I was, six years later to the month, finally on my way to Portland after a long detour. The events of 2000 might have derailed my plans for a life and career in D.C., but the Amtrak journey symbolized for me that I was finally back on track with my life."
Oh really? Sure doesn't feel that way to me. I still haven't felt like I "arrived" in life, in terms of landing a satisfying career. Will that ever happen for me? I'm tired of watching the years roll by without ever finding the success I so crave in life. There has to be more to life than what I've managed to find thus far. Why did my decade go so horribly off track? How do I find my way again? If I had known in 2006 how things would have turned out in Portland, I would have moved to D.C. instead. I should've given D.C. a second chance. Live and learn, I guess.

I closed this newsletter with a long paragraph of gratitude. I did end 2006 on a high note because anytime I make a change, I always feel good. I hate being stagnant, which the past three years have been. Hopefully, 2010 will be the change I've been looking for as I finally escape the prison that is my current job. In the 2006 newsletter, I signed off with "Namaste" and quoted lyrics from the first song I heard on the radio in Portland: "Live your life with arms wide open, today is where your book begins, the rest is still unwritten..." Natasha Bedingfield, "Unwritten."

In this newsletter, I was going to feature photos of my cousin Michael, who had taken his own life in January of that year. Somehow, I forgot to do that, and thus, there is white space at the bottom of the second page of the newsletter where both photos would have fit (one of him as a 5 year old wearing my desert camouflage military hat; the other taken at our grandmother's funeral).

2007 Newsletter:

The paper I wanted to use was no longer sold on the website where I have bought some of my newsletters before. It was a very attractive one featuring vines at the top and upper sides, with a big graduation cap in the top center of the page. So, I used a photocopy of that image and printed it on green paper. It was my cheapest quality newsletter to date.

Because this was the only time we'll ever see "007" in the year, I had to write the newsletter around a James Bond (007) theme. My Christmas cards that year featured a photo of me with Darth Vader and a storm trooper, which acknowledged the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, which would have been the newsletters theme as well if not for the "007." So, I used every single James Bond movie title (except the most vulgar titled one, though it would have worked in one section of the newsletter) in the body of the text. It worked out well.

Famous people referenced: George W. Bush, Jesus, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and John McCain (yet again!).

I only used one photo image...a silhouette of James Bond holding a gun and looking debonaire in his tux and pose.

Headline song lyrics:

"Out of the ruins / out from the wreckage, can't make the same mistake this time. We are the children, the last generation, we are the ones they left behind. And I wonder when we're ever gonna change, change, living under the fear until nothing else remains" -- Tina Turner, "We Don't Need Another Hero."

This selection was obviously a dig at the disaster that the Bush Administration brought to our country and a plea to not make the same mistake in 2008. It must've worked!

Choice Excerpts:

"All year I was frustrated by the lack of response to my job search...which finally culminated in August with a unique job offer to work three weeks of every month in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. But my hesitation to accept right away cost me that opportunity, and despite the disappointment, I knew that taking it would not bring me closer to my career goals (political aide to a politician I admire, novelist, or human rights activist) and it would have killed The Living Daylights out of my social life (like some Spy Who Loved Me)."

"A unique aspect about living in Portland is the interesting names I come across. I've met ladies with enough creative names to fill a James Bond film: Aleta and Electra, Calicoe and Coral, Ena and Sarina, and even (I kid you not) Swastika and Yu Chu. I also once saw a woman with a tattoo of a black widow spider on her neck. Yow! It shouldn't be surprising, since the 'unofficial motto' of this awesome city is 'Keep Portland Weird!' Fortunately, I haven't come across a Man With a Golden Gun, a Goldeneye, or a Goldfinger."
If I could redo this newsletter, I would've added this line to the end of that paragraph: "or a woman who named a certain female body part after an Octopus." I only thought of that after I had sent them out.

My sign off was "From Portland With Love".

2008 Newsletter:

This stationery featured silver foil in the paper with a dove in the center at the top. I printed two images on the front page: the famous Obama "O" campaign logo and a photo of Christine and me, taken at the Obama rally held at Waterfront Park in May (what a great day that was!).

The headline song lyric was:

"I feel so extraordinary / something's got a hold on me, I get this feeling I'm in motion / a sudden sense of liberty. The chances are we've gone too far... / in a world that's so demanding. I used to think that the day would never come, I'd see delight in the shade of the morning sun..." New Order, "True Faith."

This song is a favourite of mine from my teenage years. One of the big European hits when I lived in Germany. Little did I know back then that it would perfectly describe how I felt at the end of the Bush era.

Famous people referenced: Black Eyed Peas, Daniel Pinchbeck, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain, Sam Adams, Chelsea Clinton, Bill Clinton, Joseph Wilson, Shirley Franklin, and Jesus.

Choice Excerpt:

"I'm still astonished by all of it, with the prolonged drama of Clinton versus Obama, McCain finally getting his chance, his tragic joke of a running mate from Alaska who turned out to be the best family drama of the fall television season (beat that, NBC!), right down to the election itself. For the first time in my life, I'm truly proud of our country. There were moments I regretted not sending the Obama campaign my resume when it was still in exploratory committee two years ago, but I really thought (quite cynically) that Hillary had the nomination in the bag. While I wanted to work on his historic campaign, my disillusionment with our federal government after eight years of incompetence and un-Constitutional behavior led me to become more interested in government at the city level. So I volunteered on City Commissioner Sam Adams' campaign for mayor of Portland. When he won the primary, I jumped to a campaign for his vacated City Council seat."
Oops. I completely called that one wrong. Had I known that Adams lied about his relationship with a borderline legal teenage boy, I would not have volunteered on his campaign at all. In fact, if they contact me to help his reelection campaign in 2012, I will gladly tell them where they can go. Hopefully, someone will challenge his reelection, since the recall petition failed to garner enough signatures for a special election to remove him from office. Someone who likes him had asked me what I thought of his reelection chances. I told her that I wasn't certain, but if someone else of some stature runs against him, I will work on that campaign (if I'm still living in Portland). The scandal really deflated Adams. He's not the energetic, charismatic man about town that he used to be when he was City Commissioner. If Portland is ever going to get out of the low wage job gutter that it is, its going to take an energetic, likable mayor to entice companies to move here (such as a Scandinavian company that builds electric cars, which is looking for a manufacturing base in the U.S.). I guess you'll just have to stay tuned!

That covers my decade of newsletter writing. I love writing them so much that I'm already thinking of writing next year's (as an exercise in projecting what I want to accomplish in 2010 and then setting it aside and looking at it in November to see how much I need to edit it before printing and mailing it out). I wish I had written newsletters sooner, as it would be interesting to see what I would have written since my first year in the Navy. I may write a retrospective one for each year in the past, just to see how they might read.

2009's edition should be arriving in some of my friends' mailbox today or tomorrow. Hopefully you will get a chuckle or two as you read through. I love balancing the sad news with the funny, or in presenting the negative stuff in a funny way. Nothing is ever truly as bad as that pessimistic newsletter lady makes things out to be. There is humour to be found in all things. The challenge will be, how do I top this year's newsletter in 2010? We'll just have to wait and see!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Birthday Wishes

Pictured above is Nicholas, my "oldest" and best friend. Our friendship began 25 years ago, in the seventh grade at Logan Fontenelle Junior High School in Bellevue, Nebraska. Today, he turns 37 and I just wanted to wish him a Happy Birthday on this Thanksgiving. The cool thing about having a birthday around this time of year is that sometimes, one's birthday falls on the holiday of Thanksgiving, while in other years, it does not. It gives one a variety, unlike those born on a holiday like Christmas or New Year's.

So, on this Thanksgiving holiday I'm especially thankful for Nick's friendship for the past quarter-century. Its amazing to see the trajectory of his life over the years and the things he's become interested in that he wasn't back in seventh grade.

When we started that seventh grade year together, I remember quite clearly when I became aware of him. It was on the first day of math class, when the teacher called roll. Up to that time, I only knew one other person named "Nicholas" and he did not like me because I was the new kid in 5th grade and "stole" his preferred name when the teacher asked me what I preferred to be called as. That Nicholas was reduced to "Nick" and I got the name of "Nicholas." Anyhow, during that roll call, my name came first. Then a little bit later, I perked up when I heard "Nicholas" called again, but with a different last name. I looked over to see who it was and saw a guy wearing a khaki shirt that looked like the uniform of a certain boy's organization that is devoted to camping and patches. He was on the other side of the classroom.

Over the course of that year, I go to know him through my circle of friends. My best friend at the time was another "half-breed" that I met in 6th grade, Ken Lord. Ken had a caucasian father and an Asian mother (its been so long that I can't remember if she was Japanese or Korean). With our circle of friends, we hung out together at lunch. It was kind of natural that we would gravitate towards one another, because we all had Air Force fathers and we all loved art. Ken and I specialized in drawing cartoons, Nicholas was more into the comic book art (I still wish he became a comic book artist! But, I think he made smart career choices...certainly much wiser than me in that regard).

We liked some of the same things...James Bond, the V series (interesting that it has been remade for a new generation of television viewers), and most especially Ghostbusters. I didn't learn until I visited him in 2005 that he was also a Ghostbuster for Halloween in 1984. I went to my church's Halloween party in Bellevue as Ghostbuster Peter Venkman. My dad said that I should've gone as myself as a Ghostbuster, not Venkman. But, at that time, Venkman was my favourite character. The person I wanted to be. I liked his sense of humour.

Nicholas proved his friendship when he wrote back to me after I had moved away. In the summer of 1985, my dad was transferred from Offutt Air Force Base to an Army base in Germany. I don't believe that I wrote to Nicholas until a year later, in the summer of 1986. I had his address in my yearbook, but never got around to writing. Since Ken never kept in touch, I decided to try someone else. Its amazing that Nicholas got a letter from me, since his family had moved out of government housing into their own house. Had I waited any longer, I'm sure the letter would have been returned to sender and our friendship would have never continued.

All my life, most of my letter-writing friends were girls, so it was rare to find a fellow letter writer among guys. I'm glad he kept in touch, though. His letters always made me laugh and it was a good way of keeping in touch. The most popular feature of his letters were the occasional "Question Query", where he asked about 20 random questions he was curious to know about me.

Now, we mostly keep in touch through email. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia with his wife and their flock of birds. Had I known in 2006 that Nicholas would end up moving to the Washington, D.C. area, I most certainly would have moved there in August 2006 instead of Portland. In many ways, I wish I had never left that city in the summer of 2000. My life would have been completely different than what it is now. But, I guess that would mean trading all of my spiritual experiences of the past decade for whatever might have happened in terms of a career in D.C. We just never know how things play out.

On this day of thanksgiving, though, I'm just grateful to have a great friend in Nicholas and to see that he ended up with a fantastic wife who has an awesome family (I can't say that is true with another close friend of mine, though). With friends like Nicholas, its no wonder why my brother has always coveted my friendships. He lacks a good and honest friend like Nicholas. Though my brother may wish to share friendships with me, what he lacks is the shared history that I have with my friends. Its hard to beat a twenty-five year friendship in which both of our interests have evolved from the 11 and 12 year old boys that we were in that seventh grade year. No matter what roads we travel on, its great to know that you have friends for life who share in your journey, though they may be on different roads.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, y'all! Cherish your friendships...especially among those you've known the longest.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Cards Have Entered the Mailstream

In a truly bi-partisan fashion, President Barack Obama and Quitter Queen Sarah Palin wanted to let you know that my much anticipated annual Christmas newsletter and cards have entered the national mailstream (the first batch, anyway). Please check your mailbox this weekend and get ready to sit down after a long day of shopping and enjoy what will hopefully be my funniest newsletter yet.

For those not on my Christmas card mailing list, I will be posting an online version of the newsletter once all copies of them have been mailed. This Friday, I will post highlights from the previous newsletters, since this is my ten year anniversary of writing them. One of my friends has "complained" that since I've started a blog, my newsletters aren't as surprising because she knows throughout the year what I've been up to, rather than hearing from me a couple times a year and the annual update at Christmastime. I realize that having a blog does make things anti-climatic, so I've tried creative ways of sharing the news, such as in 2007 when I used every James Bond movie title (except one) somewhere in my newsletter. Friday's post will give my history of previous newsletters, so you can know the evolution of it. Hope you enjoy this year's creative edition.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Week of Gore and Palin

I was surprised to learn on Sunday evening when I read The Huffington Post that Al Gore made a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update. This happened just a couple days after his Portland, Oregon appearance. In the video clip, you get to see Gore being funny. I love his references to the popular vote. He's obviously enjoying himself, which is a great thing to see. I'm continually amazed by the reversal of fortunes between Gore and Bush. To me, its proof that karma is a reality that guides our universe. Bush wanted the presidency in the worst way...going so far as to lie, cheat, and steal an election. His first major lie was claiming that he was a "compassionate conservative." It went downhill from there. Not even six years latr, Bush's unpopularity cost him control of Congress due to ignorance and "mismanagement" in the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

Bush left office looking like a broken man. He probably was. Though he never admitted to any mistakes in life, there was the sense that he probably had to look at himself in the mirror and realize what a fraud he is. All the smug arrogance and frat boy machoism fell be the wayside.

By contrast, Gore spend the first year in some kind of seclusion,in order to process his campaign and the election results. He grew a beard and kind of disappeared. When he reemerged, with hosting duties for Saturday Night Live in late 2002, gone was the beard that he grew. He made a documentary on an update of his old slideshow, which ultimately won an Oscar. His Current TV won an Emmy Award. Next came the Nobel Peace Prize. His fortunes have increased, as well as demands for his appearances. He looks like he's really enjoying life now, at the top of his game.

The second video I'm featuring today was taken from outside a bookstore hosting Sarah Palin for her booksigning tour. The reporter is simply interviewing people waiting for their beloved Quitter Quenn, making all kinds of ignorant remarks, proving their lack of critical thinking skills. Its all about how one "feels" about a candidate. Some of the views expressed had me scratching my head. I can't figure them out. Its actually pretty scary how some people prefer to live in ignorance. They say things that simply aren't true. No amount of facts will every change their minds, because as one guy said: "if you're right, you never compromise"...only the "weak" compromise. Internationalism be damned!

The guy who made that comment obviously did not study our Founding Fathers and how they managed to convince everyone that they have devised the best system of government. The art of compromise is displayed in our history: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the creation of Congress was entirely about compromise. Since when did "compromise" become a bad word? Politics is often called "the art of the possible."

So, I'm warning you...listening to these Palinista cult members will have you shaking your head in disbelief about how anyone could willfully choose to remain ignorant. I will never understand that. I hate being lied to, so if someone kept on lying to me, their credibility would be tarnished. Seeing these teabaggers who love Palin make me want to develop an organization or foundation devoted towards educating people on real issues, rather than the sideshows we got all decade long.

Enjoy the video clips.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Music Video Monday: Twofer Special

Today's Music Video Monday, I'm featuring two songs. The first one is "You Win Again" by the Bee Gees. Why? you're probably asking. Well, for some reason, this song was playing in my head during a strange dream I had early Sunday morning. I have no idea why this song or group would make an appearance in my dreams, but I love this song. It was a European hit back in 1987, when the Bee Gees attempted a comeback. The song is great.

I don't really know why the Bee Gees had such career difficulties in the 1980s. They were one of the biggest bands of the 1970s due to their disco-friendly tunes. However, I think the stigma of the cheesy disco era embarrassed people enough that they wouldn't be caught dead buying a Bee Gees CD in the 1980s (other popular disco groups and stars found no success in the mid-to-late 1980s either: The Village People, Donna Summers, the Sisters Sledge, KC and the Sunshine Band, etc).

Since I was living in Europe in the latter part of the 1980s, I don't know if the Bee Gees scored a hit on the U.S. singles chart with "You Win Again." The song was big in Europe, though, and I have nothing but fond memories of the song from that era of my life.

The other song I wanted to feature is U2's remake of their hit single "One" with Mary J. Blige, who adds a lot of soul (and bling!) to the song. This was played in Sunday's YAPS-sponsored church service at the Eugene Community of Christ. It fits well with the theme of "We Are Many, We Are One." Especially the lines: "We are one, but we're not the same. We get to carry each other..."

I told Sean after the service that since 1998, I actually associate the song "One" with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. He didn't know what I was talking about, so I explained that when the details of that scandal broke in 1998, the first thing that came to mind was this song, particularly the lines: "Did I disappoint you, or leave a bad taste in your mouth? You act like you never had love and you want me to go without."

Sean laughed and said, "Only you would think like that." Well...not just me. Seriously, I can't hear that song without thinking of the whole Clinton / Monica thing because of those lines. Clinton did in fact leave a bad taste in Monica's mouth and disappointed all of us because of what he did.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the two selections today.