Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Challenges of a 6 Life Path Number

Lately, I've been listening to the Coast to Coast AM radio program. I've been wanting to listen to it for a few years, but did not have a radio that played AM. When my church congregation had a garage sale recently, there was an old stereo in which neither the CD player nor the cassette deck worked, but the AM/FM stations worked just fine and it was only $1. All I needed was a radio that played AM. I have a stereo that no longer plays CDs and never played cassette tapes, but only picks up FM radio. I play my CDs through my TV/DVD player. One day, I'll have a nice stereo system that works, instead of using different stereos with quirky usable features.

Anyhow, my interest in Coast to Coast AM was through my dad. In the summer of 2006, after I had quit my job in Atlanta to prepare for my move west (and finish up my college biology course to get my long-overdue degree), my dad and I would listen to Coast to Coast AM every night. After years of trying to bond with my dad, it was this radio program that actually made me really appreciate my dad. Though I inherited a lot of personality quirks, habits and interests from him, I've never felt particularly close to him. My disinterest in sports might have been a big disappointment to him. I've heard him complain about how the other guys his age at church aren't interested in sports, either. Its interesting that he's like many guys in watching sports. I didn't notice until after I got out of the Navy, but nearly every guy I became good friends with (in the Navy, in church, and in college) are not big followers of sports, either. I'm completely satisfied limiting my sports watching to just big event games, such as the Superbowl, some college bowl games, the Civil War match (between in-state rival colleges), the Summer and Winter Olympics, the World Cup, and perhaps even the World Series. But to watch game after game, every weekend and during the evenings...its just too much of a commitment that I don't have time for. Not that I am really interested in low-stakes games, anyway.

For those who have never listened to Coast to Coast AM, its an odd show in which any topic is discussed. They usually focus on the paranormal, conspiracy theories, UFOs / alien abductions, Near Death Experiences, and just about anything you can think of that is usually not discussed in social groups (for fear of people thinking that you are odd). I usually don't listen to it every night. For instance, I'm not interested in the alien topics, as I don't really believe in alien abductions, though some of the accounts sound intriguingly spooky. Hey...if I saw a bug-eyed looking, four foot tall hairless species trying to take me back to its ship, I'd have no problem stabbing a knife into its eyes and killing it. My message to space aliens (if they exist) is to leave planet earth alone. I don't want any visitors on this planet!

After several days of obsessive alien coverage, Coast to Coast AM finally had a topic of great interest to me last week: Numerology! The numerologist, Glynnis, swears by it. She gave plenty of examples, using famous people, such as Al and Tipper Gore (she didn't believe that adultery was the reason that their marriage came to an end, but after enduring several stressful events, it just exhausted them and they had different goals for what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives), Johan Van Der Sloot (she believes that he is a serial killer with more dead females to be discovered), Tiger Woods, and John Edwards. Basically, her message is that people need to behave when they are in the Personal Year 8, otherwise, the truth will come to light (Tiger Woods was supposedly in his personal year 8 when the news of his numerous affairs came to light, same with John Edwards).

The numerologist answered some callers questions, and I wanted to call in but didn't hear the phone numbers on time. However, she did take two interesting calls from people in similar situation as me. One person had the same Life Path number as me and wanted to change jobs. Another was in the same Personal Year as me and wanted to move to a different city. Basically, the answers were the same: change is a good thing for a Life Path 6 and a Personal Year 9 person like me.

I "discovered" numerology in the summer of 2001, when I was tired of "being stalked" by the number 22. I had so many coincidences with that number that it pushed me to go to Barnes and Noble to look at books on numbers. I saw an "idiot's guide" to numerology and decided to do some quick numbers while in the bookstore. None of my personal numbers (this includes Soul, Personality, Life Path, Maturity, and a couple other numbers) added up to 22. I was bummed. However, at this time, I also noticed that Jack Kerouac had a lot of coincidences involving 22 as well, so I picked up a couple of books on him and written by him. I decided to buy the idiot's guide to numerology, just to see what it was all about. Didn't really expect much to come of it.

When I did the personal years breakdown, all the way back to the early 1980s, I was struck by how my life seemed to match up with what the book claimed would happen. For instance, in Personal Year 5, that's when you want to make a big change or do something bold. For me, that was 1988 and 1997. In 1988, I was in two high school plays (which was a pretty big deal for an introverted guy like me to remember lines and act in front of an audience of strangers). In 1997, I traveled a lot and moved to Utah to attend school. Another example is that by Personal Years 8 and 9, the things you wished for in Personal Year 1 will come to fruition. My examples are 1991 and 1992; and 2000 and 2001. True enough, both sets of years were amazing in what happened. In 1991, I moved back to Europe and in 1992, I fulfilled my teenage dream of staying with a French family. In 2000, I saw my dream from 1993 to work for Vice President Al Gore come true and in 2001, I finally had my own apartment (no family or roommates!).

I'm not saying that I believe that numerology is true or that it works, because I'm still skeptical about it. I also have more reasons to be skeptical because last year was Personal Year 8 for me and 2010 is Personal Year 9. No dream career or publishing contract has manifested for me. I'm not married or even in a relationship like I want to be. Something is off, or the previous examples could have very well been coincidental flukes.

Anyhow, the numerologist claims that the Life Path number is the most important one to follow, because a person will not truly be happy unless he or she is living the life that matches the "vibration" of one's Life Path number. My Life Path number is a 6. Here's what some numerology website says about a Life Path 6:

"The Life Path 6 suggests that you entered this plane with tools to become the ultimate nurturer, and a beacon for truth, justice, righteousness, and domesticity. Your paternal, or maternal, as the case may be, instincts with a 6 Life Path exceed all others by a considerable margin. Whether in the home or in the work place, you are the predominant caretaker and family head. While the 6 may assume significant responsibilities in the community, the life revolves around the immediate home and family, for this is the most domestic of numbers. Conservative principles and convictions are deeply ingrained and define your character."

Interesting. I can kind of agree that it describes me in part.

"You are idealistic and must feel useful to be happy. The main contribution you make is that of advice, service, and ever present support. You are a humanitarian of the first order. It is your role to serve others, and you start in the home environment. You are very human and realistic about life, and you feel that the most important thing in your life is the home, the family and the friends."

I also agree with the above description for the most part.

"This is the Life Path related to leadership by example and assumption of responsibility, thus, it is your obligation to pick up the burden and always be ready to help. If you are like the majority with Life Path 6, you are one who will willingly carry far more than your fair share of any load, and you are always there when needed. In doing so, you take ownership and often become an authority over the situation."

I've definitely been a "leadership by example" kind of person and have a tendency to "rebel" against leaders who don't live their values. In fact, I don't respect leaders who operate by "do as I say, not as I do." My belief is that a leader only earns the right for others to confer to his or her leadership if he or she lives his or her values. Any violation means the deal is off. They have no right to expect anyone to follow if they cannot follow their own leadership example. Too many sheeple, though, will follow any leader, even after the leader proves himself or herself incompetent, immoral, unethical, or unable to follow his or her example.

"In romance, the 6 is loyal and devoted. A caretaker type, you are apt to attract partners who are somewhat weaker and more needy than yourself; someone you can care for and protect. The main ingredient that must prevail in the relationship is complete harmony. You don't function well in stressful relationships that become challenges for you to control. It is the same with friends, you are loyal and trustworthy. But there is a tendency for you to become dominating and controlling.

It's likely you feel compelled to function with strength and compassion. You are a sympathetic and kind person, generous with personal and material resources. Wisdom, balance, and understanding are the cornerstones of your life, and these define your approach to life in general. Your extraordinary wisdom and the ability to understand the problems of others is apt to commence from an early age. This allows you to easily span the generation gap and assume an important role in life early on."

Most of this describes me...except for the being attracted to someone who is weaker and more needy than myself. I find neediness to be an unattractive quality and have been turned off by women who display this trait. Rescuing "damsels in distress" has not been my natural tendency. Sure, I like helping women out who need help, but have usually not been attracted to them because I don't view them as an equal. For example, if I'm attracted to a woman and learn that she has habitually been in relationships with one bad boy after another, my attraction to her will diminish because if she can't respect herself, why should I respect her? I would never tolerate an abusive relationship and have little sympathy for any woman who displays a "bad boy fixation" or "addiction".

"The number 6 Life Path actually produces few negative examples, but there are some pitfalls peculiar to the path. You may have a tendency to become overwhelmed by responsibilities and a slave to others, especially members of you own family or close friends. It's easy for you to fall into a pattern of being too critical of others; you also have a tendency to become too hard on yourself. The misuse of this Life Path produce tendencies for you to engage in exaggeration, over-expansiveness, and self-righteousness. Modesty and humility may not flow easily. Imposing one's views in an interfering or meddling way must be an issue of concern."

As for the above...yeah, I admit, that's all true. The "shadow side" of Life Path 6! I can be or experience all of those things.

In another book I read about a Life Path 6, the numerologist claimed that since 6 is the "natural vibration" for marriage (in fact, the Life Path 6 is the most favorable number for a long-lasting marriage), people who are Life Path 6 but not married indicates a few things: "traumatized by a past love, unrealistic expectations in partners; or have focused their devotion on something else (such as a pet, a cause, or one's parents). From what I read, a Life Path 6 NEEDS to be in a relationship or to have something to care for (hmmm, I've always wanted a Golden Retriever, but haven't had the opportunity to live in a dwelling that allows a dog of that size).

Many descriptions from various numerology books I've skimmed seem to indicate the same thing: a person with a Life Path 6 makes the best kind of parent. Really? I've often thought so, as I believe I would make an awesome dad. I have a lot of theories on how to raise children that I'd love to have the opportunity to put those theories to the test (one such example: I'm against "indoctrinating" children into religious dogmas, as I'd much rather hear what a child has to say about spirituality and encourage independent thinking from a young age).

What is the recommended career option for Life Path 6? A few examples I've come across include nursing, teaching, counseling, owning a business, working for oneself, social worker. Not surprising. I definitely need a job where I don't work for tyrannical leaders who are hypocritical. I'd love to run my own non-profit organization (hear that, Oregon Lottery?!?). Being a counselor or psychologist was something I should have considered when I was in college, rather than be distracted by my love of politics and dream of working for Vice President Gore. A writing career, of course, would be perfect. This are hard-to-get careers, though. My immediate goal is to GET THE HELL OUT OF MY CURRENT JOB NOW!!! None of those suggestions will help me much, as several of them require going back to school, which I swore I would not do until I was debt free.

Its interesting, though, that Life Path 6 is the "devoted family man" number in numerology, because my "Soul Number" is a 5, which is the "vibrational number" of a vagabond, a gypsy, a journeyman, a traveler, an adventurer. After three years in a place, I ALWAYS feel a strong urge to bolt. It is very uncomfortable to be "stuck" in a place (such as a deadend, low wage job that I hate) when my every impulse and desire is shouting "run!!!" More importantly, though, how to reconcile the conflicting desires of my soul's natural impulse (travel and adventure) with my Life Path (to provide for a family)? Maybe that's why I'm in such a pickle. Both energy forces are in conflict with one another and has brought my life into a complete meltdown with this current job that I have endured for nearly four years now.

Today marks the first of the three deadlines I gave myself. There's unlikely to be a job offer by day's end, though. I haven't even been called for an interview with the political job I had applied to. All I want is an interview so I can have a chance to really sell myself in a way that my resume and cover letter probably does not do justice to. On a positive note, though, I got a strong indication that I should stay in Portland. Best friend Nathan called me on Tuesday morning and indicated that he had talked to his wife about where to settle after he retires (in 2013 or 2014). They decided on Oregon, rather than Texas. Its not too surprising, as one of Nathan's brothers lives in a Portland-suburb, and his other two brothers live in Seattle (because of him, as a matter of fact). I'd love to live in the same geographic area as him...because he is a much better friend in person than long-distance (meaning he's more into the personal interractions than keeping in touch).

So, what this means is that I have until my second deadline of July 31st to land a new job in Portland. Time to up my game. Perhaps it is time to play up my "Life Path 6 skills" so that I can find a job that is more in line with my natural values. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities, as well, in which I can utilize those abilities (such as my interest in wanting to help out the Burmese refugees). However, it is difficult to feel good on a daily basis when my energy is drained daily at work by having to work for an obsessive-compulsive control freak who had two more dramatic episodes this past week. If I can finally escape the clutches of this psychotic lady, my personal energy level will skyrocket into a cloud of blissful euphoria. I'm long overdue to experience the happiest day of my life, which will likely be the day I finally walk out of here into a promising new job.

The picture below is interesting, because as a child, Ernie was my favourite Muppet on Sesame Street. My brother liked Bert, and we kind of resembled our favourite Muppet. My mom thought Ernie was a bad example for me and preferred Bert, who is often subjected to Ernie's sarcastic and cruel joking. Hey, I can't help it. I like a little mischief. It makes life much more interesting. As for numerology...I think its interesting as a tool to help you find your natural abilities and what to focus on in a given year, but I would not base my life goals on it or even swear by it.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Madonna Music Video Monday: Who's That Girl?

To inaugurate summer, I'm selecting one of my favourite Madonna movie songs, "Who's That Girl?" I was really crazy about this song in the summer of 1987, as it has an incredible sound to it and I loved her Spanish phrases. This single actually came as a surprise, because she just had a string of five singles from her excellent True Blue album ("Live to Tell", "Papa Don't Preach", "True Blue", "Open Your Heart", and "La Isla Bonita"). I thought her next single would be "Love Makes the World Go Round", but instead came a brand new song from her summer release. I loved it on first listen and went out to buy the single. Now, everytime I hear it, I always think of my family's 3 week vacation in the British Isles (other songs that remind me of that vacation include: Debbie Gibson's "Only in My Dreams", Terence Trent D'Arby's "Wishing Well", Spagna's "Call Me", Michael Jackson's "I Just Can't Stop Loving You", and Whitney Houston's "Just the Lonely Talking Again").

I did not actually see the movie "Who's That Girl?" until I was in college, when I rented it out of curiosity. As expected, Madonna's acting was horrendous. She was funny, but in an unintentional way. No wonder why the movie bombed. Another case where her single was a hit but her movie was not. When the soundtrack album was released, Madonna's name appears on it as though it was one of her official releases, despite her only having four songs (the title song, "Causing a Commotion", "Can't Stop", and "The Look of Love"). She had more songs on the Evita soundtrack, but that one was classified as the offical soundtrack. The rest of the Who's That Girl? album featured other artists and many of the songs reflect the 80s sound.

In future Music Video Monday selections, I will be featuring the songs from movies in 1985, which was an amazing year. So many 80s artists had theme songs to movies that year. I don't recall another year that had so many theme songs that became hits. A part of me wonders is the reason why 1985 had so many was because of the success Prince found in 1984 with his Purple Rain soundtrack. Perhaps seeing how that album put Prince in the stratosphere of superstardom only encouraged other 80s artists to jump on the movie theme song bandwagon: Duran Duran, Huey Lewis and the News, Tina Turner, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Pat Benetar, all come to mind.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sleaze and Gore

This past week, I noticed on my Facebook page that the Reverend Chuck Currie has posted on his blog a defense of Al Gore regarding a front-page story in this week's National Enquirer, in which a Massage Therapist (LMT) is claiming that she was "sexually assaulted" by the former Vice President in his hotel room the night of his "Inconvenient Truth" presentation at the Rose Garden Arena on October 24, 2006 in Portland, Oregon. The Reverend wrote that Gore deserves the benefit of a doubt, because the allegations present a man that does not reflect what is known about Gore. Additionally, the woman did not come forward with what happened that night until several months later. In fact, a police report was only filed in January 2009...more than two years after the fact! Even more baffling, the woman said she did not want to pursue criminal charges (sexual assault is a FELONY). Instead, she wanted to pursue civil litigation. It appears that its all about the benjamins!

Normally, I ignore the outrageous stories on this tabloid (after all, they have claimed so many times that Elvis is alive, alien babies are real, and that Bush was having an affair with Condoleezza Rice, which I find unbelievable), but the following day, The Oregonian made this "breaking" news FRONT PAGE HEADLINES! Yikes. June has not been a good month for the Gore family. It makes one wonder if someone has ulterior motives to destroy a man's reputation when speculation about "the real reason" for his divorce has been nonstop since the announcement on June 1st. I've read that ever since An Inconvenient Truth has played in theaters four summers ago, the number of people who believe that climate change or global warming is reality has actually dropped. This is surprising, considering how wacky the weather seems to be in the past few years (record snowfalls, record heatwaves, tornados appearing in unlikely places, major flooding, and most alarming of all...a dramatic increase in major earthquake activity. We're just into hurricane season, as well, so it will be interesting to see how many the season will bring). With the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico heading into more than 60 days, its only natural to wonder is someone has an interest in ruining Gore's reputation.

Out of curiosity, I read the 73 page police report of the massage therapist's conversation with an investigator about the night in question. There are so many strange things about what she says that it sounds pretty outrageous and cartoonish. The fact that she didn't present her story of what happened that night until more than two years after the fact could possibly mean that she spent that time thinking up the entire scenario of what happened and rehearsed it so it would be consistent no matter how many times she's interviewed or questioned. Especially troubling is that she did not want criminal charges to be pursued, but rather a lawsuit. Gore is a wealthy man and in these troubled economic times, massage therapists might have seen the number of clients drop as people cut out unnecessary expenses. The price she charged VIPs is more than $500! Of course, people who can pay that much for a massage probably don't make budget cuts in economic crisis.

This is a classic "he said / she said" situation in which there are no winners. The only people who know what really happened are the two who were involved. The rest of us are left to take sides based on who we find more credible. On one hand, there are allegations that reveal a man who is far different in private than what his public image has presented for most of his adult life. The man this woman presents is so radically different from the Gore we know that its quite easy to believe that she's making things up for ulterior motives of making millions. If she is speaking the truth, though, a major crime took place. Sexual assault is a FELONY. Whatever the truth, this story is disturbing on so many levels.

I asked a lady I know who is a private investigator what she thought of this case. She said that she had read the police report when it was first released (more than a year and a half ago) and she doesn't find the massage therapist credible. This lady's job is investigating crimes for the district attorney's office, so she has experience in deciphering a person's credibility. When I read the police report (which reminded me of the Ken Starr Report for its graphic description of attempted sex acts), I found it hard to believe that the lady was trembling in fear in the presence of Gore. She seemed to believe that she was going to get raped by him. It started when she showed up to give him a massage and he insisted that he wanted it in the bedroom portion of his hotel suite (at the Hotel Lucia in downtown Portland). She, instead, set up her massage table in the living room portion of the suite. She became alarmed when Gore supposedly requested a massage on his abdominal muscles and his adductors (the thigh area), as she clearly saw these requests as being out of the norm. When Gore supposedly grabbed her hand and put it on his private area, that's when the massage therapist became afraid that she would be raped.

She tried a relaxing technique that made her think that he fell asleep. As she was putting up her things to get ready to leave, Gore supposedly wrapped her in a tight embrace and started fondling her and French kissing her. This is where her allegations get truly comical: she claimed that she managed to distract him for a bit by pointing out a box of Moonstruck chocolates on a table. He went over to eat one and offered her some. When her testimony mentions "later", something does not add up. She claims that Gore had gone into the bedroom portion and started playing Pink!'s "Dear Mr. President" on his iPod, inviting her to come over to the bed. She complied. Seriously...if she was fearful that she was going to be raped and managed to distract Gore with some chocolates to escape his embrace, why would she "later" be lulled into the bedroom portion? That's when Gore supposedly pushed her down on the bed and got on top of her. Again, quite comically, she yelled at him: "Get off of me, you big lummox!"

What the hell is a "lummox"? And who uses words like that? She also called him a "crazed sex poodle." The woman sounds pretty bizarre. The fact that she's in her 50s and not married or in a relationship made me wonder if she's slightly neurotic. Perhaps she went to the room in hopes that Gore would be attracted to her and when he wasn't, she made up a fantastic story about what she wished happened that night. Who knows? It seems odd to me that a middle aged man would request a massage therapist close to his age if he had wanted to have a sexual encounter. Logic and statistics seem to indicate that a woman in her 20s or early 30s would be requested. Reading the police report, the impression I get of the woman is someone who is mentally unstable and highly neurotic. Using words like "lummox" and "crazed sex poodle" just doesn't seem like words and terms any normal person would use. Even more outlandish, all it took was pointing out a box of chocolates to cause Gore to let go of her after he supposedly fondled and frenched her, yet she still remained in the hotel suite, fearful that she was going to be raped instead of running out of there.

If this is a false accusation leveled at an honourable man, this woman is despicable and the lowest of pond scum. I've always been one who believes that it is far better for a guilty person to go free than for one innocent person to go to jail. The thing about allegations is that anyone could say anything about anyone. There's a quote that says a lie can get around the world before the truth even wakes up in the morning. Character assassination is worse than the actual violent one, because the violent one tends to make the victim into a martyr whose popularity gains in stature. Character assassinations destroy a person's reputation, while the person has to live with it for the rest of his or her life. The stain can never be fully erased from people's minds, even if fully exonerated. People will always wonder if the allegations are true. Look at me, for example. I'm a big time admirer of Al Gore. He is the politician I have admired the most since the early 1990s, yet these allegations are so disturbing, a part of me wonders if its true, even if I don't quite believe the lady's version of events.

The novel I wrote and am still seeking an agent for is about this topic: how false accusations can destroy a person's career and reputation, and why its better to allow someone the benefit of a doubt if you're not 100% certain that he is who the accuser says he is. I personally believe that people who level false accusations against innocent people are far worse than murderers because they are killing a person's reputation while allowing the person to live in the aftermath of a devastating blow. The allegations cause a lot of pain for the accused and their family, friends, and supporters. If this lady is lying about the events of that night, her reputation needs to be tarnished and she deserves to lose her license to practice massage therapy. Someone should investigate if she has received any large sums of money from anyone or even attempted to blackmail Gore. She's already shown an interest in wanting to financially benefit from the allegations, rather than see justice done. Perhaps the reason why she did not want to pursue criminal charges is because she knows that her allegations wouldn't stand up in court.

Having said that, though, I feel that it is important what this says about Gore if the allegations are true. I recently saw a documentary video called "The Shadow Effect", which talks about the shadow sides of our personality and how we need to acknowledge it rather than ignore it. Ignoring it only makes the shadow persona grow until one gets reckless and gets set up for what is called an "ego fall." This has happened recently with Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, John Edwards, Tiger Woods, and Jesse James (the man who humiliated his wife Sandra Bullock). Gore has always had a reputation for being a faithful husband and family man. There have been reports of women swooning in his presence, but he never seemed to notice them. In his long public service career, there have not been any rumours of infidelity. When his boss, President Bill Clinton, was caught in the huge sex scandal involving a sex-crazed intern, Gore tried to balance his loyal nature with his political ambition to be the next president. He expressed his disappointment in Clinton's behaviour.

It is hard to understand what might be going through a man's head who won the popular vote in 2000 and saw his lifelong dream to become president dashed by Republican shenanigans in Florida. Perhaps the darkness that followed put Gore on the path of "the dark side". What comes to mind is the scenario in Superman III, where Superman is given a kryptonite that is mixed with tar from cigarettes, which does not kill him but only brings out his inner bad boy. I've read that it takes someone with an enormous ego to run for president, so this is why we often see powerful men with uncontrollable sexual appetites run for that office (or any major political office). Why would Gore be any different? He's clearly in what is a danger zone for most men: the mid-life crisis, brought on by the fear of mortality and the need to recapture something lost in one's youth or young adulthood. Perhaps, in the aftermath of the 2000 election disaster, we have created a "monster." Gore became rich through his early investments in Google, Apple, and other Internet companies. When he finally received praise for his documentary, including an Oscar and the coveted Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps this fed his ego to the point where he lost connection to his soul / spirit. Men who fall tend to say the exact same thing: "I thought the rules no longer applied to me." Clinton, Gingrich, Spitzer, and Edwards had all said similar things in describing their public falls from grace.

If these allegations are true, then it is clear that Gore's ego has emerged as an ugly thing, indeed. A true monster, seeming to act out the worst of the Clinton scandal with Monica Lewinsky (the massage therapist even claims to have saved the clothes she wore that night, which has his bodily fluid still on there). He was apparently drinking before the massage therapist arrived for the session, and alcohol does have a way of bringing out people's shadow personality (this is why it is always interesting to see who people become when they are drunk. Are they angry, aggressive, or a blubbering lush?). Perhaps decades of suppressing dark urges emerged during this one night in Portland. He became, for a moment, Bill Clinton (who has also been accused of sexual assault, though the media never really ran with the story, though conservative groups obsessed with it during most of his presidency). Maybe he had some twisted fantasy to act out Clinton's scandal?

Its interesting that this event supposedly occurred after his presentation on climate change. I was at that event and loved it. It was pretty loyal to the documentary, but included some more info that is not on the DVD, as well as a question and answer session. After the event, a few people swarmed to the front in hopes of getting to meet Gore. I spent too much time deliberating that by the time I made it to the front area, Gore had decided to leave. I would have loved to talk to him, personally. I had even made a request a few days earlier to his staff assistant in Nashville (I had the name of a contact in Gore's office ever since I sent Gore my resume in the spring of 2006 to work at his Nashville office), but was told that he was on a tight schedule and wouldn't have time to meet with anyone. Hmmm...except a massage therapist at 11 p.m. that night!

If I could meet Gore and talk with him, this is what I would say:

Mr. Gore, you are a big reason why I decided to major in international politics in the first place. I was impressed with your book Earth in the Balance and when Clinton picked you as a running mate, he won my vote with that decision. Ever since you guys won the 1992 election, I knew that I wanted to work in your administration someday. That meant getting out of the Navy in 1996 and starting college so I could graduate in 2000 and work on your campaign with the hope of making you president so I could work as a loyal political aide in your administration.

My life has not gone well since 2000. I've been in three crappy, low wage jobs that are not what I was meant to do in life. I know that's not your fault. I believed in you as a visionary politician who would make a positive contribution to society. Had it not been for you as the Vice President or of you guys winning the 1992 election, I might have pursued a screenwriting career in Los Angeles or majored in something else, like psychology to be a counselor or something. Why did I ever allow my admiration for you lead me into a fruitless search for a political job this entire decade? Perhaps this is a sign that I have done nothing but wasted my time in an unsuccessful search. Maybe politicians are all alike: give them a little power and it always goes to their head.

I hope these allegations are not true. However, you should have also known better as a wealthy man who is married to not put yourself in this situation if the lady is lying. There are people out there who would stop at nothing to bring you down, by any means necessary, because your work on behalf of raising awareness for climate change is threatening to industrial interests who want to maintain politics as usual. You're not helping your cause, though, by buying mega-mansions and flying planes around the world like a global superstar. People are always going to see the hypocrisy and dismiss your message, because, hey, if you can't live the lifestyle you advocate that we all live, why should they? If you can afford a celebrity lifestyle and all its perks, why should regular people be any different?

I am disappointed, Mr. Gore. Disappointed in you, disappointed in these allegations, disappointed in your separation from Tipper, disappointed in your mega-mansion buying. Perhaps it is time for you to get in touch with your soul. Strip away the demons and shadows and get to the core of who you are. Don't allow yourself to be in compromising positions where people can make outrageous allegations against you. And if you are guilty of doing exactly what this massage therapist says, come clean. Please, for the sake of your soul. Please don't continue down the path of other politicians. Be different. Be Mandela. Just be.

Sincerely, your former intern.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dutch Wedding

Today is the day of finality. Another friend's wedding. This time, it's Christine to her fiance in the Netherlands. Their wedding will be livestreamed on the Internet for friends in the U.S. to watch. Not sure if I'll be able to, since it will be at 7 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time. Anyhow, I wish them the best. May their wedding be beautiful and full of joy. Here's to a bright future together.

Today's post is short, to mark the special occasion in Christine's life...her wedding day. I have really nothing more to add about it, as I had originally planned to write a Flashback Friday post on Michael Jackson to mark the one year anniversary of his passing. The local radio station has promised to play Michael Jackson songs throughout the day. Rather than focus on the sadness of a musical genius who was "gone too soon", I prefer to mark this day with a celebration of a couple joining together in matrimony. Another friend gets married. I swear, I need to be next. 11 /11 / 11 !!! That's my target goal.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Remembering One of the Great Honours of My Life

A decade ago, on this day in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, my best friend Nathan got married. His engagement came as a surprise the previous October. The way he broke the news to me was like this: "Will you be my Best Man?" I was stunned, because the last email I had gotten from him was that he was planning to break up with his girlfriend. I was busy with my last semester of college and preparing for my move to Washington, D.C.

I was thrilled that he asked, because it has been a dream of mine to be a Best Man at least once. Before saying yes, though, I asked, "What about Andrew?" He had always been close to the oldest of his three younger brothers. I thought for sure that he would ask Andrew to be his Best Man, so I was stunned when he asked me. I had my own reservations about the marriage, but I had also never seen Nathan so in love before, so his girlfriend appeared to be a keeper. He told me that he had a special role for his brother Andrew, who had been recently ordained to the office of Priest, thus able to officiate the wedding. Andrew had his own reservations about the wedding, made worse by the fact that he was newly ordained and already asked to officiate a wedding. He had no experience with marriage, though was in a relationship with his college girlfriend of a few years.

The picture above is of me giving unsolicited Best Man advice to Nathan, with his brothers looking on. I said something corny that got everyone to laugh. They were expecting something profound, but what they got was a joke.'s not like I had any relationship experience or advice to give. The reason we are all wearing dated or mismatched plaid suits / shirts is because Nathan's dad wanted to horrify Nathan at the Wedding rehearsal. I did not realize that his father and brothers had planned this, but I happened to have a few clothing items that did not go well together, so I proudly wore it. When we walked into a restaurant after the rehearsal, people stared at us and I boldly said, "Don't mind us, we're Mormons!" Nathan's family was embarrassed for people to think of them as Mormons, so they brushed off what I said. However, because we were dressed so horribly, I wanted the people to associate Mormons with relics of the 1970s (bad fashion designs! Seriously ... butterfly collars and bellbottoms?).

Above is the getaway car that I had a local florist decorate in the European style. Since this is unheard of in America, I happened to have a picture of a car decorated for a wedding in Berlin (from my visit there in 1997) that I showed to the florist and she did a good job with it. One thing people should know...I have taste and standards. No toilet paper and shaving cream for me, or tin cans dragging on a string from the rear bumper. I wanted a decorated car that would catch people's attention and perhaps even start a trend in our country. A floral bouquet on the hood of the car, with ribbons to hold it in place did the trick.

For the rear window, I had made a photo collage, featuring two photos of the couple that I had taken during my Labour Day 1999 visit to Seattle to celebrate Nathan's 25th birthday and to meet the girlfriend he had already thought about marrying. In retrospect, the sign was probably too "busy" and could have done with less. However, I kept finding wedding images to add to it and once finished, I had it laminated. When I visited Nathan and Lisa in San Diego two years ago, I was surprised to see that they still had it. Nathan has never been the sentimental type to save things, so I was impressed that they kept it. I thought for sure that they would've gotten rid of it soon after the wedding. Perhaps they did when they moved to Italy last year.

As part of my Best Man duties, I organized a Bachelor "party" at the Bullfrog Brewery in downtown Williamsport. Those in attendance were the groom, his brothers and father, a Navy buddy (whose wife was the Matron of Honour), and me. I had everyone roast Nathan with a good, but embarrassing story about him. Leave it to Nathan to tell everyone an embarrassing story about me! This "party" was rather tame (no alcohol, and certainly no strippers). I received compliments for keeping it under control. However, it helps that the groom shares the same values as me, as I wouldn't want a wild bachelor party with strippers either. I like the idea of a group of friends getting together for a meal with friendly roasting and gifts specific for the groom. Afterwards, we cruised the downtown for some fun...which we found at a mini-golf course. Everyone (except me) managed to get at least one hole-in-one, while the groom managed to get two holes-in-one.

Because there wasn't a lot of room in my car, Nathan's youngest brother (who was 15 at the time) had to return to the motel with his father instead of joining his brothers at the golf course. I always felt bad about that situation. Last year, when I returned from my sister's wedding to participate in the YAPS church service at the Puyallup congregation, David showed up and we all went to a mini-golf course. I managed to get a hole-in-one on one of the toughest holes. More importantly, though, I realized that the universe was letting me relieve my guilty feeling of seeing a dejected David drive away with his father when he really wanted to hang out with his brothers on Nathan's last night as a single man. David has always looked up to his brother. Hero worship is how his mother describes it. Nathan never understood why his youngest brother idolized him so much, so I tried to explain it to him, since I have that hero-worship tendency, myself.

One of the most incredible things about Nathan is that on the day of his wedding, when we ate lunch at the nearby mall, he wanted to see the movie Chicken Run that was playing in the theater. I nixed that idea because it would have cut too close to the wedding time and we still had to get back to the motel to change into our tuxedos. There were too many variables that could happen if we were in a rush (accident, police pulling us over, getting lost, etc.). Besides, I still had a Best Man speech to practice.

The wedding party was small. Just one Best Man and one Matron of Honour. No groomsmen or bridesmaids. Nathan's grandmother served as the ringbearer. Brother Joel filmed the wedding on a camcorder, while brother David played an endless song on the violin. The wedding was outside, centered on a gazebo at the Thomas Lightfoote Inn in Williamsport (the bride's hometown). I experienced deja vu seven summers later when my other best friend got married in a garden wedding that featured a gazebo at a bed and breakfast in Red Bud, Illinois. Part of the wedding included a stay in the honeymoon suite at the inn.

I had met the Matron of Honour during my visit to Nathan in the spring of 1999. When I visited again that Labour Day, I had told her that I believed Nathan was serious enough about Lisa that he would marry her. She didn't believe me. At the wedding, she told everyone that I knew before she did that they were going to get married. She has a great personality, really funny, too. She poked fun at me for the way I held her bouquet when she had to fix her dress and again when she saw my hands shaking as we waited to be called into the reception area. I was nervous about that speech! The biggest responsibility of the Best Man duties.

The picture above is another of the Best Man responsibilities...taking the ring from the ringbearer to give to the groom. I seemed to take forever, because I was afraid that unsnapping or untying the string would launch the ring into the air. I always worry about embarrassing little details like that! Fortunately, nothing happened.

The official Wedding Party photograph. I'm the short dude. When I arrived at the location, having safely delivered the groom to the wedding, he disappeared for a moment. The bride's mother saw me without the groom and nearly had a fit. She asked me where he was and I didn't know. I had other things to take care of but she insisted that I go find him because she had warned me earlier that she would hold me personally responsible if the groom failed to show. Since I knew Nathan pretty well, I knew he wasn't going to leave his fiancee jilted at the altar. His future mother-in-law was being unreasonable. Its funny to see how frayed nerves and stress can make people irrational in their fears. Frankly, I did a great job...especially when I nixed Nathan's crazy desire to see a movie the afternoon of his wedding.

The above photo is the moment of supreme importance to the Best Man. The Best Man speech! After Nathan had asked me to be his Best Man, I bought a guidebook about it so I could understand what was expected of me. I worked on the speech all afternoon, whenever Nathan left me alone to process my thoughts. The biggest problem was that while waiting for the wedding party to be introduced at the reception, the mother-in-law approached me and said that my speech was not supposed to be a speech, but a toast. She said thirty seconds was the maximum, then the D.J. would cut me off. I panicked. I had rehearsed a two minute speech. How could I reduce it to thirty seconds just minutes before the festivities began?

Nathan told me to go with the two minute speech, despite what his mother-in-law insisted. I asked the D.J. if he would really cut me off after thirty seconds, like I was at the Academy Awards or something. He reassured me by saying, "I have never cut off a Best Man speech. Ever." That's a relief. I guess the mother-in-law was afraid of what I might say. People who know my blunt honesty tend to worry what I might say when given a microphone and a captive audience. However, I take my responsibility seriously. I wanted to give the best tribute to the couple that I possibly could. My goals were to make the guests laugh as well as cry (in a touching way). I scored on both counts. The biggest laugh was when I said something like: "I knew Nathan was getting serious about this relationship when he asked me for relationship advice. Usually, I'm the one asking him for advice!"

After the speech (in the photo, you can see that I have in my hand a notecard, which had five key word prompts to help me remember my memorized speech), I was able to relax, finally, and enjoy myself. One guy, who looked like a muscular jock type with a gorgeous friend of Lisa's on his arm, came up to me and complimented me on a great speech. I was impressed that people liked it.

A few months after the wedding, I typed the speech (based on my recollection) on special paper and framed a copy of it (along with the above photo) for Nathan and Lisa.

With my duties as Best Man officially done, I was able to relax and have fun. Nathan panicked when no one stepped up to the plate to be the second Blues Brother. His brother Joel asked me if I would join him in a lip synching, inflatable guitar strumming rendition of "Soul Man", so I figured, why not? When the D.J. announced a special guest appearance by the Blues Brothers, Nathan told him not to do that since he couldn't find a second person. It was great to see Nathan's surprised reaction when I jumped out with his brother and played along to the song. Joel really got into the performance and truly upstaged me. However, I'm sure that Nathan did not expect introverted me to do such a thing. It was another one of my gifts to the couple, from the Best Man.

All in all, it was truly a great experience. I will likely never be asked to be a Best Man again, since all of my closest friends are married, so I am grateful that Nathan asked me to serve as his Best Man. I consider it one of the greatest honours of my life and one of my proudest moments in life. At some point during the reception, I told Nathan, "I'm sad that I won't be considered your best friend anymore." Nathan replied, "But you'll always be the Best Man!" When I visited him in San Diego two years ago, he had invited another shipmate of his over for a Memorial Day barbecue. He introduced me to the other guy as "the Best Man" and I was touched that he still uses that title for me.

Someday, when I get married, I admit that selecting a Best Man from my two best friends will be tough. I've known Nicholas the longest, but Nathan counts our friendship to 1984 as well (since his family had eaten at our house after church one Sunday), even though we met as sailors in 1994. Nathan and I share an incredible spiritual bond and his extroverted personality brings out the best in me. On the other hand, Nicholas has remembered every birthday of mine and is more reliable. However, he has served as Best Man to one of his closest friends while Nathan has never been a Best Man and is likely not to have that honour. Nathan and his wife have a young son and daughter, who would be perfect as the ringbearer and flower girl. Thus, at this point (far before I'm even in a relationship leading towards marriage), I would want both best friends to be a part of the wedding party. I'd also want my Washington, D.C. semester roommate to be one of the groomsmen, as well. Who knows at this point? All I know is that serving as the Best Man is definitely something every guy should experience at least once. I'm grateful that Nathan gave me that honour. Here's to a Happy First Decade Anniversary! Followed by many more.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Has Marriage Outlasted Its Purpose?

Today marks the 10th anniversary of my D.C. roommate Matt's wedding to his college girlfriend Anna. The remarkable thing about his wedding was how quickly it happened. He was on the BYU Washington Seminar program while his girlfriend was back in Provo at school. She had come out to visit a couple of times, while he went back to Utah for a funeral in March and returned an engaged man! I was the first person he shared the news to, and he had purposely waited so he could tell me first, even though he saw our friend Janell first. I was touched by that gesture, but it would not have been a big deal if he had told her first.

The biggest shocker, though, was that he had set a wedding date just three months later. For me, that wouldn't be enough time to prepare for such a major event. Because his wedding date was the day before the wedding date of one of my best friends, in which I had the honours of being the Best Man, I could not attend both weddings. Not that I could attend Matt and Anna's, though, because they got married in the Manti LDS Temple, which means that only Mormons who have a Temple Recommend card would be allowed to witness the event. They did have a reception at a local Stake Center, though. Even if they scheduled the wedding later that summer, I probably would not have been able to attend anyway, due to my dwindling finances and the need to find a job.

That Matt got married one day before Nathan's wedding, means that I will always remember those dates (I sent a tenth anniversary card to both couples). Seven years later, my other best friend held a wedding in June. Now, I learn that this Friday is the official date of Christine's wedding to the Dutch guy. What is with all the June weddings? As a matter of fact, June is considered the most popular month to hold a wedding, probably because school is out, the weather is usually good (not unbearably hot like in July or August), and its kind of traditional, especially for a garden wedding.

For me, though, I want to get married in October or November. Most likely October, though I really would love to get married on 11 November next year because of the numbers involved. If that should happen, the invites would indicate the date as such: 11 / 11 / 11. First, though, I have to find a career and a serious relationship. Unfortunately, I don't move very fast when it comes to building a lasting relationship. Perhaps this is the push I need to change my modus operandi?

Anyhow, a recent issue of Newsweek (the one with a cover story on Sarah Palin being the leader of evangelical conservatives) had an interesting article about the decline of marriage among the younger generations. It was intriguing, because our generation was the first to really be affected by divorce and blended families. It was still somewhat of a stigma (as well as unwed pregnancies) for our parents generation. Now, its not a big deal.

The writers of the article acknowledged that the feminist movement (and technological advances) helped to liberate women so that they did not need a man for their own financial security. The sexual revolution of the late 60s and early 70s also liberated the men. As one man was quoted in the article: "If I had to be married to have sex, I would probably be married, as would every guy I know." He was 28 years old. When I was at BYU, many men got married soon after they returned from their LDS mission at age 21. There was no waiting until after graduation from school and landing a job. Many got married while still in college and perhaps even had a child or two before they graduated. Yikes! I knew the reason why they married young. The LDS Church considers (like many religions) sex before marriage as a "sin." For those who don't believe that, the impulse to marry so young is taken away. What a relief for those who have liberated themselves from this archaic religious dogma!

The article also quotes an anthropologist (Helen Fisher), who actually studies love. Her theory is that "humans aren't meant to be together forever, but in short-term monogamous relationship of three or four years." I'm not sure I agree with that view, but I also don't believe in the Mormon view of marriage literally being FOREVER! Why limit yourself for the rest of eternity? I know myself pretty well, so I believe that I'll only get married once (like Thomas Jefferson). If that marriage does not last for whatever reason, I don't see myself getting married a second time. The dating game is just too painful to endure. Trying to match up attraction seems especially challenging for me: I'm attracted to women who are attracted to someone else. Women are attracted to me but I'm not attracted to them. It feels like punishment! Who wants to go through all of that? Marriage is a one shot deal for me, so I expect to choose wisely. My view on the sanctity of marriage is why I have a harsh opinion of men who cheat on their wives. They already made their choice and now they want to spoil someone else for another man who is looking for a wife? Greedy assholes is what they are. Once you make your choice, zip it. Live with it! Deal with it! Don't covet available women.

You might be wondering, "doesn't it take two?" Yeah. I've read a theory about women who are attracted to married men. Basically, its a self esteem issue, by which the woman in an affair feels better about herself if she is able to cause a man to cheat on the vows he had made to his wife. It might not be a conscious thing with them, but subconsciously, it is a self-esteem issue. Its the reason why you see cat-fighting on the Jerry Springer Show when the man is revealed to have cheated. The women seem more interested in scratching each other than going after the man, and the man just stands there all smug because its a self-esteem issue for him as well to see two women fighting over him.

I'm not interested in all that kind of drama. I do want to be married, though. To an intelligent woman who wants children, because I definitely want children. Because I have been in deadend, low wage jobs for the past decade, still searching for a career, time has passed by so rapidly that I'm at the age where I have to consider a woman's age if I hope to have children someday. This is one of the biggest reasons why I wish I could turn back the clock to 1999 so I could make different choices. I'm certain that I would be married with at least two children by now, had I not put my career hopes and dreams on being a political aide in the Gore Administration. Had I been open to a career in Los Angeles, perhaps, or somewhere else in D.C., who knows? But I can't go back now. All I know is that time continues to tick away and I have to do something drastic in order to find a living wage career so I can turn my attention towards dating and marriage. This year is critical for that, especially if I hope to take advantage of the 11 / 11 / 11 date that would be an awesome day to get married! Even if its just a quick Vegas wedding, I'm game for that. But unlike the people in the article, marriage is still important to me and worth participating in.

The article also mentioned that our generation (and the younger ones) have something else that delays marriage: infinite opportunities to accomplish dreams. With love in an age of "too many options", how do we choose? Its pretty scary. Also in the article, the writers state that "while little girls may still dream of Prince Charming, they'll be more likely to keep him if they don't expect too much." Yes, I agree that the fairy tale fantasy is a big marriage killer. Happily ever after does not exist in the real world. Relationships take work, with compromises, negotiations, dialogues, sharing. Its not a bossy little girl grabbing a boy to play house with at recess in Kindergarten.

The article concluded with another quote from the anthropologist, who said: "Committing to one person forever is a long time. I wonder how many people really think about that." The answer? Not many. Our human minds have difficulty fathoming what forever means, which is why I found the Mormon belief in Eternal Marriage to be such a farce. How can you promise at 21 to commit to another person for the rest of eternity? I couldn't and I wouldn't do that. In fact, when I get married some day, I will be writing my own vows and it will not include "til death do us part" and the words "eternity" or "forever" will not be part of ceremony. I'm of the opinion that marital vows should be re-done every five years or so. While it would be ideal to be married to one person for the rest of my life on earth, there's always the possibility that the couple will grow in different directions and need to go their separate ways (as the Gores recently taught us). I know for myself, I can't promise forever. Perhaps the rest of this life, but not beyond that.

In another book, I had read about a lady who was dumped by her husband when she was diagnosed with cancer. I was shocked. For me, this is where I would shine the most. My loyalty was meant for a crisis like that. Its just amazing that some men are so heartless that they would abandon their wives and seek another relationship during her greatest trial. This is where real love is proven, where it matters the most. This is where my loyalty would be an asset, because I don't abandon people in their time of need. Throughout my life, I've always been the kind of friend people come to when their other friends had abandoned them. Its a role I know how to play well and one I'm good at. Not that I want to be in a relationship with someone who gets stricken with a life-threatening illness. But I consider that to be an important part of marital vows. To not honour that portion of the vow is a major violation. A sin, even. People who abandon their spouses during such trials do not deserve to get remarried. They shouldn't even get married in the first place.

To my married friends...I thank you for your inspiration. I hope to one day join your ranks, but its not likely to happen until I land my career. Had I gotten married younger (like to an Italian lady as I had wanted to do when I moved to Italy), my freedom of choice would have been limited to whatever the wife was willing to do. Freedom has always been the most important value in my life, because I hate feeling the suffocation that a lack of choice brings about. This is the reason why I know a lady is a "keeper" when I have the thought: "I could give up my freedom for this lady." Only three ladies inspired such a thought. Hopefully, the fourth one will be the charm.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Summer of SynchroNICKity

On the occasion of the Summer Solstice, I decided to head over to New Renaissance Bookstore to return a DVD and see if they still had copies of a new book, The 7 Secrets of Synchronicity. They did, and I was thrilled. I had waited a couple weeks to buy this book because I wanted to officially inaugurate my "Summer of SynchroNICKity" on the day of Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year).

I can't begin to tell you what a thrill it is to actually buy a book written by people I've gotten "to know" first (through their awesome blog on Synchronicity that has become required daily reading for me). I've even exchanged emails with both Trish and Rob MacGregor a few times and feel like they are genuine people I can call my friends. Besides that, they also serve as inspirations for me because they have followed the trail of synchronicities away from a day-to-day office job into a dream writing career, which they have done full time now for several decades. Sadly, I had never heard of them or their books, until they had emailed me in response to a post I had written last year about the most amazing coincidence I ever had (the coincidence that led me back towards a spiritual view of the world during my "atheist era"--1990-1993). I really look forward to reading this book and hoping that my summer will live up to the title I'm bestowing upon it. I would love to increase the amount of synchronicity in my life. Since it was synchronicity (of the "trickster" sort) that convinced me to accept my current job four summers ago, it would be poetic justice if synchronicity got me my dream job before this summer ends.

On Facebook, my best friend (Nicholas)'s brother and I got into a debate regarding religion because of what I felt were unnecessary insulting comments about spirituality on my Facebook wall in the past. I don't have issue with him being an atheist, but reading his comments does remind me exactly why atheism lost its appeal to me when I was a young man. Granted, my "atheist era" was greatly influenced by my admiration for my favourite teacher who was a very vocal atheist advocate. He was kind of a father figure to me, as he represented the qualities I had wanted for myself which my dad lacked. Once I embraced the atheist view of life and went off into the Navy, getting stationed far from any RLDS church congregation, I just lived...and argued with my religious minded shipmates.

However, between 1991 and 1993, I had quite a few interesting coincidences, which culminated in the oddest coincidence ever: my happening to be on a specific bus leaving the Naval hospital in Naples when it almost ran over two Mormon missionaries on bicycles. One of the missionaries looked exactly like a friend of mine from seventh grade whom I had lost contact with in 1985. Eight years later, our paths crossed at the exact brief second in time in a far away place. I could have taken a later bus and this chance encounter would not have happened. Because I was intrigued by the possibility that it was my old friend from junior high school (in Bellevue, Nebraska), I investigated it by contacting the Mormon chaplain who was stationed at the Navy base in Naples.

What I learned was that my friend, John Adams, happened to need his glasses fixed or to get new contact lenses (can't remember the details on that) and since his father was in the military, he still had his dependent ID card, which allowed him to use the military facilities. He was serving a Mormon mission in Rome. I happened to be in Naples because of my own persistent eye problem. I had red eye for many months and despite the doctor in Squadron 22 insisting that I see the eye specialist in Naples, I put off going because of the other yeoman taunting me that my going would not reflect well in the command because it would be seen as a "boondoggle." Finally, the doctor insisted, telling me, "If you care about your eye, you really need to go before it gets worse." Boondoggle or not, I wasn't going to sacrifice my vision for the sake of the Navy. Had I gone at any other time, I would have missed that brief encounter with my old friend.

The trip was good in another way, as well. One shipmate had let people borrow his copy of Madonna's expensive Sex book. There was no word on if he was returning to the ship (based in La Maddalena, on the island of Sardinia), so I took it upon myself to retrieve his book and return it to him personally. When I saw him in the barracks in Naples and gave him the book back, he was so happy, as he thought he would never see it again.

I could have stayed in Naples a lot longer if I wanted to, because it was hard catching a MAC flight back to Sardinia. I had to wait for an available slot and they only had two flights a week, if I remember correctly. I decided to catch the train up to Rome and catch the ferry from Civitavecchia to Olbia, Sardinia. This allowed me to visit the Mormon mission where John worked to catch up on old times. Disappointingly, he didn't seem to remember me at all, though he took my word for it.

This coincidence has been an enigma for me, as it did not rekindle an old friendship. Whenever I tell this to Mormons, they believe that it happened because I was meant to join their church. However, I disagree. I believe its just one of those things that happened to snap me out of the atheist view and embrace a spiritual view where mysteries happen. It was this coincidence, in fact, which effectively ended my "atheist era." I had no doubt anymore that God exists. This was "the evidence" I needed, because every way I looked at it, the mathematical probability statistics that such a brief encounter could happen just seem too unlikely. There were too many varibles that could have caused this brief meeting not to happen (my being on the bus that almost ran over my Mormon friend's bicycle in Naples at a specific time in 1993). So began my era of coincidences.

The following year, 1994, the novel The Celestine Prophecy became a huge success, which got a lot of people thinking about coincidences and the meanings behind them. I also met a sailor who belonged to the same church that I did, and in talking about our life stories, realized that his family had eaten at my family's house a decade earlier (though I still can't remember that event. My dad, and his family remember it). My friendship with this sailor, Nathan, has become one of my best (I'm fortunate to consider two people to be my "best friends") and I consider him to be my spiritual brother.

About my other best friend's brother, who is an atheist. In many ways, I envy my best friend for having an older brother like him, who is pretty intelligent, funny, and lives an interesting life. He's exactly who you want as an older brother. However, I was shocked to read his comment on Facebook that he found my belief in reincarnation and my interest in Mormonism to be "outrageous." Outrageous! There are religious people KILLING other people who don't believe the same as they do, or evangelical Christians in our country wanting to elect another like-minded candidate (Sarah Palin) as president to bring us closer to a Christofascist theocratic state than their last favoured candidate has done (that'd be GWB). There are people going door to door peddling their religion (Mormons, Moonies, and Jehovah's Witnesses). Hard to believe that despite all those scenarios imposed by religion, that it is my belief in reincarnation and my interest in Mormonism (from a purely historical perspective, though, as I don't believe their doctrines to be true, except for "eternal progression", which I view as part of the evolutionary and reincarnation process, though Mormons don't believe my interpretation of that belief, of course) which is considered to be "outrageous"!

So, I explained to my best friend's brother that my belief in reincarnation is not some whimsical, flaky trend du jour. This is actually based on stories that I've read and heard about since childhood, on many books I've read on the topic since 1998, the year I finally accepted the idea as the most likely explanation on how our world works. There is a professor at the University of Virginia who has made it his life's work to document case studies of children (and adults) who have past life memories that can be verified by actual locations, dates and people. If I pursue grad school someday, this course of study is #1 on my list, though it would likely not lead to a well-paying career.

Reading this atheist's comments only reminded me of why I lost interest in the atheist groups I was a part of in the 1990s. They often talked about being "open minded" but I found that in reality, they were every bit as closed minded and dogmatic in their belief system as religious people. The way my mind works is that I am curious and open to possibilities. While I don't accept views taught to me without testing them out for myself, I am interested in hearing other people's personal spiritual experiences. Once you move people away from the dogmatic view of professing to literally believe in events they weren't a witness to thousands of years ago, you get to the very heart of their personal spiritual stories, which is always intriguing. Within my own church, my personal belief in reincarnation has caused me much grief when I shared them with fellow church members as with atheists. Why is reincarnation so threatening to people? Why can't more people just read up on some intriguing case studies and ponder the possibilities? You don't have to believe it...but why be automatically dismissive of the idea?

Consider this...out of all the beliefs out there, none seem able to explain the diversity or why some people are drawn to a certain religion but not others. There is an attempt to force conformity on people and many who have a conformist mindset believe that everyone must believe the same thing as they do, because in their minds, the truth depends upon conformity of belief. Yet people have different abilities and talents. How was Beethoven or Mozart able to be such musical geniuses? How do you explain child prodigies? Why do some people have an inexplicable interest in certain topics, such as the Civil War or Space or the Renaissance or the French Revolution? Why do some people have phobias when their life experience does not show any trauma regarding such phobias? The whole basis of reincarnation is that we are eternal beings and life on earth is a set period full of challenges and opportunities. If we only had one lifetime to live, why do some people have such unfortunate circumstances (such as being handicapped or in poverty or unattractive or living in developing world countries where disease and violence are part of their everyday experience), while others are blessed (with wealth, physical beauty, diverse experiences, ability to travel, dream careers)?

Additionally, every religion has its own version of the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"). Why? How did this happen? Could it be possible that the founding mystics of each religion touched on the core basis of spirituality, which is known to some as "the law of Karma" (which even atheistic science has a version of: "for each and every action there is an equal and opposite reaction"). The basis of this law is that every action that we do has consequences and we will eventually reap those consequences (for good or for bad) at some point. Also, if we develop our talents or pursue our interests, sometimes bad things happen and life is cut short. What happens to those talents? Could it not be possible that child prodigies reflect a previous lifetime or lifetimes of developing such talents?

Just as in 1994 when I was disappointed that my atheist hero, my senior year government teacher, mocked coincidences as random occurences, I am baffled by my best friend's brother's dismissal of my beliefs as being "outrageous." I'm not out to convert the world or make everyone believe the same. I simply wish people would take a step back and consider the possibility with an open mind. There's no need to scratch your head and wonder why something happened if you can examine it from another perspective, through the use of synchronicity, coincidences, etc.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, though, I will say this. The great thing about my belief in reincarnation is that I believe people are in the religion they need to be in. In my belief system, there is no need to waste energy trying to convert people to believe the same as you do. If people are happy with their religion, they should stay. If they aren't, they should seek a religion that best reflects them. I am proud of the fact that I can get along with almost anyone of any religion. I can listen to their testimonies and support them in their beliefs without feeling a need to join them, just as long as they realize that my not wanting to join their religion is not an indication that I believe that their religion is wrong for them. In many ways, I am like a mosquito who seeks to extract the essentials of every spiritual belief system to incorporate into my own. In this lifetime, I am a member of the Community of Christ. In a previous lifetime, I was likely a Catholic. Perhaps in a future lifetime, I might even choose to be born into a Mormon family. I don't see anything wrong with that.

However, I feel sorry for people who are too closed minded to even consider the possibilities that reincarnation presents. To call it outrageous is ignorance. For it does not matter if a person believes in reincarnation or not, that is not the point. The point is...what is the purpose of our existence and what on earth do we do for eternity if you believe that we have a soul? How do you explain the different levels of talent, or intelligence or life experience? Why are some people blessed while many others live in hellish conditions? Where is the fairness? How can we be challenged to grow if we spend most of eternity in a perfect spiritual realm after a short lifetime on earth? Which belief system best answers those questions? Certainly not atheism!

Interestingly enough, my former government teacher whom I admired a lot as a teenager and credit for helping me to break out of the religious ideas imposed upon me by my church and parents, had approved my Facebook friend request last week. He has considered himself a Buddhist for at least a decade now. Though we've never discussed what led him away from atheism, a part me hopes that it was for the same reasons why I never felt comfortable with it: a lack of awe and wonder at the mysteries of life, and the close-mindedness to possibilities presented by synchronistic events which purely atheistic science cannot explain with satisfaction.

So, don't fault me because I find reincarnation to be the most logical explanation for the meaning of our lives. As I learned in the 1990s about the closed-minded dogma of atheism, if given the choice of living in a world where atheistic science is what everyone believes and all beliefs regarding the mysteries of life or synchronicities and coincidences are dismissed and ridiculed versus a world where spiritualism is valued and appreciated, allowing a wide spectrum of religions and non-religions to exist and influence people, of course I'd choose a world of spiritualism over atheistic science. I don't like atheistic science for the same reason why I dislike fundamentalist Christianity. Its the insistence that their dogma is the absolute truth and all mysteries are drained of meaning or possibilities. I much prefer diversity to conformity anyway.

Here's to a summer full of synchroNICKities!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Music Video Monday: Top Gun Anthem

In honour of the 20th anniversary of my enlistment into the Navy, I have selected an awesome song that always makes me feel patriotic and proud of the Navy. Its the instrumental anthem from the 80s classic, Top Gun. Its a brilliant piece of music with an incredible sound. I'm amazed by how certain sounds can evoke such powerful emotions, which is why I really love music a lot. For the longest time, I thought this song had a bagpipe sound, but I guess its just the electric guitar.

I was originally going to post the video to the Village People's "In the Navy", because this was one of the songs that I really loved when I was kid. Again, as I wrote in Saturday's post, my family's association with the Navy and me all my life included this song being thought of as "my song." At the time, I had no idea who the Village People were or even WHAT they were. I only recently watched their video on YouTube and felt embarrassed watching it. They are so cheesy, so embarrassingly bad, and gay. Its a good thing that their video to "In the Navy" is barred from embedding onto other websites and blogs. I like the song, but not the group. Its certainly a much better song than their more popular "YMCA."

As a child, whenever I heard the song "In the Navy," I remember thinking that it was my future, even though I was still resistant to enlisting through my last few months of high school. Its amazing how things turned out. Though a career in the Navy wasn't for me, the enlistment as a young man was a necessary rite of passage. When I was in Basic Training, most of the guys were fresh out of high school like me. The ones who had the most difficulty during those weeks of training were older, which is understandable. After living on your own for awhile, it would be a difficult adjustment to being told what to do and have your entire day for weeks on end regulated by someone else. Its much easier to adjust if you've come directly from living with your parents all your life. Its a good transition from childhood into adulthood.

This music video selection represents the last of my "nostalgic" Navy posts on my blog for the time being (at least until March 20, 2011!). Enjoy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Special: Senator Scott Brown as "Father of the Year"?

Watch CBS News Videos Online
The "rollout" of Senator Scott Brown seems to have started early, with the above clip that aired on CBS' morning news program. Ayla Brown was tasked with "interviewing" her father for a special on Father's Day. According to some comments I read on The Huffington Post, people seem "disturbed" by her apparently close relationship with her father. More than a few mentioned how creepy he appears in this segment, with the strange way that they seem to "flirt" with one another.

One of the questions that Ayla asked her father is if he would run for president someday, if she, her sister, and their mother asked him to. He gave a typical politician's answer...that he was focused on the constituents of Massachusetts. He has to run for reelection in 2012, so of course he's going to say that. However, I would bet serious cash in Las Vegas that he's a candidate for president in 2016. He embodies the "complete package" of what Republicans are looking for in a dream candidate: telegenic family, conservative, military experience, charismatic, not too intellectual / "elitist", able to follow "the script", a common guy you'd love to have a beer with. He simply comes across as a likable guy. You can bet that he is quietly being groomed for 2016, which means that the GOP might run a sacrificial lamb in 2012 to "flush the field" (a la 1996, when Senator Bob Dole finally got his chance to run for an office he had little chance of winning). I'm predicting a Mitt Romney / Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney / Bobby Jindal ticket in 2012. The conservatives in the party will obviously have a problem with Romney's Mormon faith, thus why he will need a running mate that excites the base. But it won't be enough to win, which is okay for the party operatives. In 1996, Dole was the sacrificial lamb so that the Republican "dream candidate" of George W. Bush could be pushed on the American people four years later.

Watch for the "rollout" to begin in 2014, with a book and a high profile media blitz, where political pundits will gush that he's "the next Ronald Reagan" and how presidential he looks. He'll be viewed as "the great hope" of the Republican Party for recapturing the White House. Once President Obama cleans up Bush's mess and restores our Republic on solid footing, the Republicans will be rested and ready to once again fuck over our country with what they hope is another dimwit politician (like Ford, Reagan, and GWB) to do the bidding of big business. Hopefully, Senator Brown is a conscientious, ethical man who can see through the machinations of his party's standard operating procedure. If he can keep the worst elements of his party (neo-conservatives, fundamentalist Christians, corporate capitalists) at a safe distance, he wouldn't make a bad president.

However, if he is the likely nominee in 2016, then the Democrats would be wise to run our own version of a "dream candidate": Governor Martin O'Malley, who has even better experience than Senator Brown (two terms as Mayor of Baltimore, and likely two-terms as Governor of Maryland). It would be awesome, indeed, to see such a match up for the November 2016 election. Conservatives who made issue of Obama's "lack of experience" in 2008 with claims that Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's terms as mayor and governor made her "more qualified" because she had executive experience, will likely have selective amnesia as they throw their support behind Senator Brown, who lacks executive experience. Suddenly, "legislative experience" will matter more if the Democrats run a candidate with 16 years of executive experience (and no legislative experience). You can count on the Republicans to twist things again, because they always do. "Black is white, war is peace, 2 + 2 = 5, we were never at war with Eastasia, we were always at war with Eurasia" (all famous quotes from George Orwell's 1984). Conservatives are good at pretzel logic and doublethinking.

You want someone with executive experience? Well, we got a star quality politician in Governor Martin O'Malley. Who do the Republicans have? It's interesting that they are running several female politicians in high profile races (governors of South Carolina and California). They seem to prefer looks over intellectual depth. Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota is one such example. Then there is the daughter of Dick Cheney, hoping that a "pretty face" can disguise the ugliness of her father's evil designs on our country. All these "pretty" Republican women running for various offices is likely to give Rush Limbaugh a hard-on, as he gushes on his show that his party continues to have "the babes on the ticket." On a positive note, the more women the Republicans have in elected office, the less likely they will put all their hopes and dreams into Sarah Palin's fading star.

Anyhow, enjoy the video segment on Senator Scott Brown, the likely GOP nominee for president in 2016. In this video, he appears to be making a bid for "Father of the Year." While some may be "creeped out" by his close relationship to his daughters, I happen to think this is a good thing. There are studies which indicate that women who don't have a close relationship with their fathers are likely to be promiscuous, unstable, or wild as they seek attention from any guy who happens along. However, Senator Brown embarrassed his daughters on the night of his election victory (in January, which feels like a long time ago now) when he blurted out that both of his daughters are "available." His daughter takes him to task in the video segment for his spontaneous outburst. He claims that he was trying to be funny. That's what I like about him. He seems genuine, rather than "scripted."

I would honestly hate to see such a likable guy become a monster for the Republican agenda of screwing the common people. From what I've read about him this year and seen in videos, he seems like a much better person than George W. Bush. In fact, if we must have a Republican president after the Obama years, Scott Brown is the only Republican in office today whom I would not mind occupying the White House. I consider him to be the most likable member of the political party that I despise more than any other organization in our country today.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Taking the Plunge (Reflecting on a Key Decision Twenty Years Ago)

Twenty years ago on this day, I spent the entire day at the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in Atlanta. The night before, my Navy recruiter drove me to a hotel near the airport, where I had to take the ASVAB test and stay the night. Early the next morning, there was a long line of young guys waiting to board the bus to go through the physical screening for the military. I was a nervous wreck, as my biggest fear was what I had heard from my dad: "the line-up"! That's where guys have to stand in a line, drop their pants, turn their heads and cough, so that the doctors can check for a hernia (or something like that). Fortunately, that Vietnam-era practice was not in vogue to our generation of recruits. We had private screenings with the doctor, which was uncomfortable enough.

I did not expect the process to take all day. The ratio of men and women were not good, either. If memory serves, I think there were at least twenty men for every female. Its not surprising, though. The military has generally been the young man's rite of passage into "manhood" (I certainly consider my experience to be one). The day began with filling out paperwork. In fact, I had filled out so much paperwork that I unintentionally memorized my Social Security number by the end of the day. In my journal entry for this day, I wrote an unprecedented 30 pages (that record has been surpassed only a few times). What could I possibly write so much about? Well, I covered every detail of the day. Up to that point in my life, it was the longest day in my life (however, now that I've lived far beyond that day, I can say that the longest day of my life still remains the first full day in Basic Training).

This day taught me that hurry up and wait was the Standard Operating Procedure for the military. Most of the day was spent sitting in a chair, waiting to be called. Then when called, we had to hustle, hustle, hustle! We got our eyes checked, our hearing checked, our weight measured, our feet checked (no flat feet allowed!), our urine specimen delivered, our blood drawn, our fingers pressed in ink and imprinted on cards, more paperwork, and a horrendous lunch (it was our first taste of reality...that the food in the military was not going to be very good...however, that was just MEPS. The cafeterias at the Naval base in Norfolk were actually pretty good).

Once the screening portion was over, I had to call my recruiter to give him an update. Turns out he was IRATE! He had heard that one of his recruits had gotten drunk at the hotel and caused some problems but he didn't think it was me, and would've been surprised if it was me. He had already received the results of my ASVAB test and was really impressed. He claimed it was one of the highest ones he had ever seen at that recruiting station, but didn't tell me the score.

I had to meet with the career counselor, who asked me what I wanted to do in the Navy. I didn't know what there was to do, so I simply told him that I only wanted to enlist for two years. He talked me out of it, saying that if I enlist for four, I'd get a guaranteed "A" school billet and be in a better situation when reporting to the ship. I'm so glad that he sold me on a four year enlistment. When I was considering the Navy as an option, I thought 2 years wasn't so bad. If I didn't like the military, it was only two years. If I liked it, I could extend to the full four years. However, after having been in the Navy, two years assigned to Deck Department (the ghetto of the ship) would have been HELL and would feel more like four years. Instead, I got great experiences at "A" School and in La Maddalena, my choice of duty stations, a coveted "high profile" first duty assignment, and working with officers and upper enlisted ranking individuals rather than uneducated rednecks.

After being sold on a four year enlistment, I told the detailer that I wanted to work with computers. "Technical or administrative?" he asked. "Administrative," I said. He pulled out description cards for a few rating specialties: Personnelman, Ship's Storekeeper, Ship's Serviceman, Religious Program Specialist, and Yeoman. I briefly glanced at each one, but it was the word "Yeoman" that really grabbed my attention. I kept saying it in my head, liking how it sounded: "Yeoman. Yeoman. Yo! man." Yeah, that was it. Yeoman was definitely me. Next was deciding when I wanted to go to Basic Training. He wanted to ship me off the following week. Whoa! I wasn't ready for that. In fact, I asked for the last possible day to ship off, which was in May of the following year. That gave me plenty of time to prepare. I later amended that decision by moving up my ship out date by two months after my trip to the Midwest in January to visit my best friend Nicholas and my grandparents. After that solo trip by Greyhound, I knew I was ready for "the greatest adventure of my life." This was also a wise decision, because by the time I was originally set to ship off to basic training, I was leaving boot camp before the temperature got hotter.

There was just one problem, though. I told the detailer that someone said that I wasn't allowed to enlist. He asked why. It was rather embarrassing. I did not meet the MINIMUM weight requirement. In fact, I was 6 pounds underweight! It was not a big deal, he said. It just meant that he had to type a waiver. The condition was that I had to meet the minimum weight standard by the time I shipped off to basic training. As one guy told me, just eat a couple candy bars before the weigh in. I was given a sheet on how to physically prepare for basic training.

After that was taken care of, I had to wait for the official swearing in ceremony. I was still hesitant. I decided to call my dad for his advice and permission. The phone just kept ringing and ringing. My parents weren't home. I had to make a decision, because the final oath ceremony was mere minutes away and after spending all day here, I did not want to feel like I had wasted a perfectly good day for nothing. So, I took a deep breath and decided that I could handle this experience. That it would be good for me and enable me to do more traveling while my friends were in college. This was my first adult decision and is one that I am forever grateful that I made for myself.

My recruiter was happy, naturally. I was one more person on his monthly quota. When I learned that my ASVAB score was a 74, I was disappointed. That was a "C" grade in school. However, as I learned in the Navy, it is considered pretty high. Maybe not high enough to be in the Nuclear program (then again, I wasn't interested in the Nuclear program), but certainly high enough to matter, giving me greater opportunities. Once, during my time in La Maddalena, I had to review the service records of everyone in the Port Services Department, making sure that the paperwork was in the right place and that there were not pages missing. I noticed that nearly every guy in Port Services had an ASVAB score in the 30s. I was shocked. I didn't realize that the Navy allowed such low scores. However, the scoring is different than from school. Yes, the ASVAB has a 100-point maximum, but the minimum to enlist, if I remember correctly was 30.

After my experience reviewing the service records of the Port Services guys, I always made a point to check a person's ASVAB score. I generally got along with people who scored 60 or higher. I had difficulties with people who scored below 60. I see it as an "educational divide". Its the reason why I did not get along with people in Deck Department. Its a reflection of different values and interests. So, in a strange way, the ASVAB score was a pretty accurate reflection on compatability issues between other sailors and myself.

My recruiter picked me up at the MEPS Atlanta downtown to bring me home. During the car ride, he claimed that my parents would probably celebrate by taking me out to dinner. I was skeptical about it, but he kept insisting that they would. I guess to him, he saw it as a big deal and maybe other parents of people he recruited did something like that, but my parents were never big on going out to eat to celebrate key decisions like that. However, a part of me was hopeful that my parents would take me out to eat in celebration of my decision.

When I broke the news to my parents, they were happy for me, but I guess it wasn't that big a deal. We didn't go out to eat or do anything special. I was disappointed, but blamed my recruiter for putting the thought in my head when he didn't know my parents like I did. However, I don't think poorly of my recruiter. He was a cool guy. In Basic Training, many guys professed a hatred of their recruiter at some point during those eight weeks. Many wanted the opportunity to face their recruiter again and beat the shit out of them for selling them on "lies." The only thing the recruiters were wrong about with me was that they said that wake-up call was 5:30 every day. That was actually considered "sleeping in". Our days often began at 4:30 a.m. and on some days, it was 3:30 a.m.

On my second ship, the USS Simon Lake, I happened to bump into a guy who looked familiar. Turned out, he was my recruiter! I was shocked to see him in a dungaree uniform and that he was merely a first class petty officer. He was likewise shocked to see that I was already a third class petty officer (I made rank pretty quick, as I was promoted to E-4 in my 13th month in the Navy due to a deal I had made in "A" School as the result of finishing #1 in my Yeoman training class. The deal was a promotion to E-4 within my first year in the Navy if I extended my enlistment by one year). When I enlisted, because the recruiters wore a white uniform and I didn't understand the ranks yet, I had no idea what rank my recruiter was. That our paths crossed three years later, being on the same ship, is an interesting coincidence. I think I even thanked him for being honest with me because some other guys did not have a positive experience (they were promised things the Navy had no authority to deliver).

Some of you may wonder "why the Navy?" It was the only branch that I considered. I did not visit any other recruiter to compare. I did not even consider the Air Force at all. If I had to do it all over again, I might have checked out the USAF recruiter, just to hear what they had to say and to play the recruiters against each other to see which one wanted me more. All the branches had recruiting offices in the same strip mall (which they've long since vacated).

There was really no competition for me, though. My entire life, I was told a story by my dad about the circumstances surrounding my birth. I also heard him tell other people the same story. Hearing it all your life kind of creates a mythology around it and if you're familiar with the hero's journey motif, it does feel like my dad told this story all my life because it was my destiny to join the Navy and meet the people that I did, who have impacted my life in ways that I can't imagine how my life would look without them in my life.

The story my dad told me and others all my life goes something like this ... When I was born in the U.S. Navy hospital in Taipei, Taiwan, the Navy doctor tattoo'd on my rear end: "Property of U.S. Navy -- Return When 18." Of course, having never been able to see my rear end, I believed it for the longest time (until I got wise as a teenager and used mirrors to check). I can assure you that there is no such tattoo anywhere on my body. In the Navy, there is pressure on guys to live up to tradition by getting a tattoo. I did think about getting such a tattoo to make my dad's story true ... but it was only a fleeting, amusing thought.

When I enlisted, my mom said, "You listen to your dad too much." It was a joke. However, I had grown up under the Navy sign. Literally! It is my dad's "fault" for encouraging it. When he was stationed in the Philippines while I was between two and four years old (my earliest memories are from the time we lived on this South Pacific island), he was friends with a woodcarver who made a beautiful desk for him, as well as a painted family sign. Additionally, he made a nice woodcarving of individual door hangers for my brother and I, with our names on them. My brother has the USAF symbol on his name sign. For mine (which is definitely mine, as it is spelled by my parents' preferred spelling of my nickname: "Nic"), there is the Navy anchor next to my name. I have this sign hanging on one of the walls of my apartment (one of my personal treasures). My family's nickname for me was "Navy Nic." Any time the Navy made the news, it seemed like my parents pointed it out to me. So in retrospect, I have to wonder if my parents were doing the necessary work of my spirit guides to influence me towards my destiny by enlisting in the Navy. In other words, did my soul plan for a Navy experience before I was born or did my parents simply influence my decision through a lifetime of associating me with the Navy?

I'm also not sure how much of an influence the movie Top Gun played into my desire to join the Navy. That pure adrenaline rush 80s classic is credited with a boost in Navy enlistment in the late 1980s, but not everyone could be a pilot. Someone had to work the dangerous job on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. If anything, though, that movie made me want to be on an aircraft carrier. That decision was sealed in 1988 when my family visited Charleston, SC and spent the day on the USS Yorktown (a WWII era aircraft carrier). By today's CVN standard, the Yorktown is pretty dinky, but it did its job. I made sure that my last ship in the Navy was an aircraft carrier. The first three years were spent among submariners, who tried so hard to get me to volunteer for submarine duty. The best they could do was get me to ride one for three days as an enticer, but it was enough submarine experience for me. My love of the aircraft carrier could not be quenched.

Out of the three ships I served on, the USS George Washington is my personal favourite. It was the newest aircraft carrier when I was a crewmember from November 1994 through January 1996. Strange enough, while I was stationed onboard, my love of the Top Gun soundtrack increased. I loved it more as a sailor in 1995 than I did as a teenager in 1986. It was the soundtrack of my own experience onboard that great ship.

The above classic Navy recruiting poster (circa WWI or WWII, I forget which era) is one of my favourites. My sister and I laugh about the sexism apparent in that message. In the novel that I wrote based on my Navy experiences, I referenced this poster because it fit in well with the overall theme of the novel (still unpublished, for those who are wondering where they might find my novel). When I started writing it in 2000, I wanted to say everything I could possibly say about the Navy so that I'd never desire to write another Navy-themed novel or story again. Four years and seven hundred pages later, I did exhaust myself on the topic. I have no desire to write a story set in the Navy. I simply want this novel published, though, because there are no literary novels set in the Navy. Most military novels are formulaic or high-tech suspense. I'm more interested in the personal dynamics. I was in the Navy during a critical transitional time: the organization was faced with the hugely embarrassing Tailhook scandal in which an Admiral's aide was forced to walk a gauntlet of drunken and groping Naval aviators at the Las Vegas Hilton (which I had unintentionally stayed at during my church's Young Adult trip in November 1999).

The Navy also had to deal with homophobia, as one sailor was murdered for being gay in a park in Sasebo, Japan in 1992. All the while, the newly elected Democratic president intended to make good on his promise to gay supporters that he would lift the ban on gays serving in the military. So, all of these issues are present in this novel, as well as my feelings of disgust with how my fellow sailors viewed women. To this day, I find the word "cunt" as an identifying epithet used in place of "woman" or even "bitch" to be as vile and offensive as the words "nigger" and "gook." Guys used to laugh at me when I said that all I wanted was an intelligent woman. I guess for most guys, they have no use for an intelligent woman, but I can't help myself. I can only fall in love with a woman who engages my brain. The fireworks of meaningful and intelligent conversations is sexy for me. There have been ladies that I found physically attractive who lost my interest when they couldn't keep up with me intellectually. Its just what attracts me, I guess.

Based on my experiences in the Navy and seeing how many guys view women, it continues to surprise me when feminists make me out to be the misogynist villain because they don't like my opinions on certain topics. If they only knew me like the women who actually do know me over the years, they would see that I am the kind of guy they are looking for, the kind of guy who could be their best male friend or their significant other. Instead, I've had to watch over the years as guys hooked up, cheated, and disrespected women still manage to attract more than their fair share. Why don't feminists go after those type of guys? The military enlisted ranks is full of these types, but I imagine that they don't want to hear about it.

As I think back on the past twenty years and the wise decision I had made to enlist, with a four year commitment rather than a two year one, I also have to wonder if leaving the Navy has been as wise. I thought college was the pathway to a better paying career and freedom. Had I known that I would have struggled financially for the past 14 years after getting out, I might have made the Navy a career. I'm not looking forward to my 20th anniversary of my actual active duty date, especially if I'm still working where I work. My goals for getting out of the Navy were: (1) college degree; (2) career; (3) published novel; (4) marriage; and (5) children. I'm still stuck on step two. What is the point of my life since 1996? Have the trials been worth it? Had I stayed Navy, I most likely would have been stationed in San Diego and made port visits to Thailand, Hong Kong, and Australia. I would have retirement benefits to look forward to. I would have been much better off financially. Not sure if I would have been married, though. That's one area that the Navy has made me cautious and cynical about. I had seen too much of cheating and divorces among fellow sailors that marriage seems like a cheapened thing to do rather than actual commitment.

The one thing I would like more than anything else, though, is to have my Navy novel published. I sacrificed too much of life to not see it published and it would mean a lot to me to walk into a bookstore someday soon and see copies on the display table, with reviews in the major newspapers across the country as well as controversial debate about the subject matter (its about an idealistic sailor who finds himself in hot water when a gay sailor is missing at sea and whose journal reveals a secret crush on the protagonist). With all the talk about ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" once and for all, my novel would be the right piece of fiction to inspire debate on this issue (in the novel, guys who are homophobic are also sexist in their attitudes towards females, so the irony is that they don't like being treated by supposed gays the way they treat women).

The Navy is not a perfect organization, but they did give me the world. I had the best duty station assignment imaginable: three years in the remote La Maddalena, Sardinia, which is considered a prime vacation spot. Its funny hearing fellow sailors (on my Facebook) who hated living there during our time there now calling it the best years of their lives! I knew that every day that I lived there, and no one had to remind me of it. I lived each day in complete enjoyment and sometimes had to pinch myself to see if it was real. Thank you, Navy for the experience and thank you, dad for telling that story about my birth all my life. You were instrumental in launching me on my destiny as a young man. I only wish that I was as good at making career decisions in mid-life as I was a young man. Maybe it was simply beginner's luck! I'll try harder. Promise.