Thursday, September 28, 2006

My Sophomore Year and a Trashcan

I upgraded to a television that knew what cable was, but I had to put this beast somewhere. What better place than a flimsy entertainment stand bought at the Wal-Mart Supercenter. The box said, “Some assembly required.” It should have said, “Some assembly required, but if you plan on finishing the assembly don’t buy this product.” The thing stood up straight, but it was vulnerable to crashing to the floor when someone brushed by it, or if someone decided to lean on the thing. Someone did try that out one night after many beers, but I bounded off my bed to save my beloved electronics from a loud, disastrous tumble to the tiled floor.

A lot of great things happened to me during my sophomore year, perhaps, the best of things, but I am going to try to go in order here.

McIntyre’s fourth floor was chockablock of athletes, primarily, swimmers and football players. I remember only a few of the rooms on the guys’ side that were not housing athletes.

A very nice chap on the football team decided to play a prank on me one evening. I heard a knock at the door at 2 am. By now I knew that the floor was full of rambunctious, Neanderthal like football blokes who pissed on carpet, tore down bulletin boards, hot-boxed bathrooms, and wrote their names on the bathroom walls using their own feces, which is to say, I took a cautious approach to a knock on the door at 2 am with an ominous shadow visible through the gap made by the door and the floor. I looked through the peephole. No one was there. I got down on my hands and knees to look at what was making that shadow. I saw the aluminum edge of a trashcan that was tilted toward my door.

Okay. I settled on trying to open the door to see what was in the trashcan. I took a deep breath and opened the door a sliver. The edge of the trashcan dangerously scraped down the front of the door. The trashcan was full of water. If I opened my door any further the water would rush into my room. I am not talking about a small trashcan here. There were easily 15 gallons of water in this trashcan.

I weighed my options. I could try to open the door fast enough to try to grab the trashcan before the contents emptied into my room. I could have called one of many friends on the floor and just had them come lean the trashcan upright, but that obvious solution didn’t occur to me until later. I decided on going for the trashcan. I pulled out loads of sweatshirts and towels hoping that the wall of water would be held back by the makeshift levee I had constructed with my clothes.

In the meantime, I had shut the door and was debating my ability to move fast enough to catch the trashcan. The apes that set the trap were apparently nearby while all this was going on. In order for their prank to work as planned they were banking on a glaringly hopeless factor: the person in the dorm room had to be dumber than those that set the trap in order for it to work. They had miscalculated and picked the wrong room. But as I sit here now and think about it, the only people dumb enough to mindlessly swing open their door to a conspicuous knock at 2 am would be the very guys that set the trap. These guys would have opened their door hoping to find a gaggle of easy jersey-chasers ready to jump anyone on the football roster only to find out months or years down the road after many humps, as attempts to lift their social status, that they are, in fact, sluts.

I was reaching for the doorknob when someone, presumably the disgruntled ignoramus, kicked the trashcan over. The gap was so big at the floor that the water rushed in and broke the levees. Luckily, there weren’t loads of poverty stricken Southerners in my room. That would have drastically complicated the situation. The water even came pouring in up the sides of the doorframe. Water was everywhere. It had soaked into my rug and ran behind my TV, soaking wires and outlets. I was saddened by my poor engineering skills that were exhibited by soaked towels, shirts, and sweatpants.

I opened the door all the way to see the carnage outside when a folded piece of paper floated down to the ground. It had been stuck in the top of the door by the perpetrators. I unfolded it and it read, “Glad you like the water, swim fag.” I stood speechless with the piece of paper with the disgusting scrawl. I wasn’t concerned about the water. I would later have help from a friendly janitor who dry vacuumed the room and rug. I was concerned about the message. What prompted such a hateful message? After some pondering, I concluded that it must have occurred to this young cad that he was an inferior athlete. He brandished his sport the manlier one to make up for his insecurities and athletic shortcomings. Next, he had to insult someone to convince himself that the niceties of life that he was subjected to, simply for being on the football team, are well deserved. Even though, in his heart of hearts, he knew this wasn’t true. He saw, in swimmers, more honorable athletes that humbly and painstakingly deal with two-a-day practices all year long, and yet never complain about them, or even worse, brag about them like his teammates are so prone to do. These are the same athletes that do the football team’s running workout for a warm-up. We win our competitions. We also, as a team, are Academic All-Americans, we break school records, we go to class, and we will graduate; all of which are a far cry away from the team this guy was a part of.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

So, I am a Nerd

During my freshman year, the scheduling of finals interfered with the opening day of Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones. I was extraordinarily jealous when The Phantom Menace came out and I was unable to see the midnight showing. I was not prepared to make that kind of sacrifice again, but ultimately I had to.

If I attended the opening show at midnight I would have had to drive to Fort Collins, drive back in the early morning, sleep for a few hours, and get up to take three finals. Talk about a bad itinerary. That would have never gone off without a hitch. I would have either fallen asleep at the wheel late that night, or I would have missed and flunked all three of those finals.

I took the bribe from my dad for not attempting that stunt and waiting 48 more hours to see the movie. I really had no choice. I gave in to the reality of having to wait another three years for my chance to see a Star Wars midnight premiere and bought my tickets online for a Friday night showing at 10:35 pm.

Trey ended up going with me. We showed up before 6pm and were the first ones there. Cinemark employees were a little disturbed by such an early arrival on the second day of the release, but they cooperated and started the line for us.

When the doors were opened I was the first one in line.

“Are you ready?” The employee asked.

“I have been ready for three years,” I said.

I took my half of the ticket back and bounded into the theatre; literally sprinting to the middle rail seats—the best ones in the house. I was giddy and scared of anyone talking about the movie before I got a chance to see it. The Star Wars flick was a great way to end the freshman year, as well as the senior year. My favorite cinematic achievements were nice toppings on several months of being overworked in the pool and beat up in the classroom. The payout was grand, and so was the movie that night.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Thoughts From a Small Fire

Before the Wyoming winter hit, the swimming team spent a lot of weekends in the mountains. We would usually drive east on I-80 to Happy Jack Road. From there we would drive a little further east. The high plateau between Cheyenne and Laramie is a cold, dark desolate place. We would get out there and have miles of empty dirt roads crisscrossing each other as far as the eye can see without another vehicle in sight. It is quintessential Wyoming living out there. Wherever you live in the state you can drive for fifteen minutes and find something like this. There is no one in sight. You have seemed to escape civilization. You forget there are laws out there, in that massive untouched plot of land. Go ahead, go sixty down that dirt road. Don’t even drive on the road. Set some bottles up in trees for target practice. Build bonfires the size of a pine tree. For some, this makes Wyoming mysteriously alluring. For the rest, this makes Wyoming an ungodly dangerous place. These people refuse to believe that such a place, like the high plateau of the Happy Jack wilderness, can exist in a civilized world. These are the same people that seriously ask, “Are there paved roads in Wyoming?” “Do you guys have the internet?” Honestly now. Shut up.

The team circles up around that big bonfire, exchanging jokes, drinking, and playing games. We start playing I Never. If you aren’t familiar with this game, the rules are quite simple. Someone makes an “I never” statement. Take this example from the peer-editing encyclopedia, Wikipedia, “‘I have never edited Wikipedia.’ In this case anyone who has edited Wikipedia must drink a pre-agreed upon amount (usually a finger of their drink).” In an effort to make everybody feel welcome the captains were kind enough to include non-drinkers in the I Never circle. I usually held a soda, or something of the sort—anything that wouldn’t get me as inebriated as a young fellow one night when he decided to roll down the passenger side window for a piss as I drove his Jeep at 80 mph down the freeway.

You can do a quick self-evaluation of your innocence in a game of I Never, of course not on the rubrick that matters. Although I was rarely drinking, I really did enjoy the game. The things some people have done shocked me then as a freshman, and can still shock me today. The first night I played I Never with the team I went from not knowing any people who had had awfully raunchy and kinky sexcapades to knowing a good handful of them. I Never can be a very enlightening experience in that way. Listening to someone else’s outrageous experiences is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Although I would never find myself in that position, it is interesting to know of someone, maybe even someone very close to me, which has.

No one really ever wins I Never. If there were some elaborate point system set up it would be irrelevant by the end of the game because the competitors are too intoxicated to care, or to add for that matter, when the game is done. Nevertheless, if you got a point for everything that you never did, I would win…every time, unless it was like the game I played in London with some co-workers. For everything you had done in that game you gave yourself a point and then revealed your score to your co-workers upon completing an agonizingly long list of “have you ever?”s. My score was less than half of the next highest score.

The whole I Never tangent went a little longer than I anticipated, but I told myself that I wouldn’t limit any of the details that came to my mind when reflecting on, still, my freshman year.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Adjusting to collegiate swimming wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Prior to the first practice I had a slew of horrible nightmares about getting my ass handed to me in practice and not being able to complete the first set of the first practice. Well, it turns out I wasn’t the only one hurting on the first day. The coaches know this too so they aren’t going to give us something we can’t handle. Things went fine. I didn’t enjoy the initiation all that much, but it really did bond the freshman group. We remained close through the rest of the college years. And some of us still remain close. The initiation made us closer at a quicker rate than if we had not gone through with it. The hazing included wearing the same shirt for the whole week that any upperclassmen could write on. Each of us had to drink a gallon of whole milk in an hour. I knew it was impossible so I faked puking when I was done with a half gallon. Once you puked you were in the clear. Freshman also had to partner up with another guy and walk through a grocery store holding hands. We had to buy two things: a cucumber and KY Jelly. I took a stroll through the Wal-Mart Supercenter. My partner and I ended up buying a European cucumber. They are longer and skinnier than the traditional cucumber. The bottle of KY liquid we bought ran the upperclassmen over ten dollars.

My swimming times that year didn’t see any improvement until the MWC championships at the end of the season. This meet was, and still is, held at the pool of the Oklahoma City Community College. I liked the competition pool, but that is about it. Oklahoma City is an awfully ugly place with not one notable fold in the earth.

Christmas training was a difficult adjustment. Swimming 10,000 to 13,000 yards a day is no walk in the park, and I was in the sprinting group. We did fewer yards than middle distance and distance. My first training trip was to Irvine. We had practice the night everyone got to Irvine. I had driven out there ahead of time with Dad for some extra days with him. He was there to see Jon, Jane, and friends. The meets over training were always the worst. We were expected to swim fast even after an exhausting week of training. Frankly, it was bullshit, and seeing coach’s face turn red before talking to us was just the precursor of even more bullshit.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Cold, Dark Nights

During my freshman year I was adamantly against drinking with Michael’s death still very fresh in my memory. This didn’t stop me from going to many parties. I didn’t drink a thing all year long even though I was around alcohol every weekend. I could have drank for free every weekend if I wanted to. I had a very hard time accepting drinking as a practice for others. I had been so devastated by Michael’s death that for a while I put all the blame on the drink. This belief gave me plenty of confrontations with my fellow teammates who would get drunk every weekend. It made me quick to judge anyone with a beer in there hand. Any stumbling, laughing drunk was responsible for killing him. Not surprisingly, this had a negative effect on me. I often left parties early. This meant facing a long, cold walk back to the dorms in the crisp wintry Wyoming air.

I wrote this after one of those walks during my first year in Wyoming. As I read it now it feels like a piece of ancient history. It is a lifetime old to me now. Some things have changed, but I haven't forgotten.

April 3, 2002

I find myself in a daze as I sit on the couch. I am not focused on anything. People passing before me in the crowded rooms and hallways are only blurs. I occasionally look up and wonder if any of these people are like Michael? Do they really feel fulfilled by this lifestyle? If not, then why are they here? Why am I here? Do they fear what might become of them if they start doing what they really want to do, and not what everyone else wants to do?

I stand up and move out of the house. People nod in my direction and know that I am going home. No words are necessary. They know this isn't the atmosphere for me.

The night is quiet and dark as I walk home alone. It's late enough that all parties have started and early enough that no one is leaving yet. I have taken many walks like this one tonight while thinking about my reasons for leaving. Tonight, I think of my tendency to judge people so quickly because they drink. It's not right and I try to keep myself aware of this. Instead of criticizing I try to evaluate my own life and situation. This is a difficult thing to do when there is a void and a what if?

Though I am walking by myself, I enjoy it because it lends peace and quiet to a chaotic college weekend. The cold nights in Laramie, no matter if it is winter or...winter, have made me a fast walker. I am back home early enough to do something valuable with my time. I fall asleep reading a book, thinking about my friends out in the night, and hoping they aren't as lonely as the friend I used to have.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Some Freshman Thoughts

I was in room 826 in McIntyre Hall. That would be the eighth floor. My roommate was Dan Crane. I got this sheet of paper before I went to school with his address and phone number on it. The university suggested roommates to call each other and square away who is bringing what, like TVs, stereos, DVD players, etc. I called Dan. He was brief and the conversation was awkward. We didn’t do any bit of organizing over the phone. He told me his dad worked for the Rainbow bread company in Torrington, Wyoming.

Dan was my roommate for not even two weeks. He partied every night, missed classes, and slept most of the day away. One day he cautiously threw an idea out, “I think I might end up joining a frat.”

“Oh yeah,” I said.

“Yeah. Maybe Sigma Nu.”

“If you joined would you be able to move into the house this semester?”

“Yes. I would be able to move in next week.”

Using all the effort in me to refrain from jumping up and down and screaming I said, “That’s cool.”

Dan moved out. I even saw him some last fall. He did end up graduating, much to my surprise. I now had a double room to myself. I pushed the beds together to the right side of the wall. I should have stacked them like I did later on when I was a Junior, but I thought maybe two extra long twin beds would be like a king size bed. I was wrong. I slept on the first mattress and used the second one as a soft oversized night table to place books and a light one. I had to prop my head up with all my pillows because there was no wall to lean against.

I had the old Gateway back then. Earlier this summer, an old man picked it up at a garage sale for free. I don’t know what he was planning to do with that artifact, but in my head I held a little funeral for it as he loaded it into his 1970s sky blue Ford pickup. Something so arbitrary—a computer—held in it so many memories of those first two and a half years of college. The old man would never know what words were passed along from that screen, what words were received, and what thoughts were only halfway completed before I deleted them. I guess, that Gateway, held in it some innocence of a younger age, or outlook if you will. The last of the second-hand collegiate necessities that was not always second-hand.

My television was encased in cheap, plastic wood paneling. I didn’t have a remote. Cable was free in the dorms, but I couldn’t get anything above channel thirty. I needed a special connection to hook up my Nintendo 64. The DVD player couldn’t plug in and I thought either the TV or the Gamecube were going to blow up when I first powered up both of them. The TV died before the spring semester was out. This wasn’t the most unfortunate event. It did mean that if I wanted a new one I would have to spend my own money. I was willing to do that. I upgraded going into my sophomore year with a 27” Philips flat screen. The Philips is in my room now. It is a great television, even if I gave Wal-Mart the money for it.

Not being able to hook up the DVD player didn’t stop me from bringing my DVDs to school. My friend in a room right below me had a DVD player and I often went down there to watch my movies on his player while he was out with his girlfriend. This was a regular occurrence. Somewhat depressing, but hey, it was college. I say that like I have been removed from this lifestyle for so long when really as I write this a part of me wishes I was still in Laramie going through another year of undergraduate courses.

Every other floor of McIntyre Hall had really short hallways. I am not your average sized man, but ceilings should not be lower than 6’9” at least. I would like to see a 7 foot minimum. I had to time my strides when walking down the hall to my dorm room so I wouldn’t be under a fire alarm, sprinkler, or exit sign when I was on an up stride. I went the whole year without scalping myself. What an accomplishment.

The fire drills and false alarms were annoying. The elevators lock automatically and everyone has to take the stairs. Waking a hall of college students at 3:30 am is not a good idea. Those that are awake are piss drunk. Those that are asleep have just passed out, or there are some that actually went to bed by natural means and plan on awakening before noon the next day. I was in this last category. Most of the students quietly stood around in the frigid air of a Laramie night waiting for the LFD to show up and clear the building. The really drunk ones passed out in itchy and prickly bushes until the morning. They were always too drunk to know the difference between sleeping in a yucca plant next to the hall and sleeping in the standard issue extra long twin. Others strolled away toward another dorm. Maybe they were going to sleep with a buddy or to fall asleep on one of the lobby couches in Orr or Downey. I stood around. I stood around waiting for something to happen. Usually something did. The firemen would come down with the culprits in tow who pulled the alarm or launched fireworks from their dorm room window. I was happy to see them caught. Those punks robbed me of forty-five minutes of sleep and I have to swim at 5:30 am.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Work It

Almost five months after returning from England and four months after graduation I have a job. I don’t know what this means exactly. I guess I will have to squeeze all that I did during those unemployed days into a smaller number of hours. That shouldn’t be that hard because what I did during that time was mostly hang out with the readers of this blog. This was time well spent; the best way I can spend it. Now that friends have scattered across the country and state for school and jobs it is time to move away from the poverty line, manage my time a little more wisely, and get something done.

Today was my first day at work. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I was quite anxious about the first day of training. I really had no reason to be, but I kept on getting nervous. Sure enough, just like part of me thought, there was nothing to be nervous about. I won’t do anything at work for the first time without someone guiding me through it. However, the learning curve is a little more than I expected. I don’t know anything yet about the products I am selling, and there are a lot of cleaning procedures that didn’t seem hard or complicated until today, when I took the company tutorial on cleaning.

I did catch an employee reading some Donald Miller before their shift. Even though I haven’t moved Don up my reading list, I still know his writing and his readers well enough for this to grab my attention. I had a casual chat with the employee about Miller and his works. It was a small, immediate connection that could develop into friendship later on. I felt good about that.

This job is not what I expected, but things come and go for reasons and this opportunity has arisen with no others beside it. My commitment to it is, for me, a hard thing to handle sometimes. I have told a number of people that I am going to focus on the positive and look for areas in which this job will challenge me. I can then ask, “Why am I challenged there, and not here?” A little soul searching can come from the simplest things. This job will slow things down and give a new healthy perspective on the graduate life. Up until now I have been trying to jump onto trains that are going way too fast for me. Five years of studies, well, three really because you can’t count the first two years, convinced me that a degree will get you a foot in the door just about anywhere you want if you work hard enough. Not true. It gives you some power, but not the position and the time for jockeying for a better one is not now.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


To put into words the feelings of 9/11 is an impossible task. Some have tried and this is one of those valiant efforts.

The former Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, delivered this poem on September 6, 2002 to a special joint session of Congress in New York.

The Names

Yesterday, I lay awake in the palm of the night.
A soft rain stole in, unhelped by any breeze,
And when I saw the silver glaze on the windows,
I started with A, with Ackerman, as it happened,
Then Baxter and Calabro,
Davis and Eberling, names falling into place
As droplets fell through the dark.
Names printed on the ceiling of the night.
Names slipping around a watery bend.
Twenty-six willows on the banks of a stream.
In the morning, I walked out barefoot
Among thousands of flowers
Heavy with dew like the eyes of tears,
And each had a name -
Fiori inscribed on a yellow petal
Then Gonzalez and Han, Ishikawa and Jenkins.
Names written in the air
And stitched into the cloth of the day.
A name under a photograph taped to a mailbox.
Monogram on a torn shirt,
I see you spelled out on storefront windows
And on the bright unfurled awnings of this city.
I say the syllables as I turn a corner -
Kelly and Lee,
Medina, Nardella, and O'Connor.
When I peer into the woods,
I see a thick tangle where letters are hidden
As in a puzzle concocted for children.
Parker and Quigley in the twigs of an ash,
Rizzo, Schubert, Torres, and Upton,
Secrets in the boughs of an ancient maple.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
Or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.
In the evening - weakening light, the last swallows.
A boy on a lake lifts his oars.
A woman by a window puts a match to a candle,
And the names are outlined on the rose clouds -
Vanacore and Wallace,
(let X stand, if it can, for the ones unfound)
Then Young and Ziminsky, the final jolt of Z.
Names etched on the head of a pin.
One name spanning a bridge, another undergoing a tunnel.
A blue name needled into the skin.
Names of citizens, workers, mothers and fathers,
The bright-eyed daughter, the quick son.
Alphabet of names in a green field.
Names in the small tracks of birds.
Names lifted from a hat
Or balanced on the tip of the tongue.
Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
So many names, there is barely room on the walls of the heart.

Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Pastor Perks

I love pastor perks. Glenn scores tickets on a pretty regular basis. Today he was offered some 50 yard line seats at the CU v. CSU game. He couldn't take them, but he said his son would be willing to take them off his hands. I am hearing this on the phone and thinking happily. I will happily take them off his hands and take Kate to this monumental game for free. Plus, it is always nice to hear that your seats are going to be great.

Being a Cowboy negates me from outright rooting for CSU, but I hope the Rams are victorious.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I went on a cruise and this is what happened.

19 August - Day 1

The pampering on this ship is ridiculous. I truly am a mollycoddle. The buffet was the first meal for lunch today. We braved the crowds and loads of fat people for the food. The ship moves quickly and smoothly. We have caught and passed two other cruise ships since leaving Seattle. Our ship, the ms Oosterdam, was built in 2003 somewhere in Italy. Dad and I traded taking pictures of one another against the Seattle skyline in great gusts of air on deck ten. Later on we had some drinks, looked through the binoculars, and chatted about wedding expenses while we cruised up the Puget Sound.

In the last hour we have sat in the jacuzzi and watched the news. Dinners are at 8. John Karr is all over the news for admitting he killed JonBonet. I don't think he is guilty. The press ask him questions and he either takes way too much time to answer or he can't answer at all.

The majority of the people on this boat are either old, fat, from the South, war veterans, or a combination of the four. Cruising seems like it would be the ideal vacation for fat, lazy people. Everything is done for you, you don't have to move beyond your cabin if you don't want to, and the ship is a 24 hour a day all you can gorge buffet.

Later that evening...

The food at dinner was great. The company could have been better. There are three teachers and an artist at the table.

20 August - Day 2

We sat with more strangers for breakfast. I spent an hour in the gym. Dad is engrossed in Blue Like Jazz and I have brought along The Diary of Samuel Pepys. We saw our first wildlife today, no, it wasn't the UW Dance Team, just some whales off the starboard side. The weather was cold today. Partly cloudy. The only land we saw were the Queen Charlotte Islands.

After dinner we watched a couple perform some magic tricks on the main stage. Their trickery was good at times, but the angle we were watching at enabled us to see how the husband levitated his wife. The performers have been married six years. Wouldn't that repetitive show get boring? As an aspiring writer I can give myself a nightmare thinking about writing the same thing over and over again. I don't want my writing to become formulaic.

21 August - Day 3

Tracy's King Crab Shack was a highlight of the day in Juneau. We told Tracy some friends had recommended this spot to us and she remembered talking to them the week before. Dad took a picture of Tracy and her shack. I almost bought a shirt that said, "Tracy Gave Me Crabs." The boat was pretty empty when we got back. We each had a hot tub to ourselves on the stern while the Alaskan rains continued. Juneau gets 40 days of sunshine a year. Thomas the tour guide said earlier in the day that it snowed from February to April last winter. He also said the record low in Juneau is -15 F. This was much less snow and a much higher low than I would have predicted.

While sitting in the hot tub I contemplated the fragility of humankind. Life is a very small and precious thing. One life is so brief that it barely shows up on the timeline. While thinking about this I thought about the selfish desire of mine to have something I write outlive my time in this earthly vessel. A writer is truly blessed when the words outlast the breaths.

22 August - Day 4

For about two hours before lunch we watched the Hubbard Glacier and scanned the face of the glaciers for calving icebergs. The site was amazing. The pictures don't do it justice, but we took a lot anyway. We stood on the bow and drank hot chocolate in free Holland American Line mugs. We spent a lazy afternoon in the fog so we sacked out in the room. X3 was on TV and we watched that. Dinner was okay tonight. I find myself dreading the company a little more each night. One lady at the table is impossible to understand. Her skin has been pulled so tight that her face doesn't move when she talks. Come to think of it, I don't even know if she can close her mouth. Shocking it is, not to have her drooling all over the place. She must permanently have to tilt her hed back to keep the saliva in.

Divorce and many marriages seem to be the trend among our dinner guests.

23 August - Day 5

Sitka, starboard side, midship, window seat, and a curved couch is my location as I write this. Rainy sea kayaking was the main activity of the day. Sitka is beautiful, but again, not enough sun. Paddling with Dad was a little annoying because communication was poor because of the rain and noise. We did still have a great time and we didn't flip.

There is a huge difference between the tides here. Water laps at rocks that rise ten to four feet out of the water right now and then plateau. Pine trees come down to every ince of the coastline. At high tide the branches touch the water. I saw a jellyfish hanging from a branch. It had gotten snagged during high tide. It never feels like the rain stops. A blanket of water rests in the air, ready to drape you in the liquid sunshine at any moment. I haven't seen the sun since Saturday. Things stay mostly hidden in the fog here. The clouds smother the trees and stretch their fingers down to the shore, weaving in and out of the tree tops. You don't have to live here to know in a limited sense how things would be so much different than living in the lower 48.

24 August - Day 6

A lady at our dinner table tries to say everything in one breath. Her words rush out quickly and gather speed as her oxygen bank rapidly depletes. The pitch of her voice rises higher as she reaches the end of her story. Usually the stories are bad too. The big inward breath at the end of the story really is the climax for me. It is hilarious.

Today was pretty relaxing. Ketchikan is very touristy and generally a boring looking place. There are some good shops. Dad and I bought gifts at a store on Creek Street, the old red light district. A giant Bald Eagle was flying around the town and occasionally perched atop buildings. There were five ships scheduled to dock at Ketchikan today. That means 10,000 tourists were going to be spilled onto the streets of this small town to shop, sight see, eat, and explore some more or Alaska.

As we left there were many humpback whales in the area. To get a great picture of them I would need an SLR digital camera with a high powered lens. It would be nice to have one of those when I return to Alask sometime in the future.

Our servers every night were Pandhi and Andik. They were great. I enjoyed seeing all the Indonesians and Filipinos around the ship. They are approachable, friendly, and genuinely interested in your day. Freaking studs.

25 August - Day 7

The ms Oosterdam just plowed right out of a thick blanket of fog that had been covering the seas for the last three or four hours. We dock in Victoria tonight. I have never been to Canada. I wish we had a full day in Victoria. I anticipate the city to remind me a lot of England.

Even here on the ship my thoughts turn to the job searching that needs to be done when I get home. My least favorite feeling right now is the jealousy I have of others that have something to do. I love being happy for others, but it has been damn hard to see or hear of others in my position, being a recent college graduate, who are off on their next adventure with a new job, city, and people. I am envious of this experience.

26 August - Day 7

Victoria was the best port of call on the cruise. Our excursions in Alaska were great, but none of the cities we visited earlier on this trip can compete with Victoria. The downtown of Victoria is as aesthetically pleasing as any coastal city I have seen. The architecture of the Empress and Pariliament building is marvelous. There was busking (street performing) all over the streets. People dancing, magic tricks, drummers, and acoustic guitar artists fill the sidewalks. I walked through the streets wishing I could live here. There are many welcoming pubs filled to the brim on Friday nights with young people. The place is a dream and I am determined to come back here on a vacation with Kate. I could have spent the week here.

Now we are at the Seattle airport six hours early. After relaxing and eating lunch we still have over two hours before we leave to return to Denver. This was a fantastic week.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Five Years

A little reflection on 9/11. I didn't mean to sound like a pompous politician, but it sure came out that way. My apologies.

It will soon be the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on our country. We live in an age now where innocence has been scared from our world and we are not on track to regain some of the dignity we had before the attacks.

The world will not be absent from such injustices as this nation experienced five years ago if selfishness endures. It is much to ask and much to sacrifice but we must not entangle strangers of this country in our conflicts. And we must not be entangled in our stranger’s conflicts.

However much we pray for a peaceful outcome there will be those who wish it not for their own personal reasons. People have many different wants but the similarities we find in each other need to bind us together. Our paths need not cross in violent ways but in peaceful ways so that we may not hinder others in their search for contentment.

The future holds the unknown. No matter what we choose to do the same judgment will come down upon us all. It will be swift and just. But who may be dealt with differently in this world is not the decision of the United States. We are pawns on a chessboard that is played by a much more powerful force.

The day the towers fell showed us what humans could do. I wish not to have another incident in which men and women need to sacrifice so much. However, I fear that the path we are on right now will inevitably lead to a similar attack on us or any of the nations that side with the policies of the United States.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Great Divorce

I recently spoke to a friend. He has observed unhappiness in a friend of his. He told me a little bit about this person. What he was telling me sounded pretty familiar. I hung up and wrote this.

You see those hints of unhappiness; those are the ripples of a better man reaching out to his mannerisms. They are the visible consequences of denying the richer life that the man recognizes in his soul, but regularly denies. Underneath that toughened shell there is a man that wants to make things better. Somehow this man knows there is a higher calling, and yet he does not make the necessary changes in his life. He knows his life is a lot of fun. It probably is, but the high from this kind of life doesn’t last long. That self realization comes to the surface in many ways, but for him it has numbed the pleasure he once had been acquiring from this life.

So why doesn’t he change things? These feelings rot him from the inside out and eventually convince him that he is not strong enough to make those changes. He says things like, “There will always be a stronger and better men. I guess I am not one of those people.” As he says that to himself he feels the sting of the lie. He knows he could be that better version of himself in that parallel universe in his head. He knows that it is not really him saying, “I guess I am not one of those people.” That idea comes from the attachment of our superficial selves to this materialistic world that wants us to touch and try everything.

After this goes on for a while man starts to think about his future. He agrees that things are not as good for him today as they could be. The future is when he will change. This becomes his mantra. He will say this again and again over the years. By saying this he feels better about himself because he at least recognizes things could be better. This temporarily alleviates the effects of his poisonous lifestyle. After this medicine tapers off the man is back to thinking about what his life would be like had he made the right decision a year ago, a month ago, or yesterday. The things that originally brought him something disguised as happiness have convinced him that his life is lacking fun, spontaneity, and excitement. The man begins to indulge in things that he never thought he would indulge in. His new found pleasures induce in him even more guilt, but they also work to convince him that he will never be able to change.

Someone can come along into the man’s life and show him that achieving that higher calling is not as hard as it looks. The man becomes convinced this is doable. He also wisely observes that this better man is not without flaw like he once perceived him to be; this error in judgment contributed to his thinking that he could never be that man. He recognizes now that no life is without flaw. His dirty and scarred body is a welcome guest on that higher road. The higher road delights in taking on dirty subjects; it delights in cleaning them up.

The man is now at a critical stage in his life. He stands before a mirror and sees two selves. As always he reaches for the better man, but before he was coming up short. Now, he is able to grab a hold of that man he always wanted to be. It isn’t much, maybe he has got a hold of a shirt sleeve or hand, but it is a lot more than he has grasped before. He is brought to tears by the path he sees in front of him now, and he is humbled when he discovers the path was always there. His friend is happily anticipating the man to take the next step. His friend can only show him the door, the man has to walk through it. Before his friend can see the man take the first step he is called away. The man suddenly finds himself alone. He turns around and looks at where he came from. He returns to the new path. He is afraid to follow it because he doesn’t want to be alone. What he doesn’t realize is that thousands wait for him on the other side. They are ready to spring forth and celebrate with the man in his decision to take the higher road. This isn’t a trick played by those on the other side. It is free will.

The man hears people calling his name from behind him—old friends and old pleasures. Old is irrelevant when these friends and pleasures are easily acquired. These things take no work. The man is unemployed, but with a seemingly deep pool of resources in front of him. The man turns away from the new and walks toward the old. What the man doesn’t see until he returns to this life is that the pool only appears to be deep, but in fact it is shallow. When the man reaches the threshold again he will only cross to the other side by himself when he still remembers the shallow, but enticing pool, behind him. However, not all men make it back to the threshold for a second look around.

Thanks to C.S. Lewis for the title of this blog.