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Journals



John


John: The memory is beginning to fade

Sunday, May 23, 2004 - 12:00:00 AM

    I'm out here in Oakland, California again, visiting my sister and bro-in-law.  The reason I'm here is that my bro-in-law, Jon (not to be confused with me, John,) fell off the 3rd floor of the house he's been working on.  Statistically, 100% of people who fall from the height of a third-story building die.  That doesn't mean it's impossible to live; it just means that such a small number survive compared to the total that die in such accidents that the number is too small to even make up a fraction of one percent.

    Jon looked up at a passing bird, lost his balance, and toppled from his precarious perch on the thirty foot high scaffolding and tumbled towards the ground.  He managed to swipe at a wooden support on the way down, reorienting so he was no longer aiming head-first at the dirt.  He landed with an audible thump square on his shoulder in what happened to be a relatively soft area of dirt in a sea of construction debris and equipment and then rolled into a trench that had been dug next to the sidewalk.  Iím sure he was quite glad he hadnít landed on the sidewalk.

    While he was quite shocked, it only took him a second before he yelled out, ďSomeone, get me the fuck out of this ditch!Ē  I think that those on the work site must have breathed a sigh of relief when they heard his yell.  Abel, one of the works who had witnessed the fall from the ground, and another worker pulled him out so that he as sitting in the ditch, butt to the earth with torso and legs sticking up at what seemed somewhat normal angles.  Jon didnít even really feel any pain until they each grabbed an arm and began to pull him to his feet.

    Shooting pain from Jonís right shoulder made him yell out and they let go.  Jon looked down and realized his shoulder was not where it was supposed to be; it had popped out of the socket from the hard impact.  People in the neighborhood ran over to see what had happened and the on-site ďsecurity,Ē long-known in the community simply as Lawrence, quickly composed a song about his boss that he would sing as Jon was carted off to the hospital in an ambulance (which the health insurance company is now graciously refusing to pay for, of course.)

    The doctors at the hospital popped his shoulder back into place and told him that surgery was likely needed to fix bone chips, torn muscles and ligaments.  Jon was back working on the house the very next day, although he decided heíd work on some things that needed to get done that were inside the house.  Even though he is one lucky s.o.b. he was now unable to help with many aspects of finishing the house while his shoulder healed.

   The house is one that Jon designed himself and, with a very limited staff, it has been under construction for well over a year now.  It is rather beautiful, but the lengthy construction process has made things difficult to say the least.  Thereís been much turnaround as far as staff goes and much work was done more than once to correct a wealth of incorrectly done installations from electrical to carpentry to all kinds of things.  Needless to say, all problems have been overcome and the place is coming along very nicely.  Well, it was until ďThe Fall.Ē

    I decided that, since Iím working for myself and have no boss to answer to, I would take a scenic drive out to the coast and help out for a while, even though I have next to no experience or known skill in building houses.  I left on Friday, April 15th, the day of my dadís birthday.  My Uncle Bill was taking him golfing at noon on Saturday, so I caught a movie with my friends and then gave my girlfriend, Teresa, a quick goodbye kiss, hopped in my beloved RX-7 and sped out of town.  It was about 2 am when I got on to Interstate 88 and was on my way to Nebraska.

    I got to Grand Island around noon, hoping to catch my dad at my Aunt Sheri and Uncle Billís home.  Sheri and her sister were there and they informed me that Iíd just missed my dad and uncle by a few minutes.  They considered getting some food, but after some girlish debate, they realized that neither of them were hungry yet.

    Feeling a bit high from a lack of sleep, I grinned and took off again heading for a tiny town called Cairo (pronounced by Nebraskans as Kay-Ro) which is where the little golf course lay hidden amongst some relatively steep hills.  The guy who was behind the counter at the golf course was cool enough to give me the keys to a golf cart and point me in the direction of the fairway they were chopping divots out of.

    I cruised up in the cart, asking dad, ďHey Old Man, wanna race?Ē  Needless to say, he was surprised and quite pleased to see me.  Now, donít think of my dad as one of those guys who regularly visits all the courses and hangs out at the country club.  Just the opposite, he is known at the bars but does really love to golf at any little course he can find in range of Grand Island.  That being said, this was not a fancy course with a beer girl cruising around looking to sell booze, so he and my Uncle Bill had me go on a beer run.  I pushed my cart to the limit, an amazing 5 or 6 miles an hour at least.  My hair almost moved in the breezeÖ almost.

    I hung out with my dad and uncle until they were done golfing, making fun of bad shots as required by golfing-with-your-relatives etiquette.  I had a meal with my grandma and slept at my dadís apartment that night, heading out early the next morning after a nice breakfast with my aunt and uncle.  It was the same restaurant weíd eaten at the day we walked out of Grand Island during the walk.  I gave my dad a hearty hug, promising to stop by again on my way back from California.

    As surprising as it might sound, my Sunday drive wasnít all that bad, considering I passed through a large remainder of Nebraska, all the way through Wyoming and into Utah.  Even though the road through Nebraska was visually uneventful, vivid memories returned as I passed exit signs pointing to all the towns weíd walked through.  Wyoming was quite fun, smoothly zipping 100 MPH past semis that were slowly clawing their way up the mountains.  The weather was a bit strange, going from sun to fog to sleet to ice storms and back to sunny and nice again.

    When I got to Salt Lake City that night, I decided to stop at a pay phone and try to contact one of the two families that weíd stayed with during the walk.  I was getting tired and decided I should probably sleep this day if I wanted to make it to the West Coast intact.  After setting up a connection through my business 800 number (since the pay phone was ungodly expensive) I was able to get a hold of Kevin, the guy who was cool enough to give us a ride in the middle of the trip from Rawlins, Wyoming to Salt Lake City where we took our flight back to Chicago for my sisterís wedding.  Unfortunately, while I did manage to get in contact with him, the timing was wrong, so he was unable to host me.  He promised weíd get together on my return trip (and I could finally get back our worn boots from the trip!)

    Luckily, I was able to make contact with Dottie, the head of the other family we stayed with when we actually walked into Salt Lake City.  She was very happy to see me and, after I invited her to meet me for dinner, she quite graciously offered me a place to sleep for the night.

    Total side-note: Iím currently in the air over California, flying home for my girlfriendís birthday for a few days.  While waiting in the Southwest terminal inside Oakland airport, a man sung the Southwest song over the intercom.  I had assumed that it was an employee whoíd been dared to sing over the public address system and was winning his bet.  Southwest does not assign seats and I am not one to stand in lines, so I patiently waited for everyone else to board before I bothered getting out of my seat.  In the jetway, a man walked up behind me with an amused look on his face.  I asked him if he had seat X just as I did, and he laughed and explained how ironic it was that he was at the end of the line.  It had been he who had sung the song over the intercom.  He had been promised pre-boarding, which meant the seat of his choice, before anyone else, if he sang the song.  He grabbed the mic and sang the song and was the first to get on the planeÖ and then he realized he was at the wrong gate getting on the wrong plane!  So, after all that, he hung his head in amused shame and walked to the proper gate, now the absolute last to board the filled aircraft.

    Where was I?  Ah yes, Dottieís house.  I had stopped just outside Salt Lake City to call Dottie, so I jumped back in my little black beastie and zipped over a couple of freeways down to the suburb of Sandy and, after a couple of wrong turns, I found Dottieís place.  Her son and daughter were out working and such so she and I headed to Outback to get some food.  We had an in-depth discussion about the trip and other related things.  Dottie knew Andyís dad, which is how we knew to get in contact with her in the first place, so one of the things we discussed was Andy and his dad and how different they are.  Dottie expected much more of an extrovert since Andyís dad is such an outgoing guy, and Andy is quite the opposite.  It was cool to chat with her and hang out again; sheís quite a nice lady and her kids, Keri and Craig are also people Iíd like to hang out with.  Keri made me promise to stop by on the way back through so we could catch a movie (since sheís a major movie buff and I happen to agree with almost all of her opinions on current movies.)

    After a good nightís sleep and another quick breakfast, I thanked Dottie for her hospitality and zoomed out of Salt Lake City, remembering exactly which exits along the Salt Flats of I-80 where we slept for the night, got wind-blasted, and met cool/crazy people in mobile homes.  Wow, sorry that last sentence was so long!  (o;

    Again, driving wasnít all that bad because I love driving my car and the trip from Utah, through Nevada and into California was up and down twisty fun.  On somewhat scary part was when I was up in the Sierras and it decided to sleet/snow/ice all over the place like a mini-blizzard.  I didnít have a problem with that when I was in Wyoming because the road was pretty straight.  Up in the mountains, however, the road is far from straight.  Normally, thatís fun for me, but my little two-seater doesnít play nicely with super-slick curvaceous road surfaces! 

    Happily, once I got back into sunlight on the way down the mountain, a friendly Porsche driver helped me enter the Bay area at a high, definitely illegal, speed.  I had driven to California!  As you might imagine, it rather paled in comparison to walking there.  I can now hardly complain about driving for a couple of days when it took me 4.5 months of walking to make the same distance.  I figured out on my last flight that the airplane covered over a monthís walking distance every hour, traveling at about 600 MPH.  That means that every minute of flight covers 10 miles, or about three hours of walking time.

      Let me screw up the flow of ideas here by backing up a few paragraphs to Salt Lake City, Mormon Capital of the Universe.  Yes, Dottie is a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (referred to simply as LDS by the natives, although I think that sounds more like an acronym for a disease than anything else) but some of you may be surprised to know that sheís a very cool, quite normal, individual.  She didnít try and convert us over to the Mormon way or anything, although we did discuss it a bit during our conversations.  That being said, Erik and I did meet a few guys back in Chicago who did try.

    Elder McCreakin (I know thatís spelled wrong, and, Elder, if youíre reading this, let me know and Iíll put up a correction) and Elder Hunt were two Mormons who came tap-tap-tapping on our apartment door a short time after we returned from the trip.  Since I work at home and Erik often works odd days, we happened to be home for their first visit and many visits after that.  I like to call myself open-minded and, since we really didnít seem to be able to find Mormons on the trip who could tell us just what the hell being a Mormon was all about, Erik and I welcomed Ďem into our apartment so we could start grilling them about their own religion.  Sure, weíre still non-believers, but it is a very interesting religion.  The guys (Elders) were actually very cool, and after a couple of months of dropping by almost weekly to discuss new stuff, they finally gave up, which saddened us.  Honestly, while it was kind of fun (yes, I know weíre evil) to mess with them a bit, we really did get a lot of answers out of them.  There were very few questions for which they had no answers.  There were even a few guys who knew enough about science to explain how that could be compared with specific Mormon theological beliefs.  Unlike a lot of Christian religions, little in Momonism is left unexplained.  Unfortunately, it wasnít enough to make believers out of us.

    Now, that being said, it doesnít mean Iím a complete Atheist or anything.  I really would like to believe and I often think that the ultimately complex organisms we are could hardly have happened accidentally, even with a million billion years of evolution.  Look at the human eye; itís still more amazing than the best video camera in existence today.  Look at our brain.  We still donít understand it and still donít have any computer that can even try to touch its computing power.  Being a realist, I believe itís possible, although extremely unlikely, that evolution could have spawned us, and I also believe itís possible, although very fairytale-like, that thereís a supreme being up there who designed us.  Of course, that begs the question where did He come from, etc. etc.  The Mormons believe that (warning: this explanation can and will offend many a Christian) God actually was the son of another God who was originally begat by another God and so on back up through past eternity.  Not only that, but WE can be Gods in a similar fashion if we fight the good fight and follow the proper footsteps of Chasteness and all that.  I know Iím doomed because I think money and girls are neat.  (o;

    Speaking of which, letís talk about girls.  Teresa, my girlfriend for several years now, is yearning for marriage.  Iím not ready for it.  Iím not sure if Iíll ever be ready for it, which makes me wonder about it even more.  I do love the girl, but Iím really not, well, as horrible as it might sound, in the mood for marriage.  Some of this feeling probably can be traced back to my past, or more accurately, my parentsí past relationships.

    My mom was married at least five times, I think.  Yes, you heard it; I donít remember for sure how many times.  One of the later weddings I even called in sick for (I really didnít like that guy.)  My dadís been married twice, if Iím remembering correctly, and they both have had many, many other relationships that ultimately failed miserably.  My older sisters werenít much better off with their luck in love either.  All three of them have been married and divorced, although two have been relatively happily married to their current husbands for quite a few years now.  Most of my friends who married are not all that happy with each other or quickly divorced.  So, as you can see, I donít have a lot of respect for the institution of marriage.  Even some older couples I know are only married because they feel like they have to be and they wouldnít know what to do without the other there (even though they wouldnít even call themselves friends anymore.)

    There are those I know who are happily married, but they are few.  I do love Teresa, but I wonder sometimes if weíre the right people for each other.  Sometimes itís her attitude and sometimes itís my immaturity.  On the other hand, I wonder if this is just the way it is with everyone.  Perhaps Iíve read too many books and seen too many movies where things just work out so much better than they seem to in real life.  Iíd love to know if Teresa and I are actually as right for each other as possible or is there really people out there for both of us that would be such an awesome fit as to be unbelievable.

    In Oakland, working on my bother-in-law, Jonís house, I made friends with two great guys, David and Abel, both previously Jonís students.  David was cool enough to drive me to the airport this morning.  Abel just broke up with Kata (nice transition, eh?), his girlfriend of three years.  He thought they were about to move into a home together and she decided that she needed some independence and moved into her own apartment.  Everyone could see it signaled the end of their relationship, but poor Abel is still quietly trying to convince her that she needs him.  All the signs are there that sheís over him and still he does things like buy her a parakeet for her as a graduation gift.  Itís really weird from our perspective because Kata and Abel have always seemed like such a great couple.  Honestly, I thought theyíd get married next after my sister, Michelle, and her new husband, Jon.  Teresa is going for the next-best thing: buying a house with me.

    While Iíve been out of town (which I swear is not to deter her house-buying activities) sheís been going through homes, looking for something acceptable yet affordable, which, in the area where we live, means something around $250,000.  Our apartment rent will go from about $900 to a mortgage of about $1600.  Donít get me wrong, Iíd love to have a home, but since I decided to go on the walk, I had to forgo the whole stable-income thing, and Iím happy with my decision.  I make less money now by far than I would have if Iíd stayed working at my 9 to 5 job, but itís been totally worth it.  Iím going to help finish my sisterís husbandís first-designed home and Iím really having a good time just being alive now.  Will I marry Teresa?  Itís a good possibility but I donít plan on doing it very soon.  Perhaps within the next year when I get more clients (and therefore enough money to afford something like a wedding) Iíll take the next step.  Who knows, maybe Iíll meet a random someone who really is a perfect match, but I doubt that very highly.

    The last thing I want to talk about is Lawrence.  Heís the ďsecurityĒ guy at the house that I mentioned way earlier.  Lawrence lives in a little mobile home on the property of the house Iím helping build.  Jon has become sort of his caretaker, even though he really does take care of himself well enough I suppose.  Lawrence has been nicknamed the Mayor of West Oakland by some of the natives as everyone in the neighborhood knows him.  He says heís lived there his whole life and perhaps itís so.  Heís had a sorted past, perhaps once with a wife and child, but now he lives only to exist.  While I make it sound like heís unhappy, he really seems like heís pretty OK with his life.  In fact, heís downright happy about it sometimes.  He lives in a way that many people might find it interesting to peek in daily were it possible.  Not exactly wholesome, ladies of the night are some of his best friends, but heís no drug dealer either, preferring to sing on his old karaoke machine and beat on his drums that sit in the yard.  Did I mention weíve discussed installing some webcams, and, with his permission of course, broadcasting his life on the Internet?  (o;
- John