KingMidget's Ramblings

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Category Archives: Thoughts

Ashes and Dust

When all that is left

Is ashes and dust

Ever since I got my new camera last Spring, this is something I wanted to do.  Sacramento City Cemetery in Sacramento.  There’s something about cemeteries that fascinates me.  This one has been in existence since 1849, so there’s a lot of history here.  I didn’t have time to get into that today.  Next time.  The picture above of just a small piece of the cemetery gives you an idea of the scale of the place.

While I stayed in my car and took most of my pictures from there, I got out in a couple of places.  The picture below is a little bit off the road, in a section of the cemetery that seems dedicated to Muslims.  The gentleman buried here was apparently instrumental in building the Sacramento Muslim Mosque.  Wonder what he might think about the state of affairs in America and the world today.  Did you know that there are mosques and Muslim businesses being vandalized and attacked all over this country?  But, there’s no outcry.  One wonders why.

An interesting thing happened while I drove through the cemetery.  REM’s “Everybody Hurts” came up on my IPod.  I know this song isn’t exactly right for a drive through a cemetery, but, still …

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes
So, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
(Hold on, hold on)

It felt right.  Particularly when I came upon this marker…

True Xiong died two years ago at the age of 82.  A Hmong name, I believe.  I wonder what the story is.  The bottle, empty.  The label worn and faded, but suggesting somebody came to drink here.  A couple of faded pieces of bamboo.  What’s the significance?  Who was here?  How long ago?  Who was hurting?  Trying to hold on.  It’s fascinating.  What stories could be told here, real or imagined?  Did you know that the Hmong have no written language?

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Weed Therapy

Earlier today, I challenged myself to come up with something “deep and meaningful and powerful.”  I had no idea when I wrote my early morning post that it would lead to this.  At one point I thought I would write something about the election and the horrible nature of the political discourse in this country.  At another I thought I would write nothing having been overwhelmed by a project at work and then racing to see my kid play soccer.  Then, between soccer and coming home, I sat in a pizza place waiting for my to go order, drinking a beer, and doing a little bit of editing to hit the next novel that will appear on Amazon soon.

Years ago, I was in a writers’ group.  The leader asked us to spend five minutes writing about a place we wanted to go, then five minutes about somebody we would meet there, and then five minutes about something that happens .  I wrote about an old, decrepit church on a hill, perched above a little village on the coast of Baja California.  At that church was an old priest.  And the reason for going there was to find answers to the dilemmas that bedeviled me.

There are moments when I write something that I catch lightning in a bottle.  I did so that day with my description of the church and it’s old priest.  The conversation, though, between the visitor and the priest was left pretty much empty, unfilled due to the constraints of the time limit.

I put away the handwritten pages of the exercise somewhere, thinking that I wanted to return to what I started some day.  Over the next couple of years, when I thought of the church on the hill, I went looking for those pages and COULD NOT FIND THEM.  Every few months, I’d search through all of my note pads, and files, and random scatterings of writing this and thats.  I was so incredibly frustrated … I wanted to continue with the lightning in that bottle but had lost the bottle.  One day I tried to recapture it from memory and failed.  I kept looking.

One day, going through all of the scraps and piles and files I had gone through several times, I found it.  I sat down that day and began a story like nothing I had written before.  Over at Toasted Cheese, one of the moderators quibbles with my belief that every story doesn’t have to have a “point.”  Until I sat down with my church and priest, I followed the theory that I just write stories.  There isn’t a “point” to them other than to just tell a story about somebody in a slice of life.  Maybe “point” is the wrong word.  Maybe my “point” is that not every story has a message, or a reason to exist other than to just to tell a story.  This belief of mine is mostly a reaction to my dread of high school english class where we had to dissect every poem and story and identify what the author’s point was.  All I wanted to do was read a good story and then move on to the next.  All I want to do now is write a good story and move on to the next.

Anyway, I sat down that day and began to write my first story that had a point or a message.  It took two years.  For the last year and a half, it has sat quietly, waiting for me.  After publishing my two short story collections and One Night in Bridgeport, this novel now awaits its turn.  Time to get sidetracked … Bridgeport is a perfect example of my “point”.  People who have read it have speculated that it’s “point” is that you can pay for one stupid decision or for the unintended consequences of that decision.  No.  That’s not the point.  There is no point.  I wanted to write a story about what happens to a normal Joe who has a one night stand and then gets accused of rape.  That was the point — I wanted to write that story.

Back to the “point” of this post.  (See, isn’t this whole “point” thing kind of interesting?)

I wrote this story, based on the church on the hill, an old priest, and a man in search of answers.  It’s called Weed Therapy.  No, not that kind of weed.  This kind of weed.  The old Father Juan Miguel Santos, offering his words of wisdom to a man in search of answers to the reason for his unhappiness, provides a first lesson.  It is this.  You must weed your flower garden every day, otherwise it will not bloom as fully and beautifully as it could.  But, here, let me have Kelvin Rockwell, the main character in Weed Therapy, explain it:

“I look for something meaningful in the weeding he insists I do every day.  Do you, Isabella, know that you have to weed every day?  If you don’t the weeds will take over and kill everything in your garden.  But, it’s not just your garden where weeds can grow.  Weeds can suck the life out of you.”

You see, my readers, every relationship you have is like a flower garden that needs weeding.  Whether it is your relationship with your spouse or significant other, the friendships that define who you are, your interactions with your co-workers or with the strangers you meet here and there, they are all a flower garden that can bloom or whither, choked by the weeds of indifference.  Here’s the critical thing, though, every one of those interactions depend on a mutual desire to do the weeding.  If your spouse, your friend, your c0-worker, the stranger on the street or in the coffee shop isn’t willing to get on their knees and weed with you, at some point you lose the battle and the war.  Do you spend your time with people who want to weed or allow your life to be filled by weeds caused by the indifference of others?

I’m Annoyed

I’m a guv’ment worker, which for non-government workers means I’m overpaid, don’t work hard, and have a gold-plated retirement package that is breaking the back of government and taxpayers.  If only any of that were true.

It’s easy to attach government workers these days, particularly when, here in America, corporations and private companies have spent the last couple of decades destroying the safety net for private sector workers.  As they get less and less, when it comes to benefits and retirement, they look at the benefits that government workers receive and want to know why us, but not them.  Rather than coming up with a system that provides safety and security for all, the response is to tear down what government employees have.  We are the villain, we are leaches, we get far more than we deserve, and “they” are tired of paying for it.

Again, if only that were true.  Yes, there are always examples of abuses, but the abuses do not justify a drastic overhaul of the system and the destruction of the benefits good, hardworking people have earned.

Why am I bringing this up?  It’s this.  In this week’s Sports Illustrated, there is a piece about the NFL’s recent lockout of their referees.  Why?  Because while the NFL is offering salary increases to $149,000 this year and rising to $189,000 by 2018, that’s not enough for the referees.  Also, the NFL wants to eliminate their defined benefit plan and replace it with a 401(k) type package, while the referees want to keep their defined benefit plan.

Where’s the damn outrage about this?  Football referees, who work a part time job for about six months out of the year, aren’t happy with a salary that will go from $149,000 to $189,000 over the next six years.  They work games for three hours a week for four or five months a year.  Yes, I’m sure there are classes and training they have to go through, but at the end of the day, what they do, what they are paid for is three hours of work every weekend from mid-August through December, with the best getting to work the playoffs in January.

Where’s the damn outrage about this?  All of the bankers, investment bankers, and Wall Street whizzes who did their best to destroy our economy who have never been held accountable for it.  Instead, they kept their jobs, continued to earn their massive salaries and bonuses and are continuing to fight with massive lobbying dollars any effort to reign in their abuses.

Where’s the damn outrage about this?  Government officials who sanction torture in violation of United States and International law and who are not held accountable.

Where’s the damn outrage?  I just cannot understand a society in which referees get paid as much as they do for a part-time job and there’s no outrage over that while the cost to go to a game continues to rise, to the point where us regular folk cannot attend a game, a society in which the haves continue to get more and more while screwing the have-nots without any accountability for what they’re doing, but where it is OK to attack teachers who barely make enough to scrape by and will end up with a pension that is barely more than Social Security, where it is OK to attack other government works who work for a fraction of their private sector colleagues and, generally, will be able to retire with a pension that is half the amount of the tax credit Mitt Romney got for his horse.

I’m an attorney.  I have almost 20 years of experience.  I could work in the private sector and, easily, make two to three times what I make in my current position.  Yes, the hours would be longer and the expectations may even be greater, but there are trade-offs.  I wanted to be in my kids life when they were younger.  I wanted to have a life that existed outside of my work.  I wanted a more balanced life.  And, as a result, I’ve spent my professional life accepting a salary that is far, far below what I could have earned in the private sector.  In exchange for that, my hope is to have a retirement package — more than half of which I have paid for during my time as a state employee that will allow me a moderate lifestyle in retirement.  That’s the deal most state employees make.  We don’t retire with pensions that leave us rich.  We retire with pensions that will get us through our final years on this planet, without having to beg and scratch and claw for the things we need to survive.  That doesn’t seem to be unreasonable.

But, we’re the villain.  Not the bankers.  Not the private attorneys who charge $600 per hour to do the same thing they’re doing for 12 other clients at the same time.  Not entertainers who make $20 million per movie, or the athletes who make just as much per season, or the damn referees who make all that money for a part-time job for only part of the year.

I’m annoyed.  I’m tired of the attacks.  I’m tired of the criticism.  I’m tired of being a cog in the wheel of a system in which, thousands of good people do good work on behalf of us all, only to be held up for ridicule and scorn and a desire to take away the measly benefits we receive to do what we do.

<getting off of soapbox>

Resume your regularly scheduled activities.

Sometimes the Similarities Are Amazing

Over at Oliviaobryon Olivia O. is blogging about her trip to the Pacific Northwest.  Almost each post has struck a chord with me.  Whether it’s her visit to Olympia, where the beer of my childhood originated or her most recent post about her interaction with an old man while on a hike with friends.  First, it appears she was in Reedsport, which was one of our stops when my family visited Oregon a few years ago and, more importantly, is one of the reasons I must live along the Oregon Coast at some point in my life.  Such a beautiful part of the world.

But, there’s also the interaction with the oldster along the trail.  It’s so similar to my experience with my friend’s dad a couple of months ago.  The only real difference is that I’ve known Everett for most of my life, although not very well.  I don’t really have any memories of him interacting with Jon and I when we were younger.  In fact, I really only got to know him after Jon passed away.  On the other hand, Olivia O’s experience was with a stranger.  And these two old men apparently have the same thing going on — they are alone and don’t want to be.

There are three things about my visit with Everett that have stayed with me:

1.  How alone he is in an intimate, emotional sense.  He craves female companionship and friendship.  I spoke with him this week and he let on that there is a woman he believes may be interested in him and he is working on it.  I wish him the best of luck in that search.

2.  How, fifteen years after his only child passed away, he still craves a connection to him.  I’m working on putting together a gathering of Jon’s friends with Everett joining us so he can spend some time with us.  When I told him my idea, he cried.  He remains, a couple of months later, very enthusiastic and interested in this happening.  In August.

3.  That I need to get over my impatience with the elderly.  It’s one of my biggest weaknesses and I hate that it is there, but I just don’t have the time or desire to engage with older people.  When I sit down with Everett, I want to give him everything I possibly can to fill the holes in his life.  I can’t give him much, but I want to figure out what it is that I can.  I think my interactions with Everett may go a long way towards getting over this hurdle I have.

So, back to Olivia O’s post.  I totally understand her conflict.  Maybe, somewhere along the way we can all learn a little bit from it … it’s not a bad idea to slow down, to stop and smell the roses, to pause for a moment and spend some time with somebody who wants nothing more than time, an ear to listen, and a conversation.

 

Blogging

There was a time when I tried to blog and didn’t get very far.  To me, one of the biggest reasons to blog is to engage people in discussions.  My earlier blogging efforts were met with silence from the cyber world.  While there aren’t a lot of comments around King Midget’s world, I have a number of co-workers and friends who are now regular readers of this blog and we frequently end up discussing things I write about here.  That’s a good thing.

Here’s a bad thing … now that I’ve made this effort to blog regularly and let friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and assorted KingMidget hangers-on know about this little place in the cyber universe … I can’t always write about what I want to write about.

There are times when I try to allude through haiku to things going on.  Or, I find other ways to dance around the edges of larger personal issues that are churning inside of me.

At the end of the day, though, there are things I can’t touch here on King Midget’s Ramblings.  I’m no longer anonymous and I have to worry about how people who read me will receive what I write.  This is one of those “be careful what you wish for moments.”

I want to blog and write what I feel and what I think.  I want people to read my blog.  People I know.  People I don’t know.  I want to create a discussion amongst the people who read my thoughts here and maybe open some eyes and minds along the way.

But, you know what?  Sometimes what I feel and what I think are things that people in my life couldn’t possibly handle.  How do I share those feelings and thoughts while minimizing risk?  This is the challenge I face almost every day when I sit down to figure out what I want to blog about.  These things are churning, but I can’t write the words here.

I wish I could.  I think the things I’m going through are not uncommon.  Many people probably face the same conundrums that I do.  A sharing, a dialog about these issues … well, maybe it would be helpful  Not just to me, but to others.

I only wish I could say what I really am dealing with.  I wish I could share my deepest, darkest fears.  My greatest hopes and dreams.  I wish I could write about the thing that happened five minutes ago, the thought I had just yesterday, and the feelings I’ve had for years.

This is, as far as I’m concerned, one of life’s greatest tragedies … people can’t say what they think, can’t describe how they feel because the others in their lives can’t handle the truth.

Here’s a challenge to you, my few faithful readers … in the next day or two, tell somebody you care about something you’ve always been afraid to say.  Open the door to dialog and growth.

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