And Then The Moon

telescope

Hey Gang!

 

“No man is so utterly dull and obtuse with head so bent on Earth, as never to lift himself up and rise with all his soul to the contemplation of the starry heavens, especially when some fresh wonder shows a beacon-light in the sky…So natural is it to admire what is strange rather than what is great.” – Seneca The Younger

 

I am a tourist.

The sun shown through my eyelids creating a pink hue as I rested my head on the metal siding of the large warehouse where I had just started working. I remember being exhausted from the job. I had never done factory work and the labor jobs I had had in previous weeks were hard but fun. This was different. This was a job of standing in a single place and repetitive movements. After a few days I could barely walk or stand. My back felt like two baseball bats were on either side of my spine and I took fistfuls of Ibuprofen just to get by.

It was break time and I sat by myself on the hot concrete as I was just a temporary employee. That’s the way it has been over the past few weeks. I jump from job to job and learn the new tasks. I am always having to tell my back story. Eventually it runs out in monotonous splendor. Yes, I am with a temp agency. Yes, I am from here. I do, in fact, know that I look Hawaiian. I am going back to school soon. This is not my career.

They ask me “What the hell am I doing here?”

It would bring me down because I was perpetually the new guy but in most instances it was an amazing bit of fun.

I worked in frame molding shop which was fun and hilarious. Although, they had me put the frames in shipping boxes. I have previously stated that I came from a single parent household where my mother raised me. She really had no inclination for using tools and things like that. To this day she calls me to help fix the TV when she hits the wrong button, which is usually the power button.

So, I put most of the molding in the bins and when I am done they ask me to help box. What I didn’t know was that they had a compressed air staple gun that had to be used. I stapled carefully and slowly as I was afraid to staple myself to…myself. It was at the height where you realized, “I should be careful here. I DO want kids some day.”

Later, I worked a day labor job for a cat fanciers competition. We set up tables and placed cages. I helped set up tables for vendors and they were all very great people. The one thing that scarred my frontal lobe was the cage I picked up that had skin and fur still attached to it. I mean, I am not a cat kinda guy but I felt bad for that poor feline.

I worked at a non-profit organization where we took donations.

PSST! Come closer to the screen. I don’t want anyone else to read this. Generally, the people who brought donations in brought TV’s, Computers, Laptops and all sorts of gently used electronics. We shook their hand and when they asked if people were going to get a use for it, we would say, “It’s going to help us out a lot. Thanks!”

The “help” came as they drove off and we picked up those TVs, Computers and the like and launched them into recycling bins. I would often pick up the biggest TV and heave it through the air into a bin with other TVs. It would crash and green circuit boards would go flying. This is how it was. We would toss these electronics that were treated with such care right up until we slammed them into a box. They would then be shipped off and taken to a recycling center where the money they get from recycling goes back into the agency…but you didn’t hear that from me.

Finally, I worked at this factory that shipped an unnamed product for sore muscles. I helped pack the materials but I had never worked in a factory before. I didn’t mind lifting more than a hundred pounds quite often in my other jobs but this was working at machines I had never used before in heat up to a bit over 100 degrees. We stood there and did the same action over and over. They kept asking me how my back was and I am a victim of pride so I would never admit that it hurt so bad I wanted to cry. They pushed me harder and harder and never spoke to me after I told them I was going to get my Master’s degree. They treated me like a pariah and even talked about how I wasn’t keeping up and it pissed them off.

It was my second day.

So, I was sitting on the side of the building with my head resting against it. They all sat laughing a few feet away, never acknowledging me. I looked down and saw this gas station cup that had tipped over and ants were walking up to the spillage of caramel colored liquid and then walking back to the crack in the concrete. I watched them for the entire 15 minute break. The pain in my back and knees faded as I thought about these ants. Doing this one job and following orders. I thought to myself, “I wish I just saw one ant go off by himself. Just see him thinking ‘F#$% The System’ and walk away.”

Those ants stuck with me as I returned to work. At lunch, they all talked around me. I was there in presence but never acknowledged. They all spoke of baby mama drama and how good the chilli and hooch was in the county jail. I couldn’t help but realize that I had nothing in common with them but I wanted to know them. They looked at me and just saw a guy passing through. A name and a person to do a job. Nothing more. A removable object.

I am a tourist.

My back hurt so bad I could barely move and after one of the men basically said he likes to go fast and didn’t want to work with someone who didn’t know what he was doing, I quit the week long assignment after 3 days. I came home and lay in the floor as Sofie came over to play. My breath was shortened by the sharp stings of pain along my vertebrae.

I slept that night in a daze of pain relief medication. The next day I went with my mother to pay bills and I was really bummed about the whole situation. I felt as if I had failed again.

We go into a thrift shop, as we always do this time of the month and I wander around. I look at the trinkets and gadgets. The old sterling silver table lighter and the porcelain choir singing. The not-so-gently used furniture and the questionable lamps. Then, at the back corner I find a bit of treasure. I found a telescope!

For anyone who has been reading a bit, you know I am a nerd about space. I memorized the constellations when I was a kid and am a regular subscriber to “Astronomy” magazine. If you were to look at me and talk to me you would never think that I was enamored with the way a Quasar is formed and fueled by a supermassive black hole.

This 1967 Jason Explorer 400 was mine. It was dusty and dirty but I took it home and cleaned it up. I took it outside and sat beneath th clear night sky. I tried to find stars but they only looked like blurry twinkling dots. The moon was just an obscurred light bulb. I took out the lenses and switched and then I saw it. I went outside and then then moon peaked out from behind the large oak tree out back. I caught a glimpse of it.

I had been frustrated that day, from pain and from feeling like I had failed, but I found triumph in that I saw the moon. It’s porous surface became clear. I looked at the craters and felt so close to its’ surface. I am not sure how long I sat there but it seemed like moments. In all actuality it was more than an hour.

I came back inside and thought about it. How great it was and then I thought back to those ants. Those ants still stuck with me. They did what they were compelled to do. I admired them.

I am a tourist but I got to meet people who were compelled to do these jobs. They were being paid much more than I but they were still doing these jobs that are incredibly hard. They go on behind the scenes. The people who do the small things that we never even know about to take for granted are some of the greatest people I have met. They are parents and husbands. They work hard and they play hard. They do what they have to do because they are compelled to do it. They may not like the job but it is about self efficacy and being able to use that money to do what needs to be done. I have met amazing people and objectionable people but I enjoyed meeting them all the same.

Even if I was just passing through.

These were foreign and strange jobs and people whom I was glad to get to know. I was in a place where just a few dollars helped but I gained a lot from these jobs. I gained knowledge of what was on the other side of the fence. The moon was my little win. It was that beacon that heralded the message of, “Keep your head up. Keep searching.”

I am a tourist now but it is not permanent. So, I enjoy the sights now and keep them for later.

 

– Chris

What Are You?

Hey Gang!

 

I keep wondering how to begin this. I thought about having some sort of diatribe about when I was young or something along those lines but i think it should start with what has prompted this post, usurping one that shall be written soon. This inciting incident occurred a few weeks ago.

I was out with some friends at our local watering hole. I must admit, it was somewhat uncomfortable. I am used to being up and around. People being as loud and funny as I am. I will say I am a rather boisterous fellow. I remember a while back I was telling a story about how I shouted and a girl turns to me an says, “Wow, it must have been loud because you already speak so loud.” My first thought was something like , “Da Fuq?!” but then I realized she was just stating her opinion and there was no malice there. But that’s just me. So, I surround people as loud as me and who are as care free as I try to be. Those who love to dance to know music and freestyle rap about cleaning the house. We sometimes just yell for no reason incoherently. Would you be my neighbor? (kudos if you get the slight reference)

 

So, I am sitting in this dimly lit bar with wooden walls and wooden boards that creaked from aged use. A deer head hangs just above the big screen that plays my college’s baseball team, losing by the way. I had gone out with my friend Nic and she was meeting with some of her friends. So, there I was amongst a few people whom I didn’t know in this bar that looked like there may be a speak easy in the next room but upon my snooping I found that it only held an old jukebox. These people were very quiet, almost eerily quiet. I love awkward, revel in it. I think it is one of the funnier things that can happen in interpersonal communication but this was more of that silence and awkward conversation where everyone just wants to pretend they got a call and run away.

I tried to make idle conversation but it was just a sea of light laughs and bobbing heads. Then, a man in a leather vest came in and sat down next to me. I enjoy everyone and I will always be nice to individuals…well almost always. So, he sits down and begins talking about extremely conservative views. Gun Control, Homosexual Marriage and he spoke extensively of the ineptitude of “Jews and Orientals”. I don’t think I have ever been offended by someone that much in one sitting. Clenched jaw and bitten tongue.

So, I am talking to a young man who went to the same school as I did and I was telling him my epic “Interstate” story.

“Hold on, man, I don’t mean to interrupt,” the leather clad opinionated man interjected. In my head I thought, ‘yeah you did but go on.’

“I just can’t wait to hear you impression of Bryant Gumble,” He slaps me on my shoulder and begins laughing.

“I’m sorry man I had to,” he continues.

“Nice,” I say. Nice. I said nice in replace of the terrible things I wanted to say to him and ignored him for the rest of the night. He could tell I was upset because I never acknowledged him and he would tell a racist joke that just wasn’t funny and I wouldn’t laugh. Everyone else would because it was extremely uncomfortable and awkward when he said it but I was just fine being passive.

His comment was in regards to my voice not fitting in to his stereotypical colloquialisms that come along with his views. I guess everyone has their opinions but I have dealt with this before. Not this blatant, more subtle of course, but I have dealt with it my whole life.

As most of you know I am multi-racial, never say mixed; dogs are mixed. This aspect has always made me the odd man out. I always say that growing up, I was “almost black to white individuals and almost white to black individuals”. I always fit in the grey area. White individuals always accepted me but I was always that multi-racial friend. Black individuals felt that I wasn’t relateable.

Everywhere I would go, I was asked the same question: What Are You? It was offensive to me. These individuals couldn’t place me. They couldn’t use snap judgment on me in the way they were used to and it caused some sort of dissonance. I have always been a kind person, especially on that question, and so I answered them. Most of the time they would say, “You look Hawaiian or something”. I went to Hawaii and they said I looked Hawaiian. I am not Hawaiian. It would be great to have Polynesian slash Samoan roots but I don’t have them.

What Are You?

Now that I am older, I answer them honestly. All the races I am. I answer it but in my head I think, “this means nothing.” Race, the way they look at it, is categorical but to me it is a trait. I am right handed, multi-racial, and it takes me forever to grow facial hair. It follows in that line. I can’t tell you how many times I wish someone would ask more. Know me. No more ‘what are you’ but ‘who are you’.

I am pretty much a giant. 3 feet from shoulder to shoulder and 6’6″ and some change. So, I have never been shy about anything when it comes to a ‘what are you’ question but still, something just doesn’t sit well with me. Because of all of these things, I no longer care about what is on the person’s outside. I ask about the deeper questions and you would be surprised how open people are when you get real with them. When you ask them their honest thoughts and feelings you can connect on a level that is unbeatable. I do this with strangers because it is a chance to hear a new story. People are books; if you just read the title, you miss out on the chapters that lay within.

What Am I?

I am the fifth generation that came from a slave, to which we have copies of the sale papers when she was bought.

I am an older brother.

I am a journalist.

I am a lover of life.

I am a man with the blood of generations of laborers and farmers running through his veins.

I am more than my body can hold.

When I go back and think about all of the things that people have asked of me that were superficial, ie how tall am I, what race am I, how big of shoes I wear etc, I feel more and more distant from them. I get that I am not exactly the person who blends in but I guess the outside matches the inside. I have never been the type of person to sit by and let life go by. I want to embody life. My body may be big but my personality is bigger and I wouldn’t have it, or the friends whose claims are the same, any other way.

-Chris

 

 

Clocks

three-people-with-clocks

 

Hey Gang!

The other day I was driving around, as I do quite often. I enjoy driving down backroads and through the city because it gives me a chance to think. I have had writer’s block in regards to a story I am trying to put together, so I thought a bit of fresh air would help. It did not.

The rest of the day I kept obsessing about the story and characters. I just couldn’t let it go.

Later that night, I was laying in my bed, trying to go to sleep but failing. I tried to listen to my iPod but then became saddened by the fact that I have officially run out of good music. I took my headphones out and looked to the darkened ceiling, hoping for sleep to stop eluding me.

I heard a noise in the dark room that was unmistakably the ticking of my clock. It was louder than I ever remember hearing it. It didn’t bother me at first but then it continued TICK….TICK….TICK

I tried to think some more about my story but my thoughts became muddled by the sounds of the clock above head. TICK…TICK…TICK

I couldn’t help but curse the clock. I began blaming it for why I couldn’t sleep. I contemplated ripping it off the wall and placing it violently into the trash can. TICK …TICK…TICK

I realized that that was not going to be an option as I had come down with a severe case of laziness. So, I lay there and began wishing that I could stop obsessing over the story.  I turned back over as the ticking continued and closed my eyes. I felt like I was never going to sleep although my eyes grew heavy and stung from wanton sleep, I just couldn’t rest my mind. Suddenly, I hear something a bit off.

TICKTICK…..TICKTICK…..TICKTICK….

At first, I couldn’t believe my bad luck. I thought, “This terrible metronomic device has gotten worse,” but I realized that it was the clock in the living room trying hard to work in tandem with the clock in my room.

TICKTICK……TICKTICK……TICKTICK….

It sounded like they would be out of synch and then back in synch. This yo-yo around each other’s auditory process became mesmerizing.

TICKTICK….TICK…TICK…TICKTICK

I couldn’t help but think about their nature. These two devices made for the same sole purpose, telling time, are not in synch. The wooden clock in the front ro0m gave its loud, hollow tick just before my metallic clock gave its sharp, tin-like tick.

I thought about how one or both of these clocks are lying. I thought about how they are wired and the way they worked. I couldn’t tell you how long I lay there thinking about clocks which is actually ironic but I enjoyed it. Finally, I began to see people as clocks. I thought of myself as a clock and the way I tick.

Have you ever looked inward and thought, “Welp, that’s a flaw. Better fix that,”?

I thought about it that night and realized some things about myself that I need to correct. I have the uncanny ability to write people off. If someone doesn’t fit into the idea of what I believe they are, then I write them off and push them away. I think it’s easier that way because of my nature.

I always think about the story of the scorpion and the toad whenever I talk about nature. It’s an old story that I will paraphrase:

A scorpion is sitting morosely at the bank of a river that he can’t cross. A toad swims up and asks what’s wrong and the scorpion tells him that he has to get across the river and that it is extremely important that he makes it there. He asks the toad if he can get on his back and then the toad can swim him across safely. The toad says no at first because he fears that the scorpion will sting him and kill him. The scorpion reassures the toad that he won’t and the toad agrees. They make it safely across the rushing water and to the other side. As the scorpion hops off the toad’s back, he stings him. As the toad lay dying, he asks the scorpion why he did it. The scorpion simply replies, “it’s in my nature.”

I realized that I am both the scorpion and the toad. That’s just how I am. How I work. How I tick. I have been looking out for myself for such a long time that when it comes to meeting people, friends or women, I have this idea of how it should be. If they don’t fit the model, then I distance myself. In my head, these pieces don’t fit. The clock isn’t ticking the way it should be.

The parts that I think make the perfect sentient timepiece just aren’t there.

I lay in bed and mentally kick my own ass for that thinking. It’s an exclusive way of thinking. I had to really make myself realize that that isn’t the beauty of people. I think the beauty of humanity and relationships is not how their pieces and your pieces form a whole clock. No, I think it’s about your clock and theirs complimenting one another. You tick together; in unison.

The beauty of a clock is limited by how well it works.

That’s when I realized more about me. I just want to find a clock like that. Where there is only one ticking sound as we synch. One beat between two clocks. That’s all I want, now. It makes me happy because, since then, I have been looking at my relationships. Some I can keep but others, our clocks don’t read the same time anymore and it is time to say goodbye. This is a good thing because in the end, how great would it be to have a room full of clocks that simultaneously tick.

I can’t help but want to see how other people tick and if their time reads mine.

I finally drifted off to sleep with the sounds of the clocks fading.

TICKTICK…TICKTICK…TICKTICK….TICK

-Chris