Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Forward Path - 28 Jan 2012

Every great journey begins with a trip

The Forward Path - 28 January 2012

If you’ve been following my jaunt down the Forward Path, you probably already know that a year ago I was teaching high school English.  What I haven’t said much about, however, is the trip that triggered my decision to give up teaching. 

For several months leading up to the holidays a year ago, I had been in a very dark place within myself, and I was visibly taking on enough water that Elizabeth knew something had to be done.  So, as a Christmas gift, she sent me to Carlsbad, New Mexico, for three days prior to the beginning of the spring semester.  

You may think that an odd choice for a Christmas gift from someone who claims to love another person, but it turned out to be the perfect thing to do.  It was ostensibly a trip to visit Carlsbad Caverns, but we both knew its true purpose: a soul-searching mission, a solitary retreat.  She hooked me up with a place to stay, some awesome music to listen to on the way, reservations for a tour of the caverns, and cleared her schedule so that she could take care of the girls while I was gone.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Metrocenter Mall or Home Sweet Home?

While reading Sunday’s business section, I saw that Metrocenter Mall in Phoenix was just sold for 12.2 million dollars.  Go ahead, read that again; I’ll wait.  Yes, the decimal was exactly where you thought it was.  Still don’t believe it?  Here, maybe it will help to put it this way:  Twelve million, two hundred thousand smackeroos, or, for the sports fans out there, just over one-third of Alex Rodriguez’s annual salary.   Who would have believed that one of the nation’s biggest shopping malls, one that was valued at over $200 million in its heyday, would end up selling for a paltry $12 million?  

Meanwhile, the Valley’s most expensive home sale in the same week was a place in Scottsdale (do I need to say it: on a golf course) for 2.1 million dollars.  Turns out a nice couple bought it, and to them we pass along our congratulations.  I just hope they’re not suffering a case of buyer’s remorse.  After all, for a measly 10.1 million more, they could have had an entire shopping mall to call home.  

The nice couple bought a 6,948 square-foot home in the rolling foothills of scenic Scottsdale.  But did they know they could have had so much more?  Metrocenter has something like 1.4 million square feet, which averages out to $8.50/sq. ft., in contrast to the $303/sq. ft. of that place in the “West’s Most Western Town.” 

Now I’m sure that the view from the back patio was dazzlingly beautiful, and a major selling point.  But how much enjoyment can you take from a pretty view when you have to regularly duck the blazing misfires of drunken amateurs teeing off the fourteenth hole?  Let’s face it, having a window repair company on speed-dial is no way to live.  And then there are the scorpions, and the gopher holes, and the interloping coyotes looking to snatch your high-priced pocket pooch for a Scooby snack while you are busy trying to communicate with the guy who’s trimming the bougainvillea the wrong way.  These are things the real-estate agent probably didn’t mention.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jeff's Jeep

This is a column I have written that should appear in the Arizona Republic sometime before next weekend.  Jeff is a friend of the family.  He runs a family-owned pest control business, Ranger Pest Control, that has been spraying our house for bugs since Elizabeth (and Jeff, for that matter) were kids. I have a great story to tell about the time Jeff tried to stop my mother-in-law from drinking a Coke contaminated by one of our dog's pee that I hope makes it to the blog someday.  

Anyway, Jeff also belongs to this group of military vehicle owners, and they have their big annual show coming up at the end of January in Peoria.  I wrote this after attending one of their meetings, and interviewing Jeff about his personal experience and interest in owning a military vehicle.  

For twenty years, the Arizona Military Vehicle Collector’s Club (AMVCC) has held an annual show at the Arizona National Guard’s Papago facility in Phoenix.  However, this year the show is moving to the Peoria Sports Complex on the weekend of January 28th and 29th.  The 21st Arizona Military Vehicle Show is billed as the largest of its kind in the Southwest, and the new location will provide an abundance of space to display a wide variety of trucks, jeeps, motorcycles, armored cars, transports, and track vehicles ranging from WWI-era to Desert Storm, including an extremely rare “Jumbo” Sherman tank, which is making an appearance at this year’s show for the first time. 

Jeff "Beetle Bailey" Abrahamson, behind the wheel
of his WWII-era Jeep.
Military vehicle collectors are an interesting bunch, as I found out when I attended a recent AMVCC meeting at the invitation of Jeff Abrahamson, a friend and the group’s treasurer.  Not surprisingly, it’s an almost exclusively male pursuit, whose members mainly are former military themselves.  For many of these people, restoring and showing military vehicles is their way of sustaining an important connection to their personal past, or keeping alive the history that they helped to make.  The annual show is, in many ways, their best opportunity to share this passion with people of all ages and from all walks of life. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

The interview

Continuing on with our theme of January being the month in which we look back at the past and also look forward into the future, I’ve decided (in consultation with my California Psychic) that now is the perfect time for the first ever thunderstrokes interview. 

So who will be the lucky person to serve as the subject for thunderstrokes’ inaugural interview?  Well, that honor can logically go to only one individual:  me.  That’s right, I’m going to interview myself. 

Now this idea may seem strange, but it actually makes sense.  Interviewing myself will allow me to go on the public record at an early stage about the blog, its humble beginnings, and the notable achievements of the first six months.  It will also help to reinforce the edifice of plausible deniability I’ve constructed to combat the rampant rumors that I am, in fact, the Batman.  Plus, this exercise will undoubtedly be helpful in preparing me for my future as a bestselling author, when I’m sure to be inundated with interview requests and invitations to presidential retreats. 

Luck, as I once heard a very small and wise person not named Yoda say, favors the prepared. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

This One's for You

I’m 43 years old, and 2011 is the year my life as a writer began.  It really started in June, with thunderstrokes.  I started blogging for a definite purpose, to establish a showcase, or maybe portfolio is a better word, of my work as a writer. 

The underlying intention was that by starting a blog, I might be able to get over the fear of putting my work, and myself, out there.  That fear had always been my biggest enemy and had stymied my progress not just for years, but for decades.  I always knew I could write well, but I also knew that didn’t automatically translate into writing that anyone else would want to read.  I was also afraid of being rejected.  My writing is the product of me, and if my writing is rejected, it’s really me that’s rejected.  The best way to avoid rejection, according to this way of thinking, was to not do anything.  Fear, that irrational, pervasive beast, kept me motionless.   

So the blog was a big step forward for me, because it meant that anyone could see what I was writing.  Of course, that meant the possibility of rejection existed for the first time.  Theoretically everyone could read me now, and potentially hate what I’m doing.  But the reality is that, due to the infinite vastness of the internet and Google’s mysterious ways, you can be available to everyone, but only exist for a few.  And the further reality is, people who don’t like what you do just don’t come back. What you end up with are pretty much people who respond positively to something in your writing.

And that’s where you come in.  You may not realize this, but you, the reader, are an essential part of this blog, and an essential part of what I’m doing.  You probably aren’t clear as to the significance of your contribution, so allow me to enlighten you.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Perch Revisited

The following is a sequel of sorts to the post that started my blog.  Although the new one stands just fine on its own, you might find it interesting to read (or reread) the original for the contrast and background it provides.  It can be found here. Both are relatively short posts, for me.    

I wrote this post in one sitting, in just over an hour.  I normally don't publish things without editing and revising them to a high polish, but in this case I'm leaving the post pretty much in its rough-hewn state, with the exception of a few revisions of clarity, and completing a few thoughts that, upon review, were hastily left incomplete at first.  

I feel like this is the best description I have come up with so far of what happens when I sit down to write each morning.

Six months ago, on one of the longest days of the year, I started thunderstrokes with a post called “Perch.”  The Perch is my name for the place where I do the vast majority of my writing, especially my early-morning writing.  It consists of a computer on a wooden Ikea desk in the living room of our house right up against the window that looks out over the front yard and our little eddy of a neighborhood.

Now, in early January, we’re in amongst the shortest days of the year.  Today, right now it’s 7:30, and the sun is still somewhere below the trees and roofs of the homes southeast of ours.   

I call it the perch, because I feel like a bird when I’m sitting here, looking out over the corner of our street, but just as much over the lands and unexplored places in my mind and imagination.  From this place, I swoop down each day to one little spot and light there, pecking around and almost always discovering something unusual or interesting to bring back with me.  Most mornings I know where I’m going; I am returning to a specific location to continue working at something I already started, but didn’t have time to finish yesterday. I love these days, because I have a direction, an immediate purpose, something concrete to focus on. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

I'm that guy

So I opened the sports section of the paper a couple days ago and saw this picture.  At first I didn’t think anything of it, but then it struck me as oddly familiar, so I started looking more closely.  That’s when I realized: 

I’m in that picture! 

Take a look. Can you find me?

See me yet?

Of course you can’t, because I’m here…

I know what you’re thinking.  Oh, he’s just saying that, because there’s no way to prove that he’s not actually behind the giant, life-sized head of LeBron James.   He could just as easily tell us that Abraham Lincoln’s sitting next to him (a noted NBA fan), or this year’s Little League world-champion team.  How would we know he’s being honest with us? 

To all the doubters out there, let me say this.  Maybe I can’t prove my physical presence in Miami’s American Airlines arena, but this is indisputable.  If I do go to a game, and if there’s one crazed fanatic out of the 16,000 other ticketholders who somehow manages to bring in a six-foot cardboard cut-out of the head of his favorite athlete, and then proceeds to raise it high in the air throughout the game as a demonstration of his unsurpassed loyalty, immense creativity and tremendous stamina, I’ll be the one sitting exactly two rows behind him. 

I’m that guy.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The 1st Annual Jannie Awards

The new year is a time to look back as well as forward.  This impulse is nothing new; the historical record tells us that civilizations going back to the ancient Romans did the same thing.  In fact, the Romans had a god named Janus, and his identifying characteristic was that he had two faces, and could see forwards and backwards at the same time.  Janus was the god of doorways, of entrances and exits, bridges and transitions.  He is the god after whom the month of January is named, and so it seems perfectly fitting that we spend a little time now looking back, assessing where we stand today by remembering those we have lost over the last year. 

As a way of acknowledging and celebrating some of those public figures whose lives and/or work have affected us (alright, I’m just speaking for myself) in some discernable way, I’ve decided to start a new tradition on the blog, the first ever January awards, which we’ll call the “Jannies” for short.  The thing about a Jannie is that it can only be awarded posthumously, to someone who has died during the course of the previous year.  This is a remarkably smart decision on my part, as it saves a tremendous amount of money on the costs of buying actual awards, renting a hall, sending invitations, catering, and rounding up sponsors to donate swag.  The downside is that the odds of some famous celebrity getting drunk and flirting shamelessly with me in front of my wife are almost nil.