In The Company Of Chaos

Chaos JH

In The Company Of Chaos

Right now I am not…in the company of chaos that is. If I choose that the boundaries of my home are the ends of the universe all seems to stand in a state of relative calm. However, should I venture into the realm of online news, social media, or wander into the wrong place at the wrong time I find myself in a veritable shit storm of well…chaos.

As a rule, I choose peace. Am I in the minority? More and more it would seem that whether chosen or not, some manner of war is the order of the day.  Why?  Why stir things up? Why choose a harsh word, or a bullet instead of lending a hand, or kind word? Why indeed? Why choose to inflict harm, be it physical or psychological, instead of help or even, as a commitment to the possible benefits of non-action, resort to silence?

Human drama, a sport, a whim, perhaps a necessary evil? Is it evil?  To me, it feels that way, but I have been most fortunate in my life to always have Maslow’s hierarchy met, so who am I to say. Some in my same situation seem to feel more alive taking stands on behalf of those who sell division as a commodity.  Ego is a tempestuous mistress. I feel more alive when more people have the chance to join me in that act; the act of feeling alive that is, and at peace.

Balance is ancient.  Historically, balance seems to be the adversarial antidote to chaos. Chaos in turn, seems to be a human psychologically supported virus of sorts.  A virus by nature identifies, attacks and overtakes its host in order to survive.  Curiously when the virus has accomplished its goal the host is ultimately brought down, and so comes to an end.  ‘The virus’ having attained its goal of domination ensures by its success its own demise.  Chaos, if viral at its core is calling to the “Dionysian Being” in all those who will listen.  We cannot live in chaos for long, pursuing chaos we ensure only our own temporary fix of adrenaline, followed then by our unavoidable ruin.

Does the desperate need for meaning lead to this ‘run of the lemmings’ in our human species?  Some behavior I’ve witnessed would lend credence to this hypothesis.  Could the need for meaning instead lead to a reach for calm, peace, perspective…a pause?  One would certainly hope so. But where would we get our precious drama?

It is easy to imagine solutions when not under fire. Corrections or right answers seem so obvious in the tranquility of a placid, comfortable familiar repose.  Many people struggle in ways I cannot fathom.  Others live opulent lifestyles afforded them by hard work, commitment and no small turn of good fortune, for which they most likely take full credit.  I’m not saying these beings don’t work for what they have but are we not all members of this world, and so potentially capable of perspective, empathy, and humility?  Be these situations as they may, chaos stirs, in and around us all.

Do we look, or look away?  Hiding our heads as long as we presume ourselves safe.  If the floodgates that have until now kept chaos in check finally burst, there will be no hiding from its faceless wrath.  What then?  What solutions will we wish we had committed to when we had the chance.  What sacrifices will we wish we had made.  What courage will we muster when the gun barrel finds us, be we armed, or empty-handed?

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Aiming For A Glass Of Water

Glass of water

 

Being single at 50 something on the dating scene is like jumping off the high dive aiming for a glass of water.

Divorce is fun…for masochists. It’s that moment when you realize everything you promised will end up broken. You may be an angry narcissist, in denial of course, or you may just be angry…no judgment. You may be a giver; give, give, give never take. You may be afraid of conflict. You may be a bully. You may be a nice, well-balanced person who made a bad choice in the partnership department. Whatever your position on the spectrum of coping mechanisms, behavior patterns or denial, divorce is the shits.

Will it be hard to start over? Maybe. Are there fish in the sea? Plenty. Will any of them appeal to you? Absolutely! Will those who do appeal to you be age appropriate? Highly unlikely! Online dating: Men with their bare-chested, or fish holding pix, rock on you silly geese! Women with their rudimentary photoshop skills shouting out “look at me” from the polished profile pic saying, “no really…I’m young” looking for a second chance. How could that pool have gotten so small?

It’s not easy to find what you had looked for so many years ago. You may have kids now. If you don’t want more kids the pool narrows. You may want dogs or cats in your life, you may not. The pool narrows. You may have voted red state, you may have voted blue. The pool narrows. You may like hiking or kayaking, or wine tasting, cooking classes, running, volunteering or even knitting/gunplay…the pool narrows. The pool narrows until you look between your two big toes and see that the pool has shrunk to the size of a glass of water. Should you jump?

Are you willing to come to grips with why your marriage/relationship ended? It’s easy during a divorce to cast oneself as the hero. I was exceptionally good at it. The facts more likely point to two sides of the story, and I bring this up for a reason. If we don’t at least attempt to understand our contribution to the chaos then we will visit that same ill fate on whatever poor soul awaits us in that tiny glass of water below.

So what positives can we pull; what gems can we glean from the denouement of a primary relationship, and ensuing diminished chance of future relational bliss? What understanding can we assimilate as we stand on the platform poised to dive into the narrow cup of opportunity that awaits us? An insight gained in the sleepless hours before dawn perhaps? Appreciation for the now not so rare moments of silence afforded to one who has no other? Pausing long enough to hear a truth about ourselves whether we want to or not? If we learn anything…it is everything in that moment. A moment of victory!

 

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Adventures In Plumbing

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The kitchen faucet in our house has been dripping for at least a year.  The jar for our blender has hence become a fixture in the sink.  It’s been dutifully catching the drops of life-giving H2O so that they can be poured into our Berkey Water filtration system rather than down the drain.  That solution, until yesterday accomplished the goals of A. Not “wasting” water (my California drought guilt at work), ironic since it has rained here at least every other day for the last two months, and B. Not having to fix the f’ing faucet, I mean really, time is precious right?  If you’ve ever done plumbing work on a 60 plus-year-old house (which all of my homes have been) you’ll know this logic is sound.  If you haven’t you’re in for a treat.  Why?  Wait for it…

I woke up Saturday morning to this text from my seventeen-year-old.

Chris:

Hey I don’t want to wake you up

But the bathroom sink is leaking

It wasn’t until I ran water

Underneath it is absolutely soaked

I was looking for duct tape to patch it but couldn’t find any

I cleared out the bottom of it and put a towel down

It only leaks if you run water

Sent 5:37am

He did the best he could then left for work.  Love that kid, and the fact that he has a job.  The obtaining of which I had no part in.

So… great, excellent!  The bathroom too!  Looks like it’s time to address the elephant in the pipes.  After a to the brim full cup of black coffee I surveyed the admittedly heretofore overlooked bathroom situation, assuming that the faucet had gone bad.  Wrong!  I cranked the taps, crouched to survey the outcome and discovered that the drain pipe had a leak, and was shooting a firehose-like stream of water into the vanity base.  Awesome!  Well I may as well replace the thousand-year-old faucet while I’m at it right?

As it happened my youngest and I had a date that morning to attend the premiere party for the new TBS show Final Space created by one of his youtuber faves Olan Rogers.  Great show!  Loved it, and Jackson got to meet one of his heroes; a “Mr. Rogers” for a new generation.  Olan that is.

On the way home I informed JJ that we would be stopping at Home Depot to pick up the plumbing supplies needed to deal with our “situation” at the house and that his help would be most appreciated.  I also informed him that when committing to amateur plumbing on an aging home one must expect several same day return trips back to Home Depot…I estimated a minimum of four.  He winced, and said a silent “ugh.”

Upon returning home, I went straight to it in the bathroom.  Replacing the drain was easy enough.  Then, while assessing the faucet replacement scenario, I noticed evidence of the amateur plumber’s nightmare.  No shutoff valves under the sink!  Water to the whole house would have to be shut off to pull the old faucet and place the new one.  My thought at the moment…”fuck it!”  It’s not leaking, so I’m not going to mess with it.  Jackson and I cleaned/mopped up the bathroom mess and closed that case.  On to the kitchen

“Thank god,” I thought as I worked my way through the frat house mess we’ed created under the kitchen sink, at least there are shut off valves.  But wait, new lessons in amateur plumbing lurked in the very near future.  I stood up, stretched, gave the blender jar an informal salute for its twelve months of service, then dove back in.  The stuck cold water valve resisted for a minute then reluctantly gave way.  I closed the valve and moved on to the hot water side.  My past experience informs me that things are going smoothly, too smoothly.  My cynicism was soon rewarded.

I grasped the hot water shut off valve and began wrestling it to the off position.  This house was built in 1950.  Who knows how long this demon valve had waited for its moment.  Well, the wait was over.  As I broke it free from its wide open position something miraculous happened.  I didn’t know such a thing was possible. While cranking the handle to the closed position hot water blasted from the valve in all directions.  Within two seconds I was thoroughly soaked head to toe and water was rushing across the kitchen.

“JACKSON, I NEED TOWELS PLEASE!”

“How many” he shouts.

“ALL OF THEM,” said I.

The valve was only gushing for a few moments, but in that short time, I found my drenched self sitting in a quarter inch of water.  To stop the flow I had to turn the valve back to the on position.  The physics of this solution made no sense to me, but so it goes with plumbing, a dark art to be sure.

“Damnit!”  I have to shut off all water to the house in order finish the operation.  Tools in hand I make my way to the street.  The water main valve lay is a muddy housing, a spider-filled joy box if you will.  Leaning over the edge I tried with all my might, and with all the tools I had at hand to wrench the valve closed.  The value was neither impressed nor willing.  Shit!  There must be a shutoff valve in the crawl space.  By crawl space, I mean belly crawling under HVAC ducts in the dark, dank underworld of our humble cape cod.

As I made my way to the presumed location of the sacred “shut off valve” I was greeted by the overwhelming stench of cat shit!  Really!  Simultaneously, I identified the location of the valve and realized the fact that one or more of our cats had removed the vent covers to the crawl space, and had claimed said space as their personal outhouse.  A veritable cat shit minefield presented, complete with pools of cat piss rippling in the pockets of the vapor barrier.  Had I a free hand I’d have plugged my nose, but alas… Scent notwithstanding, I dragged myself toward the shutoff.  A quick twist and it’s closed…I hope.

From the black abyss, I contacted JJ via cell phone, “Turn on a water faucet on please.”

“Nothing’s coming out!”

“Excellent!” I exclaimed.

I dragged myself, somewhat disgusted by the state of our crawl space back to the opening and marched toward the car; a new hot water valve had to be procured; Home Depot trip two.

I retured with the new valve and proceeded to remove the old one.  Some hack rig coming from the wall that had male threading at all three connections.  I bought the house from a plumber…it figured.  Of course, the valve I purchased at Le Depot is female, male, male.  So, Back to the car.

Home Depot trip three engaged!  I wait an eternity for a turn with the plumbing guy.

“We don’t have that fitting…where’d you find that?”

“Under my kitchen sink,” I said…(in my head “duh”).

“Try this Shark Bite fitting; it should grab on to the pipe and work fine.”

“Chaa, thanks.” I left…at a brisk jog.

Back at home, hours into this ‘simple task’ I affixed the fitting, tightened the new valve and put Jackson on alert.

“I’ll call you from under the house.  Let me know if it leaks.”

As Buddy, the Elf might say, “I passed through the crawl space trap door, past the sea of swirly twirly cat poops, and then I crawled to the magical water shut off valve.”

“IT’S LEAKING!” He yelled into the phone.

“SHIT!” I don’t think I said it ‘under my breath.’

Back up through the crawl space hatch to the living floors of the house; which were now steeped in the waning February afternoon light filtering through the rain-spattered windows.  Resigned I went, back to the car, back to home depot.  As I stepped out of the car, I checked for my wallet.  On a typical day this gesture would be a gift to all pickpockets in the area, (so that’s where he keeps it), but not today!  “FUCK!”  I’d left my wallet at home.  Back in the car, I raced toward the wallet.  Twenty-two minutes later I was back at the Depot. The wait was longer this time, and when I finally get advice it was:

“That valve you just brought back will do just fine, simply remove those unnecessary parts in-between and attach it.”

“But what about a dielectric union?  You know the thing you’re supposed to use when you attach galvanized plumbing to brass or copper?”

“We don’t have those.  Just use a bunch of Teflon tape.”

In my head’ “Are you fucking kidding me?”  From my mouth, “ Ok, thanks.”

Back home.

“Ok JJ, hold the faucet steady while I loosen these bolts.”  The faucet bolts don’t budge.  “Please go grab me a hammer,” I asked, in a regrettably peeved tone.

He appeared in a flash with a hammer.  After a bit of a beating the faucet fixture came free, but try as we might the sprayer socket would not budge.  I climbed from under the sink, lower back complaining all the while for plumbing is a younger man’s work, and grabbed a pair of vice grips.  As my son looked on in horror, I unwittingly released a stream of awesomely vulgar obscenities while beating the sprayer nozzle viciously with the vise grips.  When it is over, and I had returned from werewolf to human form the sprayer was loosened, but still stood defiantly in its battered socket.  Jackson appeared to have mild PTSD.

Resigned, I climbed back under the sink and asked him to cut the sprayer hose.

“Use Scissors, hacksaw, knife, whatever please.”

He dutifully grabbed our bread knife and made quick work of severing the hose.  I learned later that the following moment made all the stress of this escapade worth it for him.  As he cut the hose and it snaked back through its hole in the sink top, it sprayed me in the face with its residual water load.  addingInsulttoingury.com!  Hose sprayed face notwithstanding I was finally clear to install the new faucet.  Ten minutes later I was back in the cat shit forest, earbuds in, JJ on the line.

“Ok buddy, I’m turning it on now!”

“Nothing.”

Me, “Really?  Awesome!”

My joy at this news overshadowed the scent of feline occupation as I belly crawled my way out of that ‘shit box.’  It was now 6:30 pm. We had somewhere to be at 7:00.  Back under the sink.  On when the valves, no flood, winner, winner chicken something.  To avoid tainting the new faucet I removed the aerator, closed my eyes, and turned the handle.  Water poured through.  Clean, pure-ish, life-giving water.  Success!

We collected the multitude of saturated beach towels from the kitchen floor, washed our hands, piled into the car and made our way to the “Final Space” Premiere After Party.  On the way, Jackson told me that for him it had been a stressful day watching Dad go maniac-style on the household water service.  We had a good laugh and spirited discussion about it after which he intimated that he thought we should keep the bludgeoned sprayer in our family museum as a reminder of this ‘special’ day.  So be it!

Do you have a similar experience to relate?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Ya Think?

Hickey

Current front-runner for ‘line of the week’ at my house;

“I think her dad liked me a little better before the hickey!”

Ha, ya think?

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Let Go Of The Plane

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I gripped the frame of the exit door with Hulk-like strength, except for the Hulk-like, and strength bits.  Suffice it to say I used everything I had to hold on.  In my experience, there’s no greater motivating force within a human being than fear.  The jump light turned from “two minutes” yellow to green.  Time to go.  I don’t know if I remembered to take a breath.  Forgetting to breathe in everyday terrestrial life is an issue for me as it is, no doubt at the moment of exit I had accidentally become nearly ‘oxygen free.’  Air starved brain notwithstanding I did remember to lean out, lean in, then launch, and let go of the plane.

My body tumbled in the wind wash created by my earthward trajectory coupled with the rapid westward bearing of the Twin Otter aircraft.

“Breathe, and calm the fuck down,” I said to myself.

After a bit more negotiating my body finally arched into a V shape.  Legs up, head up, plummeting toward earth in gravity’s firm embrace.  With the flight of my person finally stabilized I could take a moment to connect with this singular experience; moving through space at over 120 miles per hours without mechanical assistance.  The sensation is indescribable, and not commonly known.  Why?  Fear? The result of good decision making?  You decide.

I can’t speak for others who choose to jump from 14,000 feet with no more than a nylon lifeline, but I have to believe that some of them leap, or at least made their first jump for the same reason I did; to slay a dragon.  To confront fear in the now, or never.  To stand over it, perhaps for the first time with a triumphant smile.  If only a smile of sweet relief once we’ed reconnected with mother earth.

One’s inaugural exit, that first jump is exponentially more mind-blowing than any of the next hundred, thousand, or infinity and beyond.  It’s a threshold that cannot be recrossed.  On my very first solo jump, I experience a minor equipment malfunction.  I say minor because in hindsight everything worked out.  However, as it was all going down, I thought I might have a one jump career, and be remembered as the most unlucky skydiver of all time.

On a first AFF jump, (Accelerated Free Fall, Category A) one exits the aircraft at 14,000 feet gripped by two instructors.  At 6000 feet the ‘pull’ sequence is initiated.  If you the student have freaked out, one of the instructors, assuming you haven’t shaken them loose in a wild tumble, pulls for you.  As for the “wild tumble” bit, youtube.com offers an endless supply of “oh shit” scenarios @AFF SKYDIVE GOES BAD.  On my first AFF jump, I pulled the ripcord, at which point I was on my own.  Thankfully the chute deployed.  I dialed my freak from 11 to 9.  Next order of business, fly the thing.  I reached for the control toggles, gripped and pulled hard to free them.  One complied, the other did not.  Suddenly I was in a death spiral; corkscrew spinning under canopy plummeting from 5000 feet.  I distinctly remember thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me???”

The six hours of ground school that morning had scared the shit out of me.  Videos and anecdotes had elaborated on everything that could go wrong, and there I was starring in a new episode.  Somehow I found clarity in this “now or never moment.”  I let go of the left control toggle and went after the right ‘stuck’ one with both desperate hands.  Eventually, it came free at which point the ocean blue Saber II canopy leveled out.  Just like that, I survived.

It’s a numbers game, skydiving.  I’ve known jumpers burned severely when their path crossed a set of power lines.  I’ve known jumpers who are dead now due to equipment malfunction.  I’ve jumped a mere fifty-five times, mostly without incident, a total novice.   I know the odds are that if I keep jumping one day I’ll end up taking “reserve ride.”  Also known as a ‘cutaway,’ a reserve ride occurs when one’s main chute fails at which point that panicked soul pulls a handle to cut/release the bad chute, and pulls another to deploy the reserve canopy.

Though I’ve not had the pleasure, I assume this operation is accompanied by increased heart rate, heavy breathing, and a healthy dose of holy FU#K style “oh shits!”  The beauty of a reserve chute is that, well, it’s available.  It’s a second chance to survive the day.  Your day.  Your kid’s day, assuming you have kids. Your parent’s day if they happen to still be with you, your friend’s day, and your life insurance company’s day.  If the reserve fails, someone’s looking at a lot of paperwork!

I’m currently on hiatus from the sky life.  That said, I know that learning to skydive has been one of the most transformational experiences of my seemingly endless life.  Seemingly endless?  Yes!  Once I entered the red zone known as midlife, time while flying by seems to have been doing so for eons.  I will go back to jumping when the time is right because the experience is life-affirming, and it gives me something I just can’t get inside “a perfectly good airplane.”

If we have roadblocks in our lives, they are most likely made of fear.  If they are in fact made of fear, they are most likely difficult, if not seemingly impossible to surmount.  We as a culture have a fair amount of shame attached to fear, and so we bury it, deny it, negotiate with it, and finally relegate it to the ego basement.  Avoiding fear is comfortable, useful, life-saving …or is it?  Nowadays when I find myself in a place of deep fear, I remember my time in the sky.  The only way forward, the only way through, is to let go of the plane.

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Perspective

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Morning coffee with my sons is one of my favorite things. Time to talk, and listen.  Most days I take them to school, high school. I love being with them, and the trip allows for an extra bit of connection each day. This week due to unfortunate circumstances the boys will have to drive themselves. The parking lot is a good bit more than a stone’s hurl from the school entrance, a euphemistic ‘hike’ if you will.

“What does your week look like?” I asked, after a sip of very black coffee.

“A lot of walking,” said my youngest with a hint of “ugh!”

“Trade ya!” Said I, glancing at my bandaged foot, clutching my shiny new crutches. Ah, perspective.

Have thoughts on the subject?  Please comment.  Life is bigger and better with shared experience!

Aren’t You Too Old To Wear a Fireball Whiskey T-shirt?

Fireball T

Oh, millennials, how you see things for what they appear to be…to you!  The exact exchange went something like this.

Millennial: “Aren’t you too old to wear a Fireball Whiskey T-shirt?  As they say, If you’re old enough to buy Fireball, you’re too old to drink Fireball.”

Me: “Whatever.”

Good point though in some respects.  That cinnamon-laced antifreeze is probably not a good nutritional choice at any age.  What struck me as funny was that until that moment ageism had gone missing in my world.  I, no longer being concerned with “fitting in” in the same way that most of us were so obsessed with in high school, didn’t register the ‘age issue’ as it related to “the shirt.”  Whatever…really, again with the “whatever?”  Joking aside, the reality of the conversation ran deeper than cotton.  People divide the value of another individual’s input into categories.  If you’re too old, or too young, too Red or too Blue, to this ethnic background or too that, male or female, you may not be able to connect with an alternate demographic.  To that, I say…maybe.

Seems to me that we as humans have the option to transcend all manner of barriers; be they related to race, socio-economic status, age, gender, etc.  The question is, will we?  If we are willing to open our minds to the circumstances of others can we not then remain pertinent and more importantly in ‘learning mode’ until the day we clock out?  Even if those with whom we attempt to connect are as yet unable to open their minds to our way of thinking?  I’d like to think so.

Pre-industrial revolution cultures valued the accumulation of wisdom.  Hence the term “wise men…and women.”  That wisdom was acquired most commonly by those who had lived long enough, and processed enough life experience to know more than the average sixteen-year-old.  Nowadays said sixteen-year-old can web surf their way to information over the course of a summer that would have formerly taken a lifetime to gather.  Knowledge is power…but is it wisdom?

Back to the ‘Fireball Whiskey T-shirt.”  Yes, I get that the shirt is a marketing tool used by the creators of said elixir, but I really liked the art on the “T” so I bought it.  A fire-breathing lion-ish creature in a majestic, upright pose appealed to me at the moment.  Art, be it’s simple, or rich in complexity is just that…art.  All art is timeless if we, the viewers allow ourselves to join in the concept of timelessness.  We don’t have to love it.  We can even hate it.  Either way, we can choose to allow it.  We can choose to coexist with it without feeling threatened.

I started going grey around the time of my fortieth birthday.  As a lifetime wannabe rock star that did not sit well.  Enter my hair salon phase.  As a fortieth birthday self-gifting experiment I saloned up and had my hair dyed.  I liked it!  So much so that I continued the practice for over a decade.  I didn’t want to be judged by my age; not by peers, not by clients, not by me.  Of course, I realize that my reaction is unique and that everyone else wants to become and, more importantly, look older…ha!  Age is wisdom after all so who doesn’t want to look wise right?

Nowadays I have let nature take its course with my physical being.  Long silver hair spills over my shoulders and as a result, I garner an equal dose of both disapproving looks, and comments along the lines of “I love your hair, do you hear that a lot?”  I do.  But I’ve also heard from colleagues, “Hey, have you ever thought about cutting your hair man” and/or aren’t you too old to be wearing that shirt?”  Whatever, part three!

With any luck, you find being yourself fun.  I know I do.  With the end game in mind, I no longer concern myself with being accessed from afar.  I know that within a few minutes of conversation, value can be transmitted, established, and solidified.  It’s conversation, honest interaction, that allows a person’s value to be understood.  It is connection, human, face to face, that creates the opportunity for transcendence.  It’s the combined powers of wisdom and patience that allow any ‘shirt’ to bear no weight in the outcome of one’s ability to bring gifts to the world.  Going softly into that dark night… in my opinion is a “no.”  “Roar till the end like the lion guy on my T-shirt,” say I.

So I’ll wear that dumb shirt, not cut the hair, give at every opportunity and smile on my way out!  Oh millennials, how our conversations will be different a decade or two from now; when life has had it’s way with you.  And so, with a grin, I raise a shot of fireball to you all while wishing you the absolute best of times!