Tom Being Tom

Just me, talking about stuff.

January, 2018

Rogue under assault

Creating Hangar Space (as the Rogue goes down)

By on 19 Jan 2018

I walked away from the computer for a minute, yesterday, to get a few chores and errands done. I never came back. It was my day off, the only one I get during the week. The other one, Sunday, is still being entirely swallowed by the NFL because, you know, #playoffs. I don’t need the Rams to have some fun.

But the mission was a simple one: drop off the Rogue, pick up the rental, grab my new box of contact lenses, and return to my reading/writing roost ‘til mid-afternoon.

That did not happen.

I’ll tell you more about what happened instead in a minute, but first you need to know about the Rogue.

During Memorial Day weekend, 2017, I went automobile shopping for the first time in 13 years. I did this because my 1998 Dodge Durango – which I loved, and had owned since 2003 – decided enough was enough with the whole “cooling the interior” part of its existence, and quit that altogether. Since Redding, where I live, is famously known to get above 100 degrees all summer, and often to 115, I decided this arrangement was not conducive with my near-term happiness. So, I shopped.

After test driving several vehicles, and laughing at the ridiculousness of a “Star Wars Edition” Nissan Rogue One, I finally settled on buying a 2017 Star Wars Edition Nissan Rogue One. In black. I bought it for the gas mileage and the features and the handleability. I also embraced the notoriety of owning a Star Wars car because I am an unapologetic geek.

The Durango, which served me faithfully, had exceeded all practical usefulness to the car dealer so I more-or-less gave it to a co-worker because his ex-wife’s family needed a car. I’m a giver like that. I threw in my old ping pong table because I knew he’d get use out of it, too, and it freed up garage space. I’m OCD about very little, but I am terribly OCD about garage space.

More on that in a minute.

So I waved goodbye to my old beater vehicle, which had never been harmed and was, despite its age and functional problems, still very clean. And I drove my shiny new galactic cruiser for exactly 69 days before a young miss turned a corner too sharply and hit the Rogue head on.

Nobody was hurt, but I lost the use of my starship for 32 of the first 101 days. Nearly $12,000 in insurance repairs. Bless the Imperial crews. Long live the empire.

Less than 3 months later, on December 30th, an even younger miss opened her door too quickly and damaged my rear hull. This insurance repair will only take a week, and cost less than $2000, but you understand the implications. The rebel forces are strong in Redding. They have recruited young misses. I am under attack.

Quite simply, the force is not with me.

But replacing that vehicle with another, temporarily, took me under an hour. The lenses, 15 minutes. Sending out fantasy football winnings, filling out a new patient form to see a doctor (one of my resolutions, as you’ll recall!), stocking up on the wife’s beer, and entering my appliance manufacturer bonus “spiffs” for the month of December all ate up, maybe, another two hours.

It was time to write, and read, and fill my brain with glory!

Except, I’m stiff. I need to get up for a minute, do some physical stuff on my to-do list. Take down the Xmas decs, for one. Move some stuff into the attic. Yes, just for a bit.

A half day later I had rearranged the entire garage. Remember my OCD?

To do so required also rearranging my shed to create “junk space,” my attic into a sensible arrangement, and some minor shuffling of closets inside the house. I was on the move!

This morning, I’m sore AF, as the kids say today. I’m also behind on my reading (by about 40 pages) and my writing (by however many words are in this today), and I am without my Rogue. But I have the most perfectly arranged garage known to man. At least, until I decide that the boxes of unused kitchenware would look better on the upper pantry shelf.

I wish I hadn’t said that.

So, if you find me racing to catch up on your entries from 2 days ago, and you find me saying nothing of particular value on my own blog for several days, forgive me. I got physical. I got manly.

I promise it won’t happen again. 😏

Eye of the Beholder

By on 17 Jan 2018

Had a little down time yesterday, so I played with my theme a bit.

If you read that too quickly, it might have sounded wrong. 😉

I don’t dislike the format I’ve been using (Carbon Lite). I switched to it a couple of months ago, from the simple Twenty Sixteen that the site defaulted to when I opened it in (guess?) 2016. But, sometimes, that bold yellow lettering against the backdrop of the cosmos and the black background and over-sized comment heads made me feel like I was floating in MySpace.

Not that there was anything wrong with MySpace. I like Tom. 😁

My expectation, upon experimenting, was to switch back to the Carbon Lite blackground and stylized lettering fairly quick. But, then, every time I signed on I just seemed to appreciate the simple styling of this format (called Venture) more and more. What I think I like about it is the lighter colors (I’m a pretty jolly guy), the unassuming nature of the titles and header, and the fact that the first thing you see, when you sign on, is the latest post’s graphic, dead center.

I also like how each post exists on page one in its entirety, saving the reader an extra step when initially engaging.

But it could just be the newness of it I like. Nothing thrills me like change.

What do you think, the simple nature of this, the lighter and brighter Venture? Or did you prefer my arms stretched out to the universe, with the darker, stylized Carbon Lite?

Maybe you just liked to see your big head in the comments section. 😏

Whatever you think, I appreciate the feedback. There’s a lollipop in it for each of you with an opinion, which I will hand-deliver promptly or eventually.

(This last sentence is superfluous, to get the request over the SEO-recommended 300 words. Thanks!)

We Are Not But One Thing

By on 14 Jan 2018

 

The message I want to deliver to you today is simple: we are not but one thing. We are allowed our dichotomies. We should embrace our multiplicities.

As I have mentioned in the past, I am a man with a mission. Statement, that is. Every time I get into the mood for reevaluation, for inspiration, for evolution, I rework my mission. I break Tom down to the core again, examine all the pretty little bits of it, clear the dust, clean the gears, and reassemble the man, to fully understand what drives him. And, if I am unhappy with any of it, or I find a more sensible, productive, or innovative array, I make some changes. I am, again, in the process of change.

I was mentioning to myself, in my private journal (yes, I often write only for me), that I must begin to assume the nature of my 6th decade on this planet.

[incidentally, somebody asked me recently how it could be my sixth decade, because I am only turning 50. 0-9 was decade one. 10-19 was decade two. 20-29 was decade three. 30-39 was decade four. 40-49 was decade five, so I am entering my sixth decade on earth in June. Salud!]

In assuming my 6th-level nature, in my journal, I looked back upon the nature of all previous levels. The 1st level, the discovery phase, I became a superhero. Maybe the other boys played baseball, but I played with cape and cowl. I was more fascinated by what I read, and imagined, than what I could hit or throw. By 2nd level I became a storyteller. My second decade was characterized more by gaming universes than school dances. That decade can also be remembered as the one where I briefly embraced, and then escaped, the spiritual culture story of my society and time.

By 3rd level, in that third decade on earth, the one they call our 20s, I became an adult. Awkward phase, that one, particularly for a human who rejected societal culture stories and who grew up in a fantasy mind. Without guidance, I set my own. I was going to, in order (1) get out of trouble (I got in some trouble during the transition between levels), (2) own my own business, (3) own my own home, and (4) of course, marry. Over the next ten years, I accomplished it all, marrying and buying my first home precisely at 29, after taking over the family business at 26. Hurray for Adult Tom.

I was terribly unhappy with that business, by the way, and that home. Early in my fourth decade on earth, my 30s, I ditched them both, taking the wife and the dogs and escaping entirely the life I built in my 20s. At 4th level I became a student. I fell in love with writing. So, in order to write I made up a new story, telling everybody I was giving everything up to return to school and become a TEACHER! Really.

Honestly, I think I would have been pretty good at that.

But as the 4th decade unwound, I found instead a job that suit my needs. My student debt (all my debts) got out of control, we erroneously bought another house (at the height of the market!), and I never completed my academic studies. Regardless, I learned more about life in my 30s than in any other, so I still consider myself to have been, in my 4th decade, a student.

To recap, I was a superhero, a storyteller, an adult, and a student. I tried to be what I read. I tried to create what I read. Then I tried to be what I was told, and finally I tried to discover something more.

You follow?

Then came Level 5. My 40s. Easily the best decade of them all.

My intention, in my early 5th decade, was to put it all together, somehow. To stop trying to live up to the pages of a book, the fantasies of the mind, the pressures of the world, or the indoctrination of the learned, and really, finally, just be me. Tom. At 5th level I became Tom.

I began to embrace my unusualness, accept my flaws, value my strengths. Instead of surrounding myself with people that I thought I should, I began to surround myself with people that truly embraced me, for being me. Not just accepted Tom for who he is, but valued him. I lost some folks along the way, but change is hard. There were certainly pains in growth.

But I stand here now, proud of who I am. Another crossroads ahead. A new decade. As I have done at the commencement of each new decade since I became an adult (at 3rd level, you’ll recall), I must look forward and set my intention. I’m proud to say that every time I have, I have succeeded, in that decade, for better or for worse, to fulfill my intent. So what, praytell, does Tom want to look like when he’s 60?

Well, I’d like to look like I did when I was 28. Just being honest. 😉

But, as a whole, I mean. What intention do I set?

Forget the drum roll. I don’t know. I’m still working on that part.

But my point today wasn’t to reveal my intention, my point was to say to you, “we are not but one thing,” remember?

I have been many things over the course of my existence. I am many things now. But as I was looking forward, brainstorming the 6th level of me, I reached a point of excitement over some intention that began to take over, take root. It’s a dream I followed before, but never as the man I am now, and it would – without a doubt – answer many questions that will arise as I advance in age.

However.

It seemed, at first, to derail some other things I had been working on, in recent days. It could end my quest for creativity. This new (and old) endeavor would be left-brained, and I have done so much right-brain work of late!

Full stop.

I had to tell myself that I can do more than one thing. That I am more than one thing. I always have been. I can intend to, for example, be a brilliant businessman and creative writer, too.

Do you struggle with that? Have you ever caught yourself being an “or” instead of an “and”? I did. Many times, including yesterday. No more.

Whatever changes the next decade brings – and there will be many, of that I’m sure – I will not limit myself to one thing. I will chase the reality and the fantasy of life. I will be broad and bold; utterly complete and evolving still.

Because I know this, because I embrace this, I believe that I can make this next decade the best one yet.

At least, that’s what I intend to do.

Photo by Allan Ajifo [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Common

time keeper

The Time Keeper

By on 11 Jan 2018

“We do not realize the sound the world makes—unless, of course, it comes to a stop. Then, when it starts, it sounds like an orchestra.”

I finished the first book of my 2018 Reading List. In pure math terms I’m about 2 ½ pages per day ahead of schedule. But that’s an illusion. I didn’t stick to my plan many of the days, but the book was remarkably easy to, no pun intended, catch up on time. Future tomes will not be so forgiving.

The first book was The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom. This is the second book I’ve read by Mitch, the first being some years ago. His books could be described as parables, I suppose, each one simple in their storytelling and each one designed to teach a moral or spiritual lesson. Having enjoyed the first one, this one had been on my list for some (ahem) time. It made the final cut this year for that reason, and for two other very important ones: his last name begins with the first letter of the alphabet, and I knew I could breeze through his tome with little effort. I was right.

The former was important because I decided, rather whimsically, to read my 2018 list in alphabetical order, by author’s last name, to avoid any personal bias. The latter is important because I knew this was, undoubtedly, the season of new year hangovers and NFL playoffs. If I was going to get off to a fast start, I would require something breezy.

It worked. Self-awareness pays off.

The book itself? Just okay. Nothing challenging or life-altering, I’d say. The basic premise is an origin story for Father Time, told in conjunction with the tales of two modern mortals. Father Time, an early man named Dor, is on a collision course with the mortals, a teenage girl and aging billionaire, who are dealing with their own demise. One seeks it; the other seeks to avoid it, at all cost. Dor eventually teaches them each a lesson about the value of time itself. Sarah has her whole life ahead of her and should live it. Victor has his whole life behind him and should embrace the end.

I can relate, in ways, to both of the main characters. Who hasn’t felt despair and wondered, if this is it, why remain? Unlike Sarah, though, I’ve never felt despair enough to end it. I’ve always had a certain philosophy that carried me through dark times: when life is hard, it’s time to change. When there’s nothing left, there is nothing left to lose. Rock bottom is a wonderful place to start anew. That thought has always lifted me from the murky depths. Still, I understand the pain she felt, the pain that led her to that day. Life hurts like heck.

Victor I relate to all the more. Not his billions, obviously. I am rich in many ways, but financially is not one of them. His desire to persist, however, is unassailably mine. My answer to the question “if you could live forever, would you,” is inexorably yes.

Father Time teaches Sarah and Victor the value of a single life, nothing less, nothing more. I wholeheartedly agree with Dor’s  lesson for Sarah and am gladdened for her evolution. For Victor, however, I find the reasoning to embrace finality unsatisfying. If the future is a living hell, then living in it, to me, is still better than no life at all. In fact, an essential lesson taught to Sarah seemed to be forgotten in the lesson to Victor, when his fate was revealed:

“Time is not something you give back. The very next moment may be an answer…to deny that is to deny the most important part of the future.”

“What’s that?”

“Hope.”

The things that Mitch sought to teach, and did teach, will be added to my cognitive base of data. As I evolve I will remember the words and lessons, and use them accordingly. Perhaps, in time, the lessons that Victor learned will become more important to me. Perhaps.

The bottom line is that The Time Keeper was a pleasant, quick read. I felt for Sarah. I pulled for Victor. The lesson was understood, and I was happy for the final fate of Dor. Isn’t that what we ask a book to do? Tug at our hearts, get us to think, teach us, and then end well. In that regard, Mitch Albom gave us a good enough read.

And, now, on to The Handmaid’s Tale. The future, hell or not, awaits.

@RamsNFL

The Rams Are Back in the Playoffs

By on 6 Jan 2018

Today, it’s all about the Rams.

I became a Los Angeles Rams fan, as a child, out of spite. As a teen, it was because of Eric Dickerson. When I became a post-teen (a young adult?) there was Jim Everett, Henry Ellard, and Flipper Anderson. As I became a full-fledged football aficionado, a fan of every team and player and coach and organization, in the early 90’s, the Rams themselves began a downward spiral.

Jim Everett took a phantom sack. The rival 49ers cemented a legacy. And the Rams sucked for a decade.

I had no reason to be a fan of the Rams in the 90s. I had every reason to give up on them.

John Robinson went 5-11 and 3-13 in his last two years as the Rams head coach. The legendary Chuck Knox – who had led the Rams to 5 consecutive NFC West titles and 3 conference championship games in the 70s – went 15-33 in his return. The Rams abandoned Los Angeles after the ’94 season and headed to the Midwest. I could have easily abandoned the St. Louis Rams in return.

rams uniforms

I did not. I stuck with my team.

The St. Louis Rams were as bad, if not worse, than the Los Angeles Rams. Head Coach Rich Brooks, recruited out of Oregon, went 13-19 in two years, and was fired. In 1997, St. Louis lured Dick Vermeil out of the broadcast booth to turn around the Rams. But he failed, as well, in his first two years. The Dick Vermeil-led Rams won only 9 games in 32 tries in ’97 and ’98. Even Rich Brooks had been better.

I gave up. Just a little.

During my time as a budding football fan, I became enamored with QB John Elway, who played for the Denver Broncos. He went to two Super Bowls in the late 80’s, against the New York Giants and those rival 49ers, and I rooted for him madly. I owned his jersey, though he was not a Ram. As the 90s went on, and the Rams sputtered, folks would buy me just as much Bronco apparel for Christmas as they did Ram apparel. At the end of the 1997 and 1998 NFL seasons – while Dick Vermeil was failing to revive the Rams – John Elway and the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls.

My team was pathetic. They had abandoned LA. They had just completed their 9th consecutive losing season. There was little hope for a rebound.

At the beginning of the ’99 season, a friend asked me if the Rams were now my #2 team.

“Yeah,” I said, “I think the Broncs are #1 now.”

That year, the Rams won the Super Bowl.

“I never said that,” I insisted, at the end of the season.

You know the story by now. Dick Vermeil kept his job in 1999 under the condition he hire a new offensive coordinator. He found Mike Martz, who had been with Washington, and gave him the job. He also gave him RB Marshall Faulk, acquired in a trade, and QB Trent Green, whom Martz had tutored in Washington. Green blew out his knee in preseason. The only other QB on roster was Kurt Warner, a former washout in the NFL who famously stocked shelves for $5.50 an hour after being cut from the Packers. The season, and team, was doomed.

But then Kurt Warner came into Martz’ offense and they scored more points than any team had in NFL history. The Rams became The Greatest Show on Turf, going to two Super Bowls in the next three years, winning one. They made up for 9 years of misery. They won back my heart, in dramatic style.

The GSOT lasted a few, glorious years. But bad drafting, bad leadership, and age took their toll. After 2004, the Rams experienced 12 consecutive losing seasons. They were worse in the mid-aughts and early teens then they were through the entire nineties. From 2007 to 2011 the Rams recorded the worst 5-year stretch in NFL history. They were historically bad.

But, this time, I never wavered. They had the ring now. They had proven, before, that winning and losing was cyclical. I have no 2nd-favorite team today.

@AFishel27

At the end of the 2015 season, the Rams returned to LA.

It was impossible to fathom. You can’t go home again. Everyone always says that. There were so many attempts, over the years, to put another team in Los Angeles. The Vikings were mentioned once. The Jaguars. Seahawks. Bills. An expansion team. For 20 years Los Angeles tried to get a team back, and for 20 years they failed. Then the impossible happened. They came home.

2016 was much like the previous 11 years. Bad offensive football. Bad coaching. Jeff Fisher. He had to go. He had been a head coach for too long, and far too unsuccessfully. The game had passed him by. He was fired. Hallelujah.

And along came Sean McVay. Wunderkind. The youngest head coach in NFL history.

Today, the Rams play in their first postseason game in 13 years. That’s a long time to hold out hope. But I did, I held out hope. Nobody can stay that bad forever, right?

rams return

Will they win?

That’s a good question. As a fan, I say “hell yeah!” As a pragmatist I say “probably not.” The Falcons have nearly the same record as the Rams, have an offense every bit as explosive, and have more playoff experience. They were in the Super Bowl last year, for chrissakes.

But the Rams have youth and vigor. They’re at home. They have shown grit, resiliency and explosiveness all season long. They can beat the Falcons just as assuredly as the Falcons can beat the Rams. I give us a 50/50 chance, in a game that is unarguably worth watching.

I’ll be watching. I’ll be watching with the missus, with the sound up, with a beer in hand. We’ll be screaming at the tops of our lungs. And win or lose I will know they are back. Young coach, young team, new hope and, hopefully, a decade of relevance ahead.

My patience has finally paid off.

The Rams are back in the playoffs.

@RamsNFL

resolutions

To Be Among the 8%

By on 4 Jan 2018

“If you’re not getting older, you’re dead.” ~Tom Petty

I’m running behind. It is the 4th day of 2018, and I’m finally starting to feel like I did on the last day of 2017. Yes, I partied well.

A friend of mine wrote a hard-hitting, powerful, and sagacious piece, on the 2nd to the last day 2017, and I finally just read it. It is about how nothing changes on New Year’s Day. He’s right, it doesn’t. Not in the cosmic sense. It’s really all a state of mind, a matter of perception. Everything in the universe is exactly as it was, for the most part. The only change that really affects us, outside of catastrophe, is an individual change of perspective.

Of course, this means that, for any individual, the ticking of the clock, the turning of the calendar page, or the changing of the final digit in the annual nomenclature can signal massive change. For some, everything changes on New Year’s Day.

According to common understanding, 8% of people keep their resolutions each year. That’s a terribly low number. But that also means that some people do keep them. Less than 10% of the population is left-handed, too, but what that means is that some people are. Less than 10% of the population think that the world is getting better, but I do. And I’m right-handed, so there’s no correlation there.

But let’s break this down.

The population of the United States is 323 million. According to studies, 45% of Americans make resolutions at the turn of the year. And, like I said, 8% of those people keep them. This means that, every year, there are 11,628,000 people out there for whom New Year’s Day was a life-changing event. This January, there are more than 11 million people who are healthier, or kinder, or stronger, more organized, or simply happier in some new way. And that’s only in America.

And if America is only 5% of the world population, and we extrapolate those numbers, then there are nearly one-quarter of a billion people better in the world today, by their own perception.

That’s pretty impressive.

I don’t know yet if I am better today. I didn’t make resolutions so much as set a few goals. Some of those goals have been altered already, but the year is yet young. I know that on New Year’s Day itself, in the evening after a long stretch of celebration, the missus and I vowed some new intentions. I hope those stick; we both deserve to be among the 8%.

But if they don’t, we’ll always have February and April and June and next autumn to make some changes. As my friend intimated, the calendar is arbitrary. Today we have a chance to be better than yesterday, no matter what today or yesterday is. My personal evolution does not stop. Not until I am dead.

I intend to get older. I resolve to be better.

2018, like 2017, will be a fine year. I will do some things better than I have ever done them before. Some things, not as well as I am accustomed. Things that harm me I will try to do less. Things that enrich me I will try to do more.

So, stay hopeful, my friends. Stay hopeful that the best days are still ahead of you. That the world is becoming a better place, despite the contrary news. Stay hopeful that intentions and resolutions can change worlds, big ones and small ones, because, it is only intentions, resolutions, and catastrophes that ever do.

Do you believe that? Do you believe that there are aspects of yourself that you can improve, others you should excise? If so, do so. Not just today, but every day, until everything you want and everything you need is yours. You will either gloriously succeed or you will not, but either way you’ll get older and, having tried, you will be better.

Make the resolution. Set the intention. If not 4 days ago, today. If not today, tomorrow for sure.

I will walk among those who have tried.

Join us in the walk.

240 million people can’t be wrong. 😊

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