When Thea still had not come back from her evening shift by eleven thirty I was starting to get worried. She always bikes back from the hospital, and although it is a mere ten minute trip, I do not like the idea of her bicycling alone in the dark.
Finally when I heard the door open downstairs I felt relieved. Rather than confront her with my overly worrisome demeanor, I asked her instead in a calm tone of voice how her evening had been.
"Something really strange happened this evening," she told me. I listened as she continued.
"There was this old man who had just had an operation. Everyone knew that he would die eventually, probably within a couple of weeks. But no one had expected this."
"And what was the 'this' exactly?" I asked.
She paused a split second to order the events of the evening in her head. "Well, he seemed perfectly fine, sure he was eighty-three years old and pretty sick. But the whole family had been around his bedside, and he was talking and seemed happy enough..."
I wanted to ask her to get to the point, but I didn't want to interrupt her rudely.
"...about half an hour after the family had left, that is when it happened. I was standing right next to him, arranging some items on his cabinet when he started to breath heavily. At the end he took two deep breaths, and then complete eerie silence. And that was that." She made it sound so definite, which it was.
I guess he had died, so I stupidly inquired for some reason, probably because I felt uncomfortable her telling me all this. How else should I react?
"So did he die?"
Of course he died, she gave me that look and didn't have to say it out loud. Okay, okay. For Thea it was normal and has happened to her on a number of occasions. People getting old and dying, even younger people dying for no reason. Sad but that is the way life is. Afterall, she is a nurse. But for me it is still a totally bizarre idea. Some real live person who had been born, grew up and spent more than eighty years on the Earth living and thinking. There she was at the moment of death, bizarre.
"Of course he died," Thea told me as if she had expected that I should have known this all along.
I continued, "So what was so strange then?"
Thea repeated herself slightly caught back, "well I just hadn't expected it was all."
"So," I added, "that's why you were late this evening."
"Yes, I had to stay after to fix him up and stuff, make him ready."
This old man of eighty-three years had become no more. Thea had been less than two feet from him when his last thoughts went puff. This old man was later wheeled down to the basement where the mortuary is. Thea brushed the experience off and came home to me. Her husband who is just a little more that half way to eighty-three years.
When I die it will probably be easier for her since she has already witnessed numerous other deaths. She is more down-to-earth in that regard.
I would like it if she were right next to me when it happened.
"Dear Mom, You don't mind me calling that do you? Well anyway, I have been trying to become famous since I was born. As a noble goal in life, I have focused my attention on attaining this amazing feat for almost forty-five years. Now I wonder if it is still really worth it all. I mean trying to become famous. I have this funny feeling that I have been famous from the very beginning, and I just have not opened my eyes to realize this. Am I just fooling myself with delusions of grandeur or is it really true that I am the most famous person in the universe?"
I am curious if it will be taken seriously and actually answered on the site.
This blog is almost one year old (just 19 more day to be precise), but today marks the 5000th visitor mark for this year. To be more precise, as of today there have been 5013 visitors to my future famous blog. Thanks to all of your for having made this blog of mine more than worth it.
This afternoon Marlies was all excited about picking up her report card at school and collecting her new books for the upcoming school year. When she parked her bike at the playground, she didn't think much of the group of macho Moroccans standing around making noise and acting real tough. No bother, until she returned and then realized that in her excitement she had forgotten to lock her bike. Yes, her bike was gone, and so was the group of teenage hooligans (in the Netherlands there is a big problem with hooligans of this sort coming from minority families). Poor Marlies was very taken back and even had to cry some. She was not so much upset that her bike was stolen, though that was bad enough, as she was upset that I would get mad when I came back from work and was told the bad news. Can you believe that? Seven hundred euro down the drain, the bike is not insured, and there is no way to ever find it again. That is why Thea called me up in the middle of a meeting I was having. She explained matters, and I listened carefully, patiently controlling my temper pretty well I have to admit. Any initial rage triggered by such a discovery underwent a controlled release at that point, and it was tempered due to the formal surroundings of an official meeting. Good going Thea! I had time to have a think, cool down, and later realize that there are more important things in life than getting upset about some stupid bike getting stolen. After the meeting, I called up Marlies to share with her my concerns, and I asked here how she was doing. How were her grades? She read down the list and I was very pleased with her good results. I asked her how it went with her new books, all the time avoiding the issue of the stolen bike. At the end of the discussion, as I couldn't ignore the episode altogether without being artificially nice, I told her that it must feel lousy having her bike stolen like that. Yes, she had to agree, but I did not go into details or raise my voice even a single fraction of a decibel. Sometimes a pause for silence and the healing powers of this invisible father-to-daughter support. Another day, another stolen bike, a bunch of impressive grades, and my daughter who is slowing growing up too quickly.
Gotta drive up north today to talk with the technical folks there who will be helping us set up our web servers. This involves two parallel projects which intertwine alot and are therefore interdependent on alot of mutual factors and interfaces. The functional design document is still in the making, so I will have to raise my voice just enough to push it along. We are running a tight schedule, and any delays now have major impact on the deadlines. I would have preferred they told me in advance rather than having to wait until the end of the day. So during this meeting we have to figure out the soft- and hardware configurations so that everything can be ordered and setup in time for the introduction date. Documentation will be made available as soon as possible, so we will be brainstorming with the other techies to achieve some kind of efficient brain dump. As much information as possible will be collected, structured and prioritized. That is what they nowadays refer to as knowledge transfer. One thing is for sure, I have placed documentation and testing high on my list of priorities in order to minimize risks to my project. Life as a project manager is fun in more ways than one.
There was this guy carrying a duck under his arm as he walked down the aisle. Strange, I thought. I had on occasion seen dogs, cats and even once a tarantula in a glass jar, but never had I seen a live duck in the train before. The guy walked past me and then on into the next carriage. As the door between carriages slid shut again behind him, I could barely make out the ducks beak and its beady eyes. At the next train stop it was time for the guy and the duck to get out. The door at the opposite end of the carriage slid open, and the man with the duck under his arm approached me. Kind of like everything was happening in reverse motion. As the guy got closer to me I tried not to be too rude by staring at the duck's head and beady eyes. All of a sudden I realized that it was not a duck at all, but an umbrella he was carrying. The wooden handle of the umbrella was carved by some artisan's hands into the shape of a duck's head with an orange beak and two shiny black gems for the eyes. Can you believe it? I mean, who in his right mind would buy such an awful looking umbrella? This person was obviously from a foreign land where it is more than likely some kind of status symbol having an umbrella with a handle in the shape of a duck's head. There I was trying to figure things out when the guy with the duck under his arm jumped out of the train and continued on his way. As the train picked up speed, it passed him walking on the platform. For the life of me I still could have sworn that it was a real duck he was carrying, seen at that distance. Life remains deceptive in more ways than one.
If you do not believe me that this really happened, then I invite you to check out this duck handle umbrella google search.
This is proof that I am not exactly what you would call a gourmet. Each morning when I wake up I make my way downstairs to make myself a cup of coffee. While the coffee is being made, dripping through the filter to fill up the pot slowly, I prepare two slices of wheat bread with butter and jam. Clapping the two slices together into a slightly skewed sandwich, I produce the healthy breakfast meal that gets me going in time. Sometimes I just stand in front of the sink while I am eating, trying to lick away the excess jam coming out the sides and threatening to fall on the floor. Or I will meander my way to the back window and look outside at nature while I chew and swallow. So why does this make me a gourmet? Well, after I finished my healthy meal, slurped down my coffee and took a shower, I was dressed and ready to go to work when Thea stopped me. "Didn't you notice anything (different)?" She asked me with a slight half-grin on the left side of her mouth, the word different coming out between right and left parentheses. Hmmm, I had to think but for the life of me I could not notice anything (different). "That bread you ate was for the ducks!" You accidentally opened the bag with stale bread, that bread was more than a week old." Hmmm, hadn't even noticed. Tasted just fine to me. What does this say about my food preferences. Probably not much more than the fact that it is the quantity and extra substance that matter more to me than the actual taste. Do I have taste buds or quantity buds? I am not a true gourmet, but rather someone who bites once and chews once before swallowing, someone who chug-a-lugs his drinking cup without a blink of the eye. Kind of embarrassing this whole episode but that is the way I am. Stale bread is good enough for me. And the ducks.
There were two moments in my life when I almost died. I mean "really" almost got killed, kicked the bucket, entered the mysterious world of complete darkness, and I am not joking. I would rather forget about these bleak memories, as they were indeed moments of dreadful panic. However, it is therapeutic to unbury these hidden demons and expose them through the catharsis of writing. In this entry, I will describe both these episodes the best I can, starting with the most recent (though it is already more than 15 years ago) as it is the freshest in my mind.
1. Crete (1986).
Thea and I were strolling along the beach during summer vacation, when the high waves crashing down on the beach were so irresistible that I had to run and dive into the water. I had not noticed the warning flags flapping in the wind, and without thinking I just took a huge flying leap into the raging Mediterranean Sea. Because of some storm out at sea, the currents were unpredictable, and before I realized it I was caught in an undertow, being pulled out to sea and under the surface of the water. I could feel the sand losing its firmness below my feet, almost life quicksand, and I had to struggle for air, barely being able to raise my head above the water before the next wave came crashing over me. As the inevitable end approached, I thought about two things. First of all, I wondered why I had studied so unbelievably hard the last four years to get a degree in Physics when in an instant that knowledge would be for nothing. I called Thea. "Help, help me!" So much time and energy and wisdom snuffed out by chance. I should have enjoyed the last four years better, making it more meaningful than cramming late into the evenings for inane curlicue esoteric formulae. It just did not make sense. Secondly, and this is what saved me, the first thought leading to the second, I remembered as a kid reading about undertow. How one should not fight against it which was hopeless anyway, but that one should move sideways to the pull. So I did just that, it was very very hard, but slowly and surely I moved perpendicularly to the outward downward pull, and I approached the beach to the left which curved around. I was saved and fell to the sand. I was shivering and shaking. It took me about thirty minutes to recover from the foolish mess I had gotten myself into. But in the end, I stood up, brushed the sand from me, and continued my walk with Thea along the beach back to the campground as if nothing had ever happened. Should have payed better attention to those warning flags.
2. Monterey, California (1979).
I had visited a fellow Stanford fraternity SAE brother at a summer house on the outskirts of Carmel where he was visiting his girlfriend. It was late in the evening, and I gave him a lift back to his house in Pacific Grove. The road connected point A with point B ran through the forest along a windy route and the drive was poorly lit. As is usual we chatted and laughed and recounted things. Without realizing it, I misjudged a tight turn to the left, and I overcompensated by steering too far inwards, slamming my breaks. The car spun around twice and came to a screeching halt on the wrong side of the road. Stopping motionless with that smelly burned rubber smell. On the blind curve facing impending doom of any oncoming headlights that could come at any instant. If at that moment a car or truck had come bounding around the bend, I would have been no more. Before waiting for the headlights to appear, I put the car in reverse, swung around to the other side, and then we continued our way. Though this was obviously a close brush with death, my friend and I just shrugged it off with a chuckle and some quick comments about how "cool" such a maneuver would have appeared on some action film. Should have paid better attention the that notorious curve.
Have any of you had similar experiences in life where the closeness of impending death has changed you forever?
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Tons of flickering lights all over the place. Some of them decide not to stay any longer and turn around. Out the back door, down the hill, through the trees where the car is parked. Because night has fallen along with the temperature, beads of moisture have formed on the windshield along with the foreheads, and at first it is hard to see where they are driving. Wipe that sweat off the eye brows. But it does not matter. Does not matter. Once the bottom of the driveway has been reached it is full speed ahead. Roll down the windows to let out the smell of sweat, they are all sweating. Sweating so hard that it is easy to forget that the temperature has dipped below zero. Degrees centigrade that is. Alright, when the journey has ended they will have to decide what the next step will be. The next step. There is no need, nor the slightest concern as to what this could possibly be. The reason for this is because not even the halfway zone has been reached, the point in the road where the vertical climb upwards begins again, the minima followed by the maxima. Once the halfway zone has been reached, crossed over, then it will be time to decide. Up the long hill sloping upwards again. Yes, they can see it, they can see it alright. What now?
Let's see now, how many joints of my body can I crack? A whole lot, that's for sure. Well, there are my eight fingers and my two thumbs, that's ten, two extra low dull cracks per thumb and three additional snaps for each finger (two sideways and one downward), that's twenty-six more thus thirty-six total. Then come my two elbows, two knee caps, twice the metacarpals of my feet, two big toes and the other eight toes, that's sixteen more joints bringing the total to fifty-two cracks. My back at three places, fifty-five. And then there is my neck, three (sometimes four) wonderful release cracks like a machine gun going off. Sixty-one (sometimes sixty-three). There are also a number of micro-cracks sometimes available by twisting my pinkies and/or ring fingers a certain way. Okay, on average ten extra micro-cracks totaling to one good full crack making it sixty-four. Sometimes sixty-five that is. That's a good many cracks per cycle. Over a good day I can repeat this sixty-four crack cycle perhaps let's say eight times bring a grand total of five hundred twelve cracks. On occasion I can even crack the cartilage of my nose, does that count? Make that five hundred thirteen cracks total then. Hard to believe that there are some people out there who rarely have a single crack in a day nor in a week nor rarely ever. And then when a finger is accidentally bent too far back and cracks, these people scream in subdued pain and disgust as if cracking one's knuckles is a terrible thing to let happen.
So what is knuckle cracking anyway? According to the article Do people who crack their knuckles get arthritis? it says:
"The mechanism by which clicking noises can be produced by extreme pulling, twisting, flexion, or extension of joints is well established. When a joint is deformed in this way, the pressure in the joint space decreased, and a CO2 filled cavity forms in the synovial fluid. The pressure in the cavity is lower than that in the surrounding fluid, so the fluid quickly rushes into the cavity. This sudden implosion of the cavity is thought to be what causes the distasteful cracking sound. Interestingly, tiny bubbles of CO2 remain in the synovial fluid, taking about 15 minutes to be reabsorbed. This explains why a knuckle cannot be recracked immediately."
Each crack feels really really good, as if I am addicted to some cracking drug, but the pleasures last no more than a second or two, including the after effects. Crack, yes, all gone, for a time at least. For each joint that cracks one has to wait around ten minutes before the next time it can be cracked, but the longer you wait the better the crack. The first crack is always by far the best, with each following crack less fulfilling depending on how long you wait in-between cracks. Stop that, stop cracking your knuckles! Sorry, I cannot help it. I am tensed up inside, I am restless, I am insecure and so it is necessary to crack every single possible metacarpophalangeal and interphalangeal joint in my body that is even remotely possible to crack. When I was around ten or so I learned for the first time that I could crack my fingers. What a major discovery that was. Almost as good as the day I first learned to burp on command. Slowly this cracking urge spread to the other parts of my body. Something one is born with and in adolescence comes into fulfillment, you might say. When I wake up, especially from a long deep motionless slumber, my stiffness thaws and then explodes with all kinds of random cracks whichever way I move, twist or turn. Like an ice-breaker crackling through the frozen sea of the morning. Crack, crack, snap and pop.
One thing that drives me completely and absolutely crazy is when my computer screen gets filled with smudges. This is caused by the many (usually dirty and/or pretty greasy) fingers of my children which they use to point at various items of interest. I must have told them a million times not to touch the screen. Do NOT touch the screen! Often enough I catch them red-handed, in the process of holding their forefinger so that it (almost) makes solid contact with the moving animation. Stop or else. Do not touch the screen. How many times do I have to tell you guys?! I grab the Glass-ex and cloth and go to work on the smudges until the screen is as clean as it could ever be. Maybe even cleaner than when it was delivered to my doorstep. My kids reaction is predictable: c'mon quit exaggerating, you are always doing that! I figure that if I spray the Glass-ex on the screen at precisely the wrong moment when they are in an important multi-player shoot out or when there is only two more seconds to make a move, obscuring their view with the rubbing rag which completely covers the screen, that by getting them mad enough they would remember. Now if they would be careful and NOT touch the screen like I have told them a million times, then their old man would not pop up at exactly the wrong moment for these cleaning shenanigans. But then again, they never learn, never care to remember. There are more important things in life at that age than becoming fixated by smudges. Perhaps there must be some kind of compromise. I could be exaggerating by getting so overly upset by a couple of tiny smudges that the normal human eye could barely make out unless it inspects that corner more closely. Ah there it is that bugger! But it bothers me, so there. I spray another layer of Glass-ex just in case I might have missed another invisible smudge. You never know what you might happen to discover upon closer inspection. Or even miss altogether and not see for some reason, so just eradicate all potential smudge areas just in case.
One of the most difficult tasks I have at the moment is playing the role of diplomat between the technical folks and the commercial guys and gals. Seems there is a potential communication gap that I try to bridge using the tools of carefully thought out strategies and subtle jumping through hoops in order not accidentally to catch on fire. Coming from the one side of the canyon you hear things like: why is it taking so long? costs way too much money! And from the other side you can hear: we will never be able to finish it by then, we need more time! that's not in the requirements. The gentle art of interaction, people management, controlling (false) expectations, heeding to this and standing firm to that, it is all part of the game. I would not say that it is in my natural born tendencies to deal effectively with these illogical inconsistencies. Indeed it is against my grain and thus stressful tugging me sometimes in wrong directions. With my technical background and natural urge to relate to colleagues around me, however, I am making good progress with developing improving these difficult skills. Today was again tense to say the least. Announcing that my project would be delayed by a couple of weeks. Of course, no one will be happy, except the technical folks and the third party with a little bit more breathing room and a new opportunity to better the quality of the goods. Sigh of relief, but not for me. Stand firm and take the brunt of the attack, talk your way around the circles of curlicue conversations, make sense and even more sense if that is possible. Do not take it personally, believe in what you are doing, emanate energy and faith in the situation, remain sublime and positive, and have complete confidence in the performance of those team members which you have the honor of leading into battle.
In exactly two weeks this time we will be in California. Well, not quite exactly, if you really want to be precise about it. There is a nine hour time difference between Gouda NL and Monterey CA. This means that it will be two o'clock in the afternoon, such that the plane we are in will be flying somewhere above the States between Dulles Airport and the San Francisco. We have all been waiting a long time for this exciting adventure, especially the kids, and before we realize it we will be back at Grandma's house. I hope that three weeks will be enough time to see everyone and everything.
There is this recurring dream I have on occasion where I am sent back to Stanford to complete some unfinished work that I was back then unable to do for one reason or other. There have been periods of my life when this dream comes back regularly, sometimes every single night for a week, and sometimes there are periods of moths or years inbetween in which this theme remains dormant inside of me. In this dream, there is alot of searching for something not quite clearly defined, and the impending deadline to get done whatever it is I have to attain plays an important role. Often I am lost in unfamiliar surroundings and wander from one building to the other. Although in reality I graduated way back in 1979 and officially received a diploma, in the dream there is something which still had to be completed. The weight hangs above my head and is ready to drop. Last night I had this dream again, for the third night in a row. When I wake up I am completly rattled, confused, and it takes me around ten minutes to figure out what is real and what is not real, why I had this dream again and what it means. In this sequel of the dream, I have to arrange for some official papers which have to be picked up at one office on campus and brought to another office to be signed by some counselor who resides in another office on the other side of the campus. Half of my dream is spent finding the first office and I have picked up the papers, but there is little time left. The campus looks similar to when I was a student, but so much has changed just enought that I am lost at each corner of the search. Disorientation and haste are two common themes which define the progress of this dream. Few people can help me as they are also all hurrying down the hill trying to get some similar chore done in time. They whiz by on bikes, run past me and bump into me, zip across my path on skateboards. For all I know there could be some impending nuclear blast and everyone is looking for shelter. The fact that I always wake up before my goal is accomplished is probably one of the main reasons for this dream to come back. Unfinished business, time to get it done or else, come back dream please. So that I have yet another chance to achieve my goal. The only problem though is that the following dream does not continue where the previous dream left off, but because of a slightly different situation I am forced to start anew. Back to the drawing board you might say. Dreams are very interesting in this way, but I would feel relieved if I could break out of this Sisyphean cycle. Just for once get it all done and over with.
Now that we are preparing for the upcoming trip to America, we need to gather all kinds of reading material to keep us occupied during the long flight to California. My family is sensible and thrifty in that they go to the local library to check out a pile of books to take with them. This is normal behavior. However, I am the oddball because I have this strong aversion to library books for some strange reason. I cannot stand the idea that someone else has already perused through the same pages with their grubby fingers which have been who knows where. Or that the very pages I am touching have been breathed and/or sneezed on, had food particles dropped on them, household pets sniffing them, etc. Just thinking about it disturbs me immensely. A book which is slightly yellow feels to me like it has been urinated on. I can only deal with the fresh new smell of recently purchased books that have never seen the light of day and are completely sterile and hygienic. This makes it a more expensive habit for me because the only books I read are brand-new, either purchased at a dependable bookstore or ordered via Amazon. Cracking the pages open for the very first time, feeling the newness oozing out and inhaling the perfume of virgin pages is what turns me on. Not a crease to be found, not a single unwanted mark, and me the reader exploring this wealth of whiteness all my own for the very first time.
Had that weird concentration problem again today. It seems to be getting worse at times and it is worrying me somewhat. What happens is this: when I try to read a book, take part in a conversation, watch a video on the television, listen to a presentation, or even explain things myself at a meeting, my mind wanders so badly that I completely lose track of what I am doing. I fail to follow the gist of a discussion or forget what I was doing. Like time spinning away and not realizing it. This feeling reminds me alot of how I used to daydream when I was a child sitting in class, but it is much worse. Getting worse by the week. A normal daydream you can overcome by trying deliberately to chase it away through the extra efforts of concentration. However, now no matter how hard I try to focus myself this does not help either. In fact, if out of desperation I try too hard, then the flow of concentration just slips away even faster. This leads to panic and the fear that I will not understand what people are saying which compounds the obstacle worse than it should be. Is this psychological or is there some other source of this mental setback?
Later on in the day I saw two magnificent swans perched on the grass next to the water. Behind them and in a perfect semi-circle were their five offspring, no longer little chicks but grown adolescent swans with grayish feathers slowly turning to white like their parents. Renewed life coming into form ready to replace those who had created them and some day would be no more. This reminded me alot of how the weird concentration problem comes into being and takes gentle control without me realizing it.
The sky had turned a lot of shades of gray
As they walked on
And a gentle rain fell
Down on them.
They found faith in the way things are
And the way things change
And they said goodbye
Like two old friends.
Are You passionate?
Two Old Friends
This is another dream I had. My teeth had become so yellow as overly yellow as could be and they looked terrible. Almost like they were ready to rot away and fall out at any moment. I was extremely conscious about this, as yellow teeth are definitely a serious handicap when it comes to remaining professional and representative in your role in life. Who could take someone with such awful looking yellow teeth really seriously? Still the job had to be done and the deadlines achieved. Follow the leader (the one over there with yellow teeth). I knew that everyone could see it, but there was no use trying to ignore it and hide these yellow fangs by keeping my mouth closed, lips sealed shut. I had to speak, meaning opening my mouth, saying things and even God forbid laughing out loud when required to keep up the team spirit. Laughing out loud with extreme yellowness shining outwards into everyone else's faces. The day's activities must go on, even if it meant forsaking one's teeth and not having enough time left over to brush them three times a day. To think of it, when "was" the last time I had brushed them properly according to the rules? Alright, first the bust schedule for the rest of the day, and then when I got home I would try to reserve some time just before I went to bed to brush my teeth. If I started this evening, brushing and scraping and polishing, then hopefully after a week or so my teeth would start looking more respectable.
According to my most recent Atomz Search Report, here are the top phrases searched on my website this last week:
Kiffin, your career personality type is ENFP.
That means that based on the standard measure of personality traits, you have strong organizational and project management skills. When others lose sight of the big picture, you help them to stay focused to see what's important and weed out unnecessary details. You are most fulfilled by your work when you are allowed to think creatively and consider new approaches to work. You are not afraid to take calculated risks and see mistakes or failures as opportunity for growth.
You have a diverse array of interests and are even regarded as a Renaissance type of person. You possess an inspiring zest for life and abound with creativity. You seek venues to express your thoughts and feelings. Your personality and beliefs shine through in most of the work you do.
Exactly one year ago today I wrote my very first blog. So far I have been able to keep it all going pretty well, at least until now there seems to be enough to say. While I enjoy blogging very much, there is a difficult balance which has to be made between the every day sort of happenings and what I need to record in the electronic blah blah medium.
Too much to do. Too little time. Monday has already passed me by with a blink of the eye. Couldn't believe how much I accomplished today, how much there was still to do. I wonder if it would make any difference at all if rather than busying myself endlessly in preparation for the upcoming trip to California I did absolutely nothing just went to bed like I am going to do now and woke up to find myself on the edge of reality on Gallant Fox Road. Let's see now. Get up and stroll around, followed by this and that, some more this and that, until almost everything has been taken care of at least that is what I hope and think. No more waiting around for now, let's go forward and let it happen rather than pushing it into being somehow by busying myself. This is the proper and only way to meditate now. Imagine yourself busying yourself and then not busying yourself at all any more. That is when it is supposed to happen.
There was this little girl sitting across from me. I estimated her age to be around three or four years old. Her grandmother was sitting next to her, and the little girl kept repeating grandma this and grandma that about every ten seconds or so. Hey grandma look over there, grandma I wanna do this, grandma can I have some more now, grandma I am thirsty again, hey I am hungry grandma, no grandma not there but here, and on and on and on. The grandma was amazingly patient, and for each request and/or question she gave a casual, relaxed and respectful response to the little three year old. Very very patient with a loving tone of voice. This was pretty impressive, especially since it was obvious that this had been going on the whole day during the quaint visit of this truly "adorable" granddaughter. Maybe she had even spent the night before at grandma's house. No no grandma, yes yes I mean no grandma. Grandma, gran-nan-an-ma-maa (the little girl started singing quite loudly and somewhat falsely but that does not matter). That little girl was a non-stop bundle of energy and noise and movement. She would mumble to herself, get really loud, and then mumble again looking out the window. Why did this scene seem so appropriate at the time that I now feel an urge to record it here? Well, recently I have felt very relieved that my own four wild-and-crazy children are now old enough that they no longer require such unending attention. Just listening to this energetic little girl was driving me (completely) wacko, so I could imagine what a strain that would be on an older mind beyond the sixty years mark. Some day I too would turn sixty years. By watching this scene and thinking about it, I realized that I had not yet completely escaped the throes of childhood stuff. You see, some day (hopefully) my children would have their own children, and then sooner or later I would be sitting next to my own version of a grandchild listening and being patient. Just like the scene right across from me. At least I hoped. If my children had children, if I lived that long, if they didn't end up leaving and never seeing me again, say moving away to Australia or America. Life as a grandparent would be fun, but less demanding than being an actual direct-parent. I could be patient and respectful and not worry how this child of my child was, because my new role would be a happy-go-lucky type of grandpa, a type of meta-parent. Much much better. That would be fun some day.
Sliding boxes back and forth is not my idea of the most thrilling activity to keep you busy the whole day. Let alone the rest of your life. But that is exactly what the group of people were doing over there. The whole day back and forth. Amazingly enough they did not seem to mind, not a single one of them. Cheerful and happy or so they seemed to be just joking around and whistling various tunes to themselves. Half the time they would just stand around and not do anything except smoke cigarettes and scratch their upper arms filled to the hilt with tattoos. Not a worry in the world as the rest of the world around them spun away with variegated forms and movements of every sort imaginable. But they did not care. Just shift the next box to the right, from morning to night. That is when I walked into the building where I work.
At the end of the day I left the building via the same entrance, this time going out rather than going in. The same group of workers was still there, except that this time they had meandered to the opposite side of the street. The same person who earlier had been taking a smoking break was leaning against the lamp post, this time scratching the tattoo on his other forearm. The remaining members of the crew where sliding boxes to a new position on the sidewalk. They seem just as unconcerned with the future as they had been in the morning. When I walked passed them, the guy smoking moved to the side to let me through the space between the lamp post and the truck. He gave me a broad smile and wished me a fine day at home. I did the same to him and his crew.
Tomorrow morning I am sure that I will see them all again, sliding boxes from here to there.
An acquaintance of mine has brought it politely to my attention that I should be more careful with certain passages that I am describing in my blog. In one way I feel quite flattered and honored that people within my social circles have somehow or other discovered my blog and are actually taking the time to look at my entries. At the same time however, I feel a little bad if I have inadvertently exposed sensitive information which does not belong on a public medium like the Internet. Surely it was not intentional on my part. I was just trying to do my duty as a full-fledged blogger by recording events around me in a spontaneous and random way. These events need to be viewed through different glasses though, reprocessed carefully in my head, before they have been transformed from thoughts into actual passages in my blog. This is a new twist in my attitude towards blogging. Whereas I used to believe firmly in the complete unequivocal freedom of speech, I now realize that I have a responsibility as a writer to respect the values and beliefs of others. A while ago, I remember reading about some person who had regularly used her blog as a means of venting her hatred towards a number of fellow employees and even her manager. She did this in a mean and hateful manner which didn't help one bit. Although her boss kindly requested she stop doing this, she refused to remove these passages on the idealistic basis of so-called "freedom of speech." And she lost her job. Bye bye, and all for a stupid blog. Not that my entries are any where near that caustic and insulting, but still. I must be more conscious of this and more careful. In the beginning, I treated blogging as an open and honest means of expressing "anything" no matter what, the most important purpose being to express you innermost thoughts. Even if it meant dragging in others, pulling the surroundings unknowingly into your hole called the blog. This is not the right approach, in fact it is wrong, dead wrong. Now I realize that I am a kind of diplomat in a world of knowledge and ideas, and I must retain a form of professionalism in describing the events and the people causing them or being effected by them. Natural and/or unnatural. I have a social responsibility to everyone out there who might accidentally or purposely be perusing these contents. Welcome, grab a chair, sip your morning cofee and read my blog please. So it is time to avoid details about my work, private matters of others, remarks about fat or dumb people, acidic words and sentences of any form. Thanks alot acquaintance of mine for having brought this possibly embarrassing pitfall to my attention. So that is what I am going to do from now on, I promise each and every one of you now reading this blog entry. And all future blog entries to come. Okay? Freedom of speech does in fact have its limits. Even if it is a tiny relatively unknown piece of a blog as well as a minuscule voice in the challenging universe of blogging for you and me.
Well, it's now almost official, less than twenty-four hours to go. Tomorrow morning it is off to good old sunny California. Most everything is packed already, and it is high time for the Gish family to shove off and get out of here. It will be a grand escape and a fine adventure for all of us. Especially the kids cannot wait. For all of them it will be the first time in a plane (Lennart was ten months old the last time, so that does not really count). More than likely, my attention to blogging will decrease dramatically, but that does not matter. Having a fun and relaxing vacation takes priority over blogging. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, but nonetheless feeling the urge to blog all over the place will be less, much less. Don't want to let you guys down, but that's the way it has to go. Need to recharge the blog batteries. Once in a while maybe, I can surprise the reader with an occasional blob of text, that is when I get the opportunity to connect to the Internet. You never know, but do not get your hopes up too much. The tentative travel plans for the time being are to stay the first two weeks in California: at my mother's house in Monterey, then going to Pacific Grove, Carmel, Big Sur, Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Oakland, and if there is enough time left over Bear Valley. On the flight back, we stop a week on the East Coast by landing at Dulles Airport. There we will be visiting my two sisters: Martine in Fairfax, Virginia and then to Kathleen's house in Annapolis, Maryland. See you in a little over three weeks, and enjoy life please.
Spent my days with a woman unkind, Smoked my stuff and drank all my wine. Made up my mind to make a new start, Going To California with an aching in my heart. Someone told me there's a girl out there with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair. Took my chances on a big jet plane, never let them tell you that they're all the same. The sea was red and the sky was grey, wondered how tomorrow could ever follow today. The mountains and the canyons started to tremble and shake as the children of the sun began to awake.
- Led Zeppelin, Going To California.
We made it to California all in one piece, and we are having a truly great time. Considering that the complete journey took a little over twenty-two hours from doorstep to doorstep (from Gouda, The Netherlands all the way to Monterey, California), and that the time difference is nine hours (from GMT+1 all the way backwards in time to GMT-8), we are doing pretty well. Jet-lag has become only a slight inconvenience all but drowned away underneath the soothing events of this fun time, as as long as we go to bed it is alright (between 8-9 for now). Of course, for me it is great fun being back in familiar surroundings, but for my kids it has become a true adventure. It really gives me a good feeling inside watching the kids become familiar with the world in which I grew up. Hoping that they see certain things which are memorable to me, but at the same time being patient enough to let their little minds absorb what is meaningful for them. Interesting are the "other" less obvious aspects of the surroundings that they notice that I would otherwise not even think about. Yesterday Lennart said that California is not exactly what he expected it to be but much much better. Much better. Grandma is the same as ever, happy to see her grandchildren (and Thea and me). Today is day number three, and already we have seen alot of the area: Fisherman's Wharf, Pacific Grove, Big Sur, saw David Wilsey, the Del Monte Shopping Center, a big grocery store or other, the video store, etc. The kids really like the open tennis courts down the hill from Grandma's house, and they go there every afternoon. Maarten climbed atop the high (and steep) hill behind the house, and he hollered his little lungs out down to us to have us look up at him (he as just a tiny waving speck of a Maarten way up there, a dot). Sabien was thrilled to death when at the bank I asked for a complete collection of American coins for her (even a one dollar silver coin). Marlies is super excited, very patient with it all and absorbing the environment etc. And of course the parents are always doing fine as long as it is going alright with the kids. This is the first in a series of my "on the road" blogging which I hope to continue on a regular basis. Depends of course when and where Internet access is available. Grandma's computer is my pen and paper for now. Today we go to the Carmel Beach for a fun picnic in front of the crashing waves and white sand.