Monthly Archives: August 2005

Wed 31 Aug 05

Sold! Or, at least getting close to it. We got a solid offer on our vacant land tonight at about $7000 more than what we paid for it less than seven months ago. Not a bad little profit even after factoring in closing costs for two transactions and all the mortgage payments we’ve made. Low ball estimate I think we come out ahead somewhere between $3000 and $4000.

I’m sad to see it go though. It really was a beautiful property and I would’ve loved to have lived on it. Just wasn’t the right time. Flexibility is the order of the moment and this decision will help immensely.

Mon 29 Aug 05

Some thoughts that zipped across my mind as we were careening off the road on Friday:

  1. I smell rubber.
  2. The Fight Club scene where Brad Pitt and Edward Norton crash their car on purpose.
  3. And, with that, how in the future I’d probably be glad I had experienced this.
  4. How the car felt like it was floating six inches over the ground.
  5. Anticipating the car flipping sideways and rolling. Glancing at the ceiling, hunching up and bracing for this inevitable crunch.
  6. Anticipating the car impacting something from the back end as it raced backwards. Being acutely aware of how my back felt against the driver’s seat.
  7. Oh, we’re headed for the other side of the highway. We might get seriously hurt.

Number seven I think is the only time I actually started to worry that we might be in real trouble. Up until that point, even while imagining the car flipping upside down, I figured we might be banged up but certainly would be able to walk away from the wreck with everything vital intact. But as you’re rocketing into traffic with low visibility and little time to react those little “semi-truck punching through car” images begin to pop up.

Sun 28 Aug 05

And sometimes, for whatever reason, you just don’t feel like writing. Slipping… Truth be told, my free time spent in front of a computer has been dwindling this summer, no doubt correlating with the amount of sleep I’ve been getting the past two months. But that’s all done with now, so really I have no excuse now for not writing something about this past weekend. Especially given the dramatic car misadventure on Friday.

Friday morning Mary and I drove to Red Wing, MN for a friend’s wedding, deciding at the very last minute to throw the dogs in the back seat for the ten hour drive when we discovered the hotel we booked accepted pets. In my opinion this went surprisingly well. The dogs bounced about eagerly for the first hour or so before gradually coming to the realization that this trip with different than the ones just down the road. They wimpered for the next hour then gave up and tried to sleep comfortably in the limited space. I’m pretty sure (despite Trammell’s looking very car sick at times) that this was a better weekend then they would’ve spent stuck in a kennel. The dogs have now set foot in four new states and got their first peak at the mighty Mississippi (in the background of two pictures on the right).

Unfortunately, one of the states they set foot in was Wisconsin. In the pouring rain. With our car partially buried in a highway median and partially sticking its trunk into the path of oncoming traffic.

Just outside of La Crosse, WI, with the rain clouds opening up something fierce on our heads, I pulled into the left lane to try to get around a truck that was kicking up a vision-obscuring spray (in hindsight of course the obvious choice should have been to slow down behind said truck), accelerated, and promptly felt the front tires being sucked to the right. But not just your everyday mini-tug, solved by mini-correction. This time the whole car began to rotate clockwise, back tires, front tires, gliding effortlessly over a layer of rain water. I tapped the brakes and tried to ease the wheel back to the left, but I don’t think anything was going to save us at this point. Just a matter of which direction we we’re going to spin.

As it turns out, in about half a second we were pointing ninety degrees to the left. In another half second we completed our 360 degree spin (and then some) on the edge of the road while I vainly tried to counter the problem and were rocketing backwards across the grassy median. Brakes floored we slid across the two foot high grass only catching friction as we reached the berm on the opposite side and lurched to a stop perpendicular to the road with a good three feet of car sticking out into the road.

I tried to pull forward to get out of the path of oncoming traffic (with limited visibilty due to the continuing downpour) but found our front tires were buried in chunks of sod. Mary grabbed the dogs and ran across the highway. I dug our tires out then ran across after Mary, jumped a fence and started to call a tow truck when I saw a state trooper pull up behind our car. The guy turned out to be a complete jerk, never once asking us if we were okay, but maybe he was just upset about having to stand in the pouring rain rain in his shiny plastic rain coat.

In any case, with disgruntled cop standing watch, I tried pulling out again and this time was able to pull forward back across the median and back on our merry way. I guess we’ll find out the extent of the damages in a day or two here after the mechanics have a look, but for now it seems the only noticable problems are non-functioning taillights and turn signals. Weird.

Sat 13 Aug 05

I fell asleep leaning against a brick wall. I fell asleep with my elbows propped up on my knees while reading a magazine. I fell asleep while lying on a picnic table with my arms crushed beneath me. I fell asleep mid-conversation with Mary. Third shifts are brutal. The brutality compounded by going straight to a second job after getting out of the first. One more week…

My comments here have been usurped. This album is simply stunning. I loved the last two Sigur Ros albums in particular but this one rocks their socks. Uplifting. Ethereal. Glorious. Evocative of a bouncing through an open snow field under a star-filled winter night sky. Which I suppose would make sense coming from an Icelandic artist. The album is called Takk…

Thu 4 Aug 05

I’ve been feeling a little introspective lately. Maybe from lack of sleep. Maybe a reaction to the kids I work with. I don’t know. Either way I’ve been noticing an underlying theme creeping into my day to day thoughts. A couple of quotes I’ve bumped into recently:

Sitting there , listening to my stomach growl, I started to understand things about myself I’d never thought to ask. I’d never gotten to a point like this where my entire sense of identity hung by a tiny sinew of ambition. Most people find a confort zone, which they sometimes stretch but never exceed. They live in there, thinking they know themselves. Some define that sense of identity in terms of what they can do. Others define it in terms of what they won’t do.

The military has known about this process for hundreds of years. It’s the psychological regeneration – the phoenix principle. You take a capable, earnest spirit, then break it down, strip away any trace of ego, dig a crater of insecurity and need. Then you fill it back up with dogma and ability and trust. The talent you started with becomes harder, forged of a different metal and tempered in another image.

You traveled the world… Now you must journey inwards… to what you really fear… it’s inside you… there is no turning back. Your parents’ death was not your fault. Your training is nothing. The will is everything. If you make yourself more than just a man, if you devote yourself to an ideal, you become something else entirely. Are you ready to begin?

The first two quotes are from Cold Zero: Inside the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and the second, if you couldn’t guess from the pictures, is from Batman Begins. In Cold Zero, a book I just finished, the author describes his path into and through the ranks of the FBI with great emphasis placed on the internal struggles throughout basic training. It’s one of the better books I’ve read recently, written with great clarity, gripping detail, and a fascinating story. You also see the auithor’s strong sense of his own self pouring out onto the pages. He has clearly pushed himself to mind-boggling extremes, choosing challenge after challenge, and come through it with a great grasp of what his mind and body are capable of. And also with a sense of his life’s purpose. He’s faced the demon’s and fears and self-doubt. Result: inner strength, inner calm, purpose.

Batman Begins, which I saw in the theatre with Mary about a month ago, shares a similar idea. After Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered in front of him as a boy, Bruce grows up and wanders the earth in an attempt to understand himself and his place in the world. Ultimately his search leads him to the League of Shadows, a secretive warrior society based deep in the Himalayan mountains. It’s an exhausting search and even more exhausting battle to become one of the society. Just like the author of Cold Zero, Bruce emerges from his struggle free from fear and with a warrior strength. And with a sense of what he’s willing to dedicate his life to. Result: inner strength, focused anger, purpose.

So, my point is, I think to ever really know yourself (your fears, capabilities, dreams), you have to take some sort of journey of self-discovery. Some sort of challenge where all the external garbage is stripped away and you’re left with your thoughts, ambition, and survival instincts. But, of course, this is a tricky thing to pull off. We aren’t all billionaires or lucky enough to get selected for FBI special agent status.