Category Archives: Life

Just About A Year Ago, I Set Out on the Road…

I wasn’t seeking any fame or fortune; I wasn’t looking for a pot of gold.  Iff’n you don’t know by now, just think twice it’ll be alright, and you’ll realize that it had been all lyrics until this clause.  I’m going to have to work hard to keep this from turning into some slimy and grimy stream of consciousness.  Honestly, the timing of when I chose to revive the blog from the dead is relevant, as is the title – at least personally.

It’s been a year and a day since I teed it up at LeRoy country club in Central New York and began a whirlwind tour of these great United States, and to say that a week goes by when I don’t wistfully wish for a return to the road would be a tremendous deception.  As it happens, I vividly remember much about my trip.  It was a particularly sentimental feeling, however, that crept into my heart upon listening to “Lodi” by CCR a few days ago.  Having driven a lot, I listened to a lot – the Phillies collapse as I was in the South, Howard Stern when I was tired of music, Dillinger Four’s “Versus God” for the entirety of the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa.

No song or record, however, had quite the impact on me that “Lodi” did, the first time I listened to it on the trip.  I was on 95, heading to Piscataway, New Jersey for the evening.  Manhattan was to my left as I cruised down the wide open highway.  Minutes away from the center of the world, I found myself passing through an essentially unpopulated area, even if it was a slim one.  I was, by any definition, on the road.  Lodi, however, deals with having been on the road, not being on it.  I knew at that time, that I would, at numerous times throughout the remainder of my life, look back on my weeks on the road, whenever I would reach my own “Lodi,” wherever or whatever it may be that I was stuck in.  I quickly dismissed the thought and, full of energy, barreled on down the highway, looking forward to the next day.

So again, I wasn’t looking for fame or fortune.  What was I looking for?  I wasn’t entirely sure – and am still not entirely sure.  The passage of time, for all the blurring of particulars it may do, is bringing into focus some of what I found – whether I was looking for it or not.

In the ten plus months since the conclusion of my trip, I’ve returned to a somewhat predictable routine.  After a few months to decompress, I started working part time for a beverage distributor, and also delivering subs for a sub shop.  I have met new people, made new friends and have had a rewarding expansion of my social circle.  After a few months, the part time gig with the distributor turned into a full time gig with all the bells and whistles – more than adequate pay, benefits, stability, all that good shit.  The greatest attribute of the job, though, is the culture of the company for which I work – it is relaxed, carefree and easy going.  It’s a far, far better match for me than the doldrums of white collar cubicle work.  I love my job as much as is reasonable for someone who has to work five days a week – don’t mistake it.  However, to come away from something so radically life-altering as quitting a stable, well-paying job to travel and golf for 7 weeks only having learned that I prefer some other line of work more would be classified, at least to me, as a failure.  The other things I’m coming to find that I’ve learned – or learned to accept – might not meet a classical definition of positive or successful, but they are what I am.

I have an insatiable wanderlust, and not simply in the narrow vein related to travel.  It’s a desire for experience – of any type or kind.  I want to travel – and I could do it accompanied or alone.  I want to add to my stable of cars – and I’m thinking about branching out from VW.  I want to keep growing my appreciation for any type of art.  I want to read all of the news, every day.  I want to read all of the noteworthy literature – all of it.  I want to deepen and maintain all of the long-term relationships I have – I want to continue growing the new friendships I’ve made – and I want to meet new people and get to know them.  I want to write more consistently.  I want to keep making music.  This is just a sample of the things I want to do – of the things I’m always telling myself I need to do more of.  My brain is a busy place.

Clearly, there isn’t enough time in the week to devote an adequate amount of time to everything – let alone anything.  I’ve only played 6 rounds of golf this year!  And the last 3, I scored 81, 77 and 75!  Me – the guy who played 50 rounds in 7 weeks last summer – only playing 6 rounds this year?!  There are only 168 hours in a week – and how to spend them I am finding increasingly difficult to figure out.

Late last week, I met up with one of my good buddies for a few Belgian beers at the premiere beer bar in Buffalo.  As always, the conversation was fluid, and as the beers flowed, the laughs only grew in volume and consistency.  That’s not to say it was all fun and games.  The single most constant topic in my life came up – depression / anxiety.  I raised money last year for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, but I was relatively quiet about the subject during the lead up to the trip, and especially during the trip itself.  What I am realizing I learned about myself is that I will always struggle with the cocktail of depression and anxiety.  I didn’t bring up my friend merely to segue into this revelation.  Rather, he shared with me his experiences with anxiety.  By this point in my life, I’m never surprised to learn that someone I’m drawn to has struggled with mental illness – I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I guess that a solid quarter to half of my closest friends over the years have dealt with the specter of anxiety, depression or, most often, a frightening combination of the two.

This particular friend and I reached a somewhat, by this point, standard conclusion: we both felt that a broad, intellectual, curiosity about the world is the main ingredient in a depressed/anxious person.  Re-read the paragraph three prior to this one.  That is a tremendous, and widely varying, and not nearly complete list of the things I want to begin or improve on.  But I can’t do all of those things as well as I want.  As well as I feel I deserve.  No one can.  My tremendous curiosity and desire to experience things necessitates failure in accomplishing many of them.  That breeds guilt, feelings of incompleteness, inadequacy.  I feel that these feelings are natural, given both the desire and ability to achieve some of them, but not all.  I learned all about opportunity cost in High School economics, but holy god am I continuing to learn about it the hard way every day.

It’s not all doom and gloom – far from it.  For all the negativity associated with it, I do think there is value in being a “Jack of all trades and master of none,” particularly if your interests are diverse and wide reaching.  There is no “answer” to life – it’s a constant effort to have fulfilling experiences; a constant struggle to pursue happiness, be it fleeting or sustained.  And there is no need to stubbornly or naively navigate these waters alone.  Therapy has been a constant in my life for long, long stretches.  I haven’t been in therapy since my last therapist unexpectedly died in a car crash about 3 years ago.  There is tremendous value in therapy, and everyone I know who has undertaken it has found it beneficial.  And that’s okay!  We are complex creatures, and we are, in one way or another, in constant need of adjustment.  We’re not always capable of doing it for ourselves.  I can’t manage my wildly firing brain by myself forever – I will be back in therapy many, many times in my life – and I’m okay with that.

What I was looking for was acceptance of this.  No doubt – at the end of my tenure at GEICO, I was anxiety riddled and deeply depressed.  I needed a break from that – and I took one.  A big one.  I may need another one at some point in my life – and that will be okay.  I was hoping to outrun anxiety and defeat depression, when in the end it dawned on me that I will always come back to that baseline – and that’s okay.  I just need to do something about it when needed.  It’s that simple.

I’m sure any of you who have made it this far are either my family or someone who shares much of what I’ve described.  Realize, brothers and sisters – it’s okay.  Life will go on.  Things will get better.  And worse.  Then better again.  You get one shot at this – so do the best you can and never hesitate to seek out anything that will enhance your life – be it help in navigating your emotions, or wild new experiences that are pure and raw in their excitement.

 

 

Good god this was shitty.  Unfocused and with no clear end point.  D-.

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Waffles, Juice, and a Disappointed Old Man (2/?)

I forced myself from awake from the cozy confines of my bed in San Bernardino, and stumbled down to the continental breakfast room.  The continental breakfast room.  That disconcertingly impersonal institution of travel.  The entirety of my experiences with continental breakfast rooms would have been made only slightly palatable due to the largely superficial, if not inevitable, differences between them, had it not been for the occasional opportunity to converse with, attempt to converse with, or simply eavesdrop on, other travelers.  I recalled specifically my run in with Santa Claus in Dothan, AL, and the look of fear I inspired on an unsuspecting French woman in Page, AZ as I forced myself to remain out of a conversation between two little league umpires in San Bernardino that morning.  Both fellas were old, although only the elder was older than dirt.  The other was maybe as old as mud.  Dryish mud.

Anyhow, the conversation started innocently enough, with the guys discussing the unfortunate state of little league umpiring, and what it would undoubtedly mean for the regional tournament that was unfolding in San Bernardino that weekend.  The guys were both clearly dedicated to this thing, umpiring for little league baseball, and both cared deeply for it.  Both voiced what appeared to be heartfelt concerns over the state of the profession, and had clearly invested significantly in their involvement with umpiring.  I’m not sure who it was harder for, then, when the younger one finally implied that perhaps the older one has seen his days of adequacy at umpiring pass him by.  Almost as if in passing, the older guy was reminded by the younger of an important call he recently blew, and heard it suggested that he doesn’t have the eye that he used to.  I sort of zoned out here – it was like witnessing a break-up in public, but far more soul-crushing.  This wasn’t young people realizing they aren’t right for each other.  This was the painful recognition by a proud old man that his comrades knew about him what he also knew about himself, but was simply too proud to admit.

People watching, that tired old hobby of anyone who’s been bored in public, is more than anything an exercise in imagination.  Even if you’re lucky enough to be within earshot of a conversation, chances are good that you lack anything resembling the context necessary to put anything meaningful together.  These guys were old, were little league umpires, and one brought up a blown call by the other.  Anything else I can relay now would be conjecture, based on at best sideways glances at expressions, reflections on tones picked up through the din of the room, and mannerisms, and at worst on pure imagination.  All that being said, I left with the distinct feeling that the younger guy was in the power position in the relationship, and that the older guy was the recipient of some very disappointing news.  Call it a hunch, but the entire conversation seemed staged by the younger guy for the benefit of the organization.  Is that really something that should be taking place in a Days Inn in San Bernardino?

(An aside on terrifying a French woman in Page, AZ: She was the only person around with whom I could share my disgust after seeing a local broadcast highlight the fact that some locals did not want their children to see the President speak at their high school later that day.  You know, because he’s a terrorist and stuff.  Anyhow – I launched right into “doesn’t this make you sick?” as I gestured to the television.  Her initial, voiceless, response implied that perhaps she hadn’t seen the news story, so I gestured again to the television and repeated “doesn’t this make you sick?”  She glanced quickly at the screen, then back at me, and decided this was the time to let me know that she didn’t speak the best English.  If you’ll recall, I was suffering mightily through New Mexico withdrawal, and was in the pits of Arizona syndrome at the time.  I needed some positive human interaction to reinforce my belief that we humans aren’t all that bad, and this middle aged French woman was my only hope, so I did the best I could to explain what I was talking about.  Gesticulating mildly and speaking slowly, and aided greatly by his likeness on the television, I was able to confirm that she knew the president of the United States was Barack Obama.  My attempt, however, to convey that he was speaking locally, and that some crazy people didn’t want their children to witness this, was a complete failure.  Maybe it was the “cuckoo” finger circling the temple motion coupled with my clearly irritated tone, but she just backed away slowly, likely thinking that she was talking to some crazy American who hated the President, doubted his citizenship, and certainly didn’t care for the French.  Well, she was wrong.  Too bad I didn’t study any French.  I guess maybe I am uncivilized, after all?)

So my time in Southern California had begun with waffles, juice, and a disappointed old man, and I was ready for sunnier skies in San Diego.  I was meeting my buddy for lunch in Poway at 12:30, and had a 3:10 tee time at Torrey Pines.  A brief analysis of the maps told me I was going to be doing some pretty decent hustling, and backtracking, if I were to see downtown San Diego.  Too many people, however, had extolled the virtues of the city, and I decided that the time spent in the car would be worth it to see at least a slice of the city.  I hopped in my VW and sauntered on down Mexico way.

The VW was running on fumes, and I would need to procure some fuel before arriving to downtown.  Prior to this expedition, I had no problems finding diesel anywhere on the trip.  Of all the myths and pseudo-myths out there surrounding diesel fuel, the lack of its availability is one of the most easily countered; the yellowish-greenish gunk is everywhere.  Everywhere except San Diego, I began to think, as I took exit after exit from the interstate, only to be shockingly disappointed in the lack of diesel fuel in the stations.  Surely all these tractor trailers ran on diesel, no?  I was beginning to think that I had time traveled to a magical land where trucks were motivated down the roadway using smiles and rainbows instead of dead dinosaurs, when I made my exit onto Mira Misa Boulevard – a seemingly main thoroughfare in the northern part of San Diego, and one which should certainly have several locations to get some diesel.

A few miles down the road, however, and I still hadn’t come across the nectar of the efficiency gods despite my having passed a dozen fuel stations.  I guess it was time to break down and ask someone where I could get diesel.  I was stopped at a red light just about the time I had come to this finality, and to my delight, a “get two birds stoned at once” opportunity presented itself under my nose.  A San Diego police officer was harassing a homeless man who had settled at the base of a telephone pole on the northwestern corner of the intersection.  Brilliant!  Ask the cop where to get some diesel, and in the confused back and forth of a northeasterner and the local cop, the homeless guy would certainly have time to make a speedy and undetected getaway!  Everything appeared to be coming up Milhouse!  I pulled over, rolled down the passenger side window and hollered out at the cop “Hey – where can I get some diesel?”  As if his role was something other than to serve or protect, he angrily, condescendingly, and ignorantly blurted out “I don’t know!  Don’t you have a phone?  Find it on there!” and went back to haranguing the poor dude who fell through the cracks of a society held together by the likes of himself.  Don’t municipalities alert their officers to such basics as the profound lack of locations at which diesel fuel may be purchased?  I guess not.  This is one of 3 run-ins I have had with police in a major American city (Chicago and Washington, D.C.), and while I would love to do the comparo-contrasto now, I’ve already been far too pedantic and tangential in this entry as it were.  Some other time.  I drove a few more miles, finally found some diesel, and was back on my way to downtown, my best efforts at helping a brother out thwarted.

I made it to the Gaslamp District, put half my savings in a meter, donned my Flyers knit beanie (complete with an orange and black fuzzy ball on top), grabbed my lap top, and set out in search of the most bohemian coffee shop I could find.  My decision to take the beanie on the trip was a pretty easy one – the hat is simply dope.  Just so happened that it was a brisk morning in the low 60’s, and the hat’s dopeness could also be matched by practicality on this morning, so on it went.  Anyhow, I’d obviously never been to San Diego or the Gaslamp District before.  Hopes of finding anything bohemian there were perhaps not entirely misplaced, but for a first timer with just a few hours to spend, my definition of bohemian quickly deteriorated into simply somewhere with Wi-Fi…

 

 

While I initially felt guilty at not keeping up with the blog while on the trip, the last few entries have put those feelings to rest.  As the stresses on my time and body while on the trip accumulated, it was inevitable that details and reflection would be passed over for mere pragmatism in the entries.  That’s not what I envisioned in the blog, and I’m glad I never let it get entirely to that point.  There is, of course, value in the “I played here, drove there, ate here and took a shit there,” but I obviously find there to be more value in the small delights of travel, and of being alone out there in the great big world.  California is going to take me tens of thousands of words to get through – and that’s okay.  Enjoy…

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Pseudo-Vagrancy in the California Republic (1/?)

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This is the McDonald’s by the Interstate in Barstow, California.  It was somewhere in the vicinity of 10:00 in the evening, and I was, more than anything, comforted, as I saw those golden arches on the horizon as I rolled into town.  Sure, I was exhausted (I had woken up in Las Vegas, played 18 in Boulder City, driven to and checked out the Hoover Dam, driven to Oatman, had a few pints with the locals and meandered West – a busy day), and tired (All of this nonsense began at 8ish? in the AM, and the thought of a nap at this point on the trip was but a dream.  A wishful dream.), but more than anything, I was comforted.  As I already intellectually knew, but now came to value through cold, hard experience, McDonald’s exists as far more than a restaurant, vis a vis the weary traveler.  A haven for the vagabond, the rest stops in themselves are littered across our fair nation, and indeed the world, as deteriorated Big Mac boxes are littered across the parking lot across from Wrigley Field, and they really offer the traveler anything they might need beyond a place to sleep (although I suspect that sleeping in your car in the parking lot would be quite feasible at any given McDonald’s).  A cheap bite to eat and a quick and cheap cup of coffee, tea or soda are likely the first things that come to mind.  However, the value of hunting down a McDonald’s goes deeper than mere sustenance.  Clean, public restrooms are in every store, and I am thoroughly convinced it is a policy of corporate for employees to simply look the other way when someone is clearly stepping foot in the restaurant merely to take a shit.  Fast, accessible internet is also available in nearly every restaurant as well, and although I always bought a cup of coffee or a tea when I was planning to sit down and write for 2 hours, I’m not entirely sure it would be overly taboo to plop down in a corner and suck up that bandwidth.  Yes, the faux-vagabond of the 21st century can do far, far worse than bouncing from McDonald’s to McDonald’s, and as my stops under the golden arches accumulated, I slowly started feeling all warm and fuzzy inside when I finally saw them again – I was nearly always in need of some of the amenities offered within.

On this evening however, it wasn’t food, drink, the bathroom or the internet that I sought, but merely a trip outside of the car, to stretch the old legs and plot out exactly what I was going to do for the rest of the evening.  Upon entering the old re-purposed train station, my feeling of having been comforted quickly deteriorated into an overwhelming drowsiness.  I stumbled through the store as in a stupor, and decided that I should get something to keep me up for the remainder of however long my evening would be.  Historically, I had opted for a sweet tea – filled with sugar and caffeine, and plenty of ice to gnaw on once I sucked down the sweet nectar.  In my zombie like trance however, I decided it was as good a time as any to use my monopoly game piece on a free McFlurry!  ICE CREAM AT NIGHT WHEN YOU ARE TIRED!

I slumped over on an old waiting bench near the old boarding platform, and dug out my phone to determine what the next step was going to be.  I was meeting a friend the next day for lunch in San Diego, from which I was a 3 hours’ drive north.  I didn’t like the prospect of waking up only to drive for 3 more hours before meeting my buddy – I would surely not see any more of San Diego than the restaurant where we’d be going had I stopped for the night in Barstow… I was going to plod onward.  My cup of ice cream was ready, and I was back to the road, no more awake, nor with the ammunition to become so, than I was before I entered.

I was on the road no more than ten minutes  (about 8 of which were spent eating ice cream) before I recognized that I was simply not going to make it all the way to San Diego – I was just too tired.  As I rolled through Victorville, I envisioned a heroic path all the way down to Temecula, or perhaps even Escondido.  Hell, I would basically be in San Diego at that point!  If you question my choice of the word “heroic” in the sentence two prior, I get you.  I really do.  My defense is simply that your goals change vastly when you have been on the road for four weeks, are still on the road, and are delusionally tired – getting to an impossibly far away destination seems like the struggle of a lifetime, and each minute is spent counting down the tenths of a mile until you can tick one off and exclaim to yourself “only 83 more to go!”  Having given up on San Diego, Temecula or Escondido seemed brilliant – get there, and enjoy essentially the entire morning in San Diego.

I was still entertaining these thoughts of grandeur when I, as if on autopilot, took the first exit listing a Days Inn in San Bernardino.  What was I doing?  San Bernardino!  I was still two hours north of San Diego!  My brain fought valiantly against my body, attempting in vain to compel my arms to turn the VW around and trudge on south, but by this point my muscles had coordinated a structured and powerful mutiny against my brain.  “Rest!”  They screamed.

So there I was, in San Bernardino, still north of even Los Angeles, and I was stopping for the night.  I groggily checked in, and took only my travel box to my room – no computer, no extra clothing.  Just a box with some toiletries I wouldn’t use in the morning.  Just a box that had drawn the laughter of many, and had stood with me as a pillar of stability during my travels.

For all that my dreams had promised me of California, here I was – miles from the coast, and miles from the sunny tranquility of what I had hoped would be the locale of my first evening in the Republic.  “Sometimes,” I reasoned, “you’re the pseudo-vagrant, and sometimes, as tonight, Alex, you really are the 21st century vagabond.”  I don’t even remember hitting the bed.

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The Center of the World. The Cradle of Freedom.

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We’ve got a world city, we brew Yuengling, and we’re the snack food capital of the world. The 16th century is only an hour from that world city, and the 1950s are only another hour from there. Time travelers welcome. Seriously now, Lebanon, where I grew up, is an hour from Philly, 2 from DC and 3 from New York City. The beach was 3 hours away, while the mountains were 5 minutes away. Great golf, sunsets that never seemed to last quite long enough, and a full four seasons. I’ve always had tremendous amounts of Pennsylvania Pride; you can take the kid out of Pennsylvania, but you can’t take the Pennsylvania out of the kid. It’s good to be back here in the center of the world.

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American Pasttimes

Picking up where I left off, I had had a rather American experience in Oneida Castle.  There were gazebos and children and young couples.  No apple pie or hot dogs, but there was baseball.  I stopped in Oneida Castle around the 4th inning of the Phillies-White Sox game this afternoon.  So intrigued was I by the game that I kept my phone with me, broadcasting the game, as I set up camp at the picnic table and ate my lunch. Lunch was over, I went back to my car, and plugged the phone right back into the stereo for the conclusion of the game.

Cole Hamels turned in his third consecutive stellar start, and although Jonny Paps blew the save, the Phillies ended up winning the game in the 10th inning.  This 3 game set with the ChiSox featured 3 extra inning games, of which the Phillies took 2.  I am a dedicated fan of the game, and of the team.  I didn’t watch a single pitch.  Rather, I listened to the games, on the radio.  There is something romantic about baseball on the radio.  Much the same way your grandfather experienced the game, you can too.  It’s only an iPhone app away :/.  Seriously now, baseball is the only sport that really translates well to radio.  The pace of the game is perfect for radio; and you need not even pay the closest attention to still have a full and rewarding experience following a game.  The play by play man and color man, if they are good, will quickly become your friends as they describe what is happening on the field, what is happening in the booth, and what may have happened late the night before, or what may have happened during the late nights of yesteryear.  Listening to your friends talk about your team is comforting.  Really, most radio guys are just fans themselves.  They just have either been struck by a bolt of luck or have all the right connections.  In the end though, it’s a few dudes watching a ball game, and talking about it.  As a Phillies fan, I love Scott Franske, JJ, Sarge and LA, as I’m sure everyone else loves their hometown crew.

Baseball on the radio is also calming and therapeutic.  The sound of the crowd’s murmur interrupted by the loud crack of the bat and the rise in pitch of the play by play man’s voice as he describes the action: these are the sounds of summer.

I’m going to be listening to as many Phils games as I can during the trip, and eagerly await each chance I have to do so.  What is ultimately the most appealing about listening to a ballgame on the radio is that the satisfaction is delayed.  In the age of the smartphone, high speed internet and television, it is appallingly easy to be able to follow a team.  It’s far harder to follow a team via the radio, but it’s far more human too.  Hearing the play develop, and hearing the tone of the play by play man’s voice as it moves to describe the likelihood of a particular play being made, is what keeps baseball fresh.  The excitement of the game on the radio is that you don’t know what’s going to happen next, or even what is happening at the second.  You are at the whimsy of the announcers, and with them, not the team, you live or die.

Not only is baseball on the radio comforting by its mere nature, its comforting because it is always there.  162 days of each year, your club has a game.  A chance to win.  A chance to forget yesterday and focus on today’s game.  No matter what plagues you, you can always find the calming presence of a baseball game on the radio.  And yes, it has dawned on me that the availability of the game anywhere through the iPhone and other such devices sort of crushes the “delayed gratification” I was hinting at earlier.  Instead, I have preferred to simply chalk up the wide availability of radio broadcasts to the broader concern of just how easy travel has become, which is very easy.  More on this later.

With the game concluded and the series won, the Phillies had little to entertain me with after the 5 o’clock hour today.  Thankfully, I had to drive to Brattleboro, VT.  As I mentioned earlier, I was very much in anticipation of Vermont upon entering the state; I was hoping to find the Vermont of my assumptions, and I did just that.  For the drivers amongst you, consider making the trip from Bennington to Brattleboro sometime.  The drive is 40 miles of curves, hills, covered bridges, and dirt roads.  Simply spectacular.

After traversing the length of the state in a little over an hour, I had made it to Brattleboro.  Tom and Lynn Bedell graciously offered to let me stay the night in their guestroom; and it is from within this room that I’m now writing this entry.  Let me just briefly say now that Tom and Lynn have set an extraordinarily high bar for the trip.  Hospitable to the tee, they have provided me with everything I need and more for this evening.  Truly good people.

Kinda a disjointed and poorly written entry, but I suppose that’s what you get at 12:30 after a long, long day of golf and travel.  I’m kinda hoping that no further McDonald’s have faulty outlet wiring — for if the one on Rt 5 in Herkimer, NY didn’t, I would have taken care of all this baseball nonsense earlier in the day.

That I have sat here and written about baseball on the radio is kinda frightening to me.  It means I have no ability to just “let a topic go,” with regards to the blog.  I’m going to have to be more discriminating if I’m going to make it out alive.  As we sit, I would be in danger of not having the time to discuss everything I’d want to discuss while on the trip.  You can’t get to everything though, and I guess the challenge is in finding out what topics are most pertinent and going from there.  I have always just been more thorough than this, and it eats away at me when I leave a perfectly good topic untouched.

However, as you can tell from this entry, forcing something on me usually results in poorly written, poorly structured posts which are more mechanical than anything else.  I gotta avoid these entries; they are good for neither you nor me.

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Life is calling…

Good morning world.  The time for preparation has come and gone.  I’m going to go do something amazing, beginning now.  Amazing things are yours, if you make them yours.  Break free from the shackles and go live your life.

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Goal – Let it Happen

I’m not going to get too heavily into non-quantifiable goals for the trip.  I feel any effort spent waxing about vague goals of “having a good time,” “being safe,” and particularly “learning something I didn’t know about myself” or “coming to a broader understanding of life” is wasted; of course these things and any of the other more general goals you might think of are still goals, but they will inevitably happen, regardless of how much effort I put into trying.  I’m going to let them happen.  Setting goals for the intangible elements of the trip will simply crush the spontaneous spirit I’m hoping to maintain.  I guess you could say the goal regarding “THE JOURNEY” (opposed to “the journey,” which would refer to simply the drives, rounds and meals) is simply to allow an undying spirit of openness and spontaneity be the guide.  If I am able to do that, the trip will be a success.  And now, to some quantitative goals:

Golf goals:

First, I need to establish the rules by which I will be playing.  I will follow the rules of golf.  That’s simple enough.  No mulligans, and no gimmes when I’m playing by myself.  When I’m playing with a group, I’ll take reasonable gimmes (think within 2 feet) that are given to me by playing partners – I’m not looking to be that guy; take the gimme and move on.  I will also use my discretion when determining if lift, clean and place will apply.  I’m not always going to be playing on the most meticulously maintained courses, and if the ball is half mud, I’m not playing it.  Other than these few things though, I’m following the rules of the game.  The game has rules for a reason; and grossly violating them is juvenile.

On to the goals themselves.  There are only a few, and they are pretty straight forward.

– I’d like to average below 90 for the trip.  Given that I have averaged 85.2 over the last two years, you’d think I’d set a more ambitious goal.  However, I am going to be playing 47 courses I’ve never played before, and on many occasions, I will be playing 36 holes in one day.  I will be tired.  Playing unfamiliar courses when you’re tired usually adds up to a big number.  If I average under 90, I will consider the golfing element of the trip to be a great success

– Arrive home with each club I left with, in the shape it is currently in.  Not that I am necessarily concerned with breaking a club intentionally, but clubs can break in the course of play.  My buddy’s 4-iron decapitated itself a few weeks ago following a somewhat routine punch out shot.  I really love my clubs, all of them, and I want them all to come back to Buffalo with me.

– I do not want to have to buy any balls during the trip.  I’m leaving with 81 balls, which gives me plenty of wiggle room.  However, the same elements of the trip which caused me to raise my goal for average score to 90 are at work here – unfamiliar courses normally suck up more balls, particularly when you’re tired.  I will, of course, find balls too, and am assuming that this will be a relatively easy goal to meet.

– Do something amazing on the trip.  Whether it’s an ace, an albatross or an even par round, I’m going to have 49 shots at it, and I’d like to have something cool happen when I’m out there.  Of course the ace and albatross are more a matter of luck, while the even par round will be a matter of playing the right course on the right day.  No matter what it is, I want something amazing to happen on the course.

That’s it for the golf stuff.  There are of course dozens of other things you may think would qualify as reasonable golf goals; from areas in which I could improve to the wide variety of experiences I could have with varied playing partners.  These things will happen, and I’m going to let them happen.

There are just a few non golf related goals.  Take a look:

– Incur zero traffic violations.  I’ve been pretty good about this lately, haven’t gotten anything in over five years.  Still though, 10,000+ miles is a LOT of driving, and I’m sure traffic laws will be violated.  I’m just going to keep the violations mild.

– Lose some weight.  My entire life until 22, I weighed 165-180 lbs.  At 6 feet tall, this was a good, normal weight.  Five years of the 9-5 did me in good and I am now sitting a massive 240 lbs.  That’s outrageous.  While I have embraced certain elements of the fat guy lifestyle and do enjoy eating, a lot, it’s time that I get my rear in gear.  It should be pretty easy to do, considering the pace at which I’m traveling.  There won’t be much time to eat, and I’m planning on loading up on fruits, veggies and yogurt for snacks every couple days.  This trip will hopefully serve as an impetus for a healthy body for years to come.

– Average 45 miles per gallon.  I know my car intimately, and picked a goal that I know will be hard to achieve.  Over the course of the years I’ve owned the TDI, I’ve routinely achieved in the 42-43 range on highways, at widely varying speeds.  I have, however, had several tanks up in the 46-47 MPG range, and am hopeful that I can keep a steady tempo on the highways to use as little fuel as possible.

– Come in under budget.  Self explanatory.  Less money spent is more money for charity.  Simple.

On a general note, please let it be known that I kinda abhor the idea of setting goals.  It seems like a very mechanical way to live your life; to outline what you want to do, and then to hook up your carriages and puff off towards the station of achievement.  It’s always seemed to me that the people with the most goals are causing the most trouble, or are the most asinine people to be around.  They’re always focused on what’s next, and what will happen later, rather than what is happening NOW.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe goals aren’t all that bad.  I don’t know, I guess I got off to some sort of goal setting start here.  However, I was careful to select only very concrete, pragmatic goals.  I’m really not interested in long term, or BIG goals right now.

My goal is simply to let it happen, to be guided by the warms winds of youth and the open road.  I trust that wherever that lands me, I will be happy.  Happiness.  That is the ultimate goal.  I’m hoping to get there.

There will be one more entry later tonight, about travel.

Massive thank you to Karl at Truths and Lies, who so graciously sent me a few tee shirts and a hat to wear during the trip.  Truths and Lies is a company whose “aim (is) to break that mold and embrace the very concept of how golfers dream to play scratch, by offering styles and looks that appropriately define a leisure sport on and off the course.”  Mixing pop culture and golf in a way that I’m hoping gains traction, Truths and Lies has come up with some very cool designs.  My personal favorite is their take on what is becoming a pretty classic design:

Arsenal_Steel_Blue.jpg

Check them out, Karl is a cool guy, and the designs are casual and sure to inspire conversation amongst golfers.

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