"[My relationships were] like I was in these movies where the script was only half-written. When I’d get to the end of this half-script, the other actors wanted me to ad lib. But I had never gotten the hang of that. That’s why these movies were always box-office failures. Six of them in the past twenty years. I always blew the lines." ~ from my horrible first novel "Learn How To Pretend." (unpublished)(obviously)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

CNN - Has technology ruined handwriting?

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Sent from the CNN App for iPad
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Hey, check this out from CNN:
Semi-ambidextrous Nicholas Cronquist rebelled against third-grade cursive lessons. http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/26/tech/web/impact-technology-handwriting/index.html?iphoneemail


Sent from my iPad

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

For the Duration

I guess I'll be here a while. Till December anyway. I just picked up five courses to teach at the University of New Mexico for the Fall term. With La Esposa not working at present, we'll need the money. If we sell the house between now and December, she'll head on up with the kids and get us set in the new house. (Yeah, the one that has not presented itself yet.)

It's scary, but exciting, too. I've never done anything like this. But, then, there are a lot of things I'd never done in my life and, when I finally did, they mostly turned out OK.

And it all makes me wonder why. Why did I live my life in the shadow? Where there great things I could have accomplished in my life if I'd just had the motivation earlier on? Or did I need all the life experiences I've had?

Sometimes, when I look at what I'm finding interesting now days, I can see that those things didn't exist when I was younger. Or the threat to society wasn't great enough. Or the threat to me wasn't great enough. Mostly, I think, the latter. Somewhere along the way, I came to believe that I couldn't do great things. More so, I was led to believe that in order to be successful, I had to be a certain way, and I was not good enough to be that way. I was too much of a failure to even try to be a failure at succeeding.... Ummm....?

What I'm seeing.... what I'm sensing is that A.) That model and definition of success that was held up before was a sham. And B.) that even if I'd somehow attained it, I'd not be able to hold it because that is not who I am. Not that I'm a failure. Far from it, I'm a success at being myself. And who/what I am did not follow the rest of the herd, lock-step, nose-to-ass, wearing a club-tie noose as I was led to slaughter.

I feel I've escaped something. Some cruel twist of fate that many other didn't. I've heard the squeals of terror from those far far ahead of me in the slaughterhouse line. I've heard the shotgun blast that puts them down one-by-one. I've turned and walked away.

I like teaching college level. I like the environment. I like the way I can dress. I like the creativity I can bring to the room. If I get to do that here in Albuquerque while I'm waiting to move, that's not so much of a punishment.

Just Because the Grass Isn't really Always Greener, Does That Mean itCan't be Sometimes? Part 3: The Taste of Greener Grass



In this third part about my planned move North, I want to look at the idea of, as the title has inferred, the greenness of the Colorado grass. That's in no way intended to refer to Colorado's recent changes on the legalization of Marijuana -- though it could. And, perhaps it does, but more in a sense of personal freedom from unreasonable idiocy.

Though I MIGHT want to discuss the idea of being happy where we are -- happy in the here and now -- I want to give an example or two of the greenness of the grass up yonder.
On a recent trip to Fort Collins -- a scouting mission to look at housing -- we found ourselves with a little time to kill. My wife and I ventured over to the Old Town to wander around.
A.) Rather than the strict tourist orientation of Albuquerque's Old Town, we found a community activity. There was a sense that this was part of Fort Collins -- then and now -- and not a low budget Disneyland gift shop strip mall. 
B.) The activity in question was a Book Fair. 

Yes.

A Book Fair.

At one end of the promenade was a piano that some local artists were painting as part of a larger Pianos in Public thing. (Elsewhere, at least one other painted piano was available for the public to play. There was a note that, should it begin to rain, it would be really cool if someone would close the keyboard cover and pull a tarp over it.) Next there was a group of musicians performing some odd experimental composition. not my cup of tea, but great to see people getting out and trying stuff; using public space. 

C.)There were at least four independent bookstores represented, along with several local writers. This, in case you didn't get it, was at a community event -- not a reading put on BY a bookstore AT their location. 

D.) There was a giant scrabble board game laid out with a come and go set of players.

E.)There was live music by local musicians that was not so loud no one could hear for a three block area (As I witnessed at a recent Albuquerque Summerfest Event.)

F.) Directly across from the stage (which was a permanent structure) there was a booth sponsored by a local literary magazine and three local brewers. They sold beer.

I am 55 years old. I was not carded (nor should I be.) I was not required to wear a bracelet showing I'd been carded. The beer drinking was not sequestered from the rest of the public nor hiddne from There were no mounted police patrolling the crowd. There were no police period. There were no rent-a-cops. There WERE a few event volunteers who, if you happened to stroll a bit too far with your beer, asked you politely to head back.

In other words, I was treated like an adult.

Another example. Driving down the average street in Fort Collins, You are hard-pressed to spot signs for businesses. Signs near the roads seem to have a height limit of maybe 8 feet. Trees line the roads, blocking most businesses from view. Not that you CAN'T see them. You just have to look harder. Many businesses are painted in low-key colors, or employ different style exteriors from what is seen in most urban-sprawl areas.

Contrast this with Albuquerque with its 20 foot or higher signs. Driving down, say, Menaul or Central Avenues, one sees nothings but business signs for miles. In older areas, all that remains is an abandoned framework from the sign of a long-defunct business. Owners are loathe to remove them because, once down, the original sign-permit is revoked and new signs must adhere to lower height standards. In Fort Collins, it's about how it is to be a resident. In Albuquerque, how it is to be a business.

I just read an article in the Fort Collins quarterly "Matter", published by Wolverine Farms. in it, a 15 year resident (formerly from Buffalo, NY among other places) decried the shabby shape of the north end of town as well as the sprawl. He's living in my future grass, but he has complaints, too.

So. Should I be satisfied with where I am and how I live? I guess. Thinking about how it will be when we move north is just me living in the future. But satisfaction doesn't engender change. I can't change the way where I am is.... (?) Maybe I could get my citizenship and vote for change in the city. But I can't change the dry miserable heat of summer. Or the dry, dusty cold of winter. I can't change the mindset of the people here. What I CAN do is to go somewhere else and try that. I've given Albuquerque a fair 40-year shake. Time's up.

Will the grass be greener? Will I wind up working at Walmart? Or worse, selling Whole-Life Term Insurance? Maybe. And maybe in the midst of a snowy Colorado Springtime, I'll miss the.... cold dusty wind of an Albuquerque Spring. 

Nah. I have a good feeling that that Northern grass will taste sweeter, even if it's buried under three feet of snow.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Just Because the Grass Isn't really Always Greeener, Does That Mean it Can't be Sometimes? Part 2: Personal Freedom in the Land of the Free

I want to address a misconception about living in America. Our freedom here may or may not be an illusion. Our freedom of movement, anyway. 

I don't want to sound like a tin-foil hat conspiracy theorist, or a 99%er -- even if I am assuredly the latter, and on occasion a bit of the former.

Sometime last Fall, when I was out living on my own, I had a conversation with a friend -- one that turned somewhat bitter in the end. 

"I'd love to move away from here.I feel so trapped."
"Why don't you?" the friend asked. 
"They don't call New Mexico 'The Land of Entrapment' for nothing," I said half-jokingly.
"What do you mean?" he said. "If you want to go, go." He said this in the same tone of people who tell the homeless guy on the corner to 'just go get a job.'
"It's not that simple," I said, unsure if I even had a valid rationale. 

Since 1973 I'd lived out of state for only seven years -- while I was in the military and a bit after.I'd never actually *tried* to leave. Not seriously. But part of that was because I'd lived, for the most part, paycheck to paycheck for so long. Sometimes not even that. Sometimes there were weeks in between with nothing. Living on food stamps/ Weeks of ramen for dinner. Eating potted meat product. 
Even when I did have a bit of a cushion in savings, I was loathe to spend much of it -- and there was never enough of it there to live on for more than a month or two. I guess there was always that idea of being so close to living on the street.

"I'm talking about packing up and leaving," I said to my friend, clarifying things.
"Of course it's 'that simple'," he said."Sure, you'd have to save up a little money before you went. But you can just do it. Hell," he added. "I've done it myself many times."

And maybe he was right. Maybe at one time you could do that. Save a bit of money. Rent a U-Haul and drive to a new city. And I suppose that if you wanted to renounce your worldly goods, you could up and hit the road. Hell, it's how I wound up back in Albuquerque in the early 19802. My first wife and I, tired of living in Tacoma, Washington, packed our 72 Pontiac Bonneville to the point that the tires were scraping on the wheel wells and left town within 24 hours of making the decision. 

Something was telling me that this was not possible now. Something was telling me that our movements were being subtly controlled. At least those of us on the lower-end of the economic strata. 
Now, I'm not dirt-poor, though when I was single, even as a University adjunct faculty member, I was living below the poverty line.

++++++++++++
As an aside, I'd like to say that I really am not about the whole wealth thing. If you've read anything else in this blog, you've probably gotten that point. So this is not about me being concerned about lowering my standard of living... Though it may, in fact, be about me (us) and attachment.
+++++++++++

My friend and I came to a tense agree-to-disagree standoff. Neither of us had the will to prove our point. I think that my friend felt like he had freedom of movement because he traveled a lot, visiting different countries, hiking and camping around the U.S. But the (relative) freedom to travel is not the same as freedom of movement.

In my previous post, I told how my wife and I decided to move from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Fort Collins, Colorado. We assumed it would be simple. We sell our house here, use the equity as a downpayment on a new house up there. A simple exchange. 
Right?

Enh. Not so much. We hit a roadblock right out of the gate when we talked with a realtor. We were informed that, in order to get a mortgage these days (since the lending fiasco of a few years ago) you have to have at least a one-month paystub. Mortgage companies were no longer just handing money out. Forget the fact that we've had a mortgage for 9 years with no late payments. My wife has stellar credit. Doesn't matter. Well, we were moving without having actual jobs in place -- we weren't going to have that paystub for a while. 

But that's not saying we couldn't get one. Just that we'd have to move us and our kids into a temporary living situation -- an apartment or house rental -- until we came up with the jobs.
BUT, the house rentals are much more than a mortgage payment -- so we were looking at digging ourselves into a hole while we waited.
If we'd been making another 10 or 20 grand a year, we might have been able to had a bit more in savings. 

The second roadblock came in the form of something we honestly did not anticipate; the inability to sell our house. We're baffled. It's not that people see it and find it lacking. It's that they aren't seeing it. We've had maybe six or seven people come to have a look. The place shows well -- every realtor has said that. Few people are looking at it online even. I know that one couple was not interested because we'd refinished part of the garage and they wanted a two-car garage. Another couple got priced out of the market when the new mortgage rates went into effect. I imagine that many people just don't want to live on the West side of town. I know I didn't. If I had to live on this side of town, though, this is were I'd want to do it. 

So, yeah. People aren't coming. It's disheartening and frustrating.
I guess, in a way, my friend was right. We could probably sell the house for what we owe on it. We could go up to Fort Collins and find a small place to rent that won't care that we don't have jobs yet. In effect we would have moved to Fort Collins. But what then? The questions is really, can you pack up and make a lateral move?

I imagine it's possible for many people. I imagine people who play the corporate game, who have a lot of money in savings. Lots of liquidity. Noose-wearing shirt-tuckers. Them. They've got that back-up money in savings. They've got the assets to be able to buy a second house in the new city while they sell this one. They work at places where they can just transfer to the new job with the same company, therefore, they have a paycheck to give the bank.

I'm not saying I'm jealous of them. I'm not jealous of the mobility. I'm angry at the way that those of us not interested in playing the game don't get to move so easily. We are, in a way, being punished for the sins of the bankers. Because they made shitty lending decisions, WE can't get a mortgage in a new town. They got bonuses and bailouts. We got... Albuquerque.

Sure. It's their money. I understand that. And that's part of the reason that we made another housing decision, one I'll talk about later. But the whole thing has somehow left me feeling that escape is not an option. That the government does, to a degree, control our movements. I have moments recently where I've felt like I'm in some weird blend of "The Matrix" and "The Truman Show." Like it's just a matter of waking up to the reality of the situation; the reality behind the reality. 

I was listening to an podcast interview with Noam Chomsky this morning. In it he talked about how Alan Greenspan considered one of the crowning achievements of his tenure at the Fed as having made the average American worker fear the loss of his job. (It was Greenspan, no doubt, that coined the phrase, "You're lucky to have a job.") It's that same sort of thinking that got the proletariat believing that we have true freedom of movement. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

And I Quote ~ Jimmy Buffett

I bought a cheap watch from a crazy man
Floating down canal
It doesn't use numbers or moving hands
It always just says now
Now you may be thinking that I was had
But this watch is never wrong
And If I have trouble the warranty said
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On


According to my watch the time is now
Past is dead and gone
Don't try to shake it just nod your head
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On

Don't try to explain it just bow your head
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On
~Jimmy Buffett & Matt Betton

Tiny houses


And I Quote ~ Marcel Proust

"The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is;  and this we do, with great artists; with artists like these we do really fly from star to star."
 - Marcel Proust

Just Because the Grass Isn't Really Always Greener, Does That Mean it Can't be Sometimes? Part 1

The story to date.

About two months ago, my wife and I made the -- admittedly drop-of-the-hat -- decision to move from our home in Albuquerque (where I've lived for forty years) to Fort Collins, Colorado; a city we'd been to twice. We'd gone once for the day, back in 2008, when I was considering attending graduate school at Colorado State University, and once in the summer of 2012 as a side trip from Denver to tour the New Belgium Brewery. 

A few months following the latter trip, our relationship hit a couple of potholes that rendered it inoperable. I moved out of the house for, what I assumed was forever. 

But in the end, things came together. In the time apart, we both learned a lot about ourselves and we did some growing. In March of this year we agreed to try to work it out and, for the most part, it has. We had talked about the possibility of selling the house -- which she had purchased just before we met -- and buying a new place that was "ours." One we'd chosen together

One afternoon, while I was in the process of moving my stuff back to the house from my little apartment, she phoned me.

"What would you say about selling the house and moving to Fort Collins?"

"..." I really wasn't sure what to say. It was as though someone had asked if I wanted a million dollars. What was the catch?

"I was looking on CSU's employment site and found an Occupational Therapy job," she said. That's what she's been doing in Albuquerque for the past 9 years, mostly for local schools.

She went on. "They've also got listings for English instructors." That's what I've done for the past four years. I didn't really need to think too much about it.

Or more to the point, I didn't WANT to think more about it. The big reason I hadn't applied to CSU for grad school five years earlier because we weren't going to be able to sell our house, it being in the depths of the housing crash.

But now? Was it better now? Summer is supposed to be the best time to sell a house. It was, however, putting me well past the time when the Universities hire for the Fall semester. There was a chance that I could get into the Part-Timer pool. In a pinch, I could probably come up with something else.

I didn't really care, because it meant escaping Albuquerque. I hate to say this, it sounds so negative, but I hate this town. It's got a few minor charms, and everybody can list some attributes that I can't argue with -- the sky, the sunsets. People will often mention the weather here. "360 days of sunshine," they'll say -- as if that's a good thing. As if you can be out and enjoying that sun. A bunch of those sunny days come in the cold, dreary, dusty-brown winters. Many more come in the intolerable summer heat. (For those who say, "Oh, this isn't hot, you should try Phoenix or Houston," I say, shut up. just shut up now. If you step in a small pile of shit, the fact that there's a larger one that you DIDN'T step in doesn't make it better.You've still stepped in shit.) As I was writing this, I saw rain clouds moving in. I remember that someone had recently commented on the smell of this place after a rain and, I had to admit, yeah. It's great. But we've been having a real monsoon season, after so many years of teasers, and last night, during a good downpour, my family and I sat outside under the patio covering. The magic never happened. Even the rain smelled like dust. Or like musty old dirty sweat. There is so much more I could bitch about, but I won't. Yet.

There actually IS a reason for my story here and it has to do with the idea of personal freedom in the land of the free, and also, the concept of the grass being greener. I'll go into those in parts 2 and 3 of this post. But until then, understand that I know how to be satidfied with what I have. I don't think that's the issue here. Or maybe it is a little.