Passings, passages, and pastures

I'm likely halfway through my life, if my life were something that were simply measured up against an actuarial table. In reality, I have no idea how much longer I have. None of us do, really.

Is it morbid to think about the end? People often interpret me that way when I write or say comments like the one above. I think it's important to think about death, and the light that this one ninevitable fact shines so strongly upon the rest of our lives.

Who do we want to be? How do we want to be remembered? How can we make the most of whatever time we have on this magnificent yet bewildering world upon which our lives turn?

Death hasn't called upon many people in my life, so it's kind of a shock when two people I know die in the course of a month.

One was Tim Davis, murdered in cold blood when he watching the sunset in the mountains. Those facts still shock me, and his passing makes me regret all I could have learned from him about radio.

The other was Marvin Hilton, a man I knew from the Senior Statesmen of Virginia and from a lecture event I record before every UVA football game. He crossed into my professional life this year when he came on board the Albemarle County Service Authority. This pleased me.

But, yesterday morning I was very sad to learn he'd died suddenly on Sunday. Out of the blue.

Every second, someone dies somewhere in the world. People drop out of the tapestry of the living and become part of something else none of us can know about yet.

This is where knowing the word "ineffable" becomes so incredibly useful.

Marvin lived a long life. I did not know him very well, but I respected him and the contributions he  made to our community. I remember him telling me in an interview he had hoped to be named to the Planning Commission, but was happy to be working for the county's water and sewer infrastructure.

Tim deserved to live longer, but I know he was doing what he loved to do and was making the most of his life.

Leaving aside the pain we may feel from the passage of others, what can we learn about ourselves, and the work we need to do in our lives to make them what we want them to be? Death is such a sobering reality, one best to confront directly instead of fearing it, pretending it won't happen.

At some point in my mid-twenties, I decided to move to Arlington so I could seriously have a go at being in a band with a friend of mine. This decision came after a funeral I'd attended for a high school with whom I'd had a terrible falling out. One day I hope to be able to write about him a bit more.

For now, though, after Brian Mercado died, I committed myself to living my life the way I wanted to. I didn't really know how to go about doing that, and I'm not sure I really know if I ever will. But, I do know that I can always hear the clock ticking.

My mid-thirties are turning out to look a lot like my mid-twenties, when I was still trying to figure out how to live my life. I've found myself in this odd situation where I'm a bachelor who works two jobs and does whatever he can do to pay for an ever-increasing set of bills. Is that my life? Is this who I wanted to be?

Thing is, though, I'm more at peace than I've been in a while. I have a sure-fire way to remind myself I'm alive, striving towards the light much like one of the plants growing on my dining room table. I go for a run and push my body to reach new goals. I deliberately seek out steep hills to climb, and wow, I feel like I'm living a totally different life now.

But yet, the passage of these two men reminds me that perhaps there's more I need to do. In short, what do I want my kids to remember about me? What, dear reader, would I like you to remember about me in the event that I pop my clogs during that next run?

I don't know, and can't know, and that's not really the point here. My point is simply to say that every second we have is precious. For me that translates in trying to do whatever I can to make as many people happy. I want to treat people decently, tell people what I think they want and need to know.

Rest in peace to the fallen.

Work towards peace for the rest of us.

There's so much conflict out there, and I'd venture to say much of stems because people are hard-wired to not get along with each other. We're still animals on the savanna.

But, yet, please remember: We mourn our dead. We celebrate our dead. In that very basic fact, can't we find some way to make things better for the living, and those who will live in the future?


Splurging on the Flaming Lips

Seven years ago, I began the process of falling in love with someone to the Flaming Lips album "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots." Futuristic themes of fate were presented in songs such as "All We Have Is Now" and "Do You Realize?" and they resonated with me.

I can't fully time travel myself back to a point where my synapses are firing in that same way. But I do recall that at the time I was very unhappy. Listening to the songs over and over in the spring of 2003 filled me with some sense of urgency that I'd better try to seize happiness no matter the cost.

There's a certain danger when you selectively pull things from the collective consciousness to suit your needs, but every now and then you have to take a leap of faith in the hopes that the next continent will be more fruitful.

I can honestly say I don't have any regrets about the damage done as that particular morality play unfolded. The details, however, are not for public consumption at this time.

Flash now to a spring seven years later, this spring, this now we currently have.

It's been a while since a new set of songs has shuffled onto my internal jukebox, providing a new set of coloring to the proceedings. I still seem to listen to most of the same songs over and over again and am not nearly as adventurous as I'd like to be.

My life's changes have mostly involved a reduced on-stage dramatis personae as well as a new fishbowl to play in. I work more than I don't, and it's not often that I take the time to do something for myself. Running is the main way I relax and recharge, but it's a solitary pursuit.

I'm not sure if I'm happy or unhappy. I'm a bit more mature, a bit more scarred by the battles of love. I'm getting through my life by working hard and trying to stay out of trouble. I mostly take my pleasure in the form of running, though I can honestly say I have two of the best jobs in all of Charlottesville.

Yet, sometimes I don't really believe that. There are days and moments where I'm convinced that this isn't where I'm supposed to be. In these George Bailey moments, I begin to dream up schemes of teaching English in Chile, or figuring out a way to work for the private space business somehow.

Thankfully, I've learned to stop and listen to the universe. If I do, honestly do, then I'm told that everything is okay, if I could just relax and give over it to from time to time.

There are rewards to hard work. There are rewards to doing the right thing.

This week, I came into a slight windfall thanks to an extra shift working at Tastings, the other restaurant owned by Bill Curtis. I was able to finally buy a new pair of shoes that I'll use to train for my next major race.

But, the more important purchase was a last minute decision to go see the Flaming Lips at the Pavilion. For a long time, I had kept Thursday night free so I could go see it if I wanted to. But, the forty dollar ticket price kept me from being able to commit to it.

All day Thursday I wasn't sure at all if I'd go. After all, I didn't know anyone else who was going. I'm not very good at doing things in public unless I have someone to go with, and I don't make plans easily because I'm usually working, or I have to keep flexible for work.

Went for a run in my new shoes, a 5 miler without a watch. When I got to the mall, I ran into two colleagues from the Daily Progress who were going, and I said I was thinking about it. The opening band was already playing, but I had no interest in going to see them. Seven is too early to start a show.

Somewhere on the run I decided I would definitely go to see the show. I had such a great run, just running to my ability rather than running to the needs to keep the training goals satisfied. I also enjoy running in crowds.

This Belle and Sebastian video comes to mind.

So, I decided to go, and got back home, changed, and hurried back. Paid my $40, and proceeded to enjoy the show with a delicious Longhammer IPA in hand.

In the end, I decided to pay for the experience, and that it would be worth it to be in a crowd of familiar strangers. I will not be able to attend any Friday after Five events because I'll be up at Court Square Tavern. (you should come up and see us!)

At first, I go silent in crowds and begin observing everything I possibly can. I moved around a lot during the show to take in different vantage points.

I'm not a huge Flaming Lips fan, and I don't often listen to their music anymore. That love from seven years ago flared bright but soon leaked all vitality into a sickly pale color. In my seizing of happiness, I created an ideal in my head that couldn't ever quite be realized.

These two things aren't related, but I tend to get a bit wistful when I hear Do You Realize.

However, one of our Pandora stations at work keeps spitting out "Fight Test," a song with lyrics that resonate very strongly at this point in my life. I'll save the details for the memoir, but I had hoped they would play it and I was waiting for it.

I don't think I've seen a rock concert for years, so I just enjoyed taking it all in. The lights, the music, the spectacle, the silliness of balloons dancing up and down above a crowd. I slowly felt myself joining the crowd in cheering, singing and dancing. By the end of the show, I was developing new memories for a new life that I'm still not quite used to. I'm learning sometimes you have to splurge and go for the experiences you need in order to create true and lasting happiness.

The encore was "Do You Realize" and there was something about standing underneath a pavilion where I've spent so much time in the past few years with my family, with myself as a runner cutting underneath the bridge. I shouted along with the lyrics, looking at the bridge, looking up at Carter Mountain, thought of Tim Davis, thought of lost loves, thought of thrown-away loves, thought about how wonderful this world if you can just get some kind of handle on it.

I do realize. And I like the way my synapses fire now.


To finish a blog post

Lately, I've been unable to finish any of the drafts that I've started here for this little ol' blog.  I'm tried writing about my garden, tried to write about the ten-miler, tried to write about the death of Tim Davis. I sit down and start, but I can't finish.

The chief reason why I don't finish anything is that my leisure time has more or less disappeared, again. For reasons I can't state publicly, it's important for me to work as much as possible and this more or less means taking on additional work at Court Square Tavern. Last night, I worked at Tastings for the second time, this time as a waiter.

Every day of my life these days feels like a trip to the dentist, filled with a mixture of dread, terror and numb. Yet, there are still glimpses of pure joy. I don't feel sad, though I certainly don't feel this life has shaped up the way I thought it might and there are tremendous wells of sadness all around me. I have to constantly be on battle to not fall in.

There's nothing really in this post. This one is an exercise, a place-holder, a marker in time.