The Grind

Every day is near the same. My dreams keep me in slumber as I visit cities I'll never get to visit in real life because they might not even exist. I'm assigned to accomplish tasks that can never be solved, but I cannot wake quickly because I am driven to do the impossible. Then the liquid of reality pours in and I float up to consciousness.

I move quickly to my computer to begin to do the impossible. Stories must be written. Complexities must be simplified. Corrections must be made. Direction must be given. First, though, I need caffeine ameliorated by the tannins in my cheap black tea with a spot of milk. I like to sit in my front room going through the first set of information about the world.

First question: How badly did I screw up the night before? Did I get something wrong in a story? Did I make anyone angry? Did anyone react to what I wrote the day before, or what my colleagues wrote the day before? I seem to need to do this at home rather than at my office.

Eventually, though, gravity pulls me towards my desk at work, the same place on the downtown mall that I have sat for over six years now, on the second floor of a parking garage with glass on my right and glass behind me. In years past I might have taken the bus to get there, but route changes have severed my personal connections to the transit system. I lament this almost every time I get in my car to drive the mile and a half.

I take the same route every day. I'm stopped at the same traffic lights on an almost routine basis. I get caught at every single one. By the time I get to the garage, I've managed to listen to ten minutes of either soothing jazz or something somber from public radio. And then I drive up the concrete and try to park in roughly the same spot, close to the mallside elevator. If I park anywhere else, I will forget where I was.

I get out of my car, and then walk down the stairs unless I'm lucky and the elevator shows up right in front of me. If I'm carrying more then two bags, I'll stop and hit the button. When I walk down the stairs, I always remark about how many flights I've taken in that staircase over the last six years. The routine adds up to many miles.

I get to my desk and make a silly comment upon arriving to work. I'm usually in well after 9:00 am because I'm almost always going to be at work well past 5:00 pm. My work day doesn't end until well into the evening.

On some days City Space is filled with people who are attending a workshop, a training, a symposium, a retirement, a party. There's always a happening, and I'm always on the margins watching. I sit at my desk and watch people go by as I settle into the work in front of me.

I always do the work in front of me. Sometimes I do more than what's due that day, but I try my best to never break a deadline or to ask for more time. If I am assigned to something, I always aim to deliver on what I have promised I can do. Any less and I would feel a failure. I do what I say I can do and sometimes this pushes me to new heights of productivity.

I write about the public realm in my community as well as the wishes private property owners have for their land. I see all of the forces pulling upon the community in which I have now lived for 14 years. Everything that comes across my eyes is weighed against the format in which I present my stories. I am that rare person who has had the ability to do the same thing for nine years and with each passing day I feel I grow stronger not only in my ability to get the job done, but also to push past my boundaries.

When I get home, eventually, it is almost always to an empty home. In the summer, I have to turn the air conditioning on to wipe away the stuffiness and heat. In the winter, I have learned to live in the relative cold of my house. But either way, I'm always alone. The days of romance are over for me, or at least, the prolonged stasis of independent living increasingly seems permanent.

This is my life. It is a good one. I believe the work I do is valuable and it is backed up by the funding that my organization receives. I am happier than I have been in my entire life. Every second seems to fit into a cohesive whole. There is not much room for creativity outside my work life in part because I have two other jobs I must do in order to make ends meet. Previous life choices have added up, and the bills have come due.

Certainly I am leaving much out of this narrative. I am certain I will repeat this narrative as well, and add to it as it inevitably changes.

There is no negative connotation associated by titling this post "The Grind" as I believe that I am well-suited by the routine that has been carved out over time. Gone are the musings of a depressed man who felt sorry for himself. In its place are writings from a person who realizes that a life of work and duty is a noble cause.

Yet, I am also the sort of person who questions my own usage of the word "noble" to describe my life. This is just my life. As a child I wanted to know why society worked the way it does. From my position now I do not claim to have any of the answers, but I can describe to you the mechanisms that I see.

I write this in the evening. Soon I will try to sleep and the dreams will come. I will go on another trip and I will be in more exciting scenarios than my current life of public meetings allow. I will fly. I will see people I've not seen in years. I will speak with former lovers and apologize. I will try to make amends. I will be human. And then I will wake  up and it all begins anew.


The keys

Somewhere in this house Squirtle stands guard over my keys. I'm not sure where they are, but I know they are here, and the protector I put in place of them is waiting for me to find him. 

I do try to keep my house in order, just like I try to keep my communications in order, but sometimes there's a whirlwind and I'm left wondering where things are. This is one of those times. 

I lost my last set of car keys last May upon coming back from a catering gig outside Waynesboro. A big tulip concern threw a party to announce their big hothouse and I drove back late and stopped at a gas station in town and somehow they got misplaced. I searched for two hours in the parking lot before the manager told me I'd need to move my car by morning. I had it towed and getting a new set of keys wiped out the money I'd made that night.

Such is life. Things come, things go. Everything around us is always in motion. Everything inside of us is always in motion.

When I got the new keys, I found a keychain in a box I'd picked up from the public defender's office several years ago. My children have loved playing in that box, and I thought it fitting to appoint the Pokemon Squirtle to be the new chain to protect my new set of keys. At the moment, they are missing amidst the whirlwind but I am certain I will find them. 

Downstairs the washing machine whirs and I sit here waiting for the phone to charge so I can listen to podcasts. Ten years ago I was all about podcasts but these days I am all about information about the community in which I live. I am cleaning my bed sheets and I must wait for that to be done before I can seek slumber. I am hoping that in a moment the cleaning will reveal Squirtle and his bounty of keys, metal shanks that can unlock the doors I am allowed to unlock. 

If this doesn't happen, I will get new keys. I will find new doors to open. 


Year 43

My left ear pulses with pain from a bee sting that happened while I was mowing the lawn tonight while my kids were in the backyard enchanted with fact that nature has totally overgrown the bottom terrace. The top terrace is rough around the edges, but no one will be swallowed whole. 

Both of my ankles throb due to at least two other bee stings. I apparently angered a hive today in trying to get the public portion of my yard under control. Earlier this summer I paid a friend of mine $50 for a lawnmower because he moved to Los Angeles with his wife. 

In the past seven days I have now suffered a sunburn from the beach, a summer cold I suspect was caught in the hotel breakfast buffet line and now these sharp aches from earlier this evening.

This is year 43. This is now the time when I can expect that aches and pains are going to be more part of my life as I'm well past the days where I can claim to be young. In my mind, I'm still in my early 20's but now my body is rejecting my mind's desire.

I am a body. If I close my eyes I can imagine each pulse of pain of coming from a distant part of this galaxy of nerves that compromise my corporeal self. They are a reminder of things that happened today. I embrace the pain with joy because I managed to mow my lawn. I got something done that needed to be done, even finishing after the stings pumped a tiny bit of venom into my system.

This is year 43. There's more I need to say about these times I'm living in. I know what I do for a living, but what do I do to live? Is it simply accepting the pain without acting upon it?

Surely it is time to begin to amuse anew whatever soul finds itself gazing upon these words? Maybe I should commit to truly committing myself to the idea that I have dastardly thoughts from a mundane world?

I simply know now that the nerve endings will heal and that I shall chalk this weekend up to being one of the best I have had all summer.

For now? I shall continue to take deep breaths and ride out these sharp bursts of feeling in my extremities. Tomorrow brings another challenge. Today brought a realization that stories are the sinew that binds humans together.

I'll see if I can advance that idea tomorrow.