Little things

I appreciate authentic gestures, no matter how small they are.

We’ve got a couple of people at work who are remote.  They fly in once or twice a month, hang out for a day or three and fly home.  I think both of them are intimidated by driving here, so they have taken ubers for awhile now.  That does a couple of things:  a) they tend to schedule flights so that arrive close to one another and spend a lot of time at the airport waiting for one another so they can share a ride b) they tend to give other employees puppy-dog eyes to sucker us into picking them up in the morning, dropping them off, and spending time with them because after doing this for years, they’re bored silly in the hotel.

There’s a woman at work that I used to hang out with a lot.  We’d go walk for lotto tickets together, which was really an excuse to get out of the office and vent.  She moved here so that her and her BF could be closer to his family.  Then he went and started a business that’s had him in Minneapolis for the last six months with no end in site.  She didn’t hate it here, but she didn’t love it either.  So she wanted to move back to Louisiana so that she’d at least be by friends and family if they weren’t going to be together.  Their lease is up in September so she was starting to plan around that.

After talking about it, they really decided that what they wanted was just to be together, and they didn’t want to wait, so she broke the lease and moved to Minneapolis recently.  She’s been a rock-star employee, so the company offered her the opportunity to work remotely.  She’s back in town for the first time this week but unlike the others rented a car and then promptly got stuck being a chauffeur for them.

We were supposed to hang out tonight, but she got roped into carting them all around.  I’m not really dating anyone right now and the Boy is with his mom this week.  There’s been a lot of weird stuff going on at work that has my spidey-sense tingling.  It was raining here this afternoon and I had to be at work earlier than normal, so I came home, took a nap, then was doing a bunch of unappealing chores while waiting to see if she was going to call.  After a certain point I went and grabbed dinner.

There’s nothing going wrong, life is fairly good.  But sometimes, when the house is too quiet and I have too much time on my hands, I can get a case of the mopes.  I never quite know what leads me down that route, it just happens sometimes.  Tonight had the potential to go that way, all the ingredients were there.

The girl from work texted me tonight.  Apologized for not being able to hang tonight and asked if we could “Plan for tomorrow?  Like a real date and time?”  I said sure, but I also said if it doesn’t happen, it’s ok, I get that the other people could drag her into things again.  She was just really insistent that we’d hang tomorrow and I don’t know why, but that was like a salve on a burn I wasn’t aware I had.

Music

I was driving down to Ft. Carson this morning for a Spartan race.  It’s about an hour and 45 minutes so I put on Slacker.  Normally I have a “favorites” channel, but with all the time on the motorcycle and roadtrips lately I wanted a break so I listened to Front Line Radio.  I wrote about that hear and highly recommend you give it a listen.  You can follow this link to listen to it.

Two songs struck me this morning.  One was “Drive On” by Johnny Cash.  I honestly don’t know if I’d ever heard it before, which is surprising considering how many Cash CDs are floating around this place.

Not much more needs to be said about that song.

The other one?  I’ve said frequently that I normally hear music but not the words.  There’s a quote that I like that goes “When you’re happy you hear the music, when you’re sad you listen to the words”.  That’s been true for me usually.  And when a song resonates with me when I’m sad, I can’t turn that off.  I can’t NOT hear the words when I’m happy again.

“Times Like These” by the Foo Fighters has been a favorite of mine for years, probably since the album came out in 2002.  Maybe not.  I was deployed for some of that year and it took some catching up.  So maybe 2003.  But it’s been in regular rotation on my road-trips for over a decade.  I’ve sung it (as best as I’ve understood the lyrics) at the top of my lungs while driving.  And never really thought about any of it.

This morning, they told some backstory behind the request.  The service member who requested it said that they left the military almost immediately after their last of several deployments and when they did, this song was on almost constant replay for them for awhile, strictly because of the lyrics “It’s times like these you learn to live again” and “It’s times like these you learn to love again”.  Then they played the song.

I teared up a little and choked them back.  Instantly I was transported back to my 3rd deployment.  Before the deployment, being almost certain I wasn’t coming home and then when I realized I was, trying to figure out what that mean.  I hadn’t made any “after” plans.

Character

Tonight was an interesting study in human character.  A couple years ago I worked with this guy who’s about my age.  He was never military, but has had a wide range of experiences.  We have similar interests and kind of hit it off, even though we were in different departments and at different levels of hierarchy.  A couple of years ago he decided he wanted to get into motorcycling and asked me to help him shop for a new motorcycle.  We’ve gone on photowalks together, I’ve sent customers to buy hand made leather products from him, etc.

He likes this particular brand of motorcycle gloves.  I’ve always thought they looked like gardening gloves.  I tried some on in person and they were just awkward and uncomfortable.  I left that experience believing they were just a hipster badge, like drinking PBR and wearing flannel and beards.  If you want to spend your money on that, no problem.  But they aren’t for me.

When I did this last ride, I realized that my gloves suck.  I like wool, so I started searching online for wool lined gloves and the only ones I could find were made by this company.  So I ordered them, at $95/pair.  They showed up last week and were terrible.  I soaked them in water and wore them for an hour, that helped them fit better.  The next day I wore them to work.  On their website they advertise them as “winter” gloves.  When I rode to work it was 50 degrees and my hands were still cold in them.  So they officially got a “hell no” from me.

I’ve been upfront about them.  I don’t know what my end goal is, but I’m trying to grow my “brand” on social media.  I’m never going to stop being an IT guy and start being a full time photographer (at least until I retire) but I’d rather have options than not.  So I’ve been posting stuff online and building a base.  When I got the gloves I started taking photos of them, tagging the manufacturer online, etc.  And I’ve been honest.  When I didn’t like something, I said it, in public, in a public forum and I tagged the company so they could respond.  They chose not to.  And my comments haven’t been “they suck!”, they’ve been thought out and solid.  Not always as verbose as possible, given the medium, but the channel was there for the company to contact me for more in-depth feedback.

I met up with 3 Army guys after work tonight.  People I’ve entrusted with my life over the years.  I’m not going to say they’ve been perfect.  They’ve failed.  But they’ve picked themselves up and tried again.  And while we were drinking tonight we were honest again.  Told one guy how much we all hated him when we first met him.  One guy told me I needed to stop talking because my opinion wasn’t valid anymore because I’d been out of the Army too long and my info was dated.  That stung, he knew it did, but I got over it.  The mutual respect and admiration was palpable.  And because of that respect we could have different opinions and still be friends.

After I left the bar I saw I had a text.  I’d thought my former coworker had posted a photo and tagged the company that makes the gloves.  Actually the glove manufacturer had re-posted my friend’s photo.  I’d said “I’m sorry, but I can’t support you on this one, I think they’re glorified gardening gloves”.  His text was frantic.  Did I realize it wasn’t his account that I’d posted it to?  No, but I didn’t care, I’d say it to their face.  That was fine, but I shouldn’t drag him into my displeasure with their product.  How was I drawing him in?  I said I just didn’t agree with his opinion?

Well, turns out they were upset and contacted him.  They didn’t have the nerve to contact me, even though they’d admitted to him that they knew I wasn’t pleased with their product.  They weren’t willing to discuss the merit of my opinions.  But they’d helped him get some exposure as a photographer and were threatening to black-ball him in the community.  And even though he agreed that they were way over-hyped, he was scared to admit it.

I’m trying not to judge him.  I don’t know his personal situation and I don’t know what he’s going through.  I don’t know him well enough to know what motivates him.  But I do know that the timing of our conversation definitely makes me appreciate my real friends, my tribe, more.

Day 11

The last day.  I woke up in the hotel and typed out the post about having my photos accepted into the museum exhibit and my “last day” post.  Then I got up and started my day.  When I ate dinner in the hotel restaurant the night before they way overcooked my steak so they gave me a coupon for breakfast which they totally screwed up as well.  After breakfast I packed my bags, loaded the bike and headed out for the Albuquerque Harley dealer to pick up a poker chip and see if they had any better gloves than what I was wearing.  They didn’t, so I got on the road.  I had enough gas to make it to Santa Fe and they had a Harley Davidson dealer as well, so I stopped there, got gas and scored at the dealership.  They had heated gloves that were compatible with my heated jacket liner.

“Uh, sir.  Are you sure you want those?”  “Yeah, why?”  “Well, it’s just that they are women’s.”  “Are they pink?”  “Well, no.”  “Sparkley?”  “No, they look just like the men’s gloves, just smaller.”  “Well, let me try them on then.”  I found a pair that mostly fit, they were a little tight, but they worked, so I got them.  Best part?  They were on the clearance table.

That made the ride a heckuva lot more comfortable.  I got back on the road for Denver, stopping along the way for various photos and to make adjustments to my gear to make myself warm or more comfortable.  I stopped in Trinidad and Colorado Springs for gas and at a gas station at some little town for gas-station pizza.  The whole trip, whenever I stopped for something on an Indian reservation someone would ask me for money, but I never had cash.  When I was getting off the interstate for lunch, someone at the bottom of the off-ramp asked for money.  Again, I didn’t have any but after saying “no” so many times, I felt guilty and got money out of the ATM when I got my pizza and gave it to him on the way back out of town.

I got home around 7 and unloaded the bike.  The house was still standing and was actually relatively neat.  So the kid did ok.  And the dog looked like he hadn’t been forgotten to be fed to many times.

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He was also excited to see me based off all the face-licks I got from him.

It was a good trip, something I’ll be remembering for years to come.  The best part of it?  The next morning my Dad’s pathology labs came back good.  So many great sights, opportunities to help my family out and friends.  Chances to meet some new people.

Day 10

Lessons learned:

  • When you have the option of a long sleeve with thumb holes and one without, have a well thought out reason to buy the one without.  Something better than “I already have so much orange in my closet.”
  • Have two pairs of gloves for long rides in the cold.  Out one inside the heated jacket liner and wear the other.  Alternate as needed.  Or better yet, buy the damned heated gloves.

So I woke up in Kayenta, AZ.  There isn’t a lot going on there.  So I ate breakfast at the hotel.  I went to the Ace Hardware across the street to see if they long johns or something similar.  They didn’t.  I went across the street and took a picture of the old 7-11 sign.  When I was getting ready to go back to the hotel I saw an Indian gift shop with Ariat and Wrangler signs out front.  So I went in there to see if they had any long underwear.  They didn’t, but they had some long sleeve quarter zips, so at least my upper body could be a little warmer.

I went back to the hotel, got loaded up, geared up and took off for Monument Valley.  It wasn’t quite in the opposite direction of Albuquerque, but it wasn’t in the same direction either, so it was going to be an out-and-back trip, then I’d be able to get on the road to Albq.  I stopped a couple of times on the way to Monument Valley to snap photos, then went in.  It was kind of disappointing because they still charged me full price to get into the park but wouldn’t let me take a motorcycle on the vehicle loop.  So I could only walk around the visitor center taking photos.

I offered to take pics of people when I saw them struggling to get a selfie, or to let couples/familes get photos all together.  I talked another stranger into letting me take a photo of them with the water bottle.  She wouldn’t let me take a picture of her with her face showing if I was going to post it on social media sites.  She does investigations for security clearances so we ended up having a pretty good talk.

After that I back-tracked to Kayenta, filled up and then headed off to Albuquerque on 160.  At Teec Nos Pos I veered off to go check out 4 corners.  The scenery was gorgeous, but the actual 4 corners was kind of anti-climactic.  I went back to Teec Nos Pos and got back onto 160/64 to Shiprock and then Farmington, NM.

The weather was pretty decent up til this point, just cold as hell.  In Farmington, when I jumped onto 550 to Bernalillo that changed pretty quickly.  More hail, rain and snow.  I ended up stopping in the middle of nowhere at some Indian casino/truck stop combo.  My toes and fingers were hurting to bad to go any further, so I got a sandwich at the Subway in the truckstop and thawed out.

I got back on the road but it finally dawned on me that I had two pairs of winter gloves with me.  The pair that got soaked on day one, and the pair I bought to change into.  I put one inside of my heated jacket liner and wore the other pair.  Every 30-45 minutes I swapped out.  Kind of goofy, but it got me through.  I finally found the hotel in Albuquerque that I had reservations at.  This is what I look like after riding for 7-8 hours in crazy winter:

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There was a Target across the interstate from the hotel so I rode over quick and looked for pretty much anything to make Day 11’s ride better than Day’s 9 and 10.  They didn’t have anything, but a couple blocks away there was a Kohl’s.  They had a base layer long underwear type thing.  So I got that and went back to the hotel, where there was a restaurant and ordered a steak and my favorite drink, Blue Moon with a shot of Amaretto and a splash of OJ.  After dinner I went up to the room, showered and climbed into bed in my t-shirt and boxers.  And then this happened:

After a few minutes out in the cold, they told us it was a false alarm and we went back inside.  But the bar had conveniently had last call during the fire alarm, so I just went upstairs and crashed.

 

The last morning

I’m laying in bed in a hotel room in Albuquerque, Nm.  I’m sick, exhausted, sore in some areas and in a lot of pain in others.  And yet it was an amazing, wonderful trip.  There were some moments of misery, but at no time was the trip miserable, if that makes sense?  There were a couple of interpersonal moments with friends and family that sucked, but they would’ve sucked anyway, whether I was in the trip or at home.

It’s been a great distraction mentally and emotionally.  We still don’t have Dad’s pathology reports back yet, work is a mess, there’s some ugly relationship stuff going on.  And I didn’t dwell on any of that while traveling.  Thought about it, yes.  But didn’t dwell and obsess on it til it made me miserable.

I wish I could’ve seen more and done more.  I wish the weather didn’t suck as bad as it did.  But this close to the end, I have to say that it’s been perfect and everything that happened, happened for a positive reason.

We interrupt this regularly scheduled program…

… for this breaking news:

Earlier this month I submitted two photos for a juried art exhibit at a museum.  The exhibit starts in July and runs through November.

I got the notice for the call for submissions late last month, then hemmed and hawed about whether to submit for a couple days.  Then procrastinated for a few more.  In the end, I ended up submitting two pieces with just a day to spare before the deadline.

Both pieces were accepted!  I’m going to have two of my photos hanging in a museum!  Looks like more travel in my future, they invited me to attend opening night.