Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Track 14 - A Voice In The Darkness

I like to run at night.  The evil over imposing sun has gone to bed along with most of the world.  Night's are calm the air is less cluttered and it is easier to disappear into my own thoughts as I fight my ever increasing belly.  Summer nights are my favorite.  I have had evening runs all over the place from the water fronts of St. Petersburg, FL to mountain trails in Montana.  This story begins in Roseville, California.

I headed out for a short run.  Leaving the front doors of the hotel at approximately 9:30 PM.  I had found out that there was a pretty running trail at the bottom of a dried riverbed ravine called Miner's Ravine Trail.  I dropped off the main road and descending down into the ravine.  It was quiet and felt very remote.  I had my headphones in and my glow in the dark yellow running shoes and I was feeling pretty good.  But that was all about to change.  

As I continued on the trail that meandered down the side of the creek bed, my thoughts were interrupted by a voice in my head that said, "turn around."  It was a common occurrence for my imagination to take over in the solitude of a night time run so I ignored it and brushed it off as me just being paranoid and freaking myself out in the secluded little canyon. I trudged on.  No more than five minutes later the voice returned.  This time the steady calm was replaced by a stern commanding one, "turn around now."  Twice?  That was unusual.  My mind raced through the options, ignore it and keep running or do as it said and flip a u-turn.  I decided to reverse directions and turn the 180 degrees and continued the jog heading back from where I came.  That wasn't good enough to satisfy the invisible watchmen whispering in my head, "run faster!" were the next instructions.  I took off to as close to a sprint as I could muster.  Around a few bends, down a small hill and across a bridge I charged.  Once I cleared the bridge the final words were uttered, "you're ok now."  You're ok now.  What was lurking in the darkness ahead on the trail?  I don't know.  I may never know.  The only certainty was I was being warned and I listened.  Sometimes, the best lessons learned are the ones you never had to learn the hard way.  

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Track 13 - Skymiles and Hotel Points

The travelling professional is a special breed of person.  To the average person, the idea of jumping on an airplane and bolting off to a new place each week sounds exciting.  I always hear from people, “I wish I could travel as much as you do.”  I realized a long time ago that I couldn’t work a job that doesn’t have perks of some sort.  I worked in the NBA and it was full of perks.  I sacrificed a high income for a high fun level.  I travelled, received free tanning, hair cuts, food, club passes and spent most days deciding if a monster tricycle or new multi-shot t-shirt cannon was a better expenditure.  After being laid off by the Nuggets and getting passed over by the Nuggets, Dodgers, and Jazz for Game Entertainment Director positions due to what I deemed political missteps, I decided I needed to go a different direction.  The opportunity fell into my lap to pack up the roller and head out on the road. 

I was hired by a seminar company as a sales rep selling e-commerce websites and it started off well.  Three months into it, the new president laid off the whole sales staff.  Layoff number 2!  It’s old hat now.  But I had been bitten.  I liked the travel.  I liked the travel benefits.  I liked people asking me to where I was off to.  I was determined to get hired by a new seminar company I had heard about selling real estate investment training.  Good fortune smiled upon me and two months later I was back at the airport with a new roller bag and a boarding pass to a new location. 

The road has granted opportunities I probably never would have had if I had not become a business traveler.  In fact, I am writing this from my first class seat 35,000 feet up on my way to Denver.  I recently took a 12 day trip to Thailand.  My flight was free.  My hotels were free.  I spent less than $700 dollars total for an exotic trip to Asia.  Skymiles and hotel points now come in droves.  I spend my spare time researching tropical locations I am going to visit on my weeks off.  With my paycheck and travel rewards I can pretty much go anywhere anytime I please.  But, everything comes with a price.

I have sold my social life for perks.  I have lost multiple dating relationships because for some reason women actually want to see their boyfriend.  Strange!  It has been hard on me.  If you have read previous tracks, you know that I actively looking for my “it girl.”  It is going to be a challenge.  I am home about 4 days a month.  If and when I do have a family, will I be ok missing so many milestones in their life due to my travel schedule?  I’m not sure.  I have also been shopping for a house, which has been tricky in it self.  I find a listing I am interested in and by the time I get a chance to see the property, they are already under contract.  Finally, I had to send Bella to live with her grandma and grandpa and I miss that little girl. 

Why am I complaining?  I have no idea.  I get a kick out of being somewhere different each week.  I don’t have a desk I am chained to and I get to check out random locations.  If that isn’t enough, add the frequent traveler benefits and perks that go along with it.  I’m probably way over paid for what I actually contribute to society.  I also don’t have to pay $4/gal gas and along with that I haven’t had a speeding ticket in over a year and half, a new record I believe.  So, for now, I am going to keep rockin’ the priority lines and laughing at the casual travelers as the fumble around the airports as I head to my next destination and leave normalcy along with liquids over 3 oz. at the security check. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Track 12 - Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall

I stand in front of a mirror and gaze at the reflection that holds my analytical stare. Who is this man that looks back at me. Do I really know who he is? Recently I read a book that brought up a topic of one’s true name. The protagonist needed to discover his true name to overcome a significant obstacle. A true name in the sense of the book was a name defined by attributes positive and negative that made up one’s self. To learn one’s true name required an absolute understanding of who an individual is. I have been thinking a lot about that question lately. Who am I and am I who I want to be?

Yes, I know who I am in a very superficial sense. I can spout out all my personal stats. I know I was born in Salem, Oregon to Tom and Margi. I have an older sister and three younger brothers. I know that I grew up spending much of my youth playing sports and trying to develop other minor talents such as playing the piano and saxophone and attempting to learn Spanish, an ability that required complete immersion for two years to finally master. As I examine my image in the mirror, I can tell you that I have dirty blond hair and hazel eyes. I am eight pounds heavier than I would like to be and frustrated with my lack of six-pack abs. I can complain about my receding hairline over my temples and how I too frequently enjoy the company of an ingrown toenail on my already unattractive feet. Yes, I can recite my physical stats and pick apart the undesirable qualities as quickly as the next. That is not telling me anything about my true self.

I dive deeper. I know that I love people for all their quirks and intricacies. I make friends easily and generally want to make others happy. I love to entertain and be the center of attention. I worry about being successful and stable a condition directly correlated to being laid off twice in the last three years. I do not worry about exceeding in my employment opportunities but more so over the stability of them. As a result, I spend more and more time setting goals and plans to eliminate economic dependence on a single employer. A desire for a family and children is a subtle dull pain that resides darkly inside and never seems to fully subside but is no match to the bullying and dominate insatiable quest to find the “perfect” helpmate. I am innately good but struggle with temptations and shortcomings. That is closer but it still does not extinguish my curiosity and wonderment.

I guess the question is do I see the same person my mother sees. Am I living up to the potential and being that they hoped I’d be or believe I can be. But, why stop there? Even that is just a perception of a third party that truly cannot control the outcome nor knows who I really am and all the abilities that I should be cultivating. So I go to the top. I want to know if the man I see and am is the same man that God sees and knows I am. Do they match or while I stumble around this work in progress, on lazy feet and with clumsy hands, am I creating a piece of art that one day will fulfill its true measure of it’s creation? I hope so.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Track 11 - Fair Games

Imagine sitting in hotel ballroom after hotel ballroom listening to the same four hour presentation over and over. It sounds exciting doesn't it. I will attach the sign up sheet so you can get on board with this. It's an opportunity that you don't want to miss. During the days, there are multiple hours of sitting at the sales table waiting for the sales break. That's when my ADHA kicks in and I begin thinking of ways to past the time other than the normal internet surfing, texting, and facebooking. Last night I came up with the best game yet. Here is what I saw:

I have always loved carnival games. I used to get so excited to go to the state fair because I wanted to play the midway games. My favorites were the spray the clown in the mouth and race to the top and the Kentucky Derby ball game. It didn't matter that the games were completely rigged in favor of the house and that I was paying $25 for 70 cents worth of fabric and sawdust. I think like a winner and I knew I'd win... eventually. When I saw the tray of glasses all I thought was glass bottles and little rings. Just gotta get one ringer and the giant panda would be going home with me! I approached my two fellow sales guys and pitched the challenge. Each player would attempt to land a fruit snack in one of the glasses from across the room. The last player to make one had to drink the remnants of the "winning" glasses. Yes, I know, that is disgusting. But if you are worried about that, you are thinking with a losers mentality and as a winner, I really wanted to see one of my cohorts drink backwash of strange seminar attendees.

Just as believed, I did not lose. Mike was the sad sap that had to drink two half-full (hope you caught the optimistic insert) cups. These were the two he drew. An empty coffee cup and a water glass.

I think I threw up in my mouth and passed out due to oxygen deprivation from laughing so hard. The food for thought from this blog post is to think like a winner. That's the secret.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Track 10 - Back At It

Its a different day and a different story. That's what makes life worth living. Can you imagine a life that everyday is the same? No thank you. Yes I love Groundhog's Day as much as the next man but that is the best Hollywood could do to romanticize the idea. For most of us, it would be terminally boring.

I am in a ballroom in Allentown, PA working. Some people take working for granted. I don't. I have a new appreciation of the daily grind. Working for the man has never been more fulfilling. Here's the explanation. I have never been fired from a job. O contraire, I exceed expectations of my employers. How is it, that at 32 years old, I have been laid off not once but twice?! Those unfortunate events may reek havoc on some individuals confidence. Not mine, I have an eternal optimist. I believe that I will always land on my feet. In fact, the day I was laid off most recently, I took off on a two week road trip. No job searching, networking or resume touch ups. Instead, it was open road and familiar faces.

Today, as I sit at work bored like many of you on a work day waiting for the clock on the wall to free me from employed incarceration, I have a half smile on my face because it feels good to be employed. Paychecks will be flowing weekly and my frequent flyer miles will continue to grow. I am happy that my public life and societal contributions firmed up. The draw back, my personal/social life once again takes a back seat. How will this affect my search for "her". We will see. I'll keep ya posted.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Track 9 - Big (uh) O

Adversity can tell you a lot about a person. Everyone handles it differently. An example from my life would be when I went camping when I was 18. That night we had a couple uninvited visitors in the shape of black bears. They were brushing by the tent, sniffing and lapping the tongues around. I thought for sure they saw Haribo or Black Forrest printed on our tent and I instantly thought it was payback for all the delicious gummy cousins of these two I had devoured. The interesting part of this traumatic experience was the demonstration of different personalities. I dealt with the stress by attempting to be funny, lighten the situation a tad bit and ease the tension. One girl dealt with it by crying unconsolably. A young man I didn't know very well became rude and bossy. And finally, one guy showed courage (at the time I thought it was masked by stupidity) and selflessness. He informed the rest of us that if a bear opened the tent, he was going to throw himself at it while the rest of us escaped. Fortunately, it never came to that but it was an interesting sociological experiment.

Recently I took the short 530 mile drive from Salt Lake City to Denver to visit the family. In the passenger seat was my navigator, a special young lady that was brave enough to accept an invitation to hang with my parentals and me for the weekend. Here is the tie back, 25 miles outside of Laramie, WY we heard a currrrplunk and smoke billowed out from underneath my beloved Subaru. I love my car. I take good care of it. There was no reason why I should be mosquito dusting behind my car. Like it or not, we were broken down on the side of highway.

I got on the phone to call a tow truck and Miss MVP got on the phone too. Before I was off, she had found a mechanic that was open and had them committed to looking at my car that night. By the time we rolled up to the garage, it was 945 PM and we were going to be stuck in Laramie for the night. That's when I saw another side of my travel companion. Positivity. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Find the silver lining. Turn that frown upside down and smile that frown away. I was so impressed. Our plans were shot. We were stuck in a cowboy town with no car eating sandwiches from Wal-mart. I would have understood had we both been grouchy and frustrated. That wasn't the case.

I try to start people off in a positive light. Everyone starts OK with me. From there some people go up and others go down. Adversity lets us really see into who others are. Life is hard. It is full of trials and unexpected twists. It is how we handle these situations that make us who we are. At times I worry that my generation has had it too soft and we are a bunch of entitled little whiners wanting the whole world to pat us on the butt and say here you go kid, good job. It is refreshing each time that my theory is proven false.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Track 8 - Hats, Bats, and Flats

Thirty-two years old and laid off twice. Some people might start to get very discouraged. I just accept it as part of the career fields I have chosen, sports and entertainment and sales. Both are notorious for layoffs as the economy ebbs and flows. It is getting old. I have never been fired. To the contrary, I have always received praise and accolades for my work ethic and drive. I was laid off from the Nuggets because I was making too much money in a non-essential position. The most recent layoff was just bad luck. I unknowingly jumped onto a sinking ship. StoresOnline, is no longer a seminar company. That does not bode well for a seminar salesman. Last Tuesday my company told me without as much directness and articulation as Queen of Hearts in Alice In Wonderland but with the same final result, "Off with their heads!!!"

Now what? Many of my coworkers went into panic mode or self-preservation mode. Frantic calls to others to hear what their plans were and texts going out as quickly as their fat fingers can navigate their smart phone touch keyboards to networking associates regarding possible open positions filled the air. What did I do? Hung up the phone from the conference call mumbled, "well that sucked," turned up my tunes on the stereo, and turned my car south and headed for sunnier locations. Road trip!!!!

Hats, bats, and flats. That is the name of my road trip. Hats because I am wearing many different hats during the trip:

friend and ex-mission comp



Food critic



and as always eye-candy for the ladies.

The bats part was a bit of a surprise. I am a huge sports fan but not a huge baseball fan. I enjoy baseball because it is summer time and I like being outside in the warm evenings. I think baseball is great because it doesn't require a lot of focus to follow and is very slow moving which makes it easy for me to feed my ADHD on my phone, with binoculars, or day-dreaming. Friday, I dropped my brother and sister-in-law off at LAX. They are headed to Hawaii. Thanks for the invite guys... jerks. It was early evening and my buddy had to work late so I needed to find something to do. It just so happened that the Dodgers were in town so I bought a ticket and went.

Notice the Dodger blue. I didn't want to end up like that Giants fan.

The next day we decided to have a marathon activity day. We got up and went surfing for an hour. I am a natural born surfer and when I say that what I really mean is, I am terrible! Immediately after surfing we drove down PCH to Sunset Beach and paddle boarded the harbor. In Florida, I had seen a pair of red Rainbow sandals and I wanted them. Unfortunately, when I got to the register, I discovered I had left my credit card at the restaurant. Utah doesn't have an abundance of good surf shops, I don't know why with all the Californian wannabes there, you would think we'd have a whole mini Huntington Beach promenade. Lucky for me, Rainbows are made in San Clemente, CA, only about 40 miles from where I was and they had the factory store. We cruised down there and bought my new flip flops and then headed to Anaheim for an Angels game.

Notice the Angels red. I am a chameleon.

By this time, I decided that I would try and watch a baseball game in each destination. In fact, the Angels game was the third game I went to that week. I was at the Bees game, Triple A affiliate of the LA Angels, on Monday the 4th of July.

Sunday was my travel day. I left Seal Beach, CA and drove 949 miles to Salem, OR to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and niece. Salem has a single A affiliate of the SF Giants so that will do.

It was my niece's first baseball game. She was into it. Even started keeping stats. You know those asians love their numbers!

I think you understand the bats part now. But what is the flats all about? Well, a certain friend of mine wished a horrific accident on me. I have driven over 2000 miles already on my trip. Before leaving, she noticed that my tires were pretty close to bald. I explained they were my racing slicks. She told me they were going to blow out, flip my car, and I would end up upside down in the middle of the highway. Don't you put that voodoo on me Ricky Bobby! Sure enough, what do you think happened?

This picture was taken the moment the tire blew out.

You should all know, I am finishing this track strapped into my car by my safety belt upside down on highway 22 in Oregon. Please send help!