I’d really like to get back into this blogging business, but I’m not going to make any promises. So I’ll start with some light fare.
A few weeks back, I finished reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Incidentally, this is the FIRST Stephen King novel I’ve ever read. Over the years, I’ve had several friends tell me that Misery is a great jumping-on point for the worldof Stephen King; but no, I chose to take on this nearly eleven-hundred page behemoth for a starter.
Time travel stories have always been a big favorite of mine. As an adult, I have become fascinated by the assassination of John F. Kennedy and all the theories surrounding it. A novel that marries these two favorite topics of mine seemed almost too good to be true.
11/22/63‘s main character is Jake Epping, a school teacher and divorcee – that’s where the similarities between Jake and Your Favorite Blogger end. Jake is almost moved to tears by an essay written by one of his GED students, Around the same time, Al Templeton, the owner of a local diner, tells Jake of a time portal located beneath his establishment. After Al introduces Jake to the wonders of time travel, the two address a question that has become the stuff of time-travel cliche – What if you could change history? Al defines the assassination of John F. Kennedy as a watershed moment in world history and charges Jake with the task of preventing it.
There are of course, a few catches. This is not a “time machine”. Jake can only travel back to a certain point in time, in this case 1958. Should he decide to stop Lee Harvey Oswald, he’ll have to wait for events to unfold in the past. Much of the novel’s action includes Jake living in the past, waiting and preparing for the fateful titular day in Dallas. The novel explores the idea of a man living in and having a working knowledge of the past, but addresses the conflict of unfamiliarity with everyday life there.
I was absolutely hooked on this book. I typically don’t read books of this size, but I was amazed at how quickly I moved through it. At times, I found it easy to get lost in the daily minutiae of Jake’s life in the early 1960s – making a living, working, personal relationships – and actually lose sight of his over-riding mission to save the President. To that end, I was absolutely amazed at the level of research that King, and his researcer put into the creation of this story.
If you were history, how would the world be different? What would be the inherit dangers of something as exciting as time traveling? These are all questions the novel explores. Inevitably, King does have to address the conspriacy theories regarding Kennedy’s death. He makes a nearly-definitive statement on this matter – stating both in the novel and in interviews that he’s pretty sure Oswald acted alone – though in the story Jake does take steps to determine once and for all if Oswald was infact, the sole assassin.
Does Jake succeed in saving JFK? Does he even bother, or let history unfold as we know it to be? How would the world be different if Jake did save JFK that day in Dallas? And what becomes of the people he meets while living in the past? Of course, many other conflicts and complications arise through the story. I’ll let you, the reader, find these answers for yourself; but I will say this: at 1100 pages, there is a little something for everyone in this novel.
This is a topic that seems to hit home as much as any I write about here. In fact, it may well become my next great topic on this blog. I too suffer from this sense of loneliness – as it would seem many men of my age do. I’m not exactly sure how it happened, or when it began, but over the last few years, I’ve realized just how lonely I am.
In my alter ego, I have 297 Facebook friends. This includes family, friends and acquaintances. For the life of me, I could count one one hand the number of those friends I could call up and say “hey, I could really use a friend right now. Wanna hang out?” I don’t say this to whine or spew sour grapes. This is where my life is right now; and apparently, I’m not alone.
How does this happen to us? Life gets in the way. Work, Significant others, families, kids. Social media, as the article suggests, give us the false impression that we are more socially connected than we truly are. I agree wholeheartedly with the article when it says that men almost need an event or activity to bring them together. I even like the “Wednesday Night” idea that the author shares.
The trick is to get other people on board…
Forgive me if this sounds familiar. But some things have happened lately and some familiar thoughts are racing through my mind. That, and I really used to make some pretty good posts and I’m hoping to get back into it.
I found out the other day that a guy with whom I graduated from high school died of cancer. Notice I don’t call him a “friend”. We were school friends, I guess. That is to say that we spoke to one another. We never really hung out or anything. Then, graduation happened and I haven’t seen him since. And of course, high school ended 25 years ago. This guy isn’t the first person I graduated with who has died, but it still hit me surprisingly hard; at least, it got me thinking about my own mortality once again. I think a lot of these feelings are coming to light since plans are in the works for my 25 year high school reunion. (For info on my 20 year reunion, click here).
At times like this, whenever I’m forced to think about my own mortality, I think of Captain Picard’s line from Star Trek: Generations: “I’ve become aware that there are fewer days ahead than there are behind…”
The Old Man died at 67. I’m about 60 days shy of 43. If I am to die at the same age as he did, that means I’ve got about 24 years left on this rock. And unless I live to be 85, there really are fewer days ahead of me than there are behind me.
I’m doing what I can to make myself a better person. The List of Rob was a huge step in that direction. I’m actually crossing some things off of that list as accomplish them.
“But time makes you bolder // Even children get older // And I’m getting older too”
One day, shortly after Jabba and I separated, The Old Man called me out to his Man Cave. It was his garage, but he had put a TV, a couch and a fridge out there. At the time, I was back living my parents. I had no job, no car and no money and I was ready to start using the George Costanza line from Seinfeld episode “The Opposite”. I know I’ve talked about this one before…
The Old Man asked me to bring out a pen and a notebook – something that I was going to keep. He gave me the following directions:
- Create a list of goals – on where I want to be in five (5) years
- On a separate page, create a list of things I need to accomplish in four (4) years in order to reach the aforementioned 5 year goal.
- On another page, he told me to create a list of things I need to accomplish in three (3) years in order to reach the 5 year goal.
- On yet another page, he asked me to create list of where I want to be in two (2) years, in keeping with the 5 year goal.
- On a final page, he asked me to write down where I want to be in one (1) year, again keeping in mind the 5 year goal.
I specifically remember him saying that these lists were for me, not him. But he wanted to know that I would be okay; that I would have some goals and direction. He wanted it written down because he didn’t know if he’d be around in 5 years to see if I accomplished what I was setting out to do.
I logically understood what he meant when he said all of this. I just never actually thought he would be gone in less than three years of this conversation.
On his own blog, the actor, writer and self-professed geek Wil Wheaton wrote about a life reset. This is the story of mine.
Shortly before the holidays, I made the decision not to make a trip down South to see The Kid for the holidays. I could have pulled it together. Mother would have certainly helped me finance it. But I haven’t been working much lately to help contribute financially to my own family, and making one situation slightly, momentarily better with The Kid didn’t seem worth rocking the proverbial boat with my own family. Of course, I didn’t want a repeat of The Perfect Storm. Most of all, I felt like my life needed a good old-fashioned ass kicking. I’m hoping that that ass-kicking starts here:
The List of Rob
This was going far beyond a hokey New Year’s Resolution that would be forgotten before Groundhog Day. This was to be a multi-faceted look at my life – what works, what doesn’t work, where I am, where I want to be, where I’m going and how I plan to get there.
Without getting into too much detail – out of respect to the parameters I set down upon the creation of this blog – I broke this list into ten distinct areas:
- Me & The Auteur
- My family (me, the Auteur, 1B, The Kid & The New Guy)
- My relationship with The Kid
- Dealing with Jabba
- Health & Wellness
- Mending Fences
- The Future
There are action points listed under each of these categories but again, respecting the parameters of this blog, I will not get more specific here.
I’m still working on some of the details on certain parts of this list, but I am focusing a little bit on everything. I’m not saying everything is going to magically be better by 2018, but the truth is, there are many areas of my life with which I am not happy. There are other that I would like to see improvements. Then there are others still that like all good things in life, need maintenance. But this is the most comprehensive self-assessment I’ve ever made – including the list The Old Man had me make nearly five years ago.
People often lament about the things in their life that they want to change. Some even use that blanket statement “I really got to get my shit together”. The List of Rob is not only about getting my proverbial shit together. It’s about keeping it together, and putting the tools in place to keep it together for the long haul.
I’m going to be 43 later this spring. I’m not a kid anymore. I’ve lived most of my life day-by-day and for the most part, it has worked out pretty well for me. But things could be better. Of course, there are some things that will not work out for me, no matter how hard I try – areas of my life in which I will inevitably fail, but I’m tired of just going with the flow; being reactive instead of proactive..
Oh, and speaking of that list The Old Man had me make, like any list of the sort, there are things I accomplished on it and others I didn’t quite get to. But the things that I personally deemed very important, I did.
Take this as you will…
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.
Here’s one I’ve been waiting a while to write. A few months back, I decided to check out Louie on Netflix. For those unfamiliar with the show, Louie is written, edited, directed by and stars comedian Louis C.K. It is semi-biographical in that it tells the story an aspiring stand-up comedian juggling his a career and his children while he muddles his way through date and his forties in the aftermath of a divorce.
This show resonated with me on a lot of levels: first and foremost, it’s funny. Louie intersperses stand-up comedy bits with skits about his personal life, à la Seinfeld. Louis C.K’s humor is honest, self-deprecating and at times dark, but it is almost always funny.
Perhaps the one line that sticks with me most from the show is in an episode from the show’s second season. In it, Louie says that divorce “makes you look at yourself in the mirror and realized that there’s no one left to be an asshole to.” It is part funny, part true and all honest.
Just as any stand-up comedian goes out on stage and occasionally bombs, here have been a few misfire episodes: one in particular that comes to mind was when Louie pined for an African-American grocery cashier – simply because she was Black – only to be completely and utterly shot down by the woman. In the episode, Louie comes across as stalker-ish, rather the victim of unrequited love. But taking chances is the hallmark of any god comedian. Some stuff is funny; other bits will bomb. As an aside, I recently read that the stand-up skits in each episode are brand-new material. Louis C.K. does not use material from his real-life stand-up act in the series.
I’m looking forward to getting caught up on the rest of the series. so much so, that I’ve gone ahead and read the synopses for some later episodes. God bless Netflix for introducing binge-watching to unsuspecting world.
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”
Henry VI, Part 2. Act 4, Scene 2.
This quote from Shakespeare is often misinterpreted. Tonight, I am adopting the more popular, more literal and incorrect meaning of this line.
After not being able to arrange a trip for The Kid to come up during The Old Man’s funeral this past February, I decided to retain another attorney to get certain aspects of my divorce decree more clearly defined. Around that same time, I began talks with Jabba to make arrangements for summer visitation. (I knew with The New Guy being born in July, she would have dragged her knuckles through the process, so locking down a firm schedule for summer visitation was paramount). She expressed reservations about The Kid flying alone – both for The Old Man’s funeral and for summer visitation. In fact, Jabba’s reluctance to allow The Kid to fly up for the funeral resulted in him missing it altogether. She wanted me to pay to fly/drive her up with The Kid. I refused. I told her that I would never again foot such a bill for her.
At the time of The Kid’s birthday, we could not agree on a time for him to come visit me for the summer. Jabba argued that his summertime activities were more important than seeing me. At that point, I retained an attorney with the hopes of possibly seeking mediation.
Six months have passed and I have yet to see The Kid. Jabba and I haven’t verbally spoken to each other since my father’s funeral. And my lawyer has done nothing.
To say that I am livid is a gross understatement.
I need to fire this guy, I know that. I need to retain another lawyer, I know that. I have to get this stuff with visitation – and dealing with Jabba – locked down once and for all.
I have to see my son.
After my actual divorce phoning in my case, then dying; and my second lawyer basically playing dead, I am shell-shocked at the thought of putting my faith in another lawyer again. At the same time, things CANNOT continue the way they are.
I wish the law was different. I wish I could retain a lawyer here in Michigan. I’d settle for a lawyer down South just taking my case seriously.
Wednesday night, The Auteur & I attended the Marilyn Manson and Smashing Pumpkins concert when they made their stop in our area. I haven’t seen either of these artists live in over twenty years (I’m not even 100% sure I’ve ever seen Manson live before) but the fact is, concerts simply aren’t as fun as they used to be. There are probably several good reasons for this, but there is one that I keep returning to:
We are all getting older.
I’m 41. According to wikipedia, Marilyn Manson is 46 and Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan is 48. I don’t know about those guys, but sometimes I feel a little too old to be in the crowd at a rock concert. to me, the typical concert-going crowd is in their late teens or early twenties and has the disposable income to spend as many concerts as they can attend- as I once did. Those days are certainly behind me. Granted, I wasn;t the oldest person there. There were people there who looked older than me, as well as other who definitely were older than me, but they’re just kinda pathetic.
Also, at the risk of sounding prudish, there’s a lot of smoking of tobacco – and other indulgences – that goes on at most shows. I’ve never smoked. The Old Man smoked for as long as I can remember; so it never fazed me much growing up. But I really have no patience and no tolerance for it anymore. The alcohol doesn’t really faze me, but then i do still like the occasional beer or three. In fact, the older I get, the more I appreciate the art of tailgating.
I don’t feel like there’s as much energy at these shows as there once was. Again, I think this is because the bands are older, and therefore the crowd is older accordingly. Older crowds don’t sing along nearly as much. They don’t pump there fist (or throw up devil horns). They don’t head-bang and they sure as hell don’t tear up the lawn at an outdoor amphitheater and throw it toward the stage.The truth is, I have changed, the musicians have changed and the crowd has changed somewhat – although not enough for me to feel comfortable among them anymore.
This reminds me of older athletes who try to come out of retirement and return to their respective game. Sometimes they still think they’ve got something left in the proverbial tank. Other times, it’s because they love the game and don’t want or know how to do anything else. Usually when they do, they realize that either their desire to play – or their ability to play – are gone. That’s where I feel I’m at with this whole post.
At least until they next time one of my favorite acts comes to town and I go on this rant again.
A few days ago I finished reading Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. I’ve personally read the play “the diary of Anne Frank” a few times as a student and have now taught it several times as a teacher; but this was the first time I read the diary – from which the play was based – itself. Having said that, I knew the story, as it is fairly common knowledge – Anne Frank, a Jewish girl, spends two years in hiding with her family in order to avoid be arrested in Nazi-occupied Holland – but I was surprised at how much the play glossed over some of the real-life facts. Granted, the play would have to leave out some details for the sake of time, but I think that the play does so to a point that it doesn’t do Anne Frank – the young girl or her thoughts and experiences in hiding – justice.
3 things prompted me to read the diary at this time: One, As a teacher on summer break, I have the time. Two, Anne Frank and her experiences have been discussed in two movies I recently re-watched: Freedom Writers and The Fault in Our Stars (both based on books themselves). Three: While teaching the play this past spring, I had a student ask me “What is the big deal about this book?” I thought the answer was so self-evident that I struggled to even answer it.
I’m not going to try and critique the diary or say anything new about it. Countless other critics and historians who are far more articulate than I am have done that. Rather, I want to point out some difference between the play The Diary of Anne Frank and the original work The Diary of a Young Girl.
Some of the things that stuck out with me:
- the extent of frustration Anne felt with both her mother and her father. This is not so surprising to hear from a teenager, but the play glosses over Anne’s clashes with her mother and virtually ignores her growing disconnection with her father.
- Anne’s burgeoning sexuality and the fluidity of it. The play addresses the courtship of Anne and Peter, but completely ignores Anne’s innermost personal thoughts and curiosities about members of the same sex.
- The sheer monotony of life inside the Secret Annex. The Anne Frank of the play talks of life in the Annex as if it is some adventure. While in the diary Anne does at times romanticize her time in the Annex, she makes sure to address the sheer monotony of life there.
- the hardships that come along with living in forced isolation: having to remain silent out of fear of being discovered; being forced to eat the limited food options available, never being able to go outside, as a young person, growing out of the few clothes – among others.
If I could have a conversation with that one student who asked me “What is the big deal about this book?” I would probably tell them this:
The Diary of Anne Frank was written by a girl who was your age (or close to it) and tells of her first-hand experiences trying to survive through perhaps the greatest atrocity in human history – The Holocaust. It is a story about a young person going through a lot of the same hopes, fears, dreams and anxieties as yourself. From a historical point-of-view, The Diary… is the great primary-source about life in Nazi-occupied Europe. For millions of people worldwide, it has been the gateway into learning about the Holocaust. And finally, it well-written personal journal by an extremely gifted writer who was cut down way before her time.
I don’t normally talk about stuff like this on this blog, but I have toyed with the idea of having a “Rob’s Book club” type feature on here for some time.