Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I just went into Myspace, and I couldn't sort it all out. The new format has me completely baffled, so I will make an attempt to do something with my now dormant account soon. I'm not sure if anybody checks Myspace anymore, but I will keep it around.

My time has been taken up with so many things. For once in my life the things that are taking up all of my time are enjoyable ones. I'm happy about that. I will try to fill you in the best I can.

I can remember the attitude and the excuses. I also remember the feeling of helplessness, and how it affects your whole life. I'm talking, of course, about the teenagers in rehab. I can now say that I've seen it from both sides. It isn't easier for me, observing, than it was for me as a participant. My participation will be in the form of support and encouragement. I am so looking forward to the day when I can work with teenagers who are going through exactly what I went through. I walked the same grounds I did several years ago. I've had the opportunity to work with individuals who, like me, threw their lives into the wind, hoping to end up anywhere else but alive. It doesn't surprise me, either, that the majority of these teens are from upper-class income families. When people think about substance abuse rehabilitation, we think about the inner city. That is not the case here. These are the Hollywood brats. The stories they tell go from frightening to the sublime. Some of their stories have a painful familiarity. But I am the one who can look them in their eyes and tell them that I know exactly what they're going through. I believe that will help. I have also developed a rapport with several of the teenagers. I am so grateful for this opportunity to substantiate my belief that I can be useful in this field. The teaching part will be easy. The counseling part will be part bookwork and experience. I've been told to allow the experience to complement the bookwork, but it should never overrule it. I will keep that in mind.

I'll be back in school in January. I'm still sorting out the minor details, such as how many classes and how many hours per day. I will do what I can do.

I also work as much as I can. You might be wondering if I have any spare time at all. I do, but I have been doing a lot of preliminary studying, preparing for school and supplementing what I'm learning at the center. And don't think I never get out of bed not in the mood to deal with people who are angry at the world.

Other than all that, there's little to report. I'm still here. I'm busy, but everything is good. I'll do my best to post when I can. Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 5, 2010

There is a lot going on, and it's all good.

I've been too quiet for too long, and I thought it was time for me to address some things I would like to say.

While I have kept my political views to myself, I want to share my feelings about the election that just passed. My experience in the voting booth was not one envisioned by our founding fathers. My 2008 experience was, for me, a painstakingly carried out process. I carefully reviewed the sample ballot sent to me; I gathered as much information as I could about the individual candidates, and I voted accordingly. This year, however, I ran the axe through the ballot. The promises made became promises broken. I became incensed at how the campaign ads insulted my intelligence, twisting pieces of information, where only the person, who either had blinders on, or was of reduced mental capacity, would believe the rubbish being forced on us during dinner time. I have proudly declared myself an Independent, with a Moderate view. To vote along party lines, as so many of my friends and their families do, is pointless. A very smart and respected man once said to me, "Son, don't take our word for anything. Question what you read and what you're forced to believe. If someone makes a statement that is assumed to be fact, ask where he got the data and how he got it. Our government is made up of smoke and mirrors, and there's a liar and a thief behind every mirror."

My voting trend this year was mostly made with a "red" pen. This country voted for change in 2008, and now I'm a part of the change that never happened. I'm angry and I'm embarrassed. While I was in Bali, it was interesting to hear their take on the "American President, Mr. Obama". One of the most common comments was of his being weak. That idea scares me. For our President to be viewed as weak by other nations scares me. Many of my friends voted for him. If his election were up to them, he'll be a one-term President. But this isn't all about the President.

We all heard about candidate Christine O'Donnell, and her highly publicized stance against masturbation. The people spoke. There's the rub! There truly is a happy ending. Now she's on the Today Show, and she's spewing all over the airwaves. How do we allow this to happen to us in this country of ours? In the meantime, I'm happy to enjoy what is still legal every night, and I know for a fact that every one of my friends is safe...for now. Call it a stroke of luck. I'll sleep soundly beneath my rustling sheets tonight! Sorry to pull this on you. Fini.

Proposition 19 went up in smoke. As you know, in the past I did smoke marijuana. And yes, I did inhale. If I can quote a friend of mine: "How the fuck to you smoke pot without inhaling?" I don't know where the stuff was grown, and I didn't care. I didn't care whether or not there were any dangerous additives sprinkled on it. There are a lot of arguments for and against Prop 19. I, for one, am in favor of the legalization of marijuana. It's not a question of IF; it's a question of WHEN. It will happen in time, and when it does, it will be another bonanza of tax dollars, just like alcohol, cigarettes and gasoline. Go for home grown, and keep your pot dollars in the USA! Makes me glad I don't do it anymore.

Now it's time to blow away the smoke and break the mirrors, so we can deal with the thieves and liars that lurk within our government. Did we? Did we send a message? Or did we simply replace the wolf with a fox? Only time will tell.

Speaking of smoke...I saw a follow-up article about a two-year-old Indonesian boy who smoked up to four packs of cigarettes a day. I saw video on the news, and it didn't look to me as though he was fully inhaling the smoke, but it doesn't matter. I can attest to the youthful smoking in Indonesia. I saw uniformed pre-adolescent boys smoking on nearly a daily basis. I could never smoke that much, nor would I ever want to. Yes, I was introduced to nicotine at a very young age, and it's something I now regret, but I can't go back in time. These children do it because their friends do it, their families do it, and it is so widely romanticized by advertisements geared toward children. I sat on the beach in Bali, and a young boy came down and sat next to me. In the ten minutes he spent next to me, he smoked two cigarettes, drag after drag, as if he were trying to get as much smoke in his lungs as he possibly can. He was a cute boy, around twelve years old, although it's not always easy to tell. He smiled at me, and the conversation was severely limited, due to our lack of control over the other's language. I wondered, or perhaps I hoped that cigarettes were his only vice, as it would only be foolish to believe that marijuana isn't rampant among all Indonesians.

And speaking of Bali, my return to Bali will have to wait for now. But don't dismay. This is because I am going back to school in January. I am returning to UCLA, taking Adolescent Psychology courses. I have set my sights on education of rehabilitating teens, on both a one-to-one and class platform. I have been offered an internship at the very rehab center that turned my life around. I happened to meet one of the advisors, and I agreed to return for a visit. They asked if I would talk to some of the youth in treatment. I spoke in the same room where I attended group therapy sessions, and where I got involved in so many fights, I was threatened with expulsion. As I spoke, I could swear I heard a very familiar shuffling of feet coming down the hall. For all I know it could have been someone sliding a box across the floor, or possibly a broom, but that sound meant so much to me. Call it an epiphany. After several conversations via phone, email and in person, I was offered another opportunity of a lifetime. There was no thinking about it. I am excited about this, and it is the answer to thousands of prayers. I have spent several days observing. I should drop the flag of caution, as this is not cast in stone. I'm there, and they are watching me. I'm not being pessimistic, just cautiously optimistic.

My life lately has been non-stop, but everything that has me going at top speed is better than the last. I am working, but I'm not dragging. I find myself singing, and David has said that he has never seen me this upbeat, except for one certain evening when I first met him. My mother is certain I have lost my mind. "Oh my gosh, Michael, you made your bed! What's wrong, Sweetie?"


Rob will be returning from Indonesia soon, if he hasn't returned already. He will have a lot to say about the effects of Merapi, the earthquake and the tsunami. His brief email to me said little more than "We sure could use you now!"

Besides doing a lot of work for my church, observing at the rehab center, working and making plans for the future, I'm still able to enjoy helping my brother in his restoration project of his 1953 Buick. Ethan is all over the place, talking and being the perfect little boy. We'll see how things change when his little sister is born.

I'm off today. I'm not going anywhere. David is off tonight, so we'll be able to spend some time together. I wonder what tomorrow's specials will be. Maybe I'll sing them to the customers.

This brings up my final topic, which has had me intrigued for nearly two weeks. Have you seen the video of "A Trip Down Market Street, 1906"? Here is a link to the best site (CBS) if you haven't seen it. Watch it now, and come back to what I have to say about it. I would enjoy reading your comments.


This is by far the best quality and most intact of the videos I've seen. Morley Safer gives a good introduction. The music is hauntingly beautiful and fitting. The scene, with the people darting every which way, and the automobiles circling around the cable car, was staged. This video was intended to be a travel movie, showing the bustling city of San Francisco in the new century. Little did these people know, many of them would fall victim of the great earthquake and subsequent fire. I have been on that very street, and to see it at a time when my great-grandparents were small children, blows me away.

Ever since I saw THIS video I've been taken in. Wow! Imagine. 104 years ago, just like I'm there. I'm looking at the people, and I'm comparing my life today to how they lived. How many times have I wanted to go back in time, to a time long before I was born! I would probably get sick, as so many of our modern conveniences are not in existence yet, such as refrigeration and water purification. Many, if not most, cooked on wood or coal stoves. Their houses had no central heat, and there was no air conditioning. Life moved at a walking speed. If you needed to go far away, you could take the train, and in a few short days you could be as far as San Diego! But it's a totally different society.

Everyone was dressed up. Was that part of the show? Everyone wore a hat, even the newsboys. These dirty little street rats, hawking their newspapers, ran around the cable car with their dirty hands and dirty faces, with the biggest smiles the Twentieth Century ever knew. They all wore leather boots. They'd flip to see what I have on my feet. In the absence of cell phones, iPods, computers or TV, there were table games and sports. Radio was just coming into being. There were no cross-country telephone calls...if you had a telephone. In the absence of antibiotics and modern medical facilities, kids died of mumps, measles, chicken pox, flu, pneumonia and polio. A simpler time? In some ways, yes. But things are leaps and bounds more simple for us today. Everything is done for us. Everything is automatic. Simplicity through complexity and technology, perhaps. The sight of a novelty, such as a movie camera, might attract the same attention today, or would it?

We've encountered one particular boy most of the way. He's the one who keeps running ahead of us, his jacket a bit too short. He held on to the back of one of the automobiles, stood in front of the cable car, and then ran. It must be hard to run in those boots. As he and the cable car reach the Ferry Terminal, he turns around. There's a smile on his face, and a look of accomplishment, and that made me smile. His face has been recorded for far longer than he ever dreamed. Did you notice the man with the long beard in the background? And the kids, the newsies, steal the final scene. I couldn't help but smile at their reaction, but also feel a bit saddened, not only to know what lay ahead for them within a few days, but also the simple truth that they're all gone now. And even 104 years ago, kids were kids. And little did any of them know, that a century later, we'd be watching...from the other side of the looking glass.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I saw the doctor. I'm fine, but...

I know some of you were concerned that something is wrong, but I assure you everything is OK. I went to the doctor and got tested for everything from AIDS to Zinc. All results were good, except for some low readings on iron and potassium and other things that mean very little to me. I got large (about 2 1/2 inches long) waxy pills wrapped in foil. They are hard to swallow, so I chew them. Yuck!

Let's let that cook for a while.

I'm annoying my mother. My sister is ready to send me back into my mother's womb. I'm normal. But seriously, I have to take mega doses of supplements and put a cortisone solution on a suspicious rash on my right leg. The rash is gone. My blood pressure was low, along with my weight. I haven't weighed myself but my clothes fit better now. I return in three weeks for more blood work.

I didn't get a definitive diagnosis. It could have been the change in diet, or it could have been a reaction to a type of fish I ate, or anything else I was eating. Even the water could have done it. I can't imagine a place that is such a paradise could have anything that would make a person sick.

I asked the doctor about my return to Bali. He said he'd make that decision after I get the results of my blood work in three weeks.

The bottom line is that I was told to rest, eat right, don't work so much, and try to do things I enjoy doing. David and I will be off this weekend, and we are looking forward to a weekend at the condo. The days are pleasant and the nights are cool. It's perfect for some rest and relaxation. Doctor's orders!

I am also planning to visit my father before Thanksgiving.

I'm sorry for not posting sooner, and I'm sorry this isn't any longer, but dinner is ready. I have promised myself to sit down, gather my thoughts and post a better organized blog. In the meantime I will be doing my best to relax over the next three days. I can do this. :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

A personal thought...

While I haven't been blogging as much as I had been, I wanted to send a personal thought to the world.

I think the human body is beautiful. Even when I think a particular body is horribly abused and out of shape, somebody, even God, will love it. I know someone who has a nice body. I really care about this person. I discovered his pay webcam by accident. Yes, he has a great body. As much as I'd love to see that body in its entirety, I wouldn't pay for it. I have someone, but I still care about this person very much. It's OK with me if he does this. My only problem is that I hope he doesn't take it too seriously. Most of his clients will be men in their 40's, 50's... and they will all claim to own him while they're paying to watch him masturbate or do whatever he does. While I've broken away from this person, I'm still very much emotionally attached to him. If it weren't for David, and if I lived in another part of the country, I might have gotten closer to him. I don't want to see him get hurt. I'm protective of people like him. And there was a time when I gave my own private shows, but it led me deeper into the pit of substance abuse, and the outcome was nothing to brag about.

This person doesn't know I saw him, but someday I'd like to tell him. It might make me feel better having told him that I don't want him to get hurt. Besides, I don't think the pay is all that great.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Two months coming up / missing post

I want to make this quick blog post before I get moving this morning.

It has come to my attention that only two postings have been successfully posted in this blog since I arrived in Bali. Somehow a blog is missing, and I don't have it backed up anywhere. I will deal with that at a later time. Some of what I am about to write was in that post.

I am heading back to Los Angeles on Monday. I expected this due to a visa limitation as I near my two month mark. I will be home for one month, and at that time I will make the final decision as to whether or not I am returning. At the present time I am confident that I will be returning. I was given options for alternatives to returning to Los Angeles, but the month back home will be most welcome. My hair, which I finally cut short for the trip, is not so short anymore, and the haircut I got by a very beautiful local woman was not as beautiful as she is. I look a lot less like a sheepdog but more like a poodle. And as for any photos you might encounter online, I have sworn to disavow any knowledge of their existence.

For the most part I have been working with adults in Conversational English, but should I decide to return, I will be working with children. I have enjoyed my fellow volunteers, the teachers and the students. Pastor Rob is here, but he is leaving next week. I believe this is his fifth visit here, and he's looking forward to his sixth around the time I return. Rob and his church have made a lot of the arrangements for flights and guesthouse accommodations.

I hope to make another post before I go home. I don't want to lost another post, so I will see how this works.

Always in a rush...


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A long-overdue update.

I'm sorry for the delay in posting in this blog. I have been experiencing a lot of problems getting to my email and to Blogger. I have attempted to reply to emails but I don't get any confirmation of email sent. I have been experiencing a very slow response time at best. I consider myself fortunate in that I was able to connect tonight, only through extreme patience and perseverance. I was able to read about half of my emails, but I have also kept them in my inbox to read again in the evening.

All is going well. My schedule is completely flexible, but I am enjoying doing what I can, and I have been able to stick to a routine, which is appreciated by the class. I am enjoying the teaching I've been doing, and the free time has been wonderful. I am enjoying the beach...still haven't taken the surfing lessons I have been promised, but I will do that before I leave.

David's last day is Thursday. I tried to enter a post stating that David would not be here for the entire four months, but I was unable to post it. His being here has made this paradise truly paradise. He has provided me with the support I needed when I was feeling down. I have had a few down days, but this is due to my being so far away from home. Fortunately, however, the down days are few and not long lasting.

I knew I had gotten into a routine the day David asked me if I was going to post in my blog, and I said that I had nothing new to report. That isn't quite true. We have done some fishing, and we got to meet some of the local fishermen. As you would imagine, fish is a staple here; so is rice. In other words, their fish is like our chicken. You can cook it so many ways, but I want to make this perfectly clear, folks. It doesn't taste like chicken.

I will need to look up a recipe for a salad we had. It was cold, and it had rice, some vegetables of varying color, and chunks of fish. It was almost like a seafood salad that we might buy at Ralph's, but I have not been able to find a Ralph's here. I heard a rumor that McDonald's serves Big Macs made out of fish. Um...no. I wonder what they serve at KFC!

There are a lot of Chinese, or what urbanites call "Asian" restaurants. Some of the local dishes are difficult to identify, but I had a grilled fish that was wrapped in banana leaves and had a salty seasoning on it. It was served with a fried rice side dish with lumps of fish in it. It was very good. Once back in LA I will see what I can find, but David has already sent recipes back to the restaurant for testing. Can't wait!

We found it interesting that Balinese restaurants that serve Balinese food are nearly non-existent. Ginger, sesame seed oil, pepper, cloves, onion, lemon and cumin are favorite flavorings that will surely please your discriminating palate and offer your senses a feel for the flavors of paradise. One bite and you can feel the warm tropical breezes of the beaches of Bali. Sound good? I might use that when I announce the Balinese Grilled Snapper special. I hope it works in Los Angeles! However...armed with recipes and cooking tips, you Angelinos will want to keep your eyes open for some new specials. I hate burping ginger.

I am still scheduled to leave in mid-November, date uncertain right now. I haven't gotten tired of the boring weather and scenery yet. But what I wouldn't do for some prime rib!

I mentioned to someone that our accommodations are small, about 12 X 20, not much bigger than an RV, but it is comfortable and quiet. It will be much quieter after Thursday, but I'm trying not to think about that.

Rob should be here next week. I wonder what kind of entrance he'll make. He won't be far from here, so I look forward to some of his stories and a few laughs. And as I've learned, it only gets better.

That's it for today. I want to be over at the classroom by 10:30 and my ride will be here shortly.


Monday, August 2, 2010

First blog from Bali

Look at me! I'm that guy who got the world's greatest job, only I'm not in Australia, I'm on a beautiful tropical island called Bali.

I have internet capability. I am going to write as often as I can, and I will upload it as often as I can. I sent word home that I got here OK, and then the word spread that I made it. What did they expect...lol

We arrived a little reasonably on time. There were four other people on the flight who will be working on the same project. The lady who met us was a picture of grace. We were quickly taken on a long, bumpy ride to the residence where we will be staying. Our quarters are quite nice, although small. We have two twin beds, a sitting area and a small cooking area, although some meals will be provided. I understand that some of the other accommodations are a bit less deluxe.

Orientation has gone well. Thank goodness for interpreters. Understandably, I am still on Pacific time. I need to go not only on the proper time, but the proper date as well. Once I unscramble my brain I will get on and post what I am writing. I am currently writing all of this offline. I am told that I can connect right here, but I don't think there is a hook-up compatible with carrier pigeon.

From the window I see a deep cover of palm trees. We are about 1000 feet from the ocean, and the terrain gently slopes down toward the beach. I don't believe the tide changes much here. The temperature is quite comfortable, and there is a gentle breeze. I doesn't get any cooler at night. It's always in the low 80's. Maybe that's why they call this Paradise.

I don't do well typing on my bed. I want to get some more sleep as I adjust to the time difference. We were told to expect jet lag for several days. I feel OK, though. After all, it is 2:00 in the afternoon yesterday, isn't it?

More to come. I don't know when I will be able to connect to load this, so I will continue.

Saturday addition.

It is now Saturday night at 9:00 on 31 July. The classes go well. There are a lot of similar classes going on all over. Most of the volunteer teachers are here for no longer than two months. I will be here for four months. I will know more. I am only typing this now because by the time I post this everything will have changed.

I had wanted to send out personal emails to people to let you know I got here safely. I apologize for not doing that. I was in the situation where I had zero time to do things like that. I don't want anybody to feel neglected. Even before I left home I was being led around, told where to go and when to go there. Unbelievably, my life is in a more stable state right now than it has been in several months. I have developed a routine, which coincides with David's, and we are able to enjoy this place.

We are located just below the equator, which means that it is currently winter, although nobody talks about four seasons. The days are no longer or shorter than they were when I was here at Christmas. The seasonal changes are simply a matter of rainy season or dry season. I was here during the wet season at Christmas, and this is the dry season. There has been a gentle breeze blowing, but the amazing part is that you don't need air conditioning. We have found that the ceiling fans and open windows are great for sleeping. One of the big rules is that if you use air conditioning, turn it off if you're going out. The people are very conscious of resources, and recycling is only starting to take hold here.

I have been working on this post since I got here, and I am going to clean it up so I can post it. I am going to attempt a Skype connection to home at 10:00, which is about 40 minutes away.

While I wait I wanted to mention that my visit with my friends in New Jersey is now a long-away memory. It was so very fresh in my mind as I was flying here, but so much has happened that I had to stop and think. I had a wonderful time, and I am glad I had the opportunity to write about it. I only scratched the surface, but the important fact is that I was able to enjoy our time together, and I was able to get away and relax.

That's it for Saturday. I will try to post this. Thanks for reading. I will do my best to write as often as possible.


It is now Tuesday morning of 3 August. I am going to post this.

Is this OK with you if I do it like this?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One final short blog before I leave.

I have spent a nice day with a lot of people. I am packed for my trip. I am both nervous and excited. I will be met at the airport by the coordinator, and possibly members of the family with whom we will be staying. I'm told we will have our own space...small but private. In another twist of events, I've learned that Rob will be there for a short time while we're there. I don't know where or when, but that's normal for most things Rob plans...lol.

You can now post comments without approval.

I plan to get online when I can, and I have been told that I will have Internet access. We are both taking our laptops, so that will make getting online more familiar.

My head is spinning and my heart is racing. I'll have a lot of time to relax and do some thinking between here and Indonesia.

This is very important to me, and I an grateful for all of the support you've shown me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

On leaving NJ and heading for Bali...

As promised, I'm writing a little bit before I leave. I'm being watched, so I better be careful...lol. I plan for this to be my final blog posting until I'm in Bali. I leave for Bali on Thursday the 22nd. I don't know how much Internet connectivity I will have in the home where we will be saying, but I will make sure to get on. We will be met at the airport by the people who will be hosting us, as well as leaders from the organization.

I'm flying home tomorrow. I can't believe how quickly the time has passed. It seems like only yesterday we were being were picked up at the airport, greeted with the smiling, warm welcome from friends we love so much. Although the flight was late, there was never a word of complaint about flight schedules or traffic. When we finally got our luggage, I had hoped that our stay here hadn't begun on a downer. But this ended up being a truly positive experience in spite of the minor pitfalls, and we were home before we knew it.

I have been saying that this has been one of my top ten vacations of all time, and I can honestly say that it is near the top of the top ten. I've been rushing through a lot of things during the past few months, such as visiting my father, spending more time at my brother's, and of course, spending time with my friends. I won't be seeing any of them for four months, possibly longer. I've done all I can to tie up loose ends, and to deal with all that was important. I didn't have a lot of time to blog, but I know that you all understand, and I appreciate it.

I have done so much here. I am taking with me a lot of wonderful memories. This is such a fun place, and our friends make it that much more fun. Mom and I never needed a thing. It was always there. We don't do anything. Our task at hand was to relax and enjoy, but I was brought up to help out whenever possible.

I was so honored to be able to share in Jeff's 28th birthday. As hard as it has been for him to get used to my being 22, I'm getting used to his being 28. And Devin, my blood brother of the heart, is going to be 25 on Christmas Day. So you see, I am EVERYBODY'S little brother...:).

There's a certain relaxing effect just in listening to the constant activity that goes on in this town. We sat on the deck and I could hear the cars, the trolley bell, people, horns, and other sounds associated with a tourist beach community. I've heard them before, but there is something strangely different here. I was able to relax because I didn't jump every time the phone rang. I didn't jump when I heard a car horn outside the house. I turned my cell off as soon as I got here, and only turned it on in the evening to talk to a certain person who wanted to make sure I was having a good time.

As I had said, my friends are here with me right now. I get sad thinking about how much I'm going to miss them tomorrow, but there won't be any time to be sad. I'll reflect at some point over the Pacific at 38,000 feet. Goodness knows there will be plenty of time to reflect. I'll think of Mom, and how she'll be missing me, and of how I'll be missing her. There will only be a quick good-bye for Alex. I'll hold and kiss Ethan, and I'll remind him how much I love him. Four months can do a lot, and I'm hopeful that I won't have to reintroduce myself to my nephew. I am going to miss him more than anyone or anything else in the entire world! Christine has been too busy to worry about anything else, but that's another story for another blog time.

Two weeks went by very quickly. Four months will go by very quickly. I could be home for Thanksgiving. I definitely will be home for Christmas, and who knows what wonderful plans can come up between now and then?

In closing, I want you to know that I lived up to my philosophy of never passing up the opportunity to tell someone I love them. I love these people. I told them and I showed them. I love you, too. My number of blog readers has dropped almost out of sight, but I plan to continue writing. I might not have the chance to do it every day, as I might have a few years ago, but I will continue to write. I'm sure there will be a lot to tell over the next few months. I can't imagine that it will become a boring routine. There is a big unknown in the near future. It's like a gift that's wrapped in beautiful tropical paper. I can't wait to open it.

I'm going to spend the last few hours of my stay here enjoying everything that surrounds me. I'm not looking forward to leaving, but I am definitely looking forward to that unknown that awaits me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Remembering all the good times in Wildwood, NJ

I should probably start this blog with something like "Greetings from New Jersey." It's that time of year again. Mom and I have made our annual trip east to visit our friends in Wildwood, New Jersey. I'll spare you the long story of how we have known each other all our lives, but you have probably heard about how we visited here every other summer.

It has been refreshing to leave Los Angeles and all that is going on back there, even for a couple of weeks. Although everything has gone well, I needed to get away. Visiting with my friends Devin and Jeff and their family is something I look forward to all year. I've told about how we young kids would ride The Bus, a ten-foot long surfboard owned by a teenage boy, who was less than half the size of the board at the time. We sit around reminiscing about the good times we all had years ago. Strange, isn't it, that our mothers do the same thing!

I was honored to be able to share in Jeff's 28th birthday on the 7th, which we celebrated on the 10th. Although he made it clear that he wanted no gifts from us, he must have been talking into my bad ear at the time. I accepted the scolding graciously.

Another thing I enjoy about being here is how I always seem to be laughing. We sit around and laugh. We laugh at ourselves. We laugh at each other. We point and giggle. How strange it is that we know exactly why we're laughing, and we all laugh. It's contagious, and it's wonderful. This has proven to be the most effective medicine for me, as I have been in what at least one person has referred to as meltdown.

We go to the world renowned Wildwood Boardwalk, with food, entertainment, rides and a water park. There's the famous tram car that tells you in an annoying woman's voice to "Watch the Tram Car, Please!" There are several places along the boardwalk that serve some of the best pizza I've ever had. I go there for the funnel cakes and the snow cones. There's the Boardwalk Mall that caters to tourists by selling souvenirs, t-shirts, the old fashioned photos of your family, plus many other items sure to empty your wallet. There are arcades where you can play video gambling games. You play for tokens, which, like any other tourist trap, can be turned in for useless junk. There's something special about a three-inch high stuffed duck that you "won" on the boardwalk...won for a mere $25 in quarters. But it's worth it. It's the same all over.

And as the three of us grease the chute to purgatory, we watch the people. There's something about the fudge shop that attracts people of excessive mass. Not ones to stereotype, but we can usually spot the ones who will go out to their cars in the handicapped spots to eat their special of the day purchase. The banner-towing airplanes make sure that everyone on the beach knows about this good deal.

I've amassed shot glasses from several years of visiting, purchased at the 99 cent store. I usually make it my business to buy one of every Wildwood shot glass offered. Jeff keeps threatening to ship the box to me...collect!

We'll spend several evenings at the boardwalk, just as we have since I was little. We'll spend a lot of money, too, but I notice that the sights, the sounds and the smells envelope my senses with a feeling of happiness. It's a Welcome Home kind of feeling. Mom grew up in New Jersey, and she spent her summers right here, and this is a significant part of her life, and it is, in a way, home to her. There are boardwalks in California. This one is different, and I'm glad.

If we're lucky we'll watch the sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean. There are several pictures, taken during all seasons of the year, of a big sun rising over the horizon. I'd love to be here for Christmas to watch the sun rise. I've always heard about walking along a snow-covered beach. One day I will. I've made myself promises to come back more than once a year.

I'll be here until the 20th of July. My trip back home will be a quick one. I'll have just enough time to see the people I love. And then I'll be boarding another long flight, but I won't be traveling alone. I'm so glad that David is going, too. How amazing is it that he would be wanting to do this. He said I talked him into it simply by telling him about my experiences at Christmas. Maybe I'm a good storyteller. Maybe I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have someone like David in my life. But my luck doesn't end there. I'm lucky to have loving friends who are always there for me. They are right here right now. I'm very happy.

I plan to write more before I leave New Jersey.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Graduation for one dedicated but stubborn son of a bitch!

I once asked Pastor Rob what he'd do differently if there were only two people present at the service. He said he wouldn't change a thing. If he can reach out and touch the life of one person on a Sunday, then he has done his work successfully.

I have never forgotten what Rob said, and although I don't have much of an audience anymore, I still want to post my thoughts. I can honestly say that I have often felt as though it wasn't worth the effort, but to those of you who have decided to follow me, and those of you who read me anonymously, I will continue. Thanks for reading.

I can't put my finger on what I'm feeling right now. My days of studying and cramming and stressing about school are over. I will receive a white piece of paper with a ribbon around it tomorrow. Some people call this a degree. I don't feel any different, but at the same time I feel exhilarated, or possibly exhausted. I have focused on my studies for four years, and in the end it has paid off. I have been advised to go on to get my Master's. Had I planned on a seamless continuation it would be a done deal, but my attention has been on what I'll be doing this summer. I've been assured that the door is open for me, so I will make that decision when I return to the United States.

If I were to get up and make a speech when I receive my diploma, I know what I would say. Yes, I'd deliver the motherhood and apple pie "Thanks Mom" message, but there is so much more and there are so many more people I can thank. Over the last four years I've come in contact with a lot of wonderful people. I'd love to mention names, but the names would be those of you who I know read this blog, and then some. I've lost contact with certain Myspace people like Kyle, who always was that voice of reason whispering in my good ear, and Ethan, whose innocence allowed me to feel a little bit better about myself and my situation. My older friends have given me so much knowledge based on their life experience, and perhaps in many ways I'm still sifting through it, sorting out what information I will need as I move forward in life. I think at one time I had five Michaels as friends, all but one were older than I. But life isn't all about Myspace, or any other social network for that matter. Life is about real people. I've been through some real life events that involved real people, and it was the real people on the other end of my network cable who gave me the encouragement to keep going. Granted, often I had to be reminded to put my nose to the grindstone, and to hit the books. There were times when I woke in the morning face down in one of my American Literature books, or perhaps some other light late-night reading assignment involving the origin of Ebonics or other localisms. It was not unusual for me to fall asleep while writing a paper on the computer, only to wake up in the morning and wonder who put the blanket over me and who turned out the light. But I was willing to stick it out. While I never went into much detail about how many hours I spent working, I spent far more than I ever admitted to working. I went to a respectable number of college parties, and I'm happy to say that I never fell off the wagon. I didn't have to get drunk to have fun and to laugh. I had fun and laughed at those who got drunk, wondering what they'll think of themselves in the morning. I was also stubborn. I went to class when, unknown to me, I had an abdominal virus. I learned a new word: "shart". But in my stubbornness and dedication, I at least made the effort to go the distance. Many are proud of me for this. I thank them for feeling so. And now it's time for me to put it behind me, if even for a little while. I've put up with a lot over the last four years...in school and out of school. As my dear friend Devin said to me, "Mikey, you are one dedicated but stubborn son of a bitch!"

And to Devin, who just received his Master's Degree, all I can say is..."It takes one to know one, and you're right!"

I will be leaving for New Jersey on July 6, returning on July 20. I leave for Bali on July 22, with a return date that is to be determined, although it is four months in duration. I will write more about this. David is still going, for which I am grateful beyond words. I'm sure he'll not only teach English, but American cuisine.

Thank you for hanging in there while I studied for my finals. This blog has been too quiet for too long. I never finished my "Class of 2006 through dilated pupils" series. Now it's time to write my "Class of 2010: from infinity and beyond" series! I don't know about infinity, but I'm curious to see what beyond holds.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Christmas 2009 in Bali

It has been over four months since Christmas, and I thought it was time for me to share a few memories of my experiences in Bali during Christmas vacation. I went with Pastor Rob and a church group to dedicate a new affiliate church in Bali. I was happy to be going with the same people with whom I spent my 2008 Christmas vacation in New Orleans, as part of Habitat for Humanity. These included my friend Sean, plus Christian, who has been staying with Rob. Our job was going to be to complete the final steps in making the church ready for its first service, Christmas Eve. The church paid all expenses, and the airfare from LAX to Bali was a reasonable $1000.

I was able to get some sleep on the plane, although the one man who snored on the flight sat across the aisle from me. I sat next to Sean, and Rob and Christian sat behind us for most of the flights. We'd change seats and walk around to pass the time. We read, talked and slept. When we finally landed in Denpasar International Airport I wanted to kiss the ground. We finally arrived at the Dhyna Pura, a beautifully located hotel surrounded by the lush Kutu, Bali tropical world. I was in heaven...or exhausted. I would be sharing a suite with Sean and Christian. We were all excited about the arrangements, as we were looking forward to sharing new memories, similar to those from Habitat for Humanity.

There would be no time to waste. The pews and pulpit needed to be anchored. Everything was ready for us. We had the workforce, and we were looking forward to finishing the job at hand, and then some rest and relaxation on the beautiful Bali beach. When Rob declared that we were a few short hours away from finishing the job, those of us who know Rob knew that this was his kiss of death.

Another bumpy drive under our belts, and we arrived at the beautiful new church building. It was surrounded by many of the local people, many of whom would be worshiping in the Christmas Eve service. We heard about one simple problem, or as Rob put it, "a little kink in our chain". The pews...weren't going to fit. We had a day and a half to get the job done, and we had to either replace or modify the pews. We came to the conclusion that either 1/2 inch needed to be trimmed from the edge that fit inside a slit in the floor, or the anchor slot in the floor had to be modified. We chose the latter. This microsurgery would be performed by a chain saw. It worked, and as the engine screamed and the smoke billowed, we jockeyed the pews into position, anchoring them securely. This became Sean's "Hoodathunk" experiment. Hoodathunk we'd be using a chainsaw on the pews of this new church. This is my story and I'm sticking to it! LOL

We befriended an 18 year old named Richie. His dad is an elder in the church, and Richie was right there with us. It became a race to see if the four of us could outwork the old people. We did the heavy lifting work while the old people did the thinking...and Rob walked around telling everyone what a super job they were doing. With the help of local craftsmen, we were well on our way to finishing the church.

Exhausted, we went back to the hotel. We decided to meet at 7:00 for dinner, which was yesterday afternoon Los Angeles time...if you can catch the time difference. We decided to throw on our bathing suits and check out the beach. We weren't discouraged by the overcast threatening sky. We went in the water. It was everything we had hoped for. After a brief, yet invigorating swim, we went back to our suite and showered. There were many people there, and after a bilingual blessing, dinner was served. It was a delicious mixture of delicately herbed fish and vegetables, and the staple of Bali, rice. Their diet and their cuisine is certainly a culture shock.

The time was drawing near. The church was now ready. It looked beautiful! Rob and the local minister were ready for the Christmas Eve service. Many children from the school and orphanage were there, all dressed alike. As we were filing into the church a little boy stood at the doorway. He looked at every person who entered, and he greeted them with a smile. As I passed I held out my hand. Instead of shaking it he took my hand and walked with me inside. Rob said, "He just chose you, Michael."

He led us to the pew at the front. He looked at me with the smile of an angel, his bright white teeth contrasted by his tanned skin. I gently touched the tip of his nose with my finger. His smile grew wider. If love could be seen in colors I would have been pouring out rainbows all over this angel. I ran my hand down the back of his head and put my arm around him, and then gave him a pat on the back. His big dark eyes glowed like the Christmas star over Bethlehem. I hadn't felt it before, but I suddenly felt the joy of Christmas in my heart.

The service was bilingual and beautiful. Rob made brief mention of Habitat for Humanity with three lads from Los Angeles, and he recounted the Christmas story, just as he did two years before. I know the three of us listened intently, and Richie and his dad understood why this meant so much to us. Rob has a way of drawing in an audience. He tells a story so eloquently. But he told the Christmas story with a modern twist, how this new church is born on the same night that Jesus was born, and those of us attending the service are the shepherds from the fields, the Wise Men, as well as Mary and Joseph. The angels were all around us. He pointed to the children. They were, after all, the angels of Christmas, 2009.

The sanctuary was illuminated by candles...dozens of them. There was a brief dedication ceremony. Then we sang "Silent Night" in English and in Balinese. The kids sang. It was beautiful. It drove home once again the purpose of our visit. I remember this feeling. I remember this feeling two years ago on Christmas Eve. Wow! We did it...again! I couldn't help but glance over at Sean and Christian. I knew what they were thinking. We've been here before. Not here, per se, but here, on Christmas Eve, with a purpose. I couldn't help but feel proud, maybe not of myself, but of the group and of the people we helped dedicate this beautiful new church of God. They'd be worshiping here in 2010, 2011, 2020, 2050, and so on. I'd love to return in 2059 for the fiftieth anniversary service, if they have one. I'll still challenge the old people to see who can work harder, only maybe then I'll be challenging the young people to see who can work harder. You know what? I think I know who the winners will be. Maybe I'll simply let them win. :)

For what seemed like hours, we talked about what a beautiful, inspiring service it was. We went over it several times, the six of us. This was just one of several new churches built all over Bali this year. We all agreed that we wished we could have been part of the dedication of all of them.

Rob connected to the Internet and launched Skype. I enjoyed a brief video chat with my mom, sister and brother. Sean chatted with his family, but he became emotional. I never asked him why, or if he was homesick, although I don't think he was. It was rewarding, although it made us miss our families and our homeland. But we decided to enjoy it while we were there.

I wish I could encapsulate all that we did and all that we saw. Bali is beautiful. The people are beautiful.

While we were there we learned about some of the customs. We learned about the Indonesian custom of Circumcision Day, which is traditionally January 1, but many of the boys choose to get circumcised at certain times of the year. December 24th was going to be two brothers' day of circumcision. They were 6 and 8 years of age. It's quite an honor, and it's not twisted by any American taboos. Rather, it's quite public. There's usually a celebration, and the boys receive gifts. Mostly observed by the Muslims, the custom is gaining popularity with Christians, although I'm not completely sure whether these children were Christian or Muslim. It didn't seem to matter to me at the time. I'll flash back to an experience I had, which explained a lot to me. I needed to relieve myself in one of the less Western-style bathrooms, and there was a young boy in there, urinating in the trough. I had great difficulty initiating a stream, as the boy's eyes were focused on what *I* was doing, rather than what he was doing...and there was nowhere for me to "hide". I glanced over at him, and he flashed me a happy smile. When he left I was then able to complete the task at hand. I realized why he smiled at me, being that he saw that I was among the elite circumcised. There was no shame or taboo. He only wanted to check to see if I "fit in", or my status. Before we would leave, it would become common knowledge that Sean, Christian and Richie were among the elite, too.

As we were admiring the church that was now complete, the boys made their new status known in the form of tented shorts, protecting their new manhood status from undue abrasion. The minor discomfort was overshadowed by the anticipation of a party and gifts. They were all smiles, and we couldn't help but share in their joy. Perhaps they knew that I was "one of them". This made me very happy.

In the Christian minority of Bali, many of the Western Christmas traditions are observed, such as a Christmas tree. The only Christmas trees I saw required assembly, but colorful painted ornaments, which I think were fruits or handcrafted out of wood, were plentiful. I do not remember a lavish show of Christmas in the area, although the hotel did have some decorations for Christians.

In the short time we had left we used it to our advantage. Surfing is big in Bali, although I did not. I expressed a sincere interest in the four-month Conversational English program through the church and the hotel, and the big selling point is that many of the programs include surfing lessons. Volunteers get to teach Conversational English, and they get surfing lessons. They receive lodging, usually a private home, plus food. That is certainly something I would enjoy, and although I'm not a big surfing enthusiast, I am in no way a stranger to a surfboard.

I would have enjoyed spending a few extra days in Bali, but before we left I knew I'd be back. I am now in the belief that this has become my calling. Perhaps I won't die a millionaire, but I do plan to make my mark on humanity, a little bit at a time. I have many years ahead of me, so I'll take it slowly. America has shot itself in the foot with regulations and restrictions, but there are places in this world where someone who wants to help his fellow man is received with welcoming opened arms.

It was sad leaving these beautiful people, but all of us shared memories...our own memories of that special moment that made the trip worthwhile. Mine was that little boy who took my hand and walked us into the church. And if I learned one thing about spirituality, it's that if you want to see God, just look into the eyes of a child. And as our plane roared through the clouds, I uttered our governor's immortal words: "I'll be back!"

I had planned on going more into detail about the culture and more of the customs, but I decided to keep it closer to home. Maybe someday when I write my world-travel memoirs I'll go into greater detail. There is so much I don't know. I have so many questions about the people and their customs. It is my hope that my questions will begin to be answered this July, when I return.

This blog has been long in coming, mostly because I haven't had the time or the ambition to sit down and try to remember everything that happened. I can't. I don't. Much has slipped by, but I hope I gave you a glimpse of what we all experienced. We accomplished what we set out to do, and we managed to enjoy ourselves. We met some wonderful, beautiful people, and we made new friends. What more could I ask for?

And one more thing. My motto, as it has been for the past few years, has been to never pass up the opportunity to say I love you. I said it in sign language. They said it in Balinese, but it was the hand gesture that we passed among ourselves so frequently, a gesture that transcends any language barrier. A little hand would go up, make the sign, and it was usually followed by hugs, smiles and giggles. I can honestly say that I did NOT pass up the opportunity to say I love you. And the more I gave, the more I got. What more could anyone want for Christmas? May God bless us, everyone!

Monday, April 19, 2010

We are no match against the powers of nature.

Local news was featuring the expected "Where were you when the quake hit?" stories. Without doubt, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake just over the Mexican border will be felt quite strongly here in Southern California.

We were all at Alex's house, following the Easter worship service. We had gathered for our annual family Easter dinner. The day had been enjoyable. Ethan was the picture of a little child at Easter...chocolate all over his hands and face, and everyone took turns cleaning him up. And everywhere he went, and everything he touched, he deposited chocolaty fingerprints. His light blue suit was spotted with Easter bunny residue. We expected to enjoy the leg of lamb dinner that Alex's wife was preparing. We would be eating between 4:00 and 5:00. I was just crossing the threshold between the family room to the pool patio when the earth beneath me began to move. I have described a high-frequency noise that, frankly, is difficult to describe. The rumbling in the ground, as well as the house, is unforgettable. I thought it would never stop. We all went outside, and the pool water lapped over the edges. I briefly looked down at my feet, which were moving back and forth, and I rode out the quake as if riding a skateboard. Alex sighed and said, "Shit! This was a big one!"

The sounds of car alarms and sirens always follow such an event. My first instinct was to go home to see if the house is OK, but I had no idea where the epicenter was, or if overpasses would be collapsed. The power stayed on. We turned on the TV, and bulletins soon went out about the quake, which was centered in Baha California, Mexico. Those who are more experienced with earthquakes know to expect the aftershocks.

It's very unnerving to try to eat dinner with the knowledge that the house is going to shake again. But we did eat dinner. We had leg of lamb with all the trimmings. It was cooked perfectly, but the entire meal was clouded by the concern of aftershocks, and the desire to find out as much as we could about the quake. The aftershocks came and there will be more, but we go about our lives.

There was little evidence of an earthquake at home, other than a few small items on the floor. Oscar hid under the blanket. We never lost power and the roads were clear. David was working, and other than rattled nerves and dishes, everybody came through it unharmed.

But there have been other quakes this year. It makes me wonder if we're gearing up for the one that everyone fears will strike, and is overdue.

The eruptions of the volcano in Iceland make me realize how helpless we are against nature. I won't try to spell the name of the volcano; I'll call it "E". I am reminded that this planet, although 4.5 billion years old, is still evolving. And it will continue to do so long after my human remains exist as atomic particles now part of other substances on the planet. While this volcano has erupted three times in recorded history, it has always been followed by the eruption of a much larger volcano, Katla, which will erupt with a force one hundred times that of the present "E" volcano. We've waited nearly 190 years for another eruption, and I wonder what the effects will be.

Just as I felt when the solid earth moved beneath my feet, people look at the two Icelandic volcanoes and feel the same sense of powerlessness. I wonder what the dinosaurs thought when [enter personal theory here] was happening, which drove them to extinction. In spite of all we control, we are powerless against the forces of nature. I will continue to do all that I can do, to be all that I can be, and let somebody else worry about the mortality of our species.

* * *

I wanted to include a word about my spring vacation. I enjoyed several days with my friends Devin and Jeff in Pensacola, Florida. We did a lot of time talking and laughing. Devin and I spent a lot of time being tourists, and there is a lot to see. We even went to Panama City Beach and had lunch at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. If I had anything bothering me before spring break, it didn't follow me. The food was first rate and the company superb. I'm happy that Devin has decided to visit me in June. He believes that we should get together as often as we can, because we might not have the chance to do it tomorrow..

When I got home I went with David to the condo, where we enjoyed a few days together. It rounded out an already perfect vacation from all that surrounds me. My head is clearer and my mood is greatly improved. I don't know where I would be without these people who have blessed my life.

I now want to focus on a post about Bali. I began writing when I was in Florida, but things like fun and good company got in the way of my being able to finish it. It seems like years behind me now, but reading what I have written brings it all back.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'm looking forward to spring break.

I'm going to break one of the first rules of blogging. I'm posting a blog to let you know that I'm going to post a blog. I've been working on a blog about Bali, but as expected, there are very many details that have slipped into the recesses of my mind. I do plan on posting it soon.

School has gone well. I've been studying for exams, which I am taking all this week. I have been experiencing a lot of tension headaches lately...the ones that go around the back of the base of my skull. If I close my eyes and relax for a minute, they go away fairly quickly. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I've been burning the candle at both ends with school, work and play. You're right. Fortunately, though, my priorities have been in order, and I feel confident about my exams.

I will be spending a few days in Pensacola to visit with my friends Devin and Jeff during spring break. I am leaving next Saturday, coming back on Wednesday, when I will be whisked away to parts unknown for some serious rest and relaxation with David. I am so looking forward to Friday afternoon when exams are over, and I can think about putting stress aside for a short while.

My Camry has not gotten away from me yet. I thought I'd mention that. I learned how to shift into neutral the first day. :D

And Jerry, you're right. I can find the snooze button in the dark, eyes closed, half asleep from 3 feet away, yet unable to find the keys I know are in my pocket! Now I'll go measure my thumb. Second thought, maybe I better not!

I'll close with a question. What in the world is an egg cream?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Who are your heroes?

Do you have a hero? Who are your heroes? I always wondered why Myspace felt so compelled to put that question to its members. I was always amused by the names of people's heroes. They included iconic figures such as John Wayne, Albert Einstein and Jesus Christ, plus some of the popular names associated with Hollywood scandals and politics. John Wayne's courage portrayed by his characters, the good versus evil, where the good always triumphs to a happy ending, makes for someone to which we can all aspire. Einstein, with his unparalleled intelligence and his contributions to science make for a person worthy of placing high upon a pedestal. The choice of Jesus Christ would be for obvious reasons, with his teachings of love and forgiveness.. I have often wondered why we choose these people as our heroes, and the connection between our heroes and the people we would like to be.

What's my definition of a hero? A hero to me is someone who imparts wisdom and strength upon me, someone who cares enough about me to tell me when I'm doing wrong, or to support me when I'm doing right. A hero to me is someone who won't be afraid to show his weaknesses, if only to show me how to recognize my own weaknesses. A hero to me will be a role model. My heroes lead by example, rather than by barking orders at me. My heroes can gently break through the impenetrable barrier that I unwittingly put up that so often separates me from good advice or kind words. I never asked that my heroes be perfect, rather I only ask that my heroes show me that they understand me, and that they will be there for me, to pick me up when I fall or to pat me on the back with a reassuring "job well done". As I write this blog I realize how fortunate I am to be surrounded by so many people who fill the shoes of a hero.

I have been told many times that I keep my emotions in my pocket. I have always been private with my emotions, and so often I have a wall around me, impenetrable by those who seek to bring out my personal feelings. I can go back to the "How do you feel about this?" question I heard so many times. I resisted the constant prodding to tell everyone how I feel. Their persistence only succeeded in my building a higher, stronger wall around me. When I was a small child I would sit and play by myself, the whole time singing a song I had learned. When my mother would persuade me to sing it again, or to perform the song in front of others, I'd become mute. This is how it is with my emotions. But there are many times when I can look inside myself and share my feelings. And in order for a person to talk about his heroes, he must be able to explain why. And behind a person's criteria for heroism you will discover emotions.

I thought about my heroes and who would be worthy of occupying a space on my own personal Myspace page. During the past several months I've given the subject of heroes a lot of thought. Let me tell you what I think.

First on my list was Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a volunteer at the rehab center. He read to me from the Bible. He was an elderly man with an incredible faith. His gentle and patient personality coupled with a worldly knowledge made him a man worthy of respect. He ignored my arrogant attitude, and he must have known that I would soon understand that he was trying to help me. I often refer to him as my angel of mercy. On many occasions he would look at me with his piercing yet gentle eyes and tell me that I should never put myself in such a position that I would ever end up back here. How ironic that as quickly as he came into my life, his life ended. My main regret that I hold to this day is that I never got the chance to hug him and thank him when I was released from rehab. I have placed Jeremiah high on my list of life's heroes, and I will always have him in my heart.

Definitely not to be considered #2 by any means would be my brother Alex. I always looked up to Alex. I always aspired to be like Alex. Alex was a jock, and he enjoyed the popularity associated with the status. Alex had his sights set high, and he achieved his goals. He maintained a straight A average all through school, and he has the kind of job that is exciting, as well as one that I consider a little bit scary. Alex always had time for me. He was a voice of authority and reason. He let me sneak into bed with him when I had nightmares. He saved my life by pulling me out of the pool by my long hair when I forgot to put on my floats. Alex taught me a lot about life, and about things that fly and things that buzz. He yelled at me when I deserved it, as well as praising me when I earned it. He has never let me down, and I have received so much more than I've ever given. Someday I hope to change that.

When I came to a fork in the road, I made the right choice when I decided to visit with my father, and to bring everything out into the open. Ten years of emotions can distort a person's thinking. My parents were divorced when I was six years old. Dad had a drinking problem. During the summer of 2008 I visited my father, who now lives in Phoenix. Now a recovering alcoholic, married to a woman also in recovery, he enjoys a clean and successful life. I was filled with a lot of apprehension before I saw him, but after we began to talk about the past, I realized that my father wasn't the bad person I thought he was. By the time I left we had smoothed out all of our past issues, and we spoke openly about our feelings. There were apologies from both of us, and there were promises. I learned about everything he did for me, even though I never knew it. Maybe I never listened; maybe I never heard it, but he told me he loves me. That meant more to me than anything else. And although I never said it to him, I told him I love him, too. Dad, for the courage portrayed by John Wayne, the intelligence of Einstein and for the level of forgiveness that you showed me through the love of Jesus Christ, I've placed you among my list of heroes.

And last but not least is a hero who loves me so much he'd kicked my butt. I'm talking about Jeff S. from New Jersey. Jeff always showed me unfaltering patience and love. He's another older brother to me. He once told me the difference between an erection and an orgasm. By golly jeepers...I had it backwards. As he once said to me, "A vagina by any other name still smells the same." I had heard the same quote using a rose, but this got the point across with a higher degree of laughter. Jeff was a surfer boy who lived in a New Jersey seashore community, and he had a surfboard that would fit all us little kids. We called it "The Bus". We'd pile on and he'd push us all around. That was the best ride of them all. He'd tell us to hold on, and then he'd bounce the board, making sure that none of us little kids fell off. I fell in love with a little stuffed rabbit he won on the boardwalk. When it came time to go home my mother told me to give it back to Jeff. Jeff held the rabbit to his ear and said, "You know what he said? He said he wants to go home with you." He was always nice to kids. Maybe that's why he's the best teacher in the world. Maybe that's why I want to be a teacher, too. Jeff didn't like to see the path I had taken when I was 16 years old. I found the wrong kids that summer when we were visiting them. He told me that he didn't like seeing me in that state and that I had to straighten up. I laughed at him, so he hit me. He hit me again. He kept hitting me but I knew, even through my dilated pupils, that he was hurting just as I was. The message got through. He still apologizes for that. I still thank him for that...for loving me so much he beat me up. Jeff is also my literary role model. I read every one of his blogs, and then I read them all again. I wish I could write as he does, with a sense of clarity so that I can hear him speaking. I continue to try, even though he says the words I hear so often. "Just be yourself." I love you, Jeff. Thanks.

You've probably wondered why I didn't put David as my #1 hero. The answer to that is simple. David occupies a very special spot in my life. He wouldn't be in that spot if he weren't a hero to me. David has let me cry on his shoulder. David has held me in his arms when I was weak or cried myself to sleep, afraid of my ability to resist temptation. He has listened to me when he could just as easily have told me to grow up or stop whining. His love and patience never ends. I know where I would be without him, and I'm thankful to the Lord above that I'm not there, because I would not be here. I've learned to live and to love life, and that the temptations of evil are no contest for the power of love and faith. I have never experienced love in my life the way I feel it for David. I have tried to return that love, and I will make it my life's work to show him just how much he means to me. Life has gotten so wonderful for me, and it only gets better with every passing day. David occupies a special place in my soul. It's a place for heroes and soul mates. I owe my life to my soul mate, a very special guy named David.

My list doesn't end there. There are my online heroes as well. Michael M. in Texas has offered me wisdom and patience that I am still learning. He told me that it's OK to be me. He recognizes my youth, and he encourages me to be the kid I can be as well as the intelligent young man I'd like to be. He offers hugs and love to my family and me, yet he rarely gets them back. I often blush when he says all the nice things I don't want to hear, and he knows it. My shyness shows at times, and he knows about the wall I put up between kind words and myself. But he knows that he has gotten through to me. So Michael, you are a hero to me. I love you as someone who has had extraordinary patience with me, yet someone who isn't afraid to tell me I'm being a jerk...in nice terms. And if I may say, hugs from David, Mom and ME.

If you think I've forgotten YOU, don't worry. You're reading my blog because you are special to me. I gave you my email address because you mean something to me. You've made it clear to me that you want to include me in your lives. How can I thank you for this? There are names of people who have only recently discovered Michael the Blogger. You know who you are. I look forward to getting to know some of you better, as I have not met you until recently.

I sat and thought about this last one for a while, but I want to mention someone very special to me. This person of honorable mention is someone about whom I always cared very deeply. I worry, too. His name is Ethan. I don't know how old he is, and he never told me. His Myspace age is 99, so I will treat him as if he is 16 years old. We shared quite a few frank conversations, and I'm glad we did. He got into showing suggestive mirror image pictures of himself on his Myspace page. The red switching lights flashed in my head. I was afraid he was on the wrong path...a path I took. I don't know if he got the message. He also got into web camming. I didn't want to know what he was doing. Many of his friends are obvious pedophiles intent on befriending young boys under the muse of being a young, hot gay boy. But Ethan is a giving kind of kid. In spite of a skin ailment that prohibits him from extended exposure to sunlight, he has become a teenage escape artist. He puts on shows for handicapped children. He escapes from straight jackets, in boxes, under water, hanging upside down, or whatever. Please...I don't want to watch. We shared so much, but something happened, and he lost interest...or faith in me. I would have helped with his writing problems, but he didn't want any help. I tried not to push the issue. I'll never forget Ethan. I will always remember him as one of the most special online friends I ever had. So Ethan, for your willingness to make children's lives a little happier at the risk of your safety, and for the happiness you give to others in the kind words you say, you are a hero to me.

Understandably, this blog has taken me some time to write. This has been a challenge to write. I did not want to run the risk of leaving anybody out, resulting in hurt feelings. When the speaker gets up and thanks people for helping out, and someone's name isn't mentioned, the end result is the slighting of someone whose contributions proved invaluable to the end result. This blog could be as endless as the list of heroes in my life. You've just read only a few of the names. After all, I need to do some studying. That way I might be on a similar list someday. Thank you for reading.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Did you ever work for a moving company?

I have helped people move. One person says to put the sofa here. The other isn't happy with that, and you end up putting the sofa in several different locations before everyone agrees on the location...or one person walks out.

I am still deciding on a template. You might see changes along the say. If you don't like the scheme, wait a day or two.

Also...I am not happy about the title of my blog. It sounds like I'm opinionated. It isn't ME. This will change, too.

Thanks for your understanding while I move the furniture around. I'm also in the process of writing another blog, and I want to post it before I go visit my father. I'm leaving on Thursday.

I also got a suggestion that if you sign as "Anonymous", please put your name on it (unless you do want it anonymous). I hope this isn't a pain for people. We're all gentlemen and ladies, adults and adulteresses.


Michael "Frustrated Mover" Jacob

Saturday, February 6, 2010

And now for something completely different.

One of my Myspace posts, originally posted on October 25, 2008.

And now for something completely different.

Current mood: nostalgic

"Nice meeting you, too."

I'll say nice! Oh my gosh! He's amazing! His eyes...his face...his hair...everything about him is perfect. I'm nervous. Why am I so nervous? This is my first day. I've done this before. I can't stop looking at him. He said he'd keep an eye on me. Caught again. He saw me checking him out. Damn it! Every time I look at him he turns to look at me. OK, Michael, calm down. CHILL!

Is it this busy every night? My vest. Is it OK? Yes. It's fine. My hair. Is it OK? Yes. It's fine. My shoes are polished. Laces tied. Fly closed. Good. This should be easy. This door's in. This door's out. It's time. Let the show begin.

"Here's your fork, sir. I do apologize for that."

Shove your fork. I don't care about forks. Oh...there he is again. Where was I? Oh. Right. Table 16. People waste too much food. Not my problem. Ughh! This one is heavy. To the dishwashers we go.

"Here ya go. Thanks dudes."

"¿Más platos? Gracias mi amigo. Le rompió el vidrio. ¿Quién es usted? ¿Cómo te llamas? ¿Tu madre te visten?"

"You're welcome."

That man. The signal. I'm coming, I'm coming.

"More water, sir?"


No problem, ingrates. You look like shitty tippers, anyway. I'm only a slave around here.

Stop, Michael. Easy on the attitude. Oh look. There he is again. Did he just smile at me? Why do I melt every time I look at him? Why do I melt every time he looks at me? Going in......here he comes out. He smiled at me again. Easy Michael.

What's next? Refresh 19. No sweat. Fold. Shake. Flip. Smooth. Cheap ass place can't use clean tablecloths. A 1 forkie forkie, a 2 forkie forkie, a 3 forkie forkie, a 4 forkie forkie. I'm feeling so...so....so gay! A 1 salad salad, a 2 salad salad...

Did I just spill? That's right. Pour from the side, away from the patron, over the floor. Wipe the glass if needed. I know this. I can do it. Something isn't completely right tonight. What's wrong with me?

I think I have the hang of this now. I think I'm relaxed. I like being busy. It keeps my mind off...things.

Gasp! Here he comes again. He's talking to me. He's talking to me. To me!


What did he say? I was looking at his mouth and his eyes but I don't know what he said. Oh no. Bite the bullet, Mikey, just ask him again.

Why's he laughing like that? He's cute when he laughs. Oh right. That's what he said. I'll turn this into a table for 8. Reservation for 9:00. I'm your man. I'll do it for you. I'll do anything for you. I'm like a lost sparrow and he's like a mighty eagle that will protect me. I feel so helpless around him. What's wrong with me?

Eye contact. Now I have a reason. I'm looking right into his eyes. He's, what, 30 feet away from me. He's taking a drink order from the couple that smells like moth balls. I'll just wander over there and fill their water glasses...again. Wait for him to finish. That's right. Now. He's looking at me. It's all business. I point to the table. He gives me thumbs up. He smiled at me. Did you see that smile? What next? I can do this. I know I can do this. What's wrong with me?

Fine. The bus boy never talks. I'll just pour water. What's this guy saying?

"Finally a bus boy who speaks English!"

I know that guy. He's on TV or something. I give him my Michael smile. That's enough. I hate to smile. Anybody got a joint? No, can't do that. Never again. Get a grip, Michael.

My hair! It's a mess! Quick, the brush. Who's pulling my hair down over my collar? Oh you. You're that funny woman. She's smiling at me and has her hand on my shoulder.

"Michael. Relax. You're doing fine, buddy."

Did she just look at that guy, and then back at me? Does she know what I'm thinking? Shit! Maybe he knows. Oh no! And now I'm giggling. I'm such a jerk when I giggle.

What a night. One more table left. I'm hurting. I'm all alone. There. Done. Out there by the dumpster. It's that funny woman and HIM. Aha! That's where they go to smoke. Sneaky devils, aren't they? I think I'll take out the garbage.

Why is she laughing at me? She keeps looking at me, and then at HIM. I wish I could be alone with him. I wish she would leave. What's this? She's leaving. Now it's just... It's just... Oh no. Now I have to talk. He's talking. What's he saying? I can't take my eyes off him. He's beautiful. Do you know how beautiful you are? Maybe someday I'll tell you. He put his hand on my shoulder. Leave it there. Never take it off. It's gentle. It's warm. It's strong. I feel so weak. I'm a baby. What's wrong with me?

Did he say "See you tomorrow"?

You bet you will. I'll see you tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow after that. The day is over. It was a busy night. I'm tired. My feet hurt. I managed to keep from dumping anything on anybody. I filled enough water glasses to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. I carried out enough dirty dishes to fill the kitchen. I'm glad he kept an eye on me. I wonder if he knows I kept an eye on him, too.

PRESS. Oh shit! Not the panic button. There goes my alarm. He's laughing at me again. I'm not the coolest thing he's ever seen. He's walking over to me. Nice handshake. How about a kiss? Only in your dreams, Michael. But check this out. We're talking. I'm listening. It's almost as if he knows I'm...no, couldn't be. And with a wave of the hand he drives off. But as he left...did he smile at me? Did he smile as if he meant it? Was it a "he likes me" kind of smile? My heart's racing. What's wrong with me?

I'm home. I'm tired. "My night? It was OK. Night, Mom."

In the darkness I think about him...his smile, his voice, his touch. I want him to touch me again. I want him to touch me all over. I want HIM. I'll lie here until I fall asleep. I'll think of him. I'll keep saying his name over and over in my mind until I go to sleep. Maybe I'll dream about him tonight. Maybe I'll dream about that amazing guy I met tonight. I think I'm going to like working there. I'm definitely going to like working with him. I'm tired. I'll hold my pillow as I wish I could hold him. I hope I dream about him. I hope to make him mine. Tonight I met the most amazing guy in the world, a beautiful, gentle guy...named David. What's wrong with me, anyway?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

An introduction...or Here we go again.

However you found this blog, whether someone recommended it to you or you heard about it from me, I would like to welcome you as a reader. I'd like to start off by telling you a little about myself. But don't worry. I'll leave out all the gory and boring details. As open and public as I am, there are times when I prefer to be at least a little private about certain details.

I live in Los Angeles and I'm a 21 year-old college senior. I started out as a Journalism major, but now I'm looking forward toward a teaching career. I know a few people who have gone this same path, and I have heard and seen the joy in all they say about a career with an endless bounty of rewards. I tutored a seventh grader a while ago, and that was so rewarding that I decided to look a little more closely at my career path. I have close friends who have tried to talk some sense into me, to use the talents...or gifts I have, and pass them on. At the present time I am hoping to work in the area of substance abuse rehabilitation. I'm not sure where I will fit in, but if prior experiences are a plus, then I am a step ahead of the competition. It saddens me to think how nobody wants to go into teaching in 2010. I understand teaching to be, at times, a thankless job. Then I ask myself why it has to be that way. I also ask myself why I would want to go into a profession that not only pays less than many jobs with the same education requirements, but would also be regarded as thankless. Friends of mine refer to one's "calling". This is my calling. I decided to follow the call. I'm not sure where it will lead me, but I'm ready for the ride.

When I read one's About Me in Myspace I see statistics that don't necessarily describe the person. I am a white boy of English, Dutch, Scottish, Irish, French extraction. Myspace is hung up on Status, Ethnicity, Orientation, Religion, Smoker, Drinker, Children, plus many other categories. Such criteria in determining friendship completely escape me. But I was open with all of the above. Let me start out by telling you that I am openly gay. You won't see a banner above, announcing that I'm a gay white boy, or that my blog is all about the life of a gay white boy. I'm not in anyone's face about it, and I don't tend to be an activist about anything, including being gay. Being gay is a part of the entire package of what is known as "ME", rather than what I am. I don't write about gay issues unless I'm writing about a person who also happens to be gay, or someone who is having difficulty coming out. The only indication a reader will have about my sexuality will be my mention of David, the most warm, wonderful person in my life. This would make my Status "In a Relationship". To say he's been good to me would be a gross understatement. He's the kind of person who lets me cry on his shoulder. He'll talk sense into my head and tell me I'm being a fool, yet never allow me to doubt that he's doing it because he loves me. I wrote a very descriptive blog about the first time I met David. I will post that here. So if my being gay turns you against me, please read no further. I'm glad you stopped by, and thanks for reading this far.

As for Religion, I was baptized Methodist, although I've been to most Protestant denominational churches. I keep my religious beliefs private, although most know that I have a very strong faith in God. I had an eye-opening experience a few years ago, and a very patient and loving gentleman found the most fitting and perfect scripture readings to share with me. While I am not what anyone would consider Born Again, I believe I was able to get in touch with the faith that was already within me. I do believe we all have a purpose. I'm discovering mine.

My parents were divorced when I was much younger. I recently reconnected with my father, who lives in Phoenix. My father and I are very similar, right down to some of the details that one would rather forget. Dad is a recovering alcoholic, married to a lovely woman who is also recovering. The person who says that addiction isn't hereditary should know my family. I have a history of drugs and alcohol, although that is in the past. I even question how I ever made it through high school so near to the top of my class. This brings up the subject of Purpose once again.

I have been to visit my father several times, and we have not only smoothed out the rough times in our past but we've formed a father-son relationship that is like nothing else I've ever known. It seemed that as things started getting better, they got better exponentially.

I live with my mother and my sister Christine. My brother Alex lives with his wife and their 18 month old son Ethan. I could write a lot about Ethan. He's my nephew Yankee Doodle, born on the Fourth of July. Mom and I were a day from leaving for New Jersey when Alex's wife went into labor. I believe my blog for that day was: "Hold Everything. There's going to be more than fireworks today!" Alex and Christine are Mom's children from her first marriage. I am the product of her second.

I've always enjoyed writing. I received several literacy and penmanship awards from the second grade through high school. I was influenced by many people, especially my parents, who encouraged proper grammar, and later, Mom, who wasn't the least bit discrete when it came to my writing errors. I hope she doesn't read my blog. Did you read that, Sean? I was always encouraged to write, and I had hoped to make it a career. Life changes when you least expect it.

As time goes by you'll learn a little more about me. But I'll end this what my own words from my Myspace.

As time goes on you may learn a little bit more about me and my completely unpredictable life. I'm full of surprises. My blogs will not attempt to hide the person I am. I'll put it there for all to read...the good and the bad...my virtues and my vices. I may make you laugh. If I do, yay. I can be funny. I may make you cry. If I do, that's good, too. I can be very sensitive.

Thanks for visiting...and please come visit me again soon. Thank you a lot. Just one more thing. Don't ever pass up the chance to say "I love you."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

This new blog.

I have typed an email, which I will send in a mass email to inform everyone of my new email address and my new blog. This blog is going to be 100% public, and it is open to all from Myspace and from my life in general.

I have ideas for future postings, including some of my experiences over Christmas in Bali. The best idea for a blog would be to do as I did in my third Myspace account, which is to introduce people to who I am. My attitude is one of allowing people to stop by, read, and decide. If they think they might like to know a little more about me, then they can be regular readers. Those who don't like what they read can go somewhere else. I haven't deleted any prior blog postings, since they were merely means for me to test this system. I think I like it. As long as I remember how to get back here I'll be alright.

I got a suggestion to re-post some of my classic blogs, and I might do that. I hope to post a blog about once a week, but as you all know, my schoolwork comes first.

If you're reading my blogs for the first time, thank you for your interest. I hope you enjoy what I have to say. To my seasoned readers, I will try to write in the same manner to which you have become accustomed. And this has spell check and auto saving of drafts, so no more typing offline!

Thanks for reading. I will begin regular blogging within a few days.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Current Thoughts

I'm still trying to find a blog home on the net, so if you're here as one of my readers, thanks. I will try to keep you informed as to where my permanent blogging home will be.

I want to first thank you for giving me your email addresses. I have tried to stay in touch with a couple of friends, and I've asked that they pass along the information that I will be sending out an email to you all. I thank you for your understanding and your patience.

I am not allowed to discuss the current litigation in progress. Let me assure you that while I am not in any legal trouble, the details of the current litigation are not to be discussed. Please don't ask me any specific questions as I will not respond. I understand your concern, but I have been advised by council not to discuss this case.

I have been told to expect the possibility that my online activities will be monitored. There is nothing concrete to offer me proof that my online activities are currently being monitored, but this has become a possibility as well as a concern. I fully expect my computer to be confiscated again, and I am ready for it. There is nothing of an incriminating nature on my computer. I do not have any copyrighted images or other web images on my computer. I have removed all personal blogging information. I ask again that you don't ask me for specific information in that regard. (This is the worst case scenario only. It probably is not happening nor will happen.)

There is some news that I would like to share with you. I have made arrangements to return to Bali at the end of July. I will be there for a period of four months. At the end of that term I can opt to extend my stay. This is the experience of a lifetime. My task will be to teach Conversational English to local people who have learned English but can't effectively communicate in English. Now, there has been one twist to this that has me even more excited. At the present time, we are approximately 99% sure that David will be going with me. His boss has assured him that his job at the restaurant will be there when he returns. What's even more amazing is how his boss not only allowed his leave of absence but encouraged it. David has told me how much the boss thinks of me, and as a gesture of hope and good will, he is allowing David to go for four months. Do I have to tell you how excited this makes me? I will be posting more information about this in the very near future.

With the exception of some turbulence in my life at the present time, I am doing my best to keep a positive attitude. This should not interfere with my Bali plans, as this would make a lot of people look pretty inhumane, but as I have learned in the past, being inhumane is a good way to break someone down. I refuse to be buffaloed.

I am going to end this now. I like how this works and I like how it looks, so maybe this will work. Once I figure out the best way to pass along the URL, or figure it out, I will go live with this.

Thank you all for your understanding. I fear I might have made one or two people mad at me by deleting my Myspace account, but I need to tell you the truth and say that that's the least of my worries. I know I lost friends over the months of relative silence, but I have told you why I was silent. Let's face it. It's my life and I have to live it.

I will be blogging here, so if there is a button for clicking to get notices that I updated, click it. Peace out and thank you.