Found On Roadside, Derelict

One of the more amusing things about looking through various discussions of vehicles is the way that one can blend one’s own personal experience with one’s knowledge. It is admittedly difficult to prove anything from anecdotal experience, because no matter how long we live our sample size of anything is going to be way too small to be statistically significant. Considering the size of samples that are necessary to come to a mathematically significant understanding of any issue, we simply do not have enough personal experiences ourselves with cars, spouses, jobs, or anything else of great importance to us for us to be able to draw the sort of insight out of those experiences where we have confidence that our experiences are representative. And that is especially true because of our tendency to lack self-knowledge about our own personal role in the difficulties we may have in those areas, where we may have considerably more insight into our own patterns of thought and behavior than in the extrapolations from our limited experience we can make on reality as a whole.

Even so, one can supplement one’s own personal experience with study and come to better conclusions than one could from one’s own personal experience alone, and come to at least a tentative understanding of the patterns and common threads that run through various situations of the same family. There is a somewhat impolite saying that says that one can run into an asshole first thing in the morning but that if one runs into assholes all day, than you are probably the asshole. Likewise, one can drive an incredible series of lemon vehicles and ponder the extent to which one has terrible taste in vehicles or one is not very good as a driver and owner. A great deal of the issues that we have to deal with in life come in the intersection between our desire to avoid blame and the desire of other people to force upon us some sense of responsibility for what happens in our life, and trying to gauge what is just between our desire to avoid blame and the desire of others to affix it upon us.

Ultimately, I think a great deal is lost when the focus is on blame. The question of where responsibility lies for problems is a broad and complicated one, and ultimately a great deal of the discussion is irrelevant. There may certainly be psychological benefits in being able to blame evil people and broken systems for so much of what is wrong in this world, and other people feel superior by seeking to blame us for whatever misfortune and difficulty we may suffer. Ultimately, though, this little matters. Regardless of who or whether someone else or we ourselves are to blame for what we experience, we have to cope with reality or suffer the consequences for not dealing with it. Frequently, our desire to blame or to avoid blame tend to distract us from the worthwhile task of dealing with reality. We only have so much attention, time, and energy to do what needs to be done, and most of us could agree that if we used all of those better we could do more than we do at present, even if such a thing could never be admitted to anyone else.

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Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide

A few days ago I came across a relatively recent interview with the actor who had played the titular role on a television show I do not remember hearing about when it was on television for three years, namely “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide,” which despite its zany plot full of odd animals and their relationship to the experiences of middle school, had a highly relatable approach. One of the things that struck me from the interview was the comment from the actor that one does not want to hear advice from people who act as if they have everything under control but rather one is willing to accept principles that come from people who are clearly trying to work things out. We all struggle. Some of us struggle openly and obviously, while others struggle more privately and quietly. Regardless, though, all struggle the same.

It is difficult for me to put into words how much I am irritated by the critiquing of others. As someone who has spent a significant amount of time writing critiques of books and other things (movies, restaurants, products, hotels, and so on), I am aware that this is perhaps not the most obvious attitude that one has towards receiving what one is dishing out. I tend to envision my own critiques as not being about the person or people involved but about the experience, for one, and for another I tend to view my comments as being directed to those who may be called upon to select among options rather than to the people who wrote the book or provided the experience themselves. To the extent that I viewed my reviewing as being directed to the actual owners or employees of places I went to or of the authors of books or the bands responsible for making music, for example, my critiquing attitude would be far different in light of my own intense dislike of being critiqued by others. As is often the case with humanity, it is far more enjoyable to dish out critique and to give advice than it is to take either.

I find this to be a fascinating matter, personally. We tend to give criticism to others not based on our own performance but rather than our own tastes. Frequently we tend to be harshest on the sins of others that correspond most to our own flaws and faults. My intense irritation at those who are harshly critical towards me is not unconnected to my own savagely harsh and critical wit that can frequently be wielded against others, and which I attempt to restrain as much as possible. In like fashion, we tend to give advice that is either based on our own academic knowledge (frequently divorced from real life application), or based on personal experience that is at best partially and incompletely understood and very limited in its nature and applicability. Given my own sensitivity to the rank hypocrisy of humanity as a whole, I tend to shy away from being a self-appointed personal trainer or dispenser of unwanted advice, since I am aware of rather serious and immediate and obvious retorts to such efforts. It is lamentable that others who are quick to try to give advice are not so self-aware of the same sort of counterarguments that can be easily marshalled against such “well-meaning” efforts at securing self-importance by being helpful to others who do not ask and often do not want such things.

If criticism and unsolicited advice is seldom welcome to many people–and by no means welcome to this author–what is it that we want from other people as we attempt to survive and thrive in a harsh and cruel world? At least in my own observation and experience–for what it is worth–we tend to want two things from others. For one, we want encouragement from others who share our experiences to demonstrate that we are not alone in struggling. Occasionally, we may welcome actual assistance in our struggles that does not involve judgment, criticism, and efforts by others to bolster their own superiority through their supposed assistance to us. This can be a very tricky matter. Other people may think they are doing us a favor when in reality we are doing them a favor that they do not recognize nor appreciate. What we also want are often good examples in how to accomplish what we struggle with. If we see someone who lives a life in a way that we respect and appreciate, it is well worth it to examine their lives and their approach and to learn accordingly. This is especially valuable when we come from backgrounds where certain aspects may be an obvious struggle.

What can be learned from this? We best appreciate counsel when we seek it out ourselves and not when it seeks us out. This is not to say that even the most clumsy and maladroit and hypocritical advice giver does not often speak the truth (albeit often not very kindly and often without understanding in how poorly they serve as an example of the ideals that they preach), but rather that the experience of such matters varies widely based on our own choice in the matter. Those who are self-appointed helpers and guides are often blind to the specific context of what they seek to critique and tend to want to build themselves up as experts to gratify their own sense of vanity and self-importance. We cannot be unaware of these temptations given the commonality of the desire to feel appreciated and important and of value given the difficulties and struggles of life that we all face, including the way that this world and the people within it regularly threaten our own self-regard. One of the reasons our advice and critique is so unwelcome is that it comes with a feeling of superiority towards those we claim to wish to help. To the extent that we recognized that we are no better (and are in some ways worse) than the people we look down upon and wish to help from a position of lofty and commanding heights, our sense of empathy and understanding with others can make us not only more welcome to others as sources of advice and counsel but also a lot more effective as well. For it is only when we take the beam out of our own eye that we can deal with the specks in the eyes of others, and it is only when we judge ourselves (and repent accordingly) that we are fit to judge and critique others.

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On The Conditions Of Writing

I find myself often pondering not only about writing but about the conditions in which writing is possible. I say this in the midst of what must be the hottest summer on record here in Oregon’s history, and I can say without any hesitation that I do not write well under conditions of intense heat. Writing in an air-conditioned office is pretty straightforward and easy to manage, but writing when it’s hot, not so much. I must say that trying to be productive in times of intense heat has made me feel a lot more empathetic to those who have to deal with hot temperatures on a regular basis.

There is a well-known theory about climate that states that temperate climates tend to be the most productive because no one can work hard in the tropics. This is often framed as a sort of ode to the laziness and torpor of people in hot weather but is not necessarily the case. I know I tend to be a lot lazier when I am hotter, which tends to structure how I engage in certain behavior. But other considerations are at play as well. For one, warm-weather societies tend to structure how it is that they operate in different ways. Most of them choose to seek the shade as much as possible, and avoid working in the heat of the day while being more productive when the weather is cooler. This is only sound thinking. At other times still other considerations are at play, such as the losses in productivity due to tropical diseases like sleeping sickness and malaria (among others) which tend to dramatically limit the amount of effort that people are able to undertake because of sickness.

I have long considered myself to be a skeptic of the arguments of anthropogenic climate change, although I do not believe that mankind has done a good job at being a steward of God’s creation. That said, there is no argument that the weather has gotten increasingly unstable and unfriendly in recent decades, regardless of what or who is responsible for it. Given our lack of ability in moderating such conditions as exist, especially because the political incapability of moderating human behavior as a whole, it is for the best that we at least be able to cope with things, and I have to say that the coping doesn’t always work very well.

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A Short Blog On The Simple Pleasures Of Life

Although it is not my normal style of blog, right now I am enjoying one of the simple pleasures of life and so I thought I would try a listicle that examines some of the simple pleasures of life.

Listening to bad karaoke: While I try only to sing good karaoke myself, there is a certain pleasure in people lacking abandon and singing, or at least trying to sing, even when (especially when) they are terrible about it. Not only it is fun when one knows one can do something better but it is refreshing to see people pursue expression with abandon because it makes everyone less self-conscious and that can only be a good thing in a life that is all too often full of anxiety.

Talking with friends and loved ones: I have to say that this is a pleasure that I have been able to enjoy far more at some times than others, and I enjoy this sort of positive communication whether it comes verbally in person, on the phone, or in conversation online, though I have to admit I have a partiality to in person conversations.

Good food and drink: There is a simple joy in eating pleasant food. I must admit as well that there is something very refreshing about a simple glass of cold water, or rather several of them. My tastes in food are fairly broad in that I have always liked like foods from a variety of areas, but also somewhat simple and straightforward at the same time.

Sleep: Of course, napping during the early afternoon as a way to relax after a long and busy is a great way to not have the time to write longer entries, but I have something to say if I have enough energy for it.

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One Moment In Time

One of the more irritating things about having your phone know the location you go is that you get bugged for reviews for everywhere you go. Google has a not very subtle way of trying to convince you that one’s reviews are popular and that you should take the time to write about whatever place it is that you stopped by to eat and so on. I find this rather creepy. If my phone is reporting where I go to enjoy dinner or something else, it is almost certainly reporting other things to other people. Some people enjoy that, but I must say that I do not appreciate it.

As I was being reminded for the third time to review the place where I had dinner on Saturday, I was reminded why it is that restaurant reviews, more than other reviews, are a bit of a crapshoot, especially when someone is a regular at a place. If you eat at a place one time you can give one snapshot of the place and how it operates. Maybe it was having a great day or maybe it was having an off day and you didn’t realize it because the place had one chance to impress you and it either succeeded or failed. If you are not a professional reviewer for a newspaper, people are not going to know and then plan accordingly, but simply give you whatever service they do normally, which is more honest, but also more highly variable depending on the staffing and logistics of the restaurant that day.

If one eats at a place every week, though, it is a lot harder to give a review. How does one comment on what one does the same–if one has a regular order–over and over again? Would anyone want to read fifty reviews or so of the same places over and over again? And would I want to write them? How many ways can one say that one got the chicken parmesan with salad with balsamic vinaigrette and a vanilla ice cream along with mizrahi cheese bread, or six chicken tacos without tomatoes and with a large plate of black beans and rice, or one of the other dishes I regularly get over and over and over again? Who wants to hear about how quickly my pitcher of ice water was brought or how long it was for my check to come or something else of that nature. This is especially so when one is dealing with restaurant staffs that are in the main rather understaffed. It seems rather rough to be hard on those who are doing the best that they can when there are simply a lot of customers and not a lot of people to serve them.

Ideally, one gives reviews of things that one is experiencing for the first time, or something where one has new thoughts about them since one has examined or experienced before. There are certainly times where my whole impression of something changes after I have experienced it once, but once I am a regular at something then I tend not to think of much in the way of change unless the menu of a place changes and that which I used to get I no longer can, but must find some sort of item I like almost as much as what I previously enjoyed. As someone who tends to be a regular at place precisely because I am a creature of habit, this tends to be something I do not appreciate, but unless a place changes itself drastically or significantly for the worse, my opinion of them is not likely to change too much.

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What’s In A Name?

[Note: This is the prepared text for a message given to the United Church of God congregation of Portland, Oregon, on Sabbath, July 24, 2021.]

A few months ago we looked at the promise given to all believers in Romans 8:28 with the question of whether or not we believe what God has promised us here. Let us turn our attention to the exact opposite pole of God’s promises and look at God’s promises to a single believer in the Bible. What lessons can we learn from promises given to a single person? Let us begin today by looking at the promise of the prayer of Jabez and then we will discuss what lessons result from it. The prayer of Jabez, as it is known by those who know it at all, takes up two verses in what is otherwise a forgotten section of genealogy at the beginning of 1 Chronicles 4. In 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 we find this prayer and God’s response to it. Let us turn to 1 Chronicles 4:9-10, which reads: “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.”  And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested.

This passage may seem somewhat random and trivial, but there are two lessons that could be drawn here. An author drew the lesson from this passage that it was important for believers to ask God to enlarge their territory, putting him in line with the Gospel of wealth and prosperity that some people have. This is not the lesson we will draw from this short passage. The other possible lesson to draw is a discussion of the meaning and importance of Jabez’ name. Depending on where one draws meaning, it appears that Jabez as a name and its meaning come from the Hebrew root word ‘asab, which means pain or grief or suffering. The name Jabez, as a result a process known as metathesis, where letters are deliberately swapped, then would mean “He causes pain,” or “He will grieve,” or something of like nature. Jabez did not want to cause pain, and so he prayed that God would spare him from such a fate, and God did, viewing him as being more honorable than his brethren, presumably because he was thinking of others and not only himself.

Why does this matter? Names have meaning and importance, and when we name something, we are trying to place upon that which we name a particular destiny. The Bible is full of names like Jabez that have somewhat of a checkered history, and the response that people have to those names is interesting. Let us explore this sort of area briefly in the Bible, because there are two stories of names that are a lot like Jabez, and they are dealt with very differently by the people involved. First, let us turn to a story that has a lot of similarities to that of the story of Jabez, except the name was changed to avoid a bad name being given to a newborn infant. Genesis 35:16-18 tells us about the birth of Benjamin, and there are a lot of parallels between that story and the one of Jabez. Genesis 35:16-18 reads as follows: “Then they journeyed from Bethel. And when there was but a little distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel labored in childbirth, and she had hard labor.  Now it came to pass, when she was in hard labor, that the midwife said to her, “Do not fear; you will have this son also.”  And so it was, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin.” Here we see a mother suffering from hard labor who takes out their suffering on a child by giving that child a bad name. In this case, we better understand the importance of a name by realizing that Ben-Oni means “Son of my sorrow,” reflecting Rachel’s sorrow in dying in childbirth, while Benjamin means “Son of my right hand,” or, metaphorically, “Son of my strength.” Here we see that Jacob’s desire to speak of his strength in having twelve sons outweighed his desire to fasten upon that son a name that recognized the sorrow and suffering of his beloved but dying wife Rachel.

The second example we see of someone with a terrible name does not have so fortunate an income for the person so unfortunately named. Let us turn to look at this story in 1 Samuel 25:25-26. Here we see the efforts of Abigail to assuage David’s wrath and to prevent him from slaughtering everyone who belonged to the household of Nabal. In seeking to save the life of her and the other members of Nabal’s household, she makes prominent use of the meaning of Nabal’s name, which like that of Ben-Oni and Jabez is a rather unfortunate meaning. 1 Samuel 25:25-26 reads: “Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him! But I, your maidservant, did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent.  Now therefore, my lord, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, since the Lord has held you back from coming to bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hand, now then, let your enemies and those who seek harm for my lord be as Nabal.” Abigail uses very harsh language to describe Nabal, whose name means fool, but in this case that harshness is well-deserved. Nabal’s greed and lack of justice in his dealings with David’s armed and hungry men jeopardized the lives of all who lived in his household, and by her generosity and quick-thinking Abigail first saved the lives of the household, and later on became one of David’s wives, a much better outcome for her. Here we see, though, that Nabal was for whatever reason given a terrible name and he lived down to it.

Why does this matter for us? What is the importance of a name? And what blessings and promises are attached to those names? We have seen from the pages of scripture that a few people were given terrible names, and that these names caused them or the people around them to reflect upon the meaning of those names and to pray to God for the curse attached to that name to be removed. Jabez asked that he not cause pain and suffering, and God blessed him for his desire and viewed his wish not to inflict pain on others to be honorable. Jacob reversed the curse of the name on his twelfth and final son by giving him a positive name in its place. And Nabal suffered from his name, which was an accurate reflection of his foolish nature and evil character, and his longsuffering wife sought, as best as she could, to keep his own folly from ruining anyone else at least. Names in the Bible matter a great deal. To name something was to try to pronounce its destiny.

Names matter. When we look in the pages of scripture, we see people like Jabez, Benjamin, and Nabal who were originally given bad names that they (and those around them) did not want them to suffer from. To the extent that we are labeled by others with an evil and undesirable name, it should be our thought and prayer to God that we do not live up to the evil that others would wish to fasten upon us. On the other hand, the names that we choose for ourselves tend to reflect our hopes and aspirations rather than more unpleasant matters. And there our prayer should be different, that we live up to the promise and the blessing of the good names that we call ourselves and that we wish for others to call us. In both cases, our names, whether good or bad, should cause us to reflect upon what those names mean and on the promises and curses attached to those names. Let us, in our own lives, have the same resolve of Jabez not to live down to any bad name that others call us, and that we may be honorable and live up to the blessings of whatever identities we give ourselves. For as God’s children, we are called by His name, and that ought to matter to us a great deal.

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Plague Bearers, Or Camping In The Age of Covid

Two weeks ago I was visiting Tulsa, Oklahoma, and while there the pastor of our local congregation and the area was heading off to Camp Pinecrest in Missouri with his wife, his son, and his son’s girlfriend, as staff. Four additional teenagers were to come the next day for the beginning of camp as campers. For this reason services had been moved from their usual afternoon time to the morning, which ended up allowing us to listen to the Zoom services for the congregations of Southern British Columbia that are remotely pastored at present by that minister’s father-in-law. We wished them well and hoped that the people at Camp Pinecrest could have a wonderful time given the struggles that it had been to get camps to operate in the age of covid.

As it turns out, for whatever reason the camp ended up becoming a bit of a spreader event. While I was at services chatting with brethren there, I was talking to one woman whose grandchildren living to the north of Houston in the area not too far from Humble all went to Pinecrest in a van and all ended up with Covid, albeit fairly mild cases of it. This intrigued me, as it was the first I had heard about what had actually happened at that camp. I have had my own personal experiences at events where the bird flu spread and where I ended up carrying it back to Florida with me one time when I had visited Argentina, and that was no picnic, with chills and a raging dehydration even worse than normal (which is bad enough) that lasted for a couple of weeks or so. So this is not something I am entirely unfamiliar with.

As it happens, the spreader event of covid (presumably its new and supposedly fearsome delta variant) hit a bit closer to home than that. The day before church there was a call from a deaconess in our local congregation who asked a close friend of mine to take over the flowers for the day because she was unable to make it to church. Her husband, a deacon, was similarly unable to come to church to give the sermon message (I had the sermonette myself), and it turns out that they had been driving some of the campers between the Portland airport and our Northwest camp on the Oregon coast. It also happens that they had driven some campers who had previously attended Pinecrest and who were later found to have covid like so many of their other fellow campers. Those campers had been quarantined and then sent home (which is our protocol for dealing with plague bearers who come with contagious diseases), but all the same they had been in close contact with the deacon and his wife and so those two people as well were under quarantine to make sure that they in turn did not spread the disease to the rest of us.

This required various logistical changes. Instead of speaking today, for example, he will presumably speak next week, and the person who was supposed to give the sermon in The Dalles ended up giving his sermon in Portland instead, which was a very good message on Psalm 23 and the importance of God as a shepherd. In addition, someone was sent to the Dalles to speak on only a little notice, who arrived after services to briefly chat with us and pick up his two younger children before heading home, somewhat breathless. All of this sort of quick changes as a result of the exposure of people to covid lead me to wonder why it was that we were able to quarantine quickly and hopefully effectively here in the Northwest but why no such thing was done in Missouri? Who was it that brought covid to the camp in the first place and why was no quarantining done there to keep the disease from spreading throughout the campers? Was patient zero asymptomatic or not? These are obvious questions to me but may not seem equally obvious to everyone.

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Could You Pass The Turing Test?

One of the more intriguing tests that people take frequently is the Turing Test, whether they realize it or not. In a world like our own where there are a lot of bots masquerading as people, one of the important tasks that people have when communicating online is making sure that one is talking to people. It is easy for us to want to know that the people we are talking to are in fact people, and it is worthwhile to recognize at the same time that we are trying to test others and feel them out that they are doing the exact same thing to us.

What does this mean? A Turing test is a way that one demonstrates that one is talking to a person and not a machine. It is surprisingly hard to talk like a human being does, and online, without the visual cues that tell one that one is talking to a human being, it can be easy for people to fail the Turing test, even as it is (still) impossible for a computer to pass the test, although some of them are trying really hard to do so. Part of the reason why it can be so difficult to distinguish between bots and people is that people are sometimes as focused on what they want and what they are interested in than bots are limited in their ability to properly understand what is being said and in what sense.

One of the most obvious ways that we can prove that we are a human is to be responsive to the randomness that others have to offer. While any person can follow the script in their own head and this ability is present in bots as well, it takes a human being able to able to improvise conversation and to keep a mastery through a tricky interaction with an unpredictable person. It an be a great deal of fun to be the unpredictable person, to be sure, but not everyone likes a challenge when it comes to communication.

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Can You Come Out To Play In Your Empty Garden?

For many years I have been familiar with the song Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny), which was a moderate hit for Elton John in 1982, peaking at #13 on the Hot 100 and making the Year End chart for that year. It was by no means a big hit and is certainly not a song of his that is very familiar when one compares it with his larger body of work. While it is a song that Elton John appears to be very proud of, it is all the same a song that he tends not to like to perform because of the intensity of feeling that the song brings about in him as he reflects on the death of someone who was a close friend of his, one John Lennon.

It has been a long time since I listened to the song, since I initially did not feel anything from the song when listening to it, and I tend not to dwell on songs that do not resonate with me personally. I was reminded of the song yesterday, though, when a music channel I pay attention to did a video on what was in the commentator’s opinion the six worst songs of 1982 because there were only six songs that the person did not like and could discuss why he did not like them in general, and this song came in as the reluctant fourth dishonorable mention, or the tenth least favorite song of his from what was a very good year in music. As I have noted before, some of the years of the 1980’s were extremely strong in terms of their music and have so few terrible songs and so many amazing songs that one cannot really make a worst list on the level that one can of most years. I was piqued by curiosity to give the song another listen and to see if the song really was the sort of boring ballad that had been remembered.

I did not find it to be so upon further reflection. Admittedly, the song is very sparse and very austere in its approach. Elton John’s lyrics are not straightforward, and require a bit of unpackaging, but when the song is listened to attentively there is a deep well of emotion present in the performance, and a very poignant way that the song deals with the murder of a friend. Being a musician and a creative person is compared to being a gardener, and the wreck of a life is viewed as the blight of an insect that can do so much harm. The image of Elton John as a kid knocking on his friend’s door for most of the day in vain, asking Johnny if he can come out to play is something that strikes me as deeply sad in a very moving way. Perhaps it doesn’t hit home with everyone, but it certainly hits home with me, and one can sense that the austerity of the music and the oblique nature of the lyrics is the way that lyricist Taupin and composer John sought to deal with their explosive feelings about the murder of John Lennon.

Why is it that some songs resonate with us and some songs do not? Like most people, I suppose, I tend to relate strongly with material that speaks to the past or present condition of my life or to where I would like my life to go. One of the times when I was listening to Empty Garden another song came on afterwards that has always resonated with me and that continues to do so with increasing poignancy at the present day. That song happens to be “She’s Like The Wind,” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, where actor/singer Patrick Swayze sings about being a young old man with only a dream, struggling to handle the sort of relationship he is pursuing with a wealthy and beautiful young woman who is clearly out of his league given his far more modest background. Growing up in the sort of situation I did, that song always had a hook for me to resonate with, and only has more as I have become a young old man. Given the frequently melancholy nature of my emotional palette, it is striking that a song like Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) would only resonate with me once I had more experience in dealing with the death of loved ones. And it is noteworthy in that even though my thoughts about John Lennon are rather complicated (he is probably my least favorite of the Beatles by a fair margin), the song resonates all the same in the persistent knocking at the door of an empty house and in calling out for someone who isn’t there. Perhaps such a thing should not resonate so strongly with me, but what is is seldom what it should be.

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Closed On Tuesdays

Recently, during the first part of my 50 state completion tour, I commented about my unerring gift to find places that were closed on Sundays, but today while looking for food I found the same gift for finding that all of the restaurants in the high A concourse (Phoenix’s terminal 4 has two different A concourses for some unknown reason, and is in the process of building a third set of gates in between the two that exist for Southwest Airlines) to be closed on Tuesdays. I asked the cart driver why this was the case and he said that in Phoenix that restaurants were randomly closed on random times like Tuesday afternoon. This makes sense since before this morning I had no idea I would be in Phoenix during late lunch/earth dinner today, because I expected to already be in Portland.

I have already commented at length about the logistical problems that were inherent in the flight I happened to be on, but that is by no means the extent of the logistical issues that one finds when one flies. One thing I have found is that things often take longer than they should. This is true for a variety of reasons. One of them is that it simply takes a long time to move around sometimes. The longer it takes for us to do things, the longer things go. If one has left a lot of time to do things, then it is possible for us to do things anyway. For example, right now I am sitting at gate A30 in the Phoenix airport for a flight that should have started boarding already and then I find that the flight has been moved to a different gate and that the flight has been delayed a half hour or so. This is by no means a new experience. In my previous flights with American Airlines I saw that overly ambitious scheduling and various other issues (including apparent crew issues) have led to large delays on the flights I happen to be on.

One of the things that I think airlines have done a poor job at in the contemporary environment is communication. We did not find out about the delayed flight this morning until we showed up at the airport early in the morning, and the only reason I found out about the delayed flight and gate change was because something looked wrong when the gate that we were routed to was blank and the boarding should have begun already. Communication is not a particular strong suit of airlines, but really, something should be done. There should really be better communication of such changes, although it should be a wise course of action for someone to be alert to what is going on and looking online at flight statuses, at least.

By and large, traveling like what happened yesterday (as I write this now) is exhausting. I got up at 3AM to get to the Rapid City Regional Airport at 4AM. We finally left for Phoenix after 1PM, got to Phoenix and then had some five hours or layover, which was almost spoiled by a sudden and unannounced gate change. By the time we got to Portland and quickly got our luggage it was 10:30PM. That kind of day is just extremely long, even if the airports one is in are not deliberately uncomfortable and even when one has a bit of legroom to stretch in and some food to eat on the plane, as was the case here.

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