Tuesday, February 22, 2011


For a couple of years now, the number 222, and variations of the number, has journeyed with me a lot of places. The number lives on the house I live in now for starters: It’s 222. The house number I grew up in until I was 11 was 2229.

It appears other places too, like a ghostly spirit wandering the ether, randomly choosing when and where to manifest itself. The ominous 222 is encountered a lot in the middle of the night, when I can’t sleep, locked in an endless loop of anguish seeking a restful state. Tossing and turning. It goes on for a bit––the thrashing––like a kitten trapped under the covers. Overcome with frustration I finally glance at the clock which reads 2:22 in bright, glowing red mockery. Even more strange: as soon as it’s acknowledged––The Almighty 222––sleep comes easily, like a blessing after a sacrifice, some sanity for slumber.

One time while standing in line at Shopko (a cross between Target and Walmart with a little K-Mart thrown in for good measure) the lady in front of me gasped at her total charges. “Excuse me?” she inquired, almost giggling.

“Twenty two twenty two,” the cashier snickered back. If you’ve ever been behind the wheel of a cash register you’ll know these curiosities of random numbers and amounts are what get you through each miserable day. After hours of mind-numbing credit card transactions and check processing, idle chit chat, not thinking too hard about what the hell people are buying (Fiddle Faddle, pads, toothpaste, fine jewelry, cat litter, shower curtains, gum, etc) a gem like $22.22 stands out like an elephant wearing a g-string.

“That’s what I thought,” said the lady. The two of them laughed again in unison. “That’s weird.”

An exact total of $22.22 made up of several random purchased items was clearly fascinating to me. “My address is 222,” a voice chimed in from beyond the conveyor belt, on the edges of the shopping buffer zone, that unspoken courtesy of space observed while in the same cash register line.

It was my voice. Uninvited.

Dead silence was rewarded for my intrusion into a circle of trust, albeit a singular and repetitive trust, one that happens hundreds of times per day. A private proceeding between random strangers. How dare I interrupt the cogwheels of commerce? All the sudden I was one of those guys: that chatty outsider. Awkward.

What...they didn’t believe me? “It’s true,” I said with a smile and a sliver of panic in my voice. We looked at each other the way three strangers look at each other, eyes darting back and forth, assessing the situation, sizing it up. The cashier, thankfully, was a cool customer herself and mirthfully busted up first to lower the tension and end the standoff at check stand #5.

“Really?” she said. “That’s interesting!”

“Yep!” I said. We all laughed deeply. Big, throaty and gregarious laughs, like vikings pillaging a village, enjoying the spoils of our shared wit-filled bounty. No...not quite like that. They laughed together quietly some more, in their circle of trust, despite my attempt to join them.

And that’s where it died, that time. Or left. That’s where 222 abandoned me again to question why.

More random encounters with 222 materialize all the time, while driving around town, usually on bank clocks, car dashboard clocks, and my computer clock or watch. Mostly at 2:22 PM or 2:22 AM. Assorted other instances of 222 show up often like movie run times, start times, track lengths from songs, utility bills, pages in a book, roundtrip miles from Spokane and back again. Totally random.

Yet another riddle to decipher. Numerology flies in the face of my Christian beliefs so I won’t look there for the meaning of 222. Just more questions. But, honestly, I’d just prefer if the universe was trying to tell me something it would just come out and say it for once.

Two two two means something; or nothing at all. Go figure.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My case against Valentine's Day

A metric ton of marketing always comes with the holiday known as Valentine’s Day. And, since we all know marketing is, in fact, truth, then the retailer will bank on us to validate our lovesick ways at the cash register. Florists, jewelers, restaurants, car companies, teddy bear makers, lingerie makers, chocolate producers, they all want to cash-in on the hopes that we’re hopeful about the status of our relationships. With all the subtlety of a February blizzard, they remind: “We’re here if you need us; and you really do need us.” The ads are slick, mushy, thoughtful, and appeal to our happy, fuzzy weak spots.

Caring: the casual card secretly slipped into a jacket pocket, to be “discovered accidentally” and opened while caught a little off guard, a little breathless, and a little embarrassed, alone, or in the company of the thoughtful card buyer. Touching.

Naughty. Amping up the intimacy with a bit of colorful bedroom attire––lacy things, silky things, pink, red, and playful things––provocative, expensive things, designed to be worn for only an instant, and no sooner haphazardly adorning the floor next to the bed. Kinky.

Nice: dinner for two in a perfect restaurant with perfect food and perfect decor, served under perfect lighting and by a perfect wait staff. Magic.

Scrumptious: stuffing the mouth of your lover with decadent sweetness––a box of mixed chocolates, hard candies, or baked goods straight from the kitchen of your heart––to simply say, “I love you just the way you are... if not just slightly fatter.” Tasty.

Aroma therapy: perhaps perfume is your sweet pheromone charged nod to your lover’s scent, “I love the way you smell most of the time... if not just slightly better.” Smell that? That’s love.

Glitzy: jewelry is perhaps the flashiest twinkle of love and affection. And, by far, the most expensive. It’s electric. It’s turbo-charged confirmation in a felt covered, silk lined box. It’s a bold statement: no price comes close to the value of the relationship. “I love you––us––and you look amazing... if not twice as dazzling wearing this.” Breathtaking.

Love, life’s sweetest reward; set it free, and it floats back to you. Take a cruise on the love boat. Buy a Lexus. Go to Paris. These are all just perfect occasions to say the three perfect words: I love you.

And all of it a load of steaming B.S.

Like Christmas, where love is measured in an abundance of gifts and bloated credit card bills, Valentine’s Day is another chance to spend lots of money, hoping to reassure our fragile souls that other souls love us. To prove it, essentially.

It’s a gesture. And if life teaches us anything it’s this: you only get credit for the gesture. Gesture is king. A sappy card; a nice dinner; earrings; sexy underpants; or sweet nothings in a chocolate box. Commitment? No credit. Sacrifice? No credit. Choosing to love every day when it’s harder than hell? No credit. The real and meaningful things are too constant, too true––as not to be noticed, catalogued or appreciated.

The things that matter, in the end, are too vaporous, like clouds: brilliant, beautiful, and gone too soon. Nobody ever comments on a cloudy sky. People only seem to notice when the clouds are gone.

But at least we have Valentine’s Day, to keep our hopes alive, to perpetuate the belief in the fantasy––always and forever––that the fantasy of love remains even in the absence of love itself. Or worse, the utter blindness to real love right in front of our eyes, day after day, week after week, year after year.

Where’s the card for that?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

To move... to breathe... to live

I was thinking about the why of why I write here. What’s the point? That could be argued by 6 or 7 faithful followers, or pondered over a coffee sometime. The point, as it were, is hardly a fitting metaphor for something that is utterly blurry.

So why? I’m not really looking for validation of my ideas, or cataloging the stuff on my mind––to journal––or going to great lengths to give a voice to my thoughts. It’s been said; and certainly better said. That I’m saying it is probably of no consequence to you. I’ll always default to the belief that whatever I’m going through pales in comparison to whatever you might be going through. I don’t write here because I figured it out; my words come from that other place where life is always mysterious. We’re all dealing with stuff; mine is no more important than yours.

So why? Maybe to be seen... to be looked at and not looked over... to take chances... to not submit to the submit button––to press it with my middle finger... to feel alive... to gawk at the reflection of my own words and not feel embarrassed or ashamed... to move... to breathe... to live.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Go with God, whatever, just go

I’m taking an English class this semester at Lewis Clark State College. Most of you know about it already. Creative Non Fiction 309. One of our assignments is to write about a person or place that left an impact on us. I struggled to think of someone (well, someone besides a relative, God, a friend, boss, etc.); and I struggled to think of a place (trip, journey, house, apartment, etc). Both failed to pique even my own interest; I was certain that to write about the vast, featureless landscape called my life would surely bore anyone unfortunate enough to have to gaze upon it in print.

Finally, a spark. I toyed around with the idea to write about a dorm fire I went through when I was a freshman in college at Grand Canyon University. Putting Facebook to a meaningful task for a change, I asked some guys for help recalling some details and to share about their own experience with the blaze. The piece got pretty lengthy right off the bat. I wrote up some notes, and compared them to the other guys’ replies. Then started the main essay.

It came surprisingly easy––the writing. From waking up in a fire to waking up in a car a week later, and everything in between. Pieces fell into place, memories were confirmed, little known facts emerged, surprises surfaced, nobody died, and miracles happened.

I was reminded again how many of my friends––then and now––view everything through the lenses of faith. I did at one time too (maybe still do to some degree), although, my faith goggles are smudged now and often the things I see through them lead to more questions rather than answers. Not to say I don’t have faith, I just don’t practice it with the same fervor they do. They have faith in their faith; they have a ton of faith. Whereas, I just have a little faith by comparison. They have more faith than I.

The backdrop of the fire raised a couple of unexpected questions of my own. Mainly about me.

First, following the fire was about the same time I started putting walls up and withdrawing, deploying a subconscious defensive buffer around me. Before then, for the most part, people were granted my trust almost by default. We shared common beliefs, and prayed to the same God. We went to the same school, and drove to church together on Sundays. Our faith in God was our common bond.

But God’s children are far from perfect. In fact, they are quite far from close to perfect. I learned this once the hard way a couple years earlier when I was “fired” from a band. I was in high school and in a Christian rock band. We worked hard and played a few gigs. We prayed together. Studied the Bible together as much as we practiced. Everything was fine until the guys prayed about it and God told them another direction would be taken and I was to be cut loose. My brothers in Christ––these spiritual guys, trusted friends, bandmates, believers––told me I was unneeded. Out. “Go with God, whatever, just go.”

So what did I do? I buried it. Promptly. My mom asked me why I wasn’t practicing with the band anymore. “I quit,” I told her, obviously too embarrassed to admit to being on the business end of prayers. And happily trucked on down the will of God highway. Maybe I sucked at bass guitar. Maybe I couldn’t sing. Maybe a new, sexier Christian dude had a “ministry,” (quotes intended) and had no room for my walk with God. Whatever the reason, the resonating footnote I swallowed with my faith that day was that I was disposable.

Flash back to the fire. A moment came up where victims were all in transition and some friends decided to move in together. My roommate and best friend among them. Four friends, minus me. Tragic, huh? Oh well, sure, go right ahead. I’ll make do over here. It smacked of that same, wretched, loving, thoughtless, aftertaste that screamed I was disposable.

I buried that too. Rejection (real or imagined) seems to get a formal and immediate burial deep within my psyche. Events, like flame and smoke filled escapes from dorm fires, if close enough to rejection, also get filed away into the abyss.

I spent 20 years of my life not thinking about the dorm fire. Not thinking about how it affected my life. Not thinking about how I was treated by fellow Christians, or how I reacted after that (like it didn’t bother me). Not thinking about the my walls (going up brick by brick, rejection by rejection, offense by offense, faithless act after faithless act). Remembering that I felt disposable; then, and other times. Not realizing that maybe my faith in God’s children burned down too, along with my dorm.

For most of those 20 years my closest friends always sparkled brightly in a positive light; but now after a deeper look into the particulars of a shared experience, those same friends, and others, begin to look diminished in the reflection of flames.

My 40-something wisdom today gives them and me a lot of slack too. How can I not? Expecting teenagers and early 20-somethings to always do what is right is expecting too much.

The essay, Kachina Dorm Fire, explored all of it; until that is, I edited it out. When I hand in the essay that doesn’t say anything, I’ll be thinking about this blog post.