Inner Outer

4 August 2015

Dear J—

I had a meeting in the city yesterday so i rode the train up from San Mateo, walked up to Union Square, then over to Chinatown for breakfast (char siu bow and an egg tart, both freshly heated) and back in time for the meeting and seeing folks from last time; there’s a ton of information I need to educate myself on in terms of welding technology and I know just the folks to do so when I have a chance, when they’re in the office. Life goes on, as always, as ever. Afterwards, I rode the train back down and intended to get out at Burlingame and walk over to the daycare, but the train didn’t stop at the right station last night, so there you have it.

My legs are still sore this morning from the long walks, though I suppose I should have either known better or at least trolled better. People in the city do walk faster, at least in the small sample size I took, and the added urgency of discovering the various neighborhoods added to that, i suppose. I don’t think that I’ve walked through the Stockton Street tunnel before, though it neatly delineated a border between Chinatown and the rest of the city. One side, one thing, the other side completely different (the Green Door ecstasy massage, something that you never quite get away from in San Francisco is the grit and I can’t imagine wearing sandals in some areas, even when I wear sandals everywhere.

Back on the train; you sit in an empty seat either in the window position or the aisle position. If you’re traveling with someone else, you share seating and there’s often enough available to be seated where you want to be. If you’re alone, then either you pick the inner (aisle) or outer (window) seat, though if you pick inner that usually means no one can sit next to you unless they’re willing to climb over your legs. I get why you might want to but it seems friendlier to me to pick outer and leave the inner for the next paying guest, doesn’t it? There are no wrong choices here, I suppose, though. Welcome aboard.

Mike

Collaborative

31 July 2015

Dear J—

Did I tell you why I chose to work where I’m working now, after taking the voluntary severance with the plant? It was the chance to learn new things and work with peers, I guess; the atmosphere in the office when I visited was one of quiet collaboration and sure, that was completely appealing but it felt like an academic setting, almost. Maybe not so much academic as, I dunno, adult: here’s what you need to do, go figure it out and get it done, which works remarkably well now that I’ve had a few such projects under my belt. Oh, you haven’t done that before? Well, there are guides and examples around, maybe on the internet, maybe around the office, and there’s lots of folks who know how, so just ask.

In a way it’s 1999 again and I’m at my first job, asking a lot of questions and not very confident that I can do this on my own. Or it’s even earlier, 1995 and I’m working through a course on plasma physics and trying to match units to the equations in the book that no one seems to be talking about directly, or looking at my notes and trying to sort them out into some sort of sense but failing again and over. (well, this give me the right units, at least, and even if I don’t know what it means I think I have all the inputs I need). There’s a lot of faking going on, maybe, but it’s productive and I can’t say it’s completely wrong.

I’m working on some illustrations for copper and zinc smelting for wikipedia, or not so much I’m working as copying and cleaning up, which sounds a lot less impressive than “oh, I’m working on wikipedia” which, come to think of it, doesn’t have a great reputation anyway, but that’s more about what you make of it, honestly. You can slap together an article with no sourcing and no lede and no infobox or you can take your time to get your stuff together into something that makes a lot more sense and is worth reading, right? You collaborate, we collaborate, we’ll make this better together.

Mike

Fear of the Wheel

30 July 2015

Dear J—

In a nice long unbroken streak, I haven’t had to drive on my business trips for … well, probably since going to Charlotte almost a year and a half ago. After that was Nashville (rode the bus), Chicago (El), Colorado Springs (rode with a coworker) and DC (metro). I guess that’s not many trips, so not many opportunities either, but it’s how I like to think big amongst other things: just like how spending money on music makes me think I’m a patron of the arts, some lord in his domain dispensing money to favored artists, so too does public transportation feel to me, like someone who’s important enough to be driven.

I understand the American way is to revel in the freedom and joy that comes from having your own car but lately it’s felt like some kind of burden, which isn’t helped measurably by the police stop and the fender bender and all the other stupid things I might have done while under the influence of little sleep and long nights. You realize there are better things to do with your time and money? On the other hand this sort of stuff can be indispensable when you need to get somewhere specific and quickly. So we’re stuck with it.

Mike

Drive Way

29 July 2015

Dear J—

One thing I know? I definitely need more sleep to counteract the bad decisions and faulty thoughts in my head; of all the things we could be doing the last one is getting less sleep and running around in a crazy manner, wasting time and effort in a futile attempt to be productive, because guess what? I haven’t been, not for a week or perhaps longer than that and I can’t say why or when it started, only that it is and I’m not terribly regretful, only tired, which of course traces back to being sullen and crabby and sleepy because I don’t get enough sleep because because.

So yes, be a man, er, an adult and stop there. If I’m so outrageously mad because the kids will say they can’t because they see me not sleeping or staying up late then who am I to be a grand agent of change in my own life? There’s plenty of reasons why and lots of time to sort it out anyhow. Keep on rolling.

Mike

Dandy Dove

28 July 2015

Dear J—

The rule of thumb is that Mondays are always light days for bike commutes; at least so far this week that’s proven true, what with the number of people taking up what I unrighteously consider my seats. (hey, the conductor just announced the next stop is Hayward Paaahk, which is an accent I’d buried years ago in my mind; never mind what other issues I might have had at twenty-two, I should have enjoyed Boston more) If you find the way out of here, perhaps there’s another way to deal with the commuting crunch but every year there’s more bikes and that’s something you’ll have to live with, I suppose, unless you start walking instead.

Let’s not complain about it. There’s a lot to do this week (there’s a lot to do every week) and we’re already 20% done with it: see how those fractions add up? I’ve vacillated back towards editing bridge articles knowing there’s more knowledge to impart but not nearly enough time to do so, between work (ah, real work, right? at least I can justify in my head the difference between work-to-train-yourself and work-to-help) and home, I spend too much time, too much free time that is, trying to fix and plug gaps. We need some of that? Well, let’s make it so. I’m going backwards here. I hate that.

You can always wrap up your bike the way i see folks do it, with three turns around the top tube and sure that’s okay but … but. What if someone needs to move? What if you’re late and forget to get up until the last minute? Or what if you’re just that kind of person who does wait until the last minute? These are simple things that don’t necessarily make much difference in your day but the deeper meaning that I end up assigning to them always makes me feel better about what and why I do the things I do, which is not the point, I know. It’s like some sort of preening pride in “well at least I don’t ___.” Whatever. You know.

Mike

Always Present

27 July 2015

Dear J—

Last month one of my former coworkers died on the way in to work; here one minute and gone the next. I don’t have any details – the service was in Oceanside, three hundred miles and a lifetime away now, it seems, if I’m being declaratively dramatic. He still has a Facebook account, though, and it has dutifully reminded me that his birthday is coming up which I don’t quite know how to react to except by the way I always react to such birthday reminders, namely that I don’t, except for family (and even then only a few family people). Next year the same day will roll around and assuming he had good password security the account will remain active and he’ll show up as having another birthday to miss next year too.

He doesn’t necessarily stop having birthdays, I guess, no more than any other day gets taken off the calendar just because we now say it isn’t so. Let’s skip that day. Nope. I have several further complaints with Mondays in general so … Nope. I remind myself of the mantra we’ve learned from preschool: you get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.

Presence is defined by how often you’re in mind, and having a yearly reminder of someone and their life is pretty awesome presence, I think.

Mike

More

24 July 2015

Dear J—

More sleep has meant more rational decisions. On the other hand I think that I do want to take the kids into the City at some point and walk around, which can charitably be described as crazy. Maybe if we get some Giants tickets? This year? Next year? There’s no rush, I guess, since we have so many more years to go but I think about it this way: figgy’s eight this year (eight!) and that means there’s ten more years at home before college and I suspect that will ruin us financially as we gain on years. There’s a lot of things we don’t necessarily need but more time is definitely not one of them.

We spend a great deal of time killing it: we’re waiting for something to happen, for the ride to be over, commuting to work or driving around. There’s very little that we know is absolutely true and the choices we make with our time are always questionable because we figure we have more of it. But what if … we assume, we don’t know for sure. More time? We always hope there’s more so maybe if we put off what we want in favor of something else, maybe something that you want specifically …

I tend to be selfish with my time and maybe that’s a reaction but still, I’m stuck with that as a matter of choice, perhaps, or maybe just out of laziness and default; what kind and how much time do you carve out for yourself, and why?

Mike

Curb cuts, dad and pickups

23 July 2015

Dear J—

They finished the curb cuts in our neighborhood yesterday, apparently. I didn’t notice them in the afternoon when I rode by but this morning the pylons were gone and some raw-looking concrete and asphalt now lie atop the dirt and gravel that were there before. Our neighborhood has those kind of curbs that must have started in the seventies, with sloping curbs blended into the street, not at all like the older square-edged curbs you’d expect in a setting that dates back to the forties and fifties. Curb cuts are a sign of progress, allowing wheelchairs to traverse the sidewalks less hazardously, but really, in order to do that we’d have to get rid of a car or two; all the families on the block would have to, in fact.

When did we decide we needed multiple cars in a single family, though? I guess we had two and later three when I was growing up so I’m not one to cast stones but at least we were able to get them all up off the streets. I talk to my dad on the phone and I realize that when my parents call it’s been mostly my mom who’s been talking lately. It hurts me to think that his hesitation on what to talk about might have to do with the aging process, or that he just doesn’t have much to talk about though we’re family. I’ll make an effort to describe better what our days are like and perhaps that will help but it’s hard to see; I remember him as being gregarious and generous with his time with friends, socializing and insisting that since man is a social animal, I should be friendlier.

I’m beginning to understand my mom’s frustration with the situation now and why they’re digging their heels in on relocation: to have to start over is hard enough but now there’s the extra pressure/handicap of having to deal with being socially behind now too. I’d always considered how hard it would be for the kids to move (hint: when they were that young, it wasn’t if we did it today I’m sure it would be harder, though figgy tells me that we might have to eventually, right, dad? I love picking them up in the afternoons, which I thought I’d hate as a chore, but it’s amazing to see that moment of pure, unalloyed joy when you show up as the first family face. I need to get my parents here too.

Mike

P.S. I’ve talked about inheriting my mom’s heart when I talked about how stubborn we are and how our blood seems to hold on to cholesterol like some sort of fatty lipid life preserver but I hope I’ve also inherited her generous heart on this as well.

S’wunnerful

22 July 2015

Dear J—

How do you know … how tired you might be? I’m sleeping more lately and feeling better about things although to be honest I wish I didn’t have a hair trigger on the temper. I swear it’s getting better but it feels like I can make a kid sad just like that. No, I wonder if I would be better able to hold on to some of the thoughts I had last night if I had more sleep or maybe less; it’s hard to say because I haven’t rested well and when I do I end up waking up a little early, or the first alarm is enough to get me moving in the morning and out the door, on my way south to join the rest of my commuters traveling on into the dark (now featuring more dark than this time last week).

We have thousands of days ahead of us and hours to make our choices and so little time to actually get stuff done. I can wish that we had a different situation for a number of reasons but in the end we have to live with what we’ve got and what we’re doing works for now. I can’t be too amazed that I have no idea how to deal with the kdis at night when I make no effort to deal with the kids by myself. This isn’t right. When was I afraid of taking them out in San Diego, of walking around with them or going for a jaunt up to see the park? And now? Ugh, it’s too hot. Or sunscreen is required. There are plenty of fun things to do but I always feel like my attention is divided, that there’s something better to do. But there’s not.

Okay, so let’s make a deal. Do this and we’ll say it’s okay to do that. We can trade off time, we can figure out something fun to go do together without having to be so deathly afraid of not doing it right because you can’t be afraid of living. The hours you spend are investments and what’s best is best for all of us.

Mike

On Worrying

21 July 2015

Dear J—

There are, potentially, a million things you could worry about, from what’s going to happen on the show next to what you’ll end up doing with your kids tonight; I get home and it’s nice to empty my head but at the same time not too empty, not too much. I wonder about what I’m supposed to be doing and I’ve already done and whether I’ve done it right (and judging by the errors that I’ve put in, no). A system of careful double checks works only because there’s nothing left to check; my goal is to leave nothing to be corrected, although the comments I put forth aren’t necessarily meant to be … I dunno. At the moment I suppose I’m just losing confidence in what I do and how I go about it.

The listening, of other people, listening to me, that’s not necessarily going so well. The communication, of me making myself understood, that’s not great either. I spend a good portion of my day subsuming what I want in favor of others and that’s okay, honestly, but it’s also not. I show my selfishness in other ways, like buying stuff I don’t really need or that costs more than the mythical decadecabuck (that’s not a centibuck, c’mon, maybe a deci-kilobuck?) that I establish as a good practice in my head. I can live with that. We’re paying our taxes; all the extra money we make goes into the pot we’re assembling for Uncle Sam and the Franchise Tax Board. I get that. We’re happy to pay because it means we’re making enough.

Moving to the Bay Area has meant a fresh set of worries and fears with respect to what I’m supposed to know and demonstrate on a regular basis. Do I even … ? What about … ? There’s a thousand different ways we are supposed to charge our time and I have trouble sorting it out in my head, to say nothing of the thousand different projects I’m doing and going and trying to work through and yeah, everyone has these worries. Is this enough? Should I be happy with enough, or should I want more? I’m deliriously happy with it, except when I’m not and I feel I might burst with all the I-wants in the world. In the end it’s this: Can I do more? and if I can’t why haven’t I?

Mike


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