Posts Tagged ‘grampa’

So what did I do?

5 November 2006

Dear J-
I can’t really remember that much of the day-to-day work in grad school aside from searching for MP3’s and surfing that nascent web. You young folks, we used to call it surfing. And I hand-coded all my HTML in vi! Don’t make me get up from this porch!!

After I handed in my thesis, my advisor told me that it would have been a good start at a PhD — ha ha, the first encouraging words he said in two years! Too late, sucker, I’m going to … go to Sacramento and … be unemployed … for ten months … ha? On the other hand, maybe it’s part of the forge of life, these frequent, lengthy unemployment periods. I kinda doubt it, though — it’s the same sort of rationale that lets us excuse touring in Europe as “discovering yourself.” (Hey, it’s fun, and I’d love to do it soon — but it’s touring).

When I got recently hired, in fact, it was the first time since 1996 that I didn’t have a unemployment break between activities (and that was when I went for grad school, instead of searching for a job). Am I so unambitious to not want to work (folks who’ve known me for more than a few days are undoubtedly nodding their heads now)? I keep hearing, over and over, that the only people who don’t have jobs don’t want to have jobs, so I must just be lazy, right? It’s more that I don’t want to start things — once started, I like to see them through, but that means a fair amount of time invested.

I do like to write, enough to enjoy the little joke John MacDonald makes in the foreword to Night Shift, enough to want to delude myself into thinking I have some talent for it. But it’s not effortless for me; I can’t make the letters dance on the page with the same grace and vigor that they stand out in my mind; it’s like my Mandarin — I can hear it, pitch-perfect, what I want to say, but it comes out strangled and incomprehensible. Oh, by the way: I do not call China or Taiwan. I do not need long-distance service. It’s a PLOY, when you call me and ask if I want to sign up for long-distance telephone service. I always reply in English. I always say I don’t understand. Secretly, I do understand. I just wish you’d leave me alone.

So, the writing. The writing keeps me sane. The writing keeps me in shape for more word-pushing at work. It gives me an outlet that involves pushing buttons, but not for the same purpose as video games (I play a fair number of adventure/RPG-ish games, and I’m sure that I’m experiencing nothing different than what uncounted thousands have experienced before/after me). This is me, as distilled as I am able. I’m a poor storyteller, and am notably lacking in composition skills. The intended subject invariably is missed; I started this entry as an introduction to the acknowledgment page of my thesis, but it’s grown beyond that into a tumor-laden parody of prose.

I believe we’re all different, J-, and I can’t begin to imagine your experiences in life (although, oddly, we seem to be on parallel paths — Eastern Washington, Bay Area, East Coast, Southern California). I don’t know if you’re now the same J- that surfaces when I write. I believe you are. I believe you deserve happiness on a scale as great as mine. I believe what you believed — me, us. So many changes over the last fourteen years and I haven’t changed the depth of my jealousy and greed — I want it all, I want nothing for anyone else. One of the smartest things I think Mrs. Nyman ever said was that one person in the class was an extraordinary writer without saying who; it gives us hope that we’re it. I still have a vicious competitive streak in me — even though we’re all supposed to be learning the same things at work, I jealously hoard the nuggets of wisdom passed on to me, either so that I can feel good about repeating them later, or to make myself indispensable. theVet says I often slip into lecture, but for folks who enjoy reading the encyclopedia, how can you not?

Sometimes I feel as broad as the ocean and as deep as the puddle that fooled our neighbor ducks in Davis. We used to live in a duplex next to the railroad tracks. Every spring, enough rain would fall that the ditch next to the tracks would fill — and a mated pair of ducks would invariably nest there. I’m not enough of an expert to tell if they were the same pair (likely), but the puddle would dry by June and the ducks would head for wetter digs. I can’t seem to finish anything lately.

I haven’t forgotten anything, J-. I remember watching you sleep at Gonzaga, head down on my coat. I remember what you said when I told you I was getting married. I remember believing it, too. Some days I still do, and of all the unfinished business in my life (what happened to the model BMW M6 that I hid under my bed, only 25% complete, after my parents moved out of Cheney?) I never thought anything else was more important. Maybe it was just a throwaway comment, maybe it was goodbye in a way I didn’t understand (it’s been difficult to keep track of where I am — you know that Michael Lius seem to be a dime-a-dozen, but J-‘s have always been easy to spot with google — and we haven’t said a word since then), but selfishly, again, I want to know that you’re happy, knowing that I can then say we did okay. We left it unresolved, J-, and I never told you how wonderful theVet is aside from saying what a strong person she is.

That’s like saying the pope is holy, J-.

We’ve been through a rough year, between having the miscarriage in May, losing my childhood home, and having grampa die. Maybe it’s why I feel a need to reconnect with folks I knew, folks I know. You’re closer to me, J-, than most of my cousins, and we’ve known each other so long I can’t help but think you’re curious about the last ten years, just as much as I am.

Mike

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First Post

28 October 2006

Dear J-

I guess I should explain, maybe, who ‘J-‘ is — or maybe not, for now. It’s not about being freakishly secretive; anyone who’s read my old pages off the mit website should know that I enjoy baring my soul on a detailed level beyond that required by normal folks. Nope. ‘Dear J-‘ from one of my favorite childhood books, Dear Mr. Henshaw, and J- primarily because I’ve known so many folks in my life with J- names. So J- is, ostensibly, a generic everyone; to be honest, there’s a few folks I have directly in mind, but I’ll leave it at that for now for fear of future embarrassment.

It’s been nearly over eight years since I published anything substantive in my life. I’d send you over to my old site if I thought there was anything worth mentioning over there, but those are old stories, which maybe would be worth grabbing over to this side in the future, just so that other folks can laugh and point.   It’s almost as if time stood still for me, and I kept being able to be a kid until this year.  Many things happened — my grampa died of lung cancer, I started a new job, my parents moved out of the house I grew up in (and thought they’d stay in forever — it’s hard to put my mind around living in the same state again; I may just have to go back East), and my wife is pregnant for the first time.

Maybe I should have seen it coming once grampa (three wives — twice widowed, “your manhood fell off in the garden”) was gone.  This was going to be a different sort of year.  What sort of games did I get to play with a retired security guard from Tsingtao?  I’m still envious of my Chinese cousins for having known him better than me; I was too young to appreciate him, and too foreign to understand.  He was slow getting out of the car, so I’d sometimes help him along with a well-placed foot.  Kids at school would call him fat, so I begged my parents not to have him walk me to school any more.  His English was limited to ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank you,’ so I refused to learn more Chinese than ‘Happy New Year.’  J-, if I had a time machine, I think I wouldn’t waste any time getting back to being six and whack the sass out of me.  There were still so many things I wanted to ask him.  Here’s a man who has lived the history you learned in school; there he goes, living in a treaty port, adjusting to life under Mao, now ending up alone in an apartment just five hundred miles away — can’t you call him, can’t you see him, can’t you hold him?  Ah, one last time, please.

If you’ve still got a million things left to do, get one done today.  Why not?   Someone will appreciate it.