“If a bridge must be burned leave nothing standing. Turn it to ash. Let the wind carry the remains away.” JSM

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

 

I’ve had multiple conversations recently with friends, coworkers and family and much of what we discuss is the overall pursuit of happiness. Doing what makes you happy.  Sure, we have our other conversations, but they always seem to veer into, “Are you still doing drawing, painting, yoga, music, meditating, writing, poetry, coding, funny movies or whatever?”

“Yes I am. I really enjoy it.  I haven’t been doing it long, but yeah.  It’s fun.”

“That’s what it’s all about.”

A friend showed me a picture on her phone of a new birdhouse she built and just beamed with pride at her first attempt to create something from nothing.

She tells me, “I’ve read articles online, magazines, watched the YouTube videos and always said I couldn’t do this. Then one day I went out, bought the materials, and did it.”

“I look forward to the next picture.”

Those who are close to me know I’m a bit of a hermit. I work nearby (Like… four hundred feet from my front door) and I enjoy being home. My routine is specific, I stay within a perimeter, I maintain a system and we travel out and about to other places when time is provided and the money is available.

Nancy works a second job five nights a week, and my kiddos aren’t always here. I’ve learned through the absence of others to appreciate myself. Learning to be alone and liking it for great chunks of time.

Yeah… I could walk or take a bike ride downtown, but I’m not big with crowds. I’ve come to enjoy my own company. At times, the only sound in the home is the furnace kicking on and off, birds chirping outside the window and the dog scuffling around upstairs.

I do see my buddies when possible and when our schedules match up, and we continue to have social time whether face to face or through messenger. I’m not saying I’m alone all the time. Just periods of time to include eight hours alone at work on most days.

I love all who reside with me and my home is an active home when it’s full, however, alone is how I spend a lot of my time. And you know what? That’s OK.  Sometimes within the absence of sound, it’s possible to find peace. Comfort within silence.

An uncomfortable silence? No.  Not so much.  More often than not an uncomfortable silence is called that for good reason.

Most of the remaining ride across the border to the Computer Seminar and convention center was in oppressive, uncomfortable, silence.

*****

 The caravan plowed through the gathering snow as if it wasn’t there. We’d be at our destination in no time. At the rate I was moving along before, in my now mangled car, it would have taken days to arrive.

At random intervals a traveler would try to spark up conversations or break the ice, but my replies were always quick and right to the point. I wasn’t in the mood for idle chit chat and kept my focus to the passing scenery out my window.

We stopped at a Tim Hortons, stretched, sipped coffee and made our way to a short stretch of highway that would take us the rest of the way to the end. All was going according to plan, despite the minor earlier inconvenience.

The blizzard raged on, the wind whipped up and the caravan was forced to slow down. Our vehicle now in the lead and the others not far behind.

Coming down the hill around a high right we noticed two vehicles creeping through the weather, fishtailing and skidding along the way. Once the lead car hit the middle of the hill, which connected to the flat stretch we were traveling along, it picked up speed, slid into the curve and pointed its nose and headlights straight at us. The following cross dialogue between the travelers within the SUV ensued.

“Is it gonna hit us?”

“Oh man, it’s gonna hit us!”

“Flash the high beams.”

“Breaks locked up, can’t stop! Can’t turn!”

“No, it’ll miss! It’s cutting to the side. No, no, I was wrong.”

“Why won’t they move?!”

“Get out of the way! Move!”

“Well… this is gonna hurt.”

“No. This isn’t happening!”

“Turn the wheel!”

“Oh no. Everyone brace for impact!”

“This thing have airbags?”

A head on collision was imminent and a traveler was correct. It did hurt.

I’ve been lucky. Never once broken a bone. I’ve only experienced a hairline fracture on a finger when a beam fell on it at work, some steel dust extracted from the eyes, and a couple of lacerations that needing mending, but nothing else physically. Bumps and bruises.  Many scary moments though, especially in the steel industry.

Tripped over my own feet once guiding a multi-ton I beam, which was wrapped up with a length of chain and driven into the building by a boom truck. Any motion will cause the heavy beam to swing. The truck moves at a snail pace.

Guiding the beam onto a tall pile, the vehicle drives onto a piece of debris and the action pulls the beam from my hand and I stumble forward. I lose my grip, trip over my boot and slip into the beam pile and the now swinging length of steel is moving and rotating around like a four thousand pound helicopter blade and all I can do is wait inside the safe space for it to come to a stop.

That was a fun experience.

I came to grips with the fact that a vehicle was about to collide into the SUV’s grill, at a speed that would do some heavy damage and potentially hurt someone.

I removed my glasses, placed them in my lap, and covered my arms over my face.

 

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“When smothering darkness surrounds you, find a glimmer of light and never let it dwindle. The light will lead the way.” JSM

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

 

My eyes snapped open when I felt a tug around my ankle. My buddy managed to swim upstream, grab the rope, create just the right amount of slack to get my hand out and pull me free.

My limp body floated the remainder of the distance across the shallow area, with him riding the current close behind, and I crawled out of the water slumping out of breath onto solid ground.

After a while of sitting on the shore and discussing the event, and how insane we were for wanting to participate in something so absurd, we laughed like idiots, gathered our stuff and bolted onto the next adventure like it never happened.

The next “certain death” experience was a medical incident.

Out of the blue and absolutely terrifying.

At the age of eleven I was diagnosed with a rare blood condition with a lengthy name I could spell out for you, but for the moment we’ll just say it was platelet related. The diagnosis was determined through a blood test and a series of additional tests were issued not long after. If I remember correctly at times it was twice a week.

The condition was rare to the point where supposedly there wasn’t a name for it. Collaboration with varying specialists determined what the name of the “illness” should be.

But I speculate on that.

The slightest of impacts caused bruising that would grow in size over time, slowly diminish, and then vanish; only to be replaced with a fresh one later on. I was checked daily for anything larger than a fifty cent piece. I wasn’t allowed to play, roughhouse, or for that matter much else for physical activity. I had friends during that time who would just walk with me around the playground, or sit with me until the bell rang. The news spread quickly through the school and for the course of the “illness” I was looked at much differently than before.

Shortly after the blood work was completed, accompanied with a painful bone marrow test, a final evaluation was made.

Less than a year to live.

Six months later it all vanished. I know, a little anticlimactic to be sure, but yeah. Gone as quickly as it arrived. Take it as you will.

For each blood test after the death sentence was issued, the charts showed a gradual increase to the point of leveling out right back to where I was before. “It’s all gone, young man. You won’t have to come back again.”

“HUH?”

Moving forward in life, I was only given two stipulations: No blood thinners and try not to donate blood; just to air on the side of caution.

“You got it.”

The third doom and gloom experience happened on the night of the Computer Seminar.

*****

The timing was absolute garbage and when I placed the nose of the car into the high snowbank, I slid to a complete stop with my side flat against the pile beside me. No way to open my door or roll down a window. The truck approaching was angled perfectly to smash its salt dispenser into the passenger side window frame.

Before I go on, I have titles for people that I must get out of the way. Bear with me.  It won’t take long.

In the here and now Nancy is my girlfriend, partner, companion, my better half, my stronger half, my teammate, and I swear we can read each other’s minds. Two people, who without a doubt, are made for one another. She picks me up when I fall, and I’d carry her through Hellfire. We’ve never had an argument, we have zero conflict and mutual goals, but if she’s mentioned throughout this tale, I will refer to her by name.  She’s given me permission.

My best friends, childhood friends, people I trust, my confidants I refer to as Buddies. My buddy.

My family is my family.

People of my past that don’t fall under these titles, are fellow travelers. However, traveler will suffice for the tale’s purpose.

I believe that life is a journey that must be traveled, we are all connected, and our journey’s mingle together, intertwine and cross paths. Therefore whomever is journeying with me, they too are a traveler. I may have a traveler or two throughout the tale.

The impact was a slow squeeze and the traveler had enough time to climb into the driver’s seat. The windows broke, the frame collapsed, and I immediately felt as though I was in the trash compactor on the Death Star.  Once the driver of the truck realized someone was behind him, it stopped crushing us like a soda can and gradually moved forward.  The car lurched with it and was yanked back onto the snow covered street.  The vehicle was mangled.

The traveler sustained a minor knee injury, multiple calls were issued and the driver of the truck was most certainly of a retirement age.

Within an hour, the street was transformed into a circus within a blizzard.

The caravan arrived forty five minutes later after a tow truck was called, I was accused of inebriation, the truck drivers supervisor was contacted, reports filled out and instead of being able to go back home and be done with the night, the luggage was distributed throughout the caravan and I was convinced by BizarroTech to go on and see it to completion.

“You got this far, Jeremy. Can’t stop now.  We’re almost there. This story will be good for the seminar.” The Joker smile returned and he claps me on the shoulder.

“Easy for you to say.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look Bill.” I point to the fiasco behind us, “I don’t have a car anymore.”

“Don’t worry. It’ll all work out.  Everything will be fine. You’ll see.”

It better

It didn’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“It is what it is, whether bad or good, and everything happens just as it should.” JSM

 

Chapter Seven

 

 

I mentioned in a previous chapter that I’ve participated in some dumb stuff. Dangerous, dumb, head shaking, mind numbing, face palming with disappointment, stuff. (WARNING! The following is considered life threatening and is not condoned in any way!  The following should not be tried by anyone, at any time, for any reason, anywhere… ever! In fact, I can’t believe I’m sharing this)

Running along railroad tracks constructed on one hundred foot stilts, built to traverse a river and connect two pieces of land. Every one hundred feet or so along its path, a timber removed or cocked off to the side.  While running from beam to beam the open space that was once invisible to the eye, forces a quick and perfectly timed jump to avoid tripping and falling to certain death on the rocks below.

Swimming against the strong current of a functioning dam. Hoping with every flail of the arm to reach the human chain, mere inches away, all connected together hand in hand.

Testing the boundaries of thin ice. Riding a bicycle through a waste deep flood zone in the pouring rain. Intentionally getting lost in the woods just to see if we can make it home before dinner.

(My parents would get a kick out of this one if they’re reading) Crawling through the eaves with a friend and the pastor’s son, thirty feet above the floor of our church. One friend slips between the trusses, and punches through insulation and ceiling tiles, raining debris on the good folks below.  He whips around, grabs the leg of the pastor’s son, who in turn muckles onto my leg for additional strength, and our friend is kicking against open air searching for solid footing, while dangling helplessly above the congregation.

All we wanted to do was hide from our parents. That’s all.  The stunt demanded that the three of us repair the damages and if I’m not mistaken, some Bible passages needed reading as well.

In the backseat of a car while a total stranger drives no less than seventy miles per hour, along a winding back road, with his buddy surfing on the hood.

Plus a slew of other things. Things I can’t speak about. Things that could’ve put me in the grave many times over.  Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Despite some of the lunacy of my early years I’ve only experienced the strange sensation of (what feels at the moment as) impending death, on three occasions. Times I was convinced I wasn’t surviving. One self-inflicted (though accidental), something that couldn’t be explained, a glitch in the Matrix if you will (or however you wish to interpret it), and the last an act by another human being.

I’ll start with self-inflicted as it was mentioned first.

If he’s reading, I can say for certainty he saved my life. No doubt about it. I know I’ve said it many times over, on the day it happened, but thank you.

This one is at the tippy top of the truly ridiculous.

As some may already know, I have a fascination with water. I can sit and stare at Open Ocean and allow it to consume me and my mind wanders endlessly.  I thrive being around liquid water: Lakes, rivers, waterfalls in northern Maine, rafting, boating and I can spend a ton of time in a wave pool if you let me.  I thoroughly enjoy parks with water slides with the kiddo, super soakers, and walks in warm rain.  A scalding hot bubble bath.  I’m thankful to my landlord every day for having a two person bathtub installed in my home.

So one day many, many moons ago, a buddy and I decided the spring thaw had created an area of white water and rapids we could “play” in, at a nearby river. Choppy and frothy and fast.  The river bend cut side-to-side in “S” patterns through small landmasses and on the other side of the white water was a steep embankment to the main road above.  We were so far down the hill at the bottom, the folks above us would have to be looking directly down and over the guardrail while speeding by, to even know we were there.  The perfect place to cause some mischief.

The mischief for the day involved a long length of rope and a fast moving body of water. Every few feet down the length of rope we tied off loops for hand holds. At the very end of the rope was a final loop.

We calculated where to tie off the rope for the best possible rapids ride, anchored it to a tree, grabbed a loop and jumped into the water.

(Dumb)

We shimmied up and down the length of rope as we sped down the river, cutting corners, dodging rocks, laughing like fools and colliding with high waves. It was fun, for a moment.

Where the river pitched down and emptied into an open shallow area, my friend released the rope with a yell and was ejected into slower moving water, hooting and hollering as a result of the “rush” and his body floated away with the current out of my line of sight.

Now my turn for the rush, I crept hand over hand down the remainder of the rope to the end, drove my wrist through the final loop, and twisted my hand around and through it. A double knot if you will. When the rope stopped tight, the loop squeezed around my wrist, pinning my thumb between two layers of intertwined rope, snapping it from its socket, twisting it back and a crack was felt in my shoulder.

My fingers were pointing to the sky, mashed together and bent at a ninety degree angle and I was stopped dead in the river. The force of the current stretching my body.

The impact caused stars to flash in my vision. After opening my eyes and the stars faded away, my view was nothing more than the leaves of a tree swaying in the wind above me. Pounding waves crested over the back of my partially submerged head, forcing water into my mouth and nose and other than my toes, my twisted fingers and a fraction of my face, the rest of me was under water. I had become nothing more than a rock like obstacle for the river to flow around and crash into.

Each moment I flipped over to grab the rope with my good hand and attempt to create some slack, the force of the rapids overpowered me and I had to release. Every time I tried, I found myself flipping back over out of sheer panic, forming a flat board, and staring at the tree and the blinding sun rays breaking through its branches overhead. I was completely and hopelessly trapped within the stupidity of my own actions.

When they say your life flashes before your eyes, it really isn’t quite like that. Maybe to some, but for me it’s more akin to watching time move around you and beyond you. I never saw flashes of the past leading to the present.

My mind was convinced my friend was gone, drifting down stream on the current having a blast, and all I could hope for at that moment was a passerby high overhead to catch a glimpse of me in the river below. The odds of that happening were nil. That’s when my mind went into overdrive.

Within a few seconds, my vision melted and transformed into something else. My tree remained the same but my observation of everything around it changed drastically.

I watched the cars driving by speeding up, and increasing in speed, to show me time quickening it’s natural pace. Darkness fell and night replaced the sun through my tree above. The stars and moon traveled their path across the sky glinting through the tree’s branches until the time for morning.  The sun rose, the cars sped up again and night fell once more.  Night to day to night to day to night to day.  My perception of time breezed right by me. This happened many times through the experience.

Then my vision deepened to sight beyond time, and I watched the reactions of my death with my family, loved ones, and friends. Night fell and the sun rose and the moon appeared and the stars traveled and I struggled to keep above water, feeling like I wasn’t going to survive and night fell and the sun rose and my mind wandered elsewhere, my body overwhelmed with fatigue.  My eyes close.

There was no way I could keep awake any longer, and I succumbed to the snare.

 

(As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to share and if you wish to subscribe, and follow this journey, please provide an email in the area below)

 

 

 

 

“Ignorance is bliss but knowledge is power. Go figure.” JSM

 

Chapter Six

 

I was bored one night a few years ago, sitting around watching Big Bang Theory, and one of the characters in the show proposed a topic of conversation. In short it was along the lines of, “When I get back, let’s discuss how the Civil War would’ve been different, had Lincoln been a robot sent from the future.”

I started thinking about that scenario. “Who would do such a thing?  Who could do such a thing? OK, extraterrestrial beings could send a robot, maybe, in a way far away future of course, perhaps.  It would have to be futuristic, right?  Stick with futuristic. Advanced technology it is. A machine able to see every possible reality based on one specific change in the time line.  A high tech oracle of sorts. Maybe a higher plain of existence?  OK.  Interdimensional beings. The ability to warp time and space and repair a paradox if needed. Master manipulators.

“But why would someone do such a thing?  Send a terminator Lincoln back in time?”

Then my imagination veered all over the place. Did robot Lincoln have to replace the real Abe, and save his life; surviving the assassination?  Or maybe… robot Lincoln had to save Booth and the two characters have to embark on a journey together, because in the future, the lineage of Booth is vital to the existence of the advanced race of beings, based on a simulation provided by their oracle.  If Booth lives, the predicted war of the future that seems inevitable, will never happen.”

Knowing upfront it was a proposed topic of conversation on a TV show, and nothing more, I still allowed my mind to explore the fictional setting. Just for giggles.

Weavers of the past and future. A singular action along the timeline affecting future events. A potential cascade of chaos, or repairing the time-stream and righting all wrongs.

The name stuck. Weavers.

A social media question was once posed, (paraphrased) “If you had the opportunity to go back in time and right a wrong, fix a ‘mistake’ or tell yourself in the past something specific, knowing it will or could change your future, what would it be?” My answer was school related.  I would have completed my college experience, come Hell or high-water.  My-only-regret. I believe that if a Weaver gave me a chance to relay a message to my younger doppelganger of the past, I would tell him to let nothing get in the way of college completion.  NOTHING. You must complete school!

I believe that my life would only be greater in the here and now, had I finished. Icing on my proverbial cake. I’d probably be better off financially overall and have higher education on top of everything. Knowledge being powerful.

Having a degree in my field of choice could provide employment options and varying choices. Having a degree indicates devotion and time spent in gaining knowledge and experience, and having an opportunity to make that knowledge applicable in a job setting I enjoy. Something to be proud of.  A potential multitude of beneficial choices.

Choices are so vital.

When only provided with two options, with a fifty-fifty chance of success or falure either way, the mind races.

Roughly an hour from the border, what was once a 55mph stretch of nothing, transformed to 15mph in a matter of minutes. The tiny car plodded along in the deepening snow.  Any touch of the break, was cause for sliding. With the high beams on, it was like sitting in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon in hyper drive.  Visibility a couple hundred feet, or less.

The rest of the adventurers in the caravan, now gone and far away.

Cresting the top of a hill, the pitch on the other side seemed gradual and easy to manage, but as I tested the break on the initial decline, the car skidded to the side and fishtailed.

Back under control, I started my way down the low, but long hill.

The descent was tolerable at a slow speed. The radio now off and the only sound was that of the windshield wipers and the heater on high.  Towards the bottom of the slope, sitting parked in the break down lane, was a vehicle with blaring red lights on.

I whisper, Good. Someone’s waiting for us. Alright.  Just piggyback them to the finish line. 

Then the vehicle backed up. However, it didn’t stay in its lane.

The driver cut the wheel, put the back-end of the long goliath truck into the lane I was crawling down, and crept backwards to cover both lanes towards a fire road on the opposite side of the street.

In that one moment, watching this monster slowly back up and creating an impenetrable wall of steel before me, oblivious to my approach, I slammed down on the horn, flashed my lights and the breaks locked up.

Now trapped in a slide, moving the steering wheel to barely any effect and the small car gradually picking up speed down the remainder of the hill, I was able to conjure two immediate options: Take the impact as is, just let the car go and hit the monster broadside, or, cut to the left and attempt to put the nose of the car into a snowbank.  Zero room on the right for a third option and the windows of opportunity were diminishing as the car only picked up more speed.

My only choices were a preexisting piled high snowbank on the left, directly beside the fire road the monster was aiming for, or smashing into the truck’s side wall.

I made my decision and in hindsight, I should have frantically searched for a third option.

Once colliding with the snowbank and coming to an abrupt stop, the new sound was that of grinding metal and windows breaking as the salt dispenser attached to the back of the monster decided it wanted to be in the passenger seat beside me.

The slowest accident I’ve ever been involved in, and the first of two that night.

The weekend had only just begun.

 

(Thanks for reading and as always, if you wish to subscribe, please enter an email below in the provided area)

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Keep your friends close and the loyal friends closer. No one needs enemies.” JSM

 

Chapter Five

 

Phase two.

In theory, the second phase of most anything should be fairly easy or easier to become accustomed to. We get most of what we need for knowledge during phase one to make future phases potentially stress-free.

Typically the first phase of a new job takes ninety days (depending). For the first few months with new employment, new people and different rules: you walk on eggshells, try to stand out, learn quickly, make an impression, and eventually deemed worthy by a hierarchy (or not); then “graduate” to the next phase.  If you don’t graduate, or it doesn’t work out to your advantage, you seek something elsewhere.  Phase three may be a promotion, or a standard annual raise.

Once graduated, the orientation completed, and you’re ingrained in the job’s second phase, you’re probably micromanaged in some fashion; but not watched or monitored as strictly as you would be during the orientation process. Maybe a random casual walk-through by a superior. Perhaps a check in from time to time.

Phase one of obtaining a driver’s license may include reading the drivers manual, taking some classes, and watching some videos. You train with professionals and folks who have a license, take a mandatory test, and if considered worthy of solo travel on the road you graduate to become a licensed driver.

Standard education has multiple levels ending with the completion of high school, then beyond to higher education. Each tier in higher education has its own phases.

Phase two of BizarroTech involved a weekend trip to another country. I literally couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  The bulk of our dialogue was me being convinced that attending this function would have magnificent benefits, a wonderful learning experience, and will make future phases easier.

The interested party I discovered over that summer, couldn’t join in the adventure and I couldn’t blame them.  It was a shot in the dark asking in the first place and I knew long term, deep down inside, they wouldn’t stay involved with the project. That’s ok. Some things are not meant for everyone.

Nonetheless, it was time to travel and stay a weekend in Canada for what I have named, the “Computer Seminar.”

Some out of state BizarroTech friends joined the caravan north and Bill led the way. Each vehicle met at a rendezvous point, mapped out the plan, and hit the road at a specific time. The line of vehicles included three SUVs, and me bringing up the rear in a compact, relatively new, four door family sedan.

Here, in this part, I interject one personal lesson.

If a close friend, (someone you trust) rushes out the door, comes to you in obvious distress, calls you in a panic, sends you a text with exclamation marks, and the first words spoken or read are, “don’t leave,” take those words under advisement, even if it sounds silly. Rethink the plan. Allow possibilities to roam in your mind without borders.

Packing the trunk of the car my good buddy rushes up to me, “don’t leave.”

“Why?”

“Just got a call from dad. Big storm coming down and you’ll be heading right into it.”

“I can drive in the snow, dude.  It’ll be alright.”

“Yeah, but you don’t have to go. That’s the thing. Don’t risk it. It’ll be a blizzard. We’re talking potential feet in a short time.”

“I’ll see you Monday.”

I clapped him on the forearm, smiled, and walked away. I really should’ve listened. While I believe that who we are today is a culmination of our life experiences, both good and bad, I truly wish the “Computer Seminar” never happened. It’s among the accolades of dumb stuff I’ve participated in.

But if I hadn’t, I never would’ve learned.

The estimate was many hours of driving before the ten pm arrival at the conference center and hotel complex.

In my youth I had a couple of neighborhood friends. Not a bunch, but a few close pals. We either biked or walked everywhere we went. Coming back from a nearby store one afternoon a thunderclap was heard in the distance. We brushed it off and continued home with our bag of candy and suddenly the thunder boomed again.

It was strange to us at the time, the sun bright and shining, while thunder approached from behind without a cloud to be seen. Then a few minutes later the clouds gathered and darkened the sky. The sun still visible, but above the trees to both sides and all around, the storm approached.

My friend and I laughed as the rain hit the street a few hundred feet behind us and the wall of water chased us home. Every few seconds we’d steal a look over our shoulders, fighting to stay ahead of it and see the wet road with a space of dry in between. Eventually the wall of rainwater gained speed and soaked over us but as a kid growing up, to me, it was either raining outside, or it wasn’t. Watching it happen in real time and almost being a part of the experience, was a treat for me.

As an adult, I appreciate and respect nature. In some cases, I fear nature’s wrath. Nature can be sudden, unpredictable, and overwhelming.  A lot of times one can’t predict what the outcome will be.  You believe and expect the worst will happen, but wish for the best possible ending.

Almost to the Canadian border, along a stretch of lonely winding terrain with only a fire road every few miles, and the time in the evening when headlights are necessary, a wall of white appeared out of nowhere and blanketed the vehicle. My small car enveloped in nature in the span of a heartbeat.

Dry road, covered in snow, in a matter of seconds.

I had to make a snap decision. Turn around and head back at best possible speed, or stay the course and finish the adventure.

Unfortunately, sometimes I pick the wrong fork in the road and this time around, I decided to battle the blizzard approaching from the north.

The first clue provided that I made the wrong decision, was watching the taillights of the caravan disappear into the storm ahead and eventually fade away into darkness.

The second clue was almost being crushed to death by a state plow truck.

 

 

 

 

 

“Follow your dreams, but understand them first.” JSM

Chapter Four

On May 27th 2011, I had a profound dream. The only reason why I remember the date is because I wrote it down.

I know, I know. (Cue the eye rolling and heavy sighs) Big whoopty doo deal. We all dream.  Most will say dreaming is fantastic, liberating, cleansing and necessary to the subconscious to prepare the mind for another day.

I hate dreaming. It’s the only component of the sleeping process I despise. Dreams are confusing, abstract and sometimes overwhelming. They’re random and illogical, jarring, and the ones that don’t seem to have a straight forward obvious meaning, can really mess with your mind if you let it.

Waking from slumber, “feeling” the dream in vivid detail at the moment its happening and once the eyes flutter open and the environment of the real world blinks into view, the dream vanishes from memory. Gone. The only thing remaining is a blurry image of an object or person to give you something to go crazy over.

No recollection of it. It was truly happening though.  You remember it fading away into nothing. You fight through the morning and day, to recall anything other than a momentary snippet, and always fall short.

I hate dreaming. The dreams that I remember, make little sense.

In addition to things I have difficulties with, I include major cities on the list. Through the course of my life I have visited two major cities. Boston and D.C.  I’ve done some minor traveling here and there: Bermuda, Canada, I hiked three hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail through three states in my late teens.  I’ve been as far south as Tennessee and west to Ohio, but I’ve been a “Mainah” since day one.

I won’t knock the city life, it’s just not for me. I don’t appreciate it as much as others. I get uncomfortable and jittery.  Anxious.  I seek to enjoy the experience, but never seem to find the enjoyment I seek. Probably the same can be said for folks who leave the hustle and bustle of the city and spend time in an area that doesn’t provide much in the way of excitement.

“Being in the country and away from the city, is boring. Nothing to do.”

“Yes. It most certainly is.”

I prefer quiet. I enjoy large groups of people in small doses. To me, there’s nothing greater than stepping onto my porch on a clear night, and gazing at the light speckled blackness all around me; the only sound being the passing of a car on the nearby interstate. Maine is my way of life and I feel comfortable and safe.

So mash together two things I don’t enjoy: dreaming and being in a goliath city.

And wouldn’t you figure my “profound experience” takes place in the dream world surrounded by towering structures and congested buildings, millions of people, bumper to bumper traffic, digital signs, flashing lights and so much noise I can barely hear my own thoughts.

Behind me in this brief dream on a small square patch of green grass is a singular apple tree. A tan flower pot with a black orchid growing from it, sits beside me on a park bench.

I’m placed there, watching life zip by. Herds of humans walking shoulder to shoulder, mashed into one another; almost blending and fusing together.  The speed of the crowd escalates and they morph into streaks of moving vibrant light and the thick swirling colors surrounds my little green piece of land.

Now it’s all I can see. Only a wall of multi colored lights on all four sides of my “safe zone” boxing me in. I turn to my right and sitting beside me, on the other side of my orchid, is a cousin I haven’t spoken to since childhood. I’m guessing thirty plus years. Why my mind conjured her up to join me, is still a mystery.

She looks to me and asks, “Why are you here?”

“I don’t have any choice. I’m here against my will.”

“I don’t believe that.”

“You’re not the one going through it.”

“Jere, I don’t think you’re here against your will. This is where you need to be for a moment.  It’s temporary.”

“When can I leave?”

“That’s up to you. The thing about emotion is sometimes it’s controlling.  You’ll leave when you’re ready.”

“I don’t want my emotions to rule me. I control them… not the other way around.”

“Then it seems you need to find a way to express your emotions differently.”

“How?”

“Do the opposite of what you’re doing.”

“So… don’t react. Be complacent.”

“No. Not complacent. Look at it from a different angle.”

“… I need to be told what to do.”

“No you don’t. You only need to realize what it is you want, and what you don’t want. Drive away.  Go to the place. Start a journal.”

“Really?”

“Express your emotions by writing it down.”

My cousin turned to me and I should have felt a sensation of fear, but all I felt was warmth and peace. She leaned in close and her mouth stretched open but her lips never formed words. Her voice came forth and only four sounds were uttered in the form of a whisper.

“Write it all down.”

That following morning I opened the laptop and created a new folder. I named it, “Jere’s Journal” and it’s only devoted to quotes I’ve conjured up over the years.  Pages of little quotations and phrases that seemed applicable to me at specific moments.

In the beginning, I started by writing my “emotions” down.

“Today I felt this, and this morning I felt that, and the whole thing made me feel this,” but soon realized everything I was jotting down, only brought me to other places I didn’t want to be. Therefore, I ended the daily journal and wrote daily quotes to myself instead.

The one at the top of chapter four was the first one I recorded.

I type all that out in the event anyone was wondering where the header quotes come from. Yes, they’re all mine and I felt the need to include them.

But enough about me and my dreams. Back to focusing on Bill and Linda’s dream.  Their vision for a new Jeremy and something about helping me change my life for the better, forever.

*****

A barbeque is a barbeque. Typically burgers, hotdogs, chicken, random quickie side dishes, drinks and condiments make up the outdoor table of a standard barbeque setting.

Not at Bill and Linda’s home. No, no, no. The meal was inside. We sat around a large table, eating from a plated dish with “high end” portioned items, cooked on a grill like mechanism in an expansive silver colored kitchen, with two islands and two ceiling fans.

The home had a mammoth interior with bay windows. Everything seemed shiny. Constructed in seemingly out of place locations were short staircases to multi-level floors and a room in the loft devoted to toys, awards, trophies and autographed items.

Bill had a game room with stand up arcade machines; no quarters needed. Vintage posters and comics protected by plastic shields. A juke box, pool table, Foosball, big screen TV, collectables, antiques, art, and (I kid you not) a stream running through the space between the living room and his personal office with fish swimming throughout. As if the home was designed to allow nature to come and go at will. At the base of a set of stairs, a waist high waterfall to keep the stream flowing and moving.

After the five-star elite barbeque (comprised of food stuff I don’t believe I’ve ever had before) we spoke about future opportunity.

I won’t bore you. The conversation grew from casual to business, in a matter of minutes.  Bill was almost chomping at the bit to dive in and “talk”.  He may have initially proposed a no business chat but it didn’t last long. It was as though our dialogue was being steered into business, casually.

Linda was an observer. She wore hanging hooped ear rings and had dark shoulder length hair. Black shadowed eyes that watched you with every move.

During dessert, an a la crème something with a shaved chocolate garnish, Linda cut right to the chase. “So, what do you think?”

“It’s quite a commitment.” I said. “Honestly, all that’s needed is ‘this’?”

Bill gently tapped his palm flat on the table with each word, “That-is-it.”

I mulled it over and poked at my dessert. I looked to Linda and asked, “The start fees waived? No cost?  Just do X and move on to phase two?”

She smiled and replied, “If that’s what needs to be done to get you on board and working with us, then yes. We believe that you should explore this and everything it has to offer. No upfront cost. Do X and we will go from there.  Do you know anyone else who may be interested?”

A bit of a loaded question. The entire enterprise isn’t something you randomly bring up with friends and family.  The potential participation of others is a complete unknown.

Caught a little off guard at the fast moving speed of it all I said, “Ummm… I don’t know? I’d have to look into it?”

Linda wiped the corners of her lips and said, “Just remember, the more the merrier. You’ll eventually get to a point where including others won’t be necessary anymore.  Everyone else will do all the work for you. Its phase one that’s the toughest and requires the most. See who you can talk to, get a couple of people interested and once you do that, contact us.”

“Easy as that?”

“Simple.”

Before I left, I was provided with all the information I needed to start this new, slightly intimidating, and short lived journey in life. Approaching the car, Bill stops me in the driveway, “Here, I want you to have this.”

I pulled it from his fingers and it was a tightly folded piece of paper. “What is it?”

Bill’s smile grew across his face and he crossed his arms high on the chest, “Don’t open it yet. Wait. Tuck it away somewhere.  Put it in a book or a box, or put it on the top of a shelf somewhere out of sight.  Just don’t read it yet.  Open it and read it when we reach the top.  Together. I want you to be surprised at what’s inside.”

I smiled my response and agreed to his idea. I thanked him for a wonderful afternoon, placed the paper in my back pocket and left the property.

Once I found an interested party to join in the adventure, it was time to reconnect with Bill for phase two.

Phase two altered my entire way of thinking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Know that a mistake is not a mistake. There’s no such thing as a mistake. It’s only a learning process.” JSM

 

Chapter Three

 

I didn’t have a ton of friends growing up. I had “my” friends, but I could count them all on one hand. The friends I started with? I still have a few to this day and they’re friendships I honor and treasure.

Not being a member of certain cliques, or meshing with the right people, or accomplishing ridiculous initiations and double-dog-dares to prove self-worth, kept you tight with others who were also in the same boat; especially through high school. I can say I was popular, but not in a good way.

I was among the small clan of teens who didn’t fit in with the athletes, or the social clubs, or the popular gangs. I was among the socially awkward. I was the one who knew the safe routes to avoid trouble. The nooks and crannies around corners and hallways where certain groups or (what I call) difficult people won’t see you. I knew schedules and routines and kept them memorized. I found places to duck away and disappear when being chased.

The four or five of us “outcasts” read and traded books, played games of Chess and Stratego in a classroom behind a closed door, away from the ones who knew we didn’t fit in.  The teachers understood and kept a stash of items and things for us to do, if ever needed. We always avoided becoming a target for whatever wave of ridicule awaited us from each area of whatever room or corridor.

Instead we sat at our own little table in the cafeteria and kept to ourselves and pretty much only made eye contact with each other. Making eye contact with the others, always invited a potential “accident” or incident.

While eating lunch we’d be rolling dice, chatting about the new fantasy book, trading silly cards, talking about the arcade downtown where we plan on spending some quarters over the weekend, organizing a game night for Dungeons and Dragons, Hero Quest or Risk. Maybe Monopoly if we get bored. Deciding whose house we were crashing at for a twenty four hour Super Mario gaming marathon. Making jokes at each other’s expense, shrugging off each insult, and firing back with one much worse.

Cause, ya know… that’s what good friends do.

Insults from anyone outside our circle of safety and trust were painful, heartbreaking and just plain awful and sad.

Many have been able to get through high school unscathed or barely grazed, but for me, it was a prison. Anyone else who’s reading this and trapped in prison, do me a favor and do your best to get through it. Fight through the struggle if you must and don’t give up! When you get to be my age, that time in your life will seem like another galaxy light years away. Do your best to muscle through it.  Keep your eyes on the prize. Please.

In the intro post I mention waving my nerd flag high with pride and with that said, I can say with confidence, I was the stereotypical “nerd” during my years of schooling. Middle school, junior high, and through the end of high school.

I made sound effects when playing games, or battling on a game board with plastic figurines. I wore glasses with thick brown frames and sometimes had tape in places to hold pieces together. My acne was obvious and always made an appearance at the worst of times in the worst of places… like days of school pictures, or the night of the dance in the gymnasium. My shirts had the IZOD lizard embroidered and I kept important items in the breast pocket.  My plain white sneakers had Velcro along the top.

I had a short mullet at one point in my teens. Not as extreme a mullet as a popular fictional character we all may know and love, but it did fall below my shoulders. For those of you who remember this time in history, feel free to now laugh at my expense.

Being picked on and “bullied” if you will, was a day to day gig. Only times during evenings, nights, weekends, holidays and school vacations I felt completely safe from the real world.

Going back further in time when TV only had a few channels and the internet didn’t exist, during the days of playing outside in the neighbor’s yard without getting shooed away, staying outdoors until the street lights activated and the planet felt much safer, my childhood friends and I played with homemade swords and shields. Plastic and wooden guns. We pretended to fight dragons and hordes of trolls and goblins, witches, alien invaders, vampires and mighty beasts; regardless of the weather.

Heavy snow, blazing sun or pouring rain, we battled viscous creatures and otherworldly demons. We’d make forts along the tree lines and shout battle commands to our soldiers and climb towering pines to a small house built within the branches above. We’d hide in the bushes and choreograph action sequences to destroy the army advancing on our position then join our make believe warriors in heroic battle.  The cruel and manipulative sorcerer in the center of the menacing group forcing us to fight each other, until one of us was dead or dying on the battlefield.

The battlefield being the driveway, and we probably looked the fool to anyone driving by.

For a time we delegated certain rooms in our homes the “lava room”, or the area with the blue carpet the “water room”. The staircase to the second floor was the Mountains of Death and the closet was a secret portal to safety. Once we reached the attic with the war room table, we’d take the fantasy world outside, furthering the impossible quest; whatever that quest happened to be at the moment.

When the yard and the small rooms seemed to diminish in size, we’d expand our realm by riding our bikes elsewhere. Our backpacks filled with whatever’s required for the day’s itinerary, and journeying to another kingdom. Perhaps at a friend’s house or backyard, or the small group of us would coordinate and gather at the nearby stream trickling through the woods to regroup and resupply for the long adventure ahead. We constructed secret work stations in our basements and outdoor sheds, using borrowed tools from our dad’s toolboxes to repair our broken items, magical devices and weapons, as a result of a long and tiresome battle.

We created our own world during that time in life. My childhood was based within the realms of the fantastical. Always pretending to be someone else, but never being anything less than who I am.

We once guarded the sword maker in his shop from an evil wizard bent on destroying a magical anvil and hammer. Slinking among the shadows dressed in black, we’d pretend to be spy ninjas and secretly follow our families around the house and if spotted by anyone–game over. Sometimes we’d stay up into the wee hours of morning having philosophical conversations and debates about why the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Raphael, was the weakest of the four.

That was my childhood.

In my youth I immersed myself in fantasy. I wanted to know all there was to know about that universe and all the other universes within.

I’ve never been a decent artist (in other words, I can’t draw to save my life), so I traced mythical creatures on plain white paper and copied what I saw on the covers of my novels, to hang as art on my bedroom walls. With the money I earned mowing lawns I collected pewter figures of warriors and wizards, hand carved dragons and trinkets, statues and sculptures.

Allowing myself to become as engaged as possible within that fantasy world and my imagination, I created a place of peace and quiet and a location within my mind to retreat if needed. My own self-made safe haven.

As an adult, I still immerse myself in the things I have interests in, just on a different wavelength. Now, when I begin a new job or undertake a new position I strive to know and understand all I can. I want to hear the history. I want to know what’s under the surface and why something’s important. I want to understand the inner workings, specific functions, and certain details if possible. I ask questions no matter how ridiculous they may seem. The more I know and understand, the better I can potentially be at whatever it is I’m doing.  If the ridiculous question somehow served a purpose and led into conversation or other questions where I pick up some knowledge, then it was a question that needed to be asked.

At the steel mill, I inquired how frigid cold in the dead of winter affects beams and structural integrity during construction. I wished to know about the paint and the chemicals used to keep steel protected and rust free. I wanted to be involved in every department possible: Forklift driving and crane operation. Using a blow torch, driving a boom truck and learning a plasma cutter.  Making stairs and railings, parts and pieces and working with a welder.

I force myself to be interested in whatever I do, so I can potentially do it better.

In our off-time at the mill we had permission to purchase material at a discounted price (or using scrap steel to save a few bucks) and create our own little projects and tools. We welded together detailed steel figures out of nuts and bolts and thin metal rods in various positions, to emulate human characters.  We built multipurpose tools for varieties of tasks that could make our jobs potentially easier. We even invented some games and time killers along the way during the dead spells.

We had machinery that could bend steel and twist it, roll it, heat and shape it for molding and fashioning our little keepsakes and crew office knick knacks. In essence we had the ability to create whatever we pleased, as long as the tools were available and we had the time.

So imagine my overwhelming surprise and childlike wonder when Bill opens his door and reveals a fully functioning, straight out of the world of the medieval, blacksmith shop. It was as though I stepped into a back room in King Arthur’s castle. I was teleported out of reality and my mind was quite literally carried away to another place and time.

The small room had a high ceiling with a large ventilation system installed, and a squared section of his daylight basement was carved out of the foundation. In place of concrete he had two large wooden doors attached to the framework that swung outward and connected to the walls outside. When the heavy doors pulled closed, a long wooden beam slid through two metal brackets and sealed it shut from within.

Hot coals glowed inside a red brick stove, and attached to the side of the arched shaped furnace, a hand pump bellows to manually force air inside. At the center of the room on a short table sat an anvil, with three varying sized hammers leaning against its base. Hanging beside the brick oven, Bill had three brown leather aprons, each one charred and blackened in areas, and a variety of random tools scattered throughout.

On shelves and walls he had swords and antiques. Small daggers, and what appeared to be sections and pieces of armor sat upon cluttered work benches. Some tarnished, dented, rusty, and weathered and others polished and shining.

Bill gestured to the anvil, “look here.” He pointed to the table where the mammoth block of solid steel was mounted, and we both dropped to our haunches, “I painted it this morning and drilled out the holes last night, but the angle piece you gave me the other day is for right here.  It anchors the base down and pulls it all together.  Keeps it from shifting. The assembly was loosening and I needed to reinforce it.”  Bill smiled at his handy work and only one thought raced through my brain.

Holy cow. I should call the guys, give them directions, and get them out here. We need to go fight with these killer blades in his back yard… right… now.

Whisked away back to childhood.

Bill rose from the floor and I followed suit. My eyes continued to browse the room, taking in all the details.  I was still in shock at where I was, but I allowed my host to continue on.

With one hand placed firm on his hip he gestured to his collection with the other. “I picked this piece up in Arizona. This one up here, I found in Texas. I bought this one at a pawn shop in New Hampshire. My nephew and I worked on this one together over his school break. It’s not done yet. I don’t want to finish it without him. Have you ever worked with steel this way before?” He pointed to the glowing coals.

“No. Only in my imagination. It’s quite the sight. I’m impressed with your room, Bill.”

“Yeah, I have fun in here. A little hobby of mine.” He sighed and smiled with gleaming pride, joining me in a look around the area.

He strolled to a corner, pulled two stools from under a table, and gestured to sit down. Bill sat on his seat across from me, relaxed against the wall folding his hands in his lap and said, “I brought you in here first, for a reason. Something about you really resonated with me and I don’t know what that is yet. Because you work in steel, I thought breaking the ice in here would be more comfortable.”

He seemed to notice something on the floor to his side that captured his attention and he lowered his eyes to that spot. Bill sat quiet for a time and it appeared he was completely lost in his thoughts.

I cleared my throat and shot my attention to a shelf overhead.

Bill snapped out of it. “When shaping steel with a forge, the most important thing to remember is, without the right tools, a hunk of steel is only a hunk of steel. Not until you get it glowing hot, and then struck with a hammer, does the steel change. Once heated and hit with something, can we now begin to mold it into what we want it to be.  It takes work and sometimes its try and try again, but as long as you have a vision for what you want it to look like, anything is possible.”

“So what are you saying, Bill? Are you going to hit me with a hammer?”

“No. After we have some food and I show you around the rest of the house, I’m certain my wife will be the one carrying the hammer. She’s really the one who’s in charge. I hope you’re hungry.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Time–A formidable and powerful enemy, when the battleground is the mind.” JSM

 

Chapter Two

 

(I’m altering the release schedule slightly, after receiving some personal messages to shoot out more material. Thank you thus far for all the kind words.  It means the world to me)

 

Time can be your greatest friend.  It can also be your worst nightmare. We all perceive time on different levels and sitting at the table with my new buddy Bill, each second for me seemed an eternity.

I knew, HE knew, he had me in a snare.

Most will remember the iconic scene in Pulp Fiction when Vincent (John Travolta’s character) opens the brief case on the kitchen island in the apartment. It was filmed a certain way so no one but Vincent would know what’s inside; shining that brilliant golden glow around his face. All we see as the audience is Vincent’s reaction. His eyes.  The way he snaps the cigarette away from his mouth. The look of amazement and awe at the contents within.  Sam Jackson yelling his name to snap him out of the trance.

We as the audience will always speculate on what’s inside that briefcase.

Gold bars? Pirate doubloons? An Aztec mask or alien technology ensconced in golden shielding? It could be anything!

I wanted nothing more than to see something like that emerge from Bill’s little black leather briefcase.

Unfortunately, he had nothing that seemed to be of any material value that I could see but still I had no idea what to expect. Bill could have a number of things in there. For all I knew, he was about to rob the place. When he withdrew a clipboard, a small stack of paper and two pens, I considered that I may have made a huge mistake and was now forced into an uncomfortable situation.

Have you ever rolled your eyes in disgust without moving your eyes? More like… desperately wanting to roll your eyes, but forced to maintain eye contact with that person?

It was one of those moments. I sat there and kept whispering in my mind, Just get through the conversation. Be polite, jump through the hoops, let him down easy and get home.

Like a switch had been flipped, Bill dropped the smile, “Caught you off guard, didn’t I? Sorry about that.”

“Yeah, ya kinda did.” At this point I attempted to relax, feeling the heat of embarrassment ebbing from my face.

He snaps the sheets from the clipboard and taps them together, “Now that you’ve thought about it, what’s your reply to something like that? Say the first thing that comes to mind.” He scrunched up his brow and leaned forward.

I try my best to think before speaking, especially now more than ever. Some lessons are learned in the hardest of ways and my honesty has gotten me in trouble on more than one occasion.  Today, I’m what you may consider an “obvious thinker” where my eyes dart around in certain ways, accessing areas of my mind while I put together my reply and gather my thoughts; seeking logical responses. Asking me for the first thing that comes to mind, isn’t ever an option.

“Well, you’d have to provide something that completely changes my current way of life for the better. If that’s possible… I want proof.”

“What would it take to change your life, Jeremy? What could that proof be? ”His papers now spread out in neat little stacks across the table and his hands clasped together on the surface.

I held up my left hand and pointed to each finger on it, “All my debt wiped out. Guaranteed college fund for my kiddo. The new car paid off. All college expenses taken care of. A bottomless wallet. A house with a piece of land…”

“So, money.” Was his simple reply, cutting me off in the middle of my list. “Lots of money.”

My eyes darted to the edge of the table as he grabbed a sheet of paper and scrawled a notation on it.

Feeling my face heat up again I replied, “in order to make my current situation an ideal one, this is it. Those things are what I need to better our life and change it. A little extreme? Sure.  But a house on some land will get us out of where we are.  Car owned–no more payments. Zero debt. College degrees for whatever we ch…”

The man had a knack for interruption, “You think a college education and owning a house will make the cost of living go down? Let me show you something.” He snagged random papers from their spots and collated them together. Bill tapped them into a pile, flipped it around and gently placed it on the table under my nose. It was time to talk shop.

Sorted together before me he arranged a series of charts, statistics, bar graphs and data about what future estimations will be in the next five years, and a projected thirty percent increase hike in this and that, and data from this place and a quote from an advisor who calculated this from this city and this snippet of info from a scientist specializing in blah, blah, blah and on and on and on.

I pretended to follow all of it, but I was bored out of my mind. I sat there in quiet patience nodding my agreement at a flow chart and saying things like, “uh huh.  Oh yeah… I see that.  Yup yup.  No, no that makes sense.  I see where you’re coming from. Wow that IS interesting.”

He smiled at each of my positive responses, nodding and smiling at all the happy replies. I too can play games when needed.

Unfortunately, he was winning the game and as time wore on into an hour, I wanted to get to the point of our meeting.

“Jeremy, I’m part of an online company that works with x-y-z. Here’s a pamphlet and a little more information, for browsing at home or wherever. As you can see here, the system works in this fashion and in order to do this, and get to this point you have to accomplish that, and the more you do and the more this and that, the higher up the tiers of success you climb.”

(Thank you for bearing with me through all that. I want to describe the company, the name, products and details… but don’t feel like I should.  Let’s just call it, BizarroTech)

“At BizarroTech we can guarantee and supplement, replace and safeguard, ensure and distribute and all you need to do, and purchase, is X.  You will start here, and attempt… no… succeed with my help and mentorship, and eventually be among the elite and have a status level and do this and that, and so on.”

I yawned at this point and shot my focus to the clock on the wall.

“Is your family expecting you at a certain time?”

“No. Just work gets me tired.”

“You like working in steel?”

“Not really. The money is tolerable and the benefits are some of the best that I know of.  But no, it’s just a job.”

“Do you want to stay working in steel? Is this something you see yourself doing in five years?”

It was my turn to scrunch up a face, “I don’t know. I can’t say what’s happening tomorrow, or next week, let alone five years from now.”

“That’s the most common response.” Bill pointed at me and turned the Joker smile back on. “Before we go, and you decide to either give this some thought, or not and continue on and see what happens over the next five years, I want you to look at this.

“What you see is a list. Two columns of choices. This is my favorite exercise. Some of the options are obvious like sound mental health, or physical health overall, or being filthy rich with maids and servants, stuff like that, a yacht with a full crew for example, but you have a choice to circle anything you see, from either column, or both, or all of them, that you wish you could have.  Anything you want or would someday like to own or have in your possession, because with this program and this company, any of them are possible.  Take your time.”

Out of the eighteen (perhaps twenty) choices, only one caught my attention. I brought my head up and looked over the top of my glasses, “Can I only select one, if I want?”

Bill relaxed into his seat and chuckled, “Of course. Most I talk to choose multiple options, but only one’s fine.  This is just a character exercise, Jeremy. There’s no grading system here.  This is just a part of my closing routine.”

After his approval on my request, my eyes returned to the singular option in the right hand column, the second choice from the bottom of the list, and I snatched up the pen. The words seemed to stand out among the others and I circled it the moment my eyes reconnected with it.  After glancing the rest of the options over, I nodded my final agreement and set the pen down.

“There,” I flipped the checklist around, “that’s my choice. Out of all of them, that’s the one I want the most.”

Bill half grinned, curious to my singular decision, and retrieved the paper from the table. He scanned down to the bottom and said, “Huh. I’ll be.  (Brief chuckle and a slow shake of the head)  This has never been selected before that I can remember… at least not as long as I’ve been involved.  Very interesting.”  He dropped the paper into his brief case and scooped up the rest of his clutter.

Once his business materials were closed up and locked down, he leaned in close across the table and lowered his voice. “I knew there was something about you I liked. You seem like a decent guy and I don’t usually say this to everyone I set these meetings up for, but I’m certain you’d do well at BizarroTech. You and me. I’m almost convinced of it.  My wife would enjoy your company very much. Your customer service skills, how easy it is to chat with you, we could build something. Let me help you achieve this. Please, bring the family to our place this weekend.  I’ll do a barbeque. I’ll show you around our place.  You can meet my wife, “Linda” and see some of my projects.  I know you’ll have a great time. Based on what I know from our time together already, I have some things on my property you may truly get a kick out of and appreciate.  No pressure.  No business unless you want to talk about it. Just having a nice time.  All you need to do is bring yourselves and show up.  What do ya say?”

It’s one of those fork in the road moments. I remember in my early twenties, standing on the edge of a quarry cliff, about fifty or sixty feet above the water’s surface and being dared to jump. Never being big on heights, I refused every time.

Seeing my friends plummeting and screaming and hearing the loud slap of flesh upon water echoing off the surrounding rock walls, always pulled me away from the edge. Yes, it may be a rush on the downward drop, but probably hurts like the dickens once connecting. I’m always contemplating whether the potential pain is worth the three seconds of rush time. A philosophy I hold dear even today.

On this fork of the road now before me: either saying yes, or refusing his generous offer for a day of fun in the country, I contemplated how the conversation would have transpired had I chosen anything else.

If I had circled “unlimited funds” or “vacations galore” or a thirty room mansion with a swimming pool in the mudroom and a personal helicopter, would things maybe be different, today?

Enough speculation. The past isn’t something that can be changed.

With a wide sincere smile, Bill shook my hand and offered me a ride back to my place the moment I agreed to his proposal. I choose my fork in the road, and decided to see it through.

On Saturday, we took a trip to his lavish home in the back country of Maine and I was introduced to a life that’s only seen in the movies.

They met us in the yard at the edge of the long driveway and the view of the surrounding landscape was nothing less than breathtaking. When Bill enthusiastically whisked me away to an outbuilding attached to his house, I was then convinced he had the ability to peer into my mind and physically manifest all around me the things I have interests in.

He smiled and reached to the doorknob, “You want to see the coolest thing ever?”

I nodded my reply and he slowly pushed open the door and snapped on the lights overhead. Bill folded his arms over his chest and chuckled when I crossed the threshold, eyes opened wide, and stammered over my words.

I had no idea what to say.

All I knew at that moment, was I couldn’t be happier.

Unfortunately, sometimes, all you get are moments.

 

“Blink open your eyes and begin the day anew. Just realize the moment you do, life is nothing more than a series of choices. Choose wisely.” JSM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Perseverance and confidence is essential to finding clarity.” JSM

 

Tales of the Chronicles

Have you ever had something happen so profound, so jaw dropping, mind blowing, eye opening or gut wrenching it stops you dead in your tracks? Something which seems yanked straight from the realm of the Twilight Zone or a seemingly alternate universe–and the moment it happens–the experience instantaneously transforms your entire thinking process?  Literally changes who you are? In that fraction of time you can adopt the idea that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. The only way the incident can be reconciled in your mind is because–there it is, RIGHT THERE, staring you in the face.

I’m certain everyone has in one way or another. I’m almost positive it’s happened to numerous folks at multiple times, to include myself and those around me, and could be happening to some right now.  Perhaps: celebrating a new life born, or suffering a great personal loss.  A life changing injury, illness or a scary medical procedure. An unexpected change in employment, graduating from school or finally retiring from a job. A religious experience. An eviction.  Succumbing to bankruptcy. An unexplainable moment alone while surrounded by the majesty of nature, or an epiphany in the middle of the night that wakes you from a dead sleep. Everyone experiences something that falls just outside the realm of perceived normalcy.  Those paradigm altering moments in time where one stops and says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me.”

I enjoy my outlets and hobbies. Having an outlet is important while pushing through the priorities of life as long as it’s constructive and at least somewhat healthy. Hobbies take many forms: Some go to the bar after work or join a friend for a drink at home.  Some work in the garden.  Some read books or watch television.  Some work in the basement or in a garage tinkering with vehicles.  Some folks sleep for their outlet. Some do puzzles, color, draw or construct ships in bottles.  Regardless of the outlet, everyone has them.

My outlets are diverse, random, necessary, and in some cases a little strange to some. I’m convinced right to the core of my bones that without my hobbies and my personalized coping mechanisms, I’d be a much different person and probably far, far away from where I am today. Therefore I embrace the strange and the unorthodox. I welcome the bizarre with wide open arms.

I have no desire to write an opinion piece. I have no intention to share in regards to an opinion of things. I will never claim to be an expert with worthwhile advice of any kind. Being an expert indicates one knows all there is to know about a subject. I can’t ever declare having expertise in anything as I am continuously learning every single day.

My experiences in college were short lived due to circumstances beyond my control, and unfortunately it will be many years before I can consider returning to formal education. I have no degrees hanging on my walls at home or in my office. I have work related certifications, but all the knowledge I garnish along my journey stems exclusively from internet research, reading books when and where I can, articles on social media from sites and friends I trust, learning through the wisdom of those I respect and through my personal life experiences.

Most would consider me an honest average working man with a family, loyal to a few, a terrible liar who loves a great story, wearing his emotions on his sleeve and living like everyone else; doing the best he can within the options provided. This is true. I consider myself a meat and potatoes kind of guy, utilizing simple philosophies and striving to practice what I preach.  I consider myself an easy going man with a simple plan, and I’m always trying to project a lighthearted attitude.  But it was years before I could develop these current character traits.

These are the events that led me from point A, to point B.

I’m kidding. I won’t do that to you. I can’t put you through that.  This isn’t an on-line diary or a place for folks to read about my day-to-day activities. No one’s interested in that stuff about me. I plan to try my best to keep this as far away from journal material as possible.  While there may be some autobiographical components I will make every attempt to steer clear of daily activities. No pictures attached from social media of my dinner, or our trip to the amusement park, or comments about my kid’s academics or the walk on the pier with my girlfriend. I’m fairly private, don’t share much about my personal life (unless it’s a crazy story that sparks fun dialogue among my group) and there’s plenty of journals and pictures of other dinners and families out there already. I don’t see the point in sharing what already exists within the realm of the internet.

Despite all that, my life isn’t unlike many others. I work the forty hour grind.  I do my best for my children whom I adore, spending time with my buddies when possible, enjoying the geeky world I’ve created with my girlfriend of five years, and taking advantage of moments. My existence is simplified, structured, and as easy as I can make it and I’ve shaped it to be a certain way over time.

Because of this self-proclaimed simplicity, I can’t bring myself to allow readers to engage and peruse facets of what I consider to be material and activities of a “normal life”.  I’m just one person out of billions doing what needs to be done. No one all that special.

But since this is my first post, I’ll quickly get it all out of the way.

I wave my nerd flag high with pride and make attempts to be unique. I recently hit the peak of the hill at forty years young and consider myself a big kid at heart. I enjoy table top games, superhero shows and movies, and nightly news or sporting events are never on my TV. I have an aging dog with arthritis; a large female mastiff who is like a child to me and when she’s gone from the physical world it will be a sad day for many. I enjoy road trips into the mountains of Maine during autumn’s peak of color, finding a bed and breakfast I’ve never stayed at and soaking in an outdoor hot tub during a light snowfall.

Traveling around our state, watching rock concerts with my companion whom I call my guardian angel (I’ll introduce Nancy later). Walking around antique shops, comic book stores, and eating at restaurants that serve brunch and strong coffee. I love science fiction to a fault and any television, movie, or book franchise with the word “Star” (Stargate, Star Wars, Star Trek). I have a bucket list a half a page long and attending a nearby Comic Con in Rhode Island was recently crossed off that list.  If left alone, I could spend a weekend in a book store and never get bored.

I’m drawn to our nearby ocean off the eastern coast wishing with every visit to one day have my own boat. Binging Netflix during a blizzard while trapped inside, nowhere to go, and all the munchies needed is an organized event in my universe. Living in Maine and forced to endure all four seasons takes preparation and proper planning sometimes, and I love a massive snowstorm. Knowing in advance I won’t be going anywhere for a spell.

Depending on the mood, at times I melt into my chair and play video games online with total strangers, distant friends, or with my kid(s). I have an outlandish addiction to specific television shows and to this day will watch specific ones all over again, from the beginning to end.

I pay bills and have a tendency to get a little behind as a single dad with a solo income, but Nancy and I make a wonderful team. I love a good pizza with a tangy sauce devoid of veggies, and I’m known to put the needs of others before my own. I rent a decent home in a small historic town (though deemed a city) in central Maine and have a couple hundred friends on Facebook but only really communicate with about fifteen.

I work with adults with cognitive and physical disabilities in a quality assurance and administrative capacity with direct support as needed, and my job is a rewarding one. I’ve raised my oldest child to college, enjoying every moment possible with my youngest, been through divorce after a decade long marriage, and have watched friends come and go.  I’ve experienced death and love, moments of great elation and debilitating sadness, been a provider and caregiver during a cancer battle with a loved one (a battle fought and won). I’ve shaved a head in the privacy of a hotel room due to chemo and radiation side effects, and I’ve started over from complete scratch with nothing but personal trinkets, clothes and books.

Not unlike so many others.

All the unmentioned stuff about me, the in-between stuff is the day to day routine: chores, work, responsibility, kids, priorities, trying and failing sometimes, lounging on the weekend when needed, and existing overall. What I call “blah” stuff.

So why write a blog?

All tales have a beginning. The Tales of the Chronicles (TotC) has an origin story steeped in tragedy and regret, but before I explain all that, I have to go back in time. Not a long ago past, but in regards to a faraway memory that teeters on the cusp of almost no longer being memorable, lies the subtle origin of the Chronicles. Before this memory becomes enveloped within the shadows of distant recollection and swallowed up in the abyss of disregard, it should therefore be the one I start with before it’s too late.

Some memories are meant to last a life time. Some are destined to dwindle away and vanish into the archives of the mind forever and only conjured up when triggered or needed. My memories which I deem important ones, the ones that deserve to endure in my mind’s eye and the ones that have helped mold me into the person I am today, are the ones I speak about and share with others.  In turn, my hope is that you as the reader will help share my story and above all else, I hope it helps someone, somewhere.

A few weeks ago, shortly after a movie date with a close friend who I always have wonderful conversation with, the dialogue and concept of starting a blog came to light. The more I thought about it and pondered the idea, and the more I talked it over with my friend, the more I wanted to do it. It was time to share something about me. The idea of writing a blog was something I had never considered before, despite their popularity.

Now here we are.

In this fading memory which I try to keep as a nearby reminder, I recall the weather the year and what time of day it was. I recall the interaction with the man in complete detail, unfortunately the exact date and day of the week completely slips me by.  All I know for certain is that it wasn’t the weekend or a Friday.

While I remember the dialogue with the stranger, his name has become lost among the other names I’ve encountered over the years. Those directly involved in this part of my life may remember his name, but I do not. So for the purpose of this intro, I’ll refer to him as, Bill.

It was summer fifteen years ago and the time of day was shortly after punching back in from a lunch break. I was employed at a steel mill within walking distance of my apartment, and recently trained on operating a forklift and working with light iron.  My job was dangerous, filthy, and loud and the kind of employment that made you stink to high heaven at the end of the day. The kind of job that required steel toe boots, a hard hat and ear plugs; work gloves and coveralls, regardless of the temperature outdoors. The only thing that made it enjoyable over the years and semi tolerable was the group of buddies I worked alongside.  One being a close friend from high school and I’m proud to say our friendship continues to this day.

I was alone at the time on that scalding humid afternoon, re-measuring a section of angle iron, when a customer caught my attention. “Are you, Jeremy?”

(Something must be shared before I continue this memory with Bill. My friends, co-workers and family call me, Jere.  Pronounced ‘there’, but with a ‘J’.  Variances of that are acceptable as well.  Some have spelled it Jer or Jerr, but only folks on the other end of 1-800 numbers and professionals, like my kids’ teachers or my superiors, call me Jeremy)

I held the small section of iron and rolled it around in my hand, “You must be here for the angle piece. Is this what you’re looking for?”

Bill was a tall fellow. His hair slicked back and greying, reminding me of television evangelists on Sunday mornings. My guess on his age was mid-fifties, and the customer before me had the wide smile of the Joker of Gotham. He wore blue jeans and a dark sport jacket, with a plain white shirt underneath almost buttoned to the throat and held a work order in a gloved hand.  He had salesman written all over him.

It was the strange smile that caught my attention.

Bill grabs the piece of cut steel and double checks it with his own small tape measure to ensure it’s sized to specifications and nods his approval; smiling that seemingly animated smile. Diverting his attention elsewhere and glancing around the area he says, “So, Jeremy.  What do you do around here?”

While I only wished to get back to work and end the conversation, he wouldn’t be the first customer to ask such a question. I politely spelled out my responsibilities in vague detail, described some of the projects we worked on, the history of the building, and engaged in the small talk as needed.

What he said at the tail end of our conversation before parting ways, and what he offered me the evening of the next day started a cascade effect which has led to this moment on my journey in life.

He shook my hand and thanked me. The smile splayed from ear to ear with a mouth-full of shiny white teeth and he said with an almost robotic tone, “Your customer service skills are pretty impressive, Jeremy. I might be able to offer you something that could be beneficial. My name is Bill.  Here’s my card.  If you’re interested call me at either number, home or office.  I’d like to discuss something with you if you’re willing.”

Then he walked away without any further ado.

Sound customer service has always been my “thing”. I appreciate a happy customer. Happy customers equal additional business. At that moment in time as far as I was concerned, Bill was just another satisfied shopper. I stuffed the business card in my pocket without giving it a second look and continued my day until it was time to go home.  Didn’t mention a word of the interaction with Bill to anyone.

That night after dinner and tucking the kid in bed, I finished up some chores and came across Bill’s information lumped into the pile of miscellaneous items and loose change on the dresser. I almost forgot about the entire interaction that afternoon.

Expecting the best possible outcome, the next day at lunch break I gave him an apprehensive phone call and we arranged a time and meeting spot of my choosing to chat for a bit. The entire thing was completely out of my comfort zone but my gut told me to go for it. When the gut speaks, you listen. What could I possibly lose?  His business card was flashy and filled with color and dazzle and he appeared to be a nice guy.

Still feeling a bit uncomfortable, having seen plenty of crazy movies in my youth, I decided on a nearby Subway sandwich shop within my walking distance for our meeting place.  He arrived before me at the end of their rush hour, this time wearing a black tie, and Bill paid for both our dinners.

After awkward pleasantries and casual conversation he drank the last of his drink, wiped his mouth and set the tray to the side. The stranger looked down to his seat beside him, reached under the table and revealed a small black briefcase.  Smiling his creepy smile, he set it on the surface and snapped it open.

Bill cocked his head to the side, “Jeremy. If I could offer you something that could change your life forever, what would you say?”

I know right? Straight out of a fantasy novel, TV show or superhero comic. No lead in and right to business.  I actually tried to blink it away, thinking I misheard him. My lifestyle has always been robotic and fairly routine and his words threw a giant monkey wrench into my thinking. What he asked was one of the last things you would ever think of being said, and so openly.  Hearing something like that after five minutes of conversation about the weather, the food, my accomplishments in the steel industry and my jobs of the past in retail, made my stomach drop to the floor and my ears burn.   As I pondered his words, my eyes shot around the room looking for the correct answer and I couldn’t find one. I was dumbfounded thinking of all the ways the conversation could go based solely on my reply, and the Joker’s smile never left his face.

*****

Since every tale has a beginning, middle and an end, I will conclude this portion of the story for now and more is on the way. I hope you consider returning and continuing with the next installment of my newest outlet in life, and joining me in an adventure that has yet to find a conclusion.  A conclusion I sincerely hope I never find.

Welcome to the Tales of the Chronicles.

“Beware the temptress smile and the siren’s song. Malevolence takes many forms and some seemingly innocent.” JSM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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