Saturday, December 29, 2018

Zero Dawn

January 17, 2066

Looks like this is my final entry. If you found this then I'm assuming you already know how we got to this point, unless you're one of those people that skips right to the end (and what's up with that?).

After Evans sent out the e-mail that the Wichita facility was overrun and we had two options, I figured I'd much rather go out on my own terms than die underground in a metal tomb with the others. The hatch opened at 2100 last night for a few minutes and I was allowed to leave. About 12 others took that option, but the majority were resigned to their fate and stayed behind. I said goodbye to Kim, John and Omar and made my way north maybe a half mile where I found a decent view. 

This morning I saw the sun rise for the last time and had a strangely peaceful moment. We were warned the machines would take out everything here within 24 hours and I can already hear the sounds reverberating off the mountains so they're close. They gave us all a pill if we wanted it (I did) and I'm told it's painless. I don't really have any desire to see the machine horde as my last sight, so my plan was to finish writing this down, pop Plan Z and go out looking at the mountains to the west. It's freezing and I don't have any survival gear so there's not much point trying to make a proper escape. 

Some of the others said we're facing certain extinction, but that ship sailed a year ago. Most people didn't want to accept it even after we were locked in to secure the Zero Dawn project for the future of humanity. My security level didn't clear me for the specific details, but if it works as planned somehow the human race will carry on a few centuries down the road. Looking out at the trees and mountains now I hope I'm not the last human to get to see this. Hopefully others will be along someday after this is all destroyed and Earth manages to survive and rebuild itself. Shame to think how we managed to get to this point, but it's kind of surreal that I lived to see the actual end of it all. 

My last hope is that this journal might serve as a historical account if it's ever found someday. I uploaded it into the servers back at the facility, but obviously if this datapad is destroyed then nobody will ever read this final entry. 

I like to think I led a pretty good life even though humanity as a whole certainly didn't. Looking out over these cold Colorado mountains for the last time reminds me of when I proposed to Dani when we were hiking. I'll never forget the look on her face and what a perfect day that was. I miss her most of all.

In closing, my final set of lyrics. If you read any of my previous entries you know how much I love the oldies, especially Jimi Hendrix from what, a century ago? After all, we share a last name so that makes it kind of a no-brainer. 

Shame we don't appreciate how good we've got it until everything is gone. So long Earth, it was a hell of a ride.

"Blue are the life-giving waters
Taken for granted
They finally understand."

-Hendrix, Bold as Love

Tuesday, December 25, 2018


Cloudy Blankets
Pillow Bed
Time at Last
to Rest my Head


Tech Trouble
Tech Headache
is the Smartphone
Mightier than the Pen?


Six Weeks Malaysia Malaise
Six Day's Adventure

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Lucky Ducky

Good luck monster at your door
Invited by your charm
Here to help, here to stay
Figure you'd do no harm

Weeks ago you took a hike
Later ate some food
Things were looking up and up
A boon for monster's mood

You even spoke of Chinese thought
of guests and gifts and Tao
A generous host reaps great rewards
Both for future and for now

But things turned sour quickly
On just the first work day
You locked the monster to a desk
And threw the key away

But good luck monster isn't dumb
Some might say it's smart
When it comes to faking smiles
It's a master of the art

When you feel you're winning
When you see it toil
You'll never know which aspirations
Good luck monster wants to foil

With arrogance you unchained it
You thought that you had won
The monster slunk to lick its wounds
And steel itself for what must be done

Good luck monster found a bar
A private place for tears
Where it came up with its plan
To curse you for many years

It knows your weakness, it knows your mind
It's even searched your soul
Now planting small destructive seeds
Has become its only goal

So when you see it smiling
So when it says "can do"
Know well that it's bad luck code
It's put a hex on you

Bad luck monster in your house
Transformed by hollow charm
Here today to hurt tomorrow
Only causing harm

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

1983...(A Jedi I Should Turn to Be)

At the time I didn’t realize it was May 25th exactly. I just knew the key facts: I was six years old, it was Wednesday, and my dad was going to take me to the 6:15pm opening day showing of Return of the Jedi.

I was hyped all day long at my 1st grade class at Mt. Rose Elementary school in Reno. I got to home right on time at three and we lived in a small rental right across the street from the northwest corner playground. That was the “big kids” side for grades 4-6. Nowadays Google maps tells me the house isn’t there anymore. It’s just a prime piece of real estate on the corner of Arlington Ave. & Taylor St. When I got home I had to kill time until my dad got there which for a six year old Star Wars fan may as well have been an eternity.

My original love affair with Star Wars started with me listening to a record (LP) the year before, which was obviously just audio and condensed a 2 hour 10 minute movie into maybe 60 minutes. It wasn't one of those old  45s with a book where you'd turn the page when Artoo beeps. This was a full size 33 1/3 RPM LP that was just the audio track from the film. Apparently I had seen Star Wars at a drive-in when it was released, but I was a year old so of course there were no memories there. The Empire Strikes Back was the first movie I can remember seeing in the theater in 1980. My mom took me to see that one but I don’t remember much other than waiting in line, pointing out the poster, falling asleep around the Dagobah training bits, Han Solo in carbonite, and of course the whole “Who’s your daddy?” routine at the end.

But coming up to the release of Jedi (original working title: Revenge of the Jedi) I was in full-out hype mode. Listening to Star Wars on LP so many times and all the Kenner toy catalogs had me riled up and ready to rock. Back in the day we had no internet to house the land of massive spoilers, so what we got instead were things like the Kenner toy catalog with a blacked-out picture and the caption “Jabba the Hutt Playset.” You remember that dude Han name dropped? I mean he’d been mentioned in the two previous movies so he must be big (literally). But there was no way anyone was gonna find out what a Hutt looked like before May 25th.

Eventually my dad showed up on what was still a relatively sunny late afternoon in the Nevada desert. We walked down to the United Artists theater on 1st St. in downtown Reno on the Truckee River. It was only a mile but as a hyped up kid it felt like walking all the way from Anchorhead to Mos Eisley. When we got to the theater there was a line outside, naturally. My dad told me we were getting tickets to see it in Dolby, which was the kickass state-of-the-art audio back then. We got our tickets grabbed seats, and got ready for something that was about to set my own personal standard for movies and pop culture.

To this day when people ask me what my favorite movie is, I always ask, “You mean besides Star Wars?” Because all of those movies to me exist as a separate thing outside of normal filmdom. The correct answer to that question is Raiders of the Lost Ark, by the way. But I digress. As I was about to discover on that fateful May evening, Jedi cemented the Star Wars legacy as not just part of my pop culture persona, but part of my life. For 16 years after this during the most impressionable years of my life, I was part of an entire fantasy universe that consisted only of three films, or about six and a half hours of footage.

Finally the lights went down and the 20th Century Fox fanfare let us know that shit was about to get real.

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...”

Episode VI

Luke Skywalker has returned to
his home planet of Tatooine in
an attempt to rescue his
friend Han Solo from the
clutches of the vile gangster
Jabba the Hutt.

Oh. Shit. It’s fuckin’ on now. And what followed over the next 2 hours and 15 minutes was incredible. I got my first glimpse of iconic moments that to this day still permeate my memory. Things like:

A new Death Star. Is that legal?

The reveal of Jabba the Hutt.

“At last we have the mighty Chewbacca.” Cheessa...beecha ko wonkae Chewbacca. At least that's what it sounds like to me. Ask me to say it sometime, I do a pretty great impression.

Han Solo falling out of that melting carbonite.

Vanishing 900-year old Yoda.

That speeder bike chase. Hot damn!

Ewoks. And you know what? Fuck off. I liked them when I was a kid. Which of course was the point.

“It’s a trap!”

An actual space battle between Rebel & Imperial fleets. You know, the stars.

Lando as that asshole friend that borrows your ride but brings it back without the side mirror.

The showdown between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor.

And of course, my absolute favorite moment of the film. It’s so good that it gets its own couple of paragraphs in case you weren’t around in 1983 to understand how awesome it was.

Luke Skywalker, alone and walking the plank to certain death above the sarlacc. At the last instant Artoo launched an object into the air, and we all suddenly found out what happened to Luke’s lightsaber after he lost it at Bespin. Turns out he never got it back. Homeboy made a new one.

We all thought it was gonna be blue. Because good Jedi have blue lightsabers and Sith have red. Plus all the marketing posters had Luke (or just the two hands) holding a blue lightsaber. But in that instant ol’ George reminded us once again that you should never be afraid to dream and try something slightly different. And keeping one tiny detail quiet reminded us all how much fun it is to be surprised at the movies over something so simple.

Because that goddamn lightsaber was green.

And then Luke proceeded to spend four minutes showing Team Jabba why one lone Jedi is not to be fucked with. The Wu-Tang Clan of a galaxy far, far away if you will. Even to this day that sequence is the only time we got to see a Jedi totally putting the smack down on scum and villainy until the prequels rolled out sixteen years later. I still get goosebumps when that scene starts due in no small part to John Williams' score which hits all the right beats.

34 years later Luke grew up like I did, a little wiser, a little worse for wear, and showed us how to win a battle without fighting at all yet still inspire hope. But that’s a story for another time.

Way back in 1983 we walked out of that theater and I knew I’d just witnessed a monumental experience that would impact my life for years to come.

It’s the best memory I have of my old man which made it even more special. We didn’t have that many great moments together to choose from, but Jedi is at the top and it isn’t even close. On November 26, 2016 I was watching The Force Awakens with my mom when we both found out he passed away. I thought that was fitting that the two most powerful memories about my old man had to do with Star Wars and not his music. My first theater memory was watching Empire with my mom, and my most exciting one was watching Jedi with my dad a few years later. Both parents are somehow responsible for turning me into a Star Wars junkie. The kind of guy who would opt to get “Jedi” printed on his dog tags in the Army many years later. The kind of guy who built a lightsaber hilt out of plumbing parts that was mistaken for a bong during a barracks inspection.

For me the Star Wars universe isn’t just some movies I saw a couple of times. It’s a major part of who I am. I can tell you exactly who I was with for each one of those films the first time I saw them up to and including Solo in 2018 which fittingly is the only one I've watched alone. I've attached many great memories with friends and family to my Star Wars experience. And it really all goes back to May 25, 1983.

“So be it...Jedi.”

Monday, December 17, 2018

It's never been about the Money

Since Hoss has been posting a lot of his autobiographical stuff and I'm in a real weird spot (geographically and mentally), I figured I'd write a little piece about my own pile of shit. As with the piece that will be published on my travel blog on Christmas, this is going to be a lot of me complaining and generally being grumpy.

Trying to come up with a title for this piece, one of my thoughts was "Sweet & Sour". I don't know if that's still a good title, but it might work for splitting this into two sections. My grumbling and griping followed by a bit more perspective. It's a good exercise for me to do more often, as I'm still a human reacting to what's around me rather than thinking about the arc of my life. Beware, dear reader - every sentence I type under "SOUR" needs an asterisk - I'll try to broadly address my own logical faults in the "SWEET" section.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I guess no one reads here...

Locked Library
Little Surprise
Always Disappointed


Work Harder
Work Faster
Do what I say
Your urlaub
means nothing
Don't you dare play.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Tell Me Baby

It’s November and it’s freezing outside. I hopped off the subway one block early because I’m always ahead of schedule and I need to get my mind into the game. I’m about to meet her for a legitimate date. It’s a big deal because after being casual friends I finally stepped up and suggested a date, and she accepted. My nerves are on full alert and I need to take a few minutes to calm down.

The reason I hopped off the subway at 5th Street is because Independence Mall is one of my favorite spots in Philadelphia. As I walk to a park bench I can see my office back to the northwest and Independence Hall to the south. There's no tourists out since it’s winter, so the whole block is calm and mostly vacant. I check my watch. I’ve got about ten minutes to the time we agreed to meet at the Gaslight over by Market & Front. That gives me enough time to listen to one song and then get moving.

When I go on dates there’s two songs I really like to listen to to calm me down. It can be nerve-wracking when you meet someone new. But this is the first time meeting a girl I already know in a new situation: an actual date. It’s a whole different type of nerves being wracked. I sit down on a bench facing west and pull up my favorite song on my iPod: “Soul To Squeeze” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. At this moment I have no idea we will be listening to this song live in three months at the end of a Chili Peppers concert in Philly. I also have no idea that it’s her favorite jam by the Chilis. That fact won’t come out until January.

It’s five minutes to myself. The freezing weather is an afterthought. I relax and spend that time listening to John Frusciante’s incredible guitar intro and Flea’s killer bass groove. I sing the lyrics to myself while the song plays. Eventually I hear “I’m gonna keep ya for the end of time,” and realize there’s only five minutes left to go. She grabbed an Uber so I have to be there on time or I’ll have failed one of my own personal standing orders: always be early.

It’s only three blocks to go but I’m nervous as hell even though I shouldn’t be. I cue up my go-to first date hype song: "Tell Me Baby" by the Chili Peppers. The song is about going to Hollywood to chase your dreams, but there's something about that chorus that makes me think smile and wonder about all the new things you get to learn when you sit down with someone for a great conversation. Like all good songs the lyrics mean something more personal to me than the most basic interpretation. I get to the Gaslight right on time, and then maybe 20 seconds later I see a car pull up. She steps out of the car wearing a pink coat and I smile to myself because that’s always been her style - bright and outgoing on the surface. She’s about to walk to the door with a slightly confused look, as if she’s not sure if she should be waiting for me or if I’m that kind of guy who would go inside first, get a seat, and just wait for her to show.

I call her name and her entire expression changes to a bright smile that welcomes a familiar friend. We hug. We go inside...together. In the back of my head I hope that it will be a great day. And it turns out to be one for the record books. Personal stories that connect. Pop culture references and laughs as we realize we have even more in common than we thought. After brunch when I suggest we head nearby to play pool and grab some beers she accepts immediately with no hesitation. 

I have no way of knowing how this story eventually turns out. But right now, in this moment, I finally feel what other people wish for and talk about all the time: a connection. And it is absolutely magical. I'll never forget those last few minutes waiting for her to arrive while I let music calm me down and help me welcome in a new friendship.

"Tell me baby
What's your story?
Where you come from
And where you want to go this time?

Road Trippin'

Back in 2001 and 2002 during my Army days I took a lot of trips from Fort Lewis down to Oregon on the weekends with my two buddies. For legal reasons I’ll call them Bailey and Farncomb, because that’s actually their names.

My man Bailey was a curious case in the sense that we became great friends even though he was an NCO and I was a Joe. No fraternization. That’s the official Army policy. But friendship knows no bounds and we had an unspoken “fuck it” towards the fraternization policy. We had lots of pop culture connections, got each other’s jokes and had the same birthday (I was 4 years older though, even as the subordinate). One day I even ended up as the Best Man at his wedding.

And Farncomb? A son of Australia and dual citizen of the USA. One of our first interactions was him all up in my face in the barracks hallway. A year later we quashed all beefs and he was reassigned to be my roommate. No lie, dude was the best roommate I ever had. We used to drink good wine and watch kickass movies to bring a sense of culture to the barracks. We’d frequently quote Pulp Fiction: “People who know the difference between good she and bad shit? This is the room the come to.” And he made an effort to keep in touch over the years, more so than I did, so my hat’s off to the man. I had the pleasure of surprising him on his 40th birthday many years later when we lived in opposite sides of the country.

We were one hell of a trio. I’m not sure if Bailey offered or Farncomb and I demanded it, but we rolled down to Bailey’s house in Portland about 2 hours south of Fort Lewis and it became a thing. We essentially made this our own Alpha Alpha for 3-day weekends. That’s Armyspeak for “Assembly Area.” We would hop in Bailey’s Jeep and drive down rocking out to ‘90s rock, specifically the Red Hot Chili Peppers when their album “By The Way” came out in July 2002. Farncomb turned me from a casual fan into an RHCP die hard and it was because of that album and the summer of 2002 which is high in the running for the best summer of my life. We’d head down to Portland and then roll over to Bailey’s family cabin at Cannon Beach, the place we all know from The Goonies. 

We also rocked the “Californication” album quite a bit on these trips. Every time we stopped into a convenience store for gas Farncomb and I would head inside to procure logistics (logpac), and then tell Bailey “we got snacks and supplies.” It took the better part of a year before Bailey realized that’s a direct lyric quote from “Road Trippin’.”

Since I can’t pin down specifics as to which memories relate to which trips to Oregon I wanted to capture some of my favorites in one mashup. And that’s the point of what you’re reading today.

There was that one time where Bailey introduced us to his old high school sweetheart. I instigated this because he showed me a picture of this beauty when we were in the field doing Army stuff and I couldn’t believe that this girl actually talked to this awkward chump at some point. Maybe I’ll type up the longer version of that story some other time, but like I said earlier I was Bailey’s Best Man. And yeah, she was the girl. A fantastic person as it turned out. Sometimes the storybook ending actually happens.

There was the time where Bailey and I rolled down to his family’s cabin at Cannon Beach for New Year’s Eve weekend right after Farncomb left the Army. We took two other friends but I remember it wasn’t the same because he wasn’t there to join us anymore. All good things must come to an end, right?

There was the time we found ourselves as guests at Bailey’s future bride’s house. Just three American soldiers in a sea of otherwise normal people. My favorite memory of that time is when I woke up alone downstairs the next morning and Bailey walked into the room. Party was long since over but I was the sole survivor in the room by the pool. He picked up an empty bottle of Sauza tequila.

B: “Hoss, did you drink all of this?”
H: “Did you have any?”
B: “No...”
H: “Then...yes.”

Most of all, there were the times that the three of us ended up at his family cabin in Cannon Beach. The routine was always the same. Great drive down there, listening to rock songs, stopping at the store to get a weekend’s worth of beer, and setting up our Alpha Alpha for two days. We’d take a whole weekend just to enjoy being friends and enjoying the freedoms that people who never lived on a military base take for granted.

We would make a campfire on the beach at sunset and drink beers until we cleaned out the cooler. Some of the greatest conversations of my life happened in those days. There’s something magical about those moments drinking beers and talking about totally unimportant shit with my best friends. I’d go on, but those conversations are for me. Get your own.

And one of my personal favorite things about these trips didn’t involve my buddies at all. I would claim the top floor of the cabin which had a central fireplace and glass windows that faced the Pacific Ocean while they slept in the proper bedrooms downstairs. I’d use the CD player to play Pearl Jam live albums from their Binaural and Riot Act tours while I drifted off to sleep. One of these was especially awesome: Live at State College, PA which at the time was the longest show Pearl Jam had ever done. At the time there was no way I could have known I’d end up calling Pennsylvania home almost 10 years into the future. Listening to songs like Better Man, Black, and Yellow Ledbetter while I reflected on how great it was to have spent such great days with my friends.

Like all good times, they would eventually come to an end. In the short term we had to pack up and head back to Fort Lewis. In the long term we went our separate ways like the guys at the end of Stand By Me. We’ve all got our own personal baggage from our Army days. Every now and then I’ll speak with Farncomb and it’s good for both of us. We’ve got similar issues and it feels good to talk to an old friend who gets it. And Bailey? Well, by all accounts he’s doing super well. I still chuckle when I think about him realizing our “snacks and supplies” joke was actually a Red Hot Chili Peppers song and he was the last guy to get that pop culture reference.

Those were some of the best days of my life. Like I’ve told many people since then, all of my best Army stories have nothing to do with actual Army work. Nowadays I’m a 42 year old IRS agent, but I like to think my friends just consider me not as a Veteran or Government employee, but as a musician, master of comedic timing, a good listener, and an all around awesome person. And sometimes, like right now, I wax nostalgic for those times when I was fortunate enough to escape to the beach with my buddies and forget about life’s problems while we just lived it up as human beings and good friends.

“Road Trippin’ with my two favorite allies
Fully loaded, we got snacks and supplies 
It’s time to leave this town, it’s time to steal away
Let’s go get lost somewhere in the USA.”

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Great God Montagawea

"Oh Great God Montagawea, grant us your favor," the assembly implored in unison. The statue stood still as the theatrics began.

First came the swaying and chanting starting with a low rumble. Over the next minute or so the pitch climbed higher and the swaying turned to stepping then to jumping. What had been a low "ohm" was now shrill exclamations of "awhoo!"

At the sound of a whip-crack, the assembly fell to their knees, silent. The rumbling began again, slowly, gently. It again edged toward ferver, the mass of people now creating waves with their bodies as they plunged down to touch the ground with their foreheads then shot up straight to stretch their arms into the sky. At the height of the activity again a whip cracked. The assembly dove to the floor.