May 2006

May 31st, 2006

The first time someone told me they were a psychic empath it excited me. Up until that moment I felt unique, yet alone. Since, I've met quite a few people who claim to be empathic yet they weren't exactly where I was. So I have created a set of categories or stages to better understand the various stages of amplified empathy.

Stage 1: The Hyper Sensitive

This is the first step of evolution as an empath. A Hyper Sensitive is essentially someone who is, as the name implies, overly sensitive to stimuli. In particular they are extra-sensitive to emotional stimuli perceived via the five senses.

The Hyper Sensitive is often described (or critisized) by others as being "too sensitive". They're gifted with the ability to accurately read people's emotional states with very little effort yet they often lack the skill to distinguish other people's emotions from their own and can easily get caught up in emotional dramas either projecting their states on others or accepting others' emotions as the de facto reality. This is their Achilles Heal.

Other characteristics of the Hyper Sensitive include a very intense emotional life. Hyper Sensitives tend to be passionate and creative, though their creativity can be expressed through left or right brain behaviors (i.e. mathematic for one person, poetry for another). They may sometimes be diagnosed as being Bi-Polar or Manic-Depressive. Additionally, they are highly succeptable to picking up and mimicking others' emotional states as if emotions were no different than a virus. Last but not least after only a few days seeming strangers will often tell the Hyper Sensitive, "I feel like I've known you for years."

The volume of the emotional world is cranked up. They're easily aggitated by negative emotions, highly attracted to positive ones, and want to sooth suffering. The Hyper Sensitive couldn't imagine existing in a world without this intense perception of other people's emotional states.

Stage 2: The Imprinter

As a Hyper Sensitive develops they begin to realize the way they perceive the universe is different than what most others do. Though they don't have a sixth sense, per say, they have what you might call a lesser Super Power, the ability to infer highly accurate information about other people (and even animals) based on very little external input.

Not all Hyper Sensitives become Imprinters; this stage is purely optional. Yet in my experience Hyper Sensitives who have not somehow learned to experience all emotional states with a sense of calm whether they be positive or negative, tend to use their Hyper Sensitivity towards their own gain--and the fact is most people use what they have to get what they want.

Thus the Imprinter is born.

An Imprinter is someone who can read emotional states so well they begin to, consciously or otherwise, absorb, conform to, and manipulate other people's emotional states. And it's only economically logical. If someone wants love and they have the ability to imprint themselves on people they will do a little dance, sing a little song, and push, push, push, until it happens or they've driven the object of their desire away.

The irony is Hyper Sensitives want honesty and true intimacy in their friendships and their relationships and they tend to loath superficiality--yet because their emotional lives are so intense and they have yet to develop a strong ability to balance that intensity and experience it without being swept away by it they tend to imprint, push, or otherwise force others into emotional states, positive or negative, of their choosing. The important point here is the imprinter wants to experience an intimacy and force an emotionally congruous state, that is, they want people to feel they way they feel and if it's not happening...well, the imprinter will throw a tantrum.

The Imprinter will claim to love but demonstrate extreme animosity when they don't get their way.

Stage 3: The Empath

If the dictionary had a definition for Empath it would read:

noun. A mentally balanced Hyper Sensitive with a high emotional IQ.

The Hyper Sensitive is like a child that had a natural talent for art. The Imprinter is like that same child using their art to show off, feel good about themselves, and garnder favour. The Empath is like that same child who realizes they are not a master of their creations so they've studied, they've practiced, they've listened to the advice and criticisms of more knowledgable artists, until they are able to paint masterpieces--yet they're always learning to improve upon what they know.

In specific terms, the Empath recognizes their own emotional intensity and fallibity. They begin to question their perceptions and gain a level of both understanding and control over them that many would consider out of the ordinary. Though the Empathic person continues to have an overly intense emotional life they're in the constant process of learning to experience it without being a slave to it.

To reach this stage of evolution they must question their perceptoin of themselves, of others, of reality itself. On some level they understand that to improve their lives and their sensitivies they must also raise their emotional intelligence to a score of 150 or higher--and, consciously or not, they dedicate most of their waking and sleeping moments to this endevour.

They recognize that unbalanced their empathy leads to both the suffering of those and those they care about. They make it a priority to master their gift.

Stage 4: The Psychic Empath

Once reaching this level of Empathy people experience a hightened state of awareness that grows as they raise their emotional intelligence. Although not always the case, this often opens them up to senses outside the 'normal' five of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. At this point they've become Psychic Empaths.

Because their default perception of the universe is an emotionally super-charged one the Psychic Empath begins to perceive a sixth sense reality via emotional inputs. Although they may have other psychic gifts, emotion (not sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch) is the primary conduit.

For instance if someone they care about gets sick they may begin to feel ill--even if they haven't talked for days or weeks and even if they're on different continents. If someone is thinking about them positively they tend to have that "nose is itching" sensation and if someone is thinking about them negatively they often get sick to the stomach.

After recognizing this gift the Psychic Empath will also begin to understand just how important it is to be able to not only distinguish other people's emotions from their own but also to remain balanced regardless of what they're perceiving on a psychic level. The inability to recognize this and adapt to it can, and often does, de-evolve the Psychic Empath to a state where they become lost in a sea of overwhelming emotions towards a state where they can no longer distinguish reality from fantasy, it all becomes a blur.

Stage 5: ????

I don't know what comes next because I haven't gotten there yet. And if you're asking if I really believe in this crap the answer is, "Yes, yes I do." After you go through what I have you can be as skeptical as you want--and ask Vipassana, I'm a pain in the ass skeptic--but one must accept what the universe presents as truth regardless of how weird and mystical it might seem.


Yesterday I was in a foul mood. When I tell my daughter I'm in a "foul" mood that's my hint to go anywhere else because I'm libel to bite and for no particular reason, with no percentage of fairness or kindness. Yesterday was the most foul I've felt in a long, long time.

I don't know when it started. I wasn't happy after I got up. I didn't want to go to work. At work I overreacted to nearly everything. The empathic perception of negativity from a co-worker would amplify itself a thousand times. I knew this wasn't normal but I didn't feel I had any control over it.

Other times this has occurred I've found I was under psychic attack. I'd learn, only later that day or the next, that this someone was focused on me in a negative way. And so I've learned to spot the psychic colour and smell of a psychic attack and put up emotional barriers to protect myself. That's not what was going on, though. I didn't feel attacked and no amount of mental sheilding did the trick.

It didn't make any sense.

There's a lot that's been going on in my life that's had me down this year, but nothing extreme or unbearable--and I was reacting to suble stimuli to the extreme. At several points during the work day I found myself typing with my eyes close wishing to simply vanish into the blackness of death; it seemed like the most attractive thing I could imagine. Screw everything else I had ever wanted or hoped for, the only realistic thing seemed to be the sweet blackness of the beyond.

And it didn't make sense.

That afternoon I left work a little early and met a co-worker at a motorcycle shop thinking this might help me get out of this funk but I found the motorcycle ride emotionally taxing, almost dangerous. I didn't want to be at the shop, I didn't want to be anywhere, but at least I wanted to be home so I could just lie down. And so I got back on the bike and the ride became more and more horrific and I couldn't understand why I'd ever liked riding--or why I was feeling so dissassociated from everything.

I felt completely lost.

After I arrived home my unfounded despair became so bad I nearly started crying uncontrollably and lashing out for no reason. I really didn't know what was going on, I mean, I have my ups and downs like anyone but this was rediculous. I just wanted to die and almost admitted as much to Vipassanna (I did not for reasons of honor and lessons learned). Then finally I just gave up, fell on the couch, and pulled the comforter up under my chin while stairing blankly at the tv.

I had not felt this way for a long, long time. And there was no reason for it!!!

About fifteen minutes later the phone rang. My immediate response was, "NO! Don't answer that, it's terrible, terrible, DO NOT ANSWER THAT! And if you do, let me stay here and hide!" Granted, I felt antisocial but the emotions I were feeling were utter terror. It didn't make sense.

Vipassana came in a few minutes later. A co-worker of hers had committed suicide. And suddenly I started to feel better and better. By the time I went to bed last night I felt almost compleely recovered. This morning I felt normal again.

There is nothing easy about being a Psychic Empath but I do know this, the gifts outweight the challenges and someday, somewhere, someone will simply accept it for what it is, accept me for who I am. That will be a wonderful day.

May 30th, 2006

A friend sent this to me last week and I really needed it today:


Just in case you've had a rough day, here's an 8 step stress management technique recommended in the latest psychological texts. It really works...

1. Picture yourself near a stream.

2. Birds are softly chirping in the cool mountain air.

3. No one but you knows your secret place.

4. You are in total seclusion from the hectic place called "The World."

5. The soothing sound of a gentle waterfall fills the air with a cascade of serenity.

6. The water is crystal clear.

7. You can easily make out the face of the person you're holding underwater.

8. See it worked? You're smiling already...

May 29th, 2006

Sunday morning I woke at 6am. Thinking I'd overslept again I jumped out of bed and went to the showers with my things only to find it was still very early. I had breakfast and packed everything and took some footage of the campsite, but otherwise I was on the bike by 9am and was on the bike until 2:30 that afternoon with only two stops for gas and most of those 300 miles being battered by rain. It was the longest, most boring, and most challenging ride of my life.

And that's pretty much the end of my trip. Now I'm back. I'm back to the seemingly constant challenges and beuracracy of work, back to the responsibility of bills and house work, back to the seemingly impossible task of being a father to a pre-teen, back to waking up on time and getting to work on time and getting enough done so I can leave on time and picking up the little girl and having dinner and completing a few tasks around the house and winding down and getting to bed on time and all the while having few to no friends or support systems but somehow having to pull everything together and keep my head on straight and be there for a little girl and my best friend and sometimes...sometimes I don't feel like that's good enough.

Perhaps I am a little hard on myself and I admit, it's hard for me at times. I've seen a lot. I've been through a lot. I've made some really dumb choices. The last five years of my life have been full of joy and of sorrow. And sometimes I just want to scream.

And sometimes all I want to do is motorcycle. It's straight forward and its rewards and punishments are immediate, obvious, and logical. If I prepare myself mentally, emotionally, and physically, if I take care of the mechanics of my bike, if I plan my route, have the right gear for the weather, and take all the precautions necessary I can spend days if not weeks riding and experiencing joy upon joy. Sure, if I'm not careful I could shoot off the road or into an oncoming vehicle and that would be the end but for the most part that's in my hands!

True, multivehicle accidents do happen but the reality is other drivers have my safety in mind. They may not say this but after you pass a few thousand SUVs you eventually realize you put a lot of trust that they're keeping their eyes on the road and not swerving all over the place. To get on a bike and go out there on the road with these huge tanks barrelling at you--that's all about trust and not just simple trust, but the ability to put your life in the hands of complete strangers, to trust that on some level they care about your safety, your well being, and your life.

Why that care for each other doesn't extend to our day to day lives, I'll never quite understand. Most of us like to say we're loyal and caring but the truth is when the day ends we've judged more than we've cared and we've walked away more than we've listened. Maybe it's just economics, we don't swerve on the road because the price is too high (insurance, guilt, etc.) whereas a white lie or a subtle manipulation or what have you, that falls into the category of convenient and beneficial.

We don't swerve because we don't want to get in a wreck with someone else but we'll slander them because we don't want to get in a wreck with ourselves.

I like riding because the road doesn't play games with me, the road is something I can trust and the weather, although not always appealing, reminds me of the joys and miseries of life. I like riding because I can ride when I want to ride and I can stop when want to stop. I like riding because I can go anywhere at any speed and I can enjoy the smells and I feel like I can reach out and touch the hills and the mountains. I love motorcycling because I can do it alone or with others, because it's honest, and because I always get out of it exactly what I put into it.

Now I am home again. And I am tired.


May 28th, 2006

The trip east was beautiful. I couldn't have asked for better weather or a better road. In fact after this trip I was to tell friends and colleges that the best motorcycle roads in all of Oregon are in North East Oregon.

At the start my goal was to get to Halfway, Oregon. I'd set out to do that in the morning coming from the north but as I mentioned before the pass was closed due to several feet of snow. The reason for stopping Halfway (pun intended) was time, i.e. not enough of it. Since it was about 2pm I'd probably reach Halfway by 3 or so. If I turned straight around I'd be back in Baker City a little after 4 and then maybe back at the campground by 6 or so, before dark. It was definitely the long way round.

Now let me tell you a little something about traveling on a motorcycle at night. A motorcycle's low beam doesn't cover that much ground. In fact they're designed to point only far enough ahead to allow you to ride safely at about 35mph, but no faster or you're seriously overriding your sight distance. I have no clue who designed them this way but my guess has been to 1) discourage too many motorcyclist from traveling at night when it's most dangerous and because 2) it was legislated (for example in most, if not all, states it's illegal to ride on a bike, day or night, without the headlight on).

On the other hand you can ride with your high beam on which gives you plenty of vision on those dark, lonely country roads. And for the most part oncoming traffic will ignore this--they probably assume at first that you're in a car and the other headlight is out then realizing your a motorcycle forgive you as they know you're just playing it safe. And truth be told that's what I often find myself doing when I get caught riding in the dark, keep that high beam on because safety, in my opinion, overrides the oncoming cars moment of annoyance.

But I didn't want to be caught riding in the dark on these roads. I wasn't worried about traffic or the possible drunks who'd just finished up at the local bars. And I wasn't worried about not being able to see and plan an entire turn before hitting it. I was worried about mother nature. I was worried about deer.

Having hit and killed about half a dozen deer while driving behind the wheel of a heavily fortified Volvo Stationwagon I knew that these creatures, though beautiful, were very large, very dumb, and very deadly. For a motorcyclist hitting a deer is akin to hitting a brick wall. And it's not just deer, the stories of motorcyclists dying after hitting moose, elk, and buffalo are many. I've even heard one story of a cyclist hitting a bear, falling to the road, then being mauled to death by the animal who was pissed by the whole thing.

That's not how I want to spend the end of my life!

And so I pushed a little harder than I otherwise might and I hit the corners a little harder than I otherwise might and I found this to be a rather interesting excercise. You see, now I was seeing oncoming motorcyclists. Single riders, groups of riders, hundreds and hundreds of them! They were probably going back to Baker City after having visiting the canyon. So, as polite motorcyclists do, we stuck out our left hands in a wave to say, "Hey, you're on two wheels? I'm on two wheels! Take it easy!" and I found myself sometimes holding my hand out for five, ten, and twenty seconds at a time as larger groups of cyclists shot by my left.

The challenge wasn't on the straight-a-ways but the long corners. I didn't want to be rude so I'd wave but I found my cornering wasn't nearly as proficient or safe so I examined what I was doing a little closer. First and foremost, I discovered that when I wave I tend to look right into the eyes of the oncoming rider. On a bike this is safe enough while going straight but when cornering your eyes AND your head should be facing directly into the turn. That's how the professional racers do it, that's how we're trained to do it in the motorcycle safety classes, and that's what we learn works.

Or you go in a ditch...not that I'd know from first hand experiencing going into a ditch on my first day out (Scott!)...but anyways...

No more looking into the faces of oncoming riders while going into or navigating a corner. Second, on corners going towards the right taking my left hand hand off the handlebar for an extended period was safe enough given that I was counter steering the bike into a lean with my right hand ("Push right, lean right")--but on a left hand corner I needed that hand on the left handlebar so I kept it on and lifted my fingers in a polite but kurt wave while I nodded my head.

The number of oncoming cyclists gave me ample opportunity to practice this and see all sort of biker. I can't even begin to describe the variations. There were the older bikers on their large Harley touring cruisers and their counterparts on Honda Goldwings. There were those on Hogs and those on bikes with huge strakes and a few on sport bikes. What I found most interesting were couples. Most, you'd find, were sharing the same bike: guy on front, gal on back. A few had separate bikes (though these were harder to spot, especially since they tended to wear full face helmets). The variation, though leaning towards cruiser riders wearing leathers, seemed infinite.

I used this opportunity to see if I could determine what made some bikers wave and others not. As I've described before, many Harley riders are--how do I put this politely--assholes. Yeah, that's about as polite as I'm going to attempt and make it. You see, they won't wave at you once they realize you're not riding a Harley. And from the front end my bike almost looks like it could be one so sometimes I'll see the oncoming biker look at me really hard. My jacket and helmet is obviously not the kind of thing a cruiser rider would wear (although this is slowly changing as riders begin to value safety over appearance) so they'll look and they'll look harder then they see the side of the bike and look straight ahead and pretend they never saw me.

So forgive me but I think that someone that judges your worth based on something you own is a bonified asshole and frankly, an ignoramous. Someone waves at you, wave. Someone smiles at you, smile. It's that simple.

I digress...I've been trying to see if there's some common factors that distinguish the asshole from the decent Harley rider. And honestly I can't. I saw plenty of Harley owners who wouldn't wave but there was nothing particular to them. Some wore full jackets, pants, and full face helmets. Others, as I found in Idaho, were wearing blue jeans, t-shirts, and no helmets. If I took all of these people, threw them in a large barrel, then shook it up, one in ten wouldn't wave and it would seem absolutely random.

For instance I recall quite clearly coming around a corner and seeing a guy on a bike with a huge strake and high ape hangars (handlebars you pretty much hang off of like an ape). He was wearing a half helmet, sunglasses, and hellish looking black t-shirt. His hair was long, his face hair unkempt, and I expected him to shoot on by without the slightest acknowledgement of my existence. The wave and huge smile he gave me as we passed each other was one of the most beautiful ones I experienced the entire weekend and I'll carry this memory with me for the rest of my life.

I love it when my assumptions are challenged. I love a good suprise!

A few hundred waves later I found myself in Halfway, Oregon. I slowed down to 30mph and flipped open my face shield. The air felt good. The little country town was full of bikers, dozens of them. I kept finding the same thing in most of the small towns in Eastern, Oregon and couldn't imagine how many thousands of motorcyclists must be within a hundred miles distance.

I turned around and stopped at a small gas station at the outskirts of town to stretch my legs and clean the bugs off of my helmet. There were half a dozen other bikers there and a man with a blue Yamaha FJR (I'm so envious!). An older man, maybe in his sixties, commented about the bugs and I laughed and said, "That's what happens when you ride naked." As they were in a group, several of them couples riding on the same bikes, I started to feel a little lonely. Too bad Vipassana wasn't here, I know she'd love it.

I took several pictures, got on the bike, and decided to get back on the road and continue to the canyon. At the very least I could stop at the canyon then turn back and maybe, just maybe, beat nightfall.

And so off I went. I'm not going to tell you too much about the rest of that leg of the ride as I've created videos up on the Visions page to share this experience, but let me simply say I decided to go all the way up to the dam, a twenty mile ride up the Snake River up one of the most fun motorcycle roads I've ever experienced up one of the most beautiful places I've been on God's green earth.

Truth be told I didn't want to leave. I wanted to stay and take hundreds of photographs. I wanted to turn around and enjoy the road a second time. I wanted to cross the dam and head north on the Oregon side of the river. I wanted to ride simply to ride! If the pass wasn't snowed in I knew I could have headed back to Halfway then north on 82 back to Joseph, a trip that would have taken an hour or so. But nope, nature wasn't on my side this year it was back to Halfway then Baker City then La Grande then Enterprise and finally Joseph.

Are you getting loopy now?

I was!

It's fairly late in the afternoon and I know I'm one of the last riders to be out this way, most of the others are back in Baker City or on their way back and I, jeeze, I still have almost two hundred miles to ride before I get back to camp! In a way I envied all those other riders with motels back in the city but then I wouldn't have had all the wonderful experiences I'd had so far if I'd stayed in some Super 8 motel with HBO and Skin-a-Max.

So back I pushed and I pushed and I pushed. I stopped a few times to clean my face shield, get gas, and I typically met one or two other bikers at these quick stops. One couple, I recall, was on a BMW 1200GS and his wife on a little silver Kawasaki Ninja. He offered me some windex wipes which worked awesome on the face shield (I need to remember to take these on my next trip). I thought that might be Vipassana and me in fifteen years (after V gets over her fear of sports bikes). Later that day when I followed behind them on I-84 then went off the off-ramp into Baker City (to get gas before heading to Joseph, again) I saw the woman tip-toe her bike at the stop sign. Oh, I hope she lowers that bike 3 inches next time it's in the shop!

I pushed and pushed.

About two-thirds of the way from Halfway to Baker the left speaker in my helmet started to crackle with the beat of the music before finally going silent. As you know, something similar happened on Thursday and it was due to a short in the extension cord so my first thought was that it had to be the same thing (along with a lot of frustration--after all, I was fresh out of working cords). After a bit of playing around with the cords on the bike then later stopping and messing with the speakers in the helmet I determined the speaker was blown--which frustrated me to no end.

So I did as I had before, found some podcasts to listen to. In this case it was an episode of Ghostly Talk. Unfortunately I had to crank it as the right headphone was never as loud as the left and my left ear was just getting wind. Frustrating, frustrating, and I kicked myself for not bringing an extra set of ear nub headphones for just such an occassion--I am such a music and podcast junkie on the bike, I admit it!!!


Anyhow, the sunset is beautiful but it's getting darker and colder and I'm getting a little worried about when I'd make it back to camp. There are gates at the camp, I know, and check-in time ends at 9pm so I'm wondering if they close the gates. Probably not, I reason, as it would trap everyone in the camp ground and I did see people leave and come back into camp around 10pm the night before...still, it ate at the back of my mind as the shadows got longer and then everything was in cold and shadow and I found myself being more vigilant as I scanned the countriside for deer and other animals. And indeed, before it became totally dark a very young and vibrant buck jumped about two hundred feet in front of me; I simply tapped on the breaks, shifted down two gears, and kept my left thumb on the horn as he headed straight across the roadway and up a hill to my right without a backwards glance. Smart deer, that's how I like them.

All told that night I saw one deer, two foxes, a cat, and something else but it alludes me now that it's almost a week later. That reminds me, though, on the way from Prineville to Baker City these little chipmunk type animals kept running across the road, I must have seen twenty or thirty of the funny looking little things. Dunno what they were but they knew well enough to cross well before I was within striking distance. Now the I recall the oddest thing wasn't that I saw so many but they were always running from my left to the right, from North to South. I wonder what was up with that...

I arrived at camp around 9:30 and I was chilled and ready to warm my hands over a fire. It was pitch dark and most of the other campers were asleep. A few, I saw, were still out around their fires talking quietly. I pulled into my spot and kept the bike light on while dismounting the gear, putting everything away, and getting a fire started. After many trips between the picnic table, the bike, and my tent I was ready to sit down, enjoy a Henry's Ale, and get something to eat. I had some canned soup but given that the pot was dirty from the night before I didn't have the patience. So I opened the MRE I'd bought in Portland and found a plethora of tiny things inside it including condiments, coffee packet, hot chocolate packet, M&Ms, a large cracker with squeeze out cheese, apple sauce, and the main course, chicken noodle soup. But it was dark and having never prepared an MRE I didn't feel like trying to read the directions and go through the motions in the near complete dark.

So I ate the M&M's and the cracker (and some trail mix I had leftover from the day), the rest of the MRE I'd have for breakfast. And it made good sense too, tonight I had a fire but tomorrow morning I wouldn't so having a self heating meal for then only made good sense. So I drank two beers and ate these little tid bits, ran off to the bathroom, then crawled deep into the tent. That day I'd spent almost twelve hours on the bike stopping only about six times, the longest of them being for less than half an hour at the motorcycle rally. This was the longest I'd ever ridden and that night I fell fast asleep.


May 26th, 2006

There's something about sleeping on the earth that causes you to sleep until you've had just enough and then get up. Sure, I wanted to sleep in a little but my body said it had had enough and my back, hips, and shoulders said they had had enough and my skin said it had had enough of dirty-sweaty clothes so I was up and hoping I hadn't woken too late to get one of the showers. I was surprised to find not only did I not oversleep the alarm on my phone, which I'd set for 8am, but was up and ready to greet the day at a bright and early 6:45am.

Miracles do happen!

The showers, of course, were empty. Those in trailers were probably still asleep in their semi-comfortable beds and those with wives and girlfriends were snuggling close, at least if they knew how to appreciate such things.

I have found that it is easy to appreciate things you don't have.  It is also easy to appreciate something you have reason to believe you won't have.  For instance, I didn't think I'd be taking a nice warm shower while I was camping and if I wanted to get clean I'd either have to go to a motel or go skinny dipping after everyone had fallen asleep.  So what the concrete floor was cold and there was no heat in the room?  So what the water pressure wasn't anywhere as high as at my house and I kept having to hit the timer button to keep the water going?  So what if I was using "camper's soap" and it was taking near forever to get washed up?  The water was warm, the steam was welcome, and it was a wonderful way to start out my day!

I have also found it is foolish to ignore, consciously or otherwise, the things you do have.  This kind of unappreciative attitude can be a kind of poison that keeps you from experiencing the moment, prevents you from appreciating not only what you do have, but also not notice when something surprising and wonderful comes to the forefront.  The inability to appreciate the present moment is one of the greatest illnesses of the American culture, we always want more, we always want "better"--we're a culture of perpetually hungry ghosts and we're never happy with our home or our car or our friends or our lovers.

And so we never really learn to love. 

Do you understand?

Outside it began to drizzle but I gave thanks.  I'd enjoyed a warm shower.  I was wearing clean clothes.  My water proof gear was already on.  Now I simply had to pack the bike, look at the map, and hit the road.

I wasn't sure what to expect for the day ahead.  I was on the rally route but over a hundred miles from Baker City.  Would I see fellow motorcyclists this early in the morning?  Would I find a quiet-friendly restaurant to sit down and enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee and maybe some bacon and eggs?  Would I get rained on?  Would my tent, sleeping bag, and other camping items get stolen or vandalized while I was gone?

Answers:  No.  No.  Yes.  No.

Leaving my tent and other non-necessary gear at the camp site was a huge leap in trust.  I'm going to be honest, I don't have a lot of trust in other people.  The universe, yes, people, no.  Perhaps this is a rather negative point of view but just like you I am a creature of my experience.  In terms of property I've had things stolen and I've had cars vandalized at least a dozen times (specifically slashed tires, broken windows, bent windshield wipers, dented doors, and a ripped off radio antana).

As I suggested yesterday I trust people to be who they are but I don't "trust" people in the sense that I don't trust them to care about my wellbeing if/when is economical for them not to.  So leaving a $70 tent and a $50 sleeping bag and $50 worth of clothes and $50 worth of camping gear and a $20 was not easy for me.  Experience is the maker of expectation and my expectation was not a positive one. To put another way the more times I have experienced theft and vandalism the more the neural nets in my brain wire themselves to understand and protect me against this phenomenon.

And sometimes such adaptations, though useful for awhile, can slowly become maladaptive.

The neural nets in our minds can be overwritten.  And not by accident either, we need to want to rewrite them, we need to take the difficult leaps, we need to step outside of our comfort zones and do things we wouldn't automatically do because what we'd automatically do is exactly in comformance to our patterns and behaviors and if we want to change those neural patterns we gotta think and act outside of the box! In my case this meant leaving my things and allowing myself to let go of any nervousness I had about this.  And I don't know what was harder, physically leaving the campground or emotionally being present to the moment instead of constantly wondering if someone were taking advantage of my absence.  Truth be told I did wonder a few times that day but always put this aside as any concern was rediculous and pointless especially when I was over 200 miles away!

The strongest faith you can have is in giving away all certainty and accept any possible outcome.

My second exercise in trust that morning was to stop at the grocery store in Joseph.  You see, the night before while I lay in the tent I searched through my bike bag to look at and read through the Hell's Canyon Rally pamphlet but lo and behold I couldn't find it.  I realized, only begrudgingly, that I'd set it in the grocery cart at the little grocery store earlier that afternoon, and that it was most likely still in the cart or had been found and kept or thrown away.  Either way, I no longer had the "official" route map.  Granted, it wasn't necessary as I had other Oregon maps handy but it would one day serve as a piece of memorabilia for the collection hence I wanted it back but did I really want to stop at the grocery store and ask?  What a pain, I'd have to park and take off the helmet and either take everything off the bike (again) or leave it all on and put more trust in the universe (again).

But what's a Saturday with only one personal challenge!?

So I parked, left my things on the bike, and met a beautiful and "large" Native American girl who was friendly and looked around but didn't find anything.  I walked over to the grocery carts and wow, there it was, the tan manila envelope simply lying in the bottom of one of them.  We both laughed over this and I went out to the bike and put it back in my bag thanking the universe for taking care of it for me.  I then realized I didn't know where the turn off from 86 to 82 was (I didn't see it the previous evening while going through Joseph and I certainly didn't spot it this morning) so I went in and asked which direction to head and she said go back up 86

"It's obvious, you can't miss it!!!"

Oh, but I did miss it and I missed it big time!!!  I missed it so terribly I went all the way back to Enterprise, stopped to top off my gas tank, and asked the gas attendant where 82 was and he said there was no such road.  Given that he handed me the gas nozzle by the actual nozzle and not by the handle I wondered if he was suffering from toxic gas poisoning but the reality was he wasn't interested in being helpful and didn't seem to be kind towards bikers--and sometimes that's just how people are.  So I said thank you, took out my map, and verified that the turn off was in Joseph.

Back to Joseph! (this, as it turns out, is one thing I did a lot this weekend)

Wanna hear something funny?  The turn off from 86 to 82 was the intersection AT the little grocery store in Joseph!  Why hadn't I noticed this before?  Because the road sign was only visible when you are headed south, NOT when you're going north, so the only way I would have seen it was traveling from Enterprise to Joseph not from the lake to Joseph!

I took the turn.  It started to rain.  I hoped for sun.  Biking in the rain can be miserable.  Not as terrible as some would think but not the kind of thing you intentionally do for fun not only for the reason of being cold and wet but also because you can't wiggle your booty around on the bike as safely.  So there I am and it's raining and then it's not raining and I can see a rainbow in my rear view mirror and the middle is over Joseph and one end of it is hovering over Wallowa lake.

I'm not seeing any bikers.  Strange, I think to myself, the pamphlet says those taking this route would be leaving Baker City at 6am.  It's 9am so I "should" be seeing a few gaggles by now.  But nope, mile after mile of beautiful countryside and no bikers.  I start to wonder if they're all afraid of getting their shiny chrome cruisers wet or dirty. 

Fair weather bikers!!!

Now the highway is going down into the hills and there are curves.  Good.  The road is starting to dry out a bit.  Also good.  Down to the right there's a small valley.  There's a river going down one side of the valley and a very old looking home, at least a hundred years old, that's fallen in on itself.  This place is secluded and serene and I think if I were to live out in nature, out away from everything, this is the kind of warm, hidden place I would be able to enjoy.  I'm so busy fantasizing about this little home in the valley that I almost miss the huge "Scenic Route" sign and have to hit the breaks and quickly downshift.  The sign doesn't indicate a highway number but to the right is the road to Halfway, Oregon, and that's the way I'm headed so it's off to the right and up a road deeper into this beautiful valley.

I look for the little broken house but I can't see it from this side.  Farther up the road I see more modern houses, one a log cabin with detached garage and some other buildings.  What a wonderful place to live, I think as I notice the road get worse and worse.  A road sign says "Bad Road" or some such thing and I think it should say "Careful:  Shitty Road".  The road narrows and there are no stripes so I slow down as there are a lot of corners and I don't want to run head on into an oncoming biker.  The farther I get the more pot holes and debris I find myself dodging as I listen to the music in my helmet.  After fifteen minutes of this slow ride I pull over at an intersection by a creek, get off the bike, and find a tree to relieve myself on.  I then take a few pictures of the snow which seems to have crept up around the river, and my little people who seem to be enjoying this ride up into the beautiful middle of nowhere.

While taking pictures of my little friends I couldn't help but realize this was probably the farthest I'd ever been from another human being.  As far as I knew the closest person was back in or around Joseph.  I felt a little lonely, wished I had a road buddy to talk to, but at the same time I felt a sense of strength.  If something happened I had enough food and water to last several days and I wasn't so far from Joseph that I wouldn't be able to push my bike back if push literally came to shove.  The only sound besides my breath was the creek.  It was an eerilee peaceful feeling I've only experienced a few times in this life, something one rarely if ever experiences in the city.

As I headed farther up the road my concern turned into a state of understated panic. The road worsened and no, it wasn't the number of pot holes but rocks and debris from trees that was worrying me now. I slowed even more and looked at the trip computer. I only had twenty or so miles to go, I could do this. That's when the roadside snow was now slush on the road. I found myself dodging my way around these piles of snow and ice but just for the hell of it I decided to ride straight over a ten foot patch of ice because...well...I always have to try something once.

I stayed upright but I won't be doing THAT again anytime soon :)

At least I'd had the forethought to put my winter gloves on, that kept me hopeful. And it wasn't raining, that was good. But when I saw a "side road" lead off to the right covered in a foot of snow and ice and two 4x4 pickups stuck in it--I felt a chill. But I kept going, I just kept going straight up the road and it slowly transformed from concrete to gravel and then gravel and slush and ice. I slowed down and used this as an opportunity to get more experience riding on such an uncertain surface then after several miles stopped at a sign. This was a forest service road, not 82.

What the hell?

Now I was getting upset and more than a little frightened. I'd gotten up early in the morning to get to the rally but had seemingly wasted the last two hours going out in the middle of nowhere, farther away from other human beings than I'd ever been, and I was out on a shitty forest service road that wasn't on my map. I must have taken the wrong turn way, way, back by that little broken down shack in the valley. Or maybe that road with the trucks was the way to Halfway--but that didn't make much sense, I mean, if the motorcycle route was closed you'd think that the organizers would have had the courtesy to at least post such information on the web site!

1) The turn with the pickups was the route to Halfway.
2) The organizers expected us all to fend for ourselves. Guess that's what my $20 registration fee was for!

So I'm pretty frustrated and I want out of this forest and I want to get back to that road by the little shack in the valley to see if I made the right turn and if this whole jaunt into the middle of the mountains was a wild goose chase or not. I'm pushing down a panic attack which I can feel coming on and though I don't readily admit such things to you, as an empath I have always been succeptable to others' emotional states and given I've been around a few people that used to have panic attacks I started to have them around 1998/99--and it wasn't until about three years ago where I stopped having them regularly. I know, I know, this is a tangent but I have to describe this contrast because I don't have full blown panic attacks anymore and this was the closest I've come to having one in a great long while.

It sucked.

Yet I kept reassuring myself with the simple knowledge that all I needed to do was follow the crappy road back and avoid the road debris and pot holes and I could stop in Joseph to stretch my legs and catch my breath and thank the maker before making up for lost time.

But it was not a happy ride.

Eventually I made it down to the turn in the valley, stop at the intersection, and pull out my map. Sure enough I was on the right road. I couldn't believe (and still can't) that the organizers of such a large event published maps and routes but didn't take the time to check the state of the passes.

And that's when I noticed a white truck turn around in the road and pull up to me.

"You okay?" asked the driver. I explained my situation and that I'd found my way and he told me the pass had been closed due to heavy snow this year. I told him this was the route for the motorcycle rally and we both laughed. We chatted for a few more minutes as he was also a motorcyclist. I thanked him for his kindness and wished him well. I then let out the clutch and shot back up highway 82 towards Joseph.

The trip to La Grande then to Baker City is fairly uneventful. The weather wasn't that great but not terrible. Though I had my full rain gear on there wasn't even a drizzle and it looked like the day might actually get pretty nice. Mainly, if you must know, my butt hurt a lot from all the riding I'd done since 9am. So I stopped at a rest stop on I-84, took all my gear off the bike, removed the rain gear, and sat at a picnic table for fifteen minutes or so and enjoyed a Red Bull and trail mix then took a few pictures of my little friends again.

Then "Ouch, Ouch, Ouch" monkey butt! On to Baker City!

It was two or three o'clock by the time I arrived and I was feeling worn out. I mean, I'd spent the morning running around the mountains and here I was in Baker City seeing biker after biker on clean shiny bikes and my bike was COVERED in mud as if I'd been dirt biking.

I HAD been dirt biking!

So not only was I riding a sports bike in a city full of cruisers but their bikes were all shined to a glow and mine looked like it had been through pig slop. The maker provides, though, and I found I had to do a quick run around a block to get back to the car wash run by some high school kids. Took me a bit to take everything off the bike but after five minutes they had it suds up then washed and dried and it was almost as perty as it was when I first bought it (actually, I take that back, after almost eight thousand miles of beautiful experiences on the bike it was much more beautiful than when I first bought it). Though I rarely carry cash I'd brought $40 on the trip knowing that I'd need it so pulled out a $20 and handed it to them before heading downtown (but please don't tell my daughter this as I only pay her $1 for a wash and wax!).

I'd asked them if there was a motorcycle shop in town and they'd given me about five or six sets of directions, most of which I ignored. I'd actually seen the shop on my way into town on highway 7 the day before so I had some idea which directon to head so I headed in that general direction as it seemed the thing to do. And after getting to downtown where two blocks were closed to through traffic and dozens of motorcycles were lined up against the sidewalk I stopped at the Yamaha dealership, drooled over this guy's Blue Yamaha FJR, then bought some chain lubricant (something you always want to put on after a heavy rain and/or washing your bike). I then headed back to the blocked off area, backed the bike up against the curb, and raised it onto the center stand so I could spray lube evenly over the entire chain.

This was the second type of lube I've used. The first type was in a bottle and had to be squirted on the chain. Goddess, that stuff was a pain in the arse and not only that, it got all over the ground and as soon as you got moving it splattered everywhere! This stuff sprayed right on the chain and STAYED on the chain.

Zen and the Art of--oh shit, no cliche's--back to my story!

I got the tank bag and converted the Joe Rocket bag into a back pack. It was quite heavy and hot out so I quickly started to sweat inside my jacket but I wasn't going to leave several thousand dollars of audio/video equipment on the bike--this was a weekend to trust but not that much, lol. So I was walking around with a heavy load on my back and a camera in my right hand. I didn't know at the time but I'd missed the larger packs of bikers, they were currently up on the other side of Highway 82 going towards halfway or the Idaho/Oregon border. Still, I saw plenty of beautiful bikes. Cruisers, classics, standards, sport bikes, touring bikes, you name it, it was there. And every now and then a motorcycle would go through and roll on the throttle kicking out a loud growl and the crowd would cheer; the louder the muffler the louder the cheering. The energy was great but I had to laugh, no one would cheer if I rolled the throttle on my machine.

It purrs like a kitten.

I snapped many good pictures and saw more high school kids earning money doing their "hog wash". And after crossing the other side of the road I began wondering if I'd try to get to Hell's Canyon. It was around 3pm now and if I was to make it out there it'd be pretty late by the time I got back to the campsite in Joseph and I didn't want to be riding in deer country after dark for many, many reasons. It was then as my mind examined the possibilities that I saw someone that reminded me of someone I know and love and as is sometimes the case this turned out to be one of those psychic inklings as the next thing I saw after thinking this was a sign for Crazy Matilda's Coffee Shop (or some such thing). I won't go into the explanation, if she's reading this she'll understand and even then it's not necessary for her to, if you understand my meaning.

I kept walking, though, and had to stop myself. I'd had one of "those" experiences--was I just going to keep walking on down the sidewalk blindly stairing at bikes? How stupid was that? So I turn to the right and allowed myself to be pulled as if by a psychic rope into the coffee shop where I ordered something and sat down on a couch.

I wasn't sure why I was there or if I was to learn anything. What I did know is I loved the energy of this coffee shop. There were all manner of chairs and couches in all manner of styles and colours. Beautiful art covered the walls and it was just--how do I explain? The energy just felt good, colourful, positive, creative. Even the bathrooms were fun. In my eccentricity I took several pictures before using the facility.

And maybe that's all there was to the experience. Maybe the universe linked me to a beautiful place that reminded me of a beautiful person. "Don't walk by in ignorance," suggests the universe, "Go in, sit, relax, breath, and enjoy the beauty of this simple place."

Sometimes we miss the message because we make them more complicated than they are.

Do you understand?

Back outside I took a few more pictures trying to capture the entire two blocks in several shots. I then spoke with several guys who were interested in my bike. Then it was back on and out of town. I had decided to head to Hell's Canyon after all, after all that's what I was here for (?) wasn't I (?) and I wasn't a quitter (?) was I (?) so there we are and that's where I'll leave you for now.

Take care and goodnight,

May 23rd, 2006

Thursday night I got to sleep in a bed. No shit, this was the first time in years, maybe even a decade, where I didn't end up sleeping on the couch watching tv either through choice or because my parents were staying up late watching cop show after cop show. TJ Hooker one year, CSI the next. Some things change in form only.

So I slept in my sister's old bed and knowing I'd be riding several hundred miles first thing in the morning I settled down early, which for me means around 10pm.

I meant to be up by 8am. I swear, I really did! I said, "Hey, would you wake me up by eight?" and my dad just laughed. And indeed when my mom knocked on the door at 8am my first reaction was to cover my head and seek the warm comfort of the blankets and my dreams. I mean, if I got out of that comfortable bed I'd have to take a shower and brush my teeth and get everything packed onto the bike again and have breakfast then get all the gear on and endure the heat of all those extra layers until I got out on the road and then the possible rain and cold weather and oh, it seemed like such a hassle.

Why was I on this silly quest, anyhow? Oh yeah, warm blankets. Zzzz...

Slept in about fifteen minutes and/or until my dad gave me a hard time then counted to one hundred--a strategy I sometimes perform to give myself at least another minute of sloth--a highly questionable strategy which often leaves me oversleeping the alarm. But this particular morning I hit the magic one hundred and though I contemplated the idea of just nodding off my feet lept out of bed and I found myself following them quickly into the bathroom, naked, and feeling the hot water run over my body. This, I was sure, was the last real shower I'd have for the next two days so I enjoyed it in earnest.

That morning my mother made poached eggs and toast. She'd also made coffee and when offered I declined knowing that coffee = urine and once you get three or four layers of motorcycle gear on the last thing you want to be doing is stopping every 30 minutes to find a tree and work your willie out fifteen hundred zippers towards freedom! On the other hand dad said she never made coffee when I wasn't around so what the hell, could I really turn down a cup? As my daughter would say, "How rude!"

So I enjoyed one cup of very strong, very black coffee.

Saying goodbye that morning was very strange. I had so much on my mind it was difficult to communicate; my mind was on the bike, on the gear, on the road. And my parents were also on a trip to California so we were all planning and getting ready but I had to get off sooner, I was on two wheels, I needed to beat any potential thunder or rain storms, I wanted to insure I could take my time as opposed to being in a hurry. And so it was breakfast and coffee and one last minute run to the bathroom followed by hugs, a hop on the bike, and out the garage past the old highschool and onto 26.

On my way out of town I noticed some new stores being built and a Dollar Tree I'd not noticed before. On my way out of town I noticed a church where the old drive in theatre where I'd first seen Star Wars had once been. On my way out of town I noticed fields that were now covered in concrete.

I took a left at the old gas station and left highway 26 for a few minutes. This was the road my school bus used to take, on the right was the house a friend used to live in, on the left the hill we used to climb, where we'd found a roll of toilet paper and in our foolish youth let it all fly in the wind and catch on the twisted branches of the juniper trees. Around the curve I took a right past an old school mate's home. Up ahead only a few miles was the country home I moved into when I was three years old, the house I have always considered home, the house that appears in my dreams from time to time.

I found myself on the verge of tears. I didn't know why but I was overwelmed with sorrow and feelings of loss. I wanted to go back, I wanted to be ten again and live in a time and a world that was much more simple, in a world with more fields than concrete, with more hope and mystery that faith and foresight. True, at that age I didn't have all the $$$ or the freedoms, but I woke up in the morning and the world was simple. I had hope. I had people I believed in and people who believed in me. I believed I'd grow up, go to MIT, become a successful scientiest or lawyer, make a difference, meet a beautiful woman, get married, raise a family...but somehow I got sidetracked by psychology.

Oh sweet naivity!

Before I saw the house I couldn't help but notice how fast I could get there on a motorcycle. Seemed like the trip took half the time as it would have in a car. In contrast while I was in middle and high school I used to ride a ten speed bicycle from the countryside to town and back and forth. When I was younger I did this to visit a friend and play Dungeons & Dragons. As I got older it was to hang out, play video games, and smoke--and then later to escape from my family. Yet even after he bought his Porsche (which later broke down) and then his Nissan truck he rarely got off his ass to come out to visit. And even after I moved to Eugene I found I was usually, if not always, the one crossing hundreds of miles to hang out with him and watch him play video games and smoke cigarettes.

We don't talk anymore him and I. I have only one friend from my former life and he is not one of them; perhaps he never really was. Riding on my motorcycle reminded me of a time where I'd put every last bit of energy into people who put very little back into me. If I had to make the same choice again, to bicycle or not to bicycle into town, I would stay out in the country and read a book.

It has taken me a long, long time to realize my worth.

I didn't cry in my helmet. I wasn't going to give in to sorrow but I must admit there was sorrow in my heart as I saw my old bedroom window and I thought about all the sights and smells and memories I'd had both inside and outside that room. I missed laying in bed at night and smelling the mint fields being harvested in the summer. I missed having twelve channels on the tele and standing in front of the fireplace on a cold winter morning before school. I missed standing out and waiting for the school bus and I missed not having any worries besides that one homework assignment, a few simple chores, and...

...and I stopped at Johnson Creek Road and I took a right, followed it for a mile, then headed east again on highway 26. The trip eastward had officially begun.

A mile later I saw the home of Les Schwab, the namesake of Les Schwab Tires. Around a curve was the Ochoco dam where the Lutheran minister I had grown up under taught my brother and I how to lure fish. Oh, we'd lost so many expensive lures on those dam rocks and caught so few fish! And I remember the day I went out on the lake on my own in a little two man yellow rubber dingy paddling, paddling, paddling, with my fishing line following behind in the water, the bobber going up and down. I knew how to make due back then. Or you could say I didn't know how not to.

Looking back I think I was looking for an excuse for a "nastalgia stop". Realizing my motorcycle jacket and pants weren't zipped together (they can be zipped in back to make them into a single piece) I pulled off at the parking lot and boat ramp. I wasn't going to stop but thought what the hell, if I was there I might as well zoom up around the little camping loop where an older man waved and I nodded back. Oh, I remember being ten and staying all day here with my family, the ski boat parked there on the lake shore, and my brother and I we'd be in the water swimming and then we'd jump out and run up the hill, thongs clicking against our heals, and munch on BBQ chips. Oh, and back then I just loved BBQ chips, they were my favourite!

The dock area, I saw, had been turned into a much larger parking lot. Someone had put a lot of time and money into it since I was ten. I stopped the bike, flipped my left foot up to get it into neutral, then did what I came here to do, that is, zip things up. And while I did so I couldn't help but acknowledge how nervous I was now, about the trip that is. This was about the farthest east I've ever been by myself. In the past I've been on east 26 out towards John Day with the boys choir, but that was a long, long time ago, before my voice had changed and I'd ever grown my hair long or understood the meaning of fear, sorrow, or regret.

And then I saw them, two cruisers dressed in black leather, shoot by on the highway. They must be headed for the motorcycle rally in Baker City. Then, before I was moving I saw several more follow, about a quarter mile behind the first gaggle.

"Great," I thought to myself, "there goes my solitary ride."

About five minutes later I could see them ahead, only three or four cars between us. After fifteen more minutes following these cars who were rude enough to tail gate the bikers but too polite to pass them I shot past all the cars and joined the back of the pack, one sports biker dressed in red following up behind a gaggle of cruisers all in black.

Question: Why do they call them cruisers?

Answer: 50mph in a 55mph zone.

They seemed like nice guys, though. After about twenty minutes the first group pulled off to stretch their legs and then a few minutes later the second group pulled off. And me, with no gaggle to define my speed hit the corners sports bike speeds.

Vroooom, vrooom, one gear down, look ahead, lean the bike, lean, lean, roll on the throttle, wooooooooowwweeeeee!

I had been worried about rain but there wasn't anything but clouds yet. Clouds and beautiful Central Oregon scenery. Carved out of ice burgs in the last ice age this was a wonderland rich in fossils and ancient history. It seemed like the rain and erosion was teasing these hills into sharing their deep and burried past with me. I wanted to stop and look through the rock formations but there were places to go, places to be. Maybe some other time.

I would be back another time, I promised myself.

I stopped in John Day at a Texaco, gassed up, used the bathroom, then ate some trail mix purchased inside the little store and downed a Red Bull--and of course I took a few pictures of my little friends. Before I forget to mention it I also bought 4 lottery tickets which isn't something I often do but I thought it would be fun to scratch them off and win or loose (I lost) that evening while camping.

Then I was off again down highway 26 and keeping my eye open for the split off to highway 7 which the map promised would take me straight up to Baker City. I found it, turned, and found myself going higher and deeper into the green forests of the Pacific Northwest.

In my rear view mirror I saw a sports bike gaining ground--I know it's rather insecure but I always feel pressured when there's a biker behind me, especially if it's not someone I know. So I rolled on the throttle and got some good speed around the corners and up the hills before finding myself behind several slow moving vehicles, the main culprit being a truck with a trailer carrying a large cargo of freshly chopped and stacked firewood. When I was a kid my dad, brother, and I used to go out in the forest to get firewood and the smell brought on a rush of memories of early mornings, long sweaty days, blisters and slivers, and hot cocoa. And then as we rounded a corner he pulled off the road and a state trooper came from the other direction, the officers, I saw, were staring right at me accusingly--god, there's nothing like that stare, you know the one, when people look at you as if you're guilty of something and whether or not you are they've already passed judgement.

Of course they can't stop me because they have to go by the radar detector and it's gonna say 45mph. And of course I don't like it when people make assumptions about me even if they're communicated by a short glance. And of course they would have had their way if we'd crossed passed two minutes ago. So I thank the maker for the two slower vehicles I had found myself behind and echoed a short prayer for the biker behind me who was probably still barrelling along at a high speed not knowing about the trooper.

Baker City reminded me of my home town. It wasn't too big, not too small, and seemed to have a mix of older buildings, newer buildings, and more than one traffic light. This seemed like the kind of place that would hold a rodeo or say a motorcycle rally. But I didn't have time to explore. I went straight through and waved at bikers that I passed. I thought about getting gas but I probably had enough to get to La Grand safely so I hopped on I-84 west bound and off I was at (a legal) 65mph (or so).

That's when my butt really started to hurt. It's lovingly called "Monkey Butt". Google it sometime. Plenty of information but basically after you've been riding a motorcycle for awhile, 60 - 200 miles, depending on the type of bike and quality of your seat, your ass feels like someone's been sanding it down with a belt sander. YEEEAOCH! And the thing is a five minute stop and stretch will help enormously but do I stop at the first rest stop after Baker? Nope. Do I stop at the rest stop before La Grande? Nope.

Gotta keep moving!!!

I take the first exit to La Grande and go up the windy road. I stop to get gas. It's over $3 a gallon. Fortunately Jack gets over 40 miles a gallon or ~200 miles a tank. But I didn't get off the bike yet, I wanted to find a parking lot where I could have a little space and some shade and once I found one I had another Red Bull and took more pictures of my little friends (are you seeing a pattern)? Time to double check the map. Which road next? 86. How many miles until the camp ground? About 75. What time was it? Five or so. I should get there before dark.


Well, everything was "good" until I started the bike and wondered if I'd completely lost my mind. Most of the other bikers probably had motel rooms reserved in Baker City. They were central to the rally yet I was over an hour from my camp ground and that was almost two hours from Baker City. It just seemed nuts and as the road seemed to stretch farther and farther ahead the more nuts it seemed. On the other hand I recognized that I like to be a little different and frankly I sometimes like to do things the hard way and sometimes doing things the hard way turns out to be better and more beautiful than you could have ever intentionally planned for.

But then again sometimes it's just crazy! Well, the only way to find out was to keep I kept riding...

Still, my butt hurt. I wanted to discover my camp site and start a fire and put together my new one man tent so I find a good pilot car to follow behind, a red SUV going about 70mph. And then again, as always, we end up behind a half dozen slow pokes and they're all too polite to pass so I flip the blinker and roll on the throttle and from 55mph to 100mph in 2.5 seconds....zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzooooooooooooooooooooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!!!!!!right blinker, right lane, brake, slow down and another state trooper rounds the corner.

I bow my head and thank the maker. I don't allow myself to get cocky over it as I've found that the universe appreciates humble thanks much more than it does ungrateful cockiness.

There are many small towns to go through and never ending farmlands. Most of the traffic is, like the red SUV that's now following me, either tourists heading towards a camp site or 4x4 pickups. This land is isolated, this is where Native American's lived and hunted and loved and wared. This land is sacred.

Then I see the kind of road sign that makes a sports biker salivate, orgasm, or both, that yellow "sharp curves" sign. Eight miles of them in this case. So that red SUV that's been tail gaiting me, lets see if they can do 70mph down a ravine and around corners with suggested speeds of 40mph.

The road is perfect, the curves are long, the site distance gives me safetly to lean and really roll on the throttle. I look in the rear view mirror. Well, I'll give them points for trying ;)

And then it's back to the straight-a-ways. I'm overwhelmed by feelings of being in the middle of god forsaken nowhere and I feel lonely. I wish Vipassana could be with me to enjoy the road and the snow covered mountains I'm getting closer to, those mountains I know from Google Earth surround my campsite. After hitting a six mile stretch of straight road, the most boring kind of a road for a motorcycle to go down, I start feeling pitiful and pathetic. I don't have many friends, I've never had many support systems. I have even fewer friends now than at any other time in my life and as I sat there on my bike, completely alone in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere I was angry and sad and upset and lost and angry...

...except I knew that at some point I'd be in Wallowa, the sign said so. And then Enterprise and then Joseph. I trusted the road, I trusted the signs, I trust Google Earth (after a fashion)...

Finally I hit Enterprise and it's only a little ways from Joseph. And then I come into Joseph and my first thought is this town is absolutely georgous, beautiful...the land here is sacred. That's the best way to describe it. The mountains are magestic, the town is quaint and friendly, and though it superficially resembles Sisters, Oregon, the land excudes a deep spiritual past that an empath can't easily ignore.

This place felt big yet the irony was it did not make me feel small or unwelcome.

I rode slowly through town then out past the gravesite of Chief Joseph which I promised to visit before leaving. I never did, though, as I plan to visit it again with Vipassana--after all, this wasn't the kind of place I could keep to myself.

This place was sacred.

Then I zoom around to the lake. And what a beautiful lake it was. On one side is the long, slowly curving road. Cupping the lake almost like a hand are the white mountains reaching up into the sky. I promised myself to get the video camera mounted on the bike after setting up my campsite and getting some shots of the lake and mountain before it got dark--after all for all I knew Saturday and Sunday were going to be overcast and rainy.

I was completely amazed when I arrived at the Wallowa Lake Recreation Area. The area is a small amusement park of cabins and restaurants and bumper boats and the docks and picnic areas and camp sites--this amazing little nexus is hidden between the mountains and lake and though it's full of humanity it doesn't feel like it's lost its connection with nature, something that can't be said of, say, my home town. I doubt my daughter would get bored there (and in fact on my return I discover she's been there before with her grandfather and enjoyed the experience enormously).

The first thing I see when I ride through the campground area is a buck walking calmly through. It looks up at me then keeps walking. I stop at the station at the entrance and get off the bike. Do I sign in? I spend a few minutes reading the postings but there's no information for what someone does who's made a phone reservation and already paid. Jeeze, frustrating but what can I do? Nobody's in the office so back on the bike. I stop at site A10 which I thought was mine but after getting off the bike, pulling off the sleeping bag and pack, and pulling out my reservation printout I discover I'm actually setup with site A30 so it's tip toe back out of A10 (motorcycles don't have reverse!) then up around the bend. There are quite a few people in their travel trailers and such and as I turn the corner of the A loop I see a young couple, perhaps around my age. The girl looks straight at me. She looks incredibly unhappy, like she doesn't want to be there. It reminded me of one of the last times I camped: my honeymoon.

And it tore at me.

A30 was fairly near their spot, just on the other side of the path. I pulled in and nearly dropped the bike as I set my feet to the ground. I hadn't realized just how wiped out the ride had made me; I hadn't realized until that moment that this had probably been the most miles I'd put on my bike in a single day. So I carefully got off and walked around a bit. I used the opporunity to check out the ground, figure out where I'd pitch the tent. The best ground, as I've learned from my youth, is flat, grassy, and devoid of rocks. Several spots like that but which was best? Oh, who cares, this one's good and close to the bike and not close to the firepit (fire + tent = holes in tent = leaky tent + bugs). So I pull out the tent and try to put it together without reading the instructions, I never read instructions if I don't have to and I'm too damn tired to read them anyway but I have to, I'm stumped a little but then it all falls into place and there's a little yellow and black one man tent and now lets take some pictures of the campsite before nightfall and lets take some pictures of our little friends again and then lets go use the bathroom!

And oh my goodness, these are the cleanest public bathrooms in the world! And here I'd thought I'd be spending my whole weekend in port-a-potties!!! I was feeling extremely lucky to have reserved a spot at this camp ground that I'd stumbled upon via the wonders of the internet. The camp site was beautiful, the mountains were beautiful, the bathrooms were clean, and as I'd find in the morning the showers were better than could be expected.

Blessed be those who put their faith in the Goddess and her electronic sister, Google.

But still I'm feeling really out of my element. I have a cat like personality, you see. I am most comfortable with familiarity, esp. in terms of people and places. But here I was in a place I'd never been before doing something I'd never done before and I was all alone. I couldn't just get up and go home if I felt uncomfortable and I was really starting to feel uncomfortable and alone. Part of my psyche was saying, "Oh, well tomorrow you can just get on your bike and go home. Home is safe. You're not safe out here. So you can go home tomorrow, just survive tonight."

I suppressed those insecurities and prepared for a quick jaunt back into Joseph. I threw everything of value into the Joe Rocket pack and slapped that onto the bike seat and put everything that could be stolen without too much consequence back in the tent. That, I must tell you, took a great deal of effort. You see...I don't have a great deal of trust anymore. When I was seven, yes, I trusted everyone, I didn't see a reason not to. And up to about four or five years ago I had a fair amount of trust left--but as of the last couple of years I haven't trusted anyone. Well I do and I don't. I "trust" people to be who they are, I just don't trust anyone to have my best interests at heart and that...well, that's not the kind of trust that makes you feel safe around people.

I stop for gas in town to top off and be ready for the morning. I ask for the nearest grocerie store which happens to be across the street. I go in and grab a cart and I wander. What do I want? I end up getting potatoe salad and some steak and beer. I don't know why I get the beer but I've never had a beer while camping--never had those "guy" friends who invited me out on such excersions--so I pull out the debit card and pack everything into my pack and head back to camp where I realize alcohol might be against the rules so I pour the drink into my blue camping cup and nervously nurse a few bottles as it gets dark (the next day I learn it's fine--but still, I like to follow the rules).

So I look for some wood but find just a bunch of twigs. Then I pray that I might find something substantial and I go around a tree and there is one perfect foot long piece of wood. It'll last me two nights, I know. I take this along with the charcoal brickets I bought at the store in Joseph and start a hot fire and get the steaks cooking.

They take a half hour. In the meantime I nurse a beer and wait and think about it all.

I'm feeling, as I mentioned before, overwhelmed. I'm out of my element. There's a joy to what I'm doing but it's unlike anything I've done before. I feel so alone. Is this what the rest of my life will be like, always doing things alone, always challenging myself to do harder and bigger and grander things? Always growing and evolving and lacking people who understand and can keep up with me?

The steaks taste wonderful, far better than I had hoped. The potatoe salad is okay but I bought far too much, I end up throwing most of it away and realizing I sometimes buy more than I need out of fear that I won't have enough. I make a mental note of this for future reference.

I find I'm not playing with my hair as I normally do. I'm not twirling it between my fingers. I've always done that since I was three, perhaps even before. I like the way things feel in my hands, especially hair. When I play with it it becomes soft, fine, and feels beautiful. But I'm not playing with my hair that night as I'm sitting by the campfire and thinking about the weekend ahead of me. And I don't play with my hair after getting in the tent and reading a new book by Pema Chodron. And I don't play with my hair after turning out the light and opening the tent top so I can see through the insect lining out past the trees above into the clear sky. And I don't play with my hair as I watch the trees light up as a lightning storm flashes from ten miles away. Thunder roars then one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three...the storm is nine miles away, eight, seven, and the sky is still clear. It's eerie. And I am asleep.

I wake up suddenly with one thought on my mind, put the tent cover up, it's going to rain. And indeed two minutes after I put the rain cover on it begins to rain. And I fall back asleep knowing I have somehow fallen into the flow of things. There is still fear, there is still uncertainty, but there is trust that the universe knows its way and that it is willing to show me if only I provide the silence in which to listen.

Faith begins in silence.

P.S. Please forgive any foibles of tense as I'm still recouperating from the trip. Tired, tired, tired, I can't believe how tired I've been over the last two days, and I can't edit this more than twice without getting a little loopy. Goodnight :)

May 22nd, 2006

I'm not one to plan trips. Planning trips is something fairly new--and alien--to me.

When I was a kid all of my trips were planned by my parents, as they are with most children, and I knew exactly what we'd be doing each year. Spring and summer vacations always meant one or two or four trips to California to visit family. The trips were scheduled like clockwork and we rarely left this well beaten path. I grew to hate California. And I never came home with a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt.

In college it seemed like I always got sick and always, always immediately after finals. And if I didn't--well, it didn't matter anyway as I was usually broke and didn't know anyone who had asked me to tag along on their trip to the Bahamas or wherever it is college kids go on vacation. I spent a great many of my "vacations" alone smoking cigarettes (my primary vice), playing videogames, and watching TV. Not studying, that was my experience of a vacation.

The idea of planning a trip was alien to me.

I wouldn't have gone if it weren't for Vipassana. A trip to a motorcycle rally in East Oregon sounded exciting, a fantasy, something I wanted to do. But, but, but... but she said I should go and she would look after the fort while I was gone and it didn't hurt that my best friend and 'backup' at work was leaving and this would be my last opportunity for a vacation of any length for awhile.

So I took the plunge. I took two days off. I ordered tickets for the rally. I reserved a campsite for two nights. And I bought and otherwise packed supplies:

  • Water
  • Red Bull
  • One man tent
  • Camping pot & pan
  • Sleeping bag
  • Military issue water proof cover for sleeping bag
  • Road map
  • Water proof matches
  • MRE (Meals Ready to Eat)
  • Trail Mix
  • Rechargable AA & AAA Batteries
  • Flash Light
  • Digital Camera
  • Video Camera
  • Extra Clothes
  • Toiletries
  • Motorcycle tools
  • Cell Phone

Wednesday I tied things up at work. Wednesday night I packed. Thursday morning I got up early and took my daughter to school then I came back home and I took a long shower. I was excited to leave but I was already feeling homesick. And to be honest I was a little scared of the journey ahead. What if I got in a wreck? Nah, that thought didn't bother me as much as "What if the bike breaks down in the middle of bubkuss Oregon?" So I enjoyed that shower until the water was luke warm then I grabbed my bags and took the gear downstairs and said goodbye to all four cats before bunjee'n the bags to the back of the bike and donning the gear.

On a side note...later that morning while at Vista Point on the Columbia River George I named my bike "Jack" because it really is a Jack of All Trades, a little vehicle that can bite the corners at 70mph, cruise across the world's freeways, or as I was later to find, ride through terrible forest service roads made up of a nasty combination of dirt, mud, gravel, slush, and snow.

So my Hooligan and I, we went down to the 7-11 where I bought two taquitos which I put in my tank bag planning to eat them when I stopped at my workplace to say goodbye to my buddies (I forgot about them until later that afternoon when I stopped at Multnomah Falls). I stopped at the Shell station (now 76) where I set the Trip 1 and Trip 2 computers to '0' miles. The first I always use to determine how close I am to running out of gas (most bikes don't have gas gauges like cars--there's either a reserve tank or an "Oh shit, you'd better gas up soon" light, the latter of which my bike is equipped with). The second would track the entire distance of my trip from Thursday through Sunday. The bike sits in the garage now with a number which is to me something entirely amazing and wonderful.

Once at work I called my buddies who came down and looked at my long distance setup. And then I was off. Off listening to 94.7 in the helmet radio. Off thinking about the weekend ahead of me. Off to highway 26 then I-84 then the old historic highway 30 up the Columbia Gorge. I cruised around the corners enjoying a blue sky, wonderful temperatures, and the sweet smell of the rivers and forests. Then I stopped at Vista Point and that's a big part of what a motorcycle trip is all about: seeing, smelling, touching, stopping.

Smelling the roses.

(And I took pictures of my little friends. More explanation of that another time, though.)

The Vista Point house was open so I got to go inside and to the top, something I've never done before. And then it was down around the curves to Multnomah Falls. I felt so nervous about leaving everything on my bike but what was I going to do, take ten minutes to unpack and another to pack up again with every stop? I had to learn to put more trust in humanity. And though I won't explain it to you today one of the central themes of this trip turned out to be trust.

And so I enjoyed the cool wet mist of the falls then headed down the historic highway then accidently ended up on I-84 again, though my intention was to go all the way down the old road to Hood River. So I got there by I-84 and that was good enough. Actually, it really didn't matter because I went right through downtown Hood River and I was surprised how beautiful this little town was--I guess I made too many assumptions about the place given they'd parked a huge ugly Wall Mart near the freeway entrance.

Guess you can't judge a town by its cover.

Now I've been over the mountains in Oregon a hundred times. Okay, so maybe not a hundred times but fifty or so. I've taken the passes from Portland to Central Oregon, from Salem to Central Oregon, from Eugene to Central Oregon, and from Southern Oregon to Central Oregon--and visa-versa. I've taken these passes to visit old friends, because I was lonely, because I was escaping, or just because it was one of the few joys I used to find in life, that long, long dark road up the winding mountains while listening to the late night Coast to Coast AM radio show crackling in and out. And yet in all this time I never took Highway 35 up over Mount Hood, I never discovered a beautiful hidden valley on the east side of the mountain, the kind of place that's secluded and beautiful, warm in the summer and cold in the winter, the kind of place I could see myself retiring and growing old in.

Then I was back, back to highway 26, a road I knew, back to Government Camp, back to familiarity. And because I wanted to take the bike on a twisty road I've driven many times in the past I went down and out of my way to Zigzag, gassed up, then turned back and went up the mountain again. And I took more pictures of my little friends.

It was then that the left headphone in my helmet went out. So I wiggled the cord going to the bike and I wiggled the cord going to the helmet and I wiggled the helmet and eventually determined there was a short in the extension cord. I was pretty upset. I mean, who wants to listen to Bjork in one ear only!?! Fortunately I had some podcasts; I could cope with listening to Zencasts and A World of Possibilities in one ear only. And it was only a few hours until my parents and there was a spare headphone extension tied deep down under my seat, under 20+ pounds of camping supplies, so I'd be patient and accept this as just another one of those little challenges that life throws our way, the kind of thing we can either let eat us up or the kind of thing we could accept and adjust to. And though I won't explain it to you today one of the central themes of this trip turned out to be acceptance.

The rest of the ride was nowhere near as enjoyable as the beginning. Once over the pass I started to see clouds, darker and darker clouds. Then I saw the lightning, a lot of lightning reaching down five miles straight ahead of me. Don't get me wrong, I love a good thunderstorm but my preference is to be inside--granted, some people have become powerful psychics after being struck but I prefer the "natural" method, that is, NOT being struck by lightening :)

That's not to say the path I've taken has been any easier and damnit, if you survive a lightning strike they send you roses! Where are my damn roses anyhow?

But I digress. I stopped the bike just inside the Warm Springs reservation near the Kaneeta sign. I pulled off onto gravel--oh my god, I hate riding on gravel!!! You see, if you've never ridden a motorcycle you wouldn't necessarily know that they don't handle the same on concrete as they do on gravel. And some bikes, i.e. dirt bikes, have special "knobby" tires for riding or dirt (and other forms of loose crap) while street bikes have tires especially designed for nice, flat, preferably dry, and beautiful tarmac! My bike cost $8000 and the first and only time I dropped it was after an exciting experience on gravel which scratched up the clutch cover, tank, and left muffler. So it wasn't my first choice but it was either that or ride through a lightning storm with the ever present fear that I'd be taunting the universe to give me two huge jolts, one to fry Jack and I, the other to throw me subconscious off the road or into oncoming traffic. Stop on the side, ride nervously through a little gravel, watch the lightening storm pass, shake my head when it seemed like it was coming straight at me even though I'd gone out of my way to get out of the way, and then when I felt it was safe I was on the road again. And even then it seemed like I was surrounded. I'd come up over one hill and could see thirty miles in the distance and there were four or five lightning storms I'd have to somehow get through and at one point I saw a flash all around me and looked straight up into a cloud that looked as if it had come straight out of hell--so I did a careful u-turn in the middle of the highway and headed back five or so miles to a bridge crossing a revine where I'd stopped so many times in the past. This place held many memories, some good, some not so good. This day it became a memory of patience and safety.

Stopped again in Warm Springs. Called my work. Called my parents. Said, "Hey, I'm still alive." And that's the funny thing, the people who care about me want to know I'm alive, they always want to know even if I sometimes think it's a bit silly because either I am or I'm not. At least I want to be alive which is more than I could have said fifteen years ago. I want to be alive because I enjoy myself and I enjoy life and I enjoy the road and I enjoy learning and I enjoy seeing and I even enjoy all the challenges and hardships though they can be like the thunder claps shaking me down to the bone.

So there I was alive and headed to my parent's home.

And that was it, day one of a trip I planned from scratch, a trip that seemed to magically unfold before me, a ride that lead me through the mountain passes of my soul.


May 21st, 2006

After riding through rain for hundreds of miles and hour after hour I am tired. So tonight I put on the breaks (see right) and I can barely think straight enough to type, to write this, to share with you the fact that I will share with you once I am ready. For now enjoy the latest photography up at the Visions page.


May 17th, 2006

The biggest failure of humanity is the inability to recognize and appreciate what we have.

The gear is packed, 700 megs of music in the Muvo, and 1,000+ miles ahead of me. Wish me well. I will see you soon.

May 15th, 2006

A few months ago I ordered and installed a little toy on my hooligan. It's an all-in-one solution, a technological toy with nerd written all over it, a little secret I keep hidden under my seat that allows me to hook up any number of gizmos including but not limited to mp3 players, radar detectors, GPS computers, FRS Radios, headphones for myself and a passenger, and last but not least a bluetooth adapter for a wireless connection to a properly enabled cell phone. Maybe it's a little overkill but there's nothing like being able to answer a call from work without having to stop, park the bike, take off the gear, and chat shop for five or ten minutes.

Vipassana plans to pick one up one of these but for now she has a simple headset hooked directly to her FRS Radio. In the short while she's had this the pin connection busted and the PTT (Push To Talk) button has all but completely shorted out. The result is two-fold. First and foremost, when the PTT button is shorting I can't talk to her though my StarCom1 and FRS Radio are transmitting. Secondly, and arguably just as importantly, the StarCom1 adjusts the volume to account for external road and wind noise which can be considerable at 70mph--whereas she'll just end up hearing a lot of wind noise as I scream in my helmet to be heard.

I don't like screaming in my helmet. I don't like screaming to be heard. And I don't care if the cause is a short circuit in PTT button or a short circuit in someone's psyche, I always end up hitting a wall where no amount of clear articulation, well thought out wording, or increased volume, gets the message across. So I'm left with broad and sweeping hand guestures that convey only the most gross and simple ideas such as, "Watch out for that damn road kill."

I've been feeling like that a lot over the past few years.

P.S. Check out the Visions page for a new motorcycle video.

May 11th, 2006

I missed the meeting. I was fifteen minutes late. I would like to say I was stuck in traffic but the truth is I stopped at G.I. Joes to look at tents. You see, I'm planning a trip and for that trip I'll need someplace to sleep and that someplace is a tent and that tent, you see, weighs only 2 pounds and is small enough to fit in my Joe Rocket bike bag.

It's funny how we never seem to have enough time. Not enough time to prepare for trips, not enough time to finish projects at work, not enough time to play with our children, not enough time to make peace with the universe and figure out what this whole life thing is about.

So we make choices. We're sometimes late to meetings or we put aside letters or we reevaluate what x, y, and z means to us and we're continually writing a story, keeping everything in order and resorting as necessary. And sometimes we look back and realize we got it all wrong so we resort, reevaluate, try to get a better handle on things--or we simply shut down and pretend it's not happening.

I'm kinda nutty--I simply like to try everything out!

At least my co-workers have a good sense of humor about it. Next time I get a stickie note, though, someone's gonna pay!

In regards to motorcycle trips I'd like to share something with you that a coworker was kind enough to share with me today. It only reinforces my strong conviction that our civilization lacks the maturity--especially over long periods of time--to use nuclear power. It is simply not an energy source a sane or responsible species would use except under the most dire of circumstances. I only hope that that our progeny will forgive our misguided arrogance with the mistakes we've made and with those blunders we will make over the next several centuries.

Follow the "Elena revisits Chernobyl" link, the photo shoot is worth it:



May 9th, 2006

Three and a half years ago I bought this fancy, black computer case with enough fans to get it airborne.  I had the money, I had the time, and I had the knowledge to completely build a machine from the bottom up:  case, motherboard, memory, CPU, hard drives, video card, Ethernet, so on and so forth.

This machine was never what you'd call "stable". 

The AMD CPU, which was designed to run at 2.2ghz on an ASUS motherboard that was designed to support it, would crash to the BIOS at any speed faster than 1.8ghz.  The memory was also designed to run at a certain speed which the motherboard was designed to support but the BIOS would also crash out if I set these at their specified settings.  The ability to overclock the machine wasn't even relevant as it would only operate in an "underclocked" state.  Additionally, the first two DVD-ROM's I purchased for the machine, both from a reputable company, would cause the machine to seize up while playing movies and the video drivers for the ATI All-In-Wonder Radeon 9700 were exponentially unstable (by that I mean they were stable after install but seemed to degrade over days and weeks then had to be completely uninstalled and reinstall to "re-stabilize" the system).  The computer was slow, unreliable, and as of a week ago it would crash anywhere between three and twenty times a day. 

In layman's terms it was a "real piece of shit".

I had become so accustomed to this machine crashing that I had trained myself to automatically save whatever I was working on every minute or two by pressing Alt-F then S ( = File->Save).  I backed my files up regularly and kept all the most important files on the secondary hard drive which was less likely to be subject to corruption if and when a serious crash occurred.  I became adept at uninstalling and reinstalling drivers as well as insuring I always had the latest drivers and protection from viruses and spy-ware.  When I left the room to go eat or use the restroom I expected to come back to a blue screen.  When I tried porting video footage from my camcorder I expected to try six or seven times before getting through the process without a severe failure.

I'm not sure why I put up with it for so long.  I guess you could say I had put so much money into the bloody thing I expected, on some unrealistic yet semi-unconscious level, that it was expensive so it should just work (damnit).  I guess you could say I had put so much time into it that it would be futile spending any more.  I guess you could say I put so much effort into it that I didn't have any energy left to do something as time consuming as taking the entire machine apart, pulling out the motherboard, and starting from scratch.  And I guess you could say on some level I'd accepted the crashes, the lost work, the frustration, the intermittent swearing and anger, as my lot in life.

Last Friday, after three and a half years, I got on my motorcycle, road to the hardware store, and filled my backpack with a motherboard, CPU, memory, and TV card.  Went home, dropped those off, then went down to Fry's to pickup a video card.  Got home, spent the next 8 hours ripping apart the old system, building the new, and installing the Operating System.

(This is what Vipassana jokingly refers to as Aslynn having a "good time"--which my response is simply, "I'm not that young anymore!")

Getting the machine up and running presented new challenges.  I kept running into the dreaded BSoD (Blue Screen of Death) and given my past experiences I assumed the worst and started to get extraordinarily stressed.  After six hours or so of researching I determined that the first set of consistent blue screens was due to the ATAPI DVD-ROM's being plugged into the wrong IDE ports.  The frustrating thing about this was that they worked absolutely fine (seemingly) but they just wouldn't allow me to do something like, say, install Windows XP--and though this is the kind of thing that you'd think would be documented in the manual it was not.  After that was solved and I got to the point in the installation routine where I would format the hard drive and start copying the XP files over I ran into the second dreaded BSoD.  The XP setup could not find my hard drives, though the BIOS knew they were there, and as soon as I'd hit the Enter key there it was, that BSoD,  giving me some unhelpful error code regarding a malfunctioning video card.  It turned out that I needed to install SATA drivers before actually starting the windows installation, a process I'd never needed to perform before. 

Yet I kept at it as I'd researched the hardware and knew it to be solid.  The lineup was as follows:

I already had the case (I call it my black rocket--although you could argue I own two other black rockets), power supply, hard drives, CD/DVD burner, audio card, and software.  One day of money, effort, and time later I had Windows XP installed.  Two days later the OS had been updated and the firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware--the computer's version of a Trojan--had been carefully applied.  The computer was in a "useable" state.

I'm not completely done installing software but I'm actively using the machine to e-mail, listen to music, watch TV/DVD's, and the like.  And it's easily the fastest, most stable, reliable machine I've ever built or used.  Was it worth the time, effort, and money?  Most definitely...

...yet when a lot of resource intensive programs are running and the machine slows for a moment I tense up, every few minutes I still hit Alt-F then S, every time I leave the room I expect to come back to another bloody BSoD.

I have grabbed the bell by its handle yet I still salivate when I expect it to ring.

May 8th, 2006

I sometimes feel I am extraordinarily skillful at disappointing people.  Whether it's the girlfriend who stubbornly refuses to communicate her wants or needs, the jilted acquaintances that lash out when their professed "love" is not returned, the coworker that values the status quo over efficiency, or the good friend that becomes agitated when values collide, I never seem to be at a loss for finding someone who's somehow disappointed or unhappy with me.

In the thirty or so years I've lived this life I've made some absolutely terribly choices hurting people in ways I am only beginning to truly understand and appreciate.  I've betrayed people's trust, I've shrugged off people's sore spots as being nothing more than annoyances to my personal rhythm, and I've taken advantage of people for my own gain.  Yet (and I do not claim perfection) over the last five or six years I seem to have made a world record in disappointments yet for all intents and purposes I've gotten my proverbial shit together.

I have found that the quickest way to disappoint someone is to be entirely, passionately, and unapologetically yourself.

It has often perplexed me.  I mean, if you and I have a disagreement or there's a miscommunication the solution is to sit down and talk.  Simple enough, right?  But for all my experience and any desire I might have to the contrary I have found two fundamental truths to consistently hold true:  1) People (myself included) hear what they want to hear, and 2) Everyone assumes that they're a great listener which implies, quite frankly, that most of us are full of shit.

I admit, this is something that frustrates me (enormously).

For example, in the past year and half I've told three people I was not interested in a relationship and that for all intents and purposes I've chosen a life of celibacy.  Straight forward enough, right?  The first spent weeks trying to convince me that they were somehow uniquely special and that I was making a terrible mistake of galactic proportions by not jumping immediately at the opportunity because they valued taking every and all opportunities life presents one with, the second implied that my disinterest in a relationship was somehow damaging to their already negative self-image as if this was somehow my fault or responsibility, the last was absolutely convinced that I was somehow tormented and allowing my past to decide my present and future.  In all three cases I made myself clear enough, "I am simply not interested in a relationship at this time in my life."  In all three cases what I said was not heard and the reaction was a mix of unsolicited feedback in the form of disappointment, anger, guilt trips, and in at least one case a fair amount of displaced aggression toward Vipassana (which I won't forgive anytime soon).

I have found that the quickest way to disappoint someone is to be entirely, passionately, and unapologetically yourself.

You'd think it'd be simple enough, right?  Tell someone where you're coming from in straight forward, unambiguous language and that's that, right?  For instance if I'm hungry I say I'm hungry.  You say, "What do you feel like eating?"  "Oh," I say, "Pizza sounds great."  "Yeah," you say, "I like pizza too.  How about a meat lovers?" "No thanks, I feel like a vegetarian pizza tonight."  "Okay," you respond, "but I feel like meat."  "That's fine," I acknowledge, "Why don't we do half and half?"  "Sounds great!"

This is a fairly typical conversation where food is concerned--we may argue that other people have strange tastes but we never reject their tastes as we understand them to be unique, personal, and subjective.  Yet the truth is with most things our conversations end up somewhat different.  For instance I say, "I'm hungry".  You say, "What do you feel like eating?"  "Oh," says I, "Pizza sounds great."  "Yeah," you say, "I like pizza too.  How about a meat lovers?"  "No thanks, I feel like a vegetarian pizza tonight."  "Okay," you respond, "but I feel like meat."  "That's fine," I acknowledge, "Why don't we do half and half?"  "Oh come on now, why would you want vegetarian?  Meat's better, I'm going to order a meat lovers, sound good?"  "Actually, I don't want to eat meat tonight," I say standing up for myself.  "Don't be silly," you react, "of course you do!"  "Actually," I reply, "I do not want meat."  "Give me a break," you retort, "Feeling sorry for the animals now?"  "No," I say, "I just don't feel like meat."  "Ah," you say, "you're on some kind of health food bent then?" "No," I say defensively, "I don't want any meat tonight!"  And so on and so forth.  The inability to listen to simple, unambiguous language leads to a cluster fuck involving something as trivial and arguably meaningless as what kind of pizza to order.

Sounds silly, doesn't it?  Sadly, this is not an atypical communication style and is more prevalent than most of us would like to admit and we're all guilty of it.  Simple, straight forward, honest, and clear communication, often isn't heard and the best, most well laid out letter won't be understood until the recipient is in an emotionally and mentally receptive headspace--no matter how much we want to believe otherwise, that's the way it is.  When we're tired, hungry, upset, stressed, angry, or otherwise off balance we're in a state where we are naturally inclined to protect our egos, to overreact to statements, to defend our perceived place in the overall scheme in things.  We're more likely to slip, play games, lash out, repress, ignore, oversimplify, project, lie (to others or more commonly to ourselves), assume, and do everything in our power to disconnect from the conversation--the person--right in front of ourselves.

Ironically, the very thing most of us sincerely want is a connection with those right in front of us.  So wouldn't it be in our best interests to do what we can to become well rested, well fed, de-stressed, calm, and balanced so we can be more receptive and thus better connected to those around us?  Seems like a no-brainer, right?  So why don't we?

I sometimes feel I am extraordinarily skillful at disappointing people.  Whether it's the girlfriend who breaks her promises and starts seeing someone else, the jilted acquaintances who reject the notion that I choose why I love and when I love and how I love, the co-worker who is afraid of change, or the friend that manufactures a situation where our values will violently clash, I never seem to be at a loss for finding someone who's somehow disappointed or unhappy with me.  I have found that the quickest way to disappoint someone is to be entirely, passionately, and unapologetically myself.  I suspect someone will be disappointed with me for writing this.  And I suspect after I have left this life I will continue to disappoint the living while I do nothing more offensive than enjoy an eternity of peaceful slumber.


May 4th, 2006

Sometimes I prefer to let someone else speak on my behalf because they found the words before I could get them out or they had the words I couldn't seem to find.  I admit, this is sometimes a cop-out as I "don't have time" or am "too stressed out" or--as is arguably the case today--I'd be bound to say something I don't necessarily mean because I allowed someone to be reckless with my heart and for what it's worth today is a reminder of that choice.  With that said I'd like to share some lyrics with you, a song I can strongly identify with.

Fiona Apple's "Extraordinary Machine"

I certainly haven't been shopping for any new shoes
I certainly haven't been spreading myself around
I still only travel by foot and by foot, it's a slow climb,
But I'm good at being uncomfortable, so
I can't stop changing all the time

I notice that my opponent is always on the go
Won't go slow, so's not to focus, and I notice
He'll hitch a ride with any guide, as long as
They go fast from whence he came
- But he's no good at being uncomfortable, so
He can't stop staying exactly the same

If there was a better way to go then it would find me
I can't help it, the road just rolls out behind me
Be kind to me, or treat me mean
I'll make the most of it, I'm an extraordinary machine

I seem to you to seek a new disaster every day
You deem me due to clean my view and be at piece and lay
I mean to prove I mean to move in my own way, and say,
I've been getting along for long before you came into the play

I am the baby of the family, it happens, so
- Everybody cares and wears the sheeps' clothes
While they chaperone
Curious, you looking down your nose at me, while you appease
- Courteous, to try and help - but let me set your
Mind at ease


-Do I so worry you, you need to hurry to my side?
-It's very kind
But it's to no avail; I don't want the bail
I promise you, everything will be just fine

If there was a better way to go then it would find me
I can't help it, the road just rolls out behind me
Be kind to me, or treat me mean
I'll make the most of it, I'm an extraordinary machine

May 3rd, 2006

A Sacred Order

I want the truth, the whole truth, and nothing less than the truth.  That's all I've ever wanted.  And sometimes it hurts so bad but I want it no matter how much it hurts, no matter how many times I have to die, no matter how much ice I need to put on my knee.  I want it more than money, more than love, more than security, more than life itself.

I have been looking for a light in the darkness. 

I have been looking for a candle to carry. 

I have been looking for matches to start the fire. 

I have been looking for truth.

Sometimes there is only quiet and darkness; walking in the darkness is itself a truth inside a truth and the deeper I dig the more I find, peeling away the layers of skin down, down, down.  It isn't easy.  It isn't for everyone.  But I yearn, I thirst, I want, I need to know what is below what I know, what I have only just learned, I want to know what is next and how it is all intertwined together dancing whether it is good or bad or simply is.

Everything simply is.  Once you understand this you will understood both good and bad, right and wrong, happy and unhappy, understanding and ignorance, compassion and hatred, living and dying, and where you are.

Where are you?

Lately I've been so tired.  In the dark I feel alone but I know that's because I can't see whether or not you're standing next to me.  I have not felt this lonely or this down in a great while but it's different than it's ever been.  Years ago I could have been rightly called a pessimist but now?  Now I am a truth seeker, a Truthsayer, a warrior of the spirit running into the battle with mind centered and sword drawn.  Sometimes the battle is loud and full of fury, sometimes it is simply the air brushing against ones cheek.

Sometimes it is quiet and quiet can sometimes sound like the loudest enemy.

I need refreshment, a reminder, something to let me know I'm on the right path...or redirect me if I'm on the "wrong" one.  I've studied the maps and the history and know the tools but...the battle I find myself in is one of patience and these can be the hardest of them all. 

I am looking for a light in the darkness.

A candle.

A match.


And so this morning when I got on my bike I turned on the MP3 player.  A song I've never heard was playing.  It is called Baraka by a group called Stellamara.  I do not know who this band is or how one of their albums mysteriously found it's way to my player. 

Not the light I was seeking but perhaps a promise, a reminder to keep walking.