My Most Recent Road Trip

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Photo courtesy of MorgueFile.com

My Most Recent Road Trip

Chicago was our destination. I had always wanted to visit the Windy City, but now I was relocating to live there. My fiancée and I left Los Angeles around 10:00 a.m. on a pleasant day near the end of September. She was a native Chicagoan whom I had met in Los Angeles, and I was excited to travel with her by my side.

We had mapped it out, so we drove the Southern route, going through Arizona, New Mexico, north Texas, a portion of the Oklahoma Panhandle, up through Saint Louis, and into Illinois. We stopped overnight in Kingman, AZ the first night; Flagstaff, Az the second night; and Tulsa, OK the third night. From there we drove the rest of the way and arrived in Chicago three days later.

Three things made this trip so special. There was the the beautiful scenery along the way; the pleasant weather we encountered all the way to Chicago; sharing the drive with the love of my life; and knowing that we would eventually settle down in “Chi Town.” It didn’t get any better than that.

Seven years earlier, I had taken a solo road trip to Houston to visit my parents. The route along Interstate 10 from Los Angeles was long, flat, tiring, and not very scenic. It seemed like I would never arrive, although I listened to my music CDs while driving. But having a driving companion made all the difference in the world on my Chicago trip. And for that, as well as for her, I remain extremely grateful.

Having spent most of my life in California, I love the variety of landscapes indigenous to the western U.S. The mountains, hills, ocean, deserts, agricultural fields, rivers, and national parks, all combine to make the Golden State one of the most diverse in the country. I found it intriguing to observe how the landscape gradually changed as we left California behind. Quite noticeable was the flattening of the terrain, as mountains and hills gave way to flatland.

“I’ll have to make that adjustment,” I thought to myself as we inched ourselves closer to the Central Plains and up toward the Midwest. But I was willing to see how it would turn out.

Upon arriving in Chicago, we were grateful to rest and take it easy for a few days. No matter how pleasant, road trips can be exhausting, especially since I did all the driving. From this point forward, when we travel, I prefer to fly and rent a car when we arrive at our destination. Still, the memories of this road trip will last forever, as will my joy at sharing this experience with the woman of my dreams.

Unfortunately, my first winter in Illinois was the third coldest since records have been kept. The snowfall was relentless, and I had a difficult time adjusting. Further, I had never had to commute in the snow, nor dig my car out from under two to four feet of snow. Honestly, I didn’t think I would ever spend another winter in Chicago.

But I survived it, and this past winter was not as intense. There was less snow, although the cold weather took its time before finally departing. Still, I remember the fond memories of driving to Chicago from Los Angeles, and those memories of my most recent road trip will last forever.

Have you taken a recent road trip? What was your experience like? Leave a comment and share your details.

Success Lesson From My Acting Teacher

Success Starts Here Freeway Style Desert LandscapePhoto courtesy of MorgueFile.com

I once had an acting teacher who complimented me on my tenacity. She observed that no matter what got me down, I never gave up; that I always got back on my feet and returned to the game. She remarked that she admired the courage I displayed in doing so.

When she first shared this observation with me, it didn’t sound positive. When I screwed up a scene and she gave me critique, usually I was able to make the adjustment that she wanted, and I would usually get it right. But not always, especially in the early stages of my training.

I thought, since I had not “nailed” it at my first attempt, then surely I wasn’t that good, and that this was her way of telling me I wasn’t good enough to make it as an actor, and not to quit my day job. I hung in there but it took me a while to accept that few actors have the innate gift of a Brando, Cagney, Stewart, or Fonda. Most actors have some talent, and many are exceptionally gifted, but it requires dedicated training over time to perfect that talent. And, along the way, actors don’t always get it right.

I have learned that, regardless of the path you choose in life, success requires that you continue to pursue your goals and dreams without giving up or giving in. As I look back on my former teacher’s comment about courage in the face to defeat or disappointment, I can now see how important it is to take your lumps but never give up. If you stay in the game, you just might get there. But if you give up and thrown in your cards, it is certain that you will not succeed. Getting up off the proverbial floor, and pressing forward, can be a recipe for success.

Lately, as I have been re-assessing my life, I have been recalling dreams and aspirations I had when I was younger. In all honesty, some have come true and some have not. Obviously, I don’t feel good about the ones that haven’t, so I have been asking myself some questions about them:

“Which of your unrealized dreams were caused by you giving up on yourself, and what could you have done differently to push yourself forward toward success? Have you given up on yourself at any time in your life?”

Socrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living. While I don’t completely agree with him (I believe that if you are still living, it is worthwhile to continue to do so), I do believe self-examination should be part of an ongoing, transformative process. So I continue to examine my life.

Most of what I learned when I was young, I did so by the seat of my pants. I loved my dad, but he never taught me anything through direct dialogue with me. He was just not a life coach type of man. So I learned on my own, and many lessons came late in life.

Yes, I did give up on certain goals when I couldn’t conceive of how to accomplish them. But I would typically re-group and seek other means to solve the problem. Usually I would get it done.

On balance, I’ve enjoyed enough success to keep me moving forward; always seeking greater success in virtually all aspects of my life. And as long as I embrace and nurture this unfolding, continuous process, I’m pretty sure that when all is said and done, my former acting teacher would be very proud of me. Her words have inspired me in all areas of my life, not just in my acting career. And for that, I am truly grateful.

Were you inspired by someone to move boldly toward success? If so, please comment below.

A World That Works For Everyone

What does a world that works for everyone really mean, and are people concerned enough to see this happen? If we judge by the collective behavior of people, I would say that the answer to this question is an emphatic NO.

It is my observation that people are so obsessed with their own wants and needs, that they don’t seem to care about anybody else. Consequently, we see daily evidence of domestic violence and abuse, police brutality, political pandering, abuse of power, and human rights abuses. Too few of us understand that the victimization of just one person, is the victimization of all people. And sooner or later, we may all be visited by the injustices that permeate our societies. Hopefully, we will wake up before it all gets completely out of control.

Perhaps the way I was raised instilled in me an ongoing concern for others. My parents taught me “The Golden Rule”; that is, do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And that has been a guiding principle of my life.

So it is extremely difficult for me to understand, both at an intellectual and a spiritual level, how people can do such injustices to their fellows, so much so that it is constantly reported in the media every day. For example, how can men presume to deny the rights of women to do what they choose concerning their own bodies? This is sexism and, even worse, misogyny, which the Merriam Webster dictionary defines as “hatred for women.” I don’t believe that men would tolerate this behavior if their rights were being trampled upon. I just don’t get it!

And how can 1% of Americans use their political and financial power to keep the remaining 99% of the population controlled; nay…enslaved to their greed that controls the lives of others to their detriment? How much power is enough for these people who seem to be unaware of The Golden Rule? Moreover, where is the will to hold these tyrants accountable for the damage that they are doing to the country, and to the world at large?

Politicians, police forces, corporations, the wealthy, the privileged; as well as racists, bigots, and homophobes, all contribute to a world that works for the chosen few, and NOT for everyone. And these people seem to believe that they and their constituents are somehow more valuable and thus entitled to be treated more fairly that the masses. I hate this.

My greater challenge is to hate the behavior and not the practitioner of the behavior. I want to be an agent for positive change, so that the changes will level the playing field for all people and contribute to a world that works for everyone. But each day makes it more difficult for me to retain a belief that, in due time, there will be a massive change in the collective vibration of the planet; and that we will begin to experience the kind of world that the Designer of Life intended when He, She or It thought it into existence.

This is the hope that I struggle with daily, and one which I cannot abandon. There must be a higher level of collective consciousness than what is being revealed daily in the media. And I must hang on to that hope lest I become an additional part of the problem, rather than a part of the solution.

What about you? Can you relate to what I’m feeling?  And, if so, how do you handle this dilemma? Please share your comments. I would love to hear from you.

Tags: human rights, abuse of power, domestic violence, police brutality, injustices, victimization, spirituality, The Golden Rule, positive change, collective consciousness

I Was Too Young To Die

February, 1997: “You have one of two options,” the cardiologist said to me and my wife of less than two years. “Either we can operate, or wait it out and see if it gets any worse.”

“How long will I have to wait to find out if it gets worse?” I asked the doctor. My mind felt squishy as I tried to process the doctor’s words, and I barely heard his response.

“I can’t tell you what to do, but at your age, I probably would opt for the surgery. That way, you won’t have to worry about it getting worse as you age,” he said looking at my wife, whose eyes now conveyed deep concern.

“Yeah, but what about the risk? I asked the doctor. “What if it isn’t successful? Worse still, what if I don’t come out of this alive? Hell, I’m too young to die.” I wasn’t exactly hyperventilating, but I was getting a little light-headed. Not exactly what my new bride, Harmony, and I had hoped for nineteen months earlier when, in July 1996, we impulsively relocated from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

 

Flashback, 1994: One of the reasons we chose to move to a city where we knew nobody, was because we needed a change to generate some positive experiences to replace the adverse ones we had experienced over the previous two years.

On January 17, 1994, Southern California was hit with the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake that did massive damage to the region. Several months earlier, Harmony and I had separated while trying to sort out the direction of our relationship; and the quake traumatized her. She had lost a number of valuable possessions in the quake’s aftermath, and I was greatly concerned about her safety. This devastating earthquake brought us closer together, and we agreed that I would move back in with her at her apartment.

During the next year, my personal challenges continued: I was only working part-time; we got married that April after our courtship (do they still use that term?) of nearly five years; and my father died in Texas. We struggled financially that year, so we did not have a honeymoon, which still saddens me to this day.

In July 1996, we packed up our belongings and headed to “Sin City” to start a new life. A month later we were both hired at the Luxor Hotel and Casino; and within 90 days we both qualified for and enrolled in health insurance plans through the casino. Shortly after the first of the year in 1997, I had a complete physical exam, as it had been at least three years since my last one. That’s when my primary care physician told me that he noticed a murmur when he listened to my heart. He suggested that I see a heart specialist who would “take a closer look.”

Flashforward, 1997: The cardiologist did his best to reassure me, but I was beginning to panic. The doctor reminded me of the cardiac catheterization he had done a week earlier, in which a short tube (a sheath) was inserted into a vein or artery at the top of my groin, and a hollow, flexible and longer tube ( a guide catheter) was then inserted into the sheath. The procedure was aided by X-ray images on a monitor, where the doctor could then thread the guide catheter through the artery until it reached my heart. The pressures in my heart chambers were measured and a dye was injected. The dye was seen on an X-ray, which helped the doctor see the blood flow through my heart, blood vessels and valves.

He said that the test revealed that the (mitral) valve between my heart’s left upper chamber (left atrium) and the left lower chamber (left ventricle) didn’t close properly, and that blood regurgitated backwards instead of forward.

“When the left ventricle contracts, the valve’s leaflets bulge (prolapse) upward or back into the atrium, which may causes a murmur. I want you to consider that surgery can repair or replace the valve, but that’s a decision you will have to make.”

In lay terms, blood that would normally flow out of a chamber leaked back into the chamber, and that was not good. This action was what caused the murmur. It was at this point that I breathlessly began to ask questions about risk and the possibility of dying, either on the operating table or afterwards during recovery. I repeated, “Hell, I’m too young to die.

So we found out that it was surgery either now or later, with no guarantee that the condition would improve. After a week or so of discussing it, Harmony and I decided that it would be best to have the surgery now. And that’s what we told the doctor, despite my anxiety over how this could have happened.

In my next post, I will talk about the surgery and its effects on my life. Stay tuned. And please feel free to comment below.

What Language Am I Reading?

Is it just me, or is there an epidemic of writers who consistently slaughter the English language?  Whether it’s an online post, a newspaper or magazine article, or a website feed; I find it irritating that errors in published form dominate almost all of the English literary media.

While there are many such abuses, the most common is the incorrect use of commas.  Commas are used (1) to separate words in a list; (2) to join compound sentences; and (3) after introductory phrases.  Most grammar reference guides agree that it is not necessary to add a comma after the last item in a list, unless the list contains more than three items.  For example, “lions, tigers and bears” does not need a comma after the word “and”; as opposed to “bread, milk, jam, and honey,” which does.  Strangely, many writers cannot seem to get this right.

With compound sentences, each sentence can stand on its own as a separate and complete sentence.  When this is found, a comma must be used to divide the sentences.  The same rule applies when using introductory phrases, such as “after, although, however, indeed, unless, before, but, and, yet, so, etc.”  Otherwise, the passage becomes a run-on sentence.  A good rule of thumb is, “If you pause when you said the sentence, a comma goes where you paused.”   Weren’t these rules learned in Basic English courses in grammar school?

My hair has been receding for many years now.  And, yet, if I had hair on the top of my head, I believe I would pull it out every time I see the misuse of  “there” vs. “their.”  There can be either an adverb, adjective or pronoun, depending on how it is used. It always refers to distance, geography or space.  An example is, “I plan to go there tomorrow.”  The word their is a plural possessive pronoun, and is used when multiple subjects possess something.  For, example, it is right to say, “Their children attend the same school as my children do.”  Somebody, please tell me why writers continue to commit this grammatical faux pas!

I’m getting stressed just writing about this topic, so I will mention one more English grammar error before I go comb my thinning hair.  Perhaps the most abused category of errors center around Possessive Pronouns and Contractions.   Particularly prevalent is the misuse of your vs. you’re.  The word your is another of the possessive pronouns, as in “your cat” or “your daughter.”  You’re is a contraction that means “you are,” as in “you’re annoying me by misusing your when you mean you are.”   

It is bizarre that the English language is so consistently and brutally butchered.  Writers, give a guy a break.  Please stop making these mistakes!  It reflects on you as a person.  Do you really want to be known as a person who can’t communicate in an articulate manner?  I am a writer who loves to read and I want to keep doing both.  Help me to preserve what little hair I have left. Please write well, or take an English course.