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Yes, 2014: They will talk about this year. Or I will, at least.

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I had an astounding, almost unparalleled amount of fun and personal growth this year. And it kept on going right through the celebration of Bill’s Birthmonth®, which ends today.

Fun stuff happened, relationships deepened, new alliances were forged, horrible consequences were averted, goals were achieved, clouds lifted, celebrations sparkled.

And it seems 2014 was that way for many people I know. Truly a banner year in many ways.

So rather than try to make a narrative out of it, I’ll just list points here. Because you like points. Trust me: You do. Even big ones.

  • The year started with an epic journey to Huntington Beach, California. I phoned my friend, Ed — I think it was on the 29th of December of last year. I said: “Ed, we’re going to Huntington Beach, and we’re making a movie.” That’s exactly what we did. After a stop at Blythe for a lunch (that tasted like the bused-in death that surrounded us), a quick visit to the Patton Museum to pay honor to the memory of Ed’s war-hero father, and a detour to Salton Sea to mourn some broken TV’s and things, we ended up at Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach. We sipped on tiki drinks and sang karaoke to a Snoop Dogg song (well, I did–at least. Someone needed to hold the camera, and that was Ed.) The rest of the visit went swimmingly as I went on to prove for the umpteenth time that California only thinks it’s weird. I’m too weird for California. I am an outcast from a surfing people who believe in healing crystals and pay $100 to get their dogs’ auras read.
    • Then, I came home and I lost my job. It was time to get serious (not really). My 6-month return to cubeland just proved to me that it’s the lair of Satan. People are surrendering their lives for timely TPS reports. I’m serious about this. Death dwells in the gray aisles of the typical IT department, where people are rewarded for sitting still and staring at screens. Fuck that. Seriously. When I was taken aside and was told my contract wouldn’t be renewed, my heart leapt. It was time to go. Time to leave. I was free at last. And just in time that afternoon for $5 wings and discount drinks at Keegan’s.
    • But this development only meant that my focus had narrowed. No longer obliged to silently nod on conference calls in response to acronyms chattered at maximum speed in five different varieties of broken English while only wishing I could finish a character study about a toilet-products salesman who gets lost in the desert, I took on the duty of finally getting my stories out there. I love to tell stories. I grew up in a story-centric way. My dad had stories. So do I. Thus, I started a writing career. In fact, I started two of them. But enough about that for now.
    • I texted my friend Dan. I said, “Dan, we need pictures for this book. Let’s go to Seligman.” Two days later he was picking me up in his Rav4 and we were on our way to the storied old gas-food-lodging mecca along Route 66, where a good part of my novel takes place. It was a brilliant day of jumping fences and standing dangerously close to railroad tracks and drinking in bars with fearsome-looking ‘Nam vets and their multi-pierced teenaged wives. We ended up with some pretty brilliant stills and footage, including the shot that would replace the mediocre stuff that Amazon had provided in exchange for my exorbitant cover-design fee for Diamond-T. It looked a lot like this:
  • Then, I had to help produce a fashion show:
  • And help my son win the Pinewood Derby:

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  • Then came time for the summer vacations. It was summer so I was obliged to call them “vacations,” but I was finding I had fewer and fewer spiritual impurities to vacate from myself. I was awakening. A steady sleep schedule, long morning walks, my confrontations with personal demons I had avoided lest doing so further sidetrack my career, and my ongoing project of seeking out and documenting beauty in the world were all finally working. My regimen was transforming me.  Finally, I was free to like myself, and that meant I could like other people as well.
  • I started interviewing people for articles on my blog, including John the Hobo. I met John during a stay in Bisbee, Arizona. I had longed to run off to Bisbee as a teen. I finally made it. And in a charming bungalow that also served as an animal shelter, I found my local muse, in a way. Life was beautiful and was to be embraced like a deep-girdled Achaian maiden of yore. Ok: That was from Homer. Never mind that.
  • From Bisbee it was off to San Diego to meet a group of people who shared nothing at all but their acquaintance with me.  Conversation swirled. The radio traffic reporter, her architect husband, the IT manager and the onetime-reality TV persona talked and shared. I ate ribs, drank beer, listened, and was happy.
  • Then, it was back to Arizona for a few weeks, where I threw my sweat and shoe leather into helping Katie Paetz win a spot on the Osborn School Board. She won by a handy 30% percent margin. Go Katie!

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  • Then, I returned to San Diego with my son to see Balboa Park. Balboa park is a wonderfully compact experience. It might not show up on the list of must-do’s for world travellers, but perhaps it should. It’s a fantastic city basically created out of papier mache for an exhibition in 1915. The locals liked it so much that the once-temporary buildings were gradually made permanent. There’s a groovy kind of peace to be found there. Pay the 60 bucks for the multi-day pass and see everything. See the car and plane museum, the art and photography exhibits, the model trains. It will make you feel good. Oh –and if you have time — go to the zoo next door.
  • While I was in San Diego (the second time) I paid to stay in an ancient motorhome parked in front of a new-age relationship therapist’s small tract home. How was that, you ask? It was like this:
  • After my friend Jen suggested I write a poem, I found I had some verse in me–a few lines, at least. I got my first poem (and photograph) published in LongExposure magazine in the September. The validation that comes from having an editor tell you “This one I like” can’t be overstated.
  • But in the background, something was happening. I had met someone at my son’s cub scout meetings who would add yet another bizarre twist to a bizarre year. I had first met him when he had arrived at a meeting with two twin girls in a baby carriage and a son who was actually well-behaved. Though clad in ripped t-shirts and covered in tattoos, what came through was a confident man of the stage–a seasoned pro. This was Walkin’ Cane Mark. My loud-ass rendition of Grand Old Flag during a sing-along must have captivated him enough to convince him that I was the man to ask to represent him in his return to playing blues gigs at local bars, though I don’t know why. And because I could tell this was the way the year was going, I said ” . . . sure. . . why not?”
  • Through the rest of the year there were more writings, more meetings, more friends, a camping trip with rockets, a friend’s cover versions of two of my songs, Twitter conversations with Marc Andreessen, a dip into graphic design and video editing, a Khazakstani girl doing her makeup on my rug while carrying on a Facetime conversation over the Internet with a girlfriend in the old country, a close encounter with a Voodoo Donut in Portland, unknowingly becoming the admin of a Facebook group one night in November while I slept, finally publishing the book I had started in 1992, and the call I got one day from my blues-singing friend who asked if I could produce a radio show for him in my son’s bedroom/recording studio while he was away.

And that wasn’t even the strangest, most wonderful thing.

  • Probably the strangest, most wonderful, and best news of the year came from a very close friend of mine who survived cancer.

It’s been a hell of a year. Here’s to 2014.

And here’s hoping for an equally fun, adventuresome, and prosperous 2015 for all of us!

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