Category Archives: Transitions

Cardboard to Car Bored

It was time to open presents at a children’s birthday party that I recently attended when I was suddenly struck by something that I witnessed.

The celebrant, a newly turned 5-year-old, had saved the biggest present for last. He proceeded to rip the wraps in the glee of the moment, unveiling the biggest toy I had ever seen: A battery-powered, child-scale SUV, big enough to comfortably seat four small children (with cup holders).

I didn’t get my first car until I was 17.

With the same excitement displayed by the children, the happy parents took the ‘toy’ outdoors where the city’s newest driver went on to destroy his mother’s flower garden.

The parent’s reaction: Look, it’s got off-road capabilities!

During my childhood, the only thing I needed was a cardboard box big enough for me to crawl inside.

In mere moments, I had a brand new fort. When repelling enemy forces turned tiresome, the box became a time machine. When the time/ space continuum lost its luster the box transformed into a spaceship. When negotiating with Martians turned uninspiring, the box was suddenly a boat. When navigating the high seas proved to be a lesser challenge, my playmates and I would find a grass slope and we’d take turns riding the box down the hill.

This would go on and on all day, every day. The only limitation to our play was our own creativity.

Flash forward to the present day: There I stood in my friend’s backyard watching his kid go monster truck on a bean patch. Within ten minutes, the child grew weary of his new ride and abandoned it where it was.

As he ran past me, I patted him on the head and longed for my cardboard box.

Maybe there was still enough imagination left in it to share with the birthday boy.

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Man in the Mirror

Had Michael Jackson died in 1984, it is very likely that I would have locked myself in my room for weeks. I would have been inconsolable with grief, my ten year old heart would have shattered into a million fragments and my parents would be mystified by the spell over which a pop icon could cast over their child.

But that is fiction.

In the nonfiction version of things, I have always felt a curious connection with Michael. Now that bond has taken a strange twist: My boyhood idol is dead, having suffered a cardiac arrest on my birthday, June 25.

It’s a hell of a way to mark the occasion.

Michael turned himself into an easy target for ridicule. I judged him on his appearance and preyed on his eccentricities. Like a bully in the school yard, I built myself up by tearing him down. Now the compensation for my actions is a guilty conscience.

Michael’s death has brought a strange reprieve, of sorts. As a fan that once wished him nothing but the best it had been difficult to watch him, at times, put forth nothing but his worst. No longer need I endure watching a man who I once loved so much inflict so much hate upon his own self.

Death has a way of magnifying one’s celebrity; Jesus Christ, James Dean or Tupac Shakur can demonstrate this truth. Michael did not have to overdose on painkillers to secure his immortality. His death calls to attention the greatness we already knew existed but had long forgotten about.

Fair or not, Michael’s artistic talents will be overshadowed by the way he lived his life. But only in life did Michael make sense.

Death just doesn’t seem to suit him very well.

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Sunny Side Up

My buddy Jerry calls me a martyr, but for two reasons I disagree.

In true martyrdom the end is heroic and the protagonist dies. My fate was neither. For my colleauges at my old company, Jerry’s assestment may have merit. To them, I was the innocent lamb to slaughter that stared my executioners in the eye as their axe fell true. For me, it proved that after eight years of progressive growth with one company the only guarantee in life is that there aren’t any.

I was laid off from my last job for a perfect combination of reasons: One part economic downtrend; two parts contentious relationship with my former boss; the catalytic ingredient being a company that has strayed so far from its core values that one would hardly recognize it from its earlier incarnations.

The second detail that runs contrary to the martyr template is that I am still alive! My heart still beats and my lungs still draw breath, only now it is at a rhythm of my choosing. If life is all about the choices one makes then I resolve to be the master of my own decisions.

The first choice I have made in my new life is that my wife and I will move back to our hometown to occupy her parents’ old house. It is a tactical decision and a symbolic one, too. The house has fallen into neglect, but the foundation is still sturdy. Now we will breathe life and love back into it.

The second choice I’ve made is to take a vacation! I write this piece from the comfort of a Murphy bed in a rented room in downtown Solvang, California with the cadence of my wife’s gentle snoring as my soundtrack. We are here to celebrate this transition in life with great food, fine wine and scenery so beautiful it’ll crush your heart!

The third choice I’ve made is to become what I have always been: a writer. This blog is the first step toward realizing that ambition.

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Filed under Life, Transitions