A Moment To Relax.

I find that’s more important these days, what with the state of the world being the way it is. I’ve still adhered to my “no discussion of politics and religion”, as it’s always been the socially advised thing to do, but I also like providing a “safe space” for friends visiting my little digital corner of the web where everyone can feel comfortable regardless (though I think my thoughts are fairly apparent).

In any case, it’s a tough place to be right now, the state of the world. There’s only so much to be said about politics, and no matter where you stand, it’s a total mess. World matters aren’t much better, and having to make decisions for the sake of global relations is perhaps my own largest consideration. Dad always taught me to think of the “greater good”, so no pressure there, right? A lot of people mad at us, both externally and within. We need to sort that out.

The reason I bring any of this up at all is that it’s fair to say this is weighing on everybody in some form right now. I’m guilty of pouring over news sites, and dredging through comment sections (and not liking the answers that I find there – Holy shit, people, really?). It wears on you, and as someone who dreads stressful situations, I have to build a shield from it, and step back. This is a tiresome election. To date, I’ve not lost any relationships over it, but I’ve needed to step back a few times. It’s not an election. It’s a superbowl.

I think my 40′s are starting to change me. I’ve been talking about “simplicity” a lot, and needing a slower pace. Jen and I had a few dinners with some friends of ours from New York this week, and he referred to me as “nostalgic”, and “sentimental”. It was meant kindly, and I took it as such, but he is right: I do look back a lot.

We all have our “Good old days” when things were “great”, and you know, sometimes, it really was. Other times, our perspectives may be skewed, remembering things a little differently, or only positive for us. I grew up in a household that, while there were problems at times, was governed by love. I ended up at least twice having a “dream job”. I’ve taken trips all over this country, living in some prominent areas, and visiting what has defined the engendered good feelings that we have about “home”. And I’ve met a lot of people, from the more profound influences and world-changers to just cool, easy-going folk that do their day to day the same as everyone else. We don’t need people to tell us how the world is or isn’t. That’s something that we should leave to ourselves to decide.

My past is my building blocks to create the kind of future that I want. I consider myself fortunate that I still have opportunities to revisit, albeit updated. It reminds me what I want out of my own life, and it doesn’t “trap” me. It inspires me to do more to add on to those events. I don’t believe that anything should be a “one off”. If you like it, revisit it and make it more.

I’m in the third chapter of my life now. I have started thinking about things like mortality and legacy and all that comes with those phrases. Mom passed when she was 53. Dad was 70. I figure that I’m likely somewhere within that median. So it becomes a question of what do I want to do with this time? It’s why I’ve made some changes in my life, and why I’m planning to make more soon. I’m not good at routine. I may want simplicity, but there’s still so much more that I have to see out there, and so many new people to meet. I love stories, and I like hearing others as much as I like telling my own. But my fourth chapter is calling right now, and I’m setting up plans to answer it.

I mentioned the phrase “relax” in my header. A few entries ago, I talked about “resetting”. I have a lot of things going on right now, but I am still making times to do things that take my mind off of more pressing issues: Jen and I are planning some travels soon. I have plenty of afternoons where all three dogs curl around me to either nap or get belly rubs.

I read, I watch movies, I still play video games. I’ve been starting Star Trek Online, and “playing that straight” in the sense of being a hero, a diplomat, and explorer. I’ve been playing Lego Dimensions as when I’m stressed, I build Lego sets (I have a lot of Lego sets, by the way). It gets my mind focused on something creative, and my imagination sated (How can I say “no” to a Beatles set?). At my sister’s behest, I started tinkering with Pokemon Go (not “Poke Mongo”, much to my disappointment), as it adds a little something extra to my walks (even if it took nine attempts to catch that first stupid Pikachu).

2016 has been a disturbing “angry” year, and it is so easy to get caught up in that. While there are a lot of external elements that affect your own life on vary levels, it’s important to keep the focus on what’s going on in your own day to day. I take breaks. Not because I’m “lazy”, or “unmotivated”, or “lack coping skills”…. I just know better. It’s another perspective my 40′s have given me. I don’t expect to slow down and stop doing eccentric things. I just plan to bring more elements in that are positive to me, and start pushing the other things out to what they really are: Background noise. There is no prize awarded for being outraged at everything you can’t control, don’t like, hate doing, working around the clock, sacrificing time with family and friends, missing out, putting up with garbage, and so…. I have to do what’s best for me and mine. My two year “Quest For Happiness” has reminded me that what I’m searching for has already been a well established part of that journey.

I have plans. They’re crazy, they may make sense only to me at times, but they’re mine, and I plan to take it in stride. The fourth chapter is about to start, and I’m at peace with those initial decisions that have taken place to get it there. I’m not out to win marathons anymore. I’m just here to enjoy the race. I’m looking to build a better world to enjoy.

Beach Bridge

What do you enjoy? How do you relax? Do you make the time for both?

41.

A little less than a week ago, I turned 41.

At this point, it just sort of happens. Rather than running from it, or trying to pretend it doesn’t exist, I’ve come to accept who I keep becoming, and all things considered, it’s not too bad.

My journal has made some shifts from “wacky adventures” to more personal introspection, and honestly, that’s not a bad thing. I still have plenty of adventure in me, and in the upcoming months, that reputation is going to define me more as I take some new steps out of my comfort zone. But I still have my moments.

September was a busy month. I had to address a “family emergency” in Texas with my sister, and take on a caretaker role. Besides being family, my sister and I have a long history of being really good friends. Oh sure, we were Hell to each other in our younger years, but we worked as well together as we did against, and as she entered her 20′s, and I entered my teens, we became friends that grew together in simply hanging out. It’s my sister that helped me to get my sarcastic, footloose, “save the world” attitudes, and even after my move to the West Coast, we’ve always worked well when paired together. So when my partner was down, it made sense to answer that call and give her a hand. In her case, more of a break, as she never stops moving.

So I did the “family” thing, and helped where I could. In the meantime, I was left to my own devices during down moments. While I didn’t have much time to see my friends, I did decide to revisit Dallas in a more familiar way.

Dallas in the 1990′s really was my personal playground. Weekends, and even after work meant that my friends and I would drive there to hang out, watch movies, be mallrats, and film pre-Jackass stunts via my camcorder that used actual VHS tapes. Mockingbird Station needed some work, as it looked a fair bit less lustrous since “our time” there, where we did kung fu routines by the tracks, and snicker immaturely as DART police would tell us to stay away as “those trains will suck you off”. But the neighborhood was otherwise unchanged, from the video store that’s been there forever, to the parking lot where I’d go every morning to ride the DART Rail into work at the West End. But it was that night that I decided to return to Deep Ellum.

I spent a lot of time in Deep Ellum growing up. A lot of time. It’s the basis of a lot of my own Bohemian attitudes and beliefs, from walking the neighborhood with friends and checking out shops and venues, to taking part in the film festival that ran there for years. Deep Ellum was my “home”.

The neighborhood’s had its up and downs, and for a while, definitely had a “down” period, but it’s been improving over the years, so I decided to walk the streets as I had once done. One of the most outstanding elements of this last trip was the cataloguing of smells. Certain places have a familiar scent that trigger a flood of memories, and the smell of grime, barbecue, and other substances felt right upon walking the neighborhood again. Minus the absence of friends by my side, the neighborhood looked and felt welcoming again. A little edgy, but comforting. I got a coffee at an old familiar coffee shop, and noted the improvements that are coming. Nights of art, and film premieres, street bands, and watching the Barenaked Ladies play in a tiny venue before they “made” it here flooded back. A reminder of friends that came with me, and those found on the streets. So long a time away, but exactly back where I belonged.

The old homestead.

The old homestead.

Corsicana’s brief visit was the same. I visited with two of Dad’s old colleagues, caught up with them, and found that both are retiring soon, thereby effectively ending “Dad’s era” of teaching at the college. It was a nice hour of conversation, then once they left, I wandered the halls of his old building.

It has never changed, that building. Familiar scent once again took hold as I ran my hands across the tiles of the stairwell. I can still feel my Dad there, his time, and it was a momentary comfort. The same held true for visiting the old Tradewest building, and running into the family that’s owned that little business lot. I did a small drive around town, finally going to see one of the town’s legends about the tightrope walker.

Honestly, I had never seen the grave in all my time living there, so I decided to find it. It was a humid day as I drove to the Jewish cemetery, and sweat was already dripping from my nose as I explored the grounds. I did run into an older woman who was probably in her 80′s and ran the place, where she led me to the grave, and told me in full the story of the walker. That’s the thing about small towns: They know and love their history, and they love sharing stories with their returning children. As I’m getting older, history and storytelling are becoming more important to me.

I visited my parent’s and grandparent’s graves, and said my good-bye, spending the rest of my time with my sister and family before returning to Vegas.

A week later, I found my way to Anaheim as one of my old friends invited me to the Gamestop Expo. – Conveniently located next to Downtown Disney, so I excused myself to those grounds (and Tiki bar) until the show began. The show itself was like the old days when I worked at Midway: A lot of games, though mostly focused on virtual reality these days (it was admittedly badass playing as Batman). I not only saw my friend Paula, who had so graciously invited me, but Melani as well, and even ran into Ed Boon, making it more of a “Midway reunion” than I had expected.

I do miss those “old days”. I sometimes wonder if the industry has progressed to a point where I wouldn’t as easily recognize it, as those earlier days had more of a “pioneer” feel to them, breaking new ground between 2D to 3D gaming, from pixels to polygons. It was, admittedly, a very strange ride for me, but a ride that I’ve grown more grateful to have had all the same.

Weeks passed, and so came my birthday. I turned 41 at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant at the Paris Casino. Jen treated me to a full dinner there, and we had a full window view of the Bellagio fountains as the sun set over the Strip, a reminder that Vegas still has its moments.

Level Up!  HP increased.  MP increased.

Level Up! HP increased. MP increased.

It was a few days later that my friends Tim and Amy came to Vegas to show off Tim’s latest paintings. Tim and Amy have been friends of mine for 15 years, and due to their ever busy schedule, we’ve not seen each other in a few years, but given this chance, I had to go. They are perhaps two of the most timeless, ageless, and gentle souls that I have encountered in my travels. The reunion was brief, but it was a momentary return to those days that I would go to the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego on the weekends, and spend an evening talking to Amy (and sometimes Tim) in the gallery.

I am starting to believe that the number of reunions that I’ve had in the last two years are all leading to something larger. It’s opened up new feelings… questions in me that I now realize that I have to answer. I think it’s also coupled with this point in my life, and my need to see what next adventure lies ahead. I’ve found my answers here. It’s time to address new ones.

I’ve humorously commented that my not laying every plan out in full detail has been a source of infuriation for some people, and…. Well, that’s not changing. Not yet, anyway. What’s the point of a story if I tell you the rundown of the next chapter before it’s even begun? I have to lay it out first, create it, and then I’ll share when the time is right.

But I can say this: I try not to ask for a lot. I don’t expect anything if I can’t will it to happen myself, but right now, I would appreciate some encouragement from here to there. Right now, I need to stay true to my priorities, and it’s going to take some time. Be patient with me. I’ve come to the conclusion that our lives are a story that we have the control to write, and whatever happens, I want mine to close out to my satisfaction.

Now I have to finish writing out this chapter….

A full photo story of the last few weeks can be found on my Instagram.