September 29, 2007

I have a younger cousin that graduated from High School last May.  A few weeks later, he packed up his bags and headed off to Marine boot camp.  He, like many other thousands of kids across the country, is headed off to what he considers to be a chance at a better life for himself, in many ways.  Traditionally, a member of the Armed Forces has any and every right to hold his or her head high.  These people, regardless of their intentions, make the choice to stand up and defend this country whenever the country is in need.  They sign their lives away to protecting the United States, and dedicate their time in service to their country.  It may be one of the most honored positions a person can take.  In this war we are in, however, our country is making a mockery of the dedication that these people have to serve and protect our country.  With this war being fought, our men and women are being used – not to defend our country, but to weaken it by creating more enemies.  It is sad to see this happening, since these men and women are taught to have the highest ethical and moral standards, yet they are being used in the most heinous ways.  When I first learned of my cousin joining the Marines, I was devastated.  I had many questions, but they wouldn’t be answered until he graduated from boot camp, and came home before being stationed for further training.  This past week, he did exactly that, and today we held a celebration and going away party for him.  Today I wanted to get answers from him, as to why he decided to join the Armed Forces in a time to where they are being unjustly used.  I wouldn’t denounce it, or give much of my opinion; I simply wanted to know his state of mind.  I already came to an assumption as to why he chose this path.  He had a very turbulent childhood.  He spent his adolescent and teenage years living with our grandmother, in a rural town in East Texas.  This town is the exact type of town that the military looks for when signing new recruits.  It is a small town filled with blue collar workers.  It is still the norm to get out of High School and start your life, without the second thought of continuing your education.  It is also the type of town that a young mind could easily be impressioned with promises of college, a good career, and more than a simple small town could offer, by way of the Armed Forces.  It was exactly this that I feared had cajoled him into joining the military.  An escape.  In small towns like this, that is the only promise that is necessary.  When I got a chance, I sat down and talked to my cousin.  I asked him about boot camp.  I asked him about where he would be stationed for further training.  I then asked him what had been on my mind for months.  What made him join the military?  He started off with the typical explanation of getting a better chance, an opportunity for school, and training for a good career.  He then went into an even deeper tangent as to what the military service symbolized for him.  He spoke of every single one of those aspects that the military should stand for – Honor, Discipline, Pride, Service.  He felt that, as a citizen of this country, he owed a little of his life and dedication to protecting it.  Now, I know he may have picked some of this up in boot camp, but I really believe that he felt that it was a duty for him.  He wants to be serve, and I can’t argue with that.  Regardless of how I stand on our country’s issues – regardless of what I think of what I believe to be almost a suicide mission with the way our military is being treated, I simply cannot argue with his simple, pure belief that he is doing the right thing.  We then started talking about what he would be doing next, and if he was worried about combat.  He then told me that he would go back for basic training, and then would be stationed to a base.  He did not fear combat, as they were told that they wouldn’t have the opportunity to see combat for at least a year, possibly two.  With those words, and that cheer and optimism in his eyes, I was instantly crushed.  The only thing I could think of was that he was being lied to by the very same people he entrusted with his life.  These very same people that were teaching him about honor, loyalty, discipline, pride – everything he yearned for.  I then started thinking about the thousands of other people who were probably told the same thing.  The thousands of people who were likely told a similar story, and are no longer even alive to talk about it.  It absolutely made me sick to my stomach.  My cousin, however, is not stupid, and as naïve as I thought.  He still knew the possibility existed, regardless of what he was told.  He worried about the rising threat in Iran, but still remained hopeful.  It really made me want to cry.  He’s in now, though, and there is no turning back now.  It really is true that you don’t put a lot of thought into things until they hit you personally.  I have always been against this war, and always have hoped for an end to it all – a withdrawal of our troops before more casualties pile up.  However, it has never been a personal battle until today.  I hope he doesn’t see combat, more than anything else right now, and I hope, more than ever before, that our country soon sees what they are doing to all of us, and ends this stupid fight. 

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September 23, 2007

I do not understand, sometimes, exactly what goes through a person’s mind.  It is Sunday evening, and I am out at my usual bar, working on school work.  I really enjoy this bar because there is typically such a diverse group of people that frequent it, and tonight is certainly no exception.  In fact, I am forgoing my normal, personal entry to be a third-party commentator on the conversations around me.  On one hand, this may be wrong – to pry into another’s life and conversation without invitation.  On the other hand, if a woman is speaking at such a volume that I can clearly hear her entire conversation from fifteen feet away, then I am going to assume that she wants an audience, and I am simply complying with her needs.  I am going to choose the latter, since it puts me at a better light.  Anyway, this particular woman is airing her grievances over her personal life – namely, her boyfriend’s issues, and what it is creating for her.  To expand on this – it seems that her boyfriend is being sued for unpaid child support by his ex-wife, or in his words, he didn’t realize he wasn’t paying enough until he amassed an unpaid sum of over ten thousand dollars.  The astonishing part of this – it isn’t the fact that someone in our world has neglected to honor their commitment to their offspring, as this happens all the time; it is rather the fact that this woman believes what he has to say, and actually diverts her anger onto his ex-wife, because she now feels that she will be partially responsible for paying his debt.  Now, I may be a bit judgmental here, but it seems to me that a man who does not wish to properly provide for his own child may not be the most suitable mate.  He may not be the type of person you’d typically want in your life, given the fact that he cannot seem to keep track of his own in an appropriate manner.  Even so, even if there is some way that this woman can overlook that, I find it to be incredible that she also begins to assume the role of the responsible party, and will continue to allow him to skirt his responsibilities.  I guess she is incredible, though, as she speaks up to defend him in the midst of all his turmoil.  She does not consider him to be the worthless louse that he appears to be, but instead condemns his ex-wife for trying to force some responsibility onto him.  How do you get to this point?  I know that I am not perfect.  I have had my share of mistakes in my past.  I have once been in a situation to where I could explain away my mate’s actions, because I felt I could eventually make a difference in his life.  That seems to be the role that women fall into; the role that we play.  It has always been our job to be the nurturer, the homemaker – to fix small problems when they arise, and to stand behind our men.  So, I guess it doesn’t seem so imaginable as to where she is coming from.  However, as we grow, we need to be able to recognize right from wrong, and correct our ways.  That is the experience that most people don’t seem to get.  Life is about growing, making choices, making mistakes, and then learning from them.  This woman, however, cannot seem to snap out of her role.  It may be the fact of the matter that this is what she perceives her role to be in this life, but at some point she stops being the victim.  At some point it becomes her choice to be taken advantage of in such a way.  I almost want to run up to her and tell her what she is doing to herself, but I feel that wouldn’t make a difference.  It seems like the only way we learn is through experience.  I hope she learns at least this.  

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September 20, 2007

Today, a friend celebrates his 29th birthday.  So, instead of writing a current event journal, I have chosen to reflect on the memories that I have shared with my friend, Adam.  I met Adam in April of 2004, when I was starting a long-distance hike through the Appalachian Mountain Range.  The next 4 months I spent more than half of every single day that passed with him, and – needless to say – we got to know each other pretty well.  In that 4 month time period, with little more than each other to entertain ourselves with (most of the time), and to converse with, I got to know Adam more than I know almost anyone else.  During those times, we both saw each other’s best and worst moments.  A little background: we were both hiking a somewhat isolated hiking trail in the mountains.  To traverse the entire trail (approximately 2200 miles), it took the “average” person 5-6 months.  People go out to escape life, to find answers, find themselves, challenge themselves…a number of reasons.  Over half of the people that get out and try this trail leave after a week.  You are usually completely isolated from civilization, and you have to carry everything you really need (food, clothing, water, shelter) on your back.  In short, it is an experience that will teach you a lot – about yourself, others, what does and does not really matter, the real importance of material goods, and many other things.  So you could gain a sense of how – if two people can stand to be around each other in this climate without killing each other – how people can bond so well after such a short period of time.  The irony is that I haven’t seen Adam since August 2004, but I still consider him to be one my closest friends.  We keep in touch by phone, e-mail, and occasional letters or postcards.  We have both moved on from our traveling adventures – he is a consultant for a green building consulting firm in D.C., and I am a graphics coordinator for a therapeutic artwork consulting firm.  Our conversations have been getting more and more sporadic as time goes by, but we still both find the time to catch up and keep in touch with each other, however limited that time may be.  What is great about Adam, though, is that I can still start up a conversation with him from where we last left off, as if that conversation had only left off from the previous day.  I also feel like he is one of those rare people that I can say anything to – someone I can confide in – and I feel it is the same for him.  It may be unfortunate that you find only a few people outside of your own family (or, even within your family) that you can really trust in this way, but I find it to be fortunate that I have at least one.  So, tonight, I will get in touch with my old friend again, wish him a happy birthday, and catch up on old times. 

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September 18, 2007

I am not fond of the electronic age.  When we first moved to the internet, a lot of social, personal communication was cut down by use of the convenience of e-mail communication.  When we moved onto cell phones, it became okay to ignore one’s social surroundings and constantly stay plugged into our phones.  Now the new trend of text messaging has become part of the electronic forefront, which has completely dumbed us all down to a 3rd grade intellectual level.  Typically, with text messaging, you cannot leave a long, drawn out message, so people end up abbreviating and purposely misspelling words in order to get their message across.  I had a friend recently send me a message that was nothing but numbers and single letters, and it magically comprised an entire sentence.  It is irritating.  I can understand that having these abilities, to a small extent, has become a necessary evil to function in our society.  Everything is moving at a faster pace, so we all have to learn to keep up with the quicker technology.  The conversion to the electronic world does, however, create some latent functions and tendencies.  People are often becoming rude and disrespectful, by cutting someone off to take a call, or interrupting a meeting to check a message.  It also creates social disfunctions for everyone as well, since most people seem to believe that they can effectively navigate the streets in their car, while texting, answering the phone, or getting into an intense conversation, all the while ignoring any and everything that seems to be going on around them.  Suppose a person gets into a heated discussion at a stop light and fails to see or hear that an emergency vehicle is behind them?  What if they delay that emergency vehicle just long enough to cause more harm, or even death, to the victim waiting?  Certainly, that person did not intend for someone to die, just because of their conversation.  However, it happened, and it was due to that person’s actions.  What is the justification for it then?  I was sitting at work today and my phone kept vibrating every 5 minutes.  It was my sister, who had recently decided to divorce her husband and move back to Houston.  I know that she was going through some trying times, and I know that she needed support, but I do not honestly see how those needs will be filled through an illegible electronic message.  How do you even successfully keep conversation with someone in that method?  I finally answered back, asked her just to call me later outside of work, and shut my phone off.  I have decided that, except for short, yes or no questions, I will cease to actively participate in communication by text messaging on my phone.  I hope not to offend anyone, but in the same sense, I do not want to sink deeper into the social disconnective-ness that the electronic age has already landed us all in.  We will see if it works out. 

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September 13, 2007

I went to my class today (this class) and found out that we were assigned our midterm at the previous class.  I missed the previous class due to forgetting all of my books and materials at home, which greatly frustrated me.  It had been a strange week to begin with, considering the car had been vandalized (Entry 7), so my normal, “everyday” schedule had been interrupted.  Typically, at the end of each day, I will drop my books and materials for the next class in my car so I won’t forget them.  However, I had brought everything inside to take inventory of what had and had not been lifted from my car Monday night, and forgot the materials the next day.  So, when I got to class, reached behind the seat and came up empty-handed, I just gave up.  I could have (A) walked into the class completely unprepared, (B) driven home, collected my materials, and then walk back into class 30-45 minutes late, or (C) just go home and be ready next time.  C it was.  All of this was my own fault and choosing, certainly – but in my opinion, a completely understandable mishap.  So, today, I find out my midterm was assigned and it is due in 5 days.  This is where I start to panic.  Normally, it wouldn’t really be that big of a deal, as I had only missed 2 days of writing/research time for the paper, but this particular weekend, I had planned an out of town trip.  In fact, I was leaving directly after school this evening, and was coming back home Monday morning.  Now, this trip isn’t a life-or-death situation, but it was a trip I had invested time and money into, and a trip that had been planned since February.  Not only that but I really needed the break.  Basically, I was not going to change my trip.  Midterm or not, I was still leaving town tonight.  Of course, this meant that I would have only Monday night to work on the paper.  I would be bringing my materials with me but, realistically, there would be no time to work on it.  I felt that I was completely setting myself up for disaster, but I was ready to accept the consequences.  It was my choice, after all.  Although some may consider it to be justifiable, I did not really see the justification in asking for an extension.  Of course, I also did not find justification for giving up a trip that had been planned for 8 months, either.  The funny thing is, though, that throughout the class period, people were constantly objecting to the paper being due so soon, with only a plea that they wanted more time.  Not one person spoke up to say ‘I need more time because…’ only ‘I want more time.’  With the amount of objections, I really expected at least one person to cite a specific reason, but not one person did.  I guess I could have, knowing I would only have hours out of one day to really write my paper, but I really felt my own excuse was a little weak, and had already resigned myself to just toughing it out.  At one point, I really wanted to say “I am leaving after this class and won’t be back until Monday, and only have Monday night to write my paper and I am not asking for more time, so just deal with it!”  That would have not made me any friends, though.  Perhaps, however, it could have put things into perspective for some people.  So, perhaps I should have.  Oh well, maybe another time.

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September 5, 2007

I made my final call to University of Houston’s customer service department today – well, at least the last call for this semester, I hope.  Since I had still not seen my parking pass come in, and had started to see parking tickets appear on various vehicles around the campus (not mine, however – yet), I knew that it was time to just quit waiting for the mail and to get a pass.  So, when I called this morning, I was ready to stay on the phone for as long as it took to figure out exactly what I needed to do to get my parking pass – and ‘wait for the mail’ was no longer an option.  Thankfully, it appears that most issues and problems that most students have had are clearing up, as I did not see the tremendous hold time.  In fact, it almost startled me how quickly a representative got on the line.  When I started to explain my predicament, the representative cut me off and said “yeah, you should have received your parking pass a long time ago,” and then explained that I would actually need to stop by and pick up a parking pass at the school, because it had either gotten lost in the mail, or was never mailed in the first place.  Well, I am glad that I finally am going to be able to legally park at school, but extremely frustrated with the entire process.  Higher education is simply not set up for the working class.  Almost every office seems to be open during “regular business hours,” e.g. 8:00 – 5:00, Monday through Friday.  During the first couple of weeks of school, a lot of these offices have extended hours, but it cancels out the effectiveness if you have to wait 2-3 weeks to actually find out that there is, in fact, an issue with something that you’ll need to be present to take care of.  There seems to be a trend in people holding off on college, or going back to college in their mid-to-late-twenties in the past few years, and I wonder how that trend (or if it) will affect the working hours and basic operation of a college campus that typically runs during the day.  Sure, there are night classes open, but at a small fraction of availability versus what is available during the day.  It becomes difficult to choose a class based on a professor, or anything other than popular subjects.  Chances are, also, that you will eventually have to come up with a way to take a few day classes to, when it comes down to some of your final, most specific classes geared toward your degree.  It’s very frustrating.  The office that handles parking passes, thankfully, is one of the few offices that have hours that extend beyond the 5 o’clock shut off.  Unfortunately, that means one of two things…since it is mid-week, I can either chance parking without my pass for a few more days, hoping to refrain from getting a ticket, or I can miss a class and pick up my parking pass this afternoon, after work.  Finite Math versus legal parking…I chose the parking pass.  When I finally picked up my pass, I learned that it had not been mailed out in the first place, due to incomplete address information.  So…the times I requested that they checked my information could have saved me this time and hassle.  Too bad they don’t do that.

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November 11, 2007

Today, I hosted a birthday party for my sister and a co-worker of mine.  There were to be friends and associates from work, the co-worker’s friends, and some of my and my sister’s friends.  The backgrounds here were varied and diverse, so I started to wonder exactly how this get-together was going to go.  My sister was turning 32, and the co-worker, Dan, was turning 43.  So, there would be a slight age gap.  Not much of one, but I knew there would be a slight factor in that.  A second factor is that my co-worker is gay, as are almost all of his invited friends.  This was – not in itself – an unusual thing.  In fact, younger generations are much more accepting and tolerant of alternative lifestyles, and most of us mingle with persons of all lifestyles.  In my own background, I have always kept an open mind, as have most of my friends and, respectively, my sister’s as well.  I was actually more concerned with how his friends would take, accept, and get along with us.  The reality is that, with general cultures and lifestyles, there is a guarded separation.  People naturally tend to flock to other like-minded people when confined to a group.  On a singular, or one-on-one basis, however, this doesn’t seem to happen quite so much.  Neither does it tend to exist among old friends.  With this particular party, however, there were three aspects that could potentially work against us: the age gap, different lifestyles, and lack of basic familiarity.  I chose a neutral environment for us; an outdoor bar, known for its diverse clientele, in Montrose, a part of town also known for its diverse and also gay community.  I met up with Dan and his partner and, one-by-one, everyone else started to arrive.  Just as I suspected, the first of the three main aspects started to kick in.  The first arrivals at the party, around 3 o’clock, were all of his friends, who were a few years older and a little more used to the day life, as opposed to the night life.  My sister and most of our friends, however, were thinking about arriving around 4 or 5, which was a little more appropriate for the start of a celebratory afternoon, at least for our age group.  This didn’t bother me so much, and it all seemed to work out for the best, as it gave Dan’s friends and associates a little time to catch up with each other.  Another latent effect of growing up and growing old is that you grow into your own life a little more, and tend to neglect some of your outside influences – at least more so than you would at an age 10 years prior.  Plainly speaking, this was the first time that most had seen each other in months.  On the other hand, most of my and my sister’s friends had literally seen each other the night before, so we didn’t have a lot of personal catching up to do.  So really, the difference in arrival time really seemed to work out for the best.  Once they started to arrive, there started out to be a subtle boundary – naturally.  In all actuality, there could not have been a bigger separation in culture.  One was conservative, almost to a fault.  He had worked in the oil industry, engineering, voted strictly Republican every chance he got, and was probably the most “far right” person of the group.  The most “far left,” politically and lifestyle-speaking, was a gay drag queen; a friend of Dan’s.  He was a local celebrity among the gay and liberal community, and had lent a lot of his time to very liberal organizations and causes.  There were then mixes of social and political background in between.  The backgrounds ranged from rich to poor, with moderate-middle class being well-represented.  It really had the makings of an incredible social experiment in human behavior.  So, always the observer, I just took a seat to watch it all unfold.  What happened after this collision?  Well, considering there was no clear majority in any way (social class, political ideology, lifestyle), there was no strong desire to lean one way or another.  There was no reigning “rule” to speak of, so everyone ended up mingling and getting along.  Those that had different lifestyles found they had similar backgrounds, or other links.  Others, already familiar with each other, chose to seek out new acquaintances, and expand their social network.  Not one single element dominated the group, so everyone was able to interact with their own way of life left intact.  Maybe there could have been a quiet, silent minority among the group, who just decided to move along with everyone else.  How do you ever know about the silent minority, though, if they never speak up? 

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October 16, 2007

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” – Samuel Clemens

I think that we are all entitled to bitch, moan and cry about things, from time to time, that we plan to do little to nothing about. It’s human nature; a manual process of breaking down, realizing, letting go and moving on. Cleansing is healthy. Voicing concern is cleansing, and often necessary. Expulsing your doubts, worries, concerns, and issues – these are all good things….up to a point. The key is recognition; the art of letting go, of moving on, of realizing that you can go from point A to the elusive “what now” of point B. Point B is a good place! It’s a happy place! It is the point of solution, even if there is no solution but simple complacency in letting go of what irks you, ails you, or otherwise deforms you.
So we agree, then? Certainly.
I think it really is that easy, too, but it can sometimes involve breaking lifelong habits of critical thinking, analyzation, rehashing of points to the point of obsession, and killing what is already dead. Beating the dead horse, so to speak….but who doesn’t love doing that?? Okay, so perhaps it’s unneccessary. Fine.
I was having a conversation with an older co-worker, concerning the changes and uncertainties about life, goals, dreams, and age. My biggest fear, really, at this point, was the milestone of my 30th birthday which, in my eyes, seems to be approaching full speed ahead. Why? I can’t even explain it. I started to try to explain it to my 40-something co-worker, as she looked at me, secretly rolling her eyes, and tried – very patiently, I may add – to listen to my ramblings, going over life, and work, and school, and just getting to the point to where I realize that I am not exactly on the path I first set out to travel, up until the point of exhaustion. When I finally managed to squeeze out the last hurrahs of my little pity party, she looks at me, and says “I’m 42, and here I am, hanging out with a couple of 20-somethings after work. I don’t think anyone ever really figures it out.”
She may be right.
I honestly don’t know what has gotten me so worked up at this point, because I’ve always challenged the “norm.” I’ve never really done this because this is what we’re all supposed to do, or stepped into line at exactly the right pace, so I can keep up with everyone else. I’ve always just taken each step at my own merit, disregard, and whim. So, why is it suddenly bothering me that I haven’t kept up with the people I’m not even trying to race anyway? I am beginning to think that, perhaps…perhaps it shouldn’t. Maybe I just need to get over it. Get over it – embrace it – celebrate it, even. This is what I set out for, so why does it seem to be such an ordeal now? Of course, nobody ever claimed that life was an easy task. I get that. It doesn’t have to be so damn hard, either. I think we make it hard (and yes, I mean the Royal we); at least a lot harder than it should be. There is just too much going on elsewhere to get caught up in the digestion of Point A to begin with. It’s time to get on to Point B.

So, there it is. I’m going to be 30 soon. I am still in school. I’m not in another city, state, country, or whatever it is I dreamed of being in just a few short years ago. I have no idea what I will do when I “grow up,” nor the slightest clue as to what will interest me. And, I hate Finite Math. There it is – and it’s all okay.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way….

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October 28, 2007

Friday, I lost my cell phone.  .  I was devastated by this.  Not so much because I feel the need to surround myself with electronic gadgets, but because my cell phone is, literally, my lifeline to the outside world.  All of my contact information is in it.  Names, addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, and other information for all of my friends, family, and work associates are in it.  My calendar, which includes dates such as test dates, appointments, dates, social events – everything I have organized and scheduled is in my cell phone.  I thought, a few weeks ago, about backing up my information as I was completely surprised that I had kept a cell phone for 2 years now without misplacing it, but time passed, and it didn’t happen.  So, after going through every location of where it had been (last used October 29th, see previous journal entry), including a failed attempt to communicate with a Spanish-speaking staff at a local Taqueria, I resigned myself to suspending my service and attempting to recollect 2 years of information I had amassed on my cell phone.  Luckily, as I was quite stubborn about diving completely into the electronic device world, I had most of my older phone numbers and contact information written down on paper.  However, I stopped this ritual about a year and a half ago, not too long after I first threw in the towel and purchased a cell phone.  Everything from late 2005 on was a mystery – which, in my life as of right now, is a majority of what I utilize on a daily basis.  It is amazing how, during certain periods of your life, you can dictate a shelf life on information, work, associates and surroundings.  It seems that my average shelf life for associates, new friends, acquaintances and such is about 1-2 years (given my current dilemma as an example).  It is also amazing how dependent you can become on a device that you didn’t even use a few years ago.  The day I realize I had lost it, I immediately started trying to recall the numbers to certain people I needed to contact that day.  A friend of mine was having a birthday/house-warming party, and I needed to call to get directions to her new home.  My first task, however, prior to this was to locate a workable plug-in, land-line phone.  I have local land-line service, but never use it.  I no longer even have an answering machine at home, because all of my calls are routed through my cell phone.  When I remembered her number, I realized that it was a long-distance call.  I could not call her.  The next person I thought to call, who was also going to the party that evening, was my sister.  Alas, her number was also long-distance.  Once again, I was out of luck.  I then called my mom, who I hoped would be able to relay a few messages back and forth, and give out my home number to those who I needed to contact so they could call me.  I also had her place a call to my cousin, whom I had been hanging out with when I lost my phone, to see if she had it in her car.  Once I made that call, I decided to visit the areas we had been to in order to find out if I had left the phone anywhere in between. 

            My first stop was at a local Taqueria.  Unfortunately, we had a language barrier between us, and I had a difficult time communicating that I lost my cell phone and thought it would be there.  Since we were left in a state of ill communicado at the Taqueria, I went back home, but not before searching the parking grounds.  When I arrived back home, I looked up the translations to a few phrases that may have helped me with communicating that I needed to find my cell phone, and placed a call to the Taqueria.  When the person answered on the other end, I started stammering “I may have lost my cell phone at your restaurant” in proper Spanish, which translates to “Pude haber perdido mi teléfono de la célula en su restaurante,” which I had to repeat a few times in my improper diction, followed by a few “uno momento, por favors” so I could try to translate what they were telling me and give the proper answer.  This led to the woman on the phone telling me to call back after 4, when the night shift arrived.  So, I decided to hold on that, and to wait out the phone calls for anyone that I was trying to get in touch with.  This was around 10 a.m.  After about 4 hours, with only 1 call from my sister, letting me know the directions/locations to the party, I realized that there were things outside of the house that I needed to do.  So, I left to run some errands, pick out gifts for the party and grab a bite to eat.  In the meantime, my cousin had called me and, when nobody answered, called my mother to let her know she did not have my phone.  After about an hour, after getting back from my errands, I decided to call my mom once again, where she relayed this information to me.  It was now 5, and I needed to start getting ready for my friend’s party, at 6.  I was also able to call back to the Taqueria, where a woman speaking English answered, and informed me that no phone had been turned in.  My only other option, before giving up the hunt, was to check with the club we were at the previous night, which did not open until 7.  Knowing that I am horrible with directions, and that I would likely get lost without being talked through the route beforehand, I decided to make my best attempt and try to make it to my friend’s house.  I left at 6:15, and by 7:30, I gave up, turned around, and made a stop at the club to see if my phone had been turned in.  It had not, so I gave up and went home.  After I arrived home, around 8, my phone started ringing.  It was my friend, who had been told of my mishap, and was wondering where I was.  I explained everything, and she walked me through the directions (which I had failed to write down a single street.  I was literally circling the block they lived on for half an hour before giving up).  I finally made it to her house around 9 o’clock, three hours late, but to no surprise by anyone there.  That night turned out to be okay, despite the stress of being cut off from the world, by the loss of a simple gadget.  This morning, I got in touch with my cousin and, refusing to believe that my lifeline was lost forever, continued to plead with her to search her car.  After a few searches and a few hours had gone by, we both gave up.  I guess I will have to rely on my manual skills to piece my life back together again. 

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October 21, 2007

I am a creature of habit.  No, wait.  I have become a creature of habit.  Becoming a creature of habit has been a very rewarding experience for me, because we all know what idle hands are.  I’ve always thought that I’ve been a free spirit, but deep down, I do realize that I am the very type of person that benefits most from a set schedule of events.  The best part of my life thus far, being the hikes that I took, made me realize that I am completely worthless without something to keep me in line.  Yes, to most of you, this would be obvious, but some of us have to learn the hard way. 
Being within my set schedule, I find that, toward the dwindling daylight hours of Sunday, the most relaxing thing for me is to grab a book (or, if glancing upon some of my working-titles of this piece, a notebook and a pen), and walk over to the Ice House to grab a few beers and wind down with a book or a little scratch in my notebook.  This particular evening opened up to my attempt to catch up on a certain sociological assignment, a periodic journal, given in the light of the sociological perspective – which I have neglected for the better part of the school semester.  So, as the day closed, I headed over to get some school work done. 
After about an hour and a few pages worth of journal work, I was joined, at my table, by an older man who apparently had some things to say to me.  To step out of the story for just a minute, I’ve never understood the dynamics of the thought process that rolls across another’s mind when – at the moment they see someone with their nose stuck in a book, or their hand furiously scribbling away on a notepad, or even otherwise trying to look busy and therefore not able to give up their time – that person feels that it is appropriate to sit down and strike up a conversation with someone who is obviously otherwise distracted.   Honestly – sometimes a girl just wants to sit in the backdrop, have a beer, and be left alone.  There have been movies that have tried to point out the contrary, and we all know that movies tell the truth about all that there is to life and being – but here’s the thing:  I haven’t even brushed my hair today.  I am wearing a little league baseball t-shirt that I picked up at a thrift store – it actually has a little league baseball patch on it, and I have no idea who “Voisine,” the apparently “big-boned” (for the very fact that this is a little league shirt – meaning, what – 10 year old boy? – and it fits an adult (and is quite roomy, at that) little boy that played for Plainville is.  I don’t even know where Plainville is – I’m assuming Connecticut.  I am not making any type of eye contact with anything other than my notebook, for a reason.  I don’t even know that I am wearing deoderant, and – chances are, I’m probably not, because it’s Sunday, and I really don’t care all that much.   Honestly, what is wrong with you guys?
So, I’m writing in my journal, and Joe comes up and sits down.  He asks me if I’m writing a letter.  My best response – which, in fact, is truth – is that I am actually working on some school work; trying to catch up on a subject in class.  Joe thinks that is great, and is intrigued.  So follows the question of what I’m studying (English), and if I’m going to be a teacher (No, I just like literature), and then, of course, leads onto the subject of how Houston has officially voted on the expansion of the light rail.  Obviously.  What more could come of that conversation?  Of course, the subject of the light rail expansion was the next logical choice.  What else would there be to talk about?
Joe is the type of man who likes to ramble.  He works around, and then picks a subject that suits him, and then the floodgates open.  As soon as he spoke up of the light rail expansion project, and I gave the slightest hint of recognition to the subject, it was all over with.  I soon became privy to the districts surrounding the light rail that would soon be enveloped into the construction project that is to last until 2010.  At least.  The way Joe sees it, it will never be over.
He’s probably right, too.
Joe spoke of everything that is true of Houston.  The traffic is horrible.  It is a city full of transplants that don’t know where they are going.  The museum district is, really, the only sparkling jewel of the entire city, and it’s being torn apart.  Townhomes and apartments are springing up out of nowhere, on top of each other, with no consideration to the new excess of traffic and gridlock that is to overwhelm the community once the tenents move in.  In fact, the only thing that makes Houston even a bit unique from other large cities – the only thing that, in my opinion, makes Houston great — — that being the lack of zoning laws and regulation — — will be the very thing that tears the city apart.  The great thing about the lack of zoning laws is that you could find the most back-beat, out of ordinary place to grab a cup of coffee, get a good meal, have a beer, or whatever it is you choose in the middle of the neighborhood.  The best thing about this is that it brought weird little shops within a community, and kept the city interesting.  The bad thing about it now is that, being driven by economic trends, there is absolutely nothing to keep yesterday’s best thrift store from being bought and turned into a duplex tomorrow.  That, with the uncertainty of the real estate market right now, has brought a tremendous growth in multi-family units into the city where these cool little shops and venues once existed.  There is no purchasing going on, at this point, other than buying out businesses and creating apartments and townhomes. 
But, really, that’s another story for another time. 
All I really wanted to do was write in my journal. 
Joe continues for a bit longer, but then he’s momentarily distracted by something, and excuses himself for a few minutes. 
At this point, I’m not sure whether to just get up and go home, or to quickly jot down the events in my journal, so that I can later dissect them for my sociology class.  Before I can even make that decision, however, Valentino stops by.  Valentino, from Italy.  That was his exact introduction.  “I’m Valentino, from Italy.”  I think I’m going to start using that.  “Hi, I’m Melissa, from Houston.”  Maybe, “I’m Melissa, and I’m from Texas.”  Or, maybe, but only if I am within the good ole’ US of A, “I’m Melissa, from Amurrrca.”   Yes, I think I’m going with the last one. 
So, Valentino saw that my beer was empty, and would like to buy me another.  I look at him and say “if that’s what you want to do, go ahead.”  He’ll be right back. 
Honestly, I just want to do my homework. 
Valentino gets back, and gives me his card before departing.  He’s an electrician, and if I know anyone that needs any electrical work, then I should pass his card along. 
Okay, Valentino, I’ll pass the word to Joe, too.
Which, of course, Joe comes back up when Valentino hands me the beer and his card.  Then Joe decides to get a beer, and apparently runs into Valentino at the bar and they talk for a while.  It seems, according to Joe, that Valentino is a really nice guy.  Awesome. 
I gulp down my beer as Joe starts in on the freeway system of Houston, and how crowded it is.  Joe, not to be outdone by a woman who is probably about 15-20 years younger than him, starts gulping his beer as well.  As I finish my own, and he excuses himself to get another. 
“Well, Joe, it was nice talking to you, but I’m gonna head on.  You take care of yourself.” 
All I wanted to do was have a couple of beers, and write in my journal. 
At least I crossed off one of my goals for the evening.

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