Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When Words Don't Work

In recent years, I've felt my brain getting weaker.

My memory is shot for things like, "What actor was in that movie?" I rely on Google, the world's most powerful search engine, always available in the palm of my hand to feed information.

But after last night, it really hit home. I have all of these emotions and feelings and I have no way to express them. The city I love is in flames, divided, and I feel I can't elegantly describe anything.

Of course, both sides have their knee-jerk people who all of a sudden have degrees in Law, Sociology, and American history.

Some want to answer centuries of racism and oppression by shooting "all those hood rats." I'm not kidding, multiple people on my Facebook feed had this as the answer.

Some believe a prayer will bring peace. Unfortunately in this instance, we need to not only pray for peace, but we have to pray for a solution to the problem.

On the other side, I have friends that are happy and excited that police cruisers are being burned. They discuss times of police corruption ignoring that evidence is available for the public's eyes to see. Ignoring that if the Grand Jury was unable to get 9 members to vote for indictment, there was no way a unanimous decision would be found if the trial went further.

And this is where teenage Dan comes into conflict with adult Dan. When I was a kid, I was moody like most. But I had a sense of purpose. I didn't just hole up in my room listening to sad music. I was a man of action.

I knew things were bad in the country in 2003. This was when I first started paying attention to the 24 hour news cycle.

And when I was punk rock Dan, there were times I believed that a brick through a Starbucks window was the only way to get things changed. My philosophy was, "things are so bad, we have to burn it all down so we can truly start over."

And then last night I saw looting at mom and pop convenience stores. I saw Little Caesar franchises burning down. I saw people warming their hands over burning cars at a dealership.

And I couldn't figure out what this accomplished.

A major reason for the severe disparity between say West County and North County is the unemployment rate and pay scale.

As thousands of people left the older, northern, suburbs in the 80's and 90's for larger houses and greener grass out in western Missouri, jobs started moving too.

And thus, those that once were in the city and finally scraped up the money to move to the suburbs, to give their kids a better life, found a mostly abandoned neighborhood where there were no jobs or enough tax money for the school system to run properly.

The cycle continues of unemployment, people turning to crime to feed themselves, dropping out of school because why go when the school isn't teaching you anyway. I saw it many times over in Myrtle Beach. 17-year-old kids left behind by the world, relegated to a live fast, die young world.

So why would destroying businesses that remained in your community help?

I was excited when people were starting to address the segregation that exists in St. Louis. I imagined that some public figure would step up like Martin Luther King Jr. and lead successful peaceful protests. I imaged a scene, much like this one. And I was honored that it was going to happen in St. Louis.

I looked forward to marching with my neighbors and possibly fixing some of the underlying issues for all the hate.

Instead, my neighborhood burns. Silhouettes highlighted by the senseless fires of a few people that want to take advantage of a situation. People ruining their community and reputation for some hair products and snack food.

And the camera's love it. The "leaders" coming in from out of town on both sides of the debate, just here to stir the pot and see themselves on television again. We feed the 24 hour newscycle. Reddit is filled with constant postings about safety when visiting St. Louis. We will not recover from this for many years to come.

Then again, maybe we haven't earned the right to recover from this.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Rules of Attraction

There's a lady I collaborate on projects with fairly often. We have enough of a rapport that we can usually get a hours worth of work done in 40 minutes and then we spend 20 minutes dishing.

I told her about the week we were having. Lot's of drama, long days, and flat tires.

I was telling her about it because it was like a movie. It was comedic. She laughed for a moment and then said, "Dan, you have dark energy in your life. You have a great perspective on everything, but the amount of negative stuff that happens to you is wrong. You have to change your energy."

She went on to tell me that I need to put rose quartz under my bed because it attracts love and positive energies. She also told me to get the house cleansed with sage and to watch The Secret.

Humoring her, I did watch The Secret on Netflix. It's corny. There's a lot of famous quotes thrown on the screen while someone whispers the words in the background. There's a guy with his shirt half unbuttoned talking about how he kept envisioning that he would have a better car, and soon he did.

It's really a bunch of rich Californians dreaming of big houses, beautiful women, and fast cars. BUT... the main message is solid.

If you put out positive vibes, you'll attract positive vibes.

Instead of being pissed in traffic on your way to work, focus instead on the podcast you're listening to or how good your coffee is. Think of it as a way to have some leisure time before work. Or just envision being at work and sort of block out the traffic.

I've been trying this since Thursday of last week. Just trying to send out positive vibes. And guess what, I had one of the best, most relaxing weekends I've had in a long time.

On Friday, I spent time with Brett and Rosie. We had some killer Pasta Carbonara and prepared some bottles for one of my new brews. Saturday, a bunch of us got together to watch the Blues game at Southtown Pub. We had great barbecue, had delicious beer, watched a Blues win, and some got up for Karaoke.

And today, we woke up at our own pace, went to Steinberg Skating Rink, and for the first time since my injury, I ice skated in the snow while listening to some Floyd blasting from the speakers. And it felt good and natural. I'm hooked again. I couldn't skate backwards very fast and I couldn't do a hockey stop, but I had speed and control going forward. The other's will come back as soon as muscle memory kicks in.

So, the positive vibes and stuff might not have actually caused the greatness of the weekend. But, I figure if nothing else, it's good to throw positive vibes out in this messed up world.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Hamster Wheel

It's been a rough month financially. Between the roof stuff, my computer crapping out, the trip to Phoenix, and Sal having to rotate every week between going to the dentist and doctor, we've been tapped out.

When I've discussed finances with those that have been in the adult world longer than us, we most often hear the same thing, "You will always be in debt."

That sounds crazy and wrong on so many levels. It's like being stuck on a hamster wheel. Like I was only shooting for a better paying job, to get a bigger house, a newer car, a better cable package and keep the debts managed. If there was no end in sight, why would I wake up at 7 every morning to clock in.

It sometimes made me want to drop Netflix, sell our car and take public transportation, and move into a one bedroom apartment.

There have been many times where I wished we didn't own a home. I hate doing the yard work. I hate seeing the house projects that need to be done. I get anxiety thinking about selling the place in 5-10 years knowing that there are big ticket items I need to fix first.

The tax deduction and the equity we're building on the house don't seem to equal the amount of money and time we put into it. (Yes, I put a financial value on my time often to figure out if things are worth it)

There's often a part of me that would rather have pay $250 less a month on utilities and mortgage than owning a house. At least then, we could put that money toward the car or student loans.

But, there was a conversation I had recently that gave me the warm fuzzies inside.

A lady I work with has a similar story to ours. She turned 40 this week and said, "I would never want to go back and relive my 20's or early 30's."

She set up her story by explaining that she had a similar job, similar student loans, and similar debt.

She's now 40, her debt is paid off, she owes a little on her house, and she is able to go basically anywhere and do basically anything whenever she wants to.

She told me that they bought a house within their means, they struggled for 10 years with debt, but kept pushing, and now that she's 40, she's having the time of her life.

That gives me hope. Instead of being told the doom and gloom of, "You will always be in debt" I was told, "you have some great times ahead of you."