Rob lives near the geographical center of the North American continent with his wife, daughter, and two cats. Most days he's a machinist and fabricator for a subcontractor that makes attachments for a big-name skid-steer manufacturer, and tries to keep himself sane by running and writing as much as possible. His big plan is to get back to the Pacific coast and to stay there for good so he can add surfing to the arsenal for sanity.
Forgotten Days, ways to do things that were once light
I just have a few minutes to write before I have to go to work. It’s funny how life gets away from me, how I start to miss things like writing. I once hoped I would make some sort of a living from my writing, but that never came to fruition, and I’m okay with that; after all, life is pretty good.
Since my last post — over two years ago — I quit my job at the Bobcat Plant. Out of sheer frustration with the place, with five years of unfulfilled promises and the runaround and the lost opportunities to enjoy life, I decided it was time to find a new path, and put in my notice there. After a short break I got a holdover job at the local Menards, and now I have embarked on this new career as a Correctional Officer. Now I have the opportunity to serve my community every time I go to work.
Every time I go to work I choose to go to jail, and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of my energies and skills, because that challenge is one that I am willing to accept, unwilling to postpone, and one which I intend to win.
I’ve forgotten how to do this. I’ve forgotten how to put in the header image, how to insert the images in the text, and I’m pretty sure if I pick this back up I’m going to have to figure out how to get my domain name back. But I’m still out there fighting the good fight, fitter and more adventurous than ever. Just a few weeks ago my family and I went to the top of Pike’s Peak, and in the same day we were exploring caves deep underground. This is life, and we’re living it.
I hope you are too. Whatever your fight, I hope you’re fighting. Whatever your life, I hope you’re living. It should be an adventure, even through the everyday.
Do these things not because they are easy, but because you mean to win.
I used to grope for blog post ideas. This was part of my problem, I think. I’d go over to the Daily Post and see what they had there. I’d see if I could mix the different prompts to generate something to write about. But I don’t need an idea, really
I just need a place to start. Writing is a conversation, albeit delayed somewhat between its transmission and reception. It creates a de facto myth to be interpreted and assimilated by the reader, and so in a way it is fact-checked more completely against their own treasury of knowledge and beliefs.
So today I am reading Myth and Meaning by Claude Lévi-Strauss, and I’ve already found something of interest. He writes: “I forget what I have written practically as soon as it is finished. . . . I don’t have the feeling that I write my books. I have the feeling that my books get written through me and that once they have got across me I feel empty and nothing is left.”
Identifying with this statement can explain the sudden block that causes a writer to leave the blog a howling lost city for so long. Even the most prolific bloggers can have spurts, long or short, of inspired activity only to peter out and move on to less confounded pursuits.
This is what I’m talking about. I wrote the above text over a month ago, and left it to while away the days in the black abyss of my draft folder. It might have stood well enough on its own, but it felt unfinished to me and I haven’t had the time to get back to it. Less confounded pursuits, there were.
We all have things we have to do in life. We gotta work. We gotta feed our babies. We ought to mow the lawn and prune the hedges. But in between watching episodes of The Walking Dead while doing sets of pullups I am best by the guilt of not working on creative pursuits, because life says that in order to look like Superman I need to be on a steady diet of pullups, push-ups, prisoner squats, lunges, split squats and burpees. Burpees!
Talk about harsh. Whereas starting pullups leaves you wishing you could do a pullup, starting burpees and squats leaves you wishing you hadn’t.
Take the time to find your inner creator when you can, and don’t worry about the demands of life. Do them if you must, but don’t sweat them. Just make sure you’re not filling a folder with unfinished work.
Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be alright again. Or if I ever was. I move in waves, quite like the ocean, between acceptance of and rebellion against the status quo and its attendant duality of outrageous fortune vs. a sea of troubles.
It’s a bit of a bind, whether to blithely accept the good or to keep fighting the things that are wrong with my world.
Mme. Ross and I have become disillusioned with life on the great plains. The ocean calls us through its connection to our blood. Living in a red state is an exercise in patience for the opinions of those who otherwise seem good. And perhaps there is more for us out there than there is here, in the comfort of a well-built life of wage slavery.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Isn’t that what they say? No guts, no glory.
With this life comes many comforts, such as the ability to indulge in pastimes – almost lavishly so. I feel like Thomas Jefferson in my ability to do and create, to be active and somehow strangely prolific in what little spare time I have . . . Strange, because it seems I have so much to do and so little time, no thanks to my work schedule. Yet like old Tom I am marvelous in my ability to curate random collections, such as homemade nails. Like Jefferson I have a taste for the quintessential, the original, the innovative.
In that Spirit I’ve made a new goal for myself comma although whether I reach that goal depends on many factors I cannot control. Within 10 years I will be a freelance illustrator.
That’s me, going back to my roots. I’d like to work for myself, out of my own digs.
Rob’s Surf Report has always been a very personal blog. A reflection of me. The rise of the tide and the long, deliberative silences. the salty attitude. The need to nurture and the instinct to lash out.
I am what I am: a stunning self portrait of the creative One. The I AM. I am the ocean and the child who walks on the water.
Those of you who are reading this because you’re still subscribed, I am so glad to have you and I hope you know I support you and see your endeavors, and I am truly inspired by them. If you’re new to this blog know that I don’t post “just because,” or to build a writing habit.
I have things to say.
Keep posted, siblings. As long as I have this domain, you can trust that I will be back.
Remember when I used to steal time, when I called myself a time thief? That was 3.25 years ago, and somehow time has gotten its stuff back from me. I push my effort into all the little corners and crannies that life gives me lately. I’ve learned that resistance is futile. That reacting with anger is only a way to show the world that one doesn’t understand what their responsibilities are — and it’s a curious change to behold from this side of my face, because it’s happening to me. Instead of snapping, I can nearly feel a physical sensation as my mind stretches out to find its peace with the situation. In retrospect, it’s all small beans.
Of course, the situation could be much more extraordinary than an unexpected change of direction in one’s day. Not everyone can be asked to find their inner Plasticman.
I have long aspired to find that secret superhero within, and I suspect that there has been a conspiratorial push to bring any such people out of the woodwork of society since the dawn of the atomic age. As our world becomes more extraordinary, it feels like there is an undercurrent of longing for extraordinary people to guide us, and to show us how to shine and to have hope. It’s so sad that this is a time when the people of the world are watching this sad contest between two clowns who have no business at the top of the free world, but I would be at a loss to suggest an alternative.
As far as I’m concerned, I’d prefer to go gray at my own pace.
And the frustration continues at many angles, as we’re less than two months out from Halloween and suddenly I’m interested in building a costume from scratch, partly for the sheer love of creation and partly because I think it would be cool to have something to wear to comic store day in the Spring, or Halloweenfest (another comic store holiday,) and heaven forbid, should something like Comic Con ever come to North Dakota, saints preserve us! But it appears that the Internet has little to divulge when it comes to the secrets of Hollywood’s costumers. Mme. Ross is going to teach me to use her sewing machine this weekend, and then we will see what I can do with that.
But wearing a costume means little. Costumes come in all varieties, including pantsuits and silly blonde wigs. You can’t hide what you are so easily, can you?
I have to run now.
This week’s Daily Post challenge is to write a post about a superhero who speaks to you. Of course, I didn’t exactly follow the rules . . . scoundrel that I am.
Storms. Storms in my head! I thought that I could do a little throwback Thursday or something. I would go back through some of my older posts and repost one of them to get a sense of where I once was but it’s only come to frustration because I realize that once upon a time the downpour of words that bombarded the page was so different than the sparsity that I struggle to ration out lately. I read it and I think, where the heck did that come from?
Today, by comparison, I think my prose has dried out somewhat. As though a sandstorm has come through and blasted my creativity down to bare metal.Maybe that’s what it feels like to come back to writing after a long period of no-writing. Or maybe something has changed. The thunderbolts of inspiration don’t just light up my brain like they used to.
But for whatever reason I can’t seem to give up altogether. Every time I think about hanging it up — admitting that my writing is just another fad, a fly-by-night hobby — there’s something inside that won’t let it go, and when I look back I see what it is that I must be holding on to. I would like to think that perhaps some day I can find my way back to writing long form, the off-the-cuff essays, the flash fiction — to being, and moving forward from, the bedazzling literary cyclone that I must have been.
I actually work really hard on this. And maybe I’m a little too aggressive, because here I am the next morning trying to finish this reconstruction of my feelings about this on a screen when I could be doing other things, things that I also feel I need to do . . . but they must not be as important as this. Even though I have to go running and then go to work in a little bit.
Because when it comes down to it I guess I have to write.
When I first moved to North Dakota from the Detroit area back in 2008, I knew I was undertaking a very unlikely journey. Up until the moment I decided to accept the invitation to move to another state and give myself a chance to make a fresh start almost two thousand miles away, I thought I was never going to leave Detroit. I’m fine here, I would tell myself and others. I had received multiple solicitations to move out to California before and had turned them all down for various reasons: high cost of living, earthquakes, the probability of sliding off into the ocean being somewhat higher than in Michigan . . .
But things had changed, you know? I finally saw an opportunity to get away from a negative cycle that had kept me from truly functioning as an adult. All the conditions were right, and so I rode the wave all the way out here.
Since arriving I have seen a remarkable change in the social profile around here. Where once I noticed that it was rare to see a black or brown person around town, the area is now teeming with people who have moved here for varying reasons in the intervening years, whether because of the economic crisis, war in the Middle East, oppression in Africa; or just because in this land of opportunity, at the right time, North Dakota was the place to make a new start. And it’s not just foreign people of color, but people from all around the country. From all walks of life. Different races and religions and all the things that have some people putting stickers on their cars that say “Welcome to North Dakota — now go home!”
Everyone has their journey, and some of the best ones break down the boundaries that we build for ourselves and those that others have built. And it’s so sad to see the escalating media coverage of all that is negative in the world, from the plague of shootings that seem to have come out of nowhere to the general unrest that continues to plague the cradle of civilization. And somehow, while many of us have shut down and continue to isolate ourselves most vocally in our self-fulfilling paradigms, modern society seems to have transformed the human race into a fluid. One that’s crashing in waves on the shores of the first world. The proof is evident all around us. There’s a 2012 novel that was made into a 2015 film called Look Who’s Back that opens up the eyes to sentiment regarding, among other things, the mass immigration of Turks into Germany. The subject matter shows no age, I’m sorry to say.
There’s also the recent divorce of Britain from the European Union, something that one person oh-so-cleverly called “Brexit”, and now that ungainly portmanteau will likely see not only the insides of history textbooks, but the Oxford English Dictionary as well. And while I have no opinion either way, I believe that the British used their rare chance for a popular vote and I don’t blame them one bit. After all, I always wish the popular vote would bring some results in our nation. But one of the major arguments behind the whole affair is that the EU is too lax on immigration and allows too many immigrants in. I can’t say Brexit is all bad, however, considering my 401k is finally making significant upward moves for the first time in over a year.
And there is the ever-present sentiment against illegal immigration in the United States, Donald Trump’s trumped-up promise to build a wall along the Mexican border being only the tip of the iceberg. Under the twinkling ocean of our society looms a ginormity of sentiment that lays the blame for everything from lost jobs to climate change at the doorsteps of anything un-American.
The evidence is all around that the world is a giant machine lubricated by a fluid of humanity. Our journeys take us where they will, but wherever we begin we leave something behind and wherever we set foot we leave the indelible marks of our passage. This world, being thus enriched with each passing day, acts largely like the mythically ubiquitous, ungrateful millennial that popular sentiment currently tends to demonize in our social media feeds. And hey — no society can grow richer under the banner of a single heritage. While an area might retain its distinct flavor with just a little effort on the part of those who care about where they came from, it’s ridiculous to think that pushing newcomers away will make us any safer from the damage we might do to ourselves.
the guest will take
communion of souls
Nothing is better than having guests to break up the routines of our daily lives. People like Mme. Ross and I — that is, people who don’t thrive in large social circles — craft our lives day by day in the comfort of our home and our lives there. The occasional gathering of our closest friends really brings something to our home, and we do our best to give back as well. We help our friends move, we make them our neighbors, and we share what we have with them. To live that life on a permanent, unbroken basis seems like an idyllic dream.
On the other hand, to go to work forty hours a week for people with ridiculous, half-hearted, loosely-applied restrictions on the use of personal technology; who rarely appreciate what I’m bringing to the proverbial table; and who seem to specialize only in making others feel stupid for being themselves; had begun to seem like an awful chore until the plant was given the week off for the 4th of July, and while I thought that going back after that week off would be like more of the same torture, it seems as though the days are going fast, maybe speeding me along toward the next Summer adventure.
Or maybe it’s just a small respite in that tug-of-war.
I sometimes feel like a guest in my own life — like nothing I do entitles me to comfort or indulgence. As though very little that I do gives me a reasonable excuse to be the selfish person that I often see in myself. I stay withdrawn, and the work life that drives to the rhythm of hammers on metal while presenting as a music video fit for the Doors’ People Are Strange becomes the theme I take home in my head as I frustrate myself trying to pound some inspiration into the hearts of those who feel like their only purpose at work is to make a paycheck. To work as little as possible, think as little as possible, never realizing that it’s easier than they’re making it out to be. I often end up taking that unwelcome guest home with me.
A little effort goes a long way, is all I’m saying. But what if I’m putting too much effort into the wrong endeavors?
It would be interesting if every day was a different event — a parade, a carnival in the park, a bike ride along the river. Somehow our culture insinuates the fulfillment of that dream in a life that often demands more of us than we can reasonably give. It stretches us dangerously thin, like worn-out bubblegum.
The last few days in my land have been marked by brief, yet intense summer storms. The lightning that laced the orange sky was so frequent as the storm receded that both Mme. Ross and I tried to get pictures of them, but our efforts were met with very different levels of success. Mme. Ross has a consumer-grade DSLR camera to work with, while I have my iPhone, and I think that might have had something to do with the speed of her success. I held the camera still and snapped hundreds of photos as electricity zipped across the sky, calmly trying to track the explosions of ancient wars across the whole my view, only being able to catch a quarter of that view at a time and so hoping that I was not shooting a dark section while another was lighting up.
Lightning is quick. The whole thing occurs in the fraction of a second, so if you’re not close enough to be struck, then by the time you see it it’s already gone, and that’s the challenge in capturing it. As the arc is formed between the sky and ground, the air column in its path is transformed into a plasma — the electrons stripped from the oxygen molecules, making that column a conductor. The light of the arc begins travelling toward your eyes at the speed of light. The heat of the arc causes the air around it to explode thunderously. As the light travels in a wave toward the sensor of a camera, the options for capturing a pretty picture of a lightning strike come down to quick timing.
With fancy cameras it’s a very attainable thing but when you’re shooting with an iPhone you enter the realm of probability. Hundreds of shots, I think, are likely to yield at least one good photo. Because as I noted while going through those shots, deleting all the lookalikes as I went, when you’re too late you mostly come up with phantoms: large fields of diffusing purple light. Less frequently you get the arc in its full brilliance and it washes out the camera sensor because in all reality, it’s only an iPhone. Fancy phone, ho-hum camera (in the grand scheme of cameras, I mean.)
Like any wave, you have to time it just right.
In hundreds of shots, I got two hum-dingers. It was so worth it.
I’m starting to find that the older I get, the more I question the validity of the holidays we gather around. If you’ve been around you might be well aware that every holiday has its holdouts.
It’s hard to discuss a holiday without at least cracking open thought-boxes filled with hypocrisies and ironies that we pick up regarding these things as we ride out life — the unspeakable-in-polite-company stuff that rains on the parade. They’re easy to suppress, but hard not to think about.
Autonomy is a good one for Independence Day. It is, after all, about freedom . . . of a sort. And it’s an election year no less.
I don’t talk politics if I can avoid it, except with Mme. Ross. And co-workers, when I’m sure it’s not going to be an issue. I hate it when others bring it up and say something that either makes them look bad or something that I disagree with. Usually that’s something that happens concurrently. So I’m not talking politics here either, but it seems that down the road we get to vote.
If you believe in that kind of thing. Autonomy for the win!!
. . . right?
You know what I can get behind, though? Running. I can get behind running. This morning I took up my second ever race, and my first in a few years — a non-competitive 5k walk/run to help the Bismarck Cancer Center Foundation. That’s a little ironic in a way, because they focus on chemo and radiation therapies, which I sincerely hope can eventually become a thing of the past. But I figure, the human race sometimes makes baby steps instead of huge strides. It probably depends on who’s footing the bill, and I doubt that 600 runners are going to crack the cancer problem, know what I mean?
Man, I’ve been down so long — cue the B. B. King music here — I’ve been down so long, because of this injury to my feet last Spring. And while it really didn’t start there, I have to wonder why I ever had this crazy idea I could try to get into parkour in the first place. There’s no gyms, no trainers, no clubs around here to speak of where I could train. But we have to start somewhere, right? And I think this is where my running got off track.
To me, running is a different kind of freedom. You can take things and run with them, and that includes yourself. Then sometimes we stop to breathe, reflect, and we figure we might stick around for a little bit before continuing on. Before we know it, we’re stuck in the mud with a whole new set of habits, and getting back on that track well might be a lot harder that we originally reckoned. Sometimes we hit a downward trend long before we see it as such, and that’s unfortunate — but not impossible to reverse.
So after changing my diet and exercise regime to try and get myself to the point where I could do pull-ups, I found myself not only failing to make progress, but trending toward both lower levels of fitness and toward weight gain. Double negative. Then I step hard on a rock with one foot, the same day that I’m pretty sure I overtrained both my Achilles’, and failed to recognize the need for anti-inflammatory medication despite the fact that I hobbled for weeks.
It’s been kind of a hard aspect of the past year, not to mention the insult of a (literally) shrinking wardrobe and building on the failure to train for pull-ups, which I think is just ridiculous. I can push a 1,016 pound sheet of half-inch-thick steel through a shear, yet I couldn’t pull up 170 to 230 pounds from a dead hang.
Life continues to be a head-scratcher, even when we thing we’ve gotten most of it figured out. But that’s why I can get behind running. It’s a simple thing that most people are born to be able to do. It helps keep my head in the game. It guides me toward healthy priorities. Most of all, I think it’s presenting me a reason to look forward to holidays because it turns out that there are races in town that are organized around major holidays: the Turkey Trot, the Santa Run, Ribfest . . .
Now I can definitely get behind that. That’s legit.
find their place —
there’s no use fighting
what always passes.
It’s me again
Your little talking friend
From the planet in your head
Like to propose a toast
To the humble host
Of all the crazy shit
That’s been running through my yard
It’s been a while
since we’ve felt like this
a lot of lingering love
from a literary kiss
It’s got me thinking
and I’m thirsty for more
of singing “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door
is that a flying car?
maybe you’ve gone too far
or maybe it doesn’t matter
not a DeLorean
Maybe I’ll get me one
when I’m making fat checks
writing for TV
there’s killer robots there
they’re flying through the air
and mopping up rebel meatbags
they’re not the only ones
’cause blotting out the sun
is an all-consuming ooze
made from future processed foods!
I know it’s crazy but just give it time
while purple plant people plot
to plunder your mind,
until they’re Roundup Ready
and we’re runnin’ to shore
a-singin “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door
(cue the face melting guitar solo)
(outro riff with some tribal tom beats)
singing “doo doo doo”
looking out my back door
There you go. I wrote you a song, bringing back the nostalgia of 90’s alternative pop (if you hear it the way I do, something akin to Jimmy Eat World) with a little nod to Creedence.