Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Passing of an Old Friend

Fridays are usually happy days. For some it is the end of a (long) work week, for others camping is on their minds. Some go fishing, others engage in sports, or the like. This Friday was not a typical one, for I lost a dear friend.

It has been one of the strangest relationships that I have ever been in. To say this friend has influenced my life is one of the great understatements of life. I've had mentors in my life but this friend has been more than that. An entertainer at times, a teacher, a friend who has broke the bad news to me when others couldn't find the words. My friend's talents have kept me captivated when it told stories, animated at times, colorful when the occasion called for it, but sometimes my friend gave it to me in black & white.

I'm sad but this isn't unexpected. Three years ago there were warning signs, the light seemed to dim. You could tell that he'd lost his balance in life and we had to call in for emergency assistance. A week away with some specialists fixed the problem that plagued him but he came back to us with the warning that another incident could be fatal. And so it was this last Friday. One last day, one last time to share his stories, to teach us from the vast library of wisdom that he had stored and one last day to make me laugh. And it was sudden, I returned home to get the bad news from one of my sons. My old friend was gone.

I was stunned. I sat down in my chair and reminisced about the "good ol' days" that we had. And then, once the shock and the permanency of the moment had sunk in I began to call the rest of the family and inform them. My son in Spokane and I talked about the first time that they'd met. My youngest son was away for the weekend, his brother called and informed him of the loss. I think that being the youngest it was harder for him to believe. He was still a teenager when our friend experienced trouble the first time. Everything lives forever to a teenager.

My wife was surprised, even somewhat shocked, she has a friend with similar characteristics, but younger. From a long distance she comforted me as best as she could. But deep down I knew that she didn't really understand my hurt, my anger, my frustration. Women never seem to in these situations.

And now the question is what to do?

So, a few days later I am trying to deal with the death of my old friend, my friend who has meant so much to me. And I wonder if I will ever recover from this tragedy.

And I know that I will. I believe that the sun will come out tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, the next day.

But the big question is still out there.

Should I go with a 73" DLP Rear Projection or a 63" LCD Widescreen?

And what do I do with the old TV?


Thursday, October 1, 2009

I Can See My House From Up Here!

By nature I am a minimal risk taker. I've only been in one fight in my life, around 12 years old, unless you want to count the past 25 years of marriage. Food, I tend to stick to my "usual" on a menu. Clothing; comfortable and unfashionable. I've only worked for two companies in the past 27 years, 22 with my current employer.

And then every few years I do something a little daring. Something for a thrill, and lately, something as a stress buster.

In the spring of 1984 I took off in a small Cessna airplane, as a passenger, and fell out of the plane… at 2,400 feet up. Over the next month I did that three times. It wasn't luck that I lived, each time I got out of the plane I had a parachute on and each time it opened up. I learned important lessons from those experiences. For instance, if your chute doesn't open at 2,400 feet in the air the trip to the ground is only about 17 seconds. If your chute does open you are about 2 minutes from the ground. If you chute doesn't open you are going to die or become your families favorite vegetable. Live, Die, or Vegetable.

But in 1984 I had very little responsibility. No wife, no children, no job that was so important that my life was going to end without any one of them. But over the years I got married, we had kids, I got better at my job, we bought a house, a car, things became important. And even though I had read Dale Carnegies "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living", eventually the stress got to me.

In 2002 the wife and I went to see David Gates of Bread in concert in Las Vegas. While there I rode two roller coasters (not the ones on top of the Stratosphere, New York, New York and Speed), in between the roller coaster rides I bungee jumped from 170 feet. Okay, same three options, you live, you die or, or you get the nickname "Brussell Sprout" from the family. Oh yeah, and don't eat Chicken Fried Steak for breakfast before being shot out of two roller coasters and jumping from a construction crane with rubber bands around my ankles, because the end result is upchucking all over my wife 3 hours before our flight home. But the incredible side effect, from the bungee jump, was that I was totally relaxed. My stress was gone and I felt really relaxed and peaceful. I could have tried skydiving without a chute after that and not have been bothered by the impending conclusion of the jump. Death! Ha! I laugh in thy face!

Seven years later, 6 more grandkids, another child married, a few restraining orders between some family members, my potential nervous breakdown, my company merging for the second time in five years, four bosses, three surgeries, kids moving out, kids moving back in and out and in again, people getting divorces and people thinking about getting divorces, the Seahawks lose the Superbowl, my 9-month old granddaughter nearly dies, health scares, weight gain, weight loss, and then weight gain again. Okay, the stress has been a little unmanageable.

Friday, September 25th, right around 2pm, my son Preston and I went to the Puyallup Fair, one of the top ten fairs in the country. This fair has everything, big name concerts, big name vendors, the Earthquake Burger, Fisher Scones, Krusty Pups, Elephant Ears, Corn-on-the-Cob, exhibits, 4-H displays, street performers, outrageous prices, and the like. Oh yeah, and did I mention they have carnival rides?

The Big Sling is the reason that I went. For 50 dollars American, per couple (my son and I counted as a couple), you get loaded into a two-person seat, a bar is lowered down over you and they secure the bar with an old seat belt from a 1974 Pinto. Then they lean you back, pull on these already really tight springs and then with a "here you go" launch you about a 185 feet into the air. Think of it as a reverse bungee jump. I went from joking to HOLY CRAP!!!! in less than a second. By the time we had flipped around in the air and saw my house, your house and the International Space Station, I was into Wooooooooooooooo Hoooooooooooooooo mode. There was a moment in the ride that I announced, to the world it turned out, that my butt cheeks had clenched together. Did I mention that the ride was caught on camera? The entire ride is posted on YouTube. Here is the link: I'm the good looking one.

My stress had been seriously reduced. But not enough. Turns out that the Extreme Scream was 2 for the price of 1. Five minutes later we were strapped to the outside of a 185 foot tower, this time the safety equipment latch was a seat belt from a 1977 AMC Pacer Wagon. From my viewpoint on the ground I thought that this ride would be exhilarating. AND THEN THEY SHOT US INTO THE AIR LIKE WE WERE HUMAN ROCKETS! Gone was the relative safety of the ground. I experienced g-forces in the magnitude of 10 to 100, and then we went weightless, playfully being dropped and shot up and down like we were a baby on Papa's knee. Then the ride slowed down and began a slow climb to the top of the tower. In between yelling at my son I HATE YOU! a number of times, there was a click as the chair locked into place. 185 feet in the air. About that time my son pointed out that you could see all the way to the top of the hill, to the mall. And that's when some sicko on the ground pushed a button that dropped my seat ¾ of the way to the ground or about 140 feet. After the ride was over my stress, or shall I say the remaining stress, was completely gone.

So, for now my stress in gone and life is good. I'm going for long walks on the beach, listening to the sounds of children playing, happy just to be me.

And I can't wait until the Spring Fair in Puyallup to ride or get shot out of the Big Sling again.