The View From Home

When I graduated from college, I was the first person in my family to get a degree and I had two paths in front of me. I could take some time off and apply for graduate school or I could go ahead and put some roots down in Iowa City by buying a house. Within a few months, my parents helped me to purchase a house and my girlfriend and roommate moved from our apartment to the house. For many years I regretted buying the house, I thought it was the first step to denying myself the opportunity to further educate myself and perhaps do something I really loved which is write. I always thought I would end up living in San Francisco and becoming a smug intellectual. The other regret was that perhaps I chose the house over the opportunity to really test myself; no one wants to fail, and if I did not every try, then maybe I would never know.

With a house, comes responsibility, which any young person in their twenties is going to hate. A house means you have a mortgage, insurance, taxes, house maintenance, tools you have to buy in order to do that maintenance, basically things break all the time. Windows break, lawn mowers are terrible to maintain, furnaces need replacing, roofs leak, and my personal dread is plumbing problems! In the beginning you are young and determined, you think Sears has all the tools you need, just start buying some and fix it yourself. Black and Decker has those books that show you how to fix a faucet, (now you have YouTube as well that you can watch how the professionals do it). As I got older, my patience would become shorter, and I started to take a hammer to everything. You’ll find that nothing quite fits right once you take it apart, or it does not screw in tightly, or it is too short or too long, and in the case of plumbing, yeah it still leaks! Eventually you do need to hire a professional for some things like roofs or a new furnace.

This leads me to the other great nuisance, when you own a home everyone is trying to sell you something. People show up at your door all the time to sell you meat, popcorn, candy, carpet cleaning, new windows, and of course a new God. My favorite was when a nice lady knocked on my door to sell me the Internet. She was from the phone company and was inquiring to see if I wanted to get this new technology called DSL instead of using my reliable 56k modem connection. I actually did signup for it, so the phone company got what they wanted that day.

Although I live in Iowa, we live in a midsize town and so I have neighbors like most people who live in larger cities. For the most part I have been very lucky. My neighbors are awesome people. We say hello to each other when outside and we help each other out every so often when our cars get stuck in the snow or there’s a bad storm and we have to pick up broken branches. For the most part we live our lives and we mine our own business. I can’t say this is the case for everyone, there are times when you can have neighbors who you don’t get along with for whatever personal reasons, but I can’t really say that is my case. I have a big snow blower and when I can, I clean up my neighbors sidewalks. It helps them out and it only takes me a few extra minutes.

At this time, my oldest son lives with his girlfriend in northern Iowa. The middle son lives a mile away in his own apartment and is close to finishing college. Our youngest is a teenager and is the only one left living at home. What seemed like a small house for a family of five and one dog, seems a little empty. Nowadays, I very rarely try to fix anything in the house. Ironically the garage is filled with tools that I don’t have any inclination to use any time soon. I change light bulbs and maybe attempt on occasional faucet repair, but for the most part I’d rather hire someone to fix most things.

A Quest for the Spirit

Bass Shop BearsAfter much travel this year, and some would say little thought, I have decided to embark on a quest for enlightenment and spiritual renewal. I have set sights on Yosemite park in California. My adventure begins Friday as I head west. My companion will be my 14 year old son Diego. How I came to this and why, was not a clear to me at first. A few years ago, I watched a PBS documentary on The National Parks and became intrigued with the idea of taking a solitary trip into the wild. Over the course of 2015, I have traveled for business to New York City, Massachusetts, Washington DC, Maryland, New Jersey, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi. After my last trip to New York City, it became apparent to me that I have been hibernating in Iowa for too long. It is time to move West, to see a different perspective. For a time I had thought of myself as the description of William S. Burroughs in the novel, On The Road, living out my days in the middle of Iowa. But that isn’t me. Instead I have been intellectually dormant and isolated, more like the novel, Steppenwolf by Hesse than anything else. The passing of my parents in 2008 took a toll on me that has taken me much time to figure out. There is not much of a point to life when one is surrounded by illness and death, when the seriousness of the moment weighs on you and drags upon your spirit. This lead to the question of happiness and what that means. Have I forbidden myself to be happy? Probably yes. Somewhere rooted in my Catholic upbringing and in my intellectual western ideas I have collapsed and fallen into the hole that is the mid-life crisis. How I can get out isn’t clear to me, and so my natural instinct is to run, to push myself to the physical limit, and establish my connection to the physical world again. This is where I am at, no longer content with looking at the Mac OS Yosemite Desktop every day, I actually want to go there and see it for myself.