Javajunkee with new glasses
The replacement glasses

It seems like I’ve posted less during my break from school than I did during the semester. What’s that about? Well, I guess I have been busy, for having been on break. I was back in Illinois for about a week and a half, but my mobility during this trip was a bit more limited than usual. This wasn’t all bad. I still managed to make it up to the Quad Cities for an evening, and spend a little bit of time with each of my siblings. Because I stayed most nights in Paxton, I got to hang out with Bob quite a bit, which was quite enjoyable. I even took him on a ride one morning, when we borrowed a truck from one of our uncles to go pick up some of my belongings that were still in Urbana.

Snowy Paxton
This calls for hibernation.

So it snowed quite a bit while I was back, and stayed pretty cold, but we borrowed the truck to go to Urbana on the second of two relatively clear days. The road conditions were pretty good on Route 45 that day, and we cruised along at or near the speed limit most of the way. Just a mile or two south of Thomasboro, however, we suddenly found ourselves sliding out of control on a patch of ice. I had only enough time to let off the accelerator, hoping to regain traction soon, before we drifted into the left lane at an odd angle. We regained our traction at that bad angle, and the truck’s light back end and high center of gravity sent us back-over-front, first into the ditch, and then into the opposite side of the divided highway.

It all happened too fast for us to do much other than brace ourselves for impact, and the only thought going through my head was, “this is going to cause a lot of damage.” I’m still not entirely clear whether the damage I was anticipating was bodily or property. The truck slid to a stop on its passenger side, facing the opposite direction in the lane farthest from where we’d started. Bob and I checked with each other to make sure we were each okay, and as far as we could tell at the moment, we were. In order to get out, we had to climb out through the cab’s broken rear window, as we weren’t going to be able to open either door. I waited for Bob to climb out first, as I was suspended above him by my seatbelt and had to wait until he got out to be able to release my seat belt and find my way out of the car.

After the Crash
That's where I was sitting.

To look at pictures of the vehicle after the fact, I have to wonder how we made it out without any major injury. Some of the folks who stopped to help us after the accident mentioned something about me having blood on my forehead as I climbed out, so I worried about whether I’d sustained a blow to the head during the accident. With my previous experience of being ignorant as to the state of my own physical well-being due to a concussion, I suspected it would be best to get checked out at the hospital. I had some soreness in my left shoulder where the seatbelt had forcefully restrained me, but after the EMTs gave me a good once over, they verified that I didn’t seem to have any major injury. At the ER, they x-rayed my shoulder to make sure, and they said that I shouldn’t worry about a CAT scan unless I experienced any post-concussion symptoms in the next 48 hours or so.

So now that I’m back in LA, some folks are calling me “Crash.” I think it might stick. Last week was the two-year anniversary of my motorcycle accident, followed shortly by the twelve-year anniversary of my decision to stop using drugs for recreational purposes. Incidentally, four years ago on MLK day I was pulled over on Route 45 (just a few miles south of where the latest accident took place), where I was given a ticket for speeding and informed that my license was suspended for parking tickets. This driving stuff is hard work.

On Thursday, I’ll get back into the classroom for the final course of my MA degree, a fiction workshop class. That and my thesis work will be how I spend just about all of my free time for the next four months, and then you should all be able to start calling me Master Crash. Meanwhile, back in the Midwest, Bob is on his way to St. Louis for the night, and tomorrow morning he’ll fly to San Diego to get started on his USMC career. Maybe it will work out so that we can attend each other’s graduations in May? We’ll see.

One Year Motorcycle-Accident Free

In honor of my breakfast videos of 2008, I made this little thing showing me enjoying some tasty scrambled eggs and brown rice – breakfast of champions. The lighting is bad, but my usual video crew wasn’t available for filming so I had to wing it.

As I was going about the process of making a new breakfast video, I happened to take a look at the videos from last year. The first breakfast video (“Good Morning JavaJunkees“) still gave me a chuckle, but the second one (“The Truth about Breakfast“—which I’ve taken off my publicly-available youtube channel) disturbed me deeply. I hadn’t seen it since I made it. Hearing stories about how strangely I was acting is one thing, but seeing that behavior for myself was a truly terrifying and humbling experience.

Shattered Windows

First, let me say that this man makes me proud to have been raised on the prairie.

I got my broken window fixed on Saturday before heading up north to visit with my brother and his family, and today I received a call from my fiancee, whose dining room window was broken through what the insurance companies call an “act of God.” My guess is that the Holy Spirit was trying to get in there and steal her rice maker, but alas, I can prove nothing.

I actually have been wanting to post about something else for a while. I guess it would be best to begin by talking about when my brothers and sisters and I were kids , we lived two doors down from our grandmother. During the hot summer days, when we were all still too young to have paper routes or other gainful child labor, but (almost?) old enough to (sort of?) take care of ourselves, we took to our big yard, with its many trees (at least four) and ample bushes. We built forts in the bushes around the old central air conditioner that had never worked since we’d lived there, or we played in the big dead tree in the back yard, where our one male babysitter (who later married a rich woman and set out to turn his farmhouse into a castle, but died in the process–I believe it was cancer) had nailed in the first few boards of what would never become a treehouse. It may not have become a treehouse, but it made it really easy to climb onto the garage roof, which was how my sister ended up sledding off the roof on a snowy winter day and missed the snowpile we'd built down below when she landed. That had to hurt, but that was also a different story.

At one point when we were growing up, my aunt, her daughter, and her son stayed with Grandma for a while. My brothers and sisters and I fought plenty, but when our cousins Josie and James came to visit, we united quickly to gang up on the intruders. We all knew it was grossly unfair that they lived with Grandma and had many more toys than we did, so we didn’t feel bad in the least to make them cry and return home to Grandma. The words “you’re not the boss of me” became their battle cry, while “this is our yard” became ours. By last year, both were my friends on Myspace.

When I moved to LA last year, I joined other family in California. Of course, there’s my brother up north, but there was also my cousin down south, outside of San Diego at Oceanside. James, my quiet cousin, who sported a curly head of hair all his life that easily put Napoleon Dynamite to shame. Since he joined the Marines, though, he’s been a little different. Obviously, the hair is the first thing to go. But his social awkwardness didn’t seem to last long, either. A big part of that probably had to do with the fact that he left Illinois with his mother and his new stepfather while he was in high school and lived in Hawaii for a while. I got my first taste of his changed personality at his sister’s wedding. It was a nice time, and he flew in just for the occasion. He was scheduled to fly out early the next morning so I decided to drive him over. He drank at the wedding and the social lubricant did well for him, he was quite conversational and lively. I’d never experienced that, and was sad to bid him good-bye when I dropped him off the at the airport. Luckily, I was able to see him again last year when he rode with me up north to visit my older brother when my younger sister and youngest brother were also in town to visit. Then just a few weeks ago, he came to visit again with his mother and his stepfather just before heading out to sea.

When I first heard the name Osama bin Laden in the late nineties, I wasn’t too far off from having read 1984 and Brave New World. I hadn’t been accustomed, at that point, to hearing the word “terrorist” thrown around loosely on the TV news, but they used it frequently as they flashed bin Laden’s pictures, and the sort of branding technique in play made me feel, for a moment, as if I was in one of those books. Fast forward a few years, and we are stuck in an endless, pointless, hopeless war fueled by the inferiority complex of a nitwit and the power- and money-hungry madman who saw a chance to take advantage of that nitwit, with a little help from the three Rs: Rove, Rumsfeld, and Rice. Of course, unlike those dystopian novels I read in high school, large numbers of people are actually realizing what a complete mess this is. Probably the biggest problem we face is that we the people aren’t in much of a position to do anything about it.

So…big money runs our nation and we just live here. That seems to work out most of the time, for most of us. Living problems in our own country have become largely an issue of comfort, so we’re not too concerned with doing anything special. We don’t have to face the poverty and suffering that our foreign policies promote and perpetuate overseas, so there’s nothing much to worry about. Those of us on the liberal end of the spectrum can get really mad and go out and see a Michael Moore movie once in a while just to stay in touch with our indignation.

Then we come home and find a Myspace message from our cousin, who informs us that her brother’s boat has been diverted to Iraq, where he is likely to end up in Anbar province.

It strikes close to home to find out a loved one might end up in this place far away fighting for no understandable reason. Let’s just hope we can get out of Iraq and get a new president in place before the neocon-fascists take over.

So we’re praying for a safe return of my cousin. He’s a good kid. So are the rest of the troops that we’re all supposed to “support” by putting bumper stickers on our Hummers that use so much god-damned gasoline that we have to send the minorities and the poor kids over to liberate some more for us, while the prices soar higher than ever before, along with the profit margins of the big oil companies.

But enough of that. How about a laugh?

And I’m sure the jig is up now and you all realize that I’m just trying to pack as many links as possible into this post. If I wasn’t so damned tired, I’d go back and count them all.

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that I don’t have to worry about locking my car doors or rolling down my driver-side window anymore. The bad news is that I’m going to have to get that window replaced before it gets cold (sometime in late December/early January).

The other good news is that the kids who through the large rock through that window were merely vandals, not thieves. I had my messenger bag with my mp3 player in it, some cash, and my GPS unit all in the car at the time. Won’t make that mistake again anytime soon.