Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I haven't been everywhere....yet

I wrote this last weekend as I was driving with my super awesome wife to a small town on the border with Indiana. I think the fact that I was travelinghelped inspire it.

I think that the world has become smaller since I was a kid. I remember long, long, long road trips before mp3 players and portable DVD players. I was born in Santa Ana, California and we moved around quite a bit until my dad got a job in Texas. I remember that the flight to Midland, Texas from California was my first trip ever on an airplane. The stewardess asked me if I wanted anything and I asked for a hotdog. She said she would see what she could do. ( I am still waiting for that hotdog, Southwest Airlines!!!!!) I was 6 years old.
I grew up in that small town in Texas where oil and football was king. I was not very good at either and it turned out neither was Midland for very long. The oil boom that initially brought us there went bust not long after we got there but that strange mystical inertia which governs many small towns had worked its magic on my parents and we stayed.
I did not go very many places outside the American West for most of my growing up years. (A few trips to California to visit family, to New Mexico to go camping and Arizona to visit the Grand Canyon, that sort of thing.) When I turned 20, I left home to serve a mission for my church and lived first in Provo, Utah and then in Southern California for 2 years. I returned home to Texas for a couple of months before I got accepted to BYU in Utah. I lived there in Provo for 6 years in the same apartment complex about two blocks from campus. There is a strange routine in Provo that happens every semester. Everyone moves to a new apartment every four months, usually seeking the love of their life. So the fact that I stayed in one place for 6 whole years was something of a local oddity.
After college, I went and lived in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific for three months as an artist. It was my first time outside of the country. ( I am sure that many more blogs will explore those experiences.) On the way home from Tonga, I stopped for about a week in Auckland, New Zealand, which is probably the coolest place I have ever been.
After Tonga, I was back in Texas for two years working at a junior college until I got accepted to law school. While there, a friend approached me and asked if I would accompany him and his daughter to Paris, France and London, England. That was awesome, especially seeing Les Miserables in the West End in London and the Rodin Museum in Paris.
I got accepted to law school in New Orleans which is an amazing place. It is one of the few places left in America which has any sort of personality. (Also on the list is Chicago, Memphis, Boston, and Washington DC.) It has not yet been stripped of interest by the antiseptic of strip malls and franchises…at least until Katrina.
I was living in New Orleans, in Uptown, for about one month when Hurricane Katrina struck. I was luckily out of town that weekend at a church conference. Unfortunately I could not get home to retrieve any of my stuff. I had one law book, my scriptures and two changes of clothes. A friend helped me get accepted as an emergency transfer to Arizona State University but while I was on my way to the school, they called and said they had changed their minds. (ASU, I shake my fist at thee!!!!!) Anyway I ended up at Chapman University in Orange County. Funny how I always seem to end up back in California. I spent the rest of the semester and then I had go back to New Orleans. Meanwhile I had met my future wife, who was in Chicago, through an online dating site. So I spent so time out there as well as Memphis where her dad lived. Since our marriage, I have visited Washington DC, Boston, New York City, and Israel.
One thing that seems to stick out in my mind of all the places I have lived is that on a basic level all people are pretty much the same.

States I have visited:
Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, Arkansas, Michigan

Countries I have visited:
Israel, France, England, Mexico, Kingdom of Tonga, New Zealand

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Television and Nothing to Do

It is interesting to think that I am done with school. Finished. Done. Nothing left. It really hit me last night when I got home from my job clerking for a small firm in Chicago. My wife was at school and so there was no one to talk to and because I graduated from school and I am done with the bar exam, I literally had nothing to do. Plus we are letting my brother in law borrow my car so I had no transportation. So I did what most American males do with such a scenario. I turned on the tv.

I don’t watch a lot of tv. I probably don’t watch any shows with any degree of regularity. Usually if the tv is on, I am watching Animal Planet or Food Network. But last night I started watching an old Clint Eastwood western. I think it was by director Sergio Leone and while the cinematography was interesting as was the story, the fact that the dialogue was dubbed drove me crazy. So I changed it and watched an episode of The Closer which was pretty good. I actually cried at the end. After that I got bored with the tv and pulled out my guitar and started playing through some songs.

Looking back I realize that it was a wasted evening. I have been saying for months, “when I get some time I am going to start painting again…..when I finish school I am going to sit down and start my novel.” Yet when I finally had time, I wasted it watching tv. It is kind of depressing actually. Art used to be my whole life. It is all I thought about, all I cared about. But I think it has been three years or more since I did anything with it.

So tonight I am not at home. I went with my wife to her school and am in their computer lab typing this blog and feeling pretty good about doing something other than watching tv. Although it would be kind of interesting to have something to be studying for.

P.S. After my wife got home, we watched this show on MTV where they take the bratty spoiled kids who were spotlighted in the show “My Super Sweet Sixteen” and force them to go and live in a Third World country for two weeks. I think the person who came up with this show should be given a medal.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The making of a radical: Hope in troubled times

When I was in 7th grade, I had a teacher whose name I probably have chosen to forget. I recall one day in her class where we were discussing something about a presdential election. I believe it was the year that President Bush I was elected. My teacher called on me and I made some sort of glib comment which I was prone to do often. For the life of me I cannot remember what I said but it really upset her. She was so mad that she said to me something that I will never forget. "I hope you never are elected to any political office with an attitude like that."

It is funny because I haven't remembered that exeprience in years. I have never much cared about politics. Not for any reason other than that it really bored me and I never really saw a point in it all. Perhaps that was my glib comment to my teacher that so infuriated her against my possible political career. Anyway I have only voted in one election in my whole life though I believe four elections have occurred since I turned 18. I am very ashamed to admit that.

I bring this up because I have had something of a change of heart recently. First, I got married and we have been talking about having kids. That certainly changes your attitude about the state of the world and the women and men who lead it. Then, I was selected to represent my law school in a trial advocacy competition at Harvard law school. The competition dealt with animal rights and my specific argument about the valuation of a pet in a tort case. You may ask yourself what this has to do with politics. Through my involvement in this competition I met many great people who work to make a difference in the world. Whether or not you agree with the animal rights movement, I think it is hard to ignore the fact that these individuals are active in trying to change things even though most people think they are crazy or dangerous.

The final and most important change that came upon me was that I went to Israel and Palestine as part of a class on international human rights. I was there for 14 days and got to visit with groups of people from every level of society in Israel: The jews, the palestinians, the bedouin tribesmen, and sudanese refugees. I saw the effect that politics had in people's lives and how many of them never had a voice in the laws the afflicted them. I heard arguments from all sides. I realized that religion is not as devisive as economics. I also learned the amazing ability of humans to forget. (Imagine visiting the Holocaust museum one day and the next visiting a Sudanese refugee camp and learning that the Israeli government is trying their hardest to eject these refugees who were fleeing religious persecution and ethnic cleansing)

I left the country absolutely disheartened and depressed. I thought to myself that there is no hope, there are no answers here. I have none and nobody else does either. Perhaps thes cynic feelings and negative attitude were what so offended my teacher so many years before.

One day about a week after I returned home, I had what I would call an ephiphany. I realized that the worst thing that I could do was to sink into cynicism and negativity. To do so would feed into the world's problems. Answers and solutions only come through hope. Negativity and cynicism leads nowhere and in most cases make things worse. Hope leads to answers. That is why people can continue to have children in a crazy world like ours. That is why animal activists continue to protest foi grae and circuses. That is why I believe the struggle in Israel will find a resolution. Because hope leads to answers. Perhaps my seventh grade teacher would even vote for that platform.

Monday, August 11, 2008

a simple beginning

I have resisted for quite awhile joining the seemingly infinite number of people who blog. I usually dismissed any thoughts of creating one with the excuse that I have nothing really to say that would interest anyone besides me. Of course, this excuse reveals my secret conceit that people would actually even read what I write.

But my mind was changed when I read an article that talked about ten thousand hours. The premise of the article (which I will link to this post when I (1) learn how to link and (2) find the article) is that in order to become an expert at something, you have to spend a minimum of 10,000 hours doing that activity. The researchers claimed that anyone could become an expert at anything by spending 10,000 hours doing that activity. I thought, as I read the article, what in my life do I care enough about to spend 10,000 hours doing. (I did the math and it equals to roughly a 40 hour week for about 5 years.) I thought of art and guitar, of course, two activities which I love but sadly have not practiced for some time. Then I had the thought that one thing I have always dreamed of becoming was a writer. I thought if I could spend 10,000 hours doing anything, it would be practicing writing. (You may now make any jokes about my current efforts which come to mind.)

Therefore, the impetus of this blog is not to share my family with the world or to expound upon politics or religion. (Though I reserve the right to do any of those three things in this blog) this blog will consist of my attempt over the next many many many months and years to spend 10,000 hours writing. So at times a post will consist of a writing exercise or something I have thought throughout the day which I thought was interesting but mainly to simply write every day.