Month: June 2016

Exit 112. I don’t want to play this game.

In the 2011 novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, an ordinary trailer-park kid is trying to save a dystopian near future virtual reality world from a corporation trying to gain control of it for themselves by solving a series of puzzles rooted in late 20th century geek pop culture.  I have written about this novel before (#32), and how one quote from it sticks out in my mind in particular:  “Like any classic video game, the Hunt had simply reached a new, more difficult level.  A new level often required an entirely new strategy.”

This principle seems especially true in my life today.  I came of age in the context of evangelical Christian college-age youth group in the late 1990s, and much of my views about life and the future were shaped by this world.  In this world, you get married in your early- to mid-20s (preferably without dating, and without kissing your wife until your wedding day, because Josh Harris), and start having children, who will then get involved in Awana and Sunday school while you and your wife attend the young parents’ Bible study. That ship sailed a long time ago for me.  That strategy doesn’t work in my world, and I feel like there is no precedent for me, because many people I know in situations similar to mine have long since walked away from their faith entirely.  Hence, an entirely new strategy is required.

Now would be a good time to plug a guest piece I wrote for another blog, since it is related to this topic.  Go check it out.  And while you’re at it, check out the rest of this other blog and the original blog from which this was spun off.

Anyway, where was I… I realized recently that there is more to the story than finding a new strategy.  Looking around me, it seems that the life that many of my peers are living, the life that is considered normal for someone my age in my situation, is one where socializing revolves around alcohol, whether that be going out drinking with friends, going out for drinks with a date, or, especially here in northern California, a classy wine tasting excursion.  Dating in this life involves playing with people’s feelings, fooling around physically with no sense of commitment, and not communicating honestly.  Is this the life I want?  Do I want to find a new strategy only to become this?  I don’t think so.  To go back to the video game analogy, I don’t want to play this game, and the game I thought I always wanted to play is out of print, with no copies anywhere on eBay and no working emulators for it.  Furthermore, I’ve realized that I don’t know if I want to play that game after all, by which I mean that the evangelical Christian family world I described above is not entirely my ideal anymore.

But what game do I want to play?  How can I figure that out, and how much of the rest of the world’s game will influence my game?  I’m never going to be the type to hang out in bars regularly, but maybe I could benefit socially from hanging out in bars occasionally and drinking something without alcohol?  Should I give up my personal prohibition on drinking alcohol and have a drink every once in a while in moderation?  Should I be a little more adventurous in pursuing dating rather than looking for any of hundreds of deal breakers right when I first meet someone?  I really don’t know.  But I have a feeling I’m at least starting to ask the right questions.

Exit 111. He called me by name.

Last week, I was walking down a street in midtown Sacramento, near some bars and restaurants, going to meet some friends for a late-night snack.  It was around 11 at night, and there were a few homeless people standing between where I parked and the restaurant.  I noticed one of them, because he reminded me of someone I knew years ago and hadn’t seen in a long time.  He mumbled a recited line about if I had any spare change I could help him out with, and I mumbled my standard reply about not being able to help right now.  At the risk of sounding like Buzzfeed, what happened next will surprise you.

The homeless man looked at me and called me by name.

No, not my first name.  He called me Mr. and my last name.  Except for a few friends who find it amusing to do so, the only people who call me by that name are people who first knew me as their teacher.

The homeless man was in fact the guy who I thought he looked like when I first noticed him.  He would be about 20 years old now, and he was my class for a few months around 2010.  At the time, I was teaching at a small private school that shares buildings with one of the churches that supports it.  This guy and two older brothers of his were neighborhood troublemakers, and the pastor of that church and his family kind of took them in and tried to get them involved in things at the church.  (Some members of that family read this blog occasionally, so if any of you know more about him and what happened, contact me privately, please.)  They raised money to get the kids enrolled in the private school, which is where I met them.  Only one of the brothers, the middle one, stayed out of trouble for more than half a year.  I would occasionally see the other two around, but I hadn’t seen any of them in a while.

I asked him what happened, and he said his aunt, whom he lived with when I knew him as a student, kicked him out. I gave him a dollar, and I told him that I wasn’t very hungry, so I would order egg rolls and give him half the order.

I have such mixed feelings about this. Throwing money at homelessness doesn’t necessarily fix the problem, but I want to do something to help. Jesus set an example of serving the poor and needy, and I want to follow that example and do the same. I’ve heard people at my old church talk about carrying around in their car nonperishable food items and personal hygiene products, so as to give homeless people something concrete that they need. I should sit down and prepare that, now that I have time.

The egg rolls took long enough that when I went to find him, he was gone. I walked up and down two blocks and the nearby park, and I didn’t find him. I left my leftover egg rolls next to a different homeless guy asleep in the park, but I have a feeling animals probably got them before he woke up. Next time I’m there, I’ll bring something just in case I see him again.


Exit 110. It goes nowhere.

About thirty miles from my house, in rural Solano County, Calif. near the border with Yolo County (yes, it’s really called that, I lived there for seven years), Kidwell Road crosses Interstate 80.  I have driven past this interchange many times over the years.  I used to live just a few miles away from there, in Davis, and for a significant portion of that time, my daily commute took me that way.  That route is also part of the most direct route from Sacramento to San Francisco, and I do that drive often enough that I still see Kidwell Road fairly often.  What always confused me about Kidwell Road is that it goes nowhere.

South of the freeway, Kidwell Road ends in a T-intersection with a frontage road; this frontage road dead-ends into the fields one way, and runs for about another mile or so to the next road, which also has ramps to and from I-80, in the other direction.  North of the freeway, Kidwell Road makes a 90 degree turn, changing its name for some unnecessary reason, and promptly dead-ending into some other fields.  The story I read is that this was built to settle a promise from decades earlier to farmers in the region.  They had been promised that when I-80 was built, they would still be able to conveniently access the highway, even though Interstates don’t have driveways.  Of course, there was another interchange about a mile away, and there are plenty of other agricultural regions in California where the interchanges on the freeways are much more than a mile apart.  So these farmers, whoever they were, must have been politically powerful.

In keeping with the title and logo, I have always titled my weekly posts in this blog as highway exits.  So, if we keep up that theme, this week’s post is a bit like Kidwell Road.  It goes nowhere.

For being off work, I’ve had an unusually busy week.  At least it has felt busy, although much of that has been taken up by afternoon naps, and the rest has been out having fun with friends.  I have stuff on my mind, and a lot has gone on in the world, and I haven’t really processed it all.  Every time I sit down and try to write something, it never really works.  I’m already a week behind, I promised two posts in a week at some point to make up for that, but I haven’t done that yet.

So this post is the Kidwell Road interchange on Highway Pi.  I’m just letting all of you know I’m still here, and I appreciate you reading it.  Thank you.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I need some rest… which I think is a good lesson for all of us.

Exit 109. I come from somewhere.

I missed last week’s post.  So at some point in the next couple weeks, I’ll do two posts in one week.  Sorry… I’ve been busy.

One thing that has kept me busy the last couple weeks is that a lot more of my friends are getting married.  Two weeks ago, I was a groomsman in a wedding about 100 miles from here.  The couple met working at a Christian retreat and conference center in that area. I arrived in the early afternoon the day before the wedding, but before I headed to the church to help set up, I had a stop I wanted to make.  I drove past a cemetery on the edge of town, where I had been at least once before, but it had been many years.  I was naively hoping that being there would jog my memory and help me remember exactly where the graves I was looking for were located.  (Plural, because it is a husband and wife buried next to each other.)  And when I got there, I was pretty sure I knew which section of the cemetery to go to, but after walking around for five minutes, I didn’t see them.

I had looked up the cemetery online the night before, and I was a little disappointed to see that the office was closed on the days that I was going to be in the area.  However, when I got there, I saw that there was clearly someone in the office that day, so I figured I would ask if it was possible to look up the people I was looking for.  The man in the office was very nice, and he pointed out where to look, maybe about 50 feet or so from where I had been looking before.  Once I knew where to look, they were easy to find.  On the right was a man I never met; he was born in 1898 and died in 1959, some time before I was born.  His wife, buried just to the left, had outlived him by many years; she was born in 1902 and died in 1994.  I knew her when I was a kid; I was a senior in high school when she passed.

These were my great-grandparents.

My family has roots in this part of California going back several decades.  My dad was born there, and I have met people who grew up in that city who have heard of my great-uncle and the ranching operation he once ran just outside of town.  When I was a kid, my family would visit Dad’s relatives in that area at least twice a year, on the average.  We would stay with my great-grandmother, who lived in a house on the property where the ranch once was, and I have many fond memories of running around exploring the surrounding hills.  Since then, though, almost all of those relatives have gradually either moved out of the area or passed away.  (I’m not giving a specific location of where I was, due to my wish to remain anonymous on this blog.  If you know me personally, and you’re curious, ask me on Facebook or in a text.  But most of you probably know already, since I posted a few pictures that day.)

While I was there paying my respects, I got to thinking.  I feel like I don’t have as strong of a connection with family as I could.  (Since I am in Facebook contact with a number of relatives, some of whom read this sometimes, I should say that I’m not blaming anyone but myself for this.)  And with no children of my own, or even nieces or nephews, I don’t know that I’ll ever have a legacy of memories to pass on to another generation in my family.  Part of the problem is that I just don’t have a lot in common with much of my family.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t do anything.  Many others in my extended family have children whose lives I can be part of.  My family is all spread out geographically now, but I still come from somewhere, and it’s important to remember and recognize that.