Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong, Who Cares?

10 12 2012

Why do we care so much about what others think?  At the end of the day isn’t being religious just a belief system?   The way a person decides how they want to live their life.  I’m sure that’s a gross over simplification, but I don’t have the time or energy to dig any deeper for my opening paragraph.

If I practiced a religion it would be humor, I’m a zealot to comedy.  I guess you could say Richard Pryor is my Black Jesus.  I tend to write about what I find funny, knowing it’s not for everybody.  Just recently someone referred to me as “self aware”, which is something I took as a compliment.  My comfort level comes from knowing how I got to where I’m at and who I am.

The chubby kid whose parents divorced when he’s just a wee lad.  Moved around a lot when he was growing up, bouncing him from school to school. The end result was someone who deflects with humor, looks for short cuts and was overly concerned about pleasing those around him.

As with many things in life, change happens.  You grow up, you get married, you have kids.  Having a family just has a way of making everything else come second.  Basically you quit caring about what people think, there are other more important issues to focus on,  and I’ll be real honest, it’s amazing when you get there.   That being said, the core personality we grew up with stays with us, even if it’s buried deep under a layer of  lame oxford shirts, ties, and khaki pants.

Case and point on not caring: I was voted “best dressed” in my Senior Class.  For four years I laid clothes out the night before I went to school.  So obsessed about looking my best and caring about the image I portrayed to people I would hardly ever see again after school.  Yesterday I went to the grocery store to but pop-tarts in grey cotton gym shorts and a yellow spandex workout shirt.  I looked like I just won a stage of the Tour de France… If they held one for past their prime, middle aged, guys in flip flops.

Lately I’ve noticed quite a bit of chatter on Facebook about religion.  Believer vs. Non-Believer to me is as relevant and compelling as Team Jacob vs. Team Edward.  But that’s just my opinion.  To some middle aged housewives Jacob vs Edward is some serious shit and you better have your facts straight and bring your “A” game if you want to try and argue your case.

I feel like I’m in a grey area of hypocrisy for even writing about something that I supposedly don’t care about.  For the sake of argument, lets just pretend that I’m a third party observer with no agenda other than a few cheap laughs.

I mean I get it.  On one side you have the person who needs answers, needs proof.  On the other side you have the person who only needs faith.Proof is obviously irritated by Faith’s overwhelming consensus  that Proof will be sent to a hell that doesn’t exist.

Faith is irritated that Proof is challenging the belief system which they run their life by, usually in a condescending “holier than thou” manner.  And we all know nobody is holier than the born again Christian.

Why is it so important to be right?  I mean aside from the whole eternal damnation thing.  If either side found out tomorrow they were 100% correct, would their life be any different or would it be a bunch of self high fives and Tebowing? (sorry for the dated Tebow reference, I started writing this last year)

One of the hardest things for me to distinguish is the difference between someone posting bible verses and someone posting the latest scientific findings.  To me it’s the same, you’re both preaching from the pulpit.

I’m reminded of an episode of South Park called “Go God Go”: In the year 2546, the entire world is atheistic and dedicated to rationality and science. Atheism is divided into several denominations. These factions are at war with each other over who has the right answer to the Great Question. Cartman is told that their inspiring leader from the past, Richard Dawkins, showed them the way, but it was his “beautiful wife”, Mrs. Garrison, who showed how one must be a dick to people they don’t agree with.

Humans have a desire to be heard, we want others to agree with us and tell us we’re right.  We’re vane, ego driven and love to be pandered to.

What we don’t like, is to be told that we’re wrong or that we’re not as smart as someone else based on what we believe.  Whether it’s directly by saying, “You’re so wrong you’re embarrassing yourself.” or indirectly by simply rolling your eyes.

For me it’s understanding everyone has a different sense of humor.  I don’t expect everybody to laugh at what I say, I don’t criticize or look down upon people who think farts are as funny as a well crafted joke.

Well ok, that’s not exactly true.  I do look down upon them, it’s the lowest form of humor that requires zero talent.  But I keep it to myself.  Anyone who has spent three minutes setting up a joke only to have some jobber fart and get a bigger laugh feels my pain.

If atheism were a comedian it would be Dennis Miller.  So desperate for everyone to know how smart he is, that most of his jokes alienate the general public.  The fact that nobody gets the Dennis Miller reference proves my point.

If religion were a comedian it would be Jeff Foxworthy.  It was good the first time I heard it and simplistic, but if I have to hear one more forced “you might be a redneck” joke with canned laughter, I’m looking for the nearest rafter, some rope and a foot stool.

Which gets us back to my original question.  Why do we care what people think?  To which I don’t think there’s a cookie cutter answer that works for everyone.  I think each of us deals with our own issues, those issues which have defined us and molded the person we are today.  Which may be the root of why we do or don’t care.  We may never have a agreeable answer on whether or not a God exists.  Maybe the better question is, “Why do I care so much if someone believes he does or doesn’t?”





The Absurdness of Sports Rivalries

29 04 2012

Today I decided to get away from it all and go for a hike.  My love affair with hiking is something I stumbled upon recently in my quest to lose weight and get back into what I would classify as “respectable” shape.  Its been a great fit, and so far the only expense associated with this new-found hobby has been a backpack.

Arizona is fantastic for hiking, there are plenty of hills and mountains.  But the real benefit is once you get a little ways in the air, you can see unobstructed for a long ways.  I’ve also found it to be quite relaxing in my own way.  I’m around people all week at work, all night when I get home, so the ability to throw some lunch in a backpack, hike to a rock somewhere and be in limited contact with other people is somewhat appealing.  That is unless you run into a Yankee fan.

On most days my “lid” or hat of choice is one of three Boston Red Sox hats.  And I have to say more often than not it elicits some sort of conversation, sometimes good, sometimes bad.

At one of the view points on the trail today I was taking some pictures when out of nowhere, “How about that finish to the game last night?”  Now yes I am a fan of the Red Sox, but I don’t watch every single game.  In a season with 162 of them, there’s going to be periods when I miss a few.  But somehow I always feel like I’m letting a complete stranger down if I don’t at least engage them is Sox talk for a couple of minutes.  Luckily I heard about an amazing play the shortstop made from his knees a couple of nights before.  “No, I missed the game but what about the play Pedroia made from his knees the other night!”

Red Sox nation is like any other brotherhood, the only thing missing is a secret handshake.  That being said, for every ying there must be a yang or in this case a Yank.  Fans of the Red Sox and Yankees are predisposed to not really liking each other, even at the casual fan level.  For every engaging comment I get, there is a “Boo Red Sox, go Yankees” comment.

Towards the mid way point of the hike I somehow got on a similar rest schedule with two Yankee fans, which lead to the first “Boo Red Sox” comment of the day.  After several friendly yet derogatory exchanges I decided to play nice and hold a somewhat forced, normal conversation.  However, without the common bond of disdain between these two teams, there really isn’t much to talk about.

The trail I was on was not a loop, so basically you hike to the end turn around and hike back.  At the turnaround Yankee fan got about a five-minute head start on me as I finished up a granola bar and some Powerade.  As he walked by I wished him well and said, “Enjoy the rest of your day, don’t let me catch you, I know how you Yankees like to fade going down the stretch.”

After a forced uncomfortable laugh in the 92 degree Arizona sun, he knew it was on.  We were no longer hiking for our own well-being.  We were hiking as representatives of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

I kept pace with him almost the whole way back, constantly staying 3-5 minutes behind.  Like vintage Lance Armstrong in the alps, I was just waiting for the mountain portion of the trail to make my move.  I overheard him mention a calve problem which I knew would be problematic in the vertical climb.

Sure enough, half way up the mountain I caught up with him resting in the shade.  At that moment I caught my third or maybe fourth wind and put the hammer down on the throttle.  Heat stroke and nausea be damned.  I felt like the driver who decides to pass on the final pit stop at the Indy 500, bald tires and next to no gas, it’s ride or die time!

Of course it ended up being a blowout.  I think I finished like ten minutes in front.  There was no fanfare, no recognition and no yellow jersey, just personal pride.  As I sat at a shaded picnic table dumping water over my head, I saw him finishing, clearly favoring the bad calve.  We made eye contact and both acted as though nothing was on the line, but secretly knowing otherwise.

My name is Thomas Colvin and today I dominated a 70-year-old Yankee fan in the name of Red Sox Nation.

“Lets Go Red Sox!”





An Alaskan Summer Part: Ataqan

23 05 2011

Growing up in a family of fishermen seems to solidify ones future.  I remember in the third grade we were asked what we wanted to be when we grew up.  I answered, “Commercial Fisherman” because even then I knew that “commercial” means you get paid.

This story is broken into three parts: Ataqan, Aalax̂, and Qankun.  That’s one, two, and three in Aleut (Eskimo).  As far as pronunciation is concerned, your guess is as good as mine.  Stuff a couple marshmallows in your mouth and you’ll do just fine.

In the summer of 1990 I would fulfill my destiny and take my place in a long line of fishermen in our family.  I had taken the trip to Alaska the summer before, but at the end of the season, to get my feet wet.  It was the summer of ’89,  New Kids On The Block had the number one song with “I’ll Be Loving You”.  A black and white buddy cop sequel known as “Lethal Weapon 2” was the number one movie.

But now it was 1990 aka the 90’s!  Things were going to be different.  Communism was on the way out, if you listen you can almost hear Scorpions Wind Of Change.

And on that note….

“Step By Step” by New Kids On The Block was the top song in the nation and black and white buddy cop movie “Another 48 hours” was the top movie.  Like Bob Dylan said, “these times were a changin.”  Maybe not in music and movies, but did I mention this time I wasn’t going alone?  I was being accompanied by local sports hero Matt Thompson.  It was going to be Matt and I as the rookies, my dad as the first mate, and then the Skipper or Captain….. Walt.

Unrelated Tangent:

Now I don’t care who has done what since.  In my mind Matt was part of one of the greatest high school baseball teams I’ve ever seen or had the pleasure of watching from the bench.  Based on the equipment, level of competition, and just raw numbers.  They were  a later day version of Murderer’s Row: Three players hit over .500 for the season, Steve Anderson .506, Mark Thompson .519, Matt Thompson .521.  Combine that with Danny McFadden going 15-0 with an ERA of 0.93 and you had the north coast version of the New York Yankees.

Matt must have been nineteen or twenty at the time, as he had just finished his freshman year at Eastern Oregon.  Our interactions prior to this were brief.  In high school, I was a freshman when he was a senior.  I had only limited conversations with him while I rode the pine as a freshman on the baseball team, but he came off as a quiet yet respectful person.  All I knew was he was a cool dude that loved baseball and I was going to get to spend some one on one time with the 1989 2A All-Star Game MVP.  It was like a white less talented Tony Gwynn getting to hang out and talk hitting with Ted Williams.  As it turns out I don’t think baseball came up once.  But he did introduce me to several terms and phrases popular on the college scene.  Matt if you’re reading this… I thank you for that.

Our Alaskan Airlines 737 touched down in Anchorage, but our final destination was the town of Dillingham.  We had to change planes, and change planes we did.  It’s a little bit of a shock to go from the comforts of a Boeing Jet to something that looks like an Indiana Jones movie prop.  As we boarded a ramp which lowered from the tail I noticed this appeared to be some sort of converted cargo plane that seated 30 to 40 people.  I ended up taking a window seat right on the wing so I could keep an eye on one of the two propellers.  In the world of air travel, cargo nets for overhead storage is top shelf.  I kept waiting for them to load the livestock and Short Round to show up screaming “Docta Jones!” (That’s “Doctor Jones” in standard stereotypical 80’s asian voice)

Did I mention I don’t like to fly?  Let alone fly in something where they don’t even bother to go over what to do in the event of an emergency landing.  I’d always heard that Alaskan bush pilots were like Top Gun… The best of the best of the best.  Of course I think I also heard they die at an alarming rate.  The flight from Anchorage to Dillingham was probably in the hour and a half range.  As far as I was concerned, it was not nearly short enough.

The landing was a rough one, cross shears coming off the ocean, moving the tail of the plane all over the place.  The type of landing where you don’t exhale until the wheels hit, which I did.  Only to freak out when the engine cover came completely off!  As my pupils dilated and fixated on the prop I thought, “Oh my god she’s breaking up!  We’re going to explode!”  Nobody bothered to mention the tops of both engines pop off upon landing to create drag and cool the motor.  I kept thinking, “Get me off of this plane and bring on the sea sickness.”

Besides three days of sea sickness for most people, here’s what else you don’t realize about fishing in Alaska, four men on a 32 foot boat for an extended period of time can be interesting, and lead to an aquatic version of cabin fever.  Here are some other nuggets of information.

  • Showers are not really an option, in four weeks I had the opportunity to take two showers.
  • Sleeping on the back deck while still in your rain gear, in a seated position saves time and makes sense.
  • The “#2” “deuce” “duker” or “admiral dump-n-stein” is persona non grata in the bathroom, instead you get a 5 gallon bucket with rope tied to the handle so you can toss it over the side and scoop sea water.  You can figure out the rest from here.
  • Crew members take turns cooking and get to pick out the food loading up several grocery carts pre-season.  It’s like going on supermarket sweepstakes!
  • In terms of livable square footage we’re talking about 150 for 4 people.  You get to know each other.

Now fortunately for us the boat we were on was brand new.  I’ve seen and been on some real rust buckets.  I’ve heard the stories about how the exhaust manifold doubled as your stove.  We had the benefit of a gas range, oven, fridge and sink, all stainless.  Unfortunately those are conveniences that don’t lead to you making more money.

In Bristol Bay, the next important thing to knowing where the fish are, is speed.  The faster you are, the more sets you make, the more times you unload, the more money you make.  Our boat was a classic example of American engineering at its finest.  Huge Detroit Diesel engine powering a boat that was way too heavy.  The end result was a boat that sounded fast but was slow as hell.  At the opposite end of the spectrum you had our old adversary: Mother Russia!  If this were a movie, we’d cut to a clip of Russian soldiers Goose Stepping through Red Square. (click here)  Just do it!  One click 45 seconds, totally sets the mood.

The Russians may have lost the cold war, but they dominated Bristol Bay.  Huge fiberglass hull boats that had jet propulsion, not propellers.  To put things in movie terms: we were Rocky (lots of muscle but slow and dumb) and the Russians were Drago (Fast, powerful and cutting edge).  Only this time unlike Rocky IV, they absolutely kicked our ass in a 15 round one-sided beat down.  A popular pastime would be to blow by our boat, full throttle, at night, while we were anchored.  Thus throwing a massive wake at our boat.  Always awesome when you were trying to have dinner and the boat goes from completely calm to rocking violently side to side.  “Dasvidanya Americana’s!”

DOWN TO BRASS TACKS

Commercial Fishing in Bristol Bay is a series of “openers”.  For example they may open fishing for a 12 hour period, in that time you go wall to wall and try to catch as much as you can.  Then they close it down for a day or two.  In the down time you repair nets, or make repairs to the boat, if you’re all caught up on repairs you tie off next to one or more boats and play cribbage.  If you’re really lucky you head for shore.  By shore I mean the closest native village population always less than 200.

These villages were usually sustained by some sort of fish processing or cannery.  I always thought this is what a research station must be like in Antarctica.  There was such a feeling of isolation.  So much land and space and so few people.  It’s both peaceful, while at the same time giving you feelings of anxiety.  The anxiety comes from realizing you are not in control of just being able to leave whenever you want.  No wonder every year there’s a native who freezes to death with his face stuck to a gas can.  I guess at some point sniffing gas fumes and getting shipped off in a box seems like a good idea.

When there was no time for land, one of the boats we would tie off with was run by an older, jovial, slightly chubby Scandinavian man named Jorgen.  He spoke english with a heavy accent and had a two person crew.  His boat was something to behold.  Remember when I talked about rust buckets?  This would classify.  Or maybe I should say “wood” classify.  Wooden boat from the late 40’s early 50’s.  It’s at this point I overlooked how slow our boat was, and embraced the safety that welded aluminum with an airtight cabin provides.

Jorgen’s big plan in life was to fish Bristol Bay long enough to realize his dream.  His dream was to open a crematorium, it’s all he ever talked about.  How it was such a money-maker, and there was always going to be customers, low overhead etc.  Jorgen was an urn half full type of guy.

His crew consisted of two late 20-somethings whose names escape me.  One was a real earthy guy who was all about Steely Dan, nice guy, I think he was from New Zealand.  The other was a blonde woman who was kinda hot by default.  Consider this, she was the only woman with all of her teeth that any of us had seen in weeks.  Plus she was blonde, wore tight jeans, pink Vuarnet sunglasses and liked to talk about how cocaine made sex amazing.  That’s right, your heard me.  Inner Ron Burgundy monologue, “Hello Thomas, welcome to manhood and stay classy Bristol Bay.”  I’ve always had a soft spot for women who openly talk about their sex life and cocaine use.  I guess deep down I’m just an old-fashioned romantic.

It’s been said that most of the people in Alaska are there because they’re on the run from something or someone.  I think there is a lot of truth to that statement.  Consider it the last stronghold, technically you’re still in the United States of America but you’re just a short boat or plane ride from someplace where man may or may not have ever set foot.

Thinking back, it’s amazing that so much happened in such a short amount of time.  Who knew seven weeks would give me tales that would last a lifetime.  As an adult I sometimes go 3 months and forget everything that happened.  In the next part of this story I’ll touch on a few of them and go into detail on two specific events that I remember as though they were yesterday.  We’re just getting warmed up.  There are 1990 words in this story, now how cool is that?





The Business of Family: A Hostile Take Over

13 05 2011

Like most kids from my generation I grew up with a step-parent by way of divorce.  In business terminology is it any different from mergers and acquisitions or in some cases a hostile take over?

To be honest I don’t really care for this piece, but I’m tired of messing with it, so here we go.  Don’t forget to read between the lines and draw your own conclusions.  Remember this is a parody and not necessarily drawn from my own experiences.

Lets examine divorce as though a child was playing the role of a corporate employee.   Located throughout the story you’ll see “click here”  feel free to examine these to  add a little flair to the story.

You’ve been on the job for several years, you’re a model employee, well liked by middle and upper management.  You’re on the fast track straight to the top.  Then through no fault of your own the company decides to split into two separate companies, when one of the owners is forced out.  One gets all the assets and the building, the other owner gets to keep the name.  It’s already shaping up to be a bad deal, but it gets worse. (click here)

You show up to work one day and realize that your boss, mentor, and guy who had your back is no longer there.  Rumor has it he was last seen carrying everything he owned in a cardboard box headed to his car.  The guy whose sole purpose was to make sure you succeeded within the company and been unceremoniously booted.  To make things worse they replace him with some upper management brown noser who knows nothing about you and is only interested in his own success, not yours.

Now you have to start over from scratch.  All of your previous accomplishments and accolades are meaningless.  Not to mention there is some serious resentment.  You’ve been with the firm longer, you know the ins and outs.  You could recite the employee handbook from cover to cover.  But all you know is now you’re taking orders from the new guy who took your best friends job.  Business etiquette requires that you show your supervisor respect, even though it has not been earned or even warranted at this point.

At some point upper management finds out that you may have some concerns over recent changes.  So they do what any good business does, hold a “team” meeting.  During this meeting one-sided discussion will take place in the form of a smear campaign designed to discredit the previous business partner.  There will be innuendo stating that this person had a silent partner, and that expense reports were fixed to cover lavish trips to places like Reno.  You’re also informed  the court ruled there was a breach of contract centered around your being hired.  Now the owner who only got to keep the business name has to pay monthly restitution thus paying your salary.  In standard corporate fashion they try to wrap it up on a high note.  There is grandiose talk of how they’re “here for” and “they only succeed if you succeed”. (click here)

But all you know is the previous boss was cool and the new guy sucks.

Nine years go by and you do your job with little to no praise.  Sure you get the standard vacation time, cake on your birthday, enough swag to keep you quiet and out-of-the-way.  Then the company decides to expand and bring in some fresh faces.  These employees were hired under the new regime and thus go straight to the head of the line.  You start to feel as though the writing is on the wall and you’re going to get forced out.  Now things start to get competitive in a race you just can’t win.

As you all know first prize is a Cadillac El Dorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired.  ~Alec Baldwin from Glen Gary Glen Ross (click here)

I mean sure you’ve got thirteen years of experience under your belt, but two new employees hired three years apart are now being fast tracked in the management trainee program.  It’s not their fault, they didn’t do anything except get hired.  Besides what do you have to worry about?  You have thirteen years worth of stock options, that means you have ownership!   Not so fast, rumor has it the company is buying back all those outstanding shares with the intent to devalue them and re-issue new stock.  You just got the Willy in your Wonka…  (Click here)

Meanwhile your original boss is on his fifth failed business (marriage).  He keeps trying to talk you into coming over and working for him.  He shows you pictures of exotic locals and lavish parties.  In your heart you know it might not be a bad idea but you’ve got so much time invested with the current company.  It’s by no means ideal but you know the lay of the land, and know how to fly under the radar.  You become comfortable and complacent in your new role as a corporate slave.  Like most employees in today’s economy you’re just happy to have a job.

A few more years go by and those newbie employees are excelling at everything they do.  They have to full support of the company, from the owners perspective everything they touch turns to gold and they are rewarded as such.  Your “presence” is nothing more than a reminded of the way things used to be, but you survived and manage to gut out twenty years.  It’s seen its ups and downs, your accomplishments have been on your own shoulders and without the help of anyone else.

At this point you decide you’ve had enough and you’re tired of the glass ceiling so you decide to start your own business with only one goal in mind.  To be more successful than the place that held you down for so many years.  The business model is designed by doing the opposite of everything your previous employer did.  Your business is all about its employees and creating an environment for everyone to have success and to be recognized.  Not based on corporate greed and self advancement. (click here)

The business although benevolent in its appearance has another objective.  That objective is to surpass the previous company.  Maybe you drive them out of business or maybe you become so successful that you buy them out.

Businesses grow and businesses fail, the same can be said of the American family.  In summation: (click here)