Gifts

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Mel Brooks  said writing is 80% inspiration and 20% perspiration.  I am a writer because it’s the first thing I want to do.  To be fully alive there has be a purpose other than eating and sleeping with work in between.  My first day hour job in 10 years filled the last but killed my creativity.  When those burst of fully formed ideas happen, they are gifts.  They die without care.  Having internet where I live is becoming a need not a want.  Time’s critical to maintain the gossamer structure fighting the overwhelming flow of conscious attention.  My solution to the problem has stopped working recently.

That’s the main reason for the spotty posting.  Three drafts of derailed thoughts.  It takes a sustained effort to overcome the unique way my brain processes the flow of ideas.  Type. Stop. Reflect. Edit. Type. Multitasking is not a skill I possess. Five years of third shift means my most creative time is right after waking up.  At 3 pm.  Time has been and still is bracketed between work, kids and sleep. The tension of discovering the true me and the one I lived pre meds is becoming a conflict.  Stress from being poor and potentially homeless is more of a relief than a burden compared to that.  Not having driving vices has simplified my life after the chaos disappeared.  For a month I had no money.  It revealed to me people are generous.  For a loner, either through personality or choice, it was a lesson a very long time in coming.  More likely waiting for me to slow down.  Taking a step or three back let’s the current of popular culture flow around you to fill the space.

Culture has been buried so deep with modern marketing techniques its true power is hidden.  How we interpret our everyday world has narrowed by the demands of a 24/7 world.  Technology has ramped it up to hyperspeed.  Once I aged out of the male target demographic life got easier.  My choices became much starker without the necessary skills.  Small decisions over time steered my path into a cul de sac.  The latest of many.  No Worries.  I have the tools to find my way back. The conscious sidestep in order to stop getting wet from pissing into the wind has put me into a strange calm.  Not the eye of the storm.  The trailing edge of the gust front. The many tons of cold air falling from thousands of feet now land on someone else. A younger stronger person with a life filled with more wants then needs.  Hopefully the heavy weather gear fits better.

Has for me, my apartment is now a place to sleep. The center of a holding pattern while gathering the information to make an informed choice. The mental shift in my reality has changed the physical as well as the emotional.  I hope my posting cause ripples that reach one person in a time of darkness.

Holes

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I have a favorite pair of jeans. Just the right fit. My go to comfort pair when the world turns ugly. The standards of fashion have never fit my body type. No amount of exercise can change genetics.  Now that soft comfortable place of refuge is wearing out. Thin patches are becoming holes. Work damaged others beyond repair. Easy to replace. There wasn’t the attachment to them.  Now the question becomes do I spend the effort to repair the small holes?  Is the basic fabric too far gone to bother with?

Driving around my adopted home city, I see the same holes. Saginaw’s population has gone from 90,000, in the 70s, to 2014 to 35,000 now. Detroit problem’s in miniature. The northern end of Automation Alley. Bay City to Toledo. I-75.  The concrete river mirroring the rivers feeding the Great Lakes. Factory grit scrubs the softness away. A string of cities filled with quick to build small working class homes.  Now with aging infrastructure and populations.  The concept of neighborhood has been under attack for decades. The large houses from the lumbering days became boarding houses in the 40s. Adult children sell their dead parents houses to continue their lives somewhere else. Bought by landlords to become rentals to be left when unprofitable.  Adding to the expense of the city.  A city struggling with a shrinking tax base and legacy cost of past decisions made under different circumstances.  Federal money has been paying for tearing down abandoned house for years. Again the question, do you decide to expend the energy to fix the holes or find somewhere new? Some perspective from Berlin 25 years after the Wall fell.

On NPR, The mayor said Berlin was never be a beautiful city.  The most non German looking city has done the most to rewrite a repressive history. The energy most cities channel into the more surficial rewrite of  a past is put into a move lasting change. Gold colored bricks throughout the city are reminders of where German Jews lived before the Holocaust. Placed just slightly above the surrounding surface, stumble bricks. Never forget what happens when individuals do nothing.  What struck me was he compared Berlin to what was happening in Detroit.  Both in structure and who are drawn to living in an unlovely city.  It’s easier to be real in a place that cares more about character than appearance.  Both embody an ethos that beauty clothes at its whim.  A place shapes the people. People change the future shape of a place.

East German’s old building are disappearing. Touchstones of a past. Holes in human memories no government could touch or control.  The open spaces in Berlin are redeveloped.  Saginaw”s are being left empty. The city is returning back to when clusters of population are surrounded by nature.  Technology has reduced the need for strong backs in crypt like caverns of heat and grim. Computers need clean air conditioned spaces. It also allows a freedom from the limitations of physical location. The future of my home is what do we do with the small holes in the fabric of a place called Saginaw.  Easy quick answers need not apply.

Rooftop of Pontiac State Bank

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Will:

This is the other side of Detroit. At one time the city was called the Paris of the Midwest. Cast in Amber and forgotten. Now it’s being rediscovered. Yes a city 139 square miles in size that had 1 million residents in the 1950s needs to shrink. It just fell harder and faster than most. Beauty and grit. Welcome to the D.

Originally posted on Near the Roof:

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Watching the clouds flow by. Not has a unified mass. Separate rivers in the sky. Sails of differing height catch the unseen currents. Watching the leading edge of a storm front. Dark grey waiting  to release the weight of their moisture.  Patches of white trailing and leading  the changing interplay of nature’s mood. Shades of grey. My life.  Everyone life at some point.  I find myself very introspective lately.  The same examination someone living in a small house goes through.  The Tiny House movement has moved from the one of necessity to a lifestyle choice. A mental  shift that encompasses a philosophy more beyond living in a physically small space.

Most think those choosing that lifestyle are  the very young, artist or empty nester.  Members of society who haven’t started or stopped acquiring material goods. Living in limited space forces an examination of needs versus wants. The antithesis to Consumerism. The prolonged stagnation of wages is the external force that has narrowed my focus. Thinking back on all my living arrangements, There was so much unused space.  Open floor plans reflect a desire to make use of it.  DIY and decorating shows have made it desirable.  How to build extra storage space for our magpie nature. How to fill the new space with the bright shiny instead the old tarnished. Might have a use for it later.  One answer to that belief is to fill another table at your garage sale. Do ordinary people have the unseen army assistants whose job is to maintain that look as seen on TV?

There’s a million dollar industry in how to declutter your life.  The newest books add to the clutter of the old books about the past trend. Ironic.All have an unexamined basis. Is the cost of severing an emotional investment worth the pain of letting go?  A very personal question.  It’s the 10% that carry the promise of hardened attachments. Something that one can hold is so much more. A silver web of memories. Seasons filled with people, past and present.  Gifts sitting on tables where conversation cemented friendships. Or life changing choices.  An anchor against the uncaring passing of time. Humans evolved in an environment where touch formed the tactile framework that completed all the other. Form follows function.

Living in a world of immediacy demands a constant evaluation of the necessary. An old habit to relearn. A resilience our ancestors lived with.  Here’s a challenge.  Take one room in your house.  An unused spare room to start with. Examine every object, including the furniture.  Give away everything unused or not needed.  EVERYTHING. Then shut the door.  Leave it closed for 6 months.  Walk back in.  Was anything needed in that time.?  Was there an unexpected guest needing it?  Welcome to living small.  A journey has begun.

 

Rhythm of Water

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A river is at the heart of my adopted hometown. Lumber and sawmills. General Motors. Relaxation in between shifts. The land remembers. Water washes away the scars.  What I been blind to is the beauty along its banks. Eagles and hawks soar above the empty space where nature has filled the absence of man’s footprint. The only remnants of a places past glories are where they were forgotten.  Detroit’s beautiful buildings.  The closest  to my childhood desire for a treehouse is the second floor apartment. The late 19th century survivor that was built with tall ceiling and lots of windows .  Mine is the smallest space has five.  the wind may not sway the building but it’s a constant friend.  The only situation better would be the motion of flowing water under my feet. Living on the water not next to. Homes in the two elements with a beauty hiding their other face.   Temporary structures built in an environment beyond my control. 6 days, 6 months, or 6 years.

Where does all this come? Jimmy Buffett introduced the mythical landscape of coastal living. Harnessing the wind move a vessel shaped by centuries of human imagination. The fleeting line cut through the water is heard rather than seen.  A rhythm felt by those quiet enough to sense it. Vacation has become more stressful. Compacting a year’s worth of expectations into a fixed time guarantees that. Another door was opened for me. The philosophy of Travis McGee. Another fictional character based where old coastal living meets a modern world. Retirement taken in prolonged installments on a Houseboat. A powerful introduction to a teenager growing up in a world to one of chrome and steel islands in a sea of concrete. In a static world people are the current. A current just as powerful as the ocean. Both have the possibility of dangerous storms and soothing sound.

Living by the Great Lakes is the closest I’ve come to being on a ship again. Water is integral to every second of life here. The economy has forced many to move away.  Those that stayed feel the pull of place.  The changeable nature of nature is preferable to sameness of human constructs of stability.  The world we live in demands certain things.  Therein lies the constant conflict of needs versus desires  Everyone has to find their own state of balance.  Mine is one of water.  It takes the shape of its surrounding. I have had to fit  into my limitations. Questioning this acceptance has been a constant source of tension and peace.  This my balancing act.  Standing in a small boat on an ocean where the rhythm of the water is strongest.

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Knowing something is going to happen doesn’t mean you’re ready when it does. It comes down to cost determing the size of the hammer. The rules to get relief or help forces the suspension of a work ethic.  The hole gets deeper.  Yes some climb out.  College becomes cheaper. Resources for that ease of access gets harder.  The class needed to move forward doesn’t match the bus schedule. the dependance on another student to get somewhere. In an urban environment this is not the barrier rural students face. Access. For me it’s more basic.  Friday the shutoff notice for my utilities arrived. For Monday. I’ve heard it typical for people in financial situations to stop opening the mail.  I opened it. Just made it worse. The constant stress of watching the odometer because your gas gauge doesn’t work.  Deciding what are the necessary trips adds to the commutative stress. America built it’s infrastructure around cars. Unless you happen to live in a city or town designed with walking in mind, the distance between work, home and school demands a car. The cost of having a car, insurance, gas and maintenance, exposes the class divide. People who have no need for the bus fight to keep a bus line from coming through their neighborhood. NIMBY.

It’s not a race issue. It’ a values issue.  Housing value, better schools and perceived safety cluster those at graduated levels of resources. What can we afford. The battle for any extension of public transportation always centers on fear.  A single act of stupidity over rides any other data showing it’s false assumption. An emotional response will always override reason. There are only two groups of people that own multiple cars, the very rich and the poor.  For different reasons.  This what I hear at gas stations near my neighborhood, $5 on 2.  Or any any variation of that number.  Those that can fill up use pay at the pump.  Pre pay or Card.  The basic assumption of trust has been eroded by stark  need.  Trust has shrunken to basic tribal levels.  What’s the answer?

Mine is to accept that simplifying is my only option.  It’s an easy step to make.  Years of  not having certain things has put me outside of current culture.  No cable or satellite. Dealing with slow internet from a WiFi hotspot. An older laptop.  Never owning any type of game console. A bare bones prepaid smart phone.  Compare that with the bombardment of what is expected according to advertising in the media.  When others are choosing this way of living, it has been mine for years.  Soccer is my main passion.  All the European or domestic leagues are all add on packages to basic cable.  That explains my irrational attitude for the lower levels of the game. It’s something I can experience in person. At a lower cost. And being in the crowd not just hearing through a surround sound system. Priceless.

There’s a chance of employment from a job fair which took the last of my gas.  I ponder this finishing up cold coffee.  Another skill learned. Savoring every sip.  Try it. See how long it takes to finish.  Now it’s time for a Boy Scouts with my son.

Work. A new Definition.

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A 50 hour work week.  Teachers needing a second jobs because of pay cuts.  All those teenage jobs of the past are now taken by the 25 to 40 single moms and retirees.  A third of suburban shopping malls, the symbol of the postwar middle class, are standing empty.  Some are being torn down then rebuilt as a multiuse downtown. Population density is the trend for Gen Y and Millennials. Smaller houses or apartments for empty nesters. The big Three are dealing with that same group using scooters and bikes instead big profit vehicles.  No computer skills in the current software or IT knowledge? Better learn. Nursing? Critical need. Some with those dirty hands on infrastructure jobs? That used to be honorable work.  People working with your hands built this country.A skill set in decline until it all falls apart. The common thread between them?  A personal interview.

Networking and referrals bypass the matrix driven online application process.  Upload your resume but still enter certain information.  Multiple pages of a personality sorting test. One less HR salary for the company. When I worked has an unpaid assistant manager at a record store, my job was to sort the applications.  First job paper forms were first sorted quickly, Can I read them?  Now the stack was down to the three I gave the manager. What’s the difference between the two methods?  A person had to ask for an application and bring it back. A human interaction. Yes technology has opened the global marketplace. What’s the catch?

Cheap tablets and smart phones  have replaced the physical office. While other infrastructure poor countries invested in fiber optic cable instead of roads or clean water, American went  merger crazy. New business built on cheap access to information or combining mature ones for stockholder profits?  The days of huge streams of unskilled labor entering a giant factory are gone. Does that mean America isn’t a manufacture country?  No.  We still out produce all the countries combined.  Applying technology to the process allows one person watching 5 machines to do the work of 10.  Skilled workers still dominate the good paying jobs. Transferable skills provides personal stability.

This trend exposes a flaw anyone that has dealt with an  Human Resource office. A focus on risk management and regulations instead of finding the right skills for a particular position. Into this choke point thousands of resumes flow with the speed of a keystroke. A shorter gap in employment has more weight than someone who updated their skills.  Thousands of college graduates with student loans have joined the workforce. Businesses have found paying overtime is cheaper than hiring a new person. Enter the  temporary or contract workers. No benefits. No driving need to hire them in. One less expense. The more layers, the more you’re just a number on a spreadsheet.

Refine your definition of success in the modern world. Live simpler.  Take time.  What else do you have?

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