Ninety-two

I never wanted a job. Jobs always struck me a type of prison, being beholden to a hierarchy, always chasing money and inevitably, more things. But I got one and never escaped. As I entered the business world in the 1980’s, the Depeche Mode song Everything Counts constantly played in my brain.

The grabbing hands grab all they can
All for themselves, after all
The grabbing hands grab all they can
All for themselves, after all

It’s a competitive world
Everything counts in large amounts

I married young, had children and needed a steady income to support my family, so off to work I went taking my place amongst the corporate toadies in a sick, sick world.

What I really wanted to be was a surfer. I spent a lot of time on beaches in college and instantly fell in love with what I perceived as a life way. Man in nature, seeking zen like bliss as the mighty ocean carried you with its great power to shore.

For me, surfing was never about conquering the ocean or the wave. It was about finding unity with it.

In those days, I imagined living in my Japhy Ryder hut near the beach. Futon, small table and a wall of books. I’d also be a poet. I’d have an old record player and all sorts of albums. Miles Davis, old tiki and surf tunes. Depeche. An old Volvo wagon with a surf rack. A beautiful, carefree girlfriend with mocha colored skin and sparkling, loving eyes. She could never imagine life with me and the ocean. Waina, mushrooms, sex. An adequate, simple life, uncomplicated by the ceaseless demands of an otherwise sick society.

To make ends meet, I’d rent chairs and umbrellas on the beach and hopefully sell some poems. One day I’d be a widely published writer signing books filled with nature poems for throngs of adoring fans, mostly women, of course. It was all mapped out, at least in my hopelessly romantic brain.

But as John Lennon said, life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. I suppose you could say I made a choice for a different life, and that is true. But I was always bound to responsibility, especially to the people I love, so I gave up the dream, cut my hair, got a suit and opted for decades of corporate torture.

I had a brief period in the 1990’s where I started an outdoor oriented venture. I was heavy into backpacking and Edward Abbey in those days and was fortunate to spend a of time hiking and backpacking in the Appalachians. Likely the best years of my adult life. The plan was to lead corporate types on backpacking trips in an effort to help them recapture their souls. Unfortunately, the money was poor for so many nights lying on the dirt, so I kicked the idea to the curb. I also came to believe that most corporate types were beyond redemption. They might have a few days of loving nature, but they’d almost all go back to their drudgery.

But unlike me, they’d like it. The wealth building. Gradually buying bigger houses and joining exclusive country clubs. There’d be second homes. And almost always at the expense of the natural world and on the backs of employees that make a fraction of what they made. You just can’t build financial wealth without hurting something in the process. It’s not possible.

So I went back to my own corporate life and ushered in the most depressing years of my life. Business issues forced us out of East Tennessee and its lush mountains and back to the place of my birth in the Upper Mississippi Delta. Memphis. A place known for its high murder rate, terrible infant mortality rate, failing schools and racial tension. I made more money than at any period in my life doing tech work and was ceaselessly unhappy.

My wife decided it was time for an intervention and invited my aunt, a medical doctor and a personal hero of mine, to our home to confront me. The solution was pills. It was abnormal for me to not be happy living in a highly violent city with no mountains, desert or beach. I should be happy in this concrete hell hawking technology and paying taxes. The suburbs were magnificent! All I needed were some pills to dull my senses and beat back the normal tendency of my brain which was me this place sucks and to get out.

After that, I decided to keep my feelings to myself and use writing as an outlet. I joined a writers group and took some courses in creative writing at UCLA. It was a much needed salve and outlet for my frustration and provided me with a way to cope. Truth be told, I’m not very good at it. At least not good enough to sell books. I got A’s at UCLA, but a man has to know his limitations.

Last week, I returned to the beach with my family and grandchildren. The weather was poor, but that meant the surf was high. All the old memories came flooding back as I watched the warm, green Florida surf pound the beach. I was 20 again. My blonde hair had returned and was down to my shoulders. I’d just caught a glassy left and sailed through the tube like a missile, eventually riding the white water back to the sugary beach. The powerful Florida sun blazed across my back tanning my skin to a deep, dark brown. And yes, this is a fantasy, because there are rarely “tubes” in Florida. It’s just 3-4 foot choppy surf that might keep you up on the board for a few brief seconds and last week, the water was brown thanks to the storms and prodigious amount of Sargassum seaweed. It’s not great for postcards but is great for marine life, especially young sea turtles.

As I day dreamed, my charming three year old grandson woke me and took my hand. As he guided me to the water he said,

“Hey Pop, let’s play!”

At that moment, everything felt as if it had come full circle. Perhaps all that corporate suffering had lead me to this point, because it’s doubtful I would have had my children and this special moment outside of that path.

Everything was ok. Ua ola loko i ke aloha (loves gives life within)

1 thought on “Ninety-two

  1. Michael Lewis

    Yep, if things had been different, things would be different.

    I never had children, so I don’t know the fulfillment of children and grandchildren.

    But I do know that the past is memory and the future is imagination. Here, hung between memory and imagination, we can be anything we want.

    If I had known then what I know now, I would have been living then the way I live now.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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