Monday, October 26, 2009

Notes in bottles

Years ago, when I was probably about 11 or 12 years old, I was fascinated by the concept of notes being placed in bottles and cast in the ocean to be read by someone thousands of miles away. Since Boise was about as landlocked of a place that you could find, I was in a quandary about how to fulfill my burning desire to cast my words upon the currents of the world.

I settled for tossing an old Gallo wine bottle with a note into Lucky Peak Reservoir, the largest body of water in Ada County. It was more of a childish prank actually then a real effort to connect with the world at large. I traced a copy of Thomas Jefferson's signature on a piece of brown paper and soaked it in oil, thinking it would look like aged parchament. Then I wrote out this convoluted note saying that I was a dying old man and wanted to leave this valuable signature to whoever found it in the bottle.

My friend Dave Little and I paddled out into the middle of the reservoir on inner tubes, chucked the bottle, and paddled back to shore. Within minutes, we watched as a Sheriff's patrol boat that cruised the reservoir monitoring the activities of drunk water skiers, whizzed by, stopped and retrieved the bottle. I'm sure they were just removing it as a potential hazard to the above mentioned drunk water skiers (who I am sure they blamed for tossing a wine bottle into the main boat channel of the reservoir). But Dave and I hightailed it out of there, sure that cops would be showing up at our door any day having traced fingerprints from the Gallo wine bottle.

For some reason they never traced the prank to us.

Still, the concept of casting messages to unpredictable currents in hopes that someone would eventual find them stayed with me. I think this is why I have blogged for five years now. And I have to admit that throwing a bottle with a note in it, although not very acceptable from an environmental standpoint, is probably more reliable of a way to get your message out there. Although I have had a few readers over the years, most have just put the note back in the bottle and tossed it back.

Not that this has stopped me from writing notes and plopping them into the void. It is a harmless and inexpensive way to get published. It is also kind of a neat way to write down all the random things I remember from growing up. Some day my kids can read my blog archives and get some key insights into my life and personality. God knows I won't remember any of the crap by the time they are old enough to appreciate my stories.

At this point, I would expect the wittier amongst my non-existent readers to tell me to put a cork in it. So I will.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


(Turn and face the strain)
Oh, look out you rock 'n rollers
(Turn and face the strain)
Pretty soon you're gonna get a little older
Time may change me
But I can't trace time
I said that time may change me
But I can't trace time
--Changes, David Bowie

One of the big differences between youth and middle age is that when you have aged significantly, you finally recognize that the only constant is change.

I laugh at the motivational speakers who make money off from corporations teaching seminars in "Managing Change." How can you manage change? By it's very nature it is unpredictable. You don't manage change, you ride it out like a gnarly wave and hope you don't fall off and get whacked in the head by your surf board.

People talk about change a great deal and many songs are written about it "oh the times they are a changing...don't go changing, just to please've got to change your evil ways, baby...."

I suppose change is good. They say it is good. But I can't help believing that that is just a survival tactic. Change simply is. And if you don't adapt, you disappear. End of story.

I have always adapted pretty well to change. People who know me may laugh at this statement. I am sometimes perceived as a rigid person. I don't think that is true, but we rarely see ourselves the way others do. But since I also believe we create our own realities, I'm going with my self-perception.

Regardless, I have weathered many changes in my life and still have a sense of humor (others may not agree, but see proceeding paragraph). I truly do perceive change as coming in waves. You ride one to the beach and the next one will be along shortly. If you aren't expecting it, you'll get knocked down.

The ironic thing about change is that you can't make it happen. Or at least you can't make things outside of yourself change. Sometimes I have my doubts about changing things within yourself as well, but I haven't fully discounted that theory. I think you can change your mind, but not other people's minds. If someone tells you they changed your mind based on something you said, I believe they really changed it because they were on the fence waiting for some justification to topple them off on one side or the other.

What kills me about change in general is that it so often creeps up on you like mold instead of exploding in your face like gunpowder. Throw a sharp rock in a river and it will eventually get smooth, but I'll be damned if you can see it happen. Think of the sharp rock as youth and the worn river rock as old age.

All I can think of at this point is the saying, "That boy is as sharp as a river rock."

But I digress.

Everything changes. I have railed in many past posts about the inexplicable disappearances from my life of friends (or people I thought were my friends). As I accept the proposition that life is basically about change, I understand it better that people come and go out of my life like waves. It is a bittersweet truth. As change flows over people it alters our paths. It doesn't necessarily mean people stop being our friends because they decide they don't like us any more (though that can happen). I believe more often than not people merely flow with the current of their changing lives. Sometimes rivers flow together and sometimes they branch off never to meet again.

I am sure I would become terribly bored if nothing ever changed. Bill Murray demonstrated in his movie Groundhogs Day that when faced with a day that endlessly repeats we will eventually go to great lengths to escape the hell of monotony through change...good or bad.

I guess I am fixated on change because I am facing the realities of aging. I look into the mirror and am baffled as to when the river of time wore me down. I drive through neighborhoods I have known for years and wonder when the great little restaurant I used to go to turned into a Dollar Store or a parking lot. I grasp at names for the foggy faces that once were co-workers, friends or acquaintances. I scroll through lists of former classmates on Facebook and furrow my brow wondering why none of them look familiar.

Or perhaps I fixated on change because I have two young children and they seem to change between the time I leave in the morning and walk in the door at night. Only moments ago it seems I was rocking my daughter to sleep while she sucked contentedly on a bottle. When did she start dressing herself, jumping into bed and pointing out books she wants me to read? When did she make the leap to do things "all by self, daddy, all by self!"

The problem with accepting change is knowing that it will continue no matter how much I want it to take a vacation. No matter how much I long to linger on moments of contentment, it will send the next wave to break over me. Maybe a moratorium on change would be nice for a change. But I am sure I would probably change my mind if it happened.