Monday, June 30, 2008

Good Evening From Atlanta

Hello. Well, it's been a little while, hasn't it? I hope you (whomever you are) have been well. Sometimes I wonder who you are, you who reads this blog. I know a few people that read it; by any measure, those known and unknown to me, number very few. We have a cozy little community here – and a quiet one. Even if no one ever read it, I would write for myself, just to write. As I have since soon after I learned to read and write. The earliest writing that I have presently is from 1975, when I was 9 or 10, in about the 5 th grade. I started keeping a regular journal in January, 1977, when I was 11.

That first entry was written at my grandmother's house and the main topic was a book I had just checked out from my elementary school library called Your Dating Days by Paul Landis (written in 1954, so it was already over 20 years old – written more for my parents than my generation, but it still had some good information and guidelines in it). I was somehow obsessed with the idea of dating and marriage at 11 years old. It didn't even have an object – I didn't have a crush on anyone at that time, and wouldn't until later that summer, when I had a crush (along with my two best friends) on my sister's best friend, Tammy. Though I wrote a lot about her in that first journal, she is a mere footnote in my memory, unlike my previous objects of innocent affection, Myra and Karen (whom I wrote about on Valentine's Day).

And not that much has changed, perhaps: I still read books, and write about them some; I still journal; and I am still interested in women, though not in dating or marriage; I think I've been cured of that part of things.

As I write this, I am in Atlanta, on my way to Greensboro, North Carolina. Wednesday is my last day of work before a few days off. On Friday, I'm supposed to go with my sister, Cindy, and her family down to Florida to visit our Daddy for the weekend. I am looking very much forward to that.

I delivered a load to Pensacola, Florida, at the Naval Air Station there. That's where I was born (in the U.S. Naval Hospital, which has since been torn down) 43 years ago. I don't remember living there because we moved when I was only a few months old. But it was still cool going back to the place I was born.

One note before moving on to whatever else I will write: thanks for the kind e-mails and comments on the phone about the entries I wrote for Mother's Day and Father's Day. I am overwhelmed with gratitude when I consider how fortunate I am to have the people in my life that I do, family and friends. That, and the fact that I have a job and lifestyle that I love, the fact that my life is as simple as it's ever been on every level, and I can truly say that I have everything in life that I want which truly matters. If I lived not another day, I would be content knowing that I have lived as full a life as anyone I know, and am presently as happy as I imagine it could be possible to be.

Terry. I saw Terry in Dallas when we were both passing through there (he was on his way up to Iowa, and I was going up to northern New York state). We had a good visit, even though it was too short, as always. And we continue to talk most every on the phone. Some days I think we both miss our teaming days. I am looking forward to our trip down to Florida in the fall with our good friend Van.

People on the road. Being on the road can be a very isolated, solitary (I won't say lonely, because I am rarely lonely) life. But sometimes, just in the course of being in a place, it's possible to meet some very interesting people.

Sometimes when I'm in a truck stop, especially when I'm eating in a restaurant, usually reading my current book, I will just listen and watch. Truckers can be very talkative in places like that, especially with other truckers around; and most truckers are very opinionated, so sometimes the conversation can turn into a very loud debate about something. It's fascinating, entertaining, and educational.

Roanoke, Virginia. A few weeks ago, I was in the TA truck stop in Roanoke, Virginia, inside the restaurant eating one evening. When I first got there, armed with my book on Samuel Johnson's life (which I am still reading with great enjoyment and fascination), there were a couple of drivers sitting up at the bar area. These two guys began to talk about politics. After about 30 minutes, about 6 or 7 other guys had come into the restaurant, and several of them were getting into the fray, expressing their opinions, debating, trying to score points. I quit reading and just listened.

The topic somehow had turned to the minimum wage, and whether it was right to raise the minimum wage, or even have a minimum wage. One guy commented that people who worked in the restaurant there at the TA didn't even make minimum wage, and had to survive on tips, and talked about how hard it is. The servers and the cook had heard all this talking, but hadn't really said anything.

The cook had come out of the kitchen in the middle of the talk about the minimum wage, and told one of the most vocal guys sitting at the bar that “I wish I made what you made.”

The big trucker retorted loudly: “ If you want to make what I make, learn to do what I do.”

The cook: “Well, hell, I guess I could learn to sit around and talk real loud pretty easy.”

And that shut the loud driver up.

I couldn't help it; I hadn't gotten into the conversation – it was too much fun to listen – and I was sitting over in a booth across from the bar by myself, but I laughed out loud.

New Milford, Connecticut. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I had a load to deliver to a Kimberly Clark plant in New Milford, Connecticut. That area is beautiful, but there isn't a truck stop near there. When I delivered, I was almost out of hours to run that day, and they still hadn't sent me my next load. Kimberly Clark didn't have any trailers available, which was a good thing, since it's much easier to find a place to park a truck without a trailer.

I couldn't stay at Kimberly Clark, so I didn't know what I was going to do. I saw another driver sitting across the street in a trailer lot, and the security guard told me he was in the same situation – needed an empty trailer, and Schneider hadn't told him where to go get one. When he saw me pulling back on the road, I guess he was hoping I knew of a place to go, so he pulls out right behind me.

Two orange trucks driving aimlessly down the road, not having any idea where to go. When I got back to the main road, I turned right, because I'd come in from the other direction, and knew there wasn't a good place to park that way. There was a Walmart, but it was real crowded and wasn't a good place for a truck, even without a trailer. And many Walmart's don't let trucks park there anyway, especially up north.

About a mile up the road, on the left, there was a state vehicle maintenance shop, and a place where they store salt and sand for use on roads in winter. And sitting on one edge of a large lot to the side of the place was a single truck – and it was orange. I thought, well if one orange truck can park there, maybe it won't hurt if two or three park there. So I turned in there. And so did the guy following me.

The guy already parked there had been there since Saturday, and was taking his 34 hour break, so he wouldn't be leaving until Monday morning. There had been another guy there when he was looking for a place who had already left. So this empty lot at the state maintenance yard turned into a Schneider parking facility for a weekend.

The guy who had been there was from England – Wayne was his name; the guy who was following me was from South Carolina, and I have forgotten his name. We three just stood around talking all afternoon. It was great! I especially enjoyed talking to Wayne, hearing about his experiences and his impressions of living in the US for a year. He had driven trucks in England for 17 years.

He met his wife through an online dating site; they began to e-mail each other, then call one another, and finally after about six months, he came to the US to visit for about 3 weeks. He told me he thought: “If it works out great; if not, I get to spend 3 weeks visiting the US, so there's no way I could lose.”

It did work out: they have been married for 9 years. They lived the first few years in England, and have lived here in the states for a little more than a year. And he's happy driving for Schneider.

In the evening, we walked across the street to a pub, and had a nice meal and some more conversation.

Shortly after that, we all went to our trucks for the night. And the next morning, we all went our separate ways.

Appleton, Wisconsin. I delivered a load up the road in Neenah, and was out of hours to run for the day, so I went down the road to Appleton, where there was a small truck stop. I hadn't been there too long when another Schneider truck pulled in and parked near me.

He walked over and introduced himself: John, from West Virginia. He was going into the restaurant to eat, and wanted to know if I would join him. I did. And met one of the most interesting people I've talked to in a long time.

We talked easily about Schneider, life on the road, trucking things. And then, slowly, the reach of conversation expanded, and I learned that John had some very atypical opinions about most things in the world. It was fascinating to listen to – it was like listening to an episode of the great radio show Coast to Coast AM .

He was full of ideas about conspiracies, so much so that he could have been tapped for source material for an Oliver Stone movie. He told me about hidden knowledge that the ancients had, scientific and technical knowledge that are beyond even what we have today that supposedly primitive peoples had access to.

I asked questions, gently suggested logical objections to some of what he said, but mostly just enjoyed listening to him talk. It was fascinating. He was very intelligent, had read a great deal when he was younger, and much of what he said made sense in a funny kind of way. It provoked lots of thought, and certainly made me ask myself why I hold some of the ideas that I do – where did they come from, why do I think this way and not that way, that kind of thing.

One thing John brought up quite a bit in his conversation was the fact that some documents had been discovered at this place in Egypt known as “Ben Ezra”. There were documents hidden there and discovered that reveal that the people of ancient times knew all kinds of things about science, astronomy, medicine, and technology that we thought we (i.e., modern man) had discovered or invented.

Why,” I asked, “if this stuff was found, doesn't everyone know about it? That is something that would certainly be amazing on many levels.”

He said that it was purposely being hidden, kept secret, because “they” (whoever that is) didn't want that information to get out.

When I got back out to my truck, after we had parted company for the night, I looked it up to see if there was any information on it. I mean, if it's a secret that's being kept, someone had to find out – I mean John knew about it. How did he know? He wasn't part of the conspiracy (although being a truck driver would be an excellent cover for someone secretly controlling the world), so how did he find out? He was vague about this when I asked him.

I did find some information on Ben Ezra: it's a Jewish synagogue in Cairo, that was purchased from a group of Coptic Christians. And it's true: in the 1800's, hundreds of thousands of manuscripts and manuscript fragments (written in Coptic Hebrew) were discovered. But they didn't contain secrets of ancient knowledge or forbidden lore; they contained records of the culture which produced them.

Valuable they certainly are. Interesting, yes. But the stuff of whispers in dark corners by a select few in the world? No.

I don't relate that to illustrate that John was wrong about something he really believes with all his heart to be true, but to say that some of the people out here on the road driving these trucks are just fascinating and interesting people. And I enjoy meeting some of the them from time to time.

Politics. Well, one of the most interesting and historic primary races is finally over, and it's down to John McCain and Barak Obama.

I will vote for John McCain. I hope he wins. I really do.

But I don't believe he will.

Here's my take on things: the Republican party is in disarray, unmotivated, still reeling from their well-deserved losses in the 2006 election. John McCain will bring some conservatives and evangelicals out to vote, but not in sufficient numbers that he needs to win the election. McCain will also appeal to independents, but even if he gets all that vote, I don't think it will offset the numbers of Republicans who will not even vote.

The Democrats are breaking records in every state so far this year for turnout and excitement; they are excited, motivated, and will be united (in my opinion) by the time of the November election. They have an exciting candidate, the negative motivation of dislike for President Bush (and wanting avoid what they portray, falsely in some ways I think, as a third Bush term with John McCain), and the momentum of keeping a majority of seats in Congress (probably increasing their majorities).

I have a good friend in Florida from my stockbroker days (the only person from those days I still keep in touch with), David, who thinks I am wrong: Obama, he says, has too many negatives, and a lingering resistance among many areas of the country to actually vote for a black candidate, no matter how qualified or charismatic he may be. He thinks that will trump any positive momentum the Democrats have behind them.

The only sure way to tell is to probably search the tablets at Ben Ezra.

Reading. I'm still reading, and enjoying very much, the biography of Samuel Johnson. I'm not too far from finishing it. The more I read it, the more reading it is like eavesdropping on conversations between some of the most influential thinkers and writers of the 18 th century in England. I learn something every time I read.

I'm also still enjoying very much listening to several books (six or seven) on XM radio every day.

Ah . . . driving down the road listening to books. Life doesn't get much better than that for a bibliophile.

Music. I don't know why this is on my mind this night, but it's there, so it comes out through the keyboard. I have been listening to more current popular music the past few months than I have in many years.

What has amazed me is just how much good, very good, music there is coming out from some of these singers and songwriters today. Someone my age tends to view modern music as somehow less golden than the great music we might have grown up with, just as we tend to view young people as somehow missing some inherently good qualities that we grew up with. “This young generation,” we say, before indicting them on some charge of inadequacy.

But there is some very good music out there, and I'm enjoying listening to it very much.

There's nothing that I've heard that will replace my deserted island music selections, but there's some that's close.

Big Rig : The Movie. A few weeks ago, on the public radio show “On Point”, there was a guy on, Doug Pray, who produces documentaries. He was talking about his latest documentary about the amazing Paskowitz family, who lived a nomadic life of surfing and traveling, with Mom and Dad and 9 kids!!! I was fascinated with the story, and it was also mentioned that he had also made a documentary about truckers called Big Rig.

I ordered it from Amazon, but before long I started seeing it at truck stops, so I cancelled the order on Amazon and just bought it and watched it. It was great! If you are a trucker or are interested in trucking, it's a great movie with some fascinating stories of interesting people.

Click the link above if you are interested in more info.

Well, that's about all for this episode. Thanks for riding along for the last few miles. Be well.

Until next next time . . . keep the wheels rollin' . . .


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