The Sabbatical is Over

Today is officially the last day of my sabbatical. Friday was my birthday and Monday is the day to begin anew. I had hoped that my sabbatical would bring spectacular changes to my world, but it did not. However I still think it was a good thing. It gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I want to do with my life and it helped me come to peace with how things are. I believe I’ve grown spiritually and am more at peace with myself. I am increasingly interested in Zen Buddhism, which seems to suit me particularly well.

I’ve come to accept my fate as a bachelor, but I am confident that in due time that Fate will choose for me when that is finished. From the people I’ve talked to that is how it works for most people, especially when it works well. You can’t choose or control Love. It chooses you. Zen and the Art of Nothing is my plan. For some reason Fate has left me alone later than most people. I think I understand why and when Fate makes it move, I’m sure I will no longer think I understand, but will just know.

I’ve decided to stay in Salt Lake City because wherever you go there you are. As my experience showed in Texas, things are pretty much the same everywhere. In Salt Lake, I have a lot of friends and am well placed in the career and the recreational activities I enjoy. Plus I enjoy a high standard of living. No need to upset that. I’m going to start my own business and Salt Lake is the best place for me to do it. There is actually a highly placed Zen Master in Salt Lake (www.zencenterutah.org). I’m thinking of checking it out.

I’ve decided that I no longer want to be held prisoner by the whims and desire of an employer. I want to build my own company and my own products according to my own vision. I envision a company whose primary mission is to produce useful products for people. A company whose secondary objective is to have fun and to make its employees better people. Sure money is important, but its role is a supporting one. It allows us to produce products that make people’s lives easier and it allows us to enjoy life and become better people. We will not be a company that chases money at the expense of everything else and we will not be held accountable to other’s who want nothing more but to make money. We will not be going public.

This is my vision and it will take a lot of effort and time to realize it. I’ve decided to name my company infiniteNIL. Another Zen idea where to fully understand something you must first completely empty your mind of any preconceptions you have of it. Then you just experience it. Only then will you truly understand it. Plus it has a technical flavor to it, with NIL being a programming term for a nil pointer, which is a pointer to nothing or an empty pointer. My first step will be to find contract work and make enough money to pay the bills and support my vision. If you ever come across someone who needs some programming done or just some technical advice, please keep me in mind. You can always reach me personally and at the company web site (www.infinitenil.com). The site isn’t much yet, but keeping watching it. It will certainly be growing.

I want to thank my friends and everybody who has supported me along the way. From people who let me stay with them like Dez and Julie, Ron and Roe, Arthur and his family, Patricia, Robert, and Christine, to friends who were just there when I needed a friend, like Jo, who’s genuine concern for everybody is just amazing. Last but not least, is my parents, who’s continuing support, no matter what I do, continues to surprise me. Thank you all. I hope you all come to Salt Lake some time so I can return the favor.

Rod

Texas Tour – Lubbock Again

Wednesday, August 14th, 2002

Wednesday morning I got back in the Jeep and started my trip home. My plan was to stay the night in Lubbock, then Albuquerque for a day with my folks and then back home. I got to Lubbock in the afternoon, but Patricia and Robert weren’t there. Instead, I was greeted by their 16 year old daughter, Christine. On my previous visit, Christine had been in Vietnam, where she had been for the last 6 weeks. Her parents had told me a lot about her as most parents do. Patricia had described her as “16 going on 25”.

It was a little awkward at first, but gradually we got used to each other. Christine informed me that her mother had told her that it was her job to entertain me. My first thought was “this will be interesting”. I will respect her privacy, but suffice to say Christine has had a lot more experience on the more “wild” side of life, shall we say than me. Which in and of itself is pretty strange since I’m 33 years old and she is 16. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I even thought that I might find myself in some circumstances I wasn’t comfortable with.

We went to dinner at an Italian place. Afterwards we decided to go shoot some pool and then go to a movie afterwards. We only had time for one pool game and then headed off to the movies. On the way, Christine explained that she wasn’t really into movies and she would rather do something else. To my surprise, she suggested going home and talking. By the time we got home it was probably close to 10pm. We walked out to the lake and plopped down by the steel house. It was a beautiful night and the stars were out. We proceeded to talk about life and how we both felt about our respective situations and had a wonderful conversation. We finally came in after midnight. It was a wonderful experience and something I look back at with amusement and wonderment. I had just spent the evening talking to a 16 year old about life and what it meant and the amazing thing was that she actually got it and that we actually were able to have this great conversation despite the differences in our ages and life experiences.

The next morning I had breakfast with the whole family and Robert was on a roll. Making jokes and causing us all to laugh. This continued at lunch where I went to the local deli with them. I was having such a great time and Patricia was persuasive, so I just had to stay for lunch.

Looking back at the summer, my time with the Bruno’s, just outside of Lubbock was the highlight of it all. To you, the reader on the outside it might not seem worthy of that. But to me and what I was looking for and feeling, it most definitely was.

Rod

Texas Tour – JFK

Sunday, August 11th, 2002

Sunday morning I decided to go downtown and check out the JFK museum. John F. Kennedy was assasinated in Dallas on November 3rd, 1963. I wasn’t alive then, but I can imagine and I believe that it was a day that affected America even more than September 11th. Here was a president that many people admired and looked up to. Shortly after he was assasinated the decade of the 60’s went into full swing and changed America forever. Vietnam, the assasination of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, race riots, the drug culture. All these things occurred and much more. America was never the same.

I parked downtown and one of the first things I came across was the JFK Memorial. You wouldn’t know it if it didn’t say John F. Kennedy on it. A rather bland and strange memorial for such a popular figure and major event in American history.

JFK Memorial

The JFK Memorial

Next was Dealy Plaza, the place of the actual event. I walked the Grassy Knoll and the area behind the fence, where rumors persist there was another shooter. On the road where the fatal shot occured is an X to mark the spot. There is also a round plague next to the sidewalk across the street from the spot that marks it as an American historical spot. However, it says nothing about the historical event it marks. Very strange. Crowds gather around speakers still arguing and selling books that say there was a conspiracy. The whole area has a little ominous feeling that something is not quite right.

Grassy Knoll

The Grassy Knoll

Next, was the JFK museum, which is in the old Texas book repository where Oswald supposedly fired the shots. It tells the history of the president, of his administration, of the fateful day, and of the world’s reaction after the event. For not being alive at the time, it still had an emotional effect on me. Personally, I believe JFK was assasinated to stop him from doing something that the establishment didn’t want him to do. I feel that when he was killed America suffered a near fatal blow to her founding ideals. It was the beginning of where we are now.

There was also a section that showed Pulitzer Prize winning photographs of important events around the world including September 11th. Also very emotional. It brings home the point of how fortunate we are here in America. In a lot of places around the world, life is a lot more difficult.

Even though it did affect me emotionally, it was also a little disgusting in a way. Here was a little industry set up around the death of a man. It seems like we should just move on and stop dwelling on an event that happened over 40 years ago.

Rod

Texas Tour – Arlington

Wednesday, August 13th, 2002

The Ballpark at Arlington

The Ballpark at Arlington

I met my friend Marc at his house and we headed off to the game. This game is kind of a milestone in my quest to visit every major league ball park. It will be my 20th team. Just ten more to go (barring expansion or contraction).

The Ranger’s stadium has the rather ordinary name of The Ballpark At Arlington. Arlington is a town just outside of Dallas/Ft. Worth. We parked in the parking lot and walked to the stadium. From the parking lot is a great view of this brand new stadium. It is another of the trend to create new stadium with all the modern conveniences, but with that classic traditional baseball feeling.

Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan

The stadium was pretty nice. We walked the grounds. One of the most interesting attractions to me was the Nolan Ryan statue in stands behind center field. Nolan Ryan is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history and his stats engraved in a circle around the statue drove home the point. He is the all-time leader in strikeouts, no-hitters ( 7! ) and a couple of other stats. Opposing players would take the day off so they wouldn’t have to face him at the plate. He also holds the record for the fastest pitch ever at 104 MPH.

The game wasn’t particularly interesting. The Rangers were getting blown out by the Chicago White Sox. Marc and I had a good time reminiscing about our high school days and I enjoyed some catfish and chips for dinner. All in all a good time, but I was very much looking forward to heading home the next day.

Rod

Dallas

August 8th – August 14th, 2002

Thurday morning I drove up to Dallas. It took about 4 hours and I checked into another extended stay motel. Originally I had planned to stay in Dallas for a week, just like in Austin, but my Austin experience changed my plans. I was going to leave on the 14th, after the baseball game.

Again, the idea was the same. To just be there and experience Dallas. However, there were a few things I wanted to do. There’s an Apple Store in Plano, a town just north of Dallas. Apple has been opening stores all over the country, but none yet in Utah, so I had to go check it out. Also, I wanted to check out downtown and see some JFK stuff, and of course the Texas Rangers are in nearby Arlington.

The Apple Store

The Apple Store

Also, I have an old high school friend who now lives in Dallas. Marc moved to Georgia after he graduated from college and then to Dallas, where he works for Texas Instruments. I got in touch with him and had lunch with him on Friday. It didn’t take long for us to get back in the swing. Didn’t feel like we had been apart much at all. He took me to see TI’s digital projector demos where we watched the Star Wars: Episode II trailer on a big movie size HDTV screen with a digital projector. He invited me to his place on Sunday for dinner, where I met his family and ate a delicious meal. Marc and his wife, Christy, have 4 kids. 3 girls and 1 boy. The oldest is nine, so they have there hands full. It was nice to see everybody and to see how things are going.

Rod

Austin

August 4th – August 8th, 2002

I spent Sunday through Thursday morning in Austin. Austin was the main reason I came to Texas. I wanted to get a feel for it and see if I might want to live here. Austin has a lot of high technology companies and has a lot of culture and art. Basically a lot of creative people. Fortune has ranked it in the top 10 for the best cities for singles.

But I was disappointed. Sure, it’s a nice city and all, but I didn’t feel any different, the people didn’t seem any different, and the city itself didn’t feel any different to me than any other city I’ve spent time in. I spend the time driving around, going to the shops, checking out companies I was interested in, going to restaurants, etc. I went to a AA baseball team in a city just north called Round Rock. They have a baseball team called the Round Rock Express that is owned by Nolan Ryan and his son. Nice operation. Very similar to the Stingers in Salt Lake. Nice stadium too. Just as nice as Franklin Quest Field, except they don’t have the spectacular mountain view.

Texas Capital

The Texas capital

I also went downtown and saw the Texas capital. It was modeled after the nation’s capital and I think it is one of the biggest capitals in the country. Texas has a certain attraction too me and I think it has to do with it legendary origins. Similiar in stature to how the United States came to be. I love to see the United States and Texas flags together. I took lots of pictures of those and other Texas symbols.

flags

The best pair of flags in the country

I actually left Austin sooner than I had planned. I planned to stay there a week, but I had had enough. At this point, my enthusiasm for the Texas trip had waned and I was ready to move on.

Rod

Texas Tour – San Antonio

Monday, August 5th, 2002

Today was my first full day in Austin. I decided to take a drive down to San Antonio, which was just about an hour and half south. I wanted to see the Alamo, and my friend Laury had told me about the cool river walk there. So off I went.

The Alamo

The Alamo

For those of you who are not familiar with the Alamo (miss a little school, did we?), here’s the deal. The Alamo was a fort in Texas when Texas declared their independence from Mexico. Santa Ana brought his troops into Texas and the Alamo was the first line of defense for Texas. Texas was not ready to fight Santa Ana yet and the Alamo had to slow down Santa Ana enough so Texas could get ready. Some legendary figures were at the Alamo, including my boyhood favorite, Davy Crockett. Every last man who fought at the Alamo died there, but they slowed Santa Ana down enough and they inspired the rest of Texas, who cried “Remember the Alamo”! Eventually Texas won her independence from Mexico and became an independent nation and of course joined the United States not long after. Some say Texas never officially joined the U.S. and is still an independent nation, but it is not recognized as such.

Alright, enough history. The Alamo was interesting enough and certainly inspiring, but not quite what I pictured. Very little is left of the original place and much of it is now a museum and a place for tourists to visit. The statues are cool, the grounds are nice, and the story itself is enough to inspire you.

River Walk

Part of San Antonio’s River Walk

After that I went to the river walk and probably walked about five miles. It is a pretty cool thing and is pretty unique in all the cities I have every visited.

Rod

Texas Tour – Lubbock

Saturday, August 3rd

From Albuquerque, I decided to go half way to Austin, and stay the night with a recent friend of the family and her family. I had just met her when I had been up to Montana this summer and she had offered to let me stay with her and her family when I went to Texas. In the directions she gave me to get to her house she mentioned that there was a steel house that I couldn’t miss. She was right. However, she didn’t mention that it was their house that her husband had been building for 27 years!

Steel House

The Steel House

It is probably the most interesting house I have ever seen. From some angles it looks like a spaceship. From the outside it looks like the villian’s submersible fortess in the Spy Who Loved Me. Inside, its flowing stairs, curved walls and big windows. A very cool house.

For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant, very similar to Macaroni Grill. After dinner, we saw a video. It was The Sheltering Sky with John Malkovich and Debra Winger. By the time that was over, it was 2 in the morning. And then we went for a walk!

Inside steel house

Inside

I had planned to leave right away in the morning, but I was having a lot of fun and Patricia was pretty persuasive. Once I woke up, we went for another walk. I ended leaving for Austin about 11 am. All in all it was a lot of fun and Patricia and her husband, Robert are an interesting couple and easy to get along with. Patrica is very outgoing and Robert and I seem to have a similiar philosophy about life and our respective crafts (he’s an architect).

Rod

Texas Tour – Albuquerque

Tuesday, July 30th – Friday, August 2nd

Today, I left for my trip to Texas. On the way though I stopped in Albuquerque. I was born there and my parents currently live there. I stayed until Saturday. I was a nice relaxing time and it was nice to see my parents. We went out to dinner one night at a New Orleans place and we saw K-19: The WidowMaker and Signs.

backyard

My parent’s backyard

It was also nice to see what my parents have done to their backyard. They’ve been landscaping it for the past year and it looks pretty nice. It has a fountain, a Buddha statue, a Mother Mary statue, pathways, bird feeders and a nice covered porch.

fountain

My parent’s fountain

Rod

Never Say Never (Again)

July 1st, 2002 – Gardiner, Montana

This week I went up to Montana with my parents. Today, my mom and I decided to take a raft trip down the river that flows through Gardiner and down Yankee Jim Canyon. We’ve been on rafting trips before. Nothing tricky, just nice gentle trips with a few small rapids. We asked around and were pointed towards an outfit about a mile down the road. A place called Big Sky Whitewater.

We pulled up and there was another mother and her son, about 14 years old. We were just in time because they wanted a trip and needed some more people. We were set to leave in 15 minutes with two guides, making a total of 6 people. We asked about the trip and made sure we were getting in anything over are heads and we were satisfied.

We put on our lifejackets and started out and had about a mile to go before the first rapids. The guide talked about safety measures and how to paddle the boat, what commands he would use, etc. All the time he would say he has never flipped a boat and never had a customer fall out of the boat. He said it two or three times. I don’t know about you, but I’m always a little leary when someone starts a sentence with “I never…”. Quite often the thing they say never happens, happens. Usually soon after. We talked about the rapids coming up and various things that had been happening around town. Like a bad accident on the road with a motor home, and a accident with the boat that preceeded us. It had flipped. It didn’t quite register with me that that was the boat that had directly left before us. Later I would realize it was so. All this talk was making me a little nervous. I could see my mom was feeling the same. As we leisurely floated down the river the guides and the 14 year old took turns jumping in the river to get used to the wet. I remember thinking maybe I should do the same so I wouldn’t be shocked if I fell in. I dismissed the thought as one usually does.

Yankee Jim's Revenge

Yankee Jim’s Revenge

Our first rapid was called Yankee Jim’s Revenge. Unbeknowst to us, this particular rapid was swelling today. It was the spot that had flipped the previous boat. As we were going into the rapid, we were paddling according to our guides commands and we were heading right for this swell. As we got there our boat went down into the hole created by the swell and just as the water was coming back up our boat popped up and took the full impact of the swell.

Before anyone knew what was happening we were all in the water with the boat flipped over. All I remember is seeing one of the guides out of the corner of my eye losing his balance and then I was under the water, seeing nothing but whitewash swirling around my face. I came up and tried to get my bearings and catch my breath, having swallowed some water. I saw the boat and everybody else floating

The Dastardly Swll

The Dastardly Swell

off to the right shore, while I was heading towards the opposite shore. As I struggled to relax, I yelled out so the others would see me, but they were too busy with their own struggles. I could only see the guide on top of the boat trying to get a hold of it and a bunch of people running on the road above the river. I remember thinking that this could be it. I could end up going down the river by myself, trying not to drown. Another rapid took me and I went under again. Again, I came up trying to catch my breath. Fortunately, I was now out of the rapid, though the current was still strong. I was on my back and back paddled about twenty yards to the shore. I climbed up on the rocks and muttered a prayer that everyone would be ok. I looked across the shore and couldn’t quite tell if everyone was there. Eventually, I could, and I saw my mom and everybody else resting on the shore and getting their nerves back.

As we discussed everything later, a few more facts emerged. My mom and been trapped under the boat and had to hold her breath for awhile until one of the guides was able to lift the boat. The other mother later admitted to my mom that she had cramped and couldn’t move her lower body. Her son had pushed her and a bystander on the shore and lifted her out of the water.

I had to hike down the shore so the boat could cross the river to pick me up. When they were all calm they did so. We were all a little frazzled and jumpy. We continued the trip, avoiding any nasty rapids. We were all soaking wet and glad we had escaped with nothing but frazzled nerves. Later we found out about the boat that had preceeded us. It turned out that it was a private boat (i.e. no guides) composed of a family of about 6 people with two little girls (around 6 years old) and grandfather. The grandfather had suffered a heart attack and died. That increased our feeling that we had been lucky to get away unscathed.

That week a lot of strange things had been happening in the small town of Gardiner. Along with the boat accidents and the motor home accident (with more deaths), there was a bar room brawl and a motorcycle crash that had also claimed lives. All in the same week!

All I can say now is you have to LIVE life. Things can change in an instant and it can be all over. It’s usually when you least expect it. And always be extra cautious when someone starts a sentence with “I never…”

Rod