Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book of Faces

Amazing Car Tales

Let's begin with something really amazing: I went for a ride today around Italy, TX ... just because. Okay, it was also part of my seemingly never-ending quest to find a place to purchase land to build a weekend retreat and ultimately my retirement home. Italy is the home of the Monolithic Dome Institute - a company that designs and makes forms for dome homes. You'll know you're in the right place by the caterpillar-shaped series of domes visibile from Interstate 35E that is the manufacturing building where the dome forms are made. At the corner of I35E and highway 34 is a cool dome structure that looks like the Starship Enterprise. Italy is about 150 miles from my house. The good old Prius did something I never thought possible: I was able to do the entire trip and average over 50 MPG! At 394 miles, I actually have a quarter-tank of gas left! This area of Texas actually holds some hope as a place for the retreat. My only concern is the proximity to Dallas and the chance of the suburban sprawl expanding to this area. While en-route, I had a craving for a vanilla shake from Whataburger, so I entered "Whataburger" into the navigation system, and out popped directions to the nearest Whataburger, about 15 minutes away.

Interestingly enough, I found a new bug in the car's engine control computer system. While I was on I35, I decided I wanted to take my sneakers off. So I put the car in cruise control and did the deed. On my second sneaker, I bumped the cruse control arm by mistake and it shut off. Whatever I did made it so I couldn't turn it back on until I stopped, turned the car off, then back on again. For those of you who know how a normal cruise control system works - the Prius is a bit different. Since the accelerator pedal doesn't have a direct mechanical linkage to the engine (it only has a position sensor, the computer controls the engine speed) the cruise control is simply a way to tell the computer to maintain the current speed. What bothered me about this bug, and what made me pull-off the highway at the next exit, was that when I decelerated I heard a weird whine from the electric motors, like the car was just completely confused. Again, all got fixed when I stopped, turned off the car, then turned it back on. It's times like this when I wish that I could get my hands on the source code and fix the darn thing.

Cookies Through The Mail

I received a note through Facebook from someone I knew when I was back in college. Her name is Naomi, and we started communicating with each other back in 1985 on a local BBS (dial-up computer bulletin board system, kind of like what you know as a "forum" now). One evening, Naomi left a note for me saying she was making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. As a joke, I sent a message back saying that they sounded delicious, to send me a couple through the BBS. A few days later, I got this unexpected package in my post office box with a return address I didn't recognize and the name was only initials. I opened the package an there was a plastic container with some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies inside. Naomi was a high school senior and I was in my fourth year of college (it always seemed earlier for some reason...). I got to meet Naomi and her sister, and Naomi's mom actually hired me to do some computer work for their business. I spent a lot of time that summer at their home.

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, and Naomi had captured mine with some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. She and I had a lot of great times together talking about all sorts of things. I remember a few times we had some deep scientific conversations way into the night. Unfortunately, the age difference between a guy in his fourth year in college (and not a good fourth year at that) and a gal who's a senior in high school isn't insignificant, and Naomi's mom had a pretty good idea what was going on, and nixed that relationship as mothers know how to do. There was also a religious/cultural divide (her family was very Jewish). After we exchanged a few letters while she was in college, we lost touch and that was the end of that (I also started dating Marianne just after Naomi went off to college). I still remembered her and still have the envelope the cookies came in.

So along comes the message in Facebook asking if I was the person she knew back in '85, and if I still remembered her. Naomi is now happily married with two daughters, and the way she writes now is how I remember our conversations when the relationship (as it was) started to come to an end. She said her memory was jogged because she heard some songs that were on a "mix tape" I sent to her. I'm now trying to remember what was on that tape...

The Past

As I was going through the box of things trying to find the envelope that was the package for the cookies, I found a lot of old letters from various people. It made me both happy and sad. The saddest part is that the place where I really blew it with the gals is now abundantly clear. I had several people who I had an admiration for, and for various reasons I didn't recognize the signs or thought a romance with that person would never work out, so I never took it any further. It really wasn't until Marianne that I even knew how to get to that point, and even with her I now understand how I failed to correctly read the signs. There's a part of me that wishes I could go back and apologize to Lisa S. (high school), Carol L. (just after high school, the sister of a guy who's computer work I greatly admired), and several others who obviously had feelings for me but I was too much of a doofus to realize it until it was too late.

I never realized just how many skeletons (figuratively) I had buried in the closet (literally). I saved all of these letters and pieces of my past (like the cookie envelope) because I thought that years later, I would dig it up and recall the happy memories that went with them. Instead of the happy memories, I'm wondering where in hell it all went and how things ended up like this. I dispense advice to my friends in distress saying how they have worth, and that the people who dumped them or their frustration finding their own "soulmate" is only because they haven't found the right person yet. "Hang in there," I say. I'm not sure I really believe it myself anymore. It's almost as though I had my chances and carefully let them slip away.

I think the problem is that I'm finding it hard to create a set of memories in the present that have the strength of some of the ones from the past. Part of it is that as I get older, I am much less likely to take the kinds of risks that resulted in the memories of the past. I probably would be a lot more cautious about eating cookies from someone I only knew through notes on the computer. Maybe there are really neat things happening now, but I'm not seeing them through my "crap-colored glasses" (y'know, the opposite of "rose-colored glasses"). What is different, and the one thing that isn't my fault, is that the things I find cool and exciting are not cool and exiting to anyone but me. I think about that tape I made for Naomi that she said reminded her of me. I was sharing something I enjoyed with someone else, and it touched her in some way (probably good). As I've gone further along in life, I'm finding fewer and fewer others who share my passion for the things I'm passionate about. It's not just about being alone in the world without a "soulmate," but being alone with ideas and vision that nobody else seems to understand. Marianne's first note to me was on paper that had a picture of a monkey with a caption that said, "Nobody understands me." That caption made sense to me then, and it makes even more sense to me now. It's a shame that it didn't mean as much to the person who sent it.

Well, I suppose there's still time to figure all this out. In the meantime, I think that I need to stop reading stuff stored in the closet for now.

More Movie Reviews

If you've gotten this far...

Me and You and Everyone We Know - Is being billed as some sort of a movie for the online age. It's really an indie romantic drama with some humorous things scattered here and there, and not really anything to do with the online generation. I mean, kids making ASCII art by hand in this modern age? I don't think so... The movie was really about kids trying to cope after the parents divorce, and about two odd individuals finding each other in an odd kind of way. It was very artsy and abstract, and I guess in the right setting I may have found it good. It wasn't horrible, but I didn't care much for it. The ending was weird.

Noise - An independent dark comedy/drama about a guy who's sensitive to noise, particularly car alarms going off unnecessarily. I like the subject of the film, because I can relate to it. If you've ever been bothered like this, "The Rectifier" is kind of like a hero. But the guy just wasn't likeable to me, particularly as he ended up in a three-some fueled by marajuana. No folks, I'm really not being a prude here, I just felt it had no place in this film. If they were trying to make him seem hip/cool even while he was smashing car windows and shutting off alarms (instead of a cranky old man) this wasn't the way to do it. Anyhow, I liked it...didn't like it a lot though.

That's all for tonight.

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