Think / Able - and Check out My Parkinson's Facebook Page

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Utah Dreaming in Ohio - Historic Hikes, Journeys, and Sitting around Reflecting on Things on Such a Winter's Day

            As I write this, I am sitting in my in-law's house while my wife and her family go out to eat, recovering from some kind of stomach bug that hit me on the Ohio turnpike between Port Clinton, Walleye capital of Lake Erie, and Maumee, a town outside of Toledo. It's a gray, foggy day, which is pretty much what it's been since we hit town late Friday night. I realize that the infinite opportunity to do computer-based work is here before me, and the question simply becomes where to start?
            Since hiking is not an option today, there are so many things to do. I could be finishing or editing what I've already written about the lives of Colin Jameson and Bart Doherty in their collision course with terrorists hell bent and determined to transport cursed archaeological relics to the fictional world of Blackrock Canyon, which is fictionally located in southeastern Utah. I could also be editing or writing the other unfinished books featuring Tony Lucas, Charles Jones, Benson Villaneuva, Dave and Charlotte Robinson, Suzie Heilman, Chico Gutiérrez, Harvey Greer, Abraham "Wolf" Owens, and their adversaries as they come to intersect in a way that mirrors Heroes and The Walking Dead, while faced with paranormal and supernatural enemies, utilizing Wild West and military know how mixed with metaphysical abilities.
            Additionally, I could be working on the Parkinson's novel, but I want to be done with Colin and Bart's story first. On a positive note, my nephew's wife Brittany Fritz has supplied me with the cover to this book (People First Language: The American Book of the Dead so named for the focus on being a person, not an "issue," and because The Egyptian Book of the Dead was about bringing people back to life). 

            There is also a ton of school stuff that I could be doing, but even that finds itself pushed to the side, though I did accomplish reading toward a lesson I will teach. Perhaps, I could write letters to friends, but even that doesn't cause me to feel motivated since there is only dreaming today. Places like Horseshoe Canyon and Bear Ears National Monument... a trip to Chaco Canyon or Canyon of the Ancients. Maybe even a beach hike in Bora Bora. Should the opportunity arise, I'll be ready. Such is January's frozen world. How much potential is robbed with the threat of snow and ice or more rainstorms mixed with serious thunder and lightning, such as those that shook the house last night as I was trying to sleep? Last night, the skylights in the roof filled with bright flashes as what could only be described as the UFO war above commenced while the streaks of lightning behind them banged noisily as the electrical charges felt like they were right on top of us.
            Yeah, today isn't quite one of those positive anthem days at all. It's not a sad day, but the mope of Belle and Sebastian, Interpol, and Modest Mouse are doing more to make me feel reflective as I shake this stomach bug to be able to do a long walk in the coming days. Time for something more upbeat... a little Japandroids into Harlem maybe?
            The last few days of walks weren't much, but any walk is a good thing. To be honest, it was nice to trek through the town of Fremont, Ohio, with my brother in law Richard on the way to the forest park at Rutherford B Hayes' estate. There, we anticipated seeing the ghost of Rutherford B. Hayes in the hopes that he could give us insight on what those 16 extra electoral votes meant to him and America (his presidency and the end of Reconstruction in the South). 

             Additionally, we walked the woods and beach at East Harbor on Lake Erie with his dog Copper yesterday. Both were short hikes, about 2-3 miles long. It felt nice to walk and stretch the legs in the same kind of way that it felt to be out on the Standing Stone Trail with my friend Neil on that final Saturday before being officially diagnosed.

            The ground we walked on the autumn day was flat and begging to be crossed, as I went off by myself to record what would become my coming out with Parkinson's video. As I entered the Throne Room, I saw the Survivor Tree, and I realized that this is what I am. In reflection now, it's what many of us are. We choose to do and to be despite the obstacles in our way. Sometimes, life gets the better of us, but we stretch out proud and as tall as we can to be what we need to be. The other choice isn't that good, so we pick ourselves up again to be better. It's better to still be ragged and standing than to be chopped to the ground. Really.

            On what is now an annual trip to Butler Knob shelter, we camp out in 30+° weather and reflect on life. That trip was a discussion on the lack of definite answers to come. I didn't definitely know the diagnosis, and I didn't know how fast it would come. In the meantime, I had to keep being me. I also knew I had to keep pushing to enjoy in the finite time to come since some of the diagnosis was too cast in stone.

            Looking out from that moment, the world was unknown, but the paths I had traveled were generally clear, memories in my mind or transferred to paper and digital format. As a new year begins, I look back on one of those memories at thebeginning of 2014, which you can read at that link, when I rode 8 solid months of life-changing energy to the beginning of fall term, which signaled the passing of our niece Ava and the beginning of my foot tremors.
            But those things were as unknown to me then as are the promise of spring break vacation's joys or the Yellowstone / Utah / Colorado trip's memories. Nevertheless, looking back on them now sees me in a much shorter re-energized moment of hikes, but a re-energized moment all the same. The MLK Jr. day hike to come is waiting. Will it be a big mountain like Spruce Knob or will it be waterfalls? Weather and companionship will determine a lot, but for now, I'll just keep moving forward to get to where I need to be.

            Ohio offers a fair bit of things. Right now, in this recovery, I think of 15.4 miles of Oak Openings Park in Toledo, which are great to wander. They're all flat, but there are streams and deer galore. Generally, they aren't crowded, and shorter walks can be had with easy access crossroads that bisect the park. I'm definitely ready for one of them, most likely Friday.

            As far as getting out here, it's always an 8-hour journey of exhaustion. The ride across almost all of 2 states was a finger-crossing hope that the snow squalls of Harrisburg wouldn't expand to become a full-fledged blizzard. Fortunately, they didn't, but the ride across over 200 miles of Pennsylvania Turnpike was definitely a sporadic series of snowflake episodes that looked something like the Millennium Falcon going into hyperspace with lots of snow patches heading our way as we moved slowly through the Alleghenies and on past Pittsburgh to the border, where the Rock could announce that, finally, he has come back to the Buckeye State, just in time to witness Clemson's superiority.
            If you've never driven the turnpike between Pennsylvania and Chicago, there's not much to see. Once you drive through the fourth tunnel west of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's capital (screaming "Daylight!" each time I emerge, like Stallone, victorious), there are some mountains in Pennsylvania, some rivers, sections of windmills, a few bridges over and under, and well about 13 hours total of not much else other than a call for people to vote against Limousine Liberals, so that they can keep their jobs in the fossil fuel industry.
            If you are from the state and do any hiking, chances are, you'll have to do Routes 80, 81, and 322 along with the turnpike eventually. The most important thing to remember is that Pennsylvania is Philly and its over-spill stretching sort of kind of out to Harrisburg and Allentown, Pittsburgh, and all of the rural, forest, and farm areas. Just like our vote in the election, there's a lot of red in there, though in the urban and suburban areas we're really blue. Some people never see the other parts. They know they're there, but they just don't choose to go to them. To me, that's just not right. I have to say that if you're going to choose to live life, a very American action since we speak in active voice as a nation of doers, not done to-ers, the best thing you can do is to see and experience America. You've got it in your blood. You can't escape it. Go find out what it means for yourself. You're not at the mercy of this president or the next one. You're you. Get out there, and embrace that experience to be the best you that you can be.

            Since we got here, we've done 3 days of family visiting while celebrating the new year with Mariah Carey, Ryan Seacrest, and Jenny McCarthy, all of whom offered me a chance to drift into a book I've been reading about Evel Knievel, who was pretty much the lowest form of life out there, though unfortunately, he is America, too (I'm sure every country has their Evels). While it's true that his death-defying stunts did captivate people and make him a name on the 1970s American pop culture world, it's also true that he spent as much time thieving anything he could, screwing friends and businesses over, openly sleeping with any woman he could because why not, inflating his own ego with pathological lies that only he believed, hating on Jewish people, drinking liquid courage from morning to night, and starting fights with anyone who dared to challenge his superiority complex. For this, the book is an interesting and generally mindless read, but it does allow me to drift into thoughts of what is the meaning of life, what can be said about this in the Sociology of Deviant Behavior class I am teaching in spring, and what does it mean to truly live life, an especially important thought in a world so obsessed with both arguments of the choose life / pro choice debate. My feelings on CHOOSING TO LIVE LIFE are here in an old essay I wrote on Ithaca and various other incidents / people I know.
            It's easy to say that we don't want anything to stand in the way of us choosing our own Snake River jumps to pursue in life or the trail. Hiking and life has to be about risk and reward, but it also has to be about what we get out of the attempt. Surely, we don't want to closet ourselves off and do nothing because anything is dangerous. I certainly don't. However, for the average person chained to a job and life and responsibilities and... and... there are just so many "ands" that it's hard to find the time to live without the vicarious pursuit of extreme risk in other people's lives. Thus, Evel offered a chance to imagine the thrill for our 1970s predecessors in the same way as our modern sports stars, extreme athletes, and entertainers offer Walter Mitty joy for the people of 2017.
            Whoever these men and women are who cause us to believe in ourselves more or differently, they stand out as our role models. Some people in that realm still get to be bonafide heroes, while others water down and stagnate the hero role as well-groomed brands to sell off in clothing ads and other non-threatening ways that don't dare cause people to run for their safe spaces; thus, they're more like empty distractions. They are a Twitter presence and little else other than a big screen draw. For some, we see their numbers on the back of t-shirts, but we don't really know these people other than that they do things well (though many sports stars past and present (Jackie, Gehrig, Addie Joss, and Clemente, for example) are so much more. However, for many of these modern "stars," we smell their perfume and cologne on people as if to have that is to have a little injection of the magic elixir in the hopes that will allow us to live their lives of fame and money without the drive and values.
            Somewhere in there, we forget that there's no shortcut to drain threes like Stefan Curry (other than to practice like Stefan Curry or to exercise like Mark Twight or to climb mountains like Ed Visteurs or to be like all those guys and gals who take fantastic nature photos on all of the cool websites). If we don't push for more, then we aren't more. To push for more in all aspects is to choose to live life.
            For all the will he or won't he make its, reading Evel's life story doesn't make me want to jump Snake River in a rocket anymore than his story makes me want to drive a motorcycle. Now, Steve McQueen in The Great Escape makes me wish I wasn't so clumsy and awkward so I could jump barbed-wire fences with the Nazis in hot pursuit, but he was cool. How many people that are left today are really and truly cool?
            It's been said that Kurt Cobain was the last rock star, and that's probably true in a lot of ways. He was a household name, but he died at his own hand (unless the conspiracy theories about Courtney Love are true, which I'll dismiss here). He was a couple of CDs, and he went quickly like Neil Young talked about when he sang, "It's better to burn out than it is to rust." We never saw the mediocrity. His late life publicity tours on celebrity roasts and here I am now (so you don't have to wonder what happened to me) events, like those of Evel and those who felt too fearful of mortality, never came to be. Instead, he's Nevermind, and it's still 1992 every day we look at him.

            Most of us will never get to live that life for People or US (thank God), but we can make our lives shine out for those who we know and will touch in many different ways. We can tell our story, and we can fill it with memories and moments lived. Sometimes, we'll do this on the trail, and other times, we'll just sit at our in-law's house watching The Secret Life of Pets (great movie) with our family as we all laugh along with the jokes with a great wife on one side and a really neat-o niece on the other side, laughing and smiling because laughter is a necessity. Other times, we can just listen when people come to us for advice because its true that we have something to offer from all of our experiences, despite what we wonder about in the lonely moments. In the moments where life, love, happiness, and meaning shine through, it's always the moments like this where it really comes together and lets us know that our lives in 2017 have meaning and purpose because of 2016 and before's effects on us.

            For all of that, I can honestly say, never stop living to be a better person, on and off the trail, and remember, you may have a condition tagging along, but you can still choose to be the awesome you despite it.

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