The drive

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Benjamin, TX Water Tower – Joe Hinojosa 2015

I took a drive down to see my friend this past weekend. I usually go down every few months, so it really isn’t a big deal, but this time I took out my car for the first time. I haven’t had my own car in several years, not since my life fell apart back in 2011 and 2012, and my car got repoed at the end of 2012.

It’s difficult to put one’s self back together, especially after begin ripped to shreds by divorce and other former flames, unemployment, and a total disintegration of one’s identity. For a year or two, there was nothing left of me to even begin to mend myself anew. I was a tattered soul left to fray in the wind, and every setback threatened to pull the last remaining threads and unwind me completely.

But I persevered. I didn’t think I would, especially at first, but slowly I did begin to mend, unnoticed by anyone, including myself, but the frayed ends began to stitch themselves together, until one day I felt myself whole. I have no memory of the process, it working itself in secret, but I feel more or less complete.

So now I have a car of my own, the ultimate expression of freedom, and I drove down after work on Friday, spending the weekend there at her house. I spent Saturday with my step-daughter, something my ex-wife has been badgering me about for a while now. That evening we had a cookout and a small campfire in the front yard, and made s’mores.

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Welcome To McKinney – Joe Hinojosa 2015

Sunday me and my friend headed to McKinney and walked around downtown. Most downtowns I’ve seen are run down and mostly deserted, but McKinney has a lively square, with shops and diners open for business. I bought a jar of apple preserves from one store, and then sat down for a beer and pizza from The Mellow Mushroom. It had to be the best pizza I’ve ever eaten.

After our lunch, we headed to Frisco to meet up with some writer friends I have. It was nice to see them and to talk to them. My only mistake is that I didn’t take my laptop with me, so I didn’t get to work on anything while I was there. Still, it was a pleasant visit, though not long enough. They never are.

I drove back home on Monday, but I took a detour to Lubbock to see my niece who’s on the pep squad at her school. There was a game she was cheering at, so I decided to drop by and support her. I didn’t know the way, but I drove down unfamiliar roads to get there. I rarely like taking routes I’m not familiar with, but on Monday it was a nice change of pace, seeing sights I’ve never seen before. I didn’t get home until after eleven that night, completely worn out from the drive and the football game, but it was worth it.

As I think about it, life is much like that impromptu detour I took on Monday. I never planned on losing my marriage, or my job, or my car, but I took the unfamiliar road and I survived it.  I came out the other side stronger and with a greater appreciation of the good things in life. I’ve seen sights I never thought possible, and I’ve grown as a person, becoming a better man, or so I hope.

Yellow City Comic Con

I attended my first Comic Con today, which was held in Amarillo, TX. Yellow City Comic Con was a small gathering of who you would expect would attend, various nerds and geeks celebrating their particular awesomeness. There were artists selling their artwork, most, oddly enough, focused on comic book characters, steampunk enthusiasts, cosplayers, authors trying to get their names out, food vendors, and people like me wanting to see what it was all about.

Since I was a first-timer, I didn’t know what to expect. Sure, I’d seen clips from sit-coms, internet clips from larger conventions, and okay maybe I had some idea, but it was all so new. Add to that the fact that I’m among unfamiliar people and character types, I felt a little like a fish out of water. It wasn’t an unpleasant experience, just a new one. It’s good for me to grow, or so I have been told.

My friend bought a few things, and I did buy a book for her, Splintered by A.G. Howard which the author patiently waited for us to purchase so she could autograph it. That was a awesome thing to do, in my opinion, in that A.G. was actually on her way out, her time at the convention having come to an end.

Also, and this was a bit awesome, she recognized me. She couldn’t remember how, but at least she remembered seeing me. I had already attended two of her book signings. I have all three hardback books signed on my shelves, the last of which I reviewed here on my blog. I know it’s a silly thing to be excited about, but leave me alone. I’m allowed to feel some excitement about things! Makes life worth living.

Unfortunately, we did miss the panel for Chris Sabat. That door actually said Pannel Room – hurray for spelling! – but I digress. I mean, I don’t know who he is, but my friend did and she was slightly upset. It didn’t help that I may have laughed a little. I’m such a horrible friend, but I did buy her a book. It evens out in the end, if you ask me.

It was an interesting experience, especially seeing the cosplayers walk around without any inhibitions. In fact, I envy them. To be able to be yourself and allow yourself the freedom to simply enjoy the moment is something I struggle with on a daily basis. Maybe one day I’ll work up the courage to wear a costume. I think I’d make a convincing and sexy Sailor Moon. Or not.

I want to go to another Comic Con soon. There’s one in Lubbock in February. I’ll make sure to keep that in mind. I also need to find out when Dallas has theirs. Also, and this is just me wondering aloud, how can I put myself out there to have a booth of my own to pimp my own books out? I suppose I need to finish one up. There’s always a catch!

Attending the lecture

I woke up yesterday morning a few hours before my alarm went off. I didn’t think anything of it since I have trouble sleeping. I picked up my phone and scrolled my feed on Facebook. My alma mater posted that the Distinguished Lecture Series had been scheduled for that same night, and the speaker was renowned physicist and futurist, Dr. Michio Kaku. Looking at the time of the event, I was disappointed since the lecture had been scheduled to begin at seven while I had been scheduled to work until eight.

I’ll admit I wanted to go. As I lay in bed, I wished there was a way I could attend, and then one of those rare happenings occurred. My phone rang, at around seven-twenty in the morning. I saw that my employer was calling me. I answered and they wanted to see if I would be interested in going in early, as soon as I could.

I immediately said yes and rushed to get ready. If I could be at work by nine, I would be off by six, and I would have plenty of time to get to the lecture. Nothing remarkable happened, except that I was ambushed by management. They surprised me with a card, a present, and forced to endure a silly hat while my photo was taken, but that’s another story entirely. I made it to the West Texas A&M University campus and to Legacy Hall, where the lecture would take place, thirty minutes early.

I felt uncomfortable being so early, but within ten minutes there was not an empty seat in the hall and people roamed the aisles, desperate to find a place to witness the lecture. University officials had to nudge students who had decided to sit in the aisles, invoking fire code issues. There was a mad rush to remedy the situation. They, Lecture Committee, hadn’t figured that so many would want to attend a lecture by someone as boring as a physicist, even one as renowned as Dr. Kaku.

They scurried to come up with a solution, and around seven-twenty, they announced that they had a solution, and that the lecture would be streamed to a few classrooms in the basement of the JBK Student Center, below Legacy Hall. For a moment no one moved, and I wondered if the Fire Marshall would show up and cancel the lecture, but my fears were unfounded. A few minutes later, after two officials began the introduction, Dr. Kaku walked up on stage.

What followed was an exciting look into the future. He gave a brief history on science and physics and its role in the economic cycles, of bubbles and depressions, starting with railroads and the industrial revolution, the stock market crash of 1929, the real estate boom and bust of 2008, and the next wave that is to come.

He discussed at length how ubiquitous computers would be, so much so that they would become invisible, much like how electricity has disappeared from the world. It’s there and we use it, but we take it for granted. Computing will become the same, easier and cheaper to use. He even discussed the future of healthcare, of how lifespans may increase with the ability to manufacture body parts via 3D printing using the patients own cells.

There’s no way I could do the lecture justice. Dr. Kaku was engaging. He had an accessible and humourous delivery style, of talking to the audience simply, but never talking down or being condescending. The only negative I took away was during the Q&A, where a WTAMU student used the opportunity to ask a question in such a way to insult conservatives and the religious. Dr. Kaku didn’t take the bait, feigning that he didn’t understand her question, and politely offering an alternative take on the question.

But, her clumsy and insulting jibe aside, I think her question was valid. What of the moral and ethical questions of creating a method to sustain human life almost indefinitely? What are the ramifications of creating virtual immortality? How do you counter objections that will likely be raised by the religious community, that God’s plan is for us to be born, to live, and to die?

I don’t have the answer, and I wonder if Dr. Kaku or the scientific community has the answer. Like many such philosophical questions, it may have to be deferred until such the moment we are faced with that particular dilemma. But such as it is, I enjoyed the lecture. I found the look into the future to be both exciting and frightening. I came away with some questions as well, but I believe a good lecturer should inspire us to ask them and to discover those answers for ourself.

All in all, it was the best birthday present I could give myself, and it’s all thanks to the serendipitous turn of event that had no one scheduled in my department all morning, forcing them to call me in early.

Needs

I had planned on getting an early start today. My schedule at work had me working from 5:45 this morning until 2:45 this afternoon. By 4:00, I should have been here at home, manuscript beside me while I imputed the corrections into my laptop. My plans never seem to pan out. Damn you!

I ended up working a few hours late, having dinner with a friend, and not getting home until 8:00. Still plenty of time to get some work in on my writing, but instead I zoned out a bit, the exhaustion from a long day forcing me to shut my eyes for a bit. I don’t work tomorrow, so I’m planning on staying up a little longer and getting some editing done. I also plan on hitting it hard tomorrow. I wonder if my plan will happen.

I’m not complaining about my day. It was worth it, but today made me think about my future. Actually, I’ve been thinking about it off and on for the past several days. I’ll be 39 years old next week. I have lets say 25 to 30 years left of a working career. Do I want to be where I am no for the next 30 years? Is retail the place I want to be?

The answer is a resounding no. I don’t like what I’m doing. There’s no job security, no job satisfaction. I’m tearing my body down for an impersonal corporation that doesn’t care about me. It’s only concern is to make money for itself, and for its shareholders. Though I do believe in a free market society, I have to be frank and say that my needs are not being met.

Which brings me to consider what my needs are. My basic needs are being met. What I’m missing, and what I want and need the most is my independence. That need requires a certain level of financial security, which I don’t have. More than that, what I really need is something that fulfills me. I may need a job to pay the bills, but what of me? What do I need of my life to truly live?

Love and family? Yes. A career I enjoy? Certainly. The ability to travel and learn? Absolutely! The one thing I want out of life is to communicate my thoughts. Life is too short. I want to make an impression on the world, that though life is frail and it must end, there are things about me that mattered. I want to know that I had a positive impact on someone’s life.

So I write. That is what I need to live. I read and I learn so that I can turn around and put into words the thoughts and emotions that I have. I have things to say and I want to do the best I can to say them in a thought-provoking manner. I don’t want to die without saying what I need to say. I want to live on.

I didn’t mean to go so dark. There is no impending death on the horizon, or at least I hope not! I’m looking to the future and I can see myself stuck doing what I’m doing now. That’s easy to see. It’s what I fear the most. What I can’t see is the path obscured by doubt and the unknown. It scares me, but it calls to me because that’s the path that leads to immortality.

What will that take? It’ll take a level of dedication to my dream that will test the limits of my endurance. I’ll have to sacrifice and struggle to go where I want to go. I have to be free to fail, and failure is a familiar foe. I also have to be willing to find any measure of success.

As I continue to work on my writing, that’s the thought that motivates and tortures me. I have to stop dreaming the dream. It’s time to start realizing that same dream with my labor. I’ve already started down that path. Starting is not the issue. What trips me up is pushing myself until I reach the goal line. Starting is easy. I’m just unsure how to find the end. I could use a mentor and a coach in my life to help me along.

 

Coffee and mating rituals of the young and obnoxious

Yesterday evening I worked on my book at a coffee shop. I know it’s cliché, but it’s nice to get out of the house for a while and visit places where actual living people dwell during the daylight hours. There was the added bonus of getting a high dose of caffeine. Score!

As I sat alone in the corner of the coffee shop, minding my own business, I couldn’t help but overhear an obnoxiously loud college-aged boy going on and on about his class schedules and all the essays he needed to write. I glanced upwards and he was standing about ten feet away from, and from the looks of it, trying to impress a similarly aged, and I have to say, very attractive young woman.

It’s not the obvious primping that bothered me so much. No, I lie. I wanted to punch the douchebag square in the face. I already have a predisposed hatred to overly cocky ass holes like him, and a similar hatred to women stupid enough to fall for it. But it did get me thinking, have I ever engaged in such displays? If so, did some other guy want to punch me in the face? Did the girl fall for it?

I don’t have a good answer for you. I want to say that I doubt very much that I’ve ever behaved thusly, mainly because I rarely interact with other people. For example, I went to a bar ages ago with a coworker. A woman, one that I never met before, tried to talk to me. I gave very short, concise answers, so much so that I annoyed her and she turned to my friend and called me an asshole. Whoops! I don’t mean to give off that impression!

But then again, sometimes I’ve been caught primping for someone I find attractive and I don’t even realize that I’m doing it. It’s a bit embarrassing when your jerk friend calls you out on it. It’s good for a laugh later but it’s a bit of a bummer at the time.

Our mating rituals – and yes, the little dance you were doing boy was very much a mating ritual – are complex and sometimes to the observer, just plain hilarious. Unless you’re doing it where I can hear you and I’m trying to work on my book. In that case, I’ll label you a douchebag and call you out for it on my blog. And you attractive young woman? You’re an idiot if you fell for it. On the other hand, if I had been the man trying to win your attention and you found me charming, then obviously you would have been an intelligent and discerning human being, worthy of being lavished praise for the world to hear.

In other words, I’m getting too old for this shit and I’m obviously jealous. I should probably let it go, but at least the coffee was good.