Instrumental version of a song I wrote & recorded over the long Thanksgiving weekend.
Instrumental version of a song I wrote & recorded over the long Thanksgiving weekend.
I was living in and working in Temecula and was driving to El Segundo to my employer’s corporate headquarters to attend two days of training classes.
I was sitting in the worst traffic I’ve ever seen on the 91 freeway when my wife called and told me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I turned on my radio and began listening to the news. There was confusion on the radio but everyone still seemed to believe it was an accident.
Then the second plane hit. There’s no way that’s an accident, I thought. Something really bad is happening.
I felt utterly trapped as I sat in my car crawling along the freeway listening to a terrible tragedy unfold in real-time. Then I realized I was driving towards one of America’s busiest airports. I wanted to turn around and go back home. Everyone would understand, right?
I kept trying to convince myself to turn around and head back home until I finally reached El Segundo. I drove past LAX, past a huge gas/oil refinery complex, and went to the high-rise office building that housed our corporate headquarters.
On a day when terrorists are hijacking planes and flying them into buildings, this was the very last place I wanted to be. I wanted to be back home with my family.
As the training class started, I thought, who cares about this class right now? I was feeling scared, angry, sad and depressed. The worst tragedy in my lifetime is happening and I’m supposed to be learning about Project Management?
When the class was over for the day, I checked into my hotel for the night, went to my room, turned on the TV, and cried as I watched those horrible scenes being replayed over, and over, and over.
Like many people, I will never forget what happened on 9/11. Yet I have no desire to relive it by watching it unfold again in documentaries or on the news. Even though I didn’t suffer a personal loss that day, it somehow completely broke my heart. The moment I see a shot of the Towers, or a firefighter covered in ash, or those billowing clouds of smoke, my eyes well up with tears.
I went to Ground Zero a few months ago when I was in NYC. It was a painful experience but one that I felt was important to have. To actually be there, to feel it, to share grief with all the others who were there was, in a very small way, a catharsis.
I wept as I gazed upon the site of so much loss and suffering but I didn’t feel alone.
I took my mom to her eye doctor appointment in Solana Beach today and was quietly minding my own business in an empty waiting room intently playing on my iPhone when an elderly couple walked in and sat down opposite me.
“You must be a Raiders fan,” I hear the old man say. “I despise the Raiders,” I said. Looking up at him. He raised an eyebrow to the intensity of my reaction. “I’m a Chargers fan.”
If this had been a Western, I would’ve cocked my six-shooters and spat on the floor as I said this. As it was Solana Beach, I prepared myself to apologize to an old man for being rude.
“Are you a Raiders a fan?” I ask.
“No, I’m an author. I saw the skull on your shirt. I write about the sea.”
What the…does a skull on my shirt have to do with the Raiders have to do with you writing novels about the sea?
“I’ve written several novels. At first I called them The Second War of Independence but that name was too long. They’re about this young girl name Veronica who calls herself Ronnie and who thinks much older than her eight years of age…”
And so began the telling of his four tales about the sea. He did so all the while referring to his characters as if they were real, as if I should know them.
Why are you telling me all this? I was thinking as I smiled, nodded, and offered an appropriate morsel of response when it was socially expected. Really? He had a desk on his boat just like Thomas Jefferson? How very interesting!
After about 3,000 seconds of this, it was finally his wife’s time to see the doctor. He stood, introduced himself to me as Bernie, shook my hand, and then accompanied his wife back to see the doctor.
My mom should be done any minute now, I thought. We’ll leave before The Old Man and His Sea Novels comes back.
Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t go out of my way to talk to people. I distinctly remember having a conversation in the 90′s with my friend Julie about how excited I was that gas stations finally had island readers so I didn’t have to talk to anyone to pay for my gas.
Many, many more minutes drag by as I sit quietly alone in the waiting room, intently using my iPhone. God knows why my mom’s appointment is taking so long.
And then wouldn’t you know it, out come the elderly couple. The conversation resumes immediately as his wife stands at the receptionist’s window, making another appointment.
“I also write mystery novels!” he helpfully tells me.
“Yes, indeed,” I nodded. “My grandmother was quite a fan of Nero Wolfe,” I tell him.
This elicits a quizzical look and brief pause from him before he continues, “Some of these mystery novels today, they’re just so extreme. I find people and life to be much simpler than that.”
And so began a second parade of characters from his fantasy world, rich in description, filled with life. He tells me about them with such a singular conviction that I’m starting to believe that at any moment they could come walking into the office through door.
I was raised to be polite, so I continue to smile and nod appropriately until, finally, his wife has made her next appointment and she moves towards the door to leave.
I’m not kidding when I say that as he backed out the door, as the door slowly swung to a close, he was still telling me about his books.
As the door latches shut, I hear the receptionist laugh from behind her window. I think she’s seen this happen before.
So there I sit, admiring the absurdity of what I just experienced, when then the unthinkable happens: he comes back into the office to reschedule his wife’s appointment!
He could not have said more than five words to the receptionist before he turned and cheerfully reintroduced himself to me as Bernie
Do you believe in God?, he asks.
Do I believe in wha? I don’t know you! Why are you asking me these things??
By this point I’m trying not to laugh because we’ve clearly left reality and crossed right over into some serious Twilight Zone surrealism.
“Yes, of course,” I replied, as I try to keep a straight face, as if complete strangers frequently engage me in lengthy, fictitious conversations and then suddenly ask me about my deeply personal spiritual beliefs.
See you in Heaven!
See me in WHERE? What are you talking about? WHO ARE YOU? What are you not telling me?
Then I realize I’ve been here before.
Three months ago, the very last time I had taken my mom to her eye doctor appointment in Solana Beach, this same old man who was an author had sat across from me as I was using my iPhone and started telling me about his books!
Then, thankfully, it was a much briefer experience, but now I’m worried. What if, when I take my mom back in another three months, he’s there?
Think about it: his wife made a follow-up appointment. Three months is a pretty common time-span for follow-up appointments. More than that, his wife had made the appointment and then he came back in and changed it!
What if somehow he knew when my mom was going to make her next appointment before it had even been made?
What. If. He. KNEW??
I’m serious when I say that in three months, I very well may be sitting in my car, intently using my iPhone, with my windows rolled up.
The 2010 live-action Space Battleship Yamato has a compelling storyline, awesome space battles, the hottest female pilot since Starbuck, and a Shakespearean level of tragedy that’s unheard of in American Sci-Fi cinema.
While not a perfect film, if you buy into the mythology of a sole WWII battleship rebuilt with alien technology defending an Earth facing total annihilation from alien attack, then you’ll love it.
I wept with both joy and sorrow.
If I had to pick any natural disaster to be threatened by, I’d go with earthquakes simply because they require the least amount of effort to prepare for.
The people currently threatened by hurricane Irene have to board up their windows, install sand bags, perhaps even pack-up and evacuate their home. That’s an awful lot of effort to put into a natural disaster.
Earthquakes require none of that. Apart from maybe putting some cans of tuna and a bottle of water in a backpack if you really want to be all MacGyver-like then okay, but apart from that, there’s really no pre-earthquake work to be done. You just carry on with your life and if one happens then you deal with it.
Tornadoes also wouldn’t be bad. You just add a basement onto your house, put a flatscreen, blu-ray player, UPS, and a mini-fridge down there and DONE. If disaster strikes, you just walk downstairs!
Just another reason why Southern California is such a great place to live.
Natural Disasters for the Naturally Lazy Man by Todd Clegg is currently awaiting a publisher.
If you don’t have an iPhone, you’ll probably have to convert it to an MP3 to use it with your phone. You can do this by downloading the file and changing the extension from .m4r to .*m4a* (which is just a normal iTunes audio file) and then converting it to an MP3 using iTunes or whatever software you like.