Tuesday, October 5, 2010

She stood next to the freeway

The wind blew against my sun soaked face as I absorbed it and the scenery around me driving in a convertible on the south side of the island of Maui. I'm not sure what heaven is, but this was as close to it as I could get. On my left was the Pacific Ocean crashing against the white sand beaches in a rhythmic pattern set almost to the music from my stereo and on my right the lush green mountains and sugar cane fields. All that was missing to this epic ride along the coast was that dream girl sitting next to me. As I pulled from one tiny beach city into the next there she stood. This gorgeous light brunette vision hitch hiking, waiting to hop into my passenger seat, to take this incredible Hawaii vacation to another level, and I drove right by. I didn't stop and it took about five minutes of intense dialogue with myself before I turned the car back around to go get her, but when I pulled back by she was gone.

In life we get many chances, some of them we take, and some we drive right by. Who knows what would have happened if I had stopped and picked her up. Perhaps she would have just told me to drop her off in the next city. Maybe she would have chopped me up like The Hitcher. Or she could have said, keep driving, and we'll just see where the road takes us. That was what I contemplated the rest of that drive. One more opportunity lost. Natural instinct told me not to pull over for hitch hikers, and yet that natural instinct never included beautiful goddess-like women waiting for a ride. No idea why I didn't stop immediately. Fear maybe. Fear of the unknown and fear of rejection. Maybe she would have looked at me and laughed and said "yeah right buddy, have a nice drive I'll wait for the next car." The truth is she would have probably gotten in the car and I would have had an even better memory than driving past her.

How often in life do we make like that drive in Maui? Do we drive past something and look back in regret and pull around only to find it is too late? Maybe we try to replicate something we lost only to find it is nowhere near what we were missing in the first place? There are many things we hold onto for nostalgia. Maybe it is an old love letter, pictures of an ex-flame, or old baseball cards from our youth. Something we hide or hold dear but if replicated actually diminish the value of our memories. It's never the same when we reconnect with an ex-flame. Life changes us and also changes them. Our perceptions are altered and maybe we held them to higher acclaim in our memories than they could even possibly live up to. We link them to a time in our life that is long gone and can never be reclaimed. This person won't give us time back. They will only reflect ourselves in how much time has passed.

This works in sports too. I know that my favorite baseball team the S.F. Giants just won the National League West and are in the playoffs. I was ecstatic that they won, but not as much as when I was younger. I remember that in 1989 when the Giants made it all the way to the World Series I was enamored with them. I would listen to every ball game that season on the radio. Hank Greenburg was the announcer and I would listen to the games sitting in my bedroom with all my baseball cards laying on the floor. Each Giants batter that would come to the plate and I'd hold their baseball card as if they were playing on the field in front of me. I would live and die with each game. When Will Clark or Kevin Mitchell came to the plate it would take the Jaws of Life to pry me away from the radio. In fact I can still see Clark's majestic swing in the NLCS series against the Chicago Cubs smashing a grand slam over Wrigley Field. He was electric that series, and yet I know my youth played a huge role in how I remember things. When the games ended on KNBR 680 I would listen to Ralph Barbieri's show afterwards and his final words after each broadcast: "Remember Angels fly because they take themselves lightly." To me at 12 it was the coolest sign off ever, yet in hindsight it wasn't that cool at all. In fact it was taken from someone else and why is he talking about the Angels?

Will "the Thrill" Clark
 I would remember how great a player was in my mind and yet looking back at their actual stats for those same years would see that they were merely mediocre players at best. They weren't dominant. They were good. As a child we believe our favorite athletes can do no wrong, but as adults we are seasoned enough to know they are merely human and full of flaws themselves, including terrible performances. Before the awfulness of Barry Zito the Giants had another awful left handed pitcher in Atlee Hammacker. Sports still bring out our childish whims though. While the Giants struggled to finally win their division I resorted to that 12 year old boy pouting and ready to rip up all my baseball cards. I texted my good friend and fellow Giants fan and moaned how I didn't care about the Giants anyways. I said that they never put food on my table. They are just over priced athletes who don't care about us, but of course I jumped right back on the wagon once they finally won.

It makes me wonder how many of us are aspiring to unrealistic goals. Perhaps it is a goal we set as a child that in hindsight has no way of being accomplished or appreciated by our adult selves. Perhaps it is a life we are now living that we thought would bring us fulfillment but is not. We do most of our dreaming in our childhoods. Most of our goals and dreams are formed long before we go through a school system and maturity process which seems to diminish what we once longed for. I guess we all can't be astronauts or movie stars. We are not all going to be the next Hemingway or Mozart. There can only be one Bruce Lee right? I know that my goal was never to be a banker or to sell products and services that I didn't make or create myself. I guess I don't have to worry about that one anymore, their goal now seems to not have me doing that! But, even in school a business degree feels to me that I am doing this for back up purposes. I am not an accountant nor the next corporate raider that is going to make a killing on Wall Street. I don't have Mark Zuckerburg's brain and will not revolutionize the Internet. I would love to have the talent of Charlie Kaufman or the talent and drive of Stephen King. I'm always amazed at how many novels these writers can churn out and what it even takes to write one. Yet here these guys get a new one to print every two years if not sooner.

Life is the road we travel. It can be on a highway along the coast in Maui or some dirt road in the middle of Modesto. It doesn't matter where it is as long as we know where it is going. Are our dreams realistic or not? Do we have the capability to accomplish them or are we just holding on to a far ago memory? Do we even want it anymore? What kind of life are you living and what can you do to improve it or maintain it? I can't go back and pick up that woman who was hitch hiking on that amazing day 6 years ago. That moment is long gone, but I don't have to drive through life blindly anymore. I can stop and start over. I can change directions and appreciate the scenery while doing so. I just need to get my head out of the clouds, out of yesterday, and into October 2010 and beyond. It's good to hold the past to remind us but we need the present and the future to drive us. Where is it taking you?

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