How I Met the Real Carlos

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In the novel Tocayos, Carlos describes meeting Charly in class:

I continued to move down the aisle, banging my metal lunch pail and my old leather book bag against the desks and shoulders of my fellow students. Some moved over, some shoved me into my fellow students on the other side of the aisle. It was pleasant mayhem until I saw Charly the American. He was sitting in the last seat next to the window, his desk tipped on its back legs in exactly the same way that I liked to tip my desk. Not only this, but contrary to not only school rules but school custom, he had discarded our school jacket, he had loosened our school tie, and he had rolled up the sleeves of our school uniform’s light blue shirt. His head was lodged into the corner, looking out at the gardens. He turned it slowly and rested his eyes on me.

I met the real Carlos in basketball practice.  Shortly after we both made the team, I found out he took the bus to get home, and had to walk a half mile home from the bus stop.  At the time, I lived a block away from school.  I wanted an excuse to drive the car, so I told him I’d give him a ride if he would claim it was too late to take the bus.

We owned a 1967 baby blue Chrysler 440 Coronet similar to the one in the picture above, and a white Rambler station wagon.  Showing up at dinnertime with Carlos in tow put my Mom on the spot.  She had to either interrupt dinner preparations to drive him home, or let me drive him.  She gave me the keys to the Rambler.  I didn’t have a license, but in those days, you first learned to drive, then you got your license.

That’s how I learned to drive, and how I became friends with the Carlos on which the narrator in the story is based.

Tocayos is available for $4.99 from Smashwords.  You can read the first 20% for free.

Rick

The Rewards of Getting Up at O’ Dark Thirty

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I had to get out of bed at 5:00 am, dig out my gym gear in the dark so as not to wake Missus Fender Bunny, trudge down the long and steep driveway covered with a fresh 9 inches of snow under what I was certain was the hostile stare of a gang of juvenile mountain lions eager to prove their cat macho by taking down an old man for breakfast, dig the car out of the snow, scrape the ice off the windshield, and drive icy roads to get to the Y by 6:00 am. But the reward was recognizing, over the course of a few games, some of the guys who used to play ball with me back in the day and, once I walked out of the gym, taking in the glorious view of the Front Range, covered in snow under a bright blue early morning sky.

I didn’t have my camera with me, so I grabbed a picture I took in April a few years ago. It’s not of the entire front range, but it’ll give you an idea.

Gig

The Sky in Colorado

Closeup of Thunderstorm over the Big D

Closeup of Thunderstorm over the Big D

I first moved to Colorado in 1975 courtesy of the US Air Force.  I fell in love with the snow, became a ski bum, and considered my barracks at Lowry AFB my domicile, and A-Basin my home.  I was on the mountain as early in the season as possible, and as late into June as they’d let me.

I only discovered the spectacular beauty of a Colorado Summer when I returned in 1992.  The shot above, taken from our peeling, chipping, badly-in-need of repair deck, is a closeup of the bottom of an afternoon thunderstorm to the East of us.  Below is a picture of a second thunderstorm building to the North later that afternoon.

Thunderstorm

Thunderstorm over Perry Park – full

And here is what it looks like when it’s directly overhead.

Thunderstorm directly overhead

Thunderstorm directly overhead

GiG

Oracle Names Guillermo Ochoa Chief Security Officer

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According to my cousin Pedro, an inmate at the El Paso County Assylum for the Criminally Insane, Oracle has acquired Mexico’s goal keeper, Guillermo Ochoa, who will be joining the executive team as Chief Security Officer reporting to Larry Ellison.

“Oracle? Are they Division One?”

Guillermo asked, apparently unaware of the trade.

“We have to give him a crash course in the Oracle stack,” explained an Oracle executive who asked to remain anonymous, “but his commitment to the goal is unmatched. Or rather, to impede the goal. Rejection, if you will. Well, you know what I mean. You just can’t teach that.”ochoa superman

Oracle’s Senior Principal Directing Global Executive Vice President of International Human Resources felt the time was right. “We fast-tracked him from our usual 6-18 months hiring timeframes to only a few days because

he’s a game changer.

China, the NSA, that kid in his Mom’s basement, they now have to get through Guillermo.”

The reaction of Oracle employees was unanimous.

Ochoa!  Ochoa!  Ochoa!

Here is a compilation of Guillermo’s saves against Brazil in the 2014 World Cup.

And here is a longer compilation of his best saves.  

GiG

 

Running Los Gatos

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Rocking chairs in Tropic, Utah

The morning crowd outside the Los Gatos Roasting Company gasped.  The team of bicyclists in their red and white spandex suits set down their coffees and pulled out their iphones.  While they recorded the scene, two joggers wearing headphones stopped and tried to help me up.  “He seems OK,” someone was saying to the 911 operator on their phone,

but he’s acting very strange.

I wasn’t acting strange at all.  In a sudden burst of gratitude, I had fallen down on the sidewalk and started rolling back and forth, moaning “Oh My God.  Oh My God.”  What’s strange is that other people don’t do that, the weather in Los Gatos is that beautiful.  Only a week before we’d been hit by 18 inches of snow at my place in Colorado.  I couldn’t take my eyes off the bright blue sky and the leafy trees, but the joggers hauled me up onto my feet.

“Where’s a good place to run around here,” I asked them as they slapped the dust off my back.

“Across the bridge and down the path,” the thinner one said.

Before the police, ambulance, and fire trucks that were no doubt on their way could check my vitals and haul me off to the psyche ward, I thanked the joggers and took off across the bridge.

The Chasquis were the Pony Express of the Inca Empire.  When I was young and living in Peru, some American runners theorized that training at altitude would give them an advantage because it would increase their lung capacity.  So they flew to Cuzco.  The Peruvians asked

“Peruvians, have we ever won a marathon?”

But nobody listened.

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Buster on running trail in Colorado

At home I run the mountain trails behind my house.  They go either up or down, and don’t do much in between.  Since our place is at 6800 feet, I’ve developed what a kind-hearted person might refer to as a measured pace.

Soon after leaving the coffee shop in Los Gatos I found myself jogging between a cemented-in river, the aqueduct, and Highway 17, a wide dirt trail with a slight incline heading up the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Runners wearing earbuds playing music collections from their iTunes libraries designed to help them surpass their potential went by me so fast their windblast made me feel like I was riding the Harley again through Route 160 in Northern Arizona.

A little old lady using a walker with knobbies caught up with me.

“Slowpoke!”

She said, and we both laughed.  She reminded me of my Mom.  So we got to talking.  My Mom considered conversation an art form, and loved indulging in long, meandering talks.  She told me she learned that from her father, Ricardo.  It’s how people passed the time in Lima, and no one ever asked “What’s  your point?”

My daughters call me if a week goes by without a conversation. They both like to talk, and like their grandmother, they’re engaging.

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accoustic coupler modem

I suppose that for most of America and certainly Silicon Valley, the art of conversation is sitting in a broom closet, bubble wrapped into the box with the acoustic coupler modem.  I sometimes wonder if my blogging is an attempt to keep the door from slamming shut.

Rich Schwerin and Bjoern Rost  told me some of my blogs reminded them of Hunter S. Thompson’s writing. They probably want to borrow my Harley.  Forget about it, guys.  Hunter S. Thomson was a ground-breaking writer.  And far more committed to experiencing the limits of madness than I ever want to be.

I only know what I’ve read about Hunter S. Thompson, but I wonder if he wasn’t searching for an identity. Jack, Ed Norton’s character in Fight Club certainly was.  Tyler Durden gave Jack an identity that working in a soul-sucking job within a materialistic society had stolen from him. That identify was born of a clear purpose: destruction.  Which Tyler, a born marketeer, preferred to call mayhem. Tyler Durden also gave Jack a presence: fearlessness. American men, we like to come across as fearless.  Much of the dumbassery in the otherwise friendly Harley culture springs from that desire.  We live under the delusion that having nothing to lose is terrifying to would-be assailants.  So we act like we have nothing to lose.

It’s a silly notion. Reading the accounts of men who survived the Normandy landings, they were all terrified.  And none of them had to pretend they weren’t.  Is the fact that a squad car, ambulance, and fire truck can appear within minutes to protect us from the slightest risk making American men unsure of our courage?

Truth is, a man who has nothing to lose may be intimidating, but the most dangerous thing in the world is a mother defending her children. A father protecting his family. A Marine willing to give  his life for a fellow marine.  It’s always something outside of ourselves, isn’t it?  But our culture  tells us to have it our way.  To pursue our passions.  To listen to the music that makes us perform better than ourselves.  Could having nothing to live for but our own gratification, self-expression, or self-realization be another cause of our posing?

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The boys paying The Donster a visit after his surgery

When we first bought our Harleys, my friends and I were determined not to be posers.  We’d seen them at Sturgis.  Couples who trailered their Harleys on the back of air-conditioned pick-ups, then stopped one town away to unload the bike and change into their biker outfits, the rider having already grown a 5 day stubble, his passenger having already applied her temporary tattoos.

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Dear old Dad and his Harley

We refused to be posers.  So we bought the service manuals and worked on our own bikes.  Joined the forums. Called each other with questions.  Some of us tore the engine down and rebuilt it better.  We lived inside the aftermarket catalogs.  And we rode.

We rode across the country and back. Some of us rode to Alaska.  We rode through some hellish storms.  We made sure our trips included rain and a healthy dose of misery.  We were ecstatic if we got snowed on, or the temps climbed over 100 degrees.  We rode early in the Spring, and late into Fall, and rode in Winter when the roads were clear.  We bought expensive chrome to customize our bikes and embrace our freedom, just like the Motor Company told us to.  We thought we were these guys. And maybe we were.  During our 1-week vacations and on weekends.

01 Ducati 748S

But I’m not one of those guys, not really.  I can’t ride where the road leads me because I have to be back at work in the morning.  I have a desk job.  Bills.  I spent 20 years raising a family, mowing my lawn, and being polite to the neighbors.  I wear a real helmet, ear plugs, and protective motorcycle gear.  And I suffer from a distinct lack of brand loyalty.

I can’t even pretend that I don’t have anything to lose.

Which leaves me wondering what gave birth to my particular Tyler Durden.  Just like Jack, NemoLester Burnham, and a lot of men earning a living in Corporate America, I am disoriented.  But I’m not searching for an identity.  I’m reluctant to accept the one I’ve got.

GiG