Requiem for a Ring

On my way back upcoast from my Brookings reconnaissance, I decided to stop early in the ride in order to ease the subsequent legs of the 5 & 1/2 hour trip back to Portland. With the return of a sore neck and back courtesy of a fold-out bed, noisy campsite neighbors, and then yet another failed sleeping mat this summer; I needed to stretch out on the sand in the cool sunshine of the coast before heading inland to an even more distinct heat and drought. With less than a year’s light usage, a LightSpeed double walled mattress had blown a couple of coils the week before, and now the Fox mat gifted me 5 years earlier had refused to maintain consistent inflation for the last few evenings. Another ill-timed replacement expense, I dismissed my aggravation for the time being as I stopped along Meyer’s Point at the mouth of O’Brien Creek to get lost in the sweeping view. Taking it into my eyes, lungs, head, and heart; I casually repacked some ironically damp gear as I snacked, and then even more casually tossed my beloved fleur-de-lis pinkie ring into the dunes along with an acorn I was discarding from my floorboard. Immediately I felt my heart sink.

But I had seen the shimmer as the ring passed into the brush and so thought I would be able to locate it quite easily. I causally finished my yogurt and granola, spread out my hammock to dry over the passenger seat, and then approached the edge of the dune grass while tracing the trajectory of the ring flight from the back door of my car. No sweat, I thought, I’ve done this before a few times….like when the yellow jackets attacked as I was prepping food at camp, or when I had been swimming in the river, or folding laundry even. The years had proven that the ring would not stay on my pinkie unless I had been drinking more heavily or eating too much salt. Initially, I simply brushed some of the grass aside where I had seen ring enter it. No luck there. I expanded my search radius a few feet outward, getting down on hands and knees to ensure that I did not toss the ring away as I unclumped some of the tangled mess of roots and dead grass. Still nothing.

My frustration building, I was incredulous that I could not find the ring when I had actually seen exactly where it had flown. I began to curse under my breath. “What the fuck?!” I began to curse loudly. I then began to yell my curses into the ambivalent wind whipping at my face. F bombs then exploded indiscriminately as cars passed by on the highway unaware of my torment, but also likely wondering what I was doing on all fours on the ground at the roadside stop occasionally yelling at the sky. I must admit, it felt pretty good to exorcise my rage. After another 30 minutes of searching, I was beginning to get very hot, both headed and bodied; and the objectivity of my search capacity suffered for it. So I decided to take the walk on the beach that I had originally intended in order to calm myself and thus return with greater composure to the search I was certain would end in my favor. I had lost this ring in this manner a few times before, and I still had the thing.

As I walked out on the beach, I could hardly enjoy the scenery, my mind still back at the car, in the bunch grass. I recalled how the Gold Door, even after keeping the ring for 6 months during COVID, had failed to downsize the ring as I had requested. I had not returned to renegotiate the work because the initial repair had taken so damn long. Still, it was not their fault. I had known the ring was loose almost instantly, had taken it off a few times for fear of losing it, had begun clinching the latter fingers of my right hand a bit to ensure that the ring stayed on; maybe not the best routine for the residual nerve damage in that hand. I sat on the warm sand behind an enormous rock outcropping directly on the shoreline to block the wind and gave myself a little talk about the significance of the ring.

I had purchased it the final day of a family trip to New Orleans in which we had just witnessed the football team from the University of Alabama crush the team from LSU for its second national championship under Nick Saban. The victory had been decisive, the Tigers never crossed the 50 yard line, such was the defensive prowess of the line-up that year, likely the best in college football history still. We had all witnessed thrilling moments of athleticism and teamwork together in the Superdome in addition to an exciting Saints/Lion playoff game that week. When I purchased the ring on French Market Place, I thought of it as the perfect complement, just the thing to commemorate one of the finer times my family had been able to enjoy together. For a moment freed by collective purpose from our ongoing grievances with one another, we had come together for one of the finest times we’d enjoy. Moreover, the fluer-de-lis was a quintessential symbol of the French and of New Orleans, a place very dear to my heart for its people, food, music and culture. Even if I had not imagined myself ever wearing a pinkie ring, this was the ring I should have, and it was the only remaining size of a discontinued pattern that would fit one of my fingers. The design far surpassed any other in the glass cabinet, called to me, and it would be mine.

In addition, the ring complemented perfectly the other silver rings on my hands, the only jewelry I wear, in recognition of my French heritage as well as my Germanic and Welsh/English (I always claim Welsh over British in honor of William Blake and the forehead that we share). The rings have become a part of me: talisman superpowers, reminders of roots, I’m naked without them. With the added tensions brought by the race riots after George Floyd’s murder and the poor COVID response of the southern states generally, I valued the ring not only as tribute to the impeccable taste of the French and my small heritage within, but also as emblematic of a time perhaps now passed when I might join old friends and family from Alabama at least in appreciation of sport, albeit tacitly brushing aside the dangers and inequities facing the young men and women who entertained us. Unable to find much consolation in this interior monologue, I rose after a few more minutes and re-approached my business with the ring and the dune.

As I retraced its flight trajectory and picked through the tall grass again using a small axe to spread the brush so that I might more clearly see the root structures and if the ring had somehow attached to one. Although I enjoyed brief assistance from one man whom I had earlier jokingly asked for a metal detector, we found nothing. And after a dozen passes through the area, I finished my beer, conceded victory to the dunes, and cursed a few more times as I wheeled back North with a head full of rage and disappointment. I drove for a couple of hours silently as I rehashed the scenario, searching for an opening in my consciousness that would allow me to find solace in the loss, and especially on the tail end of what had generally been a spontaneously successful adventure. After scattering a dozen or so more F bombs throughout the countryside, my throat sore and parched from my outbursts of the last hour plus, I calmed down enough to enjoy a burrito at a very cool Wilson Market in Bandon.

The unexpectedly warm welcome I received and the flavor of the carne asada special brought me out of my slump, and the warm sunshine along with the omnipresent chilly wind of the Pacific Ocean (thank the Lord more and more) bucked me up for the remainder of my travel. I still had to consider and reconsider the err of my ways in having lost one of the few material possessions for which I cared. But after a substantial repast and maybe a little more scream therapy, I was already searching my brain for a different narrative. I began to consider how many times over the last decade I had nearly lost the ring and how much worry it had caused whenever I performed an activity where it might slip off or snag on something. I could have cursed the silversmith at the Gold Door for incomplete work, but I also could have taken it back any number of times, though I figured it would have done little good since the initial order had been treated as complete, when it had not been. I continued to muse on these matters until the traffic around Salem forced me to pay more attention to the road and to a semi truck that nearly clipped me as I attempted to maneuver around it while it sat idle in the middle of the exit lane of the truck stop.

As I made my way back into Portland, thankfully at a break in the heat wave, traffic forced a reroute southward through town. As I transitioned to a less direct, but ultimately quicker, route home; I began to think of the ring as a necessary sacrifice for the sustenance I had received so long from so many adventures in the Oregon mountains, forests and rivers that I had just now clearly seen throughout the state in extreme states of distress as a result of years of human mismanagement, lack of honest stewardship. This bit of silver I had, no matter how much I cherished it, was the least I could give, I thought, to a nature that had revived me when I had little human support and less hope for recovery, and that has continued to ground me through a social existence I see largely as pointless and absurd. I can easily give up a pinkie ring and more for that, can trade a less meaningful signification of success for the real support and different success I’ve found simply in the life I’ve created out west from the ashes of the old.

Requiem for a Ring Dream.

New Uptycs Voiceover Spots

I really enjoyed doing these Tech Narration Cloud Security Spots for Uptycs. However, their aggressive Cloud Security Posture must extend to my own usage of the spots I recorded for them;). Please see the Overview videos for Cloud Security, Endpoint Security, Container Security, and also those for SOC 2 and FedRAMP Compliance. There you’ll hear me. Thank you, Steffen Wade of S& Box Productions, for the opportunity to extend my range, for recording ease and efficiency and for golden tone production.

Fun Gaming Character Audition

Here’s a little something to lighten the Heat Dome mood after my last submission. Although I have no Demo Reel for animation/gaming characters as of yet, I am enjoying the release, vocal growth and sheer fun of these sort of auditions. I grew up imitating cartoon voices as I rested in between double workouts for competitive swimming. After a number of summers, I had quite a few character voices committed to memory. Long forgotten now, The Laugh Olympics had most of my favorite voices, if not actual cartoon characters. Voicing the characters made for hilarious interludes with friends and an easy means of relieving competitive pressures. I dream of being able to make a living doing animated voices. Here’s to that dream of about the most fun work environment I can imagine. I also find that the practice of character voices stretches my ability to emote and lightens the pressures of voicing other reads, thereby improving them. Win, win for fun. Happy Friday.


Beyond Heat Dome 2021?

7/1/2021- Clouds again the first half of the day. Thank you for small blessings.

I am trying to process Heat Dome 2021, still trying to find the humor, some kind of positive takeaway message after seeing what I wrote nearer the experience itself. A palpable harbinger of doom, the arrival and prolonged stagnation of a pressure system offering the hottest temperatures on record region-wide presents dark comedy at best. Even conjuring up a satirical image of Mad T-Rex beyond Heat Dome, I struggle to find the chuckles after a heat wave that left 45 dead in my city as temperatures peaked around 112 degrees Fahrenheit, after noting the conflagration of Lytton, B.C., when it peaked at 121 degrees on Tuesday, after fleeing my friend’s Seattle home incredulously in the middle of the night to return to my own simply for the safety of air conditioning.

A character emerges to me through the stress of flight impressed by temperatures promoting physical distress and worse. Perhaps due to my affection for Reggae’s rhythm and tone of perseverance in the face of another human evil, I am inclined to think of a form inhabiting rebellion against a system that has produced such a mess of paradise. Knotty Dread, a human physically and mentally discombobulated by glaring light, heat, dehydration; the Knotty denomination manifest in the persistently clenched muscle tissue from dehydration and fear of displacement by ever more capricious weather, the Dread a vehicle for the unified sinking feeling as we proceed to an extinction caused by our greed and denial of causality. Nor do I wish to impugn or appropriate significance from the rebellious stance of the island adherents of Jah Rastafari. In fact I embrace the spirit wholeheartedly: my line of thinking is commiserative. All of the smalls; black, brown, white, are aligned in suffering at the hands of the very wealthy and wicked (demographics not necessarily mutually related and who themselves reportedly suffer, yet both hedging at our expense on more attenuated, or at least more comfortable, rates of decline). Ok, possibly a little very dark humor there.

I left south Alabama 25 yeas ago for the Redwoods, and I recall then bitching about the incessant rains of the PNW, complaining humorously, and sometimes not so, that I would move each winter for a number of years. I long now to complain about the rain again. As summers have grown hotter, fires more consistent in the last 5 years, I’ve acquired an AC unit, air filters, loads of reef killing sunscreen, extra water filtration and storage systems. This experience has reminded me that my Southern heat card has expired, been rescinded. I cannot abide 107 or 112 comfortably or peaceably, even at only 20% humidity. Earlier in my Portland life, I do recall sweaty days and nights, chilling out on the porch late night until the house cooled off enough to sleep. With the cold mist that used to enshroud the Pacific Northwest, I regaled in these blips on the calendar that reminded me of why I had moved from south Alabama. No more. I am a-scared.

Now the hot nights become the norm here, and there is no cool down whatsoever when the temperature stays close to 90 overnight! Heat Dome 2021 has shaken me to a heightened level of concern even for one who has been well apprised of climate science for years. The effect of experiencing such heat up closely inspires, among many thoughts, a compassion for others in parts of the world who have and will likely continue to experience far more extreme displacement because of disastrous changes in the weather over which they exert very little control. Even living in a place that loudly broadcasts greater agency, I reside in only a slightly more comfortable boat. Money won’t save us.

Perhaps Hemingway’s Green Isaac will keep us cool though, as the fires lick our toes. Try 4 oz. Coconut Water, 2 oz. Gin, 1 oz Lime juice, 1 oz simple, 2-3 dash Angostura. Lotsa ice, shake it like your opinion matters, leave in the chipped ice to cool down your heatstroked brain enough to contemplate your next move.

Alabama and White Witches

6/9/21- Cooler, Sun and Clouds- thinking about Alabama and White Witches….

I went for a walk in the woods the other day after my monthly spinal realignment. Often I’m a little spaced out after hearing and feeling the joints of my neck popping back into place; the adjustment is often rather violent, leaving me in pain for a few days afterward before I can recover the benefit of the realignment. So I like to take a walk in the woods to balance myself, see how I am doing afterward before attempting to continue with my day. Since my physical therapist is located across town, I take the opportunity to explore one of my favorite parks in Portland that I might not otherwise visit much at all being on the other side of the river. Portland shines with many impressive urban green spaces that can actually transport one from the city for a moment. A valuable resource taken for granted by many, these parks sustain me in between visits to wilder spaces.

As I began my stroll, my body felt heavy but looser than before, my neck less tense, my feet more stable on the ground. The sun peaked through the trees from time to time as I began a familiar 3 mile circuit through old growth, across streams, passing by tarns and twisted hemlock and cedar roots. Glad I had taken the time to gather myself, I began to consider plans for the rest of the day: conscious hydration to prevent greater soreness and headaches, an online class later in the afternoon, a friend’s birthday BBQ later. As I crossed a bridge where I was noticing a downfallen tree shifting the course of the stream, a woman passed and I greeted her. Considering reports through the years of guys creeping on women in city parks, I often preemptively voice a louder, but friendly greeting to announce my presence: I’m still not sure if this calms or scares people more.

When I said hello to a slight, older woman walking a little dog, and she returned my greeting, I heard home unmistakably in her voice. Walking away from me, she turned as I mentioned how much I liked her tone; it reminded me of home. She told me she was from Alabama. I asked her name, Bobby Jean, and I told her mine. Hardly surprised by her origin after hearing that sonorous greeting, more so to find her here today, I told her that I was from Dothan, Alabama, figuring as a native she’d be familiar. Seeing that she did not register my city, I then asked her from what part of the state she hailed, and she paused with a more cautious look. She told me that she did not even know.

She had lost her parents, her whole family in something so terrible that she could not even remember exactly what had happened. She remembered little of her childhood aside from ending up on the streets of Portland at 13. A kind woman found her there, took her in and eventually placed her in a remarkably decent foster home. She had slowly picked her life up as she passed through addiction, therapy, eventually becoming a counselor for struggling teens and working for NAMI- the National Alliance of Mental Illness. It took about everything I had not to weep openly as I watched her struggle to relate what information she could recall. She witnessed the effect of her story upon me (I was already feeling a bit fragile from the neck adjustment; the shock of the wrenching tissues just below my skull can make me forget who I am for a moment) and actually consoled me not to be ashamed of showing the feeling her story had engendered in me.

Solemnly thanking her for sharing her story and telling her a bit of mine, we talked by the side of the trail like folks that had known each other for quite some time. I mentioned that my sister had been heavily involved with NAMI for over a decade in Birmingham and that members of my own family, myself included, had suffered significant challenges with mental health resulting in some very sad stories indeed. We agreed that the dialogue around mental health must continue to grow, that a more supportive dialogue was necessary though unsupported by our culture. As she shared some of the wisdom she had discovered on her path, I was of course struck by the similarity of our conclusions, the emotional and spiritual tools we had both sought and acquired for survival. I felt a definite connection with this stranger, and I kept feeling the need to hug her despite the continued awkwardness around COVID and vaccination. I think I wanted to touch the magic I sensed, for it to touch me.

As we spoke of the merits of meditation for self knowledge and calm through hardship, I was embarrassed that I could see her seeing my mind racing off in many tangential directions. I did not mean to be disrespectful with my attention, but this encounter had sent my heart and head reeling. Responding intuitively to this, Bobby Jean actually subtly engaged me in a sort of standing meditation as we continued to share and admire each other’s strength and conviction. I felt much more balanced, connected when she walked away, even though I had to take another few minutes at the bridge. My surprise at the encounter and my overwhelm at the feeling generated by it demanded some time to process even before taking another step up the trail. I think I scared a few passersby by with my sad face: I do a good one. More thoughtful than sad, I was dumbfounded that I had just walked into some heavy love and connection out of the blue that I needed very badly.

I was and am blown away by this encounter. Nor was she the first woman I’ve encountered from Alabama with an unforgettable story and presence. A few years ago when challenged by van life travel in Maui, I sat outside a friend’s place on the curb wondering as to my next move, and there appeared a hip older woman who had just returned from Alabama and a harrowing experience of reconnection with her former husband that had left her persecuted by TSA and momentarily stranded on Oahu, but having escaped the clutches of an egomaniac who was still bleeding her dry emotionally and financially as he himself succumbed to cancer. Listening to her tale that day in the street as I was meditating upon the location of my home for the evening, I was struck by the disadvantage to which her kindness had put her, by her heartbreak at the betrayal of a former lover, but mostly by her resilience. Her suffering put mine in a much clearer relief and filled me with motivation to make a better best out of whatever my situation allowed. I’ll never forget that moment. She was a teacher sent to help me persevere.

And this brings me to my point, I think. I have been very fortunate in recent years to encounter many a White Witch to guide me along my life path. I call them White Witches in high praise for the support they’ve provided by means often incomprehensible to me initially. Considering them, I am quickly reminded of the immense benefits to spiritual, mental, and physical health I’ve accrued in relationship to powerful women appearing in my life at times when most needed. Massage therapists, acupuncturists, physical therapists, healers of many sorts have aided my recovery from spinal injury, chronic pain, and the miasma of psychological dysfunction accompanying them. White Witches of alternative health have blessed my life perspective incomparably as I’ve opened myself to more complex messages intoned by the treatments they provide and to my body’s (and hence mind’s) responses to them. Moreover, the sort of relational support these women have provided has filled something missing inside me.

Not that my folks were unloving, though they may have simply found themselves with a son they’ve never quite understood. I think I can say with assurity after a number of years living in this skin, I require much bandwidth, too much for many. I require a depth from my connections that I’ve not been able to find very easily or to at times accept once found. Therefore, I am doubly thankful for the guidance and connection I’ve found through these seemingly random meetings with these magical women who teach me so much about relationship and self care at exactly the right moments in my life. Distant now a number of years from my family of origin by geography and more, I cannot deny the sustenance provided by these healing encounters and relationships. And as Bobby Jean informed me of the good things headed my way by the aura she sensed from me, I told her that I simply wanted to honor the kindness of her surprise message of hope with the good grace to live more closely aligned with the precepts we had just now been discussing, that this hope might bloom more fully for me, for everyone I might reach.

That’s more than enough for now. Thank you, Bobby Jean, for the reminder.