Friday, June 29, 2012

Camping with Shades of Gray

Hello everyone. It's been somewhat longer than I originally intended it to be between blog entries. My camping weekend really should have had its own. Two days from now, I'll be heading off to Lake Joseph for my week's vacation. To top that off, a few things have happened in between. I won't go blow by blow through the weekend for a number of reasons. Despite this editing on my part, this will still be a long entry. I've had a great deal to reflect upon.
The weekend got off to a lamentable start. Ron and his new friend both let time run away from them and weren't ready at anywhere near the time they were supposed to be. Sadly, it seems that alcohol, cigarettes and time have taken a heavier toll on Ron than when I last got together with him. He hasn't lost any of his kindness but his motivation to get things done in timely fashion has ebbed away. It's becoming easier and easier for him to just drink rather than anything else. It's painful enough for me to have the odd glimpse of this inner destruction of good character. I can only imagine what that's like for his parents living across from him. Things were a tad tense on the way up. \mark, our driver and defacto camp leader, is a very time-oriented fellow. He likes things organised, on time and done. We got to the site late and everyone was tired. Due to this, some corners, or should I say tent flaps, were figuratively cut.
For most of the time, there were five of us. Ron, my fellow blind camper and friend. Don, a new friend of Ron's, was a professional chef who has knowingly chosen to work for a restaurant run by mobsters. Adrian, an acountant, was Mark's long-time friend. They had done a lot together and he shared Mark's helpful disposition. He was the newby on this trip who had never gone camping before. I've mentionned Mark before, and last but not least, there was me. On saturday, we were joined by another Ron and his wife Jen. Had things worked out, we would have also had a John. Two Rons, a Don and a John in our rough and mostly merry company. I kid you not.
Conversation took many interesting turns. Poor Mark, doubtless tired from stres and all, was kept awake long into the early morning by Don and I going into the matter of religion. Due to a bad experience as a child, he had become a pretty firm non-believer. My friend Ron has become just short of hostile to the ideas of God and salvation. Between those two, I had my theological hands full and then some. Due to alcohol intake on their part, the conversation suffered from tragic circularity with nothing really getting resolved. I did, however, manage to impress Don a little I think. I gave him a few new points to consider at any rate.
Adrian was a very observant and considerate fellow. Early on, he learned that Ron and I were on the same program with roughly the same income. He noticed that while I had an iPHONE, Ron didn't even have an ordinary cellphone. Basically, the reason for that boils down to Ron's vices chewing up every scrap of spare cash he has. With no such adiction, I have a much easier time making ends meet and saving up for the odd purchase. I'm also free to wait until I come into some spare cash. Ron cannot. Things you're adicted to don't tend to let you do that. I feel no great sense of superiority about this. If anything, it creeps me out. Had circumstances been different, I might easily have given in allowing similar temptations to totally ruin me. I feel a deep disapointed sadness at what vitality and purpose cigarettes, alcohol and so much idle time have robbed my friend of. I still hold out some faint hope that he'll either take up editing Audyssey Magazine again or summon at least enough resolve to pass the torch onto someone else. He has a bad tendency to turn turtle and go silent rather than face up to things. I find myself wishing I could just snap my fingers and fix everything giving Ron a fresh chance at it all. I looked up to him so much as a younger man. Volunteering with St. John's Ambulance for ten years teaching advanced CPR, earning the friendship of such excellent people as Mark, Jamie and others. He inspired me to try to make the best of my circumstances, that even with no job or marriage, there were still plenty of reasons to try to do good in the world. The core of him is still there but it has been badly worn away. Like other concerned people in his life, I've had to reach a point of accepting that he likely won't pull out of this. Come what may, I'll always respect him for who he was and try to be the best friend to him that I can be. I'll pray for him to a God in whom he doesn't believe, hang on and keep hoping. Thanks to Earle's spectacular transformation, I find that still possible.
Getting to talk to a character like Don was worth a great deal to me. I've never met anybody like him. I could never make the moral compromises that he has. I simply couldn't justify them to myself like he manages to do. It was sometimes hard to tell when events happened as he believed they did for the reasons he ascribed to them. There was an aura of "shit happens and I just go where fate takes me." about him. A lot like what seems to have taken hold of Ron. Don was, I think, being completely honest as he saw things. I didn't have a sense that anything was made up for my benefit. There were definitely areas where he wouldn't go into detail. I imagine such waryness is a pretty important survival tool. Despite our differences, I found I liked him on the whole.
The weekend didn't go without its mild misadventure. I won't reveal which of us tried drugs for the first time other than to say it most definitely wasn't yours truly. I've never felt comfortable with the thought of injesting anything stonger than alcohol merely for recreation. I was, however, fascinated to be able to hear someone else do so while sitting beside me. The result was nothing like my hazy preconceptions of possible phantasmic hallucination. So far as I could tell, he perceived nothing that wasn't already actually present. However, he couldn't trust that we or anything he saw around him was actually real. He said everything was like a dream or movie. It seemed to disturb him somewhat. He also retired earlier than Ron, Don and I so I presume the experience wore him out somewhat. There was a hike to a nearby beech with nothing but uncomfortable rocks to sit on. This resulted in Ron, Don and I heading back and having a longer walk as Don got "turned around". Neither Ron or I could be of much assistance. The most annoying of the misadventures was a direct result of friday's late arrival and incomplete work on our tent. It rained on sunday morning and that rain came right through the mesh hole at the top of our tent where a flap ought to have been installed. It pooled in the tent and on the air matress. I packed all my things up damned pronto. Poor Don's sleeping bag was beneath the matress. Not only was poor Don freezing for want of his bag but the unused thing must also have been quite wet and a pain to pack for him.
The food was excellent. Don and Mark really know what they're doing when it comes to food and we ate very well. There was steak, jerk chicken, wonferful mushrooms and grilled vegetables. I never knew mushrooms had gills or that taking the skin off them made them sweeter. Don certainly knows his business well. He feels quite justified keeping his secrets and the better pay offered in exchange for such discression. I gained quite a bit of valueable if sad insite into how corruption can take hold in our lives. It has made me do a lot of soul searching over the past while.
As always, I had a terrific time with Ron and company. All of them have good hearts and you couldn't ask for a safer group to have such an excursion with. I consumed something on the order of ten beers, shared three, and came home with five untouched. I was so caught up in conversation that I lost track of everyone else's tally. This peek into the shadier side of life has proved to be a somewhat somber burdon for me to think on. I feel older than when I left on that friday afternoon. I don't consider myself above corruption at all. I just keep it to a relatively small scale in my own life. I purchase my music and books these days. However, I'm unwilling to part with les honestly gotten gains obtained during my marriage where boredom was the intractable enemy for Rebecca and I. Everyone else seemed to partake in it so why shouldn't we? There was no way we could have pourchased any of it so we weren't costing them sales they could have had. It's so damnably easy to rationalise and justify these things to yourself. It's only later that you realise how hollow those justifications really are. I could have been standing on much higher moral ground had I been willing to deal with less stimulation. But then, I wouldn't have come to a great many realisations and conclusions. I literally wouldn't be the same man I am today. Despite completely believing what Ken told all of us at the Dam about chocolate that isn't fair trade certified, I stil enjoy the occasional Mars bar. My not doing so just won't really make a shred of difference to anyone other than guilt-ridden rationalising me. No, reader. I try to live a good moral life but don't pretend to be above petty temptation. We all fall short of the mark.
I've gotten an external battery for my iPHONE. Seeing as I'm not using its GPS capability rather than my Trekker Breeze, it's a pretty necessary bit of kit. Also, should we have another blackout, I can keep my phone going at least twice as long. I should have attended to that ages ago but the need didn't seem as obvious until I found out how much power location services use up when they're being heavily monitored by a GPS app. Hats off to the developer of the Ariadne app. I'm finding it even more helpful than the Breeze. I suspect that the GPS receiver in the iPHONE has a lot to do with my I prefer an app costing less than twenty dollars over a device costing just short of a thousand. It seems to get a location fix pretty much immediately. No standing around for five minutes waiting any more. Rather than routes, Ariadne uses a landmark approach pointing out the nearest "favorite" at it calls points of interest. You can also examine a list of favorites ordered by distance. There's a map feature which lets you move your finger around a map of your surroundings. It announces or makes sounds for streets and other features. You can zoom it in and out. Also, it rotates so that it shows what you face. I haven't found a way for it to display favorites on the map which aren't streets. Mainly, the favorites I have marked are in a park area around a lake near my building. I've successfully gotten to the Dam and back with it. My father and I walked to Symposium and I put in landmarks to help get me there. This bread crums method seems to work better for me to my surprise. Next on the ajenda after my trip is marking out the route to the bank. It's thankfully a lot easier to edit landmark names and such on Ariadne than it was on the Trekker. Typing quickly on the iPHONE, however, is a skill that continues to elude me.
I've heard from Adam and Steve. Both have gone through rough spots lately. Adam didn't end up getting the job he had hoped would result from his internship. A pretty big disappointment for him. I hope he's got the stamina to stick it out and find another path to something he can live with. He's been pretty busy for the past while so I haven't gotten together with him. That'll happen for shure once I'm back from Lake Joe. I can't really help him all that much. I did connect him to Michelle McQuigge, a blind journalist I know. She's at least very familiar with the territory. Sounds like she was able to inform him of some resources which might be useful. I hope something works out for him soon. It's been a long road of many jobs. A really good one for HP as tech support was lost due to the recession. My friend's work life is only vicariously glimpsed through conversations and bits of it that he recounts to me. I don't have nearly the same feel for him in that sphere of life that I do in others. I just hope something which keeps him engaged and that lasts comes along for him soon.
Job hunting is such a dehumanising process. I wish there was a way to automaticaly grant people the basic opportunity to make an honest living without having to go through that. Later, if they wished, they could seek to improve their job situation knowing that they at least had a contributive place in the work world. You'd think some social scientist or industrialist could work out the details for something like that. There should also be more of a formal system of exploring various career options prior to actually going to university or coledge and being saddled with debt possibly with credentials that don't seem to be valued enough even to get people in the door. If competition could be moved one rung up somehow so that people weren't just left dangling, perhaps, that would at least minimise the soul-sapping waste of young ardour and life when nobody even gives you a damned chance to prove your worth. I've known too many people who have been stuck searching, hoping for the dots to somhow be connected. As it is, I think the current system is wasteful and unsustainable. We've seen an substantial mainly peaceful Occupy movement. Perhaps, if things carry on as they have much longer, we'll see more people like Don, happy to keep his mouth shut and do a good job for bad people. When honesty gets you nowhere, more young people might well look at less societally desireable alternatives. I'm amazed how much more sympaathy I have for a man like Don than I would have even ten years ago.
Steve has had to deal with the death of an uncle. I had a good long conversation with him and have been invited up to a cottage at the end of the month. It's a sort of pre-birthday event. Should be a lot of fun spending the weekend with Steve and a number of his friends. This summer has been so much more eventful than even last year's hot season. I've been enjoying it thoroughly although it has very much depleted my bank acount. My family is willing to help with that a bit thank goodness. I expect things will slow down in the autumn. It's been such a mixed bag of mostly positive experience. I've learned a lot already and we're just getting into July.
Lake Joseph beckons. I'll be going there tomorrow. Things are all packed and ready other than the laptop I'm writing this blog posting on. As always, I have hopes. There's a small chance I'll find a special lady. A somewhat more sustantial chance that I'll perhaps encounter new friends or people with interesting life stories. For all its faults, Lake Joe seems to attract people of good character to work there. You also get interesting campers like Ethen was last year. That, above all else, is what keeps me going back year after year; the people. I could definitely do without some of the mentally challenged folk, particularly the ones who are really round the bend. However, I'm willing to chance that to be in a place set up for blind people. It has always been there when I've needed there to be somewhere different to go which I could afford. I know a lot of familiar people will be up there including Janet and Lori. That will be interesting to hear how they approach their second week at the place. There are always little sociological curiocities of that sort. Lindsey will be up there also. A good guy named Rob emailed me to say he'll be there. We had some excellent chats when last I encountered him. I think the Lake Jo dice are loaded in my favour this time around. A good thing too. I need this week away to rejuvinate and perhaps better integrate some of what I've written about here into my thinking. On that note, I believe I'll sign off and get this entry posted. I'll likely publish a blog entry about my trip upon my return. Meanwhile, you may find the odd audioboo courtesy of my iPHONE. Later, folks.