Freewill Eternalism

Early Birthday

That picture above is me. I’m guessing that my dad took it around my third or fourth birthday. It looks like I had a pretty nice tan, we were always waterskiing, or just being outdoors when I was a kid. Not only did my dad take the picture, I’m sure he developed the film, and printed the negative onto paper. There is no doubt in my mind that my mom made that cake, she was always a really good cook. The sheer fact that it sits on plate is evidence enough that it wasn’t purchased at a store.

When I look at that picture, there is a sense of amazement that that was me. I know that it is, because even forty five years later I can see that same look on my face that I see in a mirror’s reflection to this day.

Yet, I don’t feel like the kid in that photo. I wish I did. There has just been so much that has happened to me since that photo was taken, and the man that I man now sitting here typing out these words on a keyboard has a hard time identifying with that child.

One day as I was sitting on my cousin’s porch , smoking a cigarette and drinking a beer, I asked myself how it was that I ended up here in my life. How the fuck did I end up here in Davenport, Iowa? If you would have told me even less than a year ago that this is where I would be as I wrote this, I would have laughed in your face.

It was on that day on my cousin’s porch, a smoke in one hand and Busch Light in the other that I realized my philosophical theory of “Freewill Eternalism”. The doctrine of “freewill” states that humans are free to make their own decisions without regard to social, moral, or political restraints, while “eternalism” dictates that time is just another dimension. The future already exists, and all points in time are equally real.

The child in the picture above, and the man sitting here writing this are both equally here. We are living two of the infinite possible existences for this singular soul, yet we are still one in the same. My memories are his visions of the future.

It is so easy for both myself, and you the reader to make the assumption that if Julie had not died, then I would not be where I am. Although I will not debate that that is true, there are so many other decisions I have made since I was a child with that birthday cake in front of me that have led me to where I am in this present form.

Most notably, is my relationship with the almighty dollar. I blow them as fast as they come in. And when I say “blow them”, I mean that sincerely. For the most part, I have always had the skills to make decent money, but I have always loved to have a good time too. My bank account might have next to nothing in it, but my memory bank is overflowing.

So when I ask myself, “How did I end up here?”

The Universe answers, “This is where you’re supposed to be!”

Let’s call it “fate”.

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I Remembered the Camera

On Father’s Day, I rode down with my Uncle Denny and Aunt Joyce to see Mike in Burlington. I had not ventured out of the Quad Cities since I got there, so it was nice to take a little road trip. Despite its undeserved reputation, Iowa can produce some nice scenery.

The four of us went to brunch at place called Big Muddy’s right on the banks of the Mississippi River. The food was okay, but the view from the balcony that we sat on was very nice. It felt good to have my camera with me. I love the feeling of creativity that a camera gives me and I ended up getting a few nice shots. I have never liked taking snapshots of people. I just like to mentally frame what seems to be a great shot regardless of the subject and see what the end result will be.

After brunch, we all went to the casino. Denny, Mike and I watched the end of the NASCAR race while Joyce went and played the penny slot machines. Eventually Mike and I started playing the one armed bandits as well. I hit a $60 jackpot. That was going to be enough to keep me from having to sell plasma again. Denny didn’t join us in gambling. He once told me, “The next lottery ticket I buy will be the first, which is why I still have my money.” I wish I had a little bit more of my uncle’s attitude inside of me.

We had driven south on the Iowa side of the river, and decided to go north on the Illinois side. At some point we passed a sign that said “Alexis 7”. The sign was referring to the town of Alexis, IL which was seven miles to the east. It made me think of my daughter and how I was not spending the holiday with her. I really wished at that moment that she was only seven miles away from me.

Life and Death of a Salesman

Most the sales guys that work in the Davenport branch of Dr. Pepper have been doing it for years. One guy in particular, Kenny, has been pushing soda for 35 years. I think that he is what Arthur Miller had in mind when he wrote about Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman”. I look at Kenny and all I can see is a tragic character.

Kenny is always selling. I don’t mean that in the way that he is always selling Dr. Pepper products, I mean that Kenny is always trying to sell himself. His priorities in life are all about meeting quotas and getting the biggest commission check that he can get. On a personal level, Kenny is a great guy, but even in a casual conversation he is always trying to sell his opinion or point of view.

I have no doubt that Kenny has made a lot of money in his life, but I wonder if he ever asks himself about his other accomplishments. Ultimately he has spent his time on this planet making people fat. I’m not sure why selling sugar is any more respectable than pushing heroin. He refuses to admit that the pop industry is basically where the tobacco industry was thirty years earlier.

I picked up the whole job of merchandising for Dr. Pepper pretty quickly. It doesn’t exactly involve splitting the atom; you’re putting pop on the shelf. Kenny orders way too much product. If one of the stores has a sale, Kenny knows how to take advantage of it. His backrooms are always a mess. I spent almost as much time moving stuff around in the backroom as I do putting product on the shelf. It can be overwhelming and frustrating at times.

When I first started, my goal was to work all three stores perfectly. I learned before too long that that just wasn’t possible if you wanted to maintain some semblance of a forty hour work week. It took having a very heated argument with Kenny over his ordering one day before we learned to respect one another.

The Death Toll

I am not a person who is easily offended. When it comes to my sense of humor I have a motto that almost nothing is sacred. I will laugh at things that most people would consider morbid. So, on those rare instances that I do find myself offended it really pisses me off.

One such occasion was during that week that I worked at Group O. I was driving across the Rock River on Interstate 74 in Illinois when I saw one of those signs letting you know how many people had been killed in car accidents across the state throughout the year. I know those signs are everywhere in this country and that they are meant to be a public service reminder to wear a seat belt and drive carefully. I get that it is a noble intention.

Maybe I was just having a bad day, but when I looked up that sign I just got infuriated. I think that it trivializes the memory of those that have died. Once a singular human being, they immediately become part of a collective number being projected in light bulbs. The number makes the generalization that all of these deaths could have been prevented with a seat belt. That may be have been the case for some of those people, but I’m sure a great many that make up those light bulbs did have their seat belts on.

Death is now simply a statistic. It doesn’t matter if you die of cancer, in a car accident, or any other manner of death. The decedent is stripped of what their humanity was. They just become part of a number that represents how they should not have lived their lives.

I get so tired of being told that longevity should be the goal of life, instead of living a life that will bring you the greatest amount of joy. If you want to smoke cigarettes, drink like a fish or not wear a seat belt it should not be met with a discussion about your mortality. I don’t go to the doctor for checkups, and don’t plan to do so anytime soon. It’s my life, and I’m not hurting anybody else.

Of course the lame ass argument is the cost to society of what is deemed “destructive” behavior. Well, in the case of personal freedom, fuck the cost to society. That is the price you pay. The government of the state of Iowa doesn’t agree with my stance though. I just paid a $127 fine for not wearing a seat belt. Like the song goes, “I fought the law, and the law won”.

The Remnants of Eggs Benedict and a Trip Back to Middle School

I went to Pitts Middle School in Pueblo, Colorado for my sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. The days of going to that school seems like it was lifetimes ago. Fortunately, right I after I started working for Dr. Pepper, I got to relive one of my most embarassing moments of being a Pitts Pony.

The story actually starts the day before I recalled my middle school memory.   There was place in downtown Davenport called Tommy’s that supposedly had the best breakfast in town and I had wanted to try it. I went in and had the eggs benedict. Not only it was as delicious as I had heard, it was ridiculously cheap too.

The next morning I was at Walmart slinging pop onto the shelf next to a kid who worked for Pepsi named Josh. Josh was a goofy dude in his early twenties whose life revolved around sugar and video games.

Out of nowhere I farted. I didn’t even feel it coming. It fucking stunk. It smelled like the eggs benedict that I had almost 24 hours earlier. Josh asked if it was me. I owned it.

For the next ten minutes Josh would either warn people not to walk down the aisle, or if they did, he made that that they knew that it was me who had passed the gas, and not him. I would apologize, endure the embarrassment, and go about my job. Josh finally lost interest as the odor subsided.

When the same thing happened to me in middle school, I don’t remember it smelling that bad. Maybe instead of Canadian bacon on those eggs benedict, they had used dead skunk meat.

I didn’t really give a fuck what Josh thought. He is literally one of the most socially unskilled people I have ever met. He lacks even the most basic communication skills. If you are not talking about Pepsi products or video games, you simply cannot have a conversation with the guy.

It finally occurred to me that he is part of the first generation that has grown up with the internet their entire lives. Kids his age have grown up in the isolation of a virtual world. They don’t know how to have true human interaction. I have no doubt that the kid could probably be articulate in an internet chatroom, but he had no clue how to act in a face to face conversation. I was dumbfounded when he told me that he was taking the day off of work to attend the online wedding of two video game characters.

I don’t mean that as a condemnation of an entire generation of people. Every person’s upbringing is different. I know plenty of people his age or younger that are far wiser than I ever was at their age, but it is pretty evident that Josh’s foundation of knowledge has come to him through some type of video screen.

Fire Roasted Green Chile

By far one of the most frustrating things about living in Iowa is the complete lack of good Mexican food. It has been my limited experience that what is considered to be “good” Mexican food in the Quad Cities is the equivalent of canned tamales in Colorado. I love Mexican food more than any other kind, but it sure looked like I wouldn’t be having it as long as I was living there.

To add insult to injury, I can’t even cook myself a good Mexican meal because I can’t find the right ingredients anywhere. When I left Denver, I knew that I would not be able to get fresh, fire roasted green chile like I got every fall in Colorado, but I figured I would be able to improvise. I could not have been more wrong. The standard grocery stores here HyVee, Fareway or Walmart don’t even carry canned green chile let alone the subtle ingredients I use when I make a pot of my favorite food.

One morning I was having breakfast at a little dive diner down on Third street when I looked out the window and noticed there was a little mercado on the corner. I strolled over when I was done and figured that place would be my last chance to get what I needed to start cooking a Mexican feast. Surely they would have everything that I needed.

There was a young girl working at the register, and an older guy working at the meat counter. I asked them if they had green chile, preferably frozen, but I would settle for canned. They had no idea what I was talking about. As I tried to explain it to her, she just shook her head “no” with a blank look in her eyes.

I walked out of that place shaking my head in disbelief. I wanted to scream, “How can you be of Mexican heritage and not know what the fuck green chile is?” I am still amazed by the incident. My only guess was that maybe green chile was more of a southwest cuisine thing.

Sad to Say

One of the stark realizations I came to after my arrival in the Midwest is that racism is alive and well in this country and as sad is it to say, it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon. Within a month of being in the Quad Cities I had heard the N-word more times than I had in the previous decade. It wasn’t just whispered in a joke, it was right out in the open. Every time I heard the word I looked around to see the reaction of whoever else was around. Everybody just seemed to go about their business completely unfazed. I never got used to it.

The whole issue did make me come to the conclusion that I have my own deep prejudices. I really do despise ignorant people. I’m assuming racists feel better about themselves because no matter how fucking stupid they are, they rationalize that they are better than somebody who has a different color of skin.

I owe a big thank you to my parents. I was never taught to hate other people for such trivial reasons, and make no mistake about it, racism is a learned behavior. No baby is ever born with the instinct to hate.

I wish I had a great enough mind, or was a better writer that I could be able to propose some answer to this scourge of society, but I can’t. I don’t have the energy to argue with idiots or do battle with something that has been ingrained into human nature for hundreds of years.

I do have a glimmer of hope that future generations may be able to eradicate this problem. Through technology, the world is more connected than it ever has been. It could be possible that one day we will all come to have a better understanding of one another.

I have never been to the Deep South, but if racism is so rampant in this geographical area, I can’t even what it must be like there just based on stories that I have heard.

Oh wait! Does that last paragraph mean that I have a bias against the southern states?

Shame on me.