Thursday, November 02, 2006

Men, 2

I knew a fellow who really thought ppl didn't have dreams. Or they never followed them. He used the two ideas interchangeably.

I also knew a fellow who followed some dreams. And they failed.

This guy was a cop in the 60s in the San Diego area. As a result, he didn't really like hippies, since he had to deal with some of the unsavory ones he ran across. As a human, he was an interesting character. He could really get ppl to talk, and as a result he spent many hours listening to ppl's stories all over the country. He himself was vulgar, and quite un-pc, telling stories and using profanity in public that would make the delicate cringe. He squeezed his wife's butt in the kitchen, as well as at restaurants, he flirted with waitresses, and at the asian restaurant combined that with ethnic jokes that were entirely inappropriate.

But that was Chaim. He was rough, but as warm hearted as could be. And proud.

He left San Diego to start a business in his home town. In the 70s, he moved his family back to a frozen valley in North Dakota and opened an office supply store.
He and his wife ran it for a couple years, before it finally went belly-up. I am not privvy to the details, but rumor has it that he wouldn't take the bail-out on the business loans, because his conscience wouldn't let him. As a result, his wife got a job assisting at the local catholic school, and he took a job driving truck. While his kids grew up, he spent his time driving OTR. Two weeks on, three days off. For years and years. His youngest child was well out of college by the time he retired.

But still, given the loans they had to pay back, they struggled financially, and the family back home saw the electricity turned off. In January. In North Dakota.

By the time he could retire, he wanted a pickup he could put a topper on and go camping with his (now elderly) wife. I met them when they were still in their early fifties. Last time I saw Chaim he was looking old.

All sorts of questions occur to me. After all those years, how does he get along with his wife? Do they still like each other enough to go camping on the open road? Was his obligation on those business loans worth missing his children growing up? I don't know. And I never asked him.

But back to the first guy. He thought ppl didn't dream. Or couldn't dream. Or didn't follow their dreams. One of the things he saw that set himself apart from others was his ability to dream up a crazy vision, and implement a strategy to make it work. Work harder than everyone else, go further than everyone else, make the deal noone else wanted to make, and you could attain those dreams others wouldn't actually reach for, and which only rich ppl could afford.

One of his dreams was a vacation cabin filled with family and little children sleeping in the rafters, a band on the mezzanine, a roaring fire in the fireplace, and a cuddly wife toasting her toes by the fire. He imagined his folks hanging out there, perhaps even retiring there. He imagined growing old there himself.

In attaining this dream, he got a good education, all the way to the masters level. He racked up 100k in student loans. He took time off after his education to build the place, but may well have missed passing his professional exams in his field because of this time off. When he has friends there, he gets antsy, and whenever his siblings bring their children they are on a short leash. They are not really as welcome to roam the woods as he would like to suggest. They are not really welcome to screw around in the house built so tough they can't break it. In fact, the kids look bored. I never saw his parents spend a lot of time there either.

So his dreams don't look like dreams to me. In fact, I might think they were a nightmare, despite his discussion of how noone else dreams, or goes after their dreams, or is willing to sacrifice for those dreams. I see a lonely guy, aging, without making the personal relationships necessary to create grandchildren, whose family doesn't visit that much, whose career is stagnant in a vacation area, and who has enough student loans that he now is a debt slave.

These two fellows are father and son.

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