So today I turn 54.  That can’t be.  54 has always been decades away.  Now, 53 is in the rearview mirror.

A day like this makes me think of my father and mother.  And my own childhood.  Where I’ve come from and where I’m going.  While I’m no where near where I want to be in life, there is great news:  I start a new job on Monday.  I’ll be (there’s no actual title yet) Director of Marketing/Communications/Multi-Media/etc. at a medical trade association.  It seems as if I can run with the position as it’s newly created and I’ll have full reigns of it.  That’s very cool.  Major life change.  I’m pumped.

But more importantly, I’m 54.  I’m thinking that there’s a decreasing amount of time that I have to be what I want to be overall.  I’m thinking that there’s a certain finiteness in life that we don’t always recognize because we live in our present…a present which is often based upon a naive look on the future.

Then I think of the values that I grew up with…the people who were part of my younger years. I remember how they felt about me and how they shaped my worldview.

Many of them have passed on now.  They seemed like giants.  But in reality, they were middle aged adults.  And I’m forever thankful to them.

Today, I am a giant.


Digitally Deleted in DC

I didn’t start Thoughts From Vinton Ave to write about my social life.  This is more of a space where I can relate personal insights.  But when those two things intersect, a blog post happens.

Perhaps it’s best that I point out two things about myself for people who don’t know me.

One is that I’m a single father.  My son is 19 and I’ve had primary physical custody for most of his life.  Yes, his mom (my ex-wife) is involved and lives nearby.  She’s a great mom, she’s close to him, and I have a solid relationship with her.  But I was the one that did the bulk of raising him…a point that I’m fairly proud of.

The second is that being a single parent means sacrifice.  I put some aspects of career on hold.  Career for me meaning working in marketing, advertising, and public relations.  At times, I had to put opportunities aside.  That’s life.  That’s sacrifice.  It was worth it.  But it came at a cost, some of it financial.  So to help supplement, I waited tables from time to time.

Anyway, when the Great Recession hit, and as companies cut back on marketing, my sources of income inverted.  Instead of being a digital marketing guy who waited tables on the side for extra income, I became a waiter who once and a while picks up marketing gigs for extra income.  Believe me, it’s not how I want to live.  Not at all.  But that’s life.  And there’s a saying in advertising (actually it’s my saying).  Just like many say 50 is the new 40, when it comes to advertising, 35 is the new 60.  In other words, it pays to be young.  Real young.  Being young is now part of my past.

Oh, while I don’t really want to wait tables…I have to say this.  I work at what arguably has been the finest restaurant in the Greater Washington Metropolitan area for the past 50 years…and is ranked by Open Table as being one of the Top 100 restaurants in America.

Now that I got all that out of the way, here’s the story…

This past Saturday night, I got home from work and popped open Facebook.  Soon there was a new friend request…from someone who will stay unnamed.  I accepted.  She was obviously perusing my profile and was leaving a couple of comments.  I checked out her profile then emailed her and thanked her for the friend request.  Soon we were having one of those light but flirtatious conversations that seemingly happens only late at night.  Or, more accurately now, early in the morning.

She was local (Alexandria) and divorced with two kids – one who had just graduated from high school.  She wasn’t  from the US originally but came here in 1989.  Her Lithuanian good looks mixed with her Venezuelan upbringing made her all the more interesting.  I think she was the one who “made the first move” by asking :

So why are you still chatting with me?  Destiny or boredom or loneliness?

Which was soon followed by:

How “single” are you (THINK before you answer. You’re dealing with an extremely smart woman here)

I answered truthfully.  Very single, but not stressed about it.  I explained my past as she did hers…she was divorced five years and had a hurtful breakup a year earlier.  She hated “serial daters”.  She mentioned that she felt that men aren’t attracted to women with kids.  She acknowledged her age may be held against her…until she found out my age.  It was a great little get-to-know-you conversation.  She finished it off with:

I’m going nite nite. It was kinda a good nice surprise chatting with you.

You know what?  It was kinda a good nice surprise chatting with her as well.  I guess I’ve been “single” for so long that I forgot that there’s this whole ‘nuther world out there.  Went to bed happy.  Woke up the happy as well.  And I thought about her the next day while I was working a damn double (meaning a twelve hour shift, both lunch and dinner) at the restaurant.  I was looking forward to (and hoping that) we’d be chatting again that very night.   To be sure, when I got home, she had playfully written:

So Mr. Trenn, I really thought I was going to hear back from you? What happened? Did I scare you? Or are you playing the stupid hard to get game?

I responded with:

No. I was playing that “I had to work all %÷&#$€× day game.  But I did manage to think of you about 37 times today. So there.

Now, it was Sunday and she was confused.  Why was I working?  Uh-oh.  Well, here goes…

I’m a waiter. The recession did that to me a few years ago. My heart is in digital advertising. Trying to get back into that…Don’t want to be a waiter. You asked why I hadn’t dated in a while. That’s part of the reason.

That went over like a lead balloon.  Not only did the topic of conversation change…her attitude changed as well.  She mentioned that while she was excited for her son as he was to soon leave for college this fall, she was also nervous.  I merely pointed out that this was likely the first time he would be away from home for an extended time and got this in response:

Well yeah, duh! He just graduated from high school. So yeah, he’s going AWAY to live in Boston to attend college. Hello??

Hmm…her attitude that once started out as being playfully snarky was now less playful and more snark.  And it continued in this manner.  Not overtly harsh.  But quite cool and distant.  And slow to respond.  I tried to say something nice…that soon her worry about her son will turn to beaming pride.  The response?  Silence.  And more silence.  After about 10 minutes, I asked if she was still there.  Nothing.  But then:

Was saying good night to my daughter.  I’m also going to bed.  Good night.

OK…just like that.  Conversation over. Confused, I went back to check out her profile.  Got the telltale “OOPS  This profile either no longer exists or you don’t have access to it”.  And looking back to our conversation, I was no longer allowed to reply to it.

I had been blocked.

WTF?  She had blocked me.  Just like that.  I had done nothing wrong.  I had been honest. I was flirtatious, but not suggestive.  I had praised her as a mother and had complimented her on her son.  No matter.  I was blocked.  Gone.  Done.  Adios.  And her attitude changed right after I told her that I was a waiter.

What makes this insulting – beyond the obvious lack of respect – is how one finds out all of this.  While she’s off to bed or perhaps chatting with someone else, you’re left to discover all of this on your very own. You try hopping onto her profile, only to find out that…hey wait a minute…what’s this?  At first, you’re befuddled.  Where did it go?  It was right here a minute ago…  It then dawns on you that you were unceremoniously digitally deleted.  No recourse.  No finding out why.  Like getting tossed out like scrap paper.  Gone.  Done.  Adios.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but the lack of respect she seemed to display right after I told her I was a waiter was also displayed in the ease of her decision to do what she did.  I have no shame in being a waiter, but I will admit that that attitude does bother me.

It confirmed two things I already knew, although one was partially forgotten.  I realize that here in status conscience DC, the fact that I’m a waiter makes me less marketable.  That’s not me whining nor does that mean that I have a lack of confidence.  It’s just the truth.

The other is that here in DC there can be a certain shallowness and self-centeredness in people when it comes to dating.  More so than most places I do think.  People not only create such high and narrow standards that they cut many great prospects out…all the while complaining how picky others are.  And they can carry on in such a shallow manner that it breeds an overall cynicism in many.  This episode reminded me of that.  I’ve been out of the loop so long, it probably stung a little.

The reality is that this, truthfully, is not a big deal.  It involved two quick conversations within 24 hours.  We never met and we’ll likely never meet.  And that’s fine.  In fact, if this is her attitude, she would have been a waste of time.  Time I could spend doing better things.  And again, I don’t apologize for being a waiter just as I didn’t feel conscientious for being a single father.

Nevertheless, I take three things with me…

First, ironically, a conversation that started out with her playfully giving me grief for not contacting her ended up with her ending it by completely eliminating me from her life…apparently because I currently wait tables for a living.  Her attitude clearly showed that.

Second, she was someone who had pointed out her own dislikes of the dating scene (“serial daters”) and her own experience of having of being “discriminated” against (having kids, age discrimination)…yet she showed no willingness to have the type of open minded tolerance that she likely hoped men would give her.  Receiving tolerance is great.  Giving tolerance is inconvenient.

Third, and very telling, is that not only did my honesty of my own situation and my acceptance of her situation not, in the end, win me any points…but the fact that I tried to be genuinely nice to her HAD ABSOLUTELY NO POSITIVE EFFECT AS TO HOW SHE ULTIMATELY VIEWED ME OR TREATED THE SITUATION.  I was likely viewed to be a loser and therefore I was gone.  Digitally deleted.  Gone.  Done.  Adios.  The quality of my character – albeit displayed in a very short time period – didn’t mean shit.

Again, that’s DC for you.  And while this whole episode reminded me that, yes, there’s another whole world out there…something that I probably needed to be reminded of, it also reminded me of one of the reasons I haven’t been actively looking to date.

American Sniper. And what it was about.

OK. So I saw American Sniper. Not that anyone cares, but here’s my take.

Given it’s context and for what it is supposed to be, it was an excellent film.

And here’s the context: it was a biopic of top notch American sniper who did his job bravely and efficiently. It shows the challenges he went through, the horrors of urban warfare, the toll the war took on him and his family, the brutal effects of how our and the insurgents’ actions took on the innocent local population, and a cultural mentality that I may not fully share but accept.

That’s it. That’s what it’s about. It glorifies the warrior – perhaps a bit too much at times – but nevertheless ends up being antiwar. It’s not a political movie, although because it is based upon an actual individual, it allows for his political thoughts to be presented. It’s not anti-Muslim, nor is it anti-Arab. It’s not about WMDs, votes in Congress, “Mission Accomplished”, Abu Graib, or neoconservatives. It is about what Bradley Cooper says it’s about: “For me, and for Clint, this movie was always a character study about what the plight is for a soldier.”

Again…that’s it. That’s what it’s about.

The film effectively portrays Kyle’s devotion to his fellow soldiers. It shows the struggles they endure in a hostile environment. Yeah, I know. We helped create the environment and tore that country up.  We can’t fully blame the resistance. I know. I get that. But again, that’s not what the film is about. It shows the struggles his wife had seeing him go off to war again and again. It shows Kyle’s political mentality. Whether one agrees with him or not is less important than the fact that he, as an individual, is going to have a political mentality…and the movie is about him.

If you start understanding this, and understand that the movie is not about what you may want it to be, then maybe you will appreciate the film a bit more.

The objections I see are largely political…people on the left objecting to what they feel should have been in the film…some sort of political statement that shows what we were doing was somehow wrong. To me, I think the film DOES do that to an extent. But the point is, once again, THAT’S NOT THE FOCUS OF THE FILM. It shows at least three scenes in which – if one keeps an open mind – how the whole war affected families. And, yes, it can partially reduce our “enemies” to being “savages”. But take note: many were. And two points to that. One is that the use of that word isn’t really a big deal to me. That’s because I’m smart enough to know that people on any side in any war characterize their opponents that way. It doesn’t make it right. But it lessens the importance of warriors labeling their opponents in certain ways. The second point is that, yes, our warriors are savages as well. They are trained to kill. They end up doing horrible things. Intentionally and unintentionally. That’s war.

I look at the political criticism of the film as I did with the political criticism of the 1987 film “Hanoi Hilton”. Bitter commentary spewing out from some leftist self-appointed and self-important critics who hated the film because, as one said, “it’s on the wrong side of history”.

I understand that the film went “easy” on it’s portrayal of Chris Kyle’s harsher side. Fair enough. He’s probably someone who I’d often disagree with politically. Often strongly so.

But I came away from the film believing that Chris Kyle, while being a flawed individual (who isn’t?), performed heroically in what he was supposed to do…in a fucked up environment that was not of his doing for a cause and a war that I disagreed with.

I’d see it again.

On Ferguson and what I don’t know

Like many, I’ve gotten caught up in the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.  Regardless of whom is at fault, it’s a tragedy.

One of the things that disappoints me the most is the absolute close mindedness of many who have been following it. It is insane.  I challenged a bunch of people on an online forum on Facebook as to what they would do if they were proven wrong in their beliefs.  Barely anyone could answer.  They HAD to counter the concept that they may be wrong.

That’s weak.  That’s pathetic.  Especially since none of the people commenting were actually there in Ferguson that day.

As far as I’m concerned, I have no idea what actually happened. My “hunch” had always been that the shooting was unjustified. Why do I feel this way? Because all of the initial witnesses came out saying that Brown had run away from the cop car and then turned around and put his hands up but didn’t rush at the cop. I have no reason to think they’re lying.

I realize the the cops said that they had witnesses – black witnesses who lived there who testified otherwise. And that these witnesses didn’t want to come out public for fear of retaliation. But that info came out later, after the several witnesses came out saying that Brown had effectively surrendered. I understand these witnesses fears.

By then, I figured that regardless of whether or not Brown had actually reached for the gun in the policeman’s cruiser, that particular event changed the whole scenario. Scary shit indeed. My thoughts are perhaps both Brown and Wilson freaked out, with Brown starting to run away. Wilson gets out of his cruiser and points the gun as Brown turns around, maybe slightly moving toward Wilson. But not rushing at Wilson – because there were a bunch of witnesses who said he did not rush at Wilson. The cop, both furious and scared, shoots Brown, not knowing what Brown is going to do next.

Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I have an open mind. Either way, I think it’s tragic.

After the incident, I soon saw all of these (somewhat racist?) insinuations about Brown regarding his rap lyrics and or pictures of him giving the middle finger…all of which had nothing to do with his death. The only legitimate part may be to counter those who were trying to position him as a wonderful sweet young man.

It’s possible he was neither a sweet young man or an actual thug.

Now I see ridiculous stuff like articles posted by shrill leftists saying that Wilson was in the KKK.

What I will say is this:

You’ve got people on the left and you’ve got people on the right who have already made up their mind as to what has happened. They will only believe stories that back up their views. They will read obviously biased publications that have obviously biased articles. They will disregard well researched info that contradicts what they believe.

I see conservative types who say they fear the government automatically siding with the cops…and saying nothing about the initial show of force when the police used military vehicles and equipment. Or they have no problem with the police enforced “no fly zones” that the police themselves said that was imposed to prevent media coverage. Hypocrites.

I see liberal types who have already convicted of Officer Wilson of first degree murder and are almost willing to give him the fate so many black men have met through our nation’s history – a lynching.

In the meantime, I mourn for the loss of an eighteen year old.

That’s where I stand.

My friend, homeless no more…?

Apparently, my homeless friend is in the process of getting a place to live.  The place he found is near the college he wants to start taking classes at.

The amazing thing is that it took someone (me) to simply say to him that his situation is unacceptable – for him.  For six months, he accepted being homeless for reasons I don’t understand.

Maybe sometimes people get so use to accepting a negative fate that they don’t see that that same fate is something that can be overcome.

Maybe some thing that to challenge and fail to change that fate will result in a worse condition than the unacceptable present.  I don’t know.

Either way, I’m glad I was their for him.

So many are hurting, so many aren’t caring…

In my previous post, I talked of how I know someone who is homeless.  He’s a co-worker that I’m determined to help.  And it got me to thinking…

Each of us go through our private hells.  Whether it’s large or small, a sudden crisis or a long term issue, we all have to deall with tremendous difficulties from time to time.

It could be our health, or a concern about a loved one, a financial problem, a romantic relationship in trouble.  It could be something internal.  A crisis of confidence, a realization and acceptance of a long term or even permanent condition.  It could be based on something that can’t be reversed.

Right now I know someone who recently had a foot amputated because of diabetes, I know of a woman who had lupus and can’t find a job, I know of another woman whose mother as cancer, and I know a single mom of two kids who can’t make ends meet because her ex-husband is a deadbeat.

I got to wondering…why is it that so many of us almost willingly show no concern for our fellow man?  Meaning in general…many of us may show some sympathy to specific individuals who are struggling with life.

Is it because we’ve seen an overall breakdown of family that makes us less caring of our communities?

Is it because we’ve become to self-absorbed with trying to “get ahead” that we fail to take time to see deeper meanings in life?

Is it because we’ve used up some sort of sympathy quota that we have and wish to not spend any more time on it?

Is it because we want to stigmatize those that are struggling in order to position them as being “different” from us in order to reassure ourselves that we would never find ourselves in their position?

Is it because, for some, showing concern makes us appear to be weak?

I dunno…but I figure with all of the problems out there, one would thing that there would be a greater “brotherhood of man”.

Just sayin’.

One person’s plight…

A couple of nights ago I got in a conversation with a guy I know. He told me that he felt that he could put his trust me. We’re not really friends…co-workers for the most part.

He’s 43, Vietnamese American, about 5’2″ tall. He’s an extremely hard worker, one of the hardest I’ve ever met. Very professional. Very conscientious.

His personality – and his appearance – is similar to that of the minions in the movie “Despicable Me”. Tiny, determined, always willing to please. He’s the type of person that others will find somewhat hilarious…in an affectionate way. At his previous job, his nickname was – to no surprise – “Turbo”. He’s the type of person that most women would describe as being “cute”…most men may subconscioulsly think that as well, although we don’t use that word.

Last night he told me he was homeless. He’s been homeless since last August.

It’s been subfreezing here for about ten days now.

His biggest dream has been to get a four year degree in biology. I’m not sure why as I don’t know if he is looking to do something in related fields. I get the sense, at the very least, that it’s actual concept of having that degree. He’s determined to get it. It aches at him because he doesn’t feel complete. And I think that the reason that it aches him so much is because he’s lost both parents (something he often mentions) and he sees a degree as a way of fulfilling his own dream…a dream made possible through the sacrifices that his parents made by emigrating here years ago.

So each night, around midnight, he pulls into a covered parking lot of a gym, pulls out his sleeping bag that he says is made for temperatures that can get to -20 F and hopefully gets some sleep. He can shower in the gym because he’s a member…the monthly fee of $49 provides him this opportunity and is a de facto paying of rent. He’s got his rice cooker in his car. He still has his dream, but he has this fear that it’s slipping away.

And I’m the only one who knows this.