A-Z: Things I like

A – Africa (the continent I love)

B – Basset Hounds (there is no greater breed)

C – Christmas (everything about Christmas makes me happy)

D – Dexter (easily one of my top 5 favorite TV shows)

E – Eating (not gonna lie, I like to eat)

F – Funnel Cakes (is there any sweet treat that’s better?)

G – Geocaching (my favorite hobby)

H – Harry Potter (probably the greatest book series ever)

I – In ‘n Out Burger (mmmmm)

J – Jenny (my wife, she’s awesome)

K – King (Stephen King to be exact, his books frighten me)

L – Los Angeles Dodgers (my favorite baseball team)

M – Monster Energy Drinks (they keep me awake when I need to be awake)

N – Newcastle United (my favorite soccer team)

O – Outback Steakhouse (yes it’s a chain, but it’s one of my favorite restaurants)

P – Podcasts (so many great podcasts, so many great topics)

Q – Queen (some of the best guitar solo’s ever)

R – Rain (I love rain, I just wish California got more of it)

S – Survivor (recently got hooked on this show, now I’m watching every season!)

T – Traveling (I love seeing new places and old places)

U – Uganda (the place I truly consider home)

V – Vanilla Latte (iced or hot, I’ll drink them)

W – Words With Friends (play me! username: adamansel)

X – X-Files (Mulder & Scully, need I say more?)

Y – Yahoo News Ticker (this is where I keep up with the world)

Z – Zoo’s (Santa Barbara and San Diego have great ones)

Bald is Beautiful

As I was shaving my head this morning I began to reflect on the fact that I’m bald. I still have a ring of hair that covers that back and sides of my head, but up on top it’s like a few blades of grass struggling to reach the sun. So for the  most part I keep my head clean shaven.

I’m only 30 but I actually went bald when I was 23. In high school I had short hair but once I moved away to college I let it grow and grow it did! My hair was long and for the next few years it went back and forth from short to medium to long and changed colors from the normal black/brown to orange/red/yellowish. My hairline was slowly receding but that wasn’t a big deal to me.

Then I made a decision that changed everything.

I was in Germany in 2003, it was winter and I was working with a choir of kids from Uganda and Kenya. They convinced me to do something I had never done before – shave my head. One evening I did it. I cut all the hair off my head and it never came back. Like I said before, the sides and back grew in just fine but the top had lost the battle.

 I miss having hair, sometimes when the wind blows it feels like I have hair but in those moments when I miss it the most I remember these words of wisdom a friend told me: God made some men perfect…and the rest he gave hair.

Losing Steam

This blog has been up and running since February 2010, about 17 months now. I’ve tried to post at least once a week, usually more, but lately I’ve been losing steam. Interesting things are happening, I’m watching good shows and reading books that I like, but it’s the actual writing of the posts that have become difficult. A few years ago when I was writing a lot more short stories and was working on a novel I would hit a wall every now and then and just didn’t want to write anymore so I had to push through it to get to the end result. The problem with a blog is there isn’t necessarily an end result. It’s very much open-ended.

I’m going to keep writing, I’m going to keep posting, no question about that, but I just wanted everyone to know where I was at so that, in case of less posts, you’ll know why. Who know’s though, tomorrow I could wake up and be ready to write a post a day. That’s the thing I’ve found with writing, it’s a day to day process that you can’t give up on. You have to make the words come out, you have to force the thoughts into something readable because you can’t be a writer if you don’t write. Ever since I was a child I wanted to be a writer, not because I wanted to be famous or write the next great novel, but because I thought I had good ideas and stories to tell and the medium I wanted to do that through was words.

Thanks for all of you who keep up with the blog, I appreciate it and I hope the things I write about interest you and put a smile on your face. And all that needs to happen for me to not lose steam is for more fuel to be put in the fire.

Dreams of Fernandomania

This past weekend I took in my first Dodgers game of the season and uncharacteristically they won 8-0, had 17 hits, and Kershaw struck out 10 while only allowing 2 hits. If they did that all the time, they’d actually be a team to reckon with.

What was interesting was what happened the night before the game though. I had a dream. A dream that merged a number of things that had been going on in my head into one. I had a dream about meeting Fernando Valenzuela, the great Dodger pitcher. In real life the day before, Matt Kemp (@TheRealMattKemp on Twitter) had been tweeting about meeting fans at different Bank of America’s around Los Angeles and this is what caused my dream to happen I think.

In my dream I was pulling into a Bank of America and realized that there was an autograph session going on with someone in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform. I parked my car, walked up to the table and noticed that it was Fernando Valenzuela. I knew that somewhere in a stack of baseball cards that were in my trunk there was one of his cards (in my dream I guess I keep baseball cards in my trunk) and that I could get him to sign it.

I ran back to the car and sure enough, his was on top. I picked it up and looked at it only to have the wind blow and it fell back into the trunk and onto the pile of other baseball cards. I started to sort through the pile but couldn’t find his card, it was as if it had disappeared. After searching for a while I became frustrated and gave up, at least I was going to shake his hand and say hello.

When I got back inside the bank Fernando had changed from the Dodger uniform into a suit and was getting read to leave. I shouted out his name and he turned around as he was walking out the door. “I’m going to the game today, will you be there?” I called.

He smiled and walked out the door. Then I woke up.

 

What A Day May Bring (Part 2)

Kato

That afternoon his boss called him into his office. William was surprised because after two years of working here it was the first time that he had ever been asked to go into that office. It was turning out to be a good day after all – his boss wanted to give him a raise in pay, not much, but every shilling helped. They were impressed with William, he kept his temper, never shouted back at customers, was very patient, just the kind of person they wanted working there. So after a handshake and a slap on the back, he was back at his phone answering calls. He tried to be as helpful as he could, because he wanted the people at the other end of the line to have as good a day as he was having.

During his short break at four he called his wife and passed along the good news and told her that he would pick up some bananas and a pineapple on his way home, just as a small way to celebrate. He greeted his daughter as well, since she was in P2, she came home from school early in the afternoon, but starting next year she wouldn’t come home until the evening. She made him proud, at the end of the last school year she finished 3rd in her entire class. I am a blessed man, he thought to himself.

 

Wasswa

The old taxi park in the center ofKampalawas by far the craziest and busiest place in the entire city. Kassim waited. There were two more taxis in front of him that had to fill up before he could start collecting passengers. The conductor had run off to use the bathroom so Kassim sat in the semi-hot late afternoon sunshine. People sold everything here in the taxi park. Food, drinks, clothes, radios, car parts, anything you wanted really. A boy selling newspapers came by and Kassim took one to look at, of course he wasn’t going to buy it, he couldn’t even read that well, but at least it gave him something to do while he waited.

He finished and handed the paper back, the first taxi drove off so he started up the engine and drove forward one space.

 

Kato

Finally,six o’clock. He could begin the long ride back home. William cleaned up his little work area, and picked up his bag. He signed out and went outside. Traffic was backed up, but he knew he could get through it pretty quick on his bicycle. He rode downKampala Road, turned right onEntebbe, and made his way through the mess at Clock Tower. The evening was the most beautiful part of the day. The temperature was just right and he rode along at a quick speed, without even sweating. He stopped in Kabalagala and bought a pineapple and some bananas and put them on the basket at the front of his bike. He rode on through Kansanga and down the hill onto a long straight patch of road that led towards Ggaba.

Wasswa

Kassim drove through Kansanga with a full load. He was going to get to Ggaba in a few minutes and then make another four trips before calling it a day. They had just finished working on theGgaba Road– new pavement, no potholes, so he could make good time here after he was through Kansanga. He drove on, increasing his speed, because time is money.

 

Kato

The wind blew around him, refreshing him, this was a great day.

He didn’t see the pothole until it was too late to swerve. The water men had dug up the side of the road to fix a leaking pipe and hadn’t leveled the ground off again. His front tire hit the hole and threw his bike to the right. He couldn’t do anything about it, he was falling. He braced himself for the impact.

 

Wasswa

There was nothing he could do about it. The man on the bicycle fell just in front of him. Kassim hit the brakes, but there was a loud thump as the front left tire hit the man and another as the back one did as well. Kassim quickly pulled off the road, shouted at the passengers to stay in the taxi and ran back towards the man lying in the road.

There was a pool of blood around the man’s still body, he was already dead. The passengers didn’t listen and came and gathered around Kassim and this dead man. Other cars continued on their way paying little attention to what had happened. This sort of thing occurred quite often around here.

They had learned to ignore it.

What A Day May Bring (Part 1)

This is a story I wrote back in 2005 while living in Uganda. Death is a common part of life there and I wanted to write a story that would accurately capture that. It’s kind of long so I broke it up into 2 parts for the blog. This is Part 1.

When you woke up this morning you probably had a lot of things on your mind – what am I going to wear today? I think I should eat lunch at a restaurant or I never eat at restaurants anymore. Do I really have to go to work? Dear heavens, I have nothing at all to do today. Thoughts like that, but honestly, have you ever just woken up and thought – will today be the day that I die? Most likely, you rarely do, if ever. But maybe you should, maybe you should look at the bigger picture and realize that we really don’t have much control over our lives or when they will stop. Which they eventually will do. You can guard yourself from certain things: stay away from the alcohol, stay away from smokers, never fly, but what happens when you can’t control the situation: a drunk driver, bad weather, someone else’s foolishness. Let’s face the truth – death comes to us all, in one way or another. Maybe we should wake up and consider that today may be the last day that we’ll ever see. Would that change the way we think, or live, or act. Because we really don’t know what a day may bring.

Kato

The day was sunny, just like most of the days around here. A deep blue sky and a few scattered white clouds were all the eye could see if one cared to glance upwards.

William Kato certainly didn’t care.

He was late for work and that was all that was on his mind. Work was hard to come by here and losing his job would just be about the worst thing that could happen. He quickly pulled on a pair of brown trousers and buttoned up his white shirt with the red stripes and rolled the sleeves up to his elbows. A cup of tea that was too hot and burnt his tongue, teeth brushed, shoes and socks on, and then a quick good-bye to his wife Joy and his daughterLydiaand he was out the door.

It was a forty-five minute bicycle ride from his place in Ggaba to his workplace in centralKampalaand that was making good time.

The scenery blurred by as William peddled his old bike towards town, he quickly glanced down at his watch, he was making good time, maybe he would actually make it to work on time. Taxis passed by closer than he would have liked but to be fast he had to ride on the pavement and not in the bare soil. Banana trees passed as did the few minutes he had before he would be late and at one minute before seven William Kato pulled up in front of his office sweating and out of breath, but on time.

Of course when running late, or having fun time seems to fly, but when sitting in an office taking calls from annoyed customers the hands on the clock seem like they are moving backwards, but eventually it reached nine-thirty and William was released for a coffee break, or tea, whichever you enjoy more. He had his tea with two spoons of sugar and walked outside.

Kampalawas crazy, like always. People shouting, others were arguing, cars honking at one another because none of them were patient enough to actually wait their turn to go. Music blaring from shops around the corner, beggars on the street corners harassing people for their money and occasionally getting something. Women with blankets spread out on the sidewalk selling sweets, the daily papers, and other trinkets. A few white tourists and aid workers walking about in disarray because they had no idea where they were or how to get to where they were going. The usual.

William enjoyed his fifteen minute break, he always did. The office was too quiet, too controlled, too regular. Getting out on the streets for a few minutes always helped to relax him and put a smile on his face.

But then time was up and it was back to the grind until lunch.

Wasswa

Kassim Wasswa was a taxi driver. A Ugandan taxi driver. A minibus with seats for fourteen, seat belts for five, and usually carried twenty people. He didn’t own the matatu, which they are called here, another wealthier man did. Kassim’s job was to drive it fromKampalato Ggaba and back over and over again, taking as many passengers as possible in the day. The first twenty-five thousand shillings went directly to his boss, anything after that he split between himself and the conductor.

It was a nice day, the sun was shining like usual; he had already made three trips this morning since he started at six. But now it was mid-morning and traffic was heavy as everyone rushed into town for work. Kassim had a full taxi and was stuck in traffic at the Clock Tower roundabout. Bicycles and motorbikes squeezed between the bigger vehicles as they honked and pushed their way towards clearer roads. Pedestrians weaved their way across the road going to different destinations. Kassim was a patient man, he sat in this traffic everyday – twice, once in the morning and then again in the evening. Each day was the same, drive, drive, drive. He needed the money to support the small room he stayed in and to buy his cigarettes. That’s why he put up with this. He smiled, honked his horn, shouted a few choice words out the window and pushed his way a little further into the traffic.

Kato

William checked his watch again, nearly one – lunch time. The morning was dragging on. You wouldn’t believe how many people call to complain about electricity. “My power was off last night until eleven.” “My home hasn’t had electricity for two days now!” William was used to people shouting at him, but he didn’t mind because he couldn’t do anything about it. He wasn’t in charge of the electricity board he only passed along the complaints. So people could say anything they wanted to him, in any language, and it didn’t stick with him. When he went home at night, and was with his wife and child, he was happy and could forget all about work until the next morning.

Lunch. What should he eat for lunch? He checked in his pocket and pulled out two thousand shillings, enough for a small meal that would hold him over until the evening when he would enjoy rice, beans, chapati, and meat with his family. That thought brought a smile to his face as he picked up the phone to listen to another shouting customer.

Wasswa

Kassim shut off the engine of the matatu. He was parked off the side of the road at the turn around point in Ggaba village. It was lunch time so the children were all out of school buying small snacks for their stomachs. He walked down to the market and bought a mango and a small plastic bag full of water. A quick lunch and then on the go again. The more he drove, the more money he made, no time for wasting on eating. He bit into his mango as he walked back up the hill to the taxi. There was already a group of people waiting for him to drive them to town. He shouted for the conductor who came and slid open the side door and the passengers filed in. Kassim went over to the motorbike drivers and greeted them, then went back to the taxi and got in. He finished his mango and threw the seed out the window, then he drank the water from the plastic bag and threw it out the window as well. He knocked on the roof, the conductor shut the door and they were on their way back toKampala.

Survivor

I’m about 10 years behind the times (as I am with most reality shows) but I am hooked on Survivor. I watched this past season, Redemption Island,  that just finished and really enjoyed it but was told multiple times that it was just an “okay” season and that some of the older ones were much better. I listen to Survivor Podcast (www.survivorpodcast.com) and found out that there are old seasons available on  Youtube. They are in 10 minute increments but hey, they’re free. So, I started watching season 16, Fans vs. Favorites and wow, that was a good season. I’m on the last episode so I don’t know who won yet, but the challenges were awesome, the contestants were great, and there were a lot of blindsides and backstabbing, everything that makes good reality television. This is just a short post, but if you’ve never watched Survivor, check it out and I’m sure you’ll get hooked just like I did.

P.S. – The new season of The Bachelorette just started last night and I’m super stoked about that too.