Build a new better and happier you

It’s never too late, to be who you might have been. ~ George Eliot

I love the picture because of the idea of transformation that is encompassed by a ripped and bulked out minion. But I don’t just want to talk about physical transformations, although it’s where I’m going to start.

This post is focused on one single and simple message tonight, continuous improvement. We should all be attempting to get better over time. This does not have be obsessive, or overly taxing, but what’s the point of being alive if you aren’t learning anything from the experience?

So let’s start with our physical health, while yes, we are talking about continuously getting better, that doesn’t mean being in better physical condition at 60 than you were at 20, but it might. What I mean by this is at any point taking an assessment of where you are at and figuring out what needs to change to make you better. Developing a plan to do it and then following that plan. For me personally over the last year that has mean eating better to improve my blood sugar, working out in a different way to keep my cardio fitness outside of the gym and lifting more consistently to build some more muscle.

The goal at no point was to become fully Keto, never eat a pizza, run a marathon or become some kind of body builder. While I think you have to establish goals to give yourself something to aim for, the real win comes from doing better today, this week, this month or this year than you did the last. For me that has meant getting my blood sugar in the normal range, dropping some weight and running a 5k. I’m still not the best eater, I’m still technically overweight and the time for the 5K I talked about last week, wouldn’t even win the 80 and above category at any race. My sister, who just recently was also diagnosed with diabetes has done a much better job with her blood sugar and is regular 40 to 50 points lower than me. I’m proud of her for that and mention it here because she’s particularly happy when she beats me at things, so here’s a little public recognition to make her happy. Hey, it’s the Ministry of Happiness blog after all, we’re all about spreading happiness.

The key and most important thing is to assess where you are currently and simply figure out how to do better. How much? That’s up to you, but even small improvements over time can be beneficial from a health standpoint as long as you continue to make them.

Equally as important as your physical health is your mental health. This is the thing I have written the most about on this blog. And is something particularly on my mind as I officially report back to my office on campus this week.

Working from home has been tough for many people, due to complications with multiple people at home, lack of childcare, technical issues, etc… But for me, it’s been an absolute wonderful change. Now to be clear, I’m only talking about my at home work experience. COVID 19 has been horrid in so many ways for so many people, I’ve lost friends, happily no family members and we’ve all suffered mentally to a degree from the pandemic. However, for a heavy introvert and a person who is to a large degree a homebody, this was nearly my ideal work experience.

As a person whose main job is to manage people it has been nice to have some control over that aspect of the job. You see normally I have little control over interactions, you see people pop in the office, catch you at meetings, stop you in the hall, want to discuss things in the bathroom or while you’re walking across campus. They seem especially excited about talking to you at the exact second you have something due to your boss, or are about to leave campus for the day. Working from home all of those contacts come electronically. I choose when to reply to emails, texts and whether or not answer the phone when someone calls which gives me control over my time and space, an introvert’s dream.

Additionally, I have been able to schedule my time the way it suits me best and in a healthier way. I get to sleep in later since I don’t have get dressed up, eat before work or drive. I can eat later when I actually prefer to and cook food instead of re-heating things in a microwave all the time like I have to at work. At work, lunch almost always means eating at my desk while answering emails in between meetings. While at home I can actually take a break and eat while watching TV and spend 30 minutes away from business. This makes for a less stressful day. Finally, there is so much wasted time in the office, If there’s 30 minutes or an hour between meetings but I get interrupted with three, 10 minute conversations spaced apart, I basically lose the hour. What this means effectively is that I’m far more productive at home than in the office. I also can use the time in between meetings to do a short workout. This has led to me lifting more regularly over the last 15 months than at any other time in my life. Not to mention all of the multi-tasking benefits at home, doing laundry or cooking while I’m also working which has freed up a little extra time every night and on the weekends.

Being face to face with more people on a daily basis both in terms of social interaction and possible COVID contact makes this shift back a bit of an anxiety inducing event. Of course I’m a manager, so my job is to make sure that everyone else is taken care of, comes back in the way that’s best for them, and to help them with all of their mental health needs. Which of course begs the question, who is responsible for doing that for me? And regardless what may be on paper, the answer is also me.

In the end, the answer for all of us is that we are ultimately responsible for our own mental health. So remember if you are in a similar situation you have to stand for yourself. This means understanding your contract, your rights as an employee and how your supervisor works, but also what pressures they are under. You need to ask questions and you need to ask for what you need and want. Suffering in silence doesn’t do anyone any good and you don’t know what flexibility might exist if you don’t ask, so ask.

You also have to do all of the things you’ve always done to reduce stress and anxiety at work, but even more so. Don’t fall into the fallacy that things are as they were before or that you somehow now have to work harder to make up for lost time during the pandemic. Make sure you work when you work and take time off, that you do the things that help you reduce stress and don’t push so hard you burn out. Please take care of yourself my friends and have a happy day. ~ Rev Kane

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Something I’ve never done before

So today I did something I’ve never done before and it felt pretty good. I achieved a goal I’ve been chasing for a time. In March of 2020 I went to Mardi Gras, sure we’d been hearing about COVID 19 but it was in Europe and like SARS and MERS there was a pretty good chance it seemed it might be another primarily Asian epidemic. Shortly after returning from another amazing time in New Orleans COVID got real, real fast. A week or so later, we were closing campus, moving most classes online, suspending others, a week later we were working from home and are scheduled to return for the first time August 2nd, almost 18 months lataer.

Given the reality of things the gym was not a safe place to work out. I got a small bench and some dumbbells over time and was able to figure out my weight work, however my concern was with cardio. As someone who has high blood pressure, keeping my cardiovascular fitness is really important to keeping my blood pressure in check. So really there were two options, start jumping rope, which is really an excellent option but one I never seem to get into, or starting to run. I really hate to run, I mean really hate it. As I’ve said for years, I only run if there’s a ball in front of me or a dog behind me. But, given the options, I started in April of 2020 running the track at school. Man, that first night was incredible, I ran a very slow quarter mile on the track, walked a quarter then ran a second. The next day I was amazingly sore, it was a surprise, I typically walk 3-6 miles with no problem, but just this small bit of running beat me up bad.

I progressed over time but then we had to close the track at school down due to COVID. So I ended up finding a park to run in and kept working on it. I eventually even ran 2.4 miles one morning. My goal had been to run an Easter Bunny 5K but that race was cancelled and my motivation for running has flagged from time to time with no clear goal ahead. So a couple of months ago I set two goals, first to hit my goal weight of 175 by my birthday at the end of August, and to run a 5K by Thanksgiving. After my vacation I’ve been slow getting back to my weight loss goals, but I’ve re-entered the gym and the track at school has re-opened so I’ve been running regularly again (2 days a week) and even doing short runs on others day at the gym on the treadmill.

So this weekend I decided to tag a couple of things on my bucket list, the first was to see a great white shark and the second was to try and actually run a 5k for the first time. The shark trip was unfortunately a bust on the shark front, it was a little too cold for the white sharks to be at the surface. But it was a beautiful day on Monterey Bay, we saw a mother and calf set of Humpback Whales really close up and I did get a bucket list animal, I finally saw a sunfish, also called a Mola Mola up close. Didn’t have a chance for a good photo but got to see this giant about 7 feet away from me.

It was a really exciting encounter, I’d been a boat when one was spotted before but all I caught was a fin tip as it disappeared. This time I got to see it right at the surface, dive down a few feet and come back to the surface all on it’s side, only to tip back vertical and dive out of sight. In addition the tour company gave us vouchers for a free trip since things hadn’t panned out well. So a pretty awesome day all in all, as well as getting a slight sunburn while wearing SPF 50, once again proving I’m the second whitest man in America.

So after such a great Friday I was geared up to attempt my 5K on Saturday but I woke up Saturday and decided nope, lazy day, so I read, binged a bit of Killing Even and was basically lazy all day. So today was the day, I got up, ate a piece of coffee cake I’ve been saving, some eggs and a couple of hours later made my attempt.

My standard run right now is 6 laps, a mile and a half but I’m about to tick up to a mile and three-quarters. So today I was heading for 13 laps in order to get the 3.25 miles which is a 5K. Hitting lap seven I felt ok, ten laps would be 2.5 miles and the longest I’ve ever run. Around lap 9 I started to flag a bit and started thinking ten laps would still be a personal best and would be ok. Then my savior showed up, he was about 18 months old, an adorable little dude learning to ride his scooter. As I was doing lap 9 he got really excited to wave and say hi as I went by, it made my day. So we became running buddies, each lap as I came by he would say hi and wave excitedly, I would ask him if he wanted to race, he’d giggle and say no and the next lap we’d do it all over again. It was a nice pickup in my mood on each lap and he helped me hit my goal.

So I did my 5K, at the speed of an 80 year-old with a limp but I did it. My hope is to run one each month and even to do an official 5K race at some point. I grew up with a guy named Buddy, we been friends since little league and Bud runs the Turkey Trot 5K every year on Thanksgiving and I’ve always admired him for that, so I might just have to adopt his tradition.

Here’s a picture of me right after I finished and a minute before I grabbed my water bottle and laid naked in the periwinkle like a dork with the sun upon my nose. Ok, I kept my clothes on and it was grass, it was campus after all and I didn’t want to get arrested and fired.

The point tonight, beyond selfishly celebrating my achievement, is to remind you that you do need goals. Even little successes make you happier so you need to celebrate them. The bigger and more important point is that you should always try to get better. No matter your age or circumstances you can always get better, it just takes the will to do it. So take a deep breath, find the motivation and a way to reward yourself and go for it, get better and have happier days my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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Happy Little Whale Watch

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. ~ John Burroughs

I’ve written recently about being a bit in a funk, throughout the pandemic I’ve felt a bit lethargic, not really productive in my personal life. So this week I’ve made some more effort to get things rolling, I’ve been clicking off some of the things on my to do list. During the summers we get Fridays off, I really haven’t done much on the Fridays so far and they are running out far too quickly. So this week I put my Friday to good use and did a little whale watch out of Moss Landing just north of Monterey. It was an ok day, cloudy but the water was really calm and the temperature was good. We saw a few sets of humpbacks, a nice couple of pods of Rizzo Dolphins and the normal set of Monterey Bay critters, Pelicans, Otters, Sea Lions, Harbor Seals and some really cool Moon Jellyfish.

Hoping to head out again in a couple of weeks to do a Great White Shark trip, hoping it works out as well, enjoy the photos and have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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My COVID Times Diary: This was a test

There’s also some element of coming of age during the Reagan administration, which everybody has painted as some glorious time in America, but I remember as being a very, very dark time. There was apocalypse in the air; the punk rock movement made sense. ~ John Cusak

Please stand by, this has been a test of the Global Apocalypse Response System, this has only been a test. How do you know it’s been a test, well if it wasn’t a test, I’m pretty damn sure you would not be reading this on the internet. There is an amazing book by Laurie Garrett, written in 1995 entitled, “The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance.” In this book she basically predicts diseases like SARS, MERS and COVID 19 nearly 25 years before they appeared. Is she a witch, a psychic? No, just a rational, logical scientist who looked at the way we’re disturbing the environment, saw the emergence of diseases like HIV and Ebola and did some simple extrapolation. The title really tells you the story of the entire book, but it’s still worth a read.

But those diseases weren’t the apocalypse, COVID 19 has done a decent impression of the 1918 Flu, but of course we have much better medicine, treatments and hospitals than we did 100 years ago. And of course we have recently mastered CRSPR, which combined with a decade of work to develop vaccines for SARS and MERS allowed us to far more quickly develop a vaccine than ever before. You see the CRSPR technique allows for massively faster and easier gene manipulation, which is why we were able to so quickly develop mRNA vaccines for COVID 19. COVID 19 is a good virus, by that I mean it does the right things to survive, sure it kills some people, but mostly it doesn’t, and it doesn’t incapacitate them, sometimes it’s even asymptomatic. All of that means there’s a high likelihood that once it infects you, you’ll likely infect someone else, this after all is the core requirement for a virus’ existence.

So this wasn’t Captain Trips, if you’ve read Steven King’s, The Stand, you know what I’m talking about. This wasn’t that rare combination of an easy to spread, slow to fully develop illness with high mortality. That combination is the death knell of civilization as we know it, the kind of disease that could wipe out 95% of humanity. But the Apocalypse, and I’ll define that simply as events, fast or slow that result in a monumental impact on civilization as we know it, the Apocalypse does not have to be triggered by one thing.

Much like a stacked dominoes tipping into each other until all the dominoes have fallen, a disease could trigger lots of other issues, or be triggered by other issues such as Climate Change. We all live, mostly for reasons of necessary sanity, with the fantasy that this can never really happen. It really is just something in dystopian literature and films. We have even moved people who think about and prepare for the possibilities, “preppers/survivalists” to the margins of society and deem them to be nutjobs.

Part of the stress induced by the COVID pandemic was while it was a test, it was a good enough of a test to pierce through our illusion of the impossibility of the Apocalypse. We’ve gotten a really excellent view into how are fellow humans would react to the real thing. One thing that was absolutely proven to us, is that our fellow humans will NOT act rationally. How can I say that? Let’s start with the first thing that became a really hard to find commodity as a result of the pandemic, toilet paper. That’s right, people starting hoarding, of all things, toilet paper! Sure they moved on to some sensible things like hand sanitizer, but toilet paper was first. At various times, the hoarding hit Top Ramen style soups, then meat, then dried beans, canned foods and this was all in response to virus, that while it has killed 600,000+ people in America, that was out of roughly 35 million infections or about a 2% mortality rate.

We saw lock downs, silent streets and highways, people in some instances didn’t leave their homes for months in any significant way. The way we worked completely changed and continues to have implications. Our economy was heavily impacted and we are still seeing global supply chain issues that are leading to at least temporary inflation. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer and angrier, as did people disenfranchised in so many ways. And the world as a whole got nuttier. Political unrest globally is climbing, murder rates in the US are climbing and the political rift between right and left in America is now a chasm. So much so that one side of the debate has decided to abandon science and health recommendations in order to make it an issue for political gain.

And this was only a test, and the test isn’t over, the delta variant has shown us that. I know it’s scary as hell to think about things like the possibility of the world collapsing. But let’s not be stupid, a test is a good thing, as I always told my students when I was teaching. A test tells you where you are and what you need to get better at. So what did the COVID 19 test teach you?

I’m one of those nutjob preppers, to a degree. When COVID madness hit, I had toilet paper, medical supplies, I have a month’s supply of food, had latex gloves, masks, bleach, hand sanitizer all on hand. Not a year’s worth but enough to get by for a time until I could figure out how things would work during the pandemic. Now I realized I need to do a better job on a few fronts, things like having a longer supply of my medications on hand, I discovered I need to do a better job of rotating my emergency supplies, but all in all, I was pretty prepared.

What my preparations did for me was put me in a position of locking down without having to go without, or be terribly inconvenienced until I had time to assess what the new rules of the world were and that gave me piece of mind when a lot of other people were quite frankly freaking out. But we have the vaccines and for the overwhelming majority of us this all worked out ok. It gave us all some remember when stories we can tell friends when we gather in the coming years.

But don’t let what you learned in the test be a waste. It might not be a pandemic, but a wildfire, a collapsed building, an earthquake, political unrest. All of those things have happened in America in the last year and all of them could domino into something bigger that could force you to be on your own for weeks at a time. One of the things that is pretty common in dystopian literature, is that moment when a character realizes, the police, or national guard isn’t just going to show up with food, water and medicine. That’s the panic reality moment, I’m hoping the test has spurred you into putting yourself into a situation where that panic reality moment can come later than sooner.

This has been a test, a test of the Global Apocalypse Response System, this was only a test. The next time may not be.

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What’s your purpose and passion?

The purpose of life is a life of purpose. ~ Robert Byrne

Let’s start here, I have a very good life. I’m thankful for what I have, because even given all the work I’ve done to get where I am, no one gets by without help and at least a little luck. I’m relatively healthy, I have people that care about me and people I care about, even if there’s a bit of geography between us. I’ve accomplished many of the goals I’ve set forward that I wanted to achieve in life. I’ve got a job that pays me well, it provides very little personal satisfaction, but it pays well and in the end the work I do helps people improve their lives so the purpose of it all is fairly noble and that’s enough to get me through another few years to retirement.

What I’ve been realizing lately is that there are two things missing in my life, purpose and passion. Now, it’s not like I’m’ a complete nihilist, although the pandemic knocked me for a loop and left me a bit of a nihilist over the last few months, a condition I’m trying to reverse. But the bigger issue is a lack of purpose. This doesn’t mean I don’t have plans, I do. I have a pretty good path to retirement in a few years and some great plans for after.

And there are things I’m passionate about, I love photography and can happily spend hours shooting just about anywhere. My love for travel and new cultures is quite apparent to anyone who reads this blog regularly. But, like most of you, I have to eat and have a job that provides for me but doesn’t allow me to follow my passions. I do my best to pursue them when I can, and have done better than most in terms of quitting my job every few years and taking time to travel, sometimes for up to two years.

But the piece that is most missing for me is purpose. We all stumble across that existential existence question sooner or later. Why am I here, what has my life accomplished? For a lot of us we answer this question in the very existence of the species, by having and raising children we can fulfill this purpose. But for those of us who don’t have children, there isn’t such a straightforward answer.

So as I get older and start looking at the end of my life, how will I answer that existential question? I think for all of us, our interactions with people are part of our legacy. I would like to believe that for the most part, I’ve had a positive impact on the people I’ve interacted with in my life. I hope that the scales are tipped more in favor of the good I’ve done for people over the harm I’ve caused. We’ve all done a bit of both for sure. I especially hope that I’ve done more harm than good for my nieces and nephews.

What I feel most lacking right now is a purpose I can feel passionate about. For me, my work is work, not my purpose and not a passion. My photography, travel and writing are passions but not a purpose. So I’m on a bit of quest right now, it’s one that has seemed so immense, that it’s paralyzed me for a while. It’s one of those times I’m being forced to look back on the advice I give others while searching for a career path. And the first thing is to lay on a rock and let snowflakes fall on your head and let your mind go. Given the time of year however, I may have to refer to a bit of wisdom from Bloom County, and perhaps it’s far too long since I’ve been a naked dork, lying naked in the periwinkle with the sun upon my nose. Step 1 is set, I’ll keep you posted. ~ Rev Kane

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The Simple Joys of Life

The Simple Joys of Life

It’s been a long, complicated and hard year for most people. As life starts to come back to whatever we consider normal, I have found it difficult to figure out what I went to do as I return to pre-pandemic life. Part of the problem I think for me is that I’m over thinking the whole thing. It seems in many ways that I feel like I have to do something big to make up for lost time, and then once I consider the actual realities of where we still are in terms of the pandemic, I end up not doing anything.

Oddly, starting to go to the gym again has given me some insight into this issue for me. I’d almost forgotten how much I like the simple structure of gym time. While I did a good job over the last year of working out with dumbells at home. I was able, due to working from home, to stay really consistent with a lifting schedule and that was great. But it doesn’t compare to having the variety of equipment available as well as being able to combine cardio easily with my lifting schedule. But after a few days in the gym I missed my daily walks and so today, on a particularly sunny day, took a nice long walk after my gym workout.

A big reminder for me in this is how much we need to focus on the simple things in life that make us happy. For me this week, I had a big reminder besides the lovely walk today. My littlest niece got her birthday presents from me and my brother sent me a lovely picture of her holding them all at once. The look on her face was that, I don’t know which one I want to deal with first look. Later that day she sent me an Instagram video with a filter that made her a pickle, and it just repeated with her saying, “look, I’m a pickle.” Made my whole day that she wanted to send me that.

Today I took a nice slow walk by the ocean and really was present during the walk, reminding myself how much I love the fact that I live close enough to do that anytime I feel the need. It’s important to focus on how these little things can bring incredible joy into our lives. Especially given that the little things are so much more accessible and overall likely provide the bulk of our happiness.

Whenever I think about the idea of simple pleasures in my life I think about a particular day I had right in the middle of much bigger adventure. I wrote about this in my book about the Appalachian Trail, and it happened in Virginia. On a really perfect summer hiking day, you know the type, 75 degrees with a nice breeze and big puffy while clouds in the skies. I walked into a county park, it was marked on the hiking maps because there was piped drinkable water and actual bathrooms. So I stopped in the park to eat lunch. On the trail it was always a good day when you had someplace you could stop, sit at a picnic table, not have to treat water and have an actual bathroom to use, maybe even find a vending machine with a coke.

But the most magnificent part of the day was after lunch when I decided to just take a break. So I threw my pack up on the table and laid down in the sun and just watched clouds. I hadn’t done that since I was a kid. And I laid there for about two hours, it was funny, people I knew on the trail would come through the park, say hi, hang out and split but I just laid there. It felt great, it was a moment in my life when I felt absolutely no obligation, and no pressure. It truly felt like I was a kid again. The fact was, I could get up and hike to where I was planning on camping that night, or I could lay there all day and hang my hammock in the park for the night. Those simple, free and unobligated moments in life are few and far between as an adult.

When you find yourself in a moment of simple pleasure, it’s important to slow down, become present and really immerse yourself in how wonderful and special those times are and have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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Happiness Resources

Happiness Resources

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life. ~ Omar Khayham

It’s been awhile since I’ve searched the web for articles and resources to help with all of our happiness. So tonight a little tour around the web, have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane

From Forbes, How to create a happy workspace.

Lessons from the Happiest Countries in the World.

The Pursuit of Happiness: What we learned from the pandemic.

More evidence spending money on others makes us happier

How to plan the best vacation for your happiness.

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Happiness Moments: Tainted Love

Happiness Moments: Tainted Love

So I’m a day late for my weekly post, just didn’t have anything yesterday, to tell the truth, I still don’t. I’m a funny sort of writer, I’m much more inspired when things are bad then when they are good. And right now, things are pretty good, just had a really good vacation, had a slow and easy weekend, even my Monday, although starting far too early, was pretty mellow. I even made one of the best dinners of my life tonight, bacon wrapped, stuffed cabbage it was absolutely tasty.

But the work calls and if I don’t write a post on Sunday, it’s a necessity I get to it on Monday. But like I said, I’ve got nothing tonight. While driving back from campus this afternoon Tainted Love, by Soft Cell came on the radio and that always takes my mind to one place. A little bar where I grew up and the summer of 1983.

Where I grew up I had a friend named John, who happens to have three incredibly beautiful older sisters. They were legendary in the neighborhood, hell, the whole town for that matter. Kathy, the middle sister was my favorite. She set a model for women I would be attracted to for most of my adult life, slim, beautiful, long dark hair and big chocolate eyes. She was lithe and sensuous and around her I was a babbling idiot with a raging crush. She loved it, there is something about young attractive adult women that makes them enjoy playfully torturing younger guys with crushes. The sisters were no exception and Kathy was the worst, they loved touching my hair or whispering in my ear just to watch my face turn beet red.

I grew up in a weird time, I turned 18 during the Reagan years. The drinking age was 18 which was somehow offensive to conservatives. They were ok with me going to war at 18 as evidenced by the re-activation of the Selective Service Act, but God forbid I should have a drink. So although the drinking age was 18 when I turned 18 in August of 1982, it went up to 19 in January of 1983. So I was legal for 4 months, then illegal for 8 months, no grandfathering in, but once I turned 19 somehow I got grandfathered in for 21. Like I said, weird times.

It was also long enough ago that in New York drivers’ licenses were still card stock with no pictures. So it was not too difficult to change the 8 in the month of my birthday to a 3, just took carefully erasing half of the 8. It held up under casual scrutiny and the bar I wanted to hang out in that summer casually scrutinized IDs. So almost every night I got in and was able to drink underage. It was in that bar that I first heard Tainted Love and they played it often.

Occasionally from time to time the police would do a quick walk through and check for underage drinkers. They were mostly there I think to check out the women in the bar but it was still a problem for me. You see, my mother was the local police clerk, so I knew every single officer in the department. Not to mention my uncle and cousins were sheriff deputies and when they decided to really bust underage folks the sheriffs would join in as well.

So most nights they would stroll through and it was easy enough to slip out the back, or even slip by when they were taking to a pretty woman and avoid being seen. But one particular evening they were determined to bust underage drinkers. Officers, and a fair number, came in from both entrances and were being very determined. I was being squeezed into a vice of an underage drinking charge, I knew every officer who had come in, they all knew I was underage. I slipped into the middle of the bar and was looking frantically for a way out of this mess. I’m sure I looked quite panicked.

Then, the hand of an angel gently rested on my shoulder, “sit down she whispered in my ear,” I complied, when and angel speaks, you listen. As the cops closed in she sensuously climbed onto my lap and my friend’s sister Kathy looked me in the eye, smiled and began kissing me, very passionately. Apparently, having the tongue of a beautiful woman fully down your throat while on your lap makes you look of age. We made out for like 10 minutes, until the officers worked through the bar and took several people out of the bar for underage drinking.

In a moment, my night went from horror and absolute hell, to the most heavenly thing my young 19 year-old brain could imagine. She broke the kiss, looked around to make sure the cops were gone and gave me the biggest Cheshire Cat smile you’ve ever seen. I’m sure I looked stunned, I know I had one hell of a smile on my face. She slowly got off of my lap, leaned down, whispered, “thanks, that was fun,” in my ear, kissed me on my cheek and walked away. That was one hell of a night and Tainted Love always takes me back there.

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A True American Road Trip

A True American Road Trip

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

So I disappeared for a couple of weeks and was basically doing a classic American road trip. I did a big loop. I drove out of the bay area to Bakersfield, from there to Las Vegas, a quick stop for the night in Albuquerque, then down to Roswell, Carlsbad Caverns, back through to Holbrooke, AZ and Petrified Forest National Park, a return to Vegas, up to the ghost town of Bodie, CA and home. A little about each below.

Las Vegas – Part 1

Arrived in a very open Vegas, it was kind of weird being someplace where over 90% of the people were maskless. I hit town and decided to gamble for an hour before meeting friends for dinner, I won $1500, the trip was off to a wonderful start. Dinner with old friends was fabulous. Drove out the next day with an overnight stop in Albuquerque.

Roswell

Roswell was what I expected Roswell to be. It was a bit of a tourist trap, but in such a campy, 50s movie sense of the world that I thought it was marvelous. It was just goofy fun, lots of super fake aliens, t-shirt shops and aliens everywhere. I dug the International UFO museum, the black-light space walk and just the general fun sense of the whole place.

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns absolutely blew me away. The magnificent size of the inside of the caverns was absolutely mindboggling. To see stalactites and stalagmites that are 60 and 80 feet long everywhere left me in awe. It was an absolutely fascinating place to walk through.

Petrified Forest, Holbrooke

Petrified Forest is a bit of a letdown, it’s my own fault, the image that hits my brain with the title is this idea of some sort of standing ancient forest. Of course ancient wood that has been turned into rock obviously had to be laying in the ground. So the site is pretty, open prairie land but not much else. But I did stay in a fabulously funky little motel that gave me a cold bottle of water and an ice cream sandwich at check-in.

Vegas – Part 2

Vegas on the second stop was great again, won some more money, and got to see two old friends. My friend John manages a boxing gym in Vegas and I got to be meet a famous boxer Rafael Marquez, he was super nice. Then my friend Jackie who I graduated from high school with was in town with a friend, we met for a drink. And while talking with them it turns out her friend had read my book Appalachian Trail Happiness, it was a really fun moment of recognition for both of us.

Bodie, CA

A little visit to Bodie, one of California’s more famous ghost towns. It’s a really interesting place and you can’t beat a chunk of amazing history for an $8 entry fee. One super interesting thing and you can see it hanging in the left upper corner of the image. Is a light bulb that is functioning and well over 100 years old.

I talk a lot about the need for time off and relaxation, to make sure that we balance out the stress of work with the relaxation of fun and vacation. For me, a lot of that is about getting away and a road trip is a great way for me to do that. Hours alone driving, my music cranked up high, all the little oddities that you encounter on the road, the weird little moments are all life candy to me.

Driving through New Mexico, heading to Roswell, you begin to realize how out in the middle of nowhere Roswell really is. There’s this feeling when I’m driving through big open country. In New Mexico I turned south on highway 270, it’s one of those nice, four-lane roads with very little traffic. Speed limits seem basically irrelevant, you always have that, what if I break down moment? But there’s this incredible feeling of freedom on the open road. Flying along, my music cranked up, open space in every direction, I feel like I’m truly flying. Like gravity and life hold no sway, that I am truly free to go where I want, how I want and be whoever I want to be, anything at all. It’s also a dangerous moment for me, I’m never as close to just disappearing into the sunset as I am on those roads. I feel the draw of complete anonymity and a vagabond lifestyle pulling me away from default life. I need every once in awhile to feel that pull and be completely on that edge, my version of screaming into the abyss and waiting to hear what the echo has to say.

I thought a lot about the idea of a spacecraft crashing out there, so far from anything. I get why a secret military base was located out there. My god, in the 1940s, Roswell would have been beyond isolated, secrets would be easy to keep in a place like Roswell. Who knows, today it’s campy plastic aliens and Dairy Queens. I’m glad I visited, it was fun, the road miles help my psyche and seeing old friends and getting my first hugs in over a year was good for my soul. Definitely happy days my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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Roswell! Roswell!! Roswell!!!

Roswell! Roswell!! Roswell!!!

If an alien came down from Mars and saw us all taking selfies and the like, I think it’d up and leave. It’d think we were all mad. ~ Joe Cole

Roswell! Roswell!! Roswell!!! I can’t remember what TV or movie this is from, maybe an episode of the X Files. And it really fits my whole impression of Roswell and also why I have always wanted to go there. I was an avid reader as a kid, and I always dug Saturday movies on cable. Given my age I’m the perfect person to become fascinated by the whole UFO phenomenon.

The UFO craze hit heavily in the US during the 1950’s after a number of incidents in the late 1940’s that captured America’s collective imagination. There was a report of saucers in the Northwest by Kenneth Arnold, the Battle of Los Angeles, and of course the infamous crash at Roswell reported in the newspapers by the United States Air Force as, “RAAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region,” and hit a fever pitch with UFOs being spotted over Washington DC and the Whitehouse on successive weekends in 1952. Now I wasn’t born yet but it was these events and a slew of alien invasion Scifi flicks in the 50’s that created a cultural interest in UFO’s.

So as a kid as I watched monster movies and alien movies, I had a growing awareness, add in my interest in science fiction, reading about alien worlds and space travel and I was ripe for what happened in the 1980’s. In the 80’s we got a whole new slew of really great alien focused Scifi, and then in 1980, Charles Berlitz’s book, The Roswell Incident came out and re-ignited interest in the alien visitation, Budd Hopkins’ book Missing Time, building off of the Betty and Barney Hill abduction story brought alien abduction ideas into the culture. All of this of course caught my imagination and I’ve been fascinated ever since.

So of course in America, the holy grail of UFO culture is a visit to Roswell, New Mexico. The problem with a Roswell visit is that Roswell is really out there. It’s in the middle of New Mexico a couple hours south of Highway 40. But given the pandemic, traveling internationally is not really on the menu right now, so I’ve decided to do a road trip. I’ll drive through Vegas and out to Roswell and spend a couple of days there while also visiting Carlsbad Caverns. Looping back through Petrified National Forest National Park, Vegas again. Appropriately a ride up through the Extraterrestrial Highway and past Area 51. Landing at a pretty famous ghost town, Bodie and finally back home.

This will very much be a road trip in the traditional Americana type of road trip. I’m staying, for the most part at smaller hotel/motels, and definitely planning on hitting as many roadside attractions as I have time to hit. A lot of photography, a little writing and reading and a complete absence of work. So a week of doing nothing but things I love, photography, traveling, listening to music, nothing serious and hopefully just having fun. Roswell is a giant, kitschy tourist trap and I plan on digging every minute of it.

How does this fit in with the Ministry of Happiness, work/life balance and all of the things we normally discuss? Really simply, doing the things you enjoy, having fun, exploring your interests, well this is the life, in your work/life balance and you should go at it at least as hard as you go at the work side of that equation. And when you do, these will be the especially happy days you’ll have my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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