A smile shone from my face as I was cruising down the highway en route to Dallas as my truck turned 200,000 miles. Not long ago 100,000 miles was the benchmark for a long life on a vehicle. Today, cars are capable of incredible lifetimes so long as they are properly maintained. I will admit to some pain in the butt repairs; however, most of the mileage put on my truck has been worry free. It is nearly 20 years old; however, I still receive compliments on how new it looks as I wash and wax its exterior pretty regularly. Under the hood, I have also spent a decent amount of time cleaning, changing fluids, and replacing worn out parts. It has been a reliable side-kick on which I have depended to help me move furniture, lumber, and generally get me to my destination safely.
When I was younger, I had dreamed of owning sports cars and expensive luxury vehicles. I had seen my peers attracting beautiful women while they drove off in their status symbols. I had conflated the idea of needing such status in order to attract beautiful women. To some extent this is true; however, as I matured I learned that such people who are attracted to external sources of happiness will never achieve true happiness as they will always be in search of the next thing from which they can derive joy.
Since most of us start off relatively poor, we have to make do with what options we have available to us. My first vehicle was a hand me down station wagon. I loved it! It represented freedom. While it took me everywhere that I wanted to go, it certainly was not a status symbol. I think it was an ingenious device that was devised by my parents to keep me a virgin for as long as possible.
Over the years, I've driven a number of vehicles, but nothing quite like my 4runner. I knew I wanted this exact model for some time before I purchased mine. I have a friend who used to buy vehicles at car auctions who let me tag along to search for a good deal. In order to attend these vehicle auctions one must be a licensed dealer so it was definitely a learning experience. I saw a lot of beat up trucks with too much wear and tear. Most people don't take care of their vehicles properly.
I also went to a few dealerships in my spare time, but nothing special stood out. In my professional life, I was excelling rapidly with increasing commissions each month. I paid off most of my debt as well as my car at the time which I planned on keeping as my recreational car (it was a fun little convertible). Then one cold day in December, I was asked out by a really cute tall girl at the bank where I worked. We set up a date for the weekend. My co-workers gave me high-fives, but teased how I was going to get her to fit in my small convertible. That same day I received a call from one of the dealerships that I had visited earlier with the salesman boasting that he had found the exact model and color that I was looking for. After work, I stopped by and saw my 4runner standing majestically in the showroom after a fresh cleaning and detail. Five years earlier, I sat in the same showroom filling out a finance form while I applied for my first vehicle loan; however, with fate and new fortune I confidently told the salesman to arrange the purchase. When he asked me how I would be paying, I told him, "Cash".
I felt like a gangster with my suit and paying cash for a car as young as I was, but I knew that I was making a sound decision with this purchase. I know vehicles are terrible but necessary investments*, and having worked for financial institutions for many years I didn't want to give them any more interest than they already stole from my money in the first place. This truck was to become my faithful work horse which after extensive research I decided was the best candidate to achieve my desired life span of 250,000 miles before I would seek to find a replacement. The odometer read 67,000 at the time of purchase since it was a few years old, but incredibly well maintained as I compared it to the many others I had investigated before.
Now over 10 years later, I am amazed at how well it has aged even at this much mileage it has been such a faithful truck. I still split my drive time between my recreational vehicle (my motorcycle) and the 4runner which helps keep the annual mileage low. It is no longer regarded as a higher status luxury SUV as it once was in its prime; however, this helps to keep my profile low and not attract the wrong attention. The wrong attention consists of materialistic women/people who conflate expensive cars with status and attraction or even thieves (as was the case for my old Harley Davidson).
Oh and as far as the date with the tall cute girl, she turned out to be engaged and was looking to fool around before her fiancé moved into town. Thank God nothing materialized from that; however, I attribute my good fortune to being looked after by angels and of course, The Almighty.
― Romans 8:28
PS: After 200,000 miles the transmission gear shifter felt a little loose, but after a simple $3 fix it's tighter than a frog's butt.
I am so grateful to have my father in my life! He has taught me through example of how to be a good man. Let me back up for a moment and share the good news. I finally bought a house here in Austin! I have been searching for years and only in the last few months have my options become a solid reality.
After making a few offers and taking some rejection, my prayers were answered with an amazing home. My dream of having a garage finally came true. The home was built in 2014, but despite being somewhat new, the previous owners had left evidence of their pet's indiscretions. I knew not to be scared of cosmetic damages as I have developed the skills to remodel, renovate, and restore from having grown up around construction sites my whole life.
My father still owns and runs a construction company which me and my brothers have worked at since we were young. Despite being the owner of the company, my dad used to pick up brooms and clean each job as if it were his own building. In fact, I would summarize construction as a constant battle with cleaning up strategic messes.
I received the keys to my house about 45 days before my lease ended at my apartment which would give me enough time to make the renovations that I wanted to perform on my newly acquired asset. I decided to replace the downstairs carpet with wood flooring due to pet stains and allergens. Having remodeled several houses before, I knew that I could tackle this project with the skills and know-how to get the job professionally done. I could hear my father's voice warning me to wear safety glasses, to measure twice before cutting, and to take my time with preparations. I found myself having short conversations throughout the day with him.
There were unexpected challenges like electrical wiring issues, delivery and transportation of heavy appliances, as well as plumbing obstacles; however, amazingly, I was able to resolve all of these concerns with what I learned from my dad. For instance, I heard him telling me to mark the toilet flange with tape when I removed the old commode to install the wood floor and brand new luxury throne. I heard him tell me to go slow and take my time with cleaning and preparing the sub floor before making my first cut. After each day, I heard him remind me to take the time to clean up the "job site" and take care of my tools. I laughed as I used my electric blower to push the saw dust into the alley in a cloud of wooden sand, which sounds like something my dad would do.
While I worked on my house, I decided to list my apartment on a short term rental site to guests visiting Austin. I have listed my apartment in the past while I was traveling and I am grateful for the skills learned to be able to generate income while I worked on my house. In a short time I was able to offset my rent and make enough money to finance my home renovations. Thank God!
I would spend my day waking up early to work on the house, and around lunch I would break to check out guests and reset the apartment for the next visitors. The whole process took about an hour which I streamlined down to about 30 minutes. I found myself competing to beat my previous time (Launder and change sheets/towels, wipe counters and bath area with cleaner, vacuum and mop floors, transfer clean laundry to dryer, and dispose of trash on my way out). Some guests were cleaner than others. Some were barely there, and some where just plain rude. I did my best to detach my personal feelings from having to clean up after strangers only to return home and clean up after myself (construction is constant clean-up). Reminding myself that each guest was helping me to transition from my four years of living in a cozy apartment to moving into my own customized house kept me focused and grounded on my mission.
My Dad would have been proud that I was using his business acumen to finance my construction project and shape my world according to my tastes. Although my brothers and I didn't exactly follow in the family business, we each have acquired the skills to fix anything. I always thought we were too much like him to follow, but rather we were born to lead. Each of us have grown into men capable of building and working on our vehicles and houses. We are familiar with tools and have spent many hours cleaning and maintaining them. He taught us to be independent, to work for ourselves, and to have faith in Heaven above. I am proud to come from my father and even when our time has come in this life, He has taught me to stay connected to Him in the afterlife. Thank you for everything and I love you! Happy Birthday, Dad!
Ps: I found a good deal on a microwave that was missing the mounting hardware, but being my father's son I was able to construct my own brackets for less than $3 using a riveter and framing hardware from the home depot. #resourceful
Morpheus: I see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, that's not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?
Morpheus: Why not?
Neo: Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life.
Morpheus: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Neo: The Matrix.
Morpheus: Do you want to know…what it is?
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work…when you go to church…when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: [leans in closer to Neo] That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind.
Morpheus: Unfortunately, no one can be…told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. [opens pillbox, empties contents into his palms, outstretches his hands] This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill [opens his right hand revealing blue pill], the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill [opens his left hand revealing red pill], you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. [Neo, after a pause, reaches for the red pill] Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more.
This scene from the 1999 movie classic, The Matrix, is one of my favorite dialogues between characters. It's incredibly deep and takes awhile to wrap one's mind around even after replaying a few times.
This conversation alludes to a regular person [Neo] who instinctively feels that something is wrong with the world and he seeks to find answers by seeking out the Truth.
What do we do when we, ourselves, become lost and cannot see the path? How do we make sense of what we cannot see, hear, touch, or taste? When our physical senses have fallen short, we can always rely upon our spiritual sense to guide us.
Long ago our ancestors circumnavigated the globe using the light from the stars to orient themselves and make sense of their position. This is not far off from the metaphor of looking to the heavens for guidance.
The world is at war with the spirit, going so far as to even deny its existence (A necessary stance in order to enslave others). It is focussed only on itself, the here and now. To those plugged in to the world, hearing the messages broadcast throughout radio, television, movies, and advertising, we hear the path to happiness lies in acquiring wealth, or indulgent consumption of material, food, and drink. It's all about getting ahead through earthly pleasures; however, these temporary highs never seem to last, like a spoiled child whose parents indulge their every whim. The story rarely ends with true satisfaction and instead the more likely outcome is that the child grows up without the ability to free themselves from material dependence thereby becoming a slave to worldly vices such as ego, jealousy, lust, and greed.
The spiritual world cannot be experienced by those entrenched in the material world (one would have to first learn to empty themselves of their ego). The further we entangle ourselves with earthly pleasures to meet our happiness needs, the more difficult it becomes to interact with the spirit world. Most of us have heard that true happiness comes from within, and this is true because when our spirit experiences joy it flows from inside ourselves.
One of the ways that I've come to interact with the spirit world has been through observing the behavior of other human beings that have been blessed with incredible abilities to influence the world. These individuals have been famous athletes, musicians, and priests, each of whom give credit and testimony to the Almighty, God the Father, for their talents and skill. The source of their abilities, they claimed, flowed from their spirit.
(In order to test his skill, the musician Prince wrote and released music under different names and artists to see if his work would be recognized and commercially successful; it was. His ego was not tied to his name.)
Most film and music production companies control what the masses see and hear. They determine who becomes a star for the people to idolize and in turn buy their records or pay tribute to see their films. These production studios operate like modern day Sanhedrin, Pharisees, Sadducees, or mafia with enough power to get away with rape, manipulation, and murder which they commit in darkness and in secret.
But every now and then, a human blessed with the Holy Spirit rises to the top of the public eye with their own "God given" talent and wins the adulation of the masses which takes profit away from the corrupt studios who try to control or intimidate these stars. They did it with Prince and Muhammad Ali. But instead of buckling under mafia/government pressure these stars placed their faith in God who protected them and in turn they glorified His holy name.
See for yourself which of your favorite 'stars' is a spiritless puppet and who is actually a person of divine character. People mostly cheer for the stars with enormous egos, who seem to glamorize earthly pleasures; however when we ourselves are lost and unhappy which stars can we look to find guidance and direction?
The Holy spirit hides in plain sight among us. It inhabits the bodies of those who welcome it into their own spirit allowing regular people to accomplish incredible feats, to stand up to behemoths and win. Unless we learn to recognize the Spirit's presence we will always be slaves to the material world, like mindless zombies chasing ways to (temporarily) satisfy our earthly hungers.
Be filled with the Holy Spirit, and may you witness and bear testament to its amazing ability to transform your life! Wake up from the matrix, forget what you think you know, empty your old ego and narcissism. Make room for the Spirit and be guided by heaven's light!
"Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher sent by God. No one could perform the miracles you are doing unless God were with him." Jesus answered, "I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again of water and the Spirit."
― John 3:2-5
Each year in Dallas around mid-March, the city celebrates St. Paddy's Day with the most epic parade. In the spirit of adventure and building community with my friends and residents I decided to resurrect the GFC tradition of 'surfing' the streets with a beer and some friends.
The adventure began on Friday evening when I picked up Christina in my trusty 4runner to leave Austin and head North up to Waco (the mid point of our journey) to feast at a recently discovered hidden seafood gem. While driving up to Dallas on a lenten Friday, I discovered "Tejun: the Texas Cajun" Restaurant while searching for a place to eat that served fish. The restaurant is located just east of highway 35 in the suburb of Robinson, TX. The venue is perched upon a scenic pond where large parties can gather for functions and events such as bachelor/ette parties, birthdays, etc. The parking lot was packed with cars wrapped around the building with trucks and SUV's parking on the nearby fields.
Luckily we found some prime parking as a guest was leaving which set the tone for a most fortunate weekend adventure. The food was amazing and worth writing about for any reader fortunate enough to venture this way and taste for themselves. (East exit 329, New Robinson Rd)
We reached my Dallas Condo around 10pm. The next morning we woke up and made a Costco run to purchase a large pizza for us and our residents to fill our stomachs before making our way to the parade where we would be walking and drinking beer for most of the afternoon. After eating, we made our way to the Dart rail station to ride with fellow parade goers down to the festival. The festivities started off around noon by Lover's Lane and Greenville Avenue. With nearly 125,000 people in attendance this year, the parking/traffic situation was sure to be a nightmare which is why we rode the train which dropped us off about a block away from the action. It's the only day of the year that I know of where people can openly carry bottles and cans of alcohol as they walk the streets. The parade floats are largely decorated trailers with live bands and people throwing green St Paddy's: beads, vodka jello shots, and local business advertisement swag.
We walked along the parade route towards the finish line for about a mile while catching necklaces and other St Paddy's paraphernalia. We passed thousands of people sporting their St Patrick's day clothing, face paint, and costumes. Many families with small children mixed with tipsy adults who smoked and drank. There were food trucks, restaurants, and port-a-potties everywhere.
After the parade the masses flooded South Greenville avenue which was closed to vehicle traffic and stationed with security officers. We walked around checking out the bars and crowds before stopping off at house party held by a beer/running club that I used to frequent when I lived in Dallas. Some of them still remembered me. They were grilling ribs, serving beer, and singing which appealed to our mood.
After a few beers we needed to use the restroom which we met with incredible wait times so we decided to use alternative locations. Christina found a "ladies only" port-o-potty behind someone's house, and I found a 24hr fitness center where I maintain a membership. We also got chased out by a sushi shop owner on another washroom trip. We 'people-watched' for a few hours before deciding to ride the rail back up North to have a late lunch at "Ye ole butcher shop" a tradition we've held in past parades.
When we finally made it back home, we finished up the last of the breakfast pizza and took a much needed rest before getting dressed and heading back out to a party that evening. The trip was truly a whirlwind adventure with good food, friends, and fun.
I like to tell stories and think about thoughts.
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