Friday, February 17, 2006

A brewing controversy over identity. Let's address it here.

Don Ray is the luckiest person on the fact of the earth -- even though, sometimes he believes he's stupid and crazy. Enough of the third person stuff.

I'm lucky because I have the best friends and family that any human being has ever had. Many of them are on the journal list I send by e-mail to alert them that I've posted something new on this exploratory blog.

More than a dozen of you have made comments about my playful, self-efacing use of the words "stupid," "idiot," "crazy" and others I can't remember.

I'm caving in for now because one of my most treasured friends said he won't even read any posts that have such words in the title -- much less in the actual posting. Since I had named the blog Don Ray's Stupid Adventures, that would make it impossible for him to get to read anything.

So it's here and now that I'm going to explain myself regarding this issue and hope that, in the end, my friends and family will still want to take vicarious pleasure in my silly (oops) -- most serious and important online publication.

But first, a brief story about last night. Stay tuned. I'll get back to the silly and stupid and crazy issues following the anecdote.

I was tired last night -- exhausted. I'm not sure if it was because if the mental energy I've been putting into the consulting assignment, the exercise I'm getting, the fact that I'm sweating like a pig (I'm sorry, I'm glowing a lot) in the oven-like atmosphere inside my hotel room, the TV station and any other building I enter. I'll probably tell that story later.

Anyway, I was checking my e-mail and doing a little bit of research in to Staro Sajmiste (if you don't know about this, let me know and I'll post more about it on the blog for the new readers) when a very loud series of reports echoed through the buildings that cluster around this hotel. It was rapid fire -- as if it were coming from a semi-automatic rifle -- an M-16 or an AK-47 perhaps.

There were nine consecutive "bangs". I counted them, I guess to determine how many rounds were in the weapon's magazine. Then there was a series of bangs of a different nature that sounded as if someone else was firing back with another type of weapon.

I'm an absolute coward (check that -- I have a low threshhold for the survival instict), so when I could see the flash coming from out the window and down below my second floor (they call it the first floor here) room, I darted to the bathroom so that I could put at least one solid wall between me and the floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open to my little balcony. I would have gone straight out into the hallway had I had a stitch of clothing on (remember, it's really hot in my room).

From the bathroom, I stuck my head out cautiously to see the flashes as the explosions grew into what sounded like the shootout at OK Corral. Then, I noticed that some of the flashes were lighting the area in different colors. Tracers, maybe? (Those are bullets that burn as they travel so that the shooter can know where they're going). But I've never seen tracers in such a vivid blue or in green. Something didn't look right. Besides, I never heard the sound of the bullets hitting anything.

I cautiously walked back into the main part of my hotel room -- lights out, of course. I always function better in the dark. There are two sets of large, double, glass doors that open to the balcony. But beyond them are two more doors made of wood that work like venician blinds -- blinds that only allow me to see down -- not up.

That, of course, is why all of the flashes appeared to be coming from below. I opened the two glass doors and then slightly opened one of the wooden doors -- but only slightly. No, I didn't think that the thin wooden blinds would protect me from bullets from a high-powered rifle -- I didn't have any clothes on, remember?

That's when I discovered the most beautiful fireworks show that was, conveniently, being staged somewhere beyone, but between the buildings behind my hotel. My relief was quickly eclipsed by the realization that the stupid (can I refer to my camera as stupid) digital camera I bought for this trip had a setting somewhere in it for fireworks. What the heck. What a great picture it would make. But where was my camera? In my pants pocket. The pants were on one of those silly (live with it, OK?) racks that I see pictures of in the in-flight, you-must-have-one-of-these-gadgets magazines. You know the little buttler thing that allows you to hand your coat and tie and stuff.

The pants were covered by the shirt I wore yesterday. The shirt was covered by the overcoat I wore over the shirt yesterday (but only when I was outside in the rain -- otherwise, I don't like to wear a coat). I finally found the pants and then found the right pocket. I had to go back into the bathroom where the light was on so that I could see the settings on the camera.

When I got the camera ready, I started toward the wooden doors but remembered again my lack of clothing. The quickest remedy was the overcoat. I actually laughed at the thought that I'd never worn an overcoat before without underclothing on the inside. I thought about how strange it might look to people looking out their window. A flasher, by all definitions.

OK, I had the camera, I had the overcoat on and I opened the door. Before I could reach up with the camera, the final rocket red glare and the bombs burst into the night.

Here's the picture I got:

You'll have to use your imagination or Photoshop to experience what I almost experienced. Sorry that it's a bit out of focus -- the camera was probably saying, "What in the heck are you asking me to shoot? You said you wanted fireworks. Where are the fireworks?" Just so you can see what the view is, I took another picture this morning (with regular clothing on). I don't know what the building are -- we're just seeing the backs of them.

A Most Clever Segue

You must admit that this true story is a true story about a silly, crazy and, in stupid, in a fun way, person. You must admit it! When I told my wife about it this morning, she couldn't stop laughing. She told me (in Chinese) that I'm stupid (ben) and crazy (Shing Jing Bing). And she laughed some more. She reminded me that I'm living up to the nickname she sometimes gives me: Chu Bah Jia (I don't know that spelling). Chu Bah Jia is a character in a legendary folk story from China. The main character is a crusading monkey. Chu Bah Jia is the monkey's good-hearted but bumbling sidekick. Oh, he's a pig.

So there you have it. The woman I love more than anyone in the world sees me as a good-hearted and well-intentioned -- and lovable -- pig who tries hard but always screws things up. For centuries, Chinese people of all ages have enjoyed loving and laughing at Chu Bah Jia.

That leads me to the discussion about "stupid" and "crazy" and that stuff.

Anybody who knows me knows that I'm not really stupid. Sometimes I can be marginally brilliant. The crazy part requires interpretation. Am I insane? Not really (knock on wood). Do I do crazy things? Absolutely -- at least based upon what "conventional wisdom" would dictate. Should I be laughing at myself? I say, "Yes!" Should it bother people? I don't think so.

But apparently it does. I believe it bothers them because they care a lot about me and they don't want others to jump to the conclusion that I'm seriously stupid or crazy and that it might hinder my career or jeopardize the respect people should be giving me.

The truth is that I can hinder my career very will without calling myself names or laughing at myself. Every day I jeoparize my the respect people should be giving me. Why? Because I'm different and I do things that others would never think of doing and I don't want to change. Here are some examples of how I'm different:

I've never tasted a pickle. I've never tasted mustard (knowingling). I've never had a drink of coffee. I would never apply for unemployment -- even though I've paid into it and I deserve it. I almost refuse to go to the most popular tourist spots in any new place I'm visiting. I make friends with taxi drivers and Gypsy kids and waiters and fast-food workers. I walk outside in the snow in 28 degree weather (f, not C) with a short-sleeve shirt and my emergency jacket draped over my arm. People certainly look at me as if I'm crazy. Am I? I have a stepbrother who's on this list who lives in North Dakota and wears shorts to work in the dead of winter. Is he crazy? I don't think so.

I'm an expert in finding out information about just about anybody, but I would never look up anything about a friend. I'm an expert on privacy and yet I wear my life on my sleeve. I'm open to anybody who wants to come into my life. I don't like to wear labels -- either symbolic or blatant. I see things other people don't see and I understand things others cannot understand.

And yet I can't read very well. I can't learn the most simple things about how a computer works. I love music and I can make music that pleases me (whether it's on a piano, a guitar, a harp or my beloved Clavietta), but no matter how hard I try, I cannot read music.

Despite all of these strange characteristics and more, I am blessed with having the most wonderful people surrounding me. My sister is on this list. She knows how stupid I can be. Ask her about the club she formed with all of my friends. She called it WCTU. They wouldn't allow me to be in the club unless I could tell them what WCTU stood for. I asked, but all she would tell me is "We can't tell you!"

If I wasn't so stupid, I'd have immediately figured it out. We both still laugh about it.

Others on this list know me pretty well and understand that I'm different. Actually, it's a most interesting assortment. There are journalists, copy editors, editors and publishers on the list. There are people who once worked in law enforcement and some who still do. There are judges on the list. There are Vietnam veterans (at least one who served with me in Vietnam), former students of mine, former teachers of mine, neighbors, psychologists (they really know me!), former news sources, friends from my childhood, kids from school (one of them lives in Texas and I treasure his friendship -- even though I don't believe we've spoken to each other face-t0-face since elementary school), former associates and a whole lot more.

Each of these people would tell you something different about me and most would tell you that, in some ways, I'm different. Some would smile and say, "Yes, he can be stupid and crazy." Others might not -- they wouldn't want to say that about their friends.

But I believe in being democratic, so I'm allowing those on my mailing list to suggest the title for my blog. Please e-mail me your suggestions. I'll select the top five (based upon theme) and put them up for a vote.

I'll also republish your comments, if they're poignant and telling -- and if you give me your permission. I won't use your name unless you insist. Then, I'll change the name of the blog to the winning entry. And I'll bring you a gift of your choice from Serbia (within limits).

So please, let's get this controversy past us so I can go about my business of being curious and getting lost and acting in a way that some people would say is crazy or stupid.

No comments: