Thursday, November 11, 2010
Back from the dead in Quartzsite, Arizona
It has been said that most people perceive themselves with higher regard than what others may perceive them. Meaning, I may think my IQ is higher than what an IQ test may actually reveal, or I may believe that my hair line is not reseeding when, let's face it... it most certainly is. Well, I am here to confess today that I am, in fact, a bigger idiot than I ever realized. I’ve come to the realization that I have been arrogant, an over confident,obnoxious fool.
After losing everything that I worked so very hard for, I have been forced to take a long, hard look at myself, and folks I must say, the picture isn’t pretty.
After a periord of semi isolation, I find myself smack dab in the middle of the desert in
with plenty of time reflect. I recently left Pagosa Springs in a last gasp attempt to salvage the dream I attained, but then lost. Those of you that know my story may be saying to yourselves, “Eddie, you gave it your best shot, the restaurant business failed, close that chapter and move on”. Well that’s exactly what I’m doing, at least that is what I'm telling myself. The issue is that I maintain this hope that I should take the wealth of experience I've gained from having it all and then losing it all, and turn it into something good. What that something is…I’m just not sure yet. Quartzsite, Arizona
This latest endeavor of mine is about testing the waters of hope, belief in myself, the concept of never quitting, and maybe providing inspiration for others. Today I find myself in
. I am broke, living in a tent in the middle of a swap meet, I've got my food trailer and my traveling companion my Boston terrier Gwen. The warmer climate is very agreeable with my spinal disorder. I rented this space at the Rock and Gem Show in Quartzsite, AZ that runs from November through March. But that’s only part of the story… Quartzsite, Arizona
I called this opening blog, "Back from the dead in Quartzsite, Arizona" because I feel like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. I have a sense of hope, for the first time in a very long time. Yet I find myself here in the middle of the God for Forsaken desert, I mean in the middle of the friggin' desert man, but it's given me a new realization of myself. You see, here I am surrounded by people that live on the fringe of society. By that I mean, people that have decided to live their lives any friggin' way they want; no matter what anyone else may think. They have made a decision to revel in their uniqueness and display their individual freedom. I used to judge these free spirits as oddballs, weirdo's, quirky space cases....and those were the kind words I would use to describe them. To be brutally honest, to me they were freaks. Okay there were times I thought perhaps some had been dealt a bad hand in life, or had just given up on life; or perhaps were drunkards or drug addicts...but mostly I saw them as people that had no place in my life. This is gonna sound ugly man, but I'm being real here, and I have to be honest with myself if I'm ever gonna learn something from all of this; the ugly truth is that I saw them as being beneath me. In my arrogance I had elevated myself above them, afterall, they were dumpster diver type people, I was a professional restaurant owner. Throughout my life I have always perceived myself as being very adept at reading people. Which is why I spent 25 years in some form of a management position. Anyway, because of that innate ability, I’ve evolved into a proud “know it all” type of person. Many people who possess the gift of being able to read people use their gift to edify others; I used it to judge, belittle and criticize others. Well, isn't life funny, how far the proud can fall ! Today I find myself soulmates with these same individuals that I used to despise. I am learning that everybody has a story. A story of hope, despair, helplessness, mercy, honor, courage, and last but furthest from least…freedom. Freedom from personal demons of the past. Freedom from the demon of guilt, being controlled, over-bearing or neglecting parents, addiction, financial responsibility, the pressure to succeed, government interference, and finally literal demons. Don’t worry, I’m not going off the deep end here, bear with me and I think we’ll all learn something. I’ve decided, for the sake of therapy, that I want to chronicle this adventure I’m on. So, please allow yourself to indulge in the adventures of Eddie B Cookin on the fringe, out here in middle of the desert with my new homies; the in your face sub-culture who are living the free life in Quartzsite, Arizona.
Speaking of demons, I know I've painted a pretty bleak picture of my current circumstances, but let's be real; Here I am with nothing but a dog, a food trailer, and living in a tent. My wife and family are back in Pagosa Springs. Colorado still dealing with repercussion of our financial collapse. So, I have to ask myself, and the Man Upstairs, was it me or did I just hit some bad luck? Was I wrong to ask them to trust me once again? I've choosen to believe, that for some reason, I’ve been allowed to experience this trial. This season of my life has been trying to say the least. It is my hope that some good will come of it. Perhaps it will enable me to grow and evolve as a husband, father and human being. I've been told that in order to really understand faith, you have to go through the fire. Well, the past two years my family and I have been singed by a 3 alarm fire. Dare i shake my finger in the face of the devil and shout out from the desert, "hello demons, it's me Eddie and I'm still kickin' !" My purpose is not to evangelize or convert souls, but simply to share my life adventure. Hell, I had what most people believed was a dream come true, and I single handedly destroyed it all. It can only be an adventure from here...
Many people here have been living life on the fringe for a very long time. For me the term fringe refers to living outside the boundaries of everyday society. In Pagosa Springs, Colorado, there is an element of people that live off the grid, which refers to solar power, hauled in water, no phone, you know. But here, its about living free from authority, long term bills, debt, long term relationships, bureaucrats, the man, and dentists. But everyone has a story, a story that is real, tragic, hopeful, inspiring and honest…….well mostly honest. People out here have souls like an artist. It's like that wonderful saying, " Some men see things as they are and ask why, some men dream things that never were and ask why not." I'm telling you, I am meeting some very intelligent, articulate, creative people. Some tell stories of coming to Quartzsite with nothing and they were able to find a niche and became successful. Some have made a living on little or nothing, but they'd be the first to tell you that they're doing what they love. Then too, some are happy living what they call the simple life, they're poor; I mean poo oo oor ! I am humbled on a daily basis because in spite of their financial situation, most of these individuals possess attributes I can only envy. I am hopeful that while I'm here, facing my demons every day, I can come to a place where I accept the hand that has been dealt to me. I hope that I too can learn to live life fully and simply, like these people here in Quartzsite, Arizona do. So here I am in the desert opening up my soul, and you know what….I couldn’t be happier.
Some time ago I wrote a little article for the local paper in Pagosa Springs, Colorado that depicted myself as a rat stuck in the rat race mindset. The article explained how, though I had removed myself from the physical rat race of southern
I was still mentally caught up in the race of my business world. I was determined to capture all ends of the local food scene, restaurateur, caterer, and concessionaire. This was in contrast to the original idea my Wife and I had when we decided to relocate to Pagosa Springs. We wanted to have an easier life, breath some fresh mountain air, slow down a little and enjoy the scene. The opposite actually occurred as I became obsessed with the race to have it all. Ironically, it all collapsed and I was left with nothing....but does that have to be the end of the dream? I see my life today as simple. I am in a place where I can listen to people….I mean really listen. That's one of the reasons why I like people on the fringe, because they are real. One of my fellow swap meeteurs is a lapidary artist. Before my enlightenment, that meant some odd ball who finds G-odes in the desert. Today it represents a guy who finds a way to grind and polish some mineral rock into a beautiful, gleaming piece of jewelry. Granted cometically the guy makes his own bold statement about his individuality, but that’s peripheral. This guy’s main objective is to cut, grind, and polish an amethyst stone so that it sparkles from any given angle. Ya gotta respect that man, he's an artist ! California,
Since my arrival, one of the coolest guys I've met is a guy named Jim (my neighbor). Jim was able to size me up quickly. This guy has been around the block many a time. Armed with a keen street knowledge, or should I say fringe knowledge, he has that instinct of when to give advice and when to let me figure it out. My restaurant world was filled with people who just wanted to give advice. You should be open 7 days, you should have a blue plate special, you need live music, Saturday’s should be pasta night, you need to be at the front door as matre’de, bla bla, bla. Yet no one ever said, I have a great idea Eddie, would you like me to help you get it going. The point to all of this is that I am beginning to understand what drives people to live on the fringe of society. Today I would much rather converse with someone explaining their craft than listen to some blowfish who has no understanding of my trade tell me what I can do to improve my business. With that said, there is that fine line of getting totally weird. The other day another of my "neighbor's" came up to me, introduced himself and then kindly asked me to remove my dog’s shit from his front lawn. My initial thought was, "your front lawn? All I see is a bed of rocks and dirt with a dilapidated old travel trailer and an old cargo container perched on it." But alas, I bit my tongue and obliged his request. While I was performing my neighborly act, a conversation ensued. My neighbor went on to explain how a work accident enabled him to retire 5 years earlier than planned. Which in the end enabled him to live his dream life, that of making gem stones that Tiffany & CO would be envious to display. This craft he learned as a teen, which, according to him, is the only time someone can really grasp the alchemy science. At this point in our conversation a 70 something year old woman stepped out of his trailer and scowled at me when I said hi. I asked him if that was his wife and he just looked down and said no, that’s my mom. I couldn’t help but walk away thinking, "living the dream in
." But you know what, that very well may be his idea of “the dream” , and who am I to judge, after all, I'm just some guy living in a tent….reality bites. Quartzsite, Arizona
So much to learn, so much to learn….. More later, Eddie