Friday, May 2, 2008

That's Better

I still have plenty of distractions whirling around in my head, but I managed to break the logjam that prompted my last post and now don't feel quite so much like I'm stealing time away from something more or important, or wasting precious free moments by nattering away on this weblog. So, in no particular order, here are thoughts that have been knocking around my head this week... (fair warning, this turned into a rambly one.)

Last Saturday evening I attended my first Table Lodge, which you could also say was my first "non-newbie" Masonic function - that is to say, I wasn't receiving a degree, and I wasn't required to be there as with a Lodge of Instruction. Also, I was the only person there from my lodge so in a way it was a little bit like that first time you take the car out by yourself after getting your license.

It was a lot of fun, and I can't wait to attend another. (although I will have to budget myself; $25 is not much to pay for an evening of warm fellowship and excellent food, but enough of them would definitely start to add up!)

A few observations:

As mentioned, I was the only person there from my own lodge, which meant I didn't have any "default conversational partners" for the evening. I had met some of the Brothers who were there from other lodges at my degrees, or at Lodges of Instruction, but for the most part I was on my own. I wound up sitting next to a Brother from the northwest corner of the state. He was very friendly and welcomed me warmly to the fraternity, but I didn't really converse much with him through the evening. I didn't really converse much with anyone through the evening, and because I'm the sort of person who tends to watch and listen before diving into most situations, that was Ok. I wasn't being actively ignored or shunned, and feel I could certainly have struck up a conversation if I had wanted to.

The overall sense of fellowship was really something... I described it to a profane friend as a general, mutual feeling of "I've never met you before, but if you're here you must be an OK guy." The food was good, and the evening's 7 toasts (with wine) were way more fun than they had any right to be. Looking around from time to time, I saw that I was not the only Brother choosing to just watch, listen, and passively enjoy the company.

With the exception of the entrée and the wine (apple juice for those choosing to abstain), the meal was served on paper plates. I did not feel that this detracted especially from the overall experience, which was simply one out of what I hope will be many, at many different lodges over the years, some more formal than others, some more "traditional" than others. If after all that I want a table lodge with real dishes, glasses and silverware, I can damn well become Master of a lodge and try to make it happen during my year in the East.

Which segues into a CD that just arrived in my mailbox today (gotta love SwapaCD), Broken Boy Soldiers by The Raconteurs. It had been on my wishlist since it came out in 2006, and promises to find itself in heavy rotation as spring gives way to summer. Anyway, a couple of lines from the track Together struck me:
You want everything to be just like
The stories that you read but never write
If I want to change or improve something in my life, or at my lodge, or wherever, then all I have to do is actually get off my ass and do it. Sometimes it's easy to lose track of the simple equation:

x not done + someone doing x = x getting done

Most of the time it's easier to complain about x not being done, or write about all the reasons x should be done, than to actually do x. Probably the most profound example of this equation in my life happened about 12 years ago, when I went with my brother and sister to the iMax theater at the Boston Museum of Science and watched a film about special effects - specifically, the kind old-school miniature building that made Star Wars such a ground-breaking phenomenon, and has since been almost entirely replaced by CGI. As we left the theater, I made a comment like "Wow, I'd love to do that for a living", and my older brother flippantly said, "Well, then you should go do learn how to do it!" He probably doesn't even remember the conversation, and at the time I didn't think much of his comment.

A month or two later, I moved to Los Angeles with my then-girlfriend (now wife), who got a job at a foam fabrication/costume making shop herself, thanks to skills she had picked up doing 3D illustration in college. Since we only had one car, I would drop her off in the morning and then pound the pavement all day trying to get my foot in the door with a web design company. I got to be a familiar face around the shop where my wife worked, and one day when they were up against a shooting deadline, I was asked if I wanted to help work on some stuff for a Saban (you know, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) production... and just like that, I was doing special effects for a living.

Granted, the pay was crappy and it was a far cry from Industrial Light & Magic, but if I had been passionate enough about effects to put in the long hours and work my way up the food chain in L.A., ILM would not necessarily have been out of reach. Want to work in special effects? It's easy: move to L.A. and start cold-calling the small shops around the San Fernando Valley. Sooner or later you'll find one that needs warm bodies for some project or another, and if you demonstrate any kind of competence at all you stand a good chance of being kept on after the crunch.

I did manage to do some work I was proud of on some props and costumes that appeared in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Babylon 5, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but my heart wasn't in it... there were guys who would sacrifice their nights and weekends without overtime pay on the mere possibility that they might get their name in the end credits of a movie. Me, I just wanted to go home and crash.

Speaking of making change happen: I'm psyched about yesterday's announcement of The Masonic Society, which I probably would have joined already had I not spent almost exactly the same amount of money on an inexpensive (but tasteful) Masonic ring only hours before. I think I will join The Masonic Society as a housewarming present to myself after we have moved into our new house later this summer.

As for the ring, it's something I'll be proud to wear, and I'm also very curious to see what kinds of places and situations I'm in where it might be noticed by a fellow Brother. Photo to follow when it arrives.

And finally, I need this t-shirt:

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