Missed flight at the Gainesville airport (yet stillness comes)


Here is a post I meant to upload while on the recent trip to New York concerning my airport experience:

It’s 5:10am when we arrive at the airport. The plane leaves at 5:20am. I grab my duffle bag and give my friend a quick wave good bye as I hurry to the checkout desk. As I feared; boarding has been closed and the workers are at the gate helping the plane leave.  Anger starts to rise as I stare in disbelief at the empty counter.  “How can they just leave the checkout stand without personnel?” I think to myself as I grab my phone and call customer service.  This flight is important to me for my final destination is New York to see my grandmother.  However, as I speak to a very cordial and helpful customer service rep (no exaggeration or sarcasm) I start to realize something.  God is in control.  Sure I should have arrived 30 minutes early like they tell you to do.  But I didn’t. This state of ill fortune is my fault. However, even as I am tempted to sulk about my present predicament, I hear His small still voice.  Truth is, if I was meant to be on this plane, I would have been on this plane.

I don’t know why nor do I think I’m supposed to know why; but this I know: I was not supposed to be on that plane.

As this sense of still comes over me the friendly customer service rep on the phone tells me that they can put me on another plane but I needed to talk to rep at the airport.  I thank her and hang up. I am oddly at peace.

The attendants approaches the counter and I enter the line (with no one in it mind you).  Another friendly attendant motions me to come forth.  As I hand her my ID she notices that I paid for a priority seat on my original flight (only seat available so I had to pay $25 extra bucks). She kindly refunds that charge. My ticket has now been reduced in price by $25 bucks.  As she hands me my new itinerary I thank her and sit in the lobby.  The next flight leaves at 10am. It is 7am as I write this post.  There’s no one around me except the worker at the bar who’s staring at me all weird.  Maybe because I look like a hobo with my over grown hair and beard (I desperately need a haircut).  Or maybe it’s because of my new camera that currently hangs around my neck. Regardless, I am at peace.  As quickly as my anger rose, it has been replaced with a very strong sense of peace….three hours left till my flight gets here.  Good time to catch up on posts that should have been posted a long time ago yet hasn’t due to school’s insanity. Three hours of no one around…oops, one person just arrived.  My people watching hobby kicks in…No worries though. I need to write.

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The night I sat next to a crazy drunk homeless guy


I had just finished witnessing one of my best friend’s wedding.  As I stood beside the now dimly lit bus stop, two things went through my head and one of those things was the realization that the man sitting on the bus stop bench was homeless (and from the looks of it, drunk…you don’t want to know the second thing….trust me).  As I halted a few feet away, the man proceeded to stare at me and say: “Hey, come sit here”, while patting the bench right next to him.  My options as I saw it where:

  1. Run away from the crazy drunk homeless guy.
  2. Yell “Help, Help” and run away from the crazy drunk homeless guy.
  3. Sit next to the crazy drunk homeless guy.

For whatever reason options 1 and 2 somehow escaped my approval and instead I sat next to the crazy drunk homeless guy.  He proceeded to tell me that he was known as Big Country around this part of town and that he was a Christian…Followed by the fact that he was a bad ass mother%^&@# a dichotomy that I found slightly amusing.

As I sat there for what seemed like hours, he began to tell me stories about his girl who was in jail and was getting out tomorrow (by now she’s probably out) and how he missed her.  He proceeded to tell me that he was a Vietnam vet and further substantiated his vet status by lifting his shirt, revealing a considerably hairy chest with a significantly huge scar.  He then proceeded to show me bullet wounds and knife stabs.

As the conversation continued, I no longer cared if he was a crazy drunk homeless guy.  As the conversation continued, and tears began to fall from his eyes; I just did not care.  I wrapped my arm around him and tried to console his tears as he remembered the atrocities of a horrific war.  We talked about the fact that I was a student, and he asked me to write a column about him.  I told him I would.

The bus approached and I looked at my watch.  It had been exactly 19 minutes since we started talking, but it seemed so much longer and to some degree I wanted to chat some more.  As I started to go into the bus he followed me in and gave me a huge hug followed by a kiss on the cheek (awkward? Yes).  Then he said, don’t forget to write that column.

The hearts rationality (Poem)


What do you do when you smile at the tiger and the tiger stares back at you

And where will you go when the boarders you’ve managed crumble

If coping is winning and losing is pinning you back to all that you used to

What will you do when the stars stop shinning and the world revolves around who knows

When will the race stop pushing so hard against comfort of all that is

For racing at times may seem too hard to keep on pace

But if only you could for one moment steal an embrace

What will you do when the lack of what’s normal stares defiantly at your face

How will the day resemble when the promises they’ve made ring false

And how fast can you move away from the cliff that’s shouting your name

No matter how strong or brave, good looking or sane, the waters will love to drown

How will you swim against the current of all that is against you

When the weight of success lays down on your chest and squeezes your heart for mercy

Will there be a time; a place; a rhyme to keep on fighting the screen of glee

Can you dare to open up enough to let the evidence of hope see light

Will you be able to open the door and set the birds to fly

Will you walk a mile with the stranger begging to know much more of you

Or hide in the thick of the marshes away from view

Is it worth bearing the bleeding wounds and dragging the dead horse body

Is it worth bearing the broken glass in the tomb of a human soul

What will you do when the day comes to loose hold

Where will you run when there’s nowhere to go

And where will you toss the knot inside the glass of your heart

Try not to remember that the waters just want to drown

My Greyhound’s decision to be near me…Our decision to be near Him?


SONY DSC

Or she could be outside, running around like she loves to do 🙂

My room door is open and so are all the other doors in my apartment (for the exception of the front door).  She has the freedom to go wherever she wants in this apartment.  She can go to the kitchen, living room, bathroom, patio, or the dining room.  Yet out of all of those rooms; out of all of those options, she chooses to lie down next to me.  She’s not talking, whining, barking, or doing anything specifically to get my attention; she’s just lying by my side.  She doesn’t have to.  She could very well lay in the living room where there’s more space, or lay in kitchen where there is food (or at least the smell of it), maybe even the bathroom (don’t know why anyone would want to lay down on the bathroom but hey, it’s an option).  She can do all of these, yet my greyhound chooses to lie by my side.

The truth is that’s all she needs to do.  The truth is that’s more than enough for me to know she loves me.  I won’t require her to sit obediently, though I guess I could.  I won’t require her to perform tricks or wonders.  I won’t even require her to lay a certain way.  No; just the fact that she is here, when she could be anywhere else is more than enough for me.

I am content knowing she is content.  I am happy knowing I bring her joy.  She is mine and I am hers.  She is my daughter and I am herTia nut2 dad.  Nothing she could ever do could ever change that; ever.

I understand this fact.  But I being evil can comprehend the shadow of love; the immutability of that which is true;  the fact that my Greyhound named Tia is perfect, no matter what she does or does not do; how much more the Father.  I am after all human.  But God is perfect.  If I being human can share an unchangeable love for my dog; how much more the Father’s love for His children?

My dog delights me with her very presence.  Could it be possible that our very presence delights the Lord?  Could our conscious decision to be near to God as opposed to anywhere else truly please Him?  To lie down in God’s room, as opposed to the world’s kitchen, living room, dining room, or even worse, bathroom.  Oh Lord, that I may be like my dog.  That my every breath become a declaration of the want to be near you.  That I may see your room with delight not a duty; and that I may enter it knowing that I am welcome to lie down and just enjoy You.

Christian…and failing


God Is An Astronaut

It’s easy to get into the mindset of perfection especially when you are a Christian. I mean we serve a perfect Father, why wouldn’t we have to be perfect right?  On top of that, doesn’t the bible say we have to be perfect? (Matthew 5:48 by the way) and wasn’t Jesus perfect when He came to earth and we are to follow in His footsteps?  I’m being rhetorical here but you can see how easy it is to start to believe perfection is our immediate goal.  The problem with this scenario of perfection is the point when you realize that you are not perfect.  You know, that point when you realize that after so many times of trying so hard to be good and not to fall, you fall anyways.  It’s that moment when you are afraid to pray and ask for forgiveness because you have prayed that same prayer more than 70×7.  What do you then?

It’s not easy when you are used to riding the spiritual highs and end up in a spiritual low, especially when you know you could have done something otherwise that would have kept you from going into the spiritual low to begin with.   Indeed, this is where I found myself these past few weeks.  It’s nice when you are at a spiritual point that you feel as if an atomic bomb could go off and you would remain unscathed.  It’s awesome to look back and see how well you have progressed and how clean you have remained from the chains of the sins you are so used to battling with.  Nevertheless, there are those times, when it feels as if all that is needed is a slight puff from the wind to send you rolling into 500 feet of murk and grime.  There are those times when stumbling becomes almost second nature….Stumbling? More like hopelessly falling and breaking all your bones while heading down a 90 degree precipice of endless jagged rocks.  What do you do then?  Have you failed?  Is the Lord disappointed?

I catch myself thinking these thought, feeling as if I am somehow the biggest failure ever.  Saying things like “I know better”, or “I thought I was over this” only to be confronted with the harsh and Oh so painful reality that my sin is staring at my face once again.  It’s enough to make someone (that being me) question their salvation, their standing with God, their hope for the future.  If I’m honest (which I am) I have to say that these are things that I have been battling with; that is the anger and frustration of just utter failure…at least in my eyes.  It makes matter worse when you grow in leaps and bounds to that point; that singular point, where you keep thinking “it’s done” or “it’s beaten” but the fact is, it’s not quite beaten yet.  Better said, the manifestation of the defeat is not fully visible yet.

Nevertheless, this is why right now I rejoice.  I rejoice because I have a savior.  I rejoice because on the cross 2000 years ago He saw me as I am right now; and still died.  I rejoice because I have a Savior who understands me, who was tempted just like I and even though He did not sin, He knows what I am going through.  I have a Savior who desires for me to be free from my sin.  But when the waves start to drown me; He is quick to extend His hand.  That’s just it; I have a Savior.  That’s all I have and really that’s all I need.  I just wish it did not take 500 feet of murk and grime to see that.  Nevertheless, I find that God is not good at math, because He keeps forgiving me…and I know is way past 70×7.

Amtrak from Orlando to Chicago.


All aboard Amtrak

All aboard Amtrak

Most people know that I am absolutely nuts over trains.  Literally nuts.  I see a train and I turn into a five year old… At any rate, on Aril 11th I will be doing something I have wanted to do for a long time.  I will be taking a long train ride from Gainesville to Chicago on the Amtrak train! WOHOO!!! (Actually, it’s more like from Orlando to Chicago, seeing as the nearest Amtrak train station to me is in Orlando…) The reason for this is due to the National American Planning Association (APA) Conference which is being held in Chicago.  The conference is on the 13th, I check into the hotel on the 12th and I have to start the train ride on the 11th….because it takes about 24 hours to get from Orlando to Chicago.  BUT I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!  And of course I am going to be blogging about this and taking pictures…maybe even video…Ooooh.  So any suggestions as to what I should definitely see while I’m in Chicago?

To Drive or Not to Drive


This entry is a response to a good friend concerning the need for public transportation and the want for private automobile.

Responding to Nathan

Cadillac BLS front 20080823

It is true.  If free market demands it, then it will come to pass.  However, what are we doing to educate the masses so that there will be a higher demand for public transportation.  That the demand for the automobile is high is a no-brainer.  According to the US Census Bureau; 77% of Americans drive to work alone (that is without carpooling).  77% of Americans choose to go to work in their private vehicles, which alludes to the fact that at least 77% of Americans own cars.  Moreover, they choose to use their cars as opposed to other means of transportation.  The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) reports that since 1972 there have been more vehicles in production or in the market then there are licensed drivers to drive them.  So yes, it’s safe to say that the demand in the United States of America for the private automobile is high.  Therefore is easy to see how someone can just throw the possibility for public transportation to the way side.

However, there are many facts concerning the automobile that have been kept from the public conscious sight.  I am convinced that if a person takes a careful consideration to these facts he or she will be more apt to give public transportation a second look.

Fact 1.  The Private Automobile is Expensive. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the automobile has a proportion of 17% of an average annual household

united states currency seal - IMG_7366_web
united states currency seal – IMG_7366_web (Photo credit: kevindean)

expenditure (AAHE).  When you compare this to the fact that a home has a 32% AAHE you start to get the picture of the true expense of a vehicle.  It is the second most expensive item on the AAHE, third is food at 13% and fourth is Social Security at 10%. Using a person that makes 40,000.00 annually and using the BLS statistics, it can be calculated that this person is paying 6,800 Dollars every year for their automobile, compared to 12,800 dollars for their home every year.  That’s 566 dollars every month for a car.  These are conservative estimates.  Calculating the cost of driving on an individual basis may end up producing a higher expenditure value for an automobile (You can calculate your true cost of driving at http://commutesolutions.org/external/calc.html).   With these figures it is perplexing how the “free market” has not demanded something less expensive like public transportation.

Fact 2.  The Private Automobile Industry is Too Important

With such a high demand for automobiles, the automobile industry has become too important since it holds a major financial factor in the United States tablet of economics.  In other words, the United States has too much dependence on the automobile industry.  For example, In an article written for the New York Timesby Jeffrey McCracken and John D Stoll they reveal that the automobile industry employs about 3.1 million Americans across the nation.  That’s a lot of Jobs.  If the automobile industry was to

A photograph of the children's version of Monopoly
A photograph of the children’s version of Monopoly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

somehow be affected in a negative way, the possibility exists that 3.1 million jobs could be at jeopardy. The year 2008 gave us a short visual of the possibility of such an event happening to the automobile industry.  It may seem that the course would then be to ensure that these companies would remain in good operation in order for these jobs to exist.  In doing so, a steady flow of tax income to the government and a healthy supply of jobs to the masses is then provided.    As good as this reasoning may sound, the fact still remains that the United States by exclusively supporting the Automobile Industry creates a situation in which it only has one main source of “goods”. It is as the saying goes, “putting all your eggs in one basket”.   The United States thus relies on the Automobile industry to supply the 3.1 million jobs and the steady tax revenue.  However, if the United States was to expand its load of job demand onto another industry, than it would not have such a dependence on one industry.  That’s healthy economics under any economic book out there.  According to the article written for Philly.com by Paul Nussbaum, a healthy public transportation industry in Spain created about 600,000 jobs within 5 years.  Spain has demonstrated that a Healthy public transportation system can help to create jobs.  The fact is obvious that 600,000 jobs is much lower than 3.1 million.  However, this second option to our transportation system would help to create a second financial basket which would then alleviate the financial burden upon the automobile industry and thus create more opportunities for advancements in automobile technology and public transportation technology.  The hope of course would be to create opportunities to lessen or completely severe the United States dependency on oil thus giving the United States a greater freedom on the world stage.

Fact 3 The Infrastructure for the Automobile Costs More than that of Public Transportation

According to the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority on average a Light Rail Transit system (LRT) costs about 35 million dollars per mile to construct.  That seems like a good deal of moneyespecially when estimates are based on not only 1 mile but 20 to 30 miles at a time.  The media is quick to point that the overall expenses to an LRT goes into the billions.  However, when you compare the 2.3 million dollars it takes to construct a highway lane per mile the LRT all of sudden does not seem so expensive considering that most lanes

English: Taxis, cars and buses stuck in the ev...
English: Taxis, cars and buses stuck in the ever honking traffic in Kolkata near Sealdah train station. Deutsch: Taxis, Autos und Busse stehen in Kolkata im Stau in der Nähe des Bahnhofs Sealdah. Das Hupkonzert gibt’s gratis dazu. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

can only carry two thousand people per hour compared to a LRT than carry 20 thousand people per hour.  Thus per passenger mile basis the cost ends up being roughly about the same for both constructions.  However, LRT is not the only public transportation option.  There also exists Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) which, according to the US Government Accountability Office costs about 13.5 million dollar per mile in upfront charges.  The truth of the matter is that reasonably priced public transportation is available.

These are just a few of the MANY reasons why as a nation we need to consider public transportation.  It is true; the current demand in the United States is for the automobile.  However, if the masses can be educated to the benefits of public transportation, this demand can be changed.

It’s easy to say, “if the free market wants it, it will happen”.  But the free market is just people and apparently none of us are looking ahead.  Were stuck in the now, with no aspiration to do anything more than cope.  We like our cars because ultimately it is one of the most “status” showoffs we have available.  Its convenience is also evident.  Nevertheless, our population keeps growing, our resources are being taxed.  Land is at a premium when consolidation of ridership is simply too inconvenient for a society too engrossed with self.

We need to look ahead as a nation.  The stark reality is that compared to the world, we are falling behind in just about everything including transportation.  For a nation that is so bent on efficiency, we have become inefficient with how we move.  It’s time to do something about it.  I love my nation and I want it to be great again.

My Sources:

http://articles.philly.com/2010-08-08/news/24971401_1_high-speed-rail-ave-train-air-travel/6

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122670818143330019.html

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard106.html

ftp://ftp.bls.gov/pub/special.requests/ce/share/2004/age.txt

http://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/05/030905.asp#axzz1YuXbXKIM

http://dcjobsource.com/drivetowork.html

http://www.census.gov/

http://www.apta.com/mediacenter/pressreleases/2011/Pages/110304_TransitSavings.aspx

http://commutesolutions.org/external/calc.html

http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/does-the-us-need-an-auto-industry/

http://vorg.ca/2585-Cars-vs-Bus-vs-Bikes

Qualitative review of a pedestrian experience


As I reach my office; I look down to see soaked black boots and almost as equally soaked army green cargo pants.  Not an appealing

CSX Parked on tracks

sight (both in clothes selection and clothes condition, however, this is what happens when you wake up at Five in the morning to get ready to catch a 6:20 AM bus whose inconsistent service means the bus could arrive at 6:10 AM instead).  I muse at the fact that I just walked .5 miles from the last bus stop on route eight to my office (approximately a 15 minute walk).  Normally, I don’t mind the walk.  In fact, I look forward to it since it gives me a reason to be active and to enjoy the outdoors (and also because sometimes, there is a CSX train parked on the tracks that I have to cross to get to work….I love trains).  However, on mornings like today, I am reminded why at times I would not mind owning a car.

FLASH BACK TO 15 MINUTES BEFORE I REACH THE OFFICE

I hop off the bus and quickly open my red umbrella.  The sight must have been comical to some motorists as they fly by a decently sized guy wearing a black and grey sweater, army green cargo pants, black boots, and a brown book bag all the while holding a bright red umbrella.  I have to admit, its comical just even thinking about it.  I start my journey by crossing my first street, which is the same street that the bus has just dropped me off at.  In front of me now resides a discreet building which officially belongs to the fire department yet somehow seems too small for its function.  I continue down the shoulder of the streets walking more on grass than on paved ground (purposefully.  I do live in Florida after all.  Even though Florida is notorious for dependable rains; something that has not been the case this year; the fact that Floridians don’t know how to drive in the rain is a fact I take very seriously).

OBSTICLE 1

English: Highway 401's widest point: 18 lanes ...

Cars fly by at speeds that seem too fast to be safe on a wet oily road.  I make my way to cross the right turn lane with the aim to reach the little concrete island about 10 -15 feet away.  I succeed, only to wait until all lights are red for oncoming traffic (I have to depend on the street lights since there are no pedestrian signals to inform me of an opportune time to cross this 6 lane major highway).

OBSTICLE 2

Finally the lights are red, and I cross the street, walking at a quick pace.  I hesitate to run since the highway has deep groves on the asphalt; a clear sign of high and constant use of fast traveling, heavy vehicles.  It’s possible that In the process of running I could trip over one of these groves, fall, and get ran over by a speeding turning vehicle.  I cross the first set of three lanes to land in the grass median.  Thank God it’s wide enough to provide a clear area of rest from this busy and obviously dangerous highway.

OBSTICLE 3

I check to make sure that the incoming traffic is far enough to provide me time to walk (not run) across the second set of three lanes. I make my move, noting the amount of oil on the road.  This is a very real (and obvious) danger to speeding vehicles that don’t have the ability to see the rainbow flow of chemically enhanced run off on the street; a tall (very tall) sign of the presence of oil.

OBSTICLE 4

English: Tall grass growing wild at Lyme Park....

I make it across the second set of three lanes only to land in the shoulders of the highway, greeted by knee high grass (my red umbrella can’t help me here).  From my torso up I have remained dry due to the protection of my umbrella.  From my torso down; well, that’s a different story.  As the grass part ways in utter complaint of my uncaring stomping, they release heavy sacks of water filled ammunition directed to make my crossing as wet and miserable as possible.  I accept the challenge, moving forward through the forest of weed and wild flowers, coming to a brief clearing where I am greeted with a pleasant sight; rail road tracks; and an even more pleasant surprise on it; a train engine.  I take in the beautiful sight as I cautiously cross the track, making sure that the engine is indeed parked, and not in the process of moving.

OBSTICLE 5

Four obstacles down, and now it seems I’m home free.  On this side of the rail road tracks, the grass is not nearly as tall, and there is somewhat of a makeshift path along the street.  That is where the grass is not as tall as its surroundings to the point where a clear delineation of a path is seen.  Even though the path is there, the grass still protests my clear stomping assault upon it by counter attacking with stickers and bombs of water.  My boots and pants are bearing the evidence of a very heavy and brutal battle. Sidewalks would be advantageous to me right now but I remind myself that I live in Florida….they don’t believe in sidewalks here in Florida.  I continue my walk.  The rain has now ceased, allowing me to fold my red umbrella and make my sight a little less comical.  As I bring my umbrella down to finalize the closing procedure, my eyes meet a very solemn reminder of the predicament I’m in.  The body of a very large…very large….very large, snake.  The clear marking on its skin tells me that this probably was a rattle snake (the rattler was gone thanks to the body’s ghastly dismemberment).  The reminder comes as a bit of shock; but a stern warning that yes, there are wild animals living in these high grassy planes and yes, they can harm me and yes, they are very…very…very real, oh and yes, they are big.  I have no option but to keep walking.

Rattle snake penticton

These grasses are tall enough that a snake like the one I just finished observing could easily hide in, and I would not even realize of their presence until I was right over them.  A slightly frightful thought, all I could do was pray and move forward.  Sidewalks definitely would be a welcome addition to this road.

OBSTICLE 6

I turn into the street that my office is on.  A sigh of relief escapes my mouth due to the fact that the lawns here are mowed, not wild and overgrown as the one I just finished trudging through.  My journey is not over yet.  I still have a bout a three minute walk in which I battle huge 18 wheelers speeding across this street as they come to their industrial destination.  I stay clear of the puddles of water on the street noting the sheer splash factor from these huge vehicles.

SUCCESS

Finally, my trip ends at my office where I now stand; musing over how wet I am, but thankful for arriving safely.  I have been on a mini adventure.  Kind of like a Lord of the Rings type of adventure, where I had to face dangerous swamps, mystical creatures (dead snake) and behemoth dragons (18 wheelers).  Ok maybe not as exciting as Lord of the Rings, but definitely and adventure.  All this to say, FLORIDA, WE THE PEOPLE NEED SIDEWALKS!!!

Juan Castillo Jr.