Return to the Valley of the Sun

 

As soon as I returned to Phoenix, I went back to Barnes and Noble and bought ten more books on Freemasonry. I knew that with all of the different references, I could get a better idea the essence of Masonry. I also consulted the Internet; however, the content was mostly a bunch of sensationalized crap about the fraternity written by conspiracy theorists. There were claims that they were part of some collective movement to bring about a New World Order with one government and one currency. There were also claims that masons were devil worshippers.  I found out later that was total bullshit.  Their simple formula is to take good men and make them better men.

 

I went back to work that Tuesday and hunkered down after missing five days of work. I had just picked up and vanished. My new secondary boss next to Mr. Campos was Mr. Gibbins. He wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, but he did know that he was very upset with me.  I couldn’t blame him.  He threatened to fire me if I did that again. Over the course of the next three months, we would go at it head to head on many occasions when we had our differences. In hindsight, I realized I was manic for the entire time. My mind was thinking about becoming President still, as ludicrous as it seemed. There were over four months of my bullshit filter turned off. I was driving my wife into utter madness with my shenanigans.  It was not what she signed up for when we exchanged our nuptials.

 

I wasn’t concentrating at all on work. My budget was cut to close to zero after the new management so I didn’t have any travel plans to go to Latin America.  I surfed the internet all day in the office looking into all sorts of esoteric subjects, including the Knights Templar and the Freemasons. I also researched the role of the President of the United States and how one could get elected. One thought of mine was that if George Bush could be President, so could I.  No doubt a lot of other people thought the same thing.

Mr. Neutron, The 45th President of the United States

 

I had it within my heart to become the Ruler of the Universe. That was the ultimate manic mission of mine, to rule over everything with god-like powers. The most obvious way for me to become Ruler of the Universe would be to first become the President of the United States.  In my unsound mind, I thought I could do it if I applied myself. In addition, God was directly telling me to do this. I couldn’t turn my back on him.   It was prophesied.

 

I calculated that I had the depth of past and the breadth of knowledge and contacts to get elected. Nothing would get in the way along the lines of a scandal, like Monica Lewinski or Watergate. Yes, I had done drugs, but thought America was ready to overlook that if my other qualities overshadowed my prior usage.  After all, Clinton smoked grass and Bush was a coke-head.

 

One day I made a list of reasons why I thought I’d make a great President apart from my great golf game looking ‘presidential’. I felt I knew the current global issues of the time and would be able to find trusted subject matter experts to be on my cabinet.  I had excellent contacts with global reach, especially when you consider those within two degrees of separation, i.e. friends of a friend. I had great, albeit brief, private sector work experience as an International Business Development Manager. I had an exceptional education graduating with honors from Thunderbird and Santa Clara. I would have been considered a Washington, D.C. “outsider”. I had great moral character and family values. I had tons of friends and family that believed in me.  I spoke four languages.  I was good at public speaking and was very diplomatic in my approach to problems. Lastly, I understood the international political and economic policy.

 

I also made some notes about my presidential platform for the voters. First of all, I want to teach people how to have more fun and laughter in life by calling into question our value systems. In my eyes, the pursuit of money and accumulation of wealth was trumping the pursuit of happiness. We, as Americans, had forgotten our true motive to be alive. I wanted to show people how to make their dreams come true. One way was to encourage Americans to travel abroad and learn about new cultures first hand. That way, we would not take for granted what we have at home. I wanted to promote world peace by minimizing human violence.  I also stood for upholding the separation of Church and State.  I wasn’t against organized religion per se, but I did want to promote the education of all world religions for people to discover the commonalities and differences of religious views. I wanted to promote the study of the natural sciences to all ages.  I was pro-enlightenment and spirituality.

Running out of Gas

 

On the 26th of August, 2004, while I was typing away at my computer at Acxiom, in walked none other than my main man, Bart, from the “earthquake” incident. We gave each other a big bear hug and he sat down in the chair next to me. We got caught up on our personal lives and then immediately jumped to the freaky incident back at my house in June.  We acknowledged that something was weird and miraculous had happened, then I took the liberty to start telling him what was going on in my mind since then.

 

I started out telling him about Conrad’s death and that I had flown to D.C. for the funeral. I mentioned that the big sign from God I had been looking for was the freakish halt in front of the House of the Temple and proceeded to give him some tidbits of what I had learned about Masonry up to that point. I told him about the head of the Apollo Space Program followed by meeting Sir Joel, the man that was from the order that protected of the tomb of Jesus. I told him that the whole thing about the Sodom and Gomorrah story was for me to believe what I saw and not second guess the importance of it like the wife of Lot. I was careful not to mention anything about knocking on the White House door and hunting Bin Laden.  Bart didn’t know what to about what I had stumbled into.

 

Then I went to the white board and started drawing some mathematical formulas to try to explain a theory I had been thinking and writing about in my journal about the Fourth Dimension. I said that the theory was a universal law defining basic principles that govern the space time continuum created by the first mover, or God. It spoke to the mass and shape of our universe and the existence of heaven and the void thereof, miracles, visions and voices of the past, present, and future, reincarnation, and the resurrection of the Sons of God.

 

Bart shook his head and said, “Say what? Dude, I’d love to continue this conversation, but I have to catch a taxi to the airport.” I said, “I can take you. No problem. We were about twenty-five minutes away. He said, “Let’s do it up, Jimmy Neutron.”  I said, “That’s Mr. Neutron to you.” I told him we had to make one stop that was out of the way, the Thunderbird campus. I wanted to show where I was planning on putting the Neutronical Gallerium on campus in one of the old fight jet hangars.  It was the idea I had come up with in Miami.  We breezed through the campus, I showed him the hangar then we started driving towards the airport.

 

I vividly recall playing the Grateful Dead song Uncle John’s band in the convertible Trans Am with the top down. There’s a lyric where they sing, “He’s come to take his children home.” I told Bart that I was coming to take MY children home. He said, “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” I said, “Yeah, that theory I came up with about the Fourth Dimension, I discovered that I am Jesus Christ.” Before he could respond, I continued, “Oh shit, we’re out of gas.”  As many manic people do, they lose sight of the instrument panel and forget to check the gas gauge. Then synchronicity kicked in yet again. I was coasting without any fumes left. The engine cut. We rolled about a quarter of a block and as I was just about to come to a stop, we rolled into a gas station and the car stopped perfectly in front of the pump.

 

I laughed, kissed my lips and pointed to the sky and said, “Thank you dad!” Bart looked at me with hint of disappointment, but more so, confusion and said, “Man, I don’t know what you got going now, but I have to catch a plane.” He told me to pop the trunk. He grabbed his bag and called a cab. I got out of the car and approached some of the other customers in the station and started up crazy conversations with them until the cab came for Bart. We gave each other a hug and parted ways.  I went back home to plan for a trip to Boston.

A Wedding of Jews, Christians and Muslims

 

Two good friends of my wife and me were getting married in Rockport, Massachusetts on the 28th of August, 2004. I was in a sort of a manic trance for about two months now and you could say I was peaking again during this trip. My wife couldn’t make it to wedding because she needed to tend to her sick mother in Mexico. I decided to travel solo. I flew into Boston, went to the Cheers bar and caught a Red Sox game at Finley Park.  I stayed at a friend’s place in town that night.

 

The next day I had to drive up the coast to Rockport, but first, I needed to drop off a wedding present for my Grateful Deadhead friend, Mark from Thunderbird. I met him at a restaurant with his wife, who was studying to be a psychiatrist. I seemed more energetic to Mark than he knew me to be on a normal day. He asked, “Is everything alright?”  I responded, “I have to tell you something.  I’m bipolar and I’m feeling manic today. I’ve been taking my meds, but sometimes cross country travel and time changes throw me a little off; not to mention all of the partying I did last night at the ball game.” The two of them were concerned and spent the next hour trying to calm me down and send me off to Rockport in a more stable mood.

 

I left Boston in my rental car still peaking. I had a map to follow, but it was very confusing. There are so many highways and roads back in these days, I didn’t have a smart phone with GPS to help with directions. Needless to say, I took a few wrong turns and was completely lost. I found myself asking for directions at a liquor store.  I was so far off track; nobody was of any help.  I bought a forty-ouncer of beer to quench my thirst for the rest of the drive.  Bad idea.  Alcohol and full blown mania do not mix.

 

I don’t recall exactly what was going through my mind, but I was feeling like I could walk on water. The whole “me running for President” thing jumped into my head again. I thought it would be a novel idea to try and get President Bush on the phone. I dialed information from my cell phone and had them patch me through to the White House. One of the switchboard operators answered. I said in a joking tone as if I were in a movie, “Get me the President!”  I was out of my mind.  I started spouting a bunch of nonsensical gibberish about Bush, Dick Cheney and Osama bin Laden. Long story short, I didn’t get patched through to the President. I thought that someday down the road we’d replay the recorded call and laugh at how Bush denied Neutron’s call.

 

I finally found Rockport, but needed to dial in where the wedding was being held. I was running very late and still needed to put my suit on. I found myself at the wrong house that some neighbor sent me to. I knew the wedding was down some bluff behind a mansion.  So I walked behind the house I was at and

 

walked on a muddy path down the bluff to see if I could see the wedding tent.  I succeeded.  I saw the tent. In my haste to get to the wedding, I ran up the hill and slipped and fell in the mud. I was caked in it. My clothes were a mess.

 

I drove around the neighborhood along the bluff and finally found the cars all parked in front of this mansion. I looked at my watch.  I was an hour late.  I rushed to the back of the house still wearing my jeans and t-shirt covered in mud as the wedding was letting out.  The bride and groom looked at me and the groom asked, ”What the hell happened to you? You’re a mess” I said. “I got so turned around coming from Boston.  I don’t know what to say.  I’m so sorry.  I’ll go change my clothes for the reception.”

 

At the reception, people gave their speeches and then the microphone was passed around for anybody to say something. I grabbed the mike and made some comment about how the Jews, Muslims, and Christians should all get along.  The groom was Jewish, the bride was Muslim and I was quasi-Christian. I said, “Do we all agree?  Peace?”  and everybody said in unison, “Agreed.”  I thought I had accomplished some kind of ‘peace in the Middle East’ with my little speech. I’m sure the other guests were asking the bride and groom who the nutjob was.

Meeting a Presidential Candidate

 

Just after the wedding in Massachusetts, I flew from Phoenix to Little Rock, Arkansas for a sales convention at the Acxiom headquarters. Probably the worst thing you can do if you’re already a little manic. Sales rallies are a sure trigger to set you over the edge. It was three days of hard work, networking, eating, and drinking with very little time to sleep. We had motivational speakers telling us how to push ourselves to the edge. After the second day, I was floating on air thinking that I could solve all the terrorism problems in the world with proper access to the right people.

 

The keynote speaker sat on the Board of Directors along with Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff. His name was General Wesley Clark, a West Point graduate and the former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces.  I never saw a man give such an inspirational speech in my life.  He talked about the global balance of power and the role of the United States to stamp out Islamic terrorism.  At the end of the speech, the CEO, Charles, came out on the stage with him and intimated that he would be running for U.S. President in the 2004 elections.  After the speech, the assistant to the CEO, who was a friend of mine, got me backstage to shake his hand. I was beside myself. I was truly in the presence of greatness. I left that day with even more aspirations to become President. With all of that motivational talk about reaching for the stars, I was sure I could do it. As it turned out, General Clark lost in the primary the following year to John Kerry.

A Run for the Border

 

I arrived at my house in Scottsdale right after the company sales trip and at precisely 11:11pm. As I was pulling into the driveway, there was a total blackout in the community. I took that as a major sign from God given my superstition in 11:11, which symbolized to me the opening of Heaven’s gate.  I made a snap decision to drive to my wife’s hometown of Hermosillo, Mexico eight hours south of Phoenix.  The reason being was that my mother-in-law was on her death bed and my wife was already down there to comfort her in the hospital.

 

I either forgot or wasn’t aware about the stop I had to make to buy insurance at the checkpoint fifteen miles into the country in the city of Nogales. I flew right past it. A few minutes later I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a Federali patrol car with his lights on. I pulled over to side of the road.  I just sensed he was going to have a heyday with me.  He looked like a typical asshole Mexican cop with his pot belly, beige uniform, thick mustache and pilot glasses.

 

Before even exchanging niceties, he told me to step out of the car and put my hands behind my back. He put hand cuffs on my wrists and shoved me into his patrol car.  Another officer got out of the car, asked me for my car keys. I didn’t just have an ordinary vehicle. I was driving a black, convertible Trans-am with a supped-up engine.  Clearly the jerks were going to try to steal it from me.

 

The second cop commandeered my car and drove behind us back the checkpoint. I started calling the guy a son of a bitch and we got into a verbal match of Mexican expletives.  The one cop escorted me in cuffs to the outside of his office. The August sun and heat were unbearable. After an hour in the blazing sun, he uncuffed me and let me wait in the shade for him.  It took him three frickin’ hours to type up the report.

Once he finished, he explained to me that I would have to pay a fine of whatever the car was worth or forfeit the vehicle. That would have been over $25,000. I went psychotic on him, shouting at the top of my lungs in Spanish about how all of them were corrupt bastards. It wasn’t getting me far at all, but I couldn’t control my rage.  Well, I didn’t pay the fine and didn’t get my car back that day.  They proceeded to impound my car. The police report said that I was evidently psychotic from illicit drug use. Unbelievably they didn’t lock me up that day.

 

I called a taxi to take me back to Nogales, but nobody showed up for me for at least an hour. I decided to start walking eight miles back to town with my big duffel bag I dragged along. I tried to hitch a ride from the big truckers, but they wouldn’t stop.  I had to jump over the fifteen-foot-high fence to get off the bypass route on the highway. I didn’t realize it was an official border fence.  I hurled my duffel bag as high as I could, and it barely snagged on the top of the fence. I climbed up to the top and threw the bag down on the other side. I ripped my shirt on the top of the fence and damn near sprained my ankle when I landed.  Then I waited several hours at the bus station to catch the next bus to Hermosillo.

 

My mania was getting to the point where I started thinking I was Jesus Christ again. The heat also was making me absolutely delirious. I was wearing the softest, red silk shirt and thought that’d be a cool garment that Jesus would have worn if he came back to earth.

 

When the bus stopped at a town on the way to Hermosillo, I jumped out and started running around touching everyone on their head. I didn’t pay attention to what their reaction was. I just kept running and didn’t look back. My newly found buddy Joel from Washington D.C. told me that when Jesus returned to earth, he would start tapping people on the head and giving them a space in Heaven. Apparently, that was in the Book of Revelations.

 

I arrived at the bus station at my destination, Hermosillo. I took a cab right to the right hospital. It was a total surprise when I walked into my mother-in-law’s hospital room. I was a mess. I had spent most of the day in the scalding 100+ degree weather. I was still sweating like a slave and my clothes were filthy. My arms and face were bright red with a terrible sun burn. By the look in my dilated eyes, my wife immediately knew I was in a full-blown mania. She investigated my suitcase and saw that all of the chocolates I had bought for her mom had melted and stained all of my clothes, typical carelessness of a manic person.

 

The doctors had just inserted into her back an eight-inch tube that pierced her left lung to drain out the fluids that were quickly accumulating. There was a possibility she wouldn’t make it through the recovery process and that’s why I was there.  I did not want my wife alone in case she passed. She was awake when I arrived and was so flattered that I made the trip down there. I gave her the biggest, yet softest hug and we both cried out of joy that we were together.  My wife, on the other hand, was livid and not very understanding of my true, compassionate intentions. She had a dying mother to deal with and now a husband in a full blown manic episode on her hands.

 

I was flying high in Mexico and poor Mariam had duel responsibilities.  She wanted to be with her mother in the hospital at night, but I she knew intuitively that she couldn’t leave me alone. She was absolutely exhausted the day after I arrived. That whole day I was carrying on about me being Jesus and she being Mary Magdalene.  I honestly don’t know how she was processing this information, but I know it was too much for her to handle. She went fast asleep. Lights out. I, on the other hand, sneaked out of the house against her orders to go find some action, any action…. whatever the universe would serve up to Neutron.

Within one block of the house on my manic mission, I found three guys in their thirties partying on their front patio with music playing much louder than appropriate for 2:00am. I boldly approached them and said in Spanish, “Yo, what’s up, guys?” I must admit I have a disarming charm about me at times that gains me immediate acceptance. One guy said, “Hey man, you want a beer?” Obviously, I accepted, but I could also smell some of the most stinky kind bud(pot) and had to have some of that. The second guy extended to me a fat joint and took a couple of monster hits. It was just what I needed in the middle of my mania, something to send me to the moon. I stuck around for about a half hour longer and shot the shit about Mexican-American politics and the Mexican Cartel. As I was walking away, one of them handed me the roach of the joint to take home with me. I tucked it in my wallet and walked home. I slept next to Mariam that night, but I never really fell asleep. I was paranoid she’d wake up and find me awake so I pretended to snore for about four hours.

Mexican Border Crossing

 

I was in no condition to go anywhere, but I had to get back to Phoenix for my job at Acxiom.  At 10:00pm the following night, Mariam drove me to the Greyhound bus station in downtown Hermosillo and read me the riot act. Justly so. She said, “Get your act together by the time I get back, or else!” We kissed, and she took off. I started thinking about how she didn’t bust me for sneaking out the night before and then suddenly, I thought, “Holy shit, the roach!”  I almost crossed the border with the little tip of the joint but saved myself just in time. I took it out of my wallet and threw it away. It was only a roach, but enough to get into big trouble at the border crossing in Nogales.

 

At 2:00am the bus entered into the United States and pulled up to Customs and Immigration. They ordered everybody off the jam-packed bus. I was wearing my hippie t-shirt, jeans and sandals. My hair was long and totally disheveled from sleeping on the bus with my head against the window. I was in the back of the bus, so I filed behind everybody and we made a long straight line under the bright lights at the inspection station. I was the last one in the line. Then came the big surprise. A heavily armed officer wearing a flak jacket pulls up in a K-9 unit truck, jumps out of the front seat and goes to the back to open the hatch. Mr. Macho proceeds to pulls out his drug/bomb sniffing dog. But instead of pulling out a German Shepherd, out jumps this pansy, little, fucking poodle. He marches it down the line sniffing each person with utmost scrutiny. My heart starts pounding in fear. Even when I don’t have drugs, when they bring the dogs out, I instinctively panic. Well, sure as shit, the poodle gets to me and starts barking ferociously and snarling his teeth at me. Mr. Macho goes, “Take him away.” The said fucking poodle smelled the roach residue in my wallet.

 

Another two guards immediately grab me tightly behind each arm and lead me away to the station into the interrogation room. They pressed me up against the wall and frisked me. All I had on me was my wallet. My car keys were with no longer with me because the Mexicans had already stolen my car. Now mind you, I’m in the middle of a manic episode and I’m not feeling the Force at this point. One guard opened my wallet and emptied out all the contents onto the table. He sticks his nose in the empty wallet and said, “We got dope here.”  I said in a smart-ass tone, “No, you don’t have shit there.  Why?  Because there’s no dope there, that’s why.” He didn’t like my tone and motioned to the other guard, “Cuff him.” The other guard put the handcuffs on me tightly.

The interrogation began.  They asked what my purpose was in Mexico.  I told them I was visiting my wife and her mother, who was in the hospital. They replied, “Why are your eyes all dilated? Have you been taking drugs?” When manic, my pupils dilate. I said, “Absolutely not and I have no idea why your poodle was barking at me.”  They said, “Why are you crossing the border at 2:00am by bus?”  I explained, “The Mexicans stole my car on the way down because I didn’t stop for insurance.” They said, “They stole it?” I said, “They impounded my car and imposed an unreasonable fine that I couldn’t pay.” They said, “Okay, that’s enough for now.”

 

They grabbed the cards in my wallet and started thumbing through them. I had several credit cards, Masonic membership cards, my old Thunderbird Student ID, and last of all, my personal business card from Acxiom, and another business card.  It wasn’t just any card; it was my friend Jon’s business card from the White House that he had given me back in Milwaukee on a previous trip. The guards picked up my wallet and its contents and left me cuffed to the chair in the room. They were gone for at least an hour trying to dig up some dirt. I knew they weren’t able to call anybody at that hour, so their search was limited.

They came back into the room, sat down in front of me and said, “You know you’re in a whole lot of trouble. Don’t you?” I said, “For what? A stinky wallet?”  They replied, ”We have reason to believe you’re up to no good.  We’re going to have to detain you until we can sort this out.”  Little did I know, the bus and thirty pissed off Mexicans were still parked out front waiting for me. That was my only ride home, otherwise I would have had to wait until the morning. I started to get flustered and thought to myself, “There is only one way to get out of this mess. Do some acting and lie through your teeth.”

After a few moments of awkward silence, I mustered up the courage and the lies started to fly. I shouted at them at the top of my lungs in a psychotic tone, “Listen, you two dummies and listen good. Obviously, you don’t know how to put a fucking story together. Who are the Freemasons?  They run the whole goddamn country behind the scenes.  U.S. Senator Bob Dole, a high-ranking freemason, is a fellow fraternal brother and a good friend of mine. What is Thunderbird? The #1 globally ranked international management program and a recruiting ground for the Central Intelligence Agency and Homeland Security. You two are obviously lacking in the intelligence department. Who is Jon Adelman? He’s my contact in the White House reporting to Bush’s Chief of Staff Josh Bolten that puts my intelligence report on the President’s desk every morning. Yes, that’s right. I’m secret ops on a mission to hunt and kill Mexico’s biggest drug kingpin, Joaquín Guzmán, a.k.a., El Chapo.  The reward is $5,000,000 and I’ll be sure to remember you two officers for your cordiality.  Now, be the boss or go find the boss or I’ll have your jobs stripped by 8:00am.  Take these cuffs off me immediately get me the hell out of here.”

 

They looked at me with stone cold faces for about five seconds. The suspense was killing me. My story had more holes in it than Swiss cheese.  I thought, ”Oh shit, they’re not buying it.” I said, ”Just to let you know, I’ll be running for President in the future and I guaranty you this story will be in my memoir.” Then one looked at the other and gave a subtle nod. He said, “Mr. Driessen, we apologize for the inconvenience. We’re just doing our jobs.  You are free to go.”

I completely went passive aggressive on them and used their own names like I was charge, “Officer O’Regan and Officer Kelley. You did a great job and you did the right thing.  I’m going to personally give a commendation to your superior. Who might that be?” They told me the name of their boss and proceeded to take off the cuffs. They opened the door and said their parting words, “Good luck on your mission, sir.” They called me, “sir”.  What a trip!  I hopped back on the angry bus and took off to Phoenix.

 

 

 
Back at the Office

 

I returned to the Acxiom office the next day in the afternoon in Mariam’s car. Luckily, she wasn’t working at the time. I was just in time for a very important meeting with the Senior Vice President over Mr. Gibbins, my team Latin American Solution Center team members, and Gibbins. My other boss, Mr. Campos, was mysteriously not present. It turned out that Mr. Campos was reassigned from the Latin American market to Asia and Mr. Gibbins was taking over Latin America. I was no longer reporting to Campos, who I admired and respected for teaching me discipline and how to be a better man.

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