Monday, August 30, 2010

Quote of the Day: The Reward

"The journey is the reward."

I am considering this in the contexts of the following: triathlons especially finish lines, our vocations, deadlines, moving house, uncertainty, projects I want to embark on but don't know how, selling things on craigslist, Back To School. Actual rewards, such as chocolate and Christmas bonuses.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Words Failed Me

Amid the catastrophic year- no book
no bible, speech or phrase would hear
your pain. No prayer, no 23rd psalm
would lay you down to sleep or be
your balm. The poems you’d held up to your chest
so long as living beings bringing warmth
and tidings from the lands of friendly others
were as if written in another tongue.

You who labored diligent as any
twenty-year old might whose mind and body
battled for the spotlight. You who filled
five-subject spiral notebooks with your scribbles,
and wrote the world around you down on index
cards- quotes that you were sure would soon
sink in and leave you lifted up, inspired.
You who made a wallpaper of letters
and thought your favorite writers to be friends.

Where were they when the blood filled up
the bowl? What kind of friends leave friends
so unconsoled? When the phone call came
the lump was not benign and where were they?
Smugly silent, lost upon the page.
The collapse of roof and ceiling in the night,
the miserable fight, the time spent curled
in a fetal ball in tears, the waiting room
of Chester County hospital- all words
had disappeared. And so (we thought) you learned:

let the books be burned before the people.
May the alphabet be swallowed in a rage.
Let us be judged by flesh and fear and action.
Believe in God or science, trust yourself,
lean on your tribe, but leave the black and white
to those less wise. Words are bad friends, they make
a fool of you, they plunder, lie, betray.
Nowhere in the fine print will you find
what you are seeking: no truth, no meaning.

So if you find yourself one early evening-
late in summer, sun escaping fast
behind the neighbors’ house- drawn back in
some sentimental fashion to the page,
a place you once heard whispers of a song...
if you seek solace, or a place to place
your heartbreak, or escape to, just remember.
You could start writing then. You could be wrong.

Monday, August 23, 2010

An Internet Gem

epic fail photos cool-list
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Quote of the Day: The Future

At twenty-three, Dexter Mayhew's vision of his future was no clearer than Emma Morley's. He hoped to be successful, to make his parents proud and to sleep with more than one woman at the same time, but how to make these all compatible? He wanted to feature in magazine articles, and hoped one day for a retrospective of his work, without having any clear notion of what that work might be. He wanted to live life to the extreme, but without any mess or complications. He wanted to live life in such a way that if a photograph were taken at random, it would be a cool photograph. Things should look right. Fun; there should be a lot of fun and no more sadness than absolutely necessary.

Excerpted from One Day by David Nicholls

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Michigan Seems Like A Dream To Me Now

In the last scene of the TV series Freaks and Geeks, which I have just finished Netflixing, the main character Lindsey gets off the bus her parents think is taking her to academic camp and into a waiting van of Grateful Deadheads to go follow the band around the US for a couple weeks.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by this, but I was. In the story it represented an act of rebellion, the first out-of-character thing she'd ever done, a new leaf, a new way of looking at the world.

If it were me at that age, I would have sucked it up and gone to academic camp, done what was expected of me, pleased those in the position to praise me.

But after years after all of that pleasing and up-sucking, I have a growing urge to climb into the van. There is no one left to please, no more papers to be graded, no more report cards to be issued. That's one of the things I find annoying about this real world: there is no deus ex machina to come down and tell you how you are doing in relation to a random sampling of your peers. After years - decades - of worrying about how I measure up on the curve, the curve has devolved into a jumble of meaningless squiggles. How can I know whether or not I am Enough when there is no teacher designated to tell me so? How do I know if I have worked hard enough, studied hard enough, am naturally smart enough, if there is no number or letter value to assign to my recent efforts? In school I worked so hard to learn the rules of the game and then outsmart them, and now I am chagrined to find that everyone is playing a different game, they are making up the rules as they go, there is no consistent scoring pattern. I was not prepared for this!

And to top it all off I am now beginning to worry that while I was busy immersing myself in the minutiae of an unwinnable and ultimately irrelevant game, other people were climbing into vans and going to sex clubs and backpacking through Vietnam and Cambodia, thereby gaining a lead in a different contest, one which Spangles might refer to as Drinking Deeply From the Cup of Life.

I worry that this urge to go look for America, to have a crazy adventure, to do something wild and unexpected, is a rather bourgeois upper-middle class desire - not the desire, maybe, but the ability to execute it. Plane tickets to Cambodia, taking six months away from an income stream seem like luxuries that only a certain demographic could afford.

Still, sailors and settlers and explorers have embarked on the unknown for centuries, although they usually had more concrete reasons than restiveness and the quest for self-discovery. But why not? Who doesn't want to See the World!!!?

But then, is going somewhere just to see it a good use of resources? Particularly when going to more impoverished countries, is it enough to just be a tourist, stay in the hotels, spend your tourist dollars? And on the other hand, when you go on one of those mission-type trips where you build a house or something in between your tourist destinations, doesn't that seem a little, I don't know, condescending or something?

And then you have the ones who walk the length of the US or do the Appalachian trail barefoot. Dudes who just up and leave, no point, no purpose, they just want to walk, do something wild and different, see what they can see, the Doc Watsons in Cannery Row.

How to do something with no point, no purpose, no net gain? How is such a feat to be embarked upon? Even when I studied abroad in the back of my mind was the satisfying thought that I was also earning a foreign language minor. (Even though...fat lotta good it's done me so far...)

How do you balance this vague Simon and Garfunkel looking for America yearning, with something that wouldn't make my family sick with worry, with something that seems like it has a point, with something that I could even afford? And how do you balance that with the feeling that the whole point would be to do something crazy, something your family wouldn't approve of, something that doesn't make any kind of sense but you just up and do it anyway and find a way to make it work?

Perhaps even more enjoyable than a real adventure is the longing for one, the sense of limitless possibility (if only), the hurt so good, an aching tooth you can't seem to leave alone. I could, I would, I might, and then I continue my routine, write in a blog, cut pictures from magazines, imagine how I might have squandered all the money I borrowed for higher education in an entirely different way, how I might still make it, still go, still find, and find out, what I'm looking for.

"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The New Me

I have moved house. Jung might suggest that I have symbolically begun to inhabit a new self, and I have chosen to celebrate my revamping my blog which has been languishing pitifully over the summer, like a dried out garden whose appointed tender has been off gallivanting irresponsibly.

As August descends so does that exquisite feeling of endings, dread, poignancy...the Back To School feeling that haunts me in August years after the academic calendar has ceased to have a bearing on my life, other than the way that this month inevitably feels like the last few minutes of a long back massage - great pleasure that is hard to separate from anticipation of the End.

And in fact, this heavy idea I began with, this pursuit of happiness, seems to have dried up and blown away. Who knows if it will be back again in another form, tumbleweeds or convection currents or a particle caught on trade wind that lands in your eye, but in any case I find myself gazing at the bookshelf I have full of books about happiness, finding it, keeping it...with a feeling similar but not quite as strong as disgust.

Perhaps I have finally talked this topic to death, or at least a measure of zombie- like living deadness, and I feel too bouyant and distractable and dilletantish to go poking my nose in that dusty old tome. I want to chase butterflies and fiddle all day while the ants lay in their supplies! I want to go for a long pointless bike ride and stay up late watching inane youtube videos! I want to have a second, third, fourth, fifth childhood, whittle sticks in the backyard for no reason, tell ghost stories, travel by catapult and parachute!

Yea, I walked through the valley of the shadow of death and it was a DRAG. Now I want to get motion sick rolling down hills and climb into waiting hot air balloons. I want to play hookey and splash in the creek and go riding on the trains with the hobos, finally, after all those years of wanting to, gazing wistfully out of the classroom window where I diligently learned my times tables and the price of achievement.

The New Me stays up late drinking wine with friends. The New Me might try to get in on this party of puppeteers getting into nonsense in Fishtown. I google cruises to anarctica and the beautiful empty facade of former hotel the Divine Lorraine. I will write odes to crumbling places and host parties and string up lights.

Somewhere in a dingy apartment on South Street in the recent past the Old Me still sits, looking for answers in books, curled up with desperation or despair. I want to send her a post card that says "No Regrets" and "Wish u were here" with a picture of an old old man on the front, but how do you mail something to someone for whom there is no known address?