Categotry Archives: Keepin’ it Cryptic

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15 Years and a Day

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Keepin' it Cryptic, Marching to New Orleans, Metablogging, The Long Tunnel, The Wild Wild Web, Tags: , , , , , ,

Me in New York City, early 2000 (left).  Me in New Orleans, early 2015 (right).  Forgive the tiny image size - I don't have a better or bigger version of the one on the left just yet.  I do, however, still have and wear that jacket.

Me in New York City, early 2000 (left). Me in New Orleans, early 2015 (right). Forgive the tiny image size – I don’t have a better or bigger version of the one on the left just yet. I do, however, still have and wear that jacket.

It is perhaps fitting that I went with Introspection-style dash-bullet-points to summarize my experience in yesterday’s post. After all, yesterday was the 15th anniversary of my opening salvo into blogging, the first post of Introspection. Like so many things done the first time, it wasn’t very good.

It did, however, have a pretty prophetic reference in it, that a dream had entailed details of the film “Magnolia”. Not because I would necessarily post so much about dreams in the coming decade and a half (though there’d be some of that), but because that line from that movie has become such a watchword for this blog. It’s even one of the categories for this post since I am, after all, talking about the year 2000. (Cue Conan O’Brien.) Of course, I butchered the line to make it more grammatically correct and perhaps less zingy. I am told, though I haven’t watched the film in a long time, that it’s “We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.” Somehow when I first posted in this category in October 2007 (it was my first StoreyTelling post!), I remembered it as “We may be done with the past, but the past isn’t done with us.” Same sentiment, really.

Given my penchant for references, anniversaries, looking at life through a novelistic lens, and seeing time as geography, it is perhaps almost unbelievable, then, that I would launch a brand-new blog on 13 March 2015, exactly 15 years to the day after my personal world turned a bit forever with the opening of public displays of introspection. And that I didn’t even quite realize that was happening for the first few days it was scheduled.

I recently started working at Communities In Schools of Greater New Orleans. It is not my intent to blog a lot about this position or what happens therein – I’m the Director of Development, which is a reasonably sensitive job, and there’s just not a lot of call to talk about my work life in this context given the nature of that work. However, I am super-excited about bringing you details of what that organization is doing to improve other people’s lives, which is the function of our new blog. Launched yesterday. 13 March. The anniversary. I’m sure.

It says something for the separation of work life and personal life that it didn’t immediately occur to me when my boss suggested we launch this Friday that it would be such a significant personal date. Because it’s one of those days, like July 24th (once good, now good and ruined) or July 13th (ibid.) or April 8th (still not sure the roots of this one, but it’s always significant) or June 6th (bad things, man, although also Felix now) that carries weight despite not being a birthday or something. I guess we could throw October 17th in there, but screw that.

Come on, I can’t reference the old blog this much and not have moments of being cryptic, can I?

Anyway, I want you to go read the blog, and like us on social media for regular updates and all that wonderful stuff. It has been a really wonderful project to work on and I’m so excited about telling the story of the organization and especially the kids we serve. Dropout prevention was never a specific passion of mine (though I long aspired to be a high school teacher), but I’ve com to realize that, in this country, it is the primary preventative measure we have to combat all the other direct ills that I care about. Dropping out of high school is the biggest predictor of whether someone ends up homeless, in jail, in poverty, overcome by addictions, you name it. Graduating from high school isn’t a guarantee to avoid those things, but the statistical significance of the benefit is overwhelming. I still care deeply about food justice and poverty alleviation and I believe that this organization is actually doing incredible work on those issues via the best preventative measure we have.

Plus, there will be pictures of kids. Who doesn’t love pictures of kids?

These meta posts observing how long I’ve been blogging publicly and writing posts, usually (in this format) in fits and starts with long droughts and long sustained periods, usually bring up some reflection on the purpose of the approach. I’m not really in a place where I’m questioning the existence of this medium or my use of it (I rarely am, since college, I guess). But it’s good to take stock of the ability to communicate here, to convey a series of thoughts and feelings to try to inspire change. While all writing I have ever done has the goal of changing how people see things toward the ultimate goal of improving our lot in life (as a species, morally), it becomes more clear and overt by starting a blog for an organization with the purpose of communicating the mission and garnering support for it. I don’t see it as that fundamentally different from what I’m trying to do here, honestly, though this also includes a lot of emotional hand-wringing and the intent of simply chronicling a life with all its ups, downs, mistakes, and triumphs.

I’m even more reflective than normal after engaging in earnest as a regular contributor to Clarion Content, Aaron Mandel’s online curation of Durham, North Carolina and leftist politics. He’s long been a gracious supporter of my work and syndicated Duck and Cover for a long stretch when I still was keeping that project up (it may come back someday, don’t give up hope). He’s invited me to be a regular contributor and there’s been a commensurate spike in dedication to blogging here ever since, especially since he’s mostly running cross-posts of the more politically minded content that runs here on StoreyTelling. The index of my new regular feature will be here and I’ll make sure to share my unique posts that end up there on the BP’s social media.

It’s tempting to close these kinds of pieces with a look into the murky fog of the future, something even more inviting in the late winter of New Orleans, when mist is ubiquitous and the spirits seem to gather wispily corporeal presence. But I’m on a crusade against future-mindedness, at least in a long-term personal context. We can set goals for ourselves, like graduating high school or returning to the Grand Canyon to go rim-to-rim-to-rim. But obsessing about where we’ll be in one, two, five, ten years is usually fruitless fretting. It leads to ignoring the moment in front of you, the day you could be enjoying more thoroughly if you weren’t wishing it away. Each day can be long and full and fulfilling, or at least intriguing, if one foreshortens future thinking. I’ve really tried to apply this logic to 2015, not trying to build a grand vision for the year (other, perhaps, than returning to work and the new exciting opportunity at CIS) but to take each day, each moment, as the quiet little opportunity it can be.

I may not be able to forgive people, I may not be able to let go of the past. But daily mindfulness is a healthy target I can try to achieve, for now. And that’s all right for me today. Because today is the only day I need to be all right, right now.

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One Year Later

Categories: A Day in the Life, Keepin' it Cryptic, Metablogging, Read it and Weep, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, The Long Tunnel, Tags: , , , , ,

This blog still exists, by the way. This isn’t a conscious decision to never blog again, but the combined product of possibly the busiest year of my life and some factors therein that haven’t seemed to lend themselves to public scrutiny. It’s a weird feeling, not wanting absolutely everything out in public, and one unfamiliar to me, but nonetheless there. It’s a bit of a crossroads, but there is no doubt that May and the ensuing summer will bring more use of this venue to communicate and more interest in projects on this site, or at the very least more time. I love the team I coach, but they are draining in all the ways a group of people can be draining.

Anyway, it seemed fitting to mark a year. No, not since I last posted in my blog. Something a bit more personal and more difficult. It’s been a year since I’ve spoken to Emily, a year since Chris and Ashley pulled me away from despondency in a debate meeting and convinced me what so many others had tried to before, that a person who callously hurts you without regard or self-awareness is not a friend no matter what kind of premium you or that person puts on that word. It was an important lesson, and one I needed to learn from people younger than I am who knew me better at the time.

What a difference a year makes. But does a year make any difference? She’s allegedly coming back to Jersey, so I hear through the backchannels. Coming to finish a small part of what was started that fateful year when she moved us out to this state I can’t seem to extricate myself from. I have a variety of choices, as everyone does, always, in life. I could reopen the channel, stem the flow of absence after a year, try to rehumanize and poke around for any signs of life or remorse. Or I could continue to persist in a cocoon of relative comfort, the illusion of her death replacing the reality of her betrayal, the lines blurred. There’s the old metaphor I used to use in the rehab case, of course, about not being fully well until you can walk past your drug dealer and say “no thanks” – bubbles don’t really count. But if you need to be in a bubble in order to survive, surely it’s preferable to expiring in the open air?

May Day is a pregnant spot on the 366-slot pantheon of the year, loaded with associations and allusions and metaphors galore. It’s a distress signal and a call to action. Occupy is apparently calling for a general strike of the 99%, something I’d consider honoring had today not already been designated for RUDU’s Senior Banquet, a four-hour festival consisting of the conclusion of our annual Ironman tournament, senior speeches, a team picture, and dinner. To see RUDU’s next step in its blossoming as an institution is something I couldn’t dream of missing, no matter how much the calls of labor leaders and communist organizers hearken to the importance of May 1st. It was also May 1st, of course, when I went in for my Glide interview in 2006, with an HR Director wearing a T-shirt in solidarity with the marchers outside but deciding that Glide was worth working for all the same. Labor leaders. The longer one lives, the more patterns and associations become fraught. No wonder my mother can’t listen to music from the sixties.

And what else of getting older? Certainly one is more surprised by life with each passing day, or at least I am. The feeling that this is now twice over borrowed time, both liberating and demanding as the time is both precious yet unexpected. The question of whether those patterns make life more navigable, or less dramatic, or merely serve as distractions while the universe carries out its destiny on your behalf. And while forgiveness continues to elude me conceptually, the idea of letting someone’s transgressions stand as warranted and valid, the process of turning cheeks and baring souls never seems very far. I seem to always find a way to reopen the path, even if that path is marked with wounded, strewn with dead, mined and booby-trapped all the way up to its foggy conclusion, itself inevitably another murky fork.

If there is a lesson to be found in all of this, I don’t think I’ve learned it yet. Which probably means more pain to come, the best professor in the business. Trying to be mindful of one’s own actions sufficiently to make them valid, to make interactions meaningful, to demonstrate the kind of compassion one hasn’t been afforded. Inevitably, though, the bubbles we live in puncture those of others, the defense mechanisms we construct deal damage as an exchange for not taking it, and the alternative seems to be being so vulnerable that the mere air pressure of a May day is enough to crush one’s skeletal structure into white powder. Where is this balance to be struck? Every day, you can walk outside and see people doing it wrong. Passive-aggression, aggressive aggression, timidity, fear, paranoia, meanness. No one intends any of this. They’re merely trying to protect themselves from the dangers they’ve felt, or worse, the dangers they’ve only imagined and seen reflected in others’ pain.

The Hunger Games series seems a fitting backdrop for all this contemplation of mine of late. There is probably no more important reading for a member of the first world in this age on this planet. The mere reading of an allegedly young adult series has pitched me back into an uproar of whether living in America at all is too great a burden and harm on the planet itself, whether the exploitation of others innate to our local quality of life makes us all complicit if we don’t tear down the structure or flee. We are in Omelas, but the dungeons are lined up a hundredfold, the screams reverberating off each other in harmonious cacophony. To say nothing of what we do to each other, ourselves.

The only prescription I can give myself is thought. More time to think. About contact, about withdrawal, about the nature of a society so determined to use others that we all end up using ourselves. I am keyed up with the lightning reflexes of the debate world, argument turns and split-second timing and case choices on the run. Life doesn’t have to be like that. Not in May, with a view of summer, reminding us that no matter how abysmal April manages to be each year, it will eventually be replaced by something warmer, more relaxed, less stringent.

In the meantime, someone stole my laundry detergent from the basement and even such mundanities of life cannot be overlooked on May Day. It’s a neighborhood where I’ve accidentally left my car unlocked and GPS in view for days at a time, but one’s own neighbors will take detergent. And, as always, there could be confusion, miscommunication, an explanation that makes it a mere trifling misunderstanding. The question becomes one not of intent, for everyone intends always to be a good person and believes they are. I know you think you are. The question, rather, becomes one of how much thought and care goes into any given action. How much do you think about the implications of what you do?

In today’s world, we are all merely fragile butterflies, but our wings are bringing up tidal waves everywhere. Mayday.

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The Profundity of Being Alone

Categories: A Day in the Life, Keepin' it Cryptic, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, The Long Tunnel, Tags: , , ,

Something is right with me today. It’s a weird feeling and its pervasive presence is underscoring how far from feeling this way I’ve been in a long time and prompting further contemplation of the differences. There are a lot of minor possible and even plausible explanations, but it is only in the incredible convergence that they even begin to seem to explain the way I’m feeling.

I blew out my voice at Harvard (not entirely, but close enough), probably more from telling stories while projecting from the front of a minivan than in actually doing my job coaching. I made a serious case advice blunder at Harvard that cost a team that had been cruising through the tournament a trip further in the outrounds and our team a shot at ascending in the rankings. But today I woke up more at peace with the latter and especially more okay with the former. I’m realizing that I’ve been sick in some general sense (allergies, feeling run down, actually sore-throated, etc.) for probably more than two full weeks and today was the first day it didn’t seem debilitating. My voice is still a bit froggy and I still have some congestion, but today made me feel like I’m actually going to beat my association of maladies and I realized how much of my general downtroddenness the last couple weeks has stemmed from just not being physically 100%.

It also is a day where, for the first time in ages, I’m feeling like I’m not behind on anything. This may be an illusory feeling, but I think it’s combining with a particular piece of mail I dropped in the box on Friday that I didn’t even realize was freighting me down the way that it apparently was. Mental energy is a hard thing to gauge, especially when one’s distracted and running behind, and yet the last 24 hours have provided this overarching lift from finally dispatching something I have put off in order to not let it weigh me down. Feels like, once again, I misread that situation completely and its true impact on my daily functioning soul. So suddenly there’s a chirping bird where there was not long ago an ominous crow.

The weather is gorgeous. That doesn’t hurt anything. It’s an October 10th that eats like an August 17th and while that itself can raise disconcerting feelings and perceptions, it doesn’t surprise me that a stock exchange located in New York City decided to jump 3% today for no rational reason. I think it’s almost impossible not to feel optimistic in weather like this, an optimism that just doesn’t burn in the face of reason or logic or the reality of a winter oncoming. Eat, drink, and lay in the grass for tomorrow we freeze. Perhaps, perhaps. Or maybe there is a hope in the innate simplicity of embracing what surrounds us and not resisting.

Even Jersey has felt friendly and warm and open today. I played cards yesterday and felt like I was making friends with everyone, going out way up after a roller-coaster ride that should have fazed me way more than it did. Of course I was doing so in the wake of something more emotionally involving, but ultimately that’s even infused me with a sense of peace. And I retrieved all my stuff from Enterprise today – I somehow left everything in our rented van when we dropped it off after Harvard, including my credit card in the cupholder and my backpack, which is basically my lifeline to existence. The retrieval was one of the friendlier corporate or Jersey interactions I’ve ever had, especially for it being something so boneheaded on my part and so annoying for them to deal with.

There is something, essentially, about being alone and more quiet and rested and healthy and introspective in the wake of several consecutive tumultuous days, that has prompted an internal Zen flame of simple humanity. I could describe it better if I understood it better, but I’m tempted to let it be and try to savor this hurricane-eye kind of calm. I think it has something to do with keeping my own company after so long surrounded, but I even enjoyed grocery shopping a little today. The best I can explain it is that it feels like there’s some sort of lack of pressure, an absence of a pressing weight that’s been there for weeks. Whether that’s more sinus pressure or paperwork pressure or success pressure or simply an amorphous spiritual angst is anyone’s guess. And how long it will remain away is even less tangible.

But as Adam Duritz would say, that’s all right for me today.

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Sun Cracks Horizon Dawn

Categories: A Day in the Life, All the Poets Became Rock Stars, Keepin' it Cryptic, Let's Go M's, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, The Long Tunnel, Tags: , , , , ,

Forgive the use of the Star Warsy sounding subtitle in the new logo up top, but it’s really the most accurate thing I can convey. There’s a reason that film was a smash hit, and if you go back and look at it, it wasn’t because of the acting, dialogue, or even the special effects. I’m going with title.

Explanations, you ask? No one ever called me an enemy of the sine-curve. And since there was nowhere to go but up a few days back, the universe promptly complied. Or I dug myself out. Whatever narrative you prefer, based on your accordance of free-will, control, fate, or what have you. As soon as I can resolve the paradoxes of absolute free will and the benevolent safety-net of the universe, I’ll let you know.

Suffice it to say that I’ve had the best 50 hours of my last 2,500. It’s been over a hundred days since the crisis began, and it feels like I’ve been truly happy in a sustainable (read: more than a few hours) way for the first time in that whole duration.

Some causes:

1. UPenn vastly surpassed Maryland (which was only two weeks ago, and the last competition we attended) as the best tournament in RUDU club history (caveating again the legends of early-1990’s teams that were comparable and technically organized as a different club). Dave & Kyle won the tournament, the first tourney win in the 10-year history of RUDU. Farhan & Chris broke for the first time as a team, including Farhan’s first-ever break, won quarters on a 3-0, and then barely dropped semis on a 3-2, finishing 3rd overall. First and third. Needless to say, the team was euphoric all weekend and everyone was just beaming at the team dinner as we basked in the glow of having come a ballot short of closing out finals. And Krishna & Bhargavi were in a bubble round to boot. As the post that will go up on the debate side will attest (once we get an image unloaded off someone’s camera to display atop the site), Rutgers is now 5th-ranked in the country, breaking our all-time high from two weeks ago, and Dave & Kyle are the 4th-ranked partnership in the country. Yeah. It was a pretty good weekend.

2. Today I got a call about a job interview for one that I’d applied to long enough ago that I’d given up on it. Turns out that they were sifting through 400 resumes and I’m one of three (3) finalists getting interviewed in the next couple days. It’s in NYC, four days a week, wrapping pretty neatly around debate. It looks like I can get monthly train passes that keep the transportation costs from being prohibitive, and carry the added bonus of giving me a marginal-cost-free ticket into New York whenever I want. There’s no guarantee, but I’m feeling pretty good about it. And even if I don’t get it, it bodes well for future such applications. My interview’s tomorrow.

3. The San Francisco Giants, long my second-favorite team in baseball and my favorite NL team, are one win away from the World Series title, their first in the city I used to work in. While my obsession with their playoff run has been limited to listening on the computer due to not having a TV and generally being lower energy for much of October, I’m still elated to see them on the verge of this milestone, especially coming at the expense of Texas. I can’t imagine how Gris must be feeling right about now.

4. There has been another development which I will refrain from overtly discussing, probably for a long time depending on how things go. But it’s good and has helped turn things around in conjunction with the above.

Happy? Yeah, I’ve been happy lately. For real. Today especially, with that job interview coming in on top. I can look at these four things and think they might not look like much. You might even say they were all obviously inevitable. But in the throes of the last hundred days, not a one of them, let alone all four, felt even likely. That’s the nature of a tunnel.

It’s far too early to declare any sort of emergence from the tunnel and it’s clear that all four of these things are tenuous (well, probably not debate, since that’s pretty well established and no one can undo the accomplishments of the past nor deny the momentum it implies for the future). But it’s a big fat start. And there’s enough factors that even if one or two collapse completely, there’s a lot to build on. It’s rally time, kids. Get your caps on.


Postscript:

Cleaning up my place today and doing the surprisingly enjoyable laundry (having it in the basement instead of down the road or at the laundromat is remarkably fun – this is the closest I’ve lived to a washer/dryer since living at home in high school), I was listening to Pandora. And paying close attention when a song I’d never heard came on.

It was Tom Petty’s new “Something Good Coming”, and I submit it to you as the best encapsulation expressible of my current mood:
Listen to/watch “Something Good Coming” here.

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Friday Without a Cause

Categories: A Day in the Life, Keepin' it Cryptic, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, The Long Tunnel, Upcoming Projects, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , , , ,

There’s no debate this weekend. Not because there’s no scheduled tournament, but because that tournament doesn’t serve the purposes of the Rutgers team. It’s in British Parliamentary style, designed to prepare American teams for competition on the Worlds stage, with all its crazy four-on-four structure and rhetoric trumping analysis and lack of flowing. Rutgers would love to compete at Worlds (this year in Botswana!), just as much as we’d love to go to Stanford this year, but it’s not in the budget. We barely have a budget to get to basic regular tournaments when they give us deep discounts, let alone scurrying about like a team funded like the 7th-ranked team in the nation. Which, uh, we are.

The last few days have been about as eventful as any days are for me these days. Days, days, days. They cascade not like a waterfall or something glorious to be beheld so much as the drip in my bathroom sink. Day, pause, day, pause, day. The passage of time has become an annoyance, something to be swatted away like a lingering mosquito. There are moments each day that are almost okay… a good debate round or a fun practice, a moment of volunteering or walking that sparks imagination or hope, the second the heat started coming on in the apartment yesterday unbidden. But they’re rare and their ceiling is low. For the most part it’s a long trudge to school, uphill both ways in the snow. Sludgy, dirty snow, not the good kind.

Things are happening this Friday too, things I’m loath to preview here lest they raise concern from the worriers among you. It’s a long overdue meeting with my past, I can say that, and it comes at a time when the risks are low because I have nothing (almost nothing?) to lose. It’s something much better discussed upon reflection than anticipation. So I guess I’ll flag this post with a “Keepin’ It Cryptic” and move on. All will be revealed at some point.

Similarly, I have an upcoming project about which I’ll also be vague until you can see what it looks like. It’s adding a new dimension to the collection of things here at the BP, and it’s a major experiment. With any luck, it’ll be something that at minimum creates an archive of moments in time in a new and exciting way that can at least serve some posterity. At maximum, it could, like anything done serially on the Internet, become a phenomenon. So I’ll let that whet your appetite and, again, soon there will be much more to actually evaluate.

I have this last bit merely because of the Zen state of mind that came from tearing leafy greens from their stems for literally 150 consecutive minutes. This was my assigned task at the Cafe yesterday – I actually showed up an hour early because I’d misread the e-mail confirming my time, and thus was drawn up to the sink with a gargantuan box of greens whose name I never ultimately caught. Spinach? Arugula? An obscure lettuce? It was something like that. The repetition and the small satisfactions of working one’s hands against the bounty of the earth plunged me through the worst aspects of the mental void and into a deeper place where I could contemplate connections and possibilities rather than the mere horrors of the past. And it was in that state, not unlike a shower or even some of the better walks, that I was able to stumble over the obvious project I’m on the verge of launching. This was more of what I hoped for when I pictured volunteering as a key component of this year.

Of course I never really pictured this year and my subconscious is really having trouble catching up. This morning I awoke from a terrifying and disheartening dream that, while I was working at Glide and Emily was at the Labor Fed, she’d decided overnight to go to LA for six weeks straight. She was endlessly unconcerned about the toll this might take on our marriage, couldn’t seem to care less about my loneliness or missing her or anything of that ilk. I could detect, vaguely, in the dream that there might be someone in LA she was trying to see or some deeper thing to fear from this sudden trip arrangement which she was announcing to me the morning before she left. I panicked more and more as the dream hurtled toward her departure, clinging to her presence that I would soon lose for so long.

I awoke to a reality that made the dream look more ideal than nightmare.

Miles walked Wednesday: 1.2
Miles walked yesterday: 2.8

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Funhouse Mirrors

Categories: A Day in the Life, Keepin' it Cryptic, Tags: ,

She looked at her arm and noticed the spot. It was a small spot, but darker than it should have been. Worth getting checked out. But before she even bothered to get it checked out, she knew what it was. It was cancer.

As soon as she had the diagnosis confirmed, she rushed home to look herself in the mirror in her new state, a cancer patient. But the only mirror she had had slowly transformed into a funhouse mirror. Its glass was warped by the passage of time. It was shattered in places, the result of a long journey, now shedding thousands of tiny reflections where there should be one. It was partially angled by careful bending to try to squeeze it into its imprecise location on the too-small wall in the bathroom.

And when she held up her arm to the reflection, it looked like nothing but cancer. The ominous dark mark was not a spot, not a lesion, but a whole arm’s worth of calcifying damage. No matter how she turned her arm in the pale glow of the funhouse mirror’s radiation, it shone back the clear and damning evidence that cancer had overtaken her arm.

She reacted in fear. She refused to look at her arm directly, turning away from even the slightest sidelong glance that wasn’t sealed in the protective shield of the glass. Her arm was Medusa, requiring the subtlest of subterfuge to yield evaluation. And every time she dared steal a peek, always in the undulating twists of the funhouse bathroom hanging, it only confirmed the worst of her suspicions.

Her doctors recommended emergency surgery, an attempt to repair the small lesion actually occupying a little swath of her true arm. But she put it off, made excuses, worried and fretted at the idea of losing the entire arm, that maybe it was too late to salvage anything since the arm was such an integral part of her whole being. She determined that she needed to consider more, take more stock in the dim glow of the funhouse mirror, look forward to a day when maybe a different mirror was available.

All the while, the cancer spread. Slowly, surely, much more slowly than it would ever seem in the reflection she saw. But it spread all the same.

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Mo(u)rning

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, From the Road, Keepin' it Cryptic, Tags: , , ,

He wakes up alone, as he has done for fifty-five consecutive mornings. But it is different this time. The feel of the air, the emptiness, the texture and smell of the environs. He has been here before, repeatedly, and almost always alone. But this is different. Everything is different.

There is no reason to get up. No reason in the world. Dreams are more appealing somehow. This is all but unprecedented, echoes of a wedge-shaped room bedecked with posters and pictures of ineffably distant faces offering mild support and outstretched hands. The soft sad derision of a one-time friend, slinging a shoulder bag in a picture of hurried productivity, shaking his head as he charges out the too-thin rickety door. A roommate. A roommate. The echoes plink down the caverns of memory like a musical pebble. Playing “Moonlight Sonata” or perhaps “Taps”.

Back and forth, left and right, light on both sides, the strange overlarge pillow offering infinite patience as the dreams remain out of reach. They are less scary, less haunting, less true. They will not come back. There is only the dirge-like shuffle of time in its plod, the hard roll of the streetcar, the loungey traverse of the aimless local down the sidewalk. Step, pause, step, pause, step. Living in steps, in hapless direction, in picking up one leaden ankle to put it in front of the other for no particular purpose.

Everybody feels the wind blow. You don’t spit into the wind. The wind has been my friend, my ally, trusted and sure, but it is a force of nature and not to be trifled with. The wind, like time, chooses a direction and points unrelenting, offers assistance in one way but only angst in the other. You can fight it, fight them both, fight everything in your path. But you’re going to lose. You’re going to lose.

I’ve been here before and I deserve a little more.

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This is What I Get for Grandiose Titles

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Keepin' it Cryptic, Telling Stories, Tags: , , ,

Some days are diamonds.
Some days are rocks.

And then there are those special unique days that manage to be both. That manage to be, dare I say it, the best and worst of all possible worlds, rolled into one.

Discretion demands that I don’t speak of this further, but perhaps for this:

The Best of All Possible Worlds is now available in PDF. Drop a line my way if interested.

If you need me, I’ll be trying to surround myself with people.

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Announcement

Categories: A Day in the Life, Keepin' it Cryptic, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

Yes, I will be back to major posting sometime soonish. It is March, after all, and in force. But I am hamstrung and that limits creativity.

For a variety of reasons, I have to keep many secrets in my life at this juncture. I hate secrets. They make me sad. As someone who doesn’t really believe in privacy beyond passwords and social security numbers, secrets are antithetical to the way I aspire to live my life. And yet, I have some other obligations and constraints at times in this life.

So all I can offer you now is at the bottom of this message. I promised people I would keep them updated. Someday, hopefully soon, I will be able to use English to convey what’s going on and what I feel.

ELGC-GS: 1/1 (?C, ?H, ?O, ?P, +Y)

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Decision 2008

Categories: A Day in the Life, Keepin' it Cryptic, Quick Updates, Tags: , ,

I’m rapidly careening towards a decision. There’s just too much evidence, too much obviousness, too much at stake.

That train’s heading nowhere good. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

Call me if you strongly disagree. Or if you agree and want to vouch your support. Or if you’re really confused, but concerned.

Hopefully there won’t be too many cacti. And maybe a little water nearby where I land.

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Uncertainty

Categories: A Day in the Life, Keepin' it Cryptic, Tags: ,

These, it has been said, are uncertain times.

Imagine that you are on a train. As long as you are on this train, you will be fed money at an almost alarming rate. You will be reassured. You will have people tell you how wonderful you are.

And eventually, at an indeterminate time, this train will careen off the tracks and plunge into a deep ravine.

But the train doesn’t stop at any stations. Or at least isn’t planning any stops until the ravine-dive. So to disembark prior, you’re going to have to jump. Which is infinitely safer than plunging heels-over-head into a ravine, mind you. But perhaps adds that extra special little disincentive (along with the money and the reassurance and the praise) to leaving the train behind.

The obvious question of the day is:  When do you jump?

It should probably herein be noted that one can’t really jump when one sees a ravine on the horizon. Maybe the train is always skirting a ravine for its entire run. (Presumably one would jump in the opposite direction when deciding to flee the train.) And no one can imagine being coordinated enough to jump one way as the train is plunging ravine-ward. So let’s just leave that hedge out altogether.

We’re also going to caveat that you can take it with you… you’re being paid in a form that you won’t at any point weigh yourself down and make a leap less feasible. At least not physically.

So when do you jump?

There are those, including my childhood self, that would advise jumping ASAP. Immediately. Posthaste and without delay. As long as that train rolls on with a chance of taking you into the ravine with it, there is nothing worth letting that happen. Prevention of worst-case scenarios is a principle I’ve lived by a lot, and maybe it’s the obvious solution to this one.

And there are probably many of you still looking for a way to hedge this one. Surely you can get some clues or indications that the ravine is coming, right? I mean, the whole train can’t go into the ravine at once, right? Unless maybe there’s an earthquake. (Indeed yes, unless there’s an earthquake.) Surely you can hang out in the caboose and minimize your chances of a negative outcome?

I mean, maybe. But maybe I have to push this metaphor to the extreme and say there’s a thick mesh netting around the train that takes a decent amount of time to cut a jumping-sized hole out of. So one has to prepare to jump – it’ll take much longer than a few seconds. Yes, let’s go ahead and commit to that. This mesh also has the dual impact of making it very hard to see where the train is going at any given time. And adding yet another small disincentive to jumping at all.

But you have to jump. The ravine is not survivable. Or if it is, it’ll be so crippling that no amount of money/reassurance/praise will be worth the cost. If nothing else, you’ve learned that lesson before.

While I wrote this scenario primarily with one (maybe two) setting(s) in mind, I think it’s widely applicable. All over the country, people are making calculations that look a lot like trying to figure out when to jump from the train. Or perhaps they just should be… it’s more likely that most folks are actually trying to discern how long they can cling to the train, regardless of how many ravines it attempts to navigate. For many, jumping looks like the most dangerous option. As though a million phantom cacti appeared to them in every direction, everywhere but onboard the train and on the tracks themselves. Making jumping so viscerally painful that even worse consequences could be swallowed wholesale.

But the cacti are small and spread out, if indeed they exist at all. The train probably slows to a good 25 or 30 miles an hour sometimes, though it probably has to go at a constant speed for the analogy to work. Then again, one could always just hold out, hoping for a slower train. Hoping that maybe it would stop sometime and the jump would be palatable.

Don’t get your hopes up, kids.

Clock’s tickin’. Train’s a-whistlin’. Ravine’s a-waitin’.

It is still too early to be too late.

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I Got Your April Right Here

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Keepin' it Cryptic, Let's Go M's, Quick Updates, Tags: , , , ,

A first day – no joke. A joke in the bathroom. A dental visit. A decision: no anesthesia. A walk home. A phone call, somewhere between banter and the most important decisions of our lives. A poker game, where a lesson was actually learned. A Mariners game, where all season was lived in a day, or in two tumultuous sine curve innings. A heart-stopping phone call for all the wrong reasons. A joke that just doesn’t work because of history, of context, of life itself.

I could write all the details, flesh it out, spell it out in flesh (a pounding heart in the wake of feeling the Earth slip out from under one for no good reason) and blood (spilling onto the towel from prodded gums). But there’s no need, or no cause – today felt like a day that hearkened for blippy Introspection-style reflection. And some day I’ll read and remember and another dawn of another April will come across from the distance of years or months or weeks or days. And I’ll be just there. Inside it all again. April the first. April is the cruelest month. April come she will.

And has.

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Snow Chance

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, From the Road, Keepin' it Cryptic, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Tags: , , ,

It’s the last day of the year called 2007. I am the last one awake in a cabin at Shaver Lake, California. Most all of the Garin Clan is here, save one component family. It is late, and there are less than 24 hours remaining in this annum.

I am writing mostly to check in. It’s been a difficult last few weeks of the year, and this blog in particular has demonstrated that with sparse updates which bear out the frustration of the time. Being sick was debilitating and working through it doubly so. Wrestling with the nature of my job and some of the people I work with wrecked much of my motivation to create or explain.

There is hope, as there always must be, for 2008. There’s a reason we pile the expectant and expected holidays in the middle of winter, and it has very little to do with the weather. Here indeed, we came for the snow, but there is little about. You can call it global warming, but the snow in Boston was allegedly record-breaking for December, they tell me. There’s a reason that people started calling global warming “climate change” instead. The mistake that the last 12 generations of weather-doomsayers made was predicting that things would go in one direction or the other. Saying that things will go in both directions saves us from any contrary evidence. Even the scientific method has been beaten back by propaganda and marketing spin. At least in 2005, everyone banked on more devastating hurricanes. That was a sure bet for 2006-7.

But nothing is sure, as that does a pale job of illustrating. This was meant to be a personal check-in and I’m already off on my high horse about political issues. And ones most of you don’t agree with me on, to boot. That’s no way to end a year. Maybe I’ve forgotten how to write these things. Or maybe the laptop in a foreign house is just no place to be coming back to a familiar venue.

My Dad and I have a running debate about how many units of housing there are per person in the United States. Or, hopefully, the debate is about how many people there are per housing unit. I guess that’s part of the debate. Regardless, it has occurred to me already on this trip that we have utterly forgotten vacation rentals, timeshares, and other such pseudo-units in calculating the equation. How, after years of Pismos and Aspen (PIRG) and a couple cabins at Shaver (Garins), not to mention an entire childhood on the Oregon coast (Seaside) this factor eluded me is beyond me. But it’s not beyond me anymore – vacation rentals must be a huge part of the equation. Em said NPR told her it was in the “high millions” a few days back. Borrowed housing, borrowed time. It’s a great opportunity, like “being in the Real World” noted one of the Clan as we entered the house. Most of my readers won’t need the explanation that this was a reference to a TV show. The Real World is a TV show. Being there is like being on TV. Are we getting somewhere?

Of course the real world is not a TV show, and little could be less like a TV show than the real world (Brandzel’s theory of my life duly excepted). But that pioneer of reality television has brought us an ever-cascading series of series that package the life of aspiration into narrower and more expensive boxes for people. It’s not to say that what we’re doing here (here, as in at the cabin) isn’t great, but it gets me thinking late into the night. How long has the American economic bubble of housing and consumerism been kept afloat by houses intended only for brief visits? And where do these fall in the overall picture as it slides down the screen?

Already three legs into what I tongue-in-cheekily dubbed the EmStor Winter World Tour 2007-2008, I realize I’ve reported on naught so far. It’s been a whirl of hellos and goodbyes, lights on trees and in bags and in skies and on screens. I can no more recount the details on this particular night than I can attempt to sum up the year that falters and fades this very eve. I will say I have had a great time so far and expect much more. That goes for the Tour and the year, and perhaps every day therein.

My expectations rarely are as well developed as they are on this particular cusp. I think it comes with getting older, being a little more conservative, feeling like on has a little more to lose and things to really hope for. I guess that’s the opposite of at least part of the popular perception, but it’s where I’ve been for awhile. Youth is as free as the openness of the future, which tends toward the vast. With age comes a more finite vision, and that specificity lends itself to careful prodding of the future, squeezing it and shaking it like so many wrapped gifts, and having something fixed in mind when tearing open the package. Watching my nieces and nephew this Christmas, I was reminded of my own time when I simply tore at the package in blind blank anticipation of what lay within, letting the surprise hit me at once instead of feeling it out.

I’m sort of walking away from a chance to do that now (or technically soon), instead choosing the more sedate (but wiser?) method of analyzing, holding on, weighing, and deciding. There’s no telling whether that’s the right call (and this fact, in itself, gives me a bit of that bald open future rush), but I feel confident that this is the decision that leaves me the least likelihood of immediate and irreparable regret. What a sad standard that is. It sounds so safe, so sedentary, so moderate. But I used to weigh debates by the better worst-case scenario. And how better to view that than through regret? And yes, I must dance this cryptic dance a few more days until someone gives me the official signal to speak. But many of you know already.

I think this post may exhaust every category I have for this blog. At the very least, it’s exhausting me a bit. Or maybe that’s just my age, or the significance of a year (which I’ve always revered), or the cancer seeping into my legs from this laptop.

You already know I don’t look to 2008 with the aura of political hope. Many do, and I bid you all the best of luck. How you will react to the inevitable crowing of Queen Hillary I from the House of Clinton remains to be seen. Had two royal families ever conspired to take turns with each other and steal the word “demos” from the Greeks, we may never have had experiments in voting and the current widespread form of government in the Western world. But they weren’t as clever as the modern plutocrats, and so we get to test the experiment a little late in the day. I think anyone who knows me knows why I can’t stand Hillary Clinton (well beyond the royalty thing). She will probably start as many unending wars as her predecessor, combining the general Bush/Clinton hawkishness with a unique desire to prove that women aren’t “weak”. And her ability to prove that being someone’s wife is a higher credential than any other experience, leadership, or character for a woman….? That will set everyone back a good few decades.

Whether she gets to kick around Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani will probably not be decided till summer, or whenever the Republicans are having their convention. While Hillary will lock things up with a 5-point outright win in Iowa (she has a role-model martyr without having to die, after all), the Republicans are facing a scenario I first anticipated over a year ago with all of the colliding early primaries. They seem almost destined to have the first undecided (read: meaningful) convention since the infamous Chicago ’68 sham put on by the Democrats. Rudy’s fading and the Huckster’s coming on strong, and Mitt may enter the convention with the most delegates but the startling reality that the Republicans will never ever nominate a Mormon to be their horse. The party bosses are most likely to close in behind Giuliani, depending on how 9/11-crazed people are and just how many decomposing corpses are exhumed from Rudy’s closet. Huckabee will possibly be standing out as a clean bit of contrast and the only mainline traditional Republican in the bunch, so he could end up with it. But McCain has enough followers and Thompson enough watchers to almost guarantee that this convention will see no one close to the magic number going in. It will be exciting to watch, and even more interesting to see the various implosions of the party as they try to consolidate and can’t and end up spending months running 2-3 people against Queen Hillary I.

The most interesting thing to see will be whether the Republicans, after the shellacking of ’08, will be able to convince King Jeb I to return the favor King Bill I dealt King George I and jump in 4 years early in ’12. Unlikely, though… it’s far more dignified to let the monarchs have 8 years to reign. Even if it turns out the way King George II did.

So, no, my hope for ’08 is not political in nature. It is wrapped up instead with projects and possibilities, travel and even turmoil. 2007 has been good, but has felt like a long extended period of practice. 2008 will hopefully feel a bit more of a game. With any luck, that would leave 2009 as the beginnings of a real showcase or tournament.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I don’t really do resolutions, being open to the future and all. Anyway, if a resolution occurs to you, you should probably start doing it right away if it’s a good one. Which means that only 1/52nd of the time that really leads to a New Year’s Resolution. Anyway, the last thing I need is to be making more commitments and promises at a time like this. Let’s just agree to hope for today and leave it at that.

Keep checking back, because I really owe you more details. As they say on the TV shows, “stay tuned”…

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Winter World Tour 2007-2008

Categories: A Day in the Life, Keepin' it Cryptic, Pre-Trip Posts, Quick Updates, Tags: , , ,

As I’ve often been known to say, change is the only constant. This has perhaps never felt more true than this week, which is simply over-brimming with upheaval and possibility. Forget ungainly metaphors about baby steps and windows and doors. Every door and window in the whole house has burst open and is flooding. Equal parts elation, nervous apprehension, and general anticipation.

As I told one of my assistants today, “I am an emotional ocean.”

Sadly many of the details are not public yet and I do still have to try to play ball with a world that thinks privacy is not an outdated relic. So it goes. What I can announce, however, is the EmStor 2007-2008 Winter World Tour.

I feel like we should have a corporate sponsor. Y’know, if I weren’t a Non-Profiteer and believed in that sort of thing.

The EmStor 2007-2008 Winter World Tour

21-25 December 2007

Albuquerque, NM

Parents, Nuevo Friends

26-28 December 2007

Berkeley, CA

Work, Beth Visiting

29 December 2007
6 January 2008

Shaver Lake, CA

Cabin with the Garin Clan

7-22 January 2008

Berkeley, CA

Work, Little to Report

23 January –
10 February 2008

India & Nepal Trip

Featuring 7 hours in London, partial Garin Clan

Yeah, you read that last part right. India & Nepal. For 2.5 weeks. With a stop in London. Oh yeah.

Most all of this (and more things TBA) have just materialized in the last 48 hours. It’s kind of incredible. 2008, you are looking mighty mercurial. But exciting. Very exciting.

The downside of all this is that I have to jettison tentative plans for judging at the Brandeis 2008 debate tourney (8-9 February 2008), as I will still be in India. And I may also have to forgo a President’s Day Weekend jaunt to Chicago, though that can be delayed instead of cancelled since it’s not as temporally tied as a debate tournament. Although, who knows… maybe I’ll be up for more travel just 10 days after return. Chicago, you may make the Winter World Tour yet.

So, I’ll see you when I see you. Not a ton of these have the options of meeting up with people that, say, Boston & Chicago have. But certainly Albuquerque, starting tonight and for the next four days, will be a big opportunity for hanging out. Frontier, luminarias, and Pac-Man, here I come! Only 7 more work hours until almost non-stop holiday fun of one kind or another…