Categotry Archives: What Dreams May Come


The Health of a Nation

Categories: A Day in the Life, It's the Stupid Economy, Marching to New Orleans, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , , ,

Last night, I had a dream that I was in an airplane and it was landing and I kept looking up front at the cockpit and wanting to see outside but it was blocked, just this blue door and white walls and I had this vague sense of foreboding because I wanted to see and it was weird, wrong, really wrong that you couldn’t see out the front, couldn’t even see where you were going, but I knew we were descending and then somehow I could see below us, even though the floor was solid and there was luggage below, but I could see we were over New York City and look, there’s Columbia, and gosh these buildings seem awfully close but the pilot’s got it, we’re fine, although what airport is on Manhattan and south of Columbia, but maybe it’s just the long way to JFK somehow, the scenic route, but we’re still descending and then the left wing tilts and scrapes a building and the plane lurches down and everything goes black.

I used to die in my dreams. People told me it wasn’t possible, that you wake up before you hit the ground. But I didn’t. I hit and just stayed there, internalizing the fact that I was dead. In this dream, last night, it went black, I didn’t actually wait for the sickening clatter of the plane to the ground. But it was black and cold and silent for a while. And I was totally enthralled, had no sense of it being a dream. This is it, I thought. Moment of truth. Do I die and nothing? Or is there something? What’s next? Oh please, let there be something as I’ve always thought.

And then I blinked, fluttered, my eyes opened, and I was where I fell asleep last night, there with Alex in the guest bedroom as we’ve been camping out during a recent bizarre half-circuit power-outage. Everything was monochrome, black and white, an old-time movie of my life? Alex remained asleep as I gently left the bed, padded to the main bedroom, found my parents asleep there. Color slowly started to filter in to the picture, flecks of vibrant rain hitting the monochrome canvas of my eyes. It remained grainy, like a newsreel, my vision following the evolution of film over the course of minutes. No one woke up, no one stirred. Is this death? Wandering the hallways of your memory while the people you loved who remain alive sleep? Do you sit in the rooms of your past, slowly waiting for them to awaken by passing through themselves?

I don’t know how long I stood there, in the rooms of the apartment, breathing heavily, nervous, but also relieved to learn there was more, that the horrifying plane crash was not the final scene, before I opened the front door, was bathed in bright blinding light, and finally actually awoke. It took me thirty seconds or so to realize that the plane crash was not real, that I remained truly alive.

I haven’t been close to dying in a while. Sure, I feel like I’m going to die every time I get a migraine, at least a little (is this one so bad that it’s actually a brain tumor?), and there was that one incident a few years back. Probably the closest I’ve really been lately, though there are always driving near-misses when drunk New Orleanians run stop signs at breakneck speeds in front of me, was back in October ’09, my only really serious car accident. It turned out fine, but was a few feet from being devastating. I had health insurance back then.

I have health insurance now, ostensibly. But not really. As of January 2017, I have coverage that costs me $55 a month (with extensive subsidies – the sticker price is over $300/month) and entitles me to pay essentially sticker price for health care transactions up to $4800 before it starts helping out. I did not have health insurance of any kind from June-December 2016. I thought I would have to pay a penalty to the government for this, but I learned in January that since health care coverage would have cost more than 8% of my official annual income of $27,717.96, I was exempted from the penalty. I had spent the year in some sort of uncanny valley where I was neither entitled to subsidies on coverage nor required to abide by the individual mandate because it was so expensive. This was also true from September-December 2014, when I first moved to New Orleans and was playing poker before I got a job. I didn’t have health insurance then, nor did I have to pay a penalty. At least the government’s effort to solve hunger by forcing people to buy food did not bankrupt those people for not being able to afford food. Strangely, though, it didn’t do anything about the, y’know, hunger issue.

I went to the doctor for the first time in almost two years on Tuesday. My ear hadn’t popped for a week after I got off the plane back from APDA Nationals. I’d boarded a plane sick in Newark, had some pressure landing in Chicago, and then had my ear almost explode (it felt like – I’m sure it wasn’t actually close) while landing in New Orleans. I hadn’t been able to hear more than a muffle out of it for a week. Two days after landing, I used Alex’s Teladoc service, which I’m entitled to use through her healthcare, to call a doctor, describe my symptoms, and get some prescriptions to try to open the ear and fight off the infection. I’d nearly exhausted the antibiotics and prednisone with no relief by the time I reluctantly made an appointment to see a real physical doctor.

My “primary care provider,” such as it is (I’ve only seen one doctor multiple times in my conscious life – the phrase “my doctor” has never quite registered with me) is part of a health clinic literally around the corner from my apartment. They were in the running for the Impact 100 grant from the Greater New Orleans Foundation the year that I helped CIS win. The place is pretty, recently refurbished, with the standard over-bright waiting room and a giant LCD TV for the impatient patrons. They charged me $80 for the visit, but seemed visibly upset to do so, asking me to come back with proof of income so they could charge me less. I agreed to return for a partial refund. When I did, though, they saw my tax statement and grimaced. “We should have charged you $120,” the helpful woman at the desk said. “We’ll let it slide this time, but if you come back, your visits will be $120.”

That ear pressure wash I received at the doctor’s was definitely nice and certainly helped, though not enough to restore hearing. (It’s coming back, slowly, almost at 80% now.) But I could buy the machine for less than $120.

I did try to go to the doctor a few months ago. To urgent care, actually. Alex and I had lice. We didn’t quite realize that yet – Alex had a student with lice in her classroom, but it had been dealt with. I’m not quite sure what we thought urgent care could do about lice, but we were excited that I had health insurance again so I could do things like go to urgent care when my head was itching and we thought we’d seen suspicious bugs on my head. They quoted a price of $152 to get in the door. We politely declined and went on our way. Fortunately, within the day, we were able to spend a little less than that on two visits from a private home-visit service. A wonderful woman came out and very patiently combed literally thousands of lice out of Alex’s and my hair. It was a humbling and educational experience I thought I’d never have, at least once I made it through grade school without the specter of lice ever manifesting. It was also a reminder of what one can get accustomed to – the woman said we’d had lice for weeks, growing into a full-fledged infestation. Alex had admittedly gone to the doctor for general itchiness in that span; the doctor had missed the lice.

I recognize that the ACA has tangibly helped a lot of people. I recognize that I am not the target audience or consumer for the ACA, really, that it’s striving to help those with seriously low income or no income by getting them access to some kind of healthcare. But I also wonder about the overall degradation of what we think of as healthcare. The ACA theoretically puts in some sort of standards for what is considered health insurance to prevent scammers from dominating the market. But can we really consider a plan where it’s out of pocket until $4800 is spent “insurance”? Or, worse, “coverage”? Yes, it would be handy, though still devastatingly expensive, if I had a catastrophic accident or diagnosis. But short of that, I don’t really feel like I have healthcare coverage. I feel like I am paying $650 a year for the right to pay the uninsured rate if I actually want to see a doctor. And I’m super lucky that I live with someone with access to Teladoc. Alex and I have joked-not-joked several times about getting officially married early just so I can enjoy her healthcare benefits.

I used to look quizzically at people when they said the primary reason they had a job was for health insurance. This, of course, was in the days when pre-existing conditions were reason to terminate coverage for people (only after they’d paid months of premiums first, usually, but just as they made their first claim). Employers offering insurance could force their insurers to cover people no matter what, so people with health problems needed to work to be well. But in those days, as I recall, health insurance actually meant health insurance. Co-pays were nominal, deductibles covered pretty much everything. Maybe I was in a bubble living in California, but I didn’t think, in talking with people across the country, that my experience was that exceptional. Now, even Alex’s supposedly great health care coverage through work asks her to pay a lot out of pocket for going to the doctor, with mystery “lab fees” showing up for more than $100 without notice. When I tried to fight one of these with the insurer, the insurer literally said “you are responsible for any fees incurred by services – you can ask the doctor if there will be fees, but they probably won’t know.”

I recognize and acknowledge my privilege in this discussion. I have generally been extremely healthy. I am currently choosing to not hold a traditional day job so I can pursue a specific adventure and my writing. I live in a two-income household. I have a decent amount of savings and no debt.

However, my privilege here actually makes things worse. It’s a larger condemnation of the situation. If I am paying that much, that stymied by the system, with all my advantages, I can’t even imagine how someone with less access or less opportunity is faring. Let alone if I were someone who had some regular need to visit a medical professional. Good God.

Of course, the front line for today’s debate about healthcare in America is not about how insufficient Obamacare is, how much it’s quietly enabled a rollback of what we consider healthcare in this country, of the costs we expect the individual to bear for their own health. It is on the other side, how we can defend the paltry patchy efforts of Obamacare against a backslide into the world of terminated coverage and no guarantees. I think Obamacare is terrible, mostly for the opportunity cost of its moment in history not leading to single-payer or at least a public option, but also for the orientation around insurers as the primary player to protect and serve, part of decades of legislation being designed to serve the corporation above any actual person or other institution. But of course the idea that we would gut the few tolerable provisions of Obamacare is awful, too, even more awful, unless under some sort of accelerationism we believe that two years of that will finally usher in a world where the government treats “not dying” like it is part of the right to life.

As this first-in-years visit to the doctor reminded me, my window on youthful unfettered health is starting to close. It was my first lifetime visit where my blood pressure was above perfect, the result, probably, of gaining 60 pounds (a 51% increase!) over the last five years. Things can be done about this – I am too sedentary and still eat too much crap – but there is an unalterable gravity to the course of a human life. I will be in a position in the coming years where I should try to see doctors more, even if my questions about how to take preventative actions continue to go (as they did this visit as well) unanswered.

But the preventative question for the nation remains. The justification for keeping the ACA thourohgly ensconced in an entirely private market is that healthcare is one sixth of the economy. You can’t just go forcing such a large portion of our profit-center to compete with a service designed to actually – gasp! – meet the needs of citizens! Our shareholders would lose! And then what would the downstream impact be? After all, country clubs and luxury goods are a big part of the economy too.

The question remains: what is the role of the citizen in the country? Far from being an entity with rights, the modern perspective laden in both the ACA and the AHCA (more the latter, of course, but still), is that citizens are a resource for the economy. People exist to be mined, exploited, marketed to, money extracted for the purpose of firing up the engine of the mighty financial system. Denying the market access to that resource is unthinkable, an affront to all society, starving the lifeblood from that which we hold most dear.

Until we shift that mindset, until we get away from viewing 350 million folks as untapped oil or earthbound copper, I don’t know how we’re ever going to get around to fixing healthcare or anything else in our society. Or maybe the metaphor is more how we treat chickens. We only care about taking care of the ones still “working” for us in some capacity – who will yield productivity. The rest can die in the field for all we care. And keeping them productive is all about the quick fix – dose ’em with pills, fatten ’em up, get what you can from ’em, then move on. No one cares about the soul of a chicken, their outlook on life, how to prevent them from developing problems later in life. It’s producitivy maximization and then they’re a burden.

Sure, sure, get outraged at a potential rollback of the ACA. Call your Senator, cajole and threaten. But like lightbulb switches for climate change, recognize also that this supposed fix is both insufficient and broken. It’s a bandaid on the Titanic. It’s better to preserve it for the short term, yes, but only if we then immediately get to work on realizing the larger problems facing us, in reframing how we view our world. That we do not exist to serve the economy. And if the economy doesn’t exist to serve us, maybe it’s time to repeal and replace the economy with something that works.


Fear Factor

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Know When to Fold 'Em, Telling Stories, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , , ,

Farhan Ali (left) surprises me at the team dinner/team picture ceremony for RUDU at the end of the 2010-2011 season.  To this day, this is one of my favorite pictures of all time.  It's mostly just here to symbolize fear.  And because I had an excuse to use it.

Farhan Ali (left) surprises me at the team dinner/team picture ceremony for RUDU at the end of the 2010-2011 season. To this day, this is one of my favorite pictures of all time. It’s mostly just here to symbolize fear. And because I had an excuse to use it.

I am continually discovering how much of my life is fueled by fear.

I’ve ridiculed fear a lot in this blog lately, most especially in criticizing what motivates voters and pointing out how silly it is for Americans to fear ebola and/or terrorism. This is not the kind of fear that I will be talking about in this post, though I suppose I’m using the same word because it’s in some ways the same concept and all fear is related. Fear may not even be the right word for what this post will attempt to address, as some may favor “anxiety” or even “trepidation” for what I plan to illustrate. But I’m going with fear because it’s visceral and, I think, more honest.

The problem goes a little like this. Early on in my educational career, somewhere between grade-skipping and re-aligning with my “age-appropriate” grade level, I started getting disillusioned (again) with schooling. And so I started to test limits and see how long I could put things off and still get excellent grades. I had a lot of stellar and challenging teachers in my high school, but I also had a few who I noted seemed to be doing it “for the money” on their teacher evaluations and who just seemed to be priming themselves for limit-testing. I got in the habit of starting papers the night before they were due, then sometimes during a free period earlier in the day in the computer lab. In college, these habits only accelerated. Many people were studying and buying books and refusing to start new Risk games with me at 2 AM the day before major assignment deadlines, but I had already planned to start that work at 5 AM, which seemed like enough time for another Risk session. And then there were the world-class slackers around me who’d already gotten an extension on the assignment for two weeks and wouldn’t even begin to plan to make that deadline.

I knew these slackers. They were friends of mine, many of my closest. But I knew that I could not be like them, for down that path would lie utter ruin. As tenuous as my relationship with deadlines and my respect for assignments was, it was governed by an absolute an inalienable rule: meet the deadline. No extensions, no lateness, no excuses. Because I knew that as soon as I breached this rule even once, I would open a Pandora’s box of new rules to flout and test, new games to play with professors, and ultimately the whole unstable mass of unstarted papers would get the best of me. I was good at toeing the line right up to the deadline, but I couldn’t imagine keeping track of an entire semester’s worth of work that would have to be done in that nebbish period between the conclusion of classes and the advent of finals. And I did have to keep my scholarship to stay at Brandeis.

Enter fear, stage right. The only way I could convince myself of the ironclad power of the deadline, the thing that forced me to put the Risk box away and stop playing my thirtieth straight warmup game of Tetris, was fear of failing. And this was mostly, if not entirely an exercise of powerful self-delusion. I knew, I knew deep down that my professors would happily grant me extensions should I simply fall asleep while trying to construct a paper, would fail to mark me down a bit for an assignment handed in 36 hours late. But I convinced myself, come hell or high water, that even a minute’s lateness in the paper’s submission would bring failure. Not just of the assignment, mind you, or even the class, but of my entire life. I would lose my scholarship, my admission to college, possibly even retroactively lose my high school diploma simply because one assignment came in a few minutes late. I had myself completely certain that this was true.

And it was only once that terror had really sunk in, sometimes less than two hours prior to a deadline, only once I really feared the failure and felt it was a real and foreseeable possibility, that I could begin working.

This worked great for late high school in securing the scholarship. It worked remarkably well for keeping the scholarship throughout Brandeis and graduating college with solid marks. But I have increasingly come to believe that it may not actually be a great lesson to inculcate in life, especially early on. It’s probably not a healthy way to exist.

I can line up a lot of pros and cons, though, for a fair hearing of this approach. Solidly on the pro side are three completed novels of 90,000 words or more, all written in a period of four months each or less (if we don’t count the pre-deadline few chapters of American Dream On written in the six years before I got serious about the project). While these novels haven’t really gone anywhere yet and some would argue they need substantial revision (ever my nemesis, conceptually), the mere fact of being able to write that diligently and profusely is a singular testament to my fear of the mighty Deadline. I stuck a dart in the calendar (stuck, not threw, mind you) for each of the projects and beat the self-imposed D-Day every time. This probably shouldn’t have been possible, but after completing two full-scale term-length research paper assignments in excess of twenty pages when starting each of them the night before during my last two years of college, the novels were easy. I had so many days to work on them!

The con side, however, is littered with remnants of my non-deadlined motivation. It’s not that I haven’t been a good worker during my various day jobs, nor that I’m unable to motivate myself to do various projects and other things when the fancy arises. But I have trained myself to require a state of fear in order to feel really ready to do things. If I can’t conjure a sufficiently dire consequence, real or imagined, I find it extremely hard to get together the necessary energy to complete a task. And while this mostly or often applies to major tasks, it probably realistically has bled into even the most mundane of assignments. Chores are already damnably difficult for me since I find daily maintenance of existence (including and especially eating) to be saddeningly distracting from the greater concerns of the life of the mind. But without fear of some sort of backlash or feeling of failure, they get even more distant from my desire. Same goes for even menial daily chores, even when I don’t have a day job. I start each day with a to-do list, but then find I have to gin up some fear in myself to really get much traction.

I wonder often how universal this kind of sensation is. Putting it into print like this, it looks kind of horrifying. It doesn’t feel that awful, not nearly as much as I’m making it sound. It is often quite routine. I really want to sweep the kitchen. It’s a simple task that I really don’t mind that much. It needs to be done. I just have to start thinking about people who will be upset with me if I don’t, then exaggerate their reaction and try to truly picture something farcically awful that will ensue from my failing to sweep the kitchen. If I can do it without seeing through the ruse, then the kitchen gets swept, quickly and quite well. If not, then I have to wrestle with the guilt of not being able to generate enough faked fear to make it happen.

The only hint I have that this kind of anxiety might be underwriting a lot of our daily actions as humans is the ubiquity of a certain kind of dream. A recent discussion of this prompted some disambiguation about the word “nightmare”, which I never use to refer to the state of a bad dream, having always used that two-word phrase instead. Whereas “nightmare” for me usually conveys a real-life scenario that went appallingly poorly, such as “When cops started seeing people as target practice rather than those in need of protection, it was a nightmare.”

Whatever word you use, you’ve had this dream or one of its variants. I promise.

The setting is a school that is familiar to you or a school-like setting. You either find yourself unable to find the classroom or recall even basic details about the class. You may, if lucky, be seated at a desk in the proper classroom. But you are about to be served with a final exam or assignment. And you have no earthly idea what the content covered is or will be. You are almost always pretty sure that you dropped the class, or possibly that you never signed up for it at all. But it is clear from the situation that there will be no mercy. Your entire semester/year/life depends on this situation and you are utterly doomed to fail.

Not only has every American I have ever discussed this with had this dream, but it is the most universal dream people older than 18 seem to have and is shockingly diverse in its manifestations. It tends to stick with people for decades after they have left their last academic setting, though encounters with an academic-type environment can reinvigorate its duration or frequency. And it often has additional cousin dreams in various similar forms and settings, such as having to give a speech in a debate round on which one does not know the topic or can’t find the room (for former debaters – I’ve had this one at least monthly for years), having missed an assignment to photograph someone’s wedding (recently discussed with a professional photographer friend), or forgetting to invite people to a major event which one has been planning (for, naturally, event planners). So diverse and common and frequent is this dream that it is a trope. And so gripping is its nightmarish hold on the imagination that it can make a ridiculous peril all too real. It is always an enormous relief to remember that I had a college diploma in hand after waking from one of these dreams about, say, my junior year in high school. But it usually takes far too many minutes of consciousness for me to even remember such facts in the face of how certain I was that I was about to fail out of the step prior to college.

Is there something about our educational system that naturally engenders this kind of terror? Surely my generation and everyone after were raised on a steady mantra of the necessity of education in securing a future. And thus probably the converse became just as true for us, that failure in any educational pursuit would spell futurelessness. But I feel like this dream transcends generational barriers. And is it really about academics and that world, per se? Or is it about a larger wider fear that lurks behind the judgment found preeminently, but by no means uniquely, in classroom settings?

Whatever its source, it actually seems to be an incredibly valuable asset in playing poker. Not in motivating me to register for a tournament by a deadline or even get to the tournament at the start (I was actually the last person to register in the tournament I won in Mississippi in August, starting two full hours after the tourney began, as well as being about that late to my first major-tourney cash at Foxwoods last October). But in keeping me afraid of the consequences of losing the tournament, of not making money. I have found that a major question separating the tournaments where I really succeed from those where I fail to cash or do kinda meh is whether or not I feel truly afraid of failing. If the consequences of not cashing seem dire, whether or not they truly are (after all, you should never risk a dime that you can’t afford to lose or even spend recreationally), then it seems to motivate the very best and most patient play.

This actually contravenes a known and popular poker adage, namely that “scared money never wins”. But I think there’s a difference between fear of risk and fear of failure. Fear of risk would have also prevented me from buying into the tournament in the first place, and especially from delaying the start of a 20-page paper till less than 24 hours prior to its deadline. If I flop a set, I know that all my chips are going to be at risk that hand, pretty much regardless. If I were playing risk-averse or scared-money, then this probably wouldn’t be my perspective. But fearing failure, fearing having to come back with no money to show for my initial outlay, that is supremely motivating. I have never been so scared of failing a tournament as I was of the satellite and especially the main event in Baton Rouge. And I don’t think I’ve ever played a longer stretch of continuously excellent poker.

Which is not to ignore the factor that luck has, of course, in all of this. I only really got lucky once in the satellite and once (actually after the cash line) in the main event. Other than winning one coin-flip, which is the kind of minimum luck necessary to place in a tournament’s ranks. But luck probably has a bigger role than we’d like to admit in grading and education too. Indeed, a longer meditation on how pretty much all of modern life amounts to some kind of gambling is stewing in the back of my mind.

So I can harness the incredible power of fake fear (the fear has to almost immediately evaporate after I actually don’t cash in a tournament; otherwise I would be tormented for days by guilt and self-loathing… which rarely happens) to make myself do incredible things. But this seems to be a problematic source of renewable energy. It’s hard to muster for the small stuff. It’s exhausting to endure (I can’t imagine I’d love a heart-rate printout of my collegiate papers, let alone my deeper tournament runs). And there’s probably a good question to be asked about just whether it’s a reasonably good way to motivate oneself in principle. Is all this self-inflicted anxiety shortening my lifespan? Making me a generally less agreeable person? Just going to devolve so that I can’t even make myself eat without truly fearing starvation?

More importantly, is it too late to reverse course? When I’ve mostly done things for fear of my life collapsing, isn’t it awfully hard to regularly get going for the sake of, y’know, just because? Have I already trapped myself in this game? It almost seems the greatest thing I truly have to fear is a lack of fake fear itself.


Squinting at a Mirror in the Early Morning Hours

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Pre-Trip Posts, Quick Updates, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , , , ,

Two mornings ago, I awoke from a dream in which I’d been debating competitively and before an interventionist judge. At 7 minutes into an 8:30 speech, he told me “That’s seven minutes,” stopped flowing, and started flowing the remaining on-case arguments across. I continued to speak but got flustered, lost my train of thought, and, feeling derailed, sat down. He then started coaching the following speaker (the MO) through his speech. At a certain point of over-fond encouragement, I stood up, ripped off my sunglasses (because who doesn’t wear sunglasses while observing MOC’s?), threw them down to break on the floor, yelled “This round is under protest!”, and stormed toward the tab room. Wherein I lodged a formal complaint with a highly ironic person who happened to be running tab at that tournament.

This morning, I awoke from a dream in which I had to save a drowning child of indeterminate age (he was about six years old when standing next to his mother, but an infant once he hit the water) from murky algae in the waters beneath the enormous bridge that spans from Astoria, Oregon to the southwestern tip of Washington. The three of us were about to cross said bridge on foot, a recurring theme I have in dreams in the last couple years for no particularly good reason I can discern. Then the kid took a dive and the mother looked at me helplessly and I immersed myself in the muck through which I cannot swim in real life to fish the younger and younger child out and induce him to cough up the briny sea-river water he’d ingested.

I submit these vivid awakenings without much comment or interpretation – it mostly eludes me anyway, except to note that debate is on the brain in a way it’s rarely been at any time save perhaps my 50-tournament streak from 2000-2002. Even the drowning baby can probably be tied to debate discussions about when its morally compulsive to save such people. I’ve been meaning to compose a post for a while that’s as much excuse as interesting, about how much of the rest of my life is on hold as I sort out what an official and increasing commitment to debate looks like and how the rest of my existence sort of shifts around that weight. It’s almost like the organ-shifting that occurs during a pregnancy – how previously important functions like waste filtration and breathing take a slight back seat to incubating a living, breathing team. Maybe the metaphor doesn’t wash, but given the late impact on my health and other uses of time, it’s apt enough. And I’m fine with it – having to balance things against life as a professional debate coach is sort of the benchmark for “good problems to have”.

It’s sort of amusing to reflect on the New Year’s Resolutions I came up with just before 2011 in an epiphanic shower that I couldn’t wait to write about and how few of those seem relevant now. Constantly re-promised vows to pay more attention to this site and write more quizzes, of which a bit of work has been done but with seemingly less relevance and vigor. It’ll happen if it happens, I now must admit. The commitment to find a new city to live in, now indefinitely on hold. Even the devotion to the fourth novel, stalled out of the gate at a handful of pages after the negotiations and then formation of my new existence. And how it all folds together into a life so unplanned and unfathomed, stapled and duct-taped together but still managing to hold water somehow, as friends all around observe how impossible it is that Storey Clayton is committed to a life in New Jersey, alone.

Today we take the seven-plus-hour tour down to William & Mary, a school I don’t think I’ve been to since I was a patriotic seven-year-old freshly moved to Washington DC and absorbing all the information about the colonial days I possibly could. My parents bought me a green-and-gold sweatshirt of the school, my first-ever college paraphernalia, a reaction to my adoration for the most beautiful campus I could’ve comprehended, and I spent the next few years telling everyone that this would be my college of choice when the time came. Only a massive devotion to urban campuses took W&M off the list. Now, I return.

Once you get to this age, your whole life is spent in some sort of reflection.


31: I’m Still Here

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, The Long Tunnel, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , , ,

Last night, I had a dream about admitting a romantic interest to one of my oldest friends who I liked for some years back in the day. In the dream, it was acknowledged with the effortless casuality of ancient history and ancient knowledge, the artful and slightly playful dismissiveness that only comes from people with supreme confidence in themselves and their every decision. Such an attitude doesn’t quite comport with the real-life version of this person, and yet speaks volumes to my perception of relative confidence and attitudinal approach as I face the hills and waves of future forays. Increasingly, my major concerns are that everyone else likes themselves better than I do (empirically untrue, of course, because everyone feels this way) and that no one else feels living is truly serious business. This last, unfortunately, may empirically be true.

On the other hand, I often feel I’ve gotten younger with every passing year. As a child who grew up nine-going-on-forty, the approaching march to 40 feels like emotional regression. I think a fitting model of adulthood would be about figuring out what one has to take seriously and what one can take risks with. I think that a huge part of my rapport with my debate team, for example, comes from the fact that I can stay loose and jokey with them, that our practices, downtime at tournaments, and day-to-day interactions are far from all-business. My critique of most adults is that they cast aside their imagination and creativity in the belief that conforming to societally desired expectations will somehow improve their standing or others’ perception of them. Empirically, again, little could be further from the truth. No one likes a conformist. No one is impressed by how well someone falls in line, etches themselves into a cog, or fails to make waves. And yet aging implies a pressure to sit down, shut up, and start plodding along an inevitable treadmill toward a dubious retired future.

My own future is starting to take shape, at least in the narrow scope of the next year or so, and possibly longer. I have accepted an offer to join the staff of Rutgers University on a full-time basis, serving in an expanded version of my volunteer role that I’ve undertaken for the past year and a half. The school’s administration’s embracing of the debate team in the last few weeks has been overwhelmingly impressive and expansive and I am incredibly grateful to them and the institution writ large for the emerging depth of opportunity they are making available to me, but especially to the students of Rutgers. I think another facet of adjusting to adulthood is increasing acclimation to the idea that one will be under-acknowledged for one’s work and efforts – I am keenly aware of how distant my life suddenly is from such acclimation and what a call to action that contrast can be.

I spent the weekend on the Princeton campus, an emotional gauntlet of tremendous proportion. The recentering of the tournament in the traditional McCosh 50 heightened memories of all stripes, dating back to the spring of 1999, to say nothing of Edwards Hall and the various portents of the best year of my life. There were countless pockets of the campus I found myself in or near or passing by, having to shake my head in wonder at the circular cyclical nature of existence and what sort of bold metaphor one’s life tends to be. Of course, having the company of a team and a new generation to coach and assist both distracted from and periodically enhanced the nature of the trial. Suffice it to say it was emotional.

While the varsity squad struggled a bit again, the novices had yet another breakout performance, including a novice semis break for a team in their first and second APDA tournaments, respectively. Were I not sticking around, this would be about the time I would be desperately reconsidering that decision in the face of how much upside there is in the youth of the team, of wondering where we could be in a year or two. Which is of course nice instant confirmation of my decision to return, to see where we can get, to take pleasure in the incremental improvements as part of a long continuum I can now afford to see out instead of wistfully remember with wonder a couple years hence.

Today itself will be quiet, I’d imagine. A couple folks are coming up from Philly to help me invest in my decision to reside here for the foreseeable future – my apartment remains relatively sparse and unadorned, many artifacts still boxed or stowed, the whole place underlit and overly whitewalled. Hopefully by day’s end, the place will be less refugee camp and more safe haven, a place I have chosen instead of one I’ve fallen into, a reflection of a life I’m leading instead of following. It’s not the most celebratory of usages of time, but it’s befitting of my current status and location. Last year was celebratory and surprising and joyous. This year will be reflective but ultimately rejuvenating.

And, to top it off, my favorite of birthday perks, it’s supposed to snow tonight. While we got a whiff of spring a couple days back, yesterday about-faced into bitter windblown cold and this evening’s forecast calls for flaky precipitation, growing heavy right around the time of my actual birth anniversary (2:56 AM Eastern, four minutes till midnight Pacific). Not sure I’ll be up that late, given my new need to report to work on a schedule, but maybe I’ll set a brief alarm to blearily examine the echoes of 1992 as they fall and scatter on a place I’m starting to call home.

Apparently, two years ago, someone decided to make this the World Day of Social Justice. Hard to imagine a more desirable designation, especially since World Peace Day was already taken. We’re not there yet, folks, and the struggle is long, laborious, and continuous. But with any luck, there are still contributions to be made, reasons to persist in the effort. I remain alive and so long as I do, it will be as an idealist, perhaps even increasingly starry-eyed as the years cascade and I insist on remaining imaginative. There are doubtlessly worse ways to grow old than in the company of heated debate, the camaraderie of youthful enthusiasts, the glint of limitless potential, the shade of support and acknowledgment. It is a blessing to spend any day appreciative, maybe even on the cusp of something like hope.


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


Storey is… Asleep and will return… Soon (Hopefully)

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, If You're Going to San Francisco, Telling Stories, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , , ,

When I worked at Glide (they update their website now!), I designed this makeshift sign that I manually laminated with contact paper which served the purpose of either the old open/closed signs my Dad used to package with FAX machines when he sold them in the 80’s or whiteboards on college dorm room doors. I made the latter correlation when one of the Administrative Assistants I hired used a whiteboard instead, but she was fresh out of college and the whiteboard thing was far too closely associated with college for me. Not that my makeshift sign looked all that more serious.

I wish I had a picture, but I can’t seem to find one in my archives. I didn’t take all that many pictures at Glide… even though my parents warned me about sufficiently chronicling a workplace, workplaces always seem like the mundanely ordinary in contrast to the extraordinary that’s worth documenting. Anyway, the basic idea was that it was a basic 8.5×11 with the phrase Storey is…, then a little transparent holder, then and will return…, then another transparent holder. And then I had all these fiddly little inserts that I would drop in the transparent slots, such as at Lunch, in a Meeting, Done Today for the top slot, and at noon, at 1:15, at 3:30 for the bottom. Yeah, I actually had them in 15-minute intervals from about 9:00 to 5:00. People really needed to know where I was.

I even made one of these for my super-incompetent boss in the early job, whose incompetence was based in never being reachable. The day he asked me to make one of these for him, my heart leapt with the joy of realizing that he really did care that people knew where he was and I would no longer need my Sherlock Holmes hat whenever someone called regarding his whereabouts. Of course, he used it maybe twice and it kept falling off his door in these sweeping metaphorical gestures about his general findability. Also, it misled a good number of people because he didn’t remove the inserts when he was neglecting it, so it would say he was in a meeting till 3:00 for twelve straight days. Which… was about right.

Anyway, I had a dream just now (I’m apparently sleeping and waking in roughly alternating 4-hour shifts, which I take optimistically as a sign that I do have an infection [ear? sinus?], but my body’s gotten serious about fighting it off) wherein I’d laid out all the little inserts for the sign on the front of the Glide Celebration (which is what they call their “church” services, which are somewhere between a Gospel rock-concert and a race to reference every known human religion) stage for some clearly work-related purpose. Em and I were in the front row, keeping an eye on all these little inserts, some of which weren’t laminated (historically accurate – you try wrapping contact paper around every quarter-hour between 9:00 and 5:00… it gets aggravatingly dull), trying to make sure the ratty little things didn’t blow all over the stage. And then it was time for the sermon and Cecil was preaching and I whispered to Em about how he preaches more often than I’d thought when we went to Celebration that one time and I told her it was very rare to see him preach and he glowers at me from the pulpit and I can’t tell if it’s because I’m whispering as he starts to speak or because I’ve left all these annoying little papers at the front of the stage for some purpose he’s either forgotten or can’t see. And I’m having trouble seeing the purpose myself and am considering cleaning them up, just sweeping them into the disorganized pile they often became themselves when I was switching them out frequently (like, six times a day) and didn’t have time to sort them and they got all disheveled, but I’m pretty sure my rising and doing this will be even more glower-worthy than the status quo and I decide to sit tight and try to enjoy his words and I wake up.

I think a little smidge of this dream may be about missing Glide, although the incumbent stress of the situation seems to belie that interpretation. Maybe I miss the stress that came with those ever-changing inserts, the correlated expectations on my time and energy. As I commented to Em a couple nights ago, going somewhat insane over the dearth of detailed feedback yet received on American Dream On (I get it, everyone’s much busier now with their lives than they were in 2001), I don’t get a lot of confirmation these days that I’m doing a good job. Much has been made of the solitude of the writing process and while I enjoy the aloneness of the creation, I really crave the confirmation (or denial) of others once the process is done. At Glide, three people a day told me I was impacting them in some direct and almost always positive way. When writing, one goes months at a time with no outside feedback whatsoever.

Which I guess is why people like Greg tend to release things serially in chapters. But that makes the process itself far too dependent on others, far more organic and focus groupy than I’m interested in. Besides, I’d just have heard the same overreactions to the difficulty of the subject matter – the “darkness” and “depression” and so forth – in 2002 instead of the last week. Which might have prompted me not to go on at all, or to change the project into something it wasn’t. No thanks.

A small price to pay for doing what one wants, for having freedom over one’s life. Really. But I’m beginning to think the most satisfying part of being picked up by a major publishing house (if/when it happens) would/will be getting a big unadulterated dose of others’ opinions about the work. Just like… y’know, work.


Raining in Baltimore: Return 2 APDA

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , ,

I spent the weekend at my first APDA tournament since Nationals 2007. In my new role as coach of the Rutgers team, I was ensuring that the team could get there (they have significant transportation challenges) and getting an early gauge on the lay of the land.

Returning to a regular APDA tournament (Nats just feels different, especially if one is in the tab room as I was in ’07) was pretty surreal, though I adjusted fairly quickly. I was surprised at how many people I did know and recognize, most of them freshly minted dinos who are many years my junior. Of course, there were also a slew of people who became three-dimensional for the first time – people I knew pretty well from APDA Forum Werewolf games that I’d never met or seen in person.

The tourney was at Hopkins and I had a chance to see Freez and his (relatively) new place, which is pretty swanky. The original 1904 hardwood flooring definitely being the highlight there. The entire weekend featured buckets of rain, including visibility-limiting sheets on the drive down, which probably aided our getting lost and almost mistakenly heading to Washington DC. Though after this summer’s cross-country trip and some more recent events, I’m seriously starting to doubt the quality and veracity of Internet driving directions.

Surreality aside, I really love APDA and being back in the thick of the community. I enjoy judging, though close calls give me a sensation approximating what I imagine an ulcer feels like. I enjoy the quality of the discourse and the intellectual caliber of the people, something rarely assembled so consistently and thoroughly in any other environment. I’m not going to go so far as to say that APDA is wasted on the young (I certainly appreciated it at the time, as do many of its participants), but maybe it’s more to say that APDA ages incredibly well. Even after college, it’s time well spent. It horrifies me even now to think how close I was to not joining when at Brandeis and how fervently my high school advisers told me there were better things for debaters to do in college than debate.

The Rutgers team did well, going 3-2 with losses only to break teams, and speaking impressively. It’s an auspicious start to what looks to be a breakthrough year. We have no fewer than four (4) meetings this week, serving as an intense week of novice training to prepare for the Swarthmore Novice Tournament in two weeks, so the intensity will not ramp down for some time.

Last night, I had a classic school anxiety dream, mostly about going into my senior year at Brandeis. I had my own place that was nicer and larger than I had reason to think it should be and a slightly different course schedule than made sense. But I spent a lot of time thinking about how not to waste the year, how to appreciate it, and how to make sure to get my diploma.

I woke up, quickly realizing where I was in real chronological time. More importantly, I realized that these dreams will be back in force for the next two years.


Six Hours Good, Eight Hours Bad

Categories: A Day in the Life, Telling Stories, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , ,

Last night, I threw in the towel early after about 1,200 words. Not a bad output – way better than zero – and I even felt pretty good about them. I was actually reading my early chronicles of writing Loosely Based yesterday to contextualize my current pace and it looks like I’m on a blistering tear by comparison.

Anyway, I threw in the towel because I had a migraine that I’d been denying most of the night to try to get to a place where I could write something. It wasn’t completely debilitating yet, though it was on its way there, and this is actually a good opportunity for writing. Having lived with migraines for a decade and a half, I have learned a great deal about them, including the fact that they actually represent a state of heightened awareness and sensitivity. Ultimately, this heightened state becomes completely non-functional, as all light, sound, and stimulus of any kind create overwhelming pain. But the moderate parts of the upswing represent a blood-surge to the brain that creates intense focus and ability.

Don’t get me wrong – I would never intentionally induce this state, because the downside of being knocked out for 8-12 hours (or way more in the bad cases) far outweighs the brief preliminary increased consciousness. But if it’s already underway, there’s no harm in taking advantage of it in that very small window. Unfortunately, the tipping point comes very quickly where the pain of trying to maintain interaction with the world outweighs the benefits of that interaction being of higher quality.

So I turned in early, around 4:00, after eking out four pages and change. And I realized that, migrainous, I was going to have to sleep more than the six-hour standard that I’ve been on the last ten days. (My ideal sleep cycle is four hours, but I think I may have gotten too old for this to be feasible on a constant basis.) And that, my friends, would mean dreams.

They were disjointed and unmemorable at first, as they often are when I’ve prevented myself from dreaming for an extended period. Then they started to coalesce into my standard night fare. In the first of memory, I was grinding my teeth into a pulp (sadly all too realistic, Em reports), to the point where I could feel into my mouth and pull out little chunks of tooth and some accompanying powder. The visceral reality of that dream was absurdly compelling, especially since it was set in my actual location, on the bed in Tiny House.

The follow-up was a more traditional, artificially located dream, in which I had been sent into a movie theater as some sort of harbinger of doom. My goal was equal parts to warn a specific person that something troubling was coming to the theater and to create a general aura of discomfort that aware people would be able to pick up on and join the target and I on the way out the door. Those that made it out the door before I did were safe as a rising tide of panic started sweeping in. Just before I left, the shooting began. I was then instructed to push the double-doors behind me shut and hold them there no matter what. Without considering the consequences in detail (I was mostly focused on how infeasible this seemed for one of my strength), I followed the orders. I felt a surge of almost supernatural power through my arms as I was somehow able to resist the stampeding mob shoving the doors in the other direction, while hearing the two machine gunners make their way through the crowd with a sickening series of automatic bullets and the accompanying anguish of their targets. I was torn between my incredible guilt at what I was aiding, the sweet surprise of my strength, and the fear of realizing that if I let go of the doors, I might well get shot myself. Eventually, it was over and I was able to let go after two minutes of silence. No one in the theater was still alive. I met up with a suspicious-looking counterpart who was apparently the operative holding the other exit shut – the one through which the gunmen had initially entered. We briefly discussed the horrible compromise we’d just had to make to save our own lives before I woke up.

I was going to end the post there, dramatically demonstrating why I aim for less sleep and why I see dreams as such a potent enemy of my own peaceful state of mind. But I have just recalled a third dream, I think just before the tooth dream, that might as well accompany this narrative. Funny how intensely recalling dreams prompts the further recessed recall of others.

My group of male high-school friends and I were all hanging out at what was some sort of college or graduate school, mostly in the cafeteria, but occasionally in the dorms, which resembled hotel lodging more than student housing. Fish hadn’t processed his paperwork properly and was thus deemed unwelcome on the campus, though we hadn’t been caught yet. The dream was basically an extended chase scene where we kept trying to get away from these two slick-looking undercover cops who were going to root Fish out and probably punish all of us as well. Throughout the dream, Fish was the only one of our crew who seemed unperturbed by the situation, while Jake and Gris and I struggled in frustration with how serious our circumstances were and how hard it was to get Fish to recognize this. For some reason, I kept being the one to have cryptic conversations with the cops, as though they suspected I was shielding Fish but didn’t quite have enough evidence yet, so they couldn’t just take me down. The climax took place on a used car lot, somehow the last place I expected them to find us, and they told me the jig was up right before I saw Jake tear out of there with a stolen used car, Fish in tow. I gazed down the highway, wondering if they would make it.

I’m aiming for a return to six hours tonight.


Spirits in the Material World

Categories: A Day in the Life, From the Road, Summer Sojourn 2009, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , ,

Then one day
the sky fell in
and freedom lost control
and ran off the road and hit a pole
And it was all
and it was nothing
at all
-Josh Joplin Group, “Dutch Wonderland”

Woke up this morning in Denver after a pretty severe series of nightmares involving burrowing underground and interacting pretty negatively with space aliens therein. It was the eighth distinct location where I’ve woken up since the open of this trip 2.5 weeks ago, making for further discombobulation of my already rather tormented subconscious. The details of this particular dream are needlessly grisly. Suffice it to say that I’ve had better nights.

The morning voicemail on Em’s cell, however, was in some ways darker still. Apparently the moving truck with all our stuff, save the few items we found relevant to our six-week Sojourn, was in a car accident outside of LA, turning over at least once. No word yet on the extent of the damage or even whether any people were injured (though it sounds pretty bad). There was a claim from the President of the moving company who kindly left the message that, while their insurers were still sorting through it, the damage wasn’t as bad as it sounded. Whether this is an accurate reassurance or an early attempt at liability limitation remains to be seen.

In any case, it requires the contemplation of all of our stuff being gone or irreparably damaged. One’s mind quickly jumps over the furniture and the replaceable though seemingly indispensible stuff (vaccuum, lamp, and so on) and straight to the really sentimental stuff. Stuffed animals. My collection of small carved/sculpted turtles. A few papers. And oh, the photographs.

While the turtles are probably toasted oatmeal, being fragile as all get-out, one would think that most of the sentimental items would survive such a crash well intact. But then the pivotal question, one we can’t likely ask till Monday, is whether the truck opened or not. If it remained closed (and didn’t catch fire or something), then we can at least be sure that there will be an accounting for everything. But of course the vision that quickly develops in the mind’s eye is one of whipping winds carrying burst-open boxes of heart-rending items across the heartless LA freeway, careless convertibles dodging and weaving amongst the testimony of decades worth of beloved accumulation.

Damage I can deal with, but total loss is challenging. And the potential ambiguity of knowing what was lost, the direct result of a failure to sufficiently inventory box contents amidst the madness of frustrating packing, is perhaps the worst of all. And though we are steeling ourselves in an attempt to mentally imagine that there will be no truck at all showing up in New Jersey, just a settlement check for some number of thousands, there is some space between this mental commitment and the understanding that one’s wedding albums and pictoral history of high school are gone.

Of course, there is also opportunity. Like the disasters that would whip through SimCity, wreaking the best-laid zones of half a century to waste in a couple months, the losses that at first seem devastating are often incredible invitations to rebirth. I have been all too aware of the conflict between my own desire to transcend materialism of all kinds and my affection for a certain amount of material items and the collection thereof. It may be just this kind of event, like meat making me sick in high school, that is necessary to nudge me in the right direction. Em and I even talked about this possibility (hard to invoke discussion of insurance, to which I begrudgingly assented, without contemplating doomsday scenarios, which is incidentally one of the many reasons I conceptually hate insurance), realizing among other things that we would probably stop collecting books (probably the only type of item we overtly collect) should something like this set us back. Perhaps we will emerge from this completely devoid of our physical attachments to inantimate objects, able to face the future with a new fearlessness. The very thought is strangely inspiring.

And yet, there are the pangs. A history told in words and pictures. The computer that I didn’t back up quite well enough, or some of the backups that were insanely packaged in boxes in the same shipment as the computer itself. The fact that my decision of whether to start over with American Dream On, my second novel, or work with the 80-some-odd pages assembled over the last 8 years, may be determined by the condition of that machine and its survival or lack during the accident. (I’m pretty sure I wasn’t that stupid and that there are backups of this in multiple places, but one never really knows until something like this happens.) And some things dear to Emily – her grandmother’s music boxes and the candelabra. And the few bits of shared accumulation in 6 years of marriage, few to none significant in their own right, but this is how Americans are taught to mark the passage of their time. It’s not right, but that doesn’t abridge the emotional twists and agonization.

I would love to tell you that I just don’t care. And while I feel closer to that than I ever thought I would, it’s not true. If it were, we wouldn’t have packed up just shy of two tons of stuff and sent it across America’s dangerous highways in the first place.

It’s overshadowed the last week of events, suddenly, which is too bad. In some ways, it could cast a pallor over the whole trip if we don’t start to get a decent handle on how totalled our stuff really is. But it’s a stuff-tragedy, not a personal one, and for that I’m grateful. Stuff can be rebuilt or rebought (or more likely not), but people are inconstructable. The sting of an event like this could create a lifetime of counterbalance to American training about stuff, which could be just what I need. A little bell that goes off every time I crave an item, a Pavolvian antidote to the way capitalism makes us pigs.

There’s just no way of knowing till it all shakes out.

I would love to now launch into the travails of a return to the Grand Canyon and the roundtrip to Indian Garden, of a whirlwind Albuquerque with my parents in full fervor, of the discovery of Manitou Springs, Colorado, a town that joins Nevada City, CA and Madrid, NM, and probably a few others as potential small-town retreats for a future I still can’t flesh out. But these will have to wait – personal timing of the trip unending calls us to another outing and my own wrestling with late developments makes such review seem relatively trivial, or at least not primarily pertinent. There will be time and space to discuss those details – they are not forgotten. And suddenly, those may be some of the only photographs of the last 15 years that I have.

Someday, I will leave this world. And take not a single physical possession with me on my way. Perhaps it’s time to enact the latter early, well before having to engage in the former. An opportunity indeed. Not one without pain, but perhaps, over time, one without sorrow. Or at least regret.



Glide Series Finale

Categories: A Day in the Life, Awareness is Never Enough - It Must Always Be Wonder, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , ,

Last night, I had one of the most transparent dreams of my entire life. Fresh from some emotional goodbyes at Glide in real life, I dreamt that a bunch of people I knew in my life, consisting primarily of Glide folks, but also including friends from throughout my time on Earth, were all staying at this big lodge. It was this labyrinthine place with crooked staircases and random working fireplaces and shmancy parts – as though the spirit of the La Fonda were infused into five different hotel styles that were all then jammed together.

In the dream, it was the fifth or seventh year of all of us coming together for some unofficial but very expected regular gathering, that was basically a big pajama party of everyone running around this crazy lodge and hanging out for a long weekend. And while the dream eventually insisted on becoming a bit of a nightmare (I got into some major argument with a stranger in the lobby restaurant, was threatened, and eventually had to leave in fear), the message of the heart of the dream was all too clear. I’m going to miss these people and I am adding to the tally of scattered people who I will be missing in the future. Deep in my heart, I just want us all to hang out somewhere relaxed and without responsibility where we can just be.

Life affords us few chances like this (my dream was clearly partially referencing my wedding, the last time when so many from so many walks of life were so assembled) and they are profoundly important to treasure. In the meantime, all we can do is say meaningful goodbyes and promise to not lose sight of these people. Ironically, of course, I attribute much of my trouble with staying in touch with people to working. But working has brought me more people. Such is the way of the world, the nature of life in an age that has advanced beyond the feudal farm.

This morning, waking from that dream and starting my typical morning routine that will be exceptional from here on out, everything really started to hit me broadside. This is it. After counting down and contemplating, planning a transition and carefully ensuring that my work goes on, it all ends today. Freedom and loss. Joy and sadness. The old emotional gobstopper, more moving for all I’ve been too busy to notice it creeping up on me. Glide is one of the very few places (college debate is the only other I can think of for sure) where I have felt thoroughly in my element, where I have felt at home and comfortable in the environment, among the people, navigating through its twists and turns. Where I feel I’ve “figured it out” and been able to capitalize on that to be successful, to make friends, to find a home. (And what does it say about this phenomenon that I’m returning to a college debate setting, coaching at Rutgers for the next two years?)

Walking away from that home is incredibly difficult. I don’t even realize how much so yet. The crazy place on the corner of Ellis and Taylor with the throngs of people in need has been my place. And starting tomorrow, it won’t be anymore. It will be a place that I was, where I loved and worked and tried. It will be a place of memory and the past. I am tearing up as I write this, for the second time in a young morning. This is life. And it’s all worth it, if only for the departures and losses that make one understand how important the pieces of one’s life really are.

This is it. This is it.

Give me a moment to hang on to, to hold forever, plunging into the future.


A Poem on the Journey Homeward (or: Something Other than Duck and Cover)

Categories: A Day in the Life, Awareness is Never Enough - It Must Always Be Wonder, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Let's Go M's, Read it and Weep, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , , , ,

I finished a book tonight that would’ve been more fitting to finish on my last day of work and it was all I could really think about as I was walking home from the train doing one of those walking stutter-step things you do when you haven’t quite timed the completion of your book correctly but you can’t simply let it linger over the overnight and somehow it doesn’t seem right to finish such a roadbound book in the confines of the house at six o’clock PM when the world is just darkening and everything seems at its most depressing and anger inducing but I’m not there yet I’m swinging my backpack around my shoulder to deposit book and sunglasses and contemplate the end of Oscar Wao and his world and whether it all came to a satisfactory end or not and all these tourists are staring just past me over the overslung shoulder at Godzilla or nothing at all and I don’t bother to contemplate for the storm is blowing in hard and I really can’t wait to be out of it before the rain that was supposed to be here earlier but isn’t yet and I’m suddenly rooted to the ground despite my rush by the vision of this pile of books that’s just strewn out on the sidewalk and one would normally think abandoned with a free sign that blew away but somehow this looks different worse much worse like something that was punitive and there are CD’s too and just enough peripheral stuff that it looks like someone flew away in a hurry or said you want your books huh THERE have your books how do you like them now and it was clear that they hadn’t quite been rained on yet but they would be soon and always the eternal dilemma that somehow gets to me of whether to scoop and salvage or whether the offended would be back for them soon and sometimes it’s even more complicated because there are times I think someone is meant to lose something they leave behind and another to find it and any intervention from me sometimes feels like its just abridging free will almost like I don’t think I can be a participant in the lives of others at least of strangers at least of those who seem to be on a predestined course that I should do my careful level best with not to interfere like picking up the books which just feels wrong despite the droplets I can see envisioning somehow it would be like picking up a dead body or something it just seems a monument to things I am not meant to interact with and I’m stumbling back across the Abbey Road crosswalk almost before I think of looking up to see if anyone is stopping because I’ve already burned time looking at the books and the rotting banana on the cardboard just after that seemed to tie so perfectly to the book just finished and rumbling back around in my head and I wonder how much agency he felt he had and how it compares to mine and what if you were stuck in a really beautiful prison with guards and fellow inmates who treated you well and you somehow intellectually knew it was a prison but still were so comforted by so much of it that it felt somehow strange to leave after a sentence of say three years and maybe it’s good to have rotten-to-the-core days like today because they remind you that it is a prison and there’s not even the hint of doubt about what you should be doing even though there’s times that what you think you really need IS a prison but no metaphor so much as a real prison with walls and guards and no computers or games or recreation or friends just you and just enough access to pen and paper to appreciate it enough to make it work after all you’ve talked about a hospital before or something similar but pain can be exhausting and makes for unreflective drivel like you’re barely able to chunk out now between the moments of startling exhaustion things that your father would call self-indulgent and you recognize as mental chaff but think it’s helpful too for the writing or for you or for something anyway maybe but it doesn’t matter you’re almost falling asleep on your feet falling through the gate and thinking about the dark dreary insides of the house and your one-hour no-contact foul mood and the unsatisfying release of a video game and whether the Mariners can do something today and there’s a package you weren’t expecting and an invitation you definitely weren’t expecting and you realize for the thousandth time this year how badly you’ve neglected everything that matters while in prison and the thought of nine nine nine nine nine nine nine sings you through the door like some trippy Beatles song and you know you must capture this moment and express it to yourself for one two three years hence when you’re on the brink and ask yourself like Oscar Wao flying back to the Dominican Republic goddammit is this ever going to be worth it again do you really want to live like a zombie can you ever get through this and so close to the edge that all you can do is see the walls and bars anew and wonder if you’re really going to make it or if you’re too broken down to even care and you realize that all these debates are why you haven’t been able to write anything or codify what you’re feeling and there are all the people who you do care about and believe in what they’re doing in prison and how can you explain that their paradise is your prison and your prison is still better than anyone else’s prison and now you’ve gone and upset everyone else and this is a hard lonely road to talk about with people who almost all feel differently and nine days away is just no time to make final seminal statements when you’re still in the thick of it and you have to wonder how long after nine how long after zero will you still feel in the thick how many dreams of stress and nightmare will you awaken to like this fruitless spoiled morning when you had something really due that day that then wasn’t as opposed to the school assignments the debate rounds the Seneca kids all the past things and you know that you will be haunted by this forever and somehow God please somehow let this all have been worth it.


When the Commute Goes Bad

Categories: A Day in the Life, What Dreams May Come, Tags: ,

I’m riding BART and worried about getting all my things off the train so I can go into work. I have with me my backpack, a jacket, Emily’s laptop (out of its bag), and a large piece of luggage in the center aisle. I’m in the window seat and at one stop that I’m worried is mine, the person next to me leaves.

I get up to start gathering my things, including the luggage. When I turn back around, a very portly gentleman has sat in the recently vacated seat next to my collected stuff. The jacket, backpack, and laptop are next to him. There’s really no way to reach my stuff, so I have to ask him to get up briefly so I can gather my things, but he seems very bent out of shape about this and grumbles while he stumbles out of the seat.

Suddenly I realize it’s my stop and have to grab everything hurriedly and rush (ambling under the weight of all the stuff) to the doors. Just as I set foot on the platform, I realize Emily’s laptop is out of its bag and I have to retrieve the bag. I run back into the train car, grab the first laptop bag I see, and run back to the doors. The doors start closing in front of me, but I stick the laptop bag between them, the doors jam, reopen, and I stuff myself through them.

I’m standing on the platform of Macarthur BART when I realize that the laptop bag in my hand is blue and isn’t mine (or Emily’s). The train is pulling away with the actual bag, while I have someone else’s. I wonder briefly whether it will even matter that much, but I soon realize that Emily’s actual bag is much nicer and probably has some of her other things in it.

I start trudging down the steps of Macarthur BART and out toward a nondescript part of town when a couple of not unfriendly police start gently ferrying me toward a gargantuan police station that looks like a very nice high school/courthouse combination. I’m vaguely ushered without actually being escorted and suddenly my shoes are gone. The police ask what I’m doing with that bag and I can’t tell whether the implication is that I’ve stolen it or that I shouldn’t have jammed the BART doors with it. I’m wary of telling them too much, but they ask me to go see someone in the office. I look at the office doors and they’re clearly the well-guarded entrance to the cells in the basement and I look back and say “No one intelligent would go in there voluntarily.”

They smile and do nothing to compel me, so I start subtly half-running for the exit, seemingly content to leave all my stuff behind for the time being. As I get outside, there’s a rolling lawn that’s even more school than courthouse and I think they’re going to let me go (albeit in sock-feet), when suddenly a casually dressed man emerges from the courthouse and then is suddenly ahead of me inexplicably. He starts launching a small remote-control helicopter and flying it in my direction. He is making lots of jokes that seem somewhere between good-natured and sinister and I catch the first helicopter and break it in half, flinging it aside. I feel enraged by these helicopters and I want to send a message. He sends three more helicopters my way, each meeting a similar fate before I wake up.

If nothing else, I think my subconscious wants me to realize that I have too much stuff.


Midweek Roundup

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Metablogging, Read it and Weep, What Dreams May Come, Tags: , , , ,

Periodically, I’ll get to the point where I’m almost incapable of writing new posts because every post idea I have is an old half-cooked one from two and a half weeks ago. And at the point at which there are twelve of these or so, it’s time to clean out the closet and just put the leftovers on the table for consideration. Could I mix my metaphors any more? Could I care any less?

Think of this like your Lewis Black interlude in The Daily Show, only way less painful and with punchlines that, where applicable, are capable of inducing at least a chuckle. On second thought, please consider nothing that I do remotely akin to Lewis Black in any way.

Stocks are the New Fantasy Football or It Takes a Distraction
If I’ve learned anything about trying to live life while somehow enmeshed in the trash compactor known as an American Day Job, it’s that one must find things one looks forward to doing at, around, or directly after work or one will spend far too much of one’s energy contemplating different ways to throw oneself in front of the train (or swerve the car off the road, etc.). I wish I were less serious.

The difference that having this (or these) upside distraction(s) make(s) cannot be underestimated. Simply cannot. It makes the difference between a spring in one’s step as one whistles on the way to the next lobotomizing task and being so overwhelmingly Eeyorishly depressed that one cannot hide it from one’s supervisor. (At least for me. Your possibly more emotionally flatline results may vary.)

When I worked at Seneca, I had to pull 16-hour shifts on Sundays with no breaks or lunches. This is legal, they told us, because we were technically in medical care, where apparently rules about taking care of people do not apply to employees. I think some people were told they could have breaks if they really raised a stink, but it was on them that the ratio dial was being turned from “Absolute Minimum Containment” down to “Life-Threatening”. And who wants that on a Sunday morning?

Nevertheless, there were natural downtimes in the rhythms, such as “Quiet Time” (less of a misnomer than the “Quiet Room”, I can tell you), where the kids played in their rooms for 15-20 minutes and staff got to be on the computer. Theoretically we were supposed to work on mental health notes during this time, but anyone who could write even such rote stuff in the midst of a 16-hour shift was differently constructed than I. I checked Fantasy Football.

It was perfect. I don’t even like football that much, but Sunday is devoted to football in America and the scores would roll in over the course of the day. Looking for opportunities to check football stats was the highlight of every Sunday, to the point where half the year was considerably more dreary because there was no football. But I started the job in August and that’s right when football gets going, so it acclimated me to 16-hour shifts as much as imaginable. And I wouldn’t have been able to get into it without Fantasy Football as a reason to care about so many different games and players. This whole association may actually be a big reason that I can’t play Fantasy Football any more – the associations are too strong.

Anyway, reading books on the train is definitely a big help in the current compactor, but that becomes inconsistent. Especially when I’m still immersed in The Idiot, which is really starting to show why it’s not discussed in the same breath as C&P and Brothers K, at least by most people. Basically, it seems there are about 40 pages of scattered brilliance that mostly consists of asides and non sequitirs sprinkled across a rather unremarkable story. Though I can sort of see why this book would’ve shaken up Russia’s society at the time it was written. Big D still has about 50 pages to salvage a message, though, so I’m holding out. Anyway, the point is that books help, especially if they are engaging and thus give me a reason to want to ride the train to work.

But stocks – stocks are the biggest help. Starting to play the stock market (I’ve basically broken even so far over 9 months, which I’m guessing is beating the average experience) has been my recent salvation from eight unending hours of drudgery. There’s always plenty of five-minute spurts in which I can take a break and get the rundown, and being on a computer all day makes it easy to keep in the background and monitor live-update sites. It’s gotten to the point where there’s a little pang of sadness in part of me every weekend because there are no exciting stock movements to keep an eye on. Which is perfect – if one’s resigned to not resigning a day job for a certain period, one wants a distraction so great that one misses it (just a little) during the weekend. (Please note that if this is making you want to stay at a job you should be leaving, you’ve gone too far. Use this method only in moderation to stay at jobs you have to for brief to middling periods of time.)

Huh. I guess that was plenty of post by itself after all. But wait, there’s more….

Time is Just a Bit Outside or Calendary Dreaming on Such a Winter’s Day
It occurred to me walking home from work in early January (maybe the first day back after all the breaks) that our calendar almost makes sense. I noticed that the days were getting longer again, as they say, and it was a new year. But these events are not quite aligned. Winter Solstice is 9-10 days before year’s end, when really it makes perfect sense to have it right at the end of the year. The shortest day of the year should always be the last, with the longest at mid-year. Doesn’t that just make obvious intuitive sense?

The only complication of this I can really see is that, for some reason, the Solstices and Equinoxes don’t always fall on the exact same calendar day. Which, if you think about it, seems to indicate that our calendar is off. Shouldn’t those always come around at the exact same time if a year is really what we say it is? But, of course, there are complications like the quarter-day (leap year every four) and the skipping of leap year every few leap years and the extra second and such. Years don’t comport with days perfectly, so there must be a little flexibility. However, I don’t think it would be too much trouble to alter our year length to ensure, at least, that the last day of the year is always Winter Solstice.

Anyway, this got me thinking about calendars and time and whether our current incarnation of a year really makes the most sense. Without going all Robespierre on you, I was going to present the case for a new 8-month calendar of evenly-sized 45-day months, punctuated by a brief universal holiday period of 5-6 days each year. But I wasn’t sure that was right – I was then thinking about changing the lengths of weeks to align more exactly and then maybe going back to 30-day months… it all got jumbled to the point where I decided I couldn’t post on it, pending further study.

So I’ll get back to you on the full-scale new calendar proposal, replete with equivalences of every current day to the newly proposed day. That might take a while. But I’m convinced that we should end each year with Winter Solstice. It’s just sort of obvious.

Analyze This or I Miss Debate
I’ve been dreaming a lot about debate lately. A lot. Sometimes the dreams make sense and sometimes they don’t, but it’s sort of reaching a critical mass.

This is not particularly new, though this recent wave is above average. For a long time, especially when I was still debating, I had debate anxiety dreams that closely mirror very common school anxiety dreams. I had a round about which I was uninformed, I was ironmanning (no partner), I didn’t have a case, I couldn’t find the room, I was late, etc. etc. (Sometimes, I swear, every single one of these would happen in one dream about one round.) Those have thankfully faded over time, though they still crop up every once in a while.

The last few years have graced me with many more painful dreams about debating in important rounds, often finals or at least outrounds, and realizing very sharply that I need to savor and enjoy this round because I will miss debate terribly painfully when it’s over and there will be no more chances to be part of a debate league and I don’t want to feel like I’ve left something on the table. The crippling disappointment that comes from waking up from these dreams long since retired from the debate circuit is indescribable. Especially since, in almost all of these dreams, the round never really got going. I just sort of lived in the milieu of the round without actually kicking off the debate.

(Which is a fairly typical thing in dreams for me – for the first fifteen years of my life, I could never eat anything in a dream. I would have dreams in the middle of grocery stores or restaurants and be unable to consume anything. Attempts to do so would either magically be rendered impossible or directly wake me up. This prohibition was actually lifted right around the time I became a vegetarian and started having accidental meat-eating anxiety dreams. Of course, I’ve always been able to die or splat on the ground or what have you in dreams, which is supposed to be impossible – or at least rare.)

It’s gotten to the point where I can actually identify and describe a place that is a frequent setting for my dreams that doesn’t seem to exist in real life. There are only about four such places I can think of, whose recurrence is so strong that they have become real places in my mind despite not tying to any real locale during waking hours. In the dreams, it’s always called “Dartmouth” but is absolutely nothing like any venues actually on the Dartmouth College campus. I think a subconscious association of that school’s tournament and my success is in play here, even though my sophomore year there was my only final. It was my first varsity victory, after all. It’s (the dream venue) a relatively modest GA/final round lecture hall – modest in size, I should say, but pretty grand in decor. It’s aligned a certain way, with the lectern raised about half a person’s height atop ascending stairs on the right side and the colors are vaguely red and gold, but faded in the way of day-to-day college campuses.

There are more details, but I won’t bore you. The point is that this place has become real and I think about it often, even though it doesn’t exist. A place hasn’t ensconced itself this substantially in my mind since the aquarium room with the shark tank and the holes in the glass and the paralyzing dilemma about drowning vs. death by shark tooth. Which still pops up from time to time, but has mercifully receded from the fever-pitch of a decade ago.

I was going to talk about a specific debate dream I had just two nights ago, but maybe another time. It’s getting late and this Roundup has become more of a Cattle Drive.



Categories: A Day in the Life, What Dreams May Come, Tags: ,

Last night I went to bed at 9:00. PM. I never do this. But I was done and could really think of no reason to be awake. The tank was empty and it was time to recharge.

One of the reasons I never sleep like that is because it leads to dreams. And you all know how I feel about dreams.

I had two major dreams last night – both of them seemingly epic in length and of at least somewhat uneasy character.

The first was unending, but quite simple in nature. I was high atop a precarious, sort of ramshackle structure that wasn’t quite complete. Somewhere between a rundown treehouse and a suspended high-rise construction project, with elements of both. And about 500-1,000 feet up.

The only functional railings or embankments against the edge were up in the far upper-right corner from my vantage and they themselves looked worn and inadequate. Everything else was basically a flat or downsloping surface toward the edge of the vast lethal drop to ground level.

The whole dream was me wrestling with my gut inclination to run toward the edge and jump into oblivion.

I never did jump off, but the battle between my logical understanding that I had no desire to die and my deep-seeded interest in the experience of jumping off was exhausting. And when I looked for alternative extrication methods, I of course discovered that there were no ladders or trapdoors or paths – nothing to break the surface of the top level I was holding onto against ever-increasing winds. And while the structure itself was relatively stable (thus there was no immediacy or urgency to leaving the present location), the inevitable need to leave was confronted by an overwhelming dearth of options besides jumping.

The second dream was much more convoluted and realistic, involving Fish and I taking a road trip from Albuquerque to New York during an extended weekend. Somehow we had four or five days to hang out in Albuquerque, drive to New York, hang out in New York, and have me back at work by the end of the last day. It didn’t really seem feasible.

The whole dream was me wrestling with the ever-decreasing feasibility of the trip’s timing against a backdrop of tons of people that Fish and I know coming and going in Albuquerque or lining up in New York.

This one also never got to a point of resolution… we just had ever diminishing time as we stalled and delayed, hemmed and hawed in Albuquerque while wanting to stay longer and see people and take the road trip and have lots of time in New York.

I woke up from all this feeling more or less untenable.


Analyze This

Categories: A Day in the Life, What Dreams May Come, Tags: ,

Last night I fell asleep early and slept a hard, lousy sleep. The kind of sleep of the half-dead wandering in the wilderness forty years, finally felled to respite on a stone tablet of some sort. Sleep that in some ways may be the best after forty waking years, but is colored by resting one’s temple directly on unforgiving rock.

As one might expect from such sleep (or from me, at least), there were dreams. Several of them were far-ranging colorful swirls of mayhem, but the last two were calmer, more sober, and vividly memorable.

The first was set in an igloo, starring documentarian Morgan Spurlock and his wife, who were presumably spending the next thirty days living there. I got inside the igloo and immediately realized how enclosing the space felt, how solid and impenetrable the iceblock walls. It immediately occurred to me: “If someone wanted to kill you, all they’d have to do is block up the entrance with snow, right?”

Morgan and Alex laughed and shrugged this off, and I pointed out something about having a backup ventilation system, like a chimney. They mentioned that the howling winds of the Arctic (we’re in the Arctic, interesting) make the cross-flow of air from two openings unbearably cold. They seemed really nervous when I went out to go to the bathroom and I assume got more so (I guess I sort of somehow knew they were getting more nervous in the dream, even though I couldn’t see them) when I took my time getting back. They were worried I was thinking about blocking up the igloo once they fell asleep, but really I was just afraid of going back in and making myself vulnerable to someone else doing the same.

The second dream was more concretely explicable and pretty much impossible to misinterpret. I was at a fair or festival of some kind with friends who felt vaguely close and comfortable, but who I could never quite identify or see. There was a handmade sign for horse-riding and people asked if I wanted to go. Why not? How hard could it be?

So we clamored up on horses, but one of my friends wanted to walk alongside me rather than board a horse himself (I could somehow detect his gender). He expressed concern for my safety. I got some aerial views of the parade ground for the horses as we were all marching in a line, feeling vaguely reminiscent of mules in the Grand Canyon (without the precipitous drops or elevation changes of any sort). Then back to first-person, whereon I was having a great time, but kept sliding forward in my saddle. Which somehow moved me not towards the mane of the beast, but toward the tail. I was facing the wrong way on the horse, but it was still moving in the direction I was facing. And this didn’t yet occur to me as the slightest bit odd, it was just frustrating that I kept getting jostled forward (backward on the horse that was walking backward), almost thrown over its rear.

Finally we came to some sort of traffic jam, wherein horses all held up and whinnied a bit at the sudden stoppage. My horse reared up on its forelegs, almost pitching me backwards and off, then did the opposite and almost ditched me the other way. I was clinging to nothing (there had never been any reigns) but somehow holding on while my friend insistently urged me to dismount before I got hurt. It occurred to me that people could be seriously injured or even killed by getting thrown from a horse and I had never once really internalized the danger of this process, especially since my horse now seemed to be utterly out of control. This feeling felt exactly like realizing I could be blocked up and asphyxiated in an igloo, and I woke up having somehow tied these twin realizations in a knot of new fear of the world around me.