Feeds:
Posts
Comments

l’absente

You needn’t tell me that it has been some time. Though many of you have. You needn’t tell me that school and work are paltry excuses for an utter lack of composition. You needn’t tell me that school and work aren’t paltry excuses, either. Though many of you have. You needn’t tell me that there will always be time to write.  You needn’t tell me that there may not be time to write right now, but there is always the future.  Though many of you have.  You needn’t tell me these things, but you do.  And I appreciate it.

I write for myself every bit as much as I write for you. When I do write (which is seldom), it seems as though I write about my writing (which is often). This may come across as unapologetic narcissism, but I assure you, I’m not sure if it is. If anything, it is my propensity to desire writing, compounded with a healthy dearth of subject matter.

The truth is that my life as of late has become a layer cake of schedules, meetings, commitments, group study sessions, cereal consumed while standing in the kitchen, lunch consumed while walking to class, and dinner consumed on every other weekday.  So I ask myself constantly, “what is it about my so-called preoccupied life that is worth documenting (at this juncture)?”  I know the answer.  We all know the answer.  We know that it’s not the what so much as it is how the what is told.

You wouldn’t know this and you probably shouldn’t know this, because this “this” is part of the great tapestry that obfuscates the finished product from the process that constructs the finished product. But between paragraphs, I stood from my chair, paced back and forth, in a manner I am sure Charles Burkowski or James Patterson did/does (respectively), trying to gather my thoughts. I returned to my seat with a clearer head but no more peace of mind.

Sometimes, you just take what you can get.  So accept this memo as a reminder that sometimes, words get lost, but one can always come up with new ones.

The Emerald City

Denver was a city that was really easy for me to figure out.  When it came to Denver, I found that appearances and by extension, first impressions often fulfilled their expectations.  It’s a town that loves its arts scene, its proximity to the mountains, its music, its beer, and of course its John Elway.

Seattle, on the other hand, is very difficult to figure out.  My manically observant eyes have been trying desperately to compartmentalize all that they have seen thus far, in an attempt to match my preconceived notions of this town with my observations after living here for a handful of weeks.  But to my disappointment, I have been unable to wrap my inquisitive head around this city by the Sound.

It is a maritime hub abundant in fish, boats, bridges, seagulls, and the smell of salt and damp earth.  Yet with the exception of the occasional jaunt across one of the countless bridges, it is surprisingly easy to never come close to a body of water.  As a full-time pedestrian, I know that any trip down to the water will require a very long, steep, huff-and-puff journey back to my apartment.

It is a city that manages to balance chaotic roadways with surprisingly docile motorists.  Traffic always seems to be atrocious, but this is because two-lane avenues abound.  Rather than undergo the headache of spending millions of dollars and years of construction to address the narrow streets, Seattleites simply deal (and deal quite well) with the congestion.

The water is the only level plane in Seattle; every inch of land is on a slope.  And I mean every.  People are friendly, but not overly so.  In Denver, one becomes accustomed to the “hello how are you?” while walking down the street, much like a New Yorker is used to avoiding eye contact and shoulder-checking any pedestrian that gets in their way.  It rains, but seldom more than a drizzle.

The only thing that seems pretty copacetic with my understanding of Seattle and its people is that they love their coffee.  And every person I have met that lives here absolutely loves the place.

So I don’t quite have it all figured out.  That’s okay.  I’ve got two years to decide if this place is worth me sticking around.

Movement

“The heavens themselves run continually round, the sun riseth and sets, the moon increaseth, stars and planets keep their constant motions, the air is tossed by the winds, the waters ebb and flow, to their conservation no doubt, to teach us that we should ever be in motion.”

-Robert Burton

In a self-admittedly audacious move, I bought a one-way ticket to Seattle, assuming–hoping–banking that I will have few enough possessions to make it on the plane without weighing down the undercarriage.  It was originally my intention to drive out to Seattle.  Take on the open road, explore the terrain that fills the space between my current and soon-to-be stomping grounds; go the way of Lewis, Clark, Kerouac (post-Desolation Peak sequester), and Cobain (pre-self-inflicted death).But seeing as how my increasingly clunker-ized Saturn is a perfect candidate for a chic new government program and not a 1339 mile road trip, the $90 plane ticket from DIA to Sea-Tac seemed a most attractive option.  You know, in these tough economic times and all.  However, the late Bruce Chatwin would certainly disapprove of my apparent middle-finger extended towards the natural order: “Adrenaline is our travel allowance.  We might just as well use it up in a harmless way.  Air travel is livening up in this respect but as a species we are terrestrial.  Man walked and swam long before he rode or flew.  Our human possibilities are best fulfilled on land or sea.  Poor Icarus Crashed.”  You got me, Chatwin.  I’m a sell out.  Shoot.

I am learning to love my dearth of possessions.  It’s like the you-know-who’s that packed duffel bags and five gallon jugs of water in anticipation of the Y2K pandemonium.  I have established a life that facilitates a painless and expedited escape from where ever I may be living.

I do ask myself, with absurd frequency, when might I decide to settle down in one place.  I usually have no answer to my own question.  It is true that I will be relatively settled in Seattle.  It will take me two years to graduate.  But where will I be after that?  Hawaii?  Phnom Penh?  Memphis? Botswana?  Your guess is as good as mine.  And that is, I think, what it’s all about.  I like not knowing where I will wind up.  I’m wired to move.  It’s not the destination, so much as it is the anticipation and the process.  Move I have, move I am, and move I shall.

I find myself confronted with a quandary.  Fueled by my discontent over having not written a blog entry in close to (or is it over?) a month, I am presently situated in a coffee shop, laptop in lap, nearing complete caffeination and ready to rock out some verbiage for the selective masses (read: you and somebody named Chuck).  So here I sit, typing away, but I type with eyes wide open, scanning the coffee shop patrons, ensuring that nobody can see what I am doing.  Because heaven forbid someone actually sees me engaging in the sacred blogging process.  It is at once a very public, but decidedly private affair.  But I sort of digress.  Quandary.  You see, an easy solution to my scribbling woes would be to simply write in the privacy of my own home.  But for reasons anything but known to me, I am patently incapable of producing original thought while in the confines of my living room.  When I am home, my laptop transforms into a chronic email-checking, hulu-accessing, and an occasional conciliatory Google news quasi-perusing station.  Blogging has no place in my increasingly hot, muggy and uncomfortable domicile.

I have succeeded in writing 189 words towards a bona-fide blog entry discussing the writing of a blog entry.  Were I a paid columnist or a freelance writer for Anyamericannewspaper Tribune, I reckon such mindless banter (or is it the banter of banter?) would be discouraged.  One must write about something, right?

Well, here’s a morsel of topicality for you all.  Between the ages of 7 and 11, I was convinced that I would grow up to be a professional baseball player.  I knew that I would be #17 for the Atlanta Braves, playing beside Otis Nixon and Greg Maddux (the greatest players ever to live…or so I was convinced).  There was only a generous handful of problems with this aspiration: First of all, it was a baseless dream.  I am probably one of the few products of an American male childhood that never played a day of Little League baseball in my life.  Let me rephrase: I never played a day of Little League baseball in my life.  And yet, as an 8-year old, I could give a flawless recitation of the entire Atlanta Braves’ depth chart.  I knew who was on the disabled list and for how long.  Potentially long self-loathing story short, I mistook a hobby (watching baseball) for a career aspiration (#17 Joel Turner, First Baseman for the Atlanta Braves).

At one specific point during these formative years when I was convinced that I’d be moving to Atlanta, not fully grasping the utter obliquity of such a prospect, I was completing a writing assignment for my 5th grade class.  The details are rather fuzzy, but I do recall writing a story about a group of friends that camped out in a haunted house, defying threats made by the community that they’d be eaten alive by ghosts and ghouls.  In the story, they were in fact terrorized by ghosts and ghouls and they didn’t get much sleep because they were fighting a guerrilla war with said otherworldly specters.  At the end of the story, as the sun came up, they orchestrated a gallant rescue of one of their captured friends and managed to escape the haunted house.  I remember this story only because my teacher, Mrs. Cox told my parents that I have a real “knack” for writing and it is something that I should continue to pursue.

So here I am, by no means where I want to be, but all the same cognizant of where and when I discovered what I wanted to become.  I can’t say whether or not putting words to paper will be my definitive meal ticket; but it will always be my passion of choice.  That and giving myself a hard time for ever being a fan of the Atlanta Braves.

I have always been a champion of the debt-free lifestyle.  I would tell myself that if I didn’t have the money in my bank account, I simply could not afford the item I wished to acquire.  Credit cards?  Sheesh.  Those are for crazy people that want to wallow in perpetual financial chains. I still don’t really know what an Annual Percentage Rate is.  The concept of a balance transfer is still lost on me (though I did just wikipedia Balance Transfer and it sounds pretty cool).  The last credit card I “owned” was promptly destroyed and canceled as soon as I paid it off.  You don’t own me, bank!

So one could imagine how much I grumbled when I was forced to accept that graduate school would throw me into an abyss of debt.  The whole concept of paying for two years of education for the next 25 is both ludicrous and daunting.  It doesn’t mollify my horror that everybody else in the United States has debt; I don’t want to have to worry about interest rates, principles, credit scores, etc and so on.  I don’t want any of it.

But I’m an adult.  Someday, I’ll buy a car that wasn’t manufactured the same year that George H.W. Bush left office.  Someday, I’ll take out a mortgage (or two) on a home.  Someday, I’ll have to put my kids through college.  And someday (this particular someday coming up in t-minus 3 months), I’ll be taking out 25 grand in loans to finance my education at the University of Washington.  So while I cringe when I buy a song on iTunes, lamenting the fact that I just made a $.99 purchase, I accepted my acceptance to UW with minimal hesitation.  It’s only a truckload of money, right?

All in the pursuit of librarianship.  See?  Only I can make borrowing books sound epic and sexy.  Well, me and Noah Wyle.

So Denver, this is my letter of resignation.  I’m giving you my two weeks’ notice two months in advance.  I’m moving to Seattle.

A few weeks ago, I was standing outside a divey establishment on Colfax Avenue, waiting for a couple friends to arrive.  I met a young man and for the sake of my truncated memory, let us call him Kip.  Or Steve.  Kip or Steve just flew into the Mile High city and wanted to know in which direction he should walk were he to manufacture an encounter with a comedy club.  I pointed northwest towards the Denver post, indicating that Comedy Works was a good 8 blocks away and I also suggested Rock Bar, a hotel bar gone bar-bar which hosts a diverse array of amateurish comedians trying to make it funny.  Kip or Steve seemed interested in Rock Bar, but quickly morphed his interest in comedy into a diatribe about how every establishment in Denver seems to have the name “Rock” in it.

This never occurred to me, but I’m a selectively observant individual, and I never really cared if there was any particular trend in the naming of businesses in the lower or upper downtown area of Denver.  But seeing as how the young gentleman whose name escapes me just flew in from Tampa, I was intrigued that he had such a breadth of knowledge regarding names of places in Denver.

“Falling Rock Tap House, Rock Bottom Brewery, Rockyard Grille, Rockbar…you see, people in Denver have an obsession with rocks”

I told Kip or Steve that I didn’t quite think that we have an obsession, perse; rather, many establishments, breweries in particular, like to “tap” into the whole Rocky Mountain vibe.  I told him that there’s probably similar trends in Tampa Bay.  Like “By the Bay Brewpub” or “Oceanside Tavern” or “Crustacean Kitchen.”  He quickly shot down my point, indicating that there aren’t really any “brewpubs” in Tampa.  Or in Florida for that matter.

“Huh,” I said. “I guess that makes sense.”

I got to thinking of this exchange with Mr. Florida last night when I was at a Rockies game, sitting in the Rockpile (a.k.a. the cheap seats).  The only motivation I had in going to the game was the fact that the tickets are a double-take-able $4 and it was a beautiful, warm spring evening.  It was the first time I’ve ever patronized the Rockpile and I guess I expected a crowd akin to the one in Major League, where Randy Quaid and company are bantering about OBP’s and Cy Young nominees and the like.  I expected to see die-hard Rockophiles with their spiral leather-bound programs, documenting every play, discussing how long before Jimenez goes back on the DL.  Stuff like that.  You know, the people that love the sport but think that paying $34 to sit field level just watch a bunch of 23-year olds play a game is ridiculous.

This wasn’t the case.  Instead of Randy Quaid, I got 12 20-somethings that looked like they came out of a Bret Easton Ellis novel, paying more attention to their skin complexion in the setting sun than the game of hardball unfolding 485 feet away.  Behind me were two men that couldn’t leave work at the office; instead, they decided to discuss what they wanted to discuss at the meeting on Thursday.  Then there was the DMS Student Council.  A group of 29 13-year olds all wearing safety yellow t-shirts, all eating hot dogs and drinking cokes.  I actually had no issue with them.  They were quite pleasant.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it takes a true enthusiast to sit through 9 innings of crotch-scratching baseball with a focused stare and a critical eye.  But I was just expecting these enthusiasts to be sitting up in the Rockpile.  Cheering the loudest, but to no avail, since the Rockpile is so far away from the field, you need to consult a pair of binoculars to actually determine which team’s on defense.

So while 90% of the people in the cheapseats didn’t know that the Rockies were playing the San Francisco Giants, let alone the score of the game, I’d say that 98% of them were having a good time.  And the next time I go to a Rockies game, I can’t think of any other place I’d rather sit.

on small talk.

There is a big difference between not liking small talk and being incapable of engaging in small talk.  Personally, I have nothing against small talk.  I think it is an excellent way turn marginally awkward situations into unbearably uncomfortable exchanges.

I just wish I was better at it.

At work, I try my darndest to strike up a conversation with fellow co-workers while in the break room or in the elevator.  I have narrowed my stock talk down to three topics: Work, weather, and weekends.  These three points of superficial discussion typically satisfy the length of time spent between the 2nd and 1st floors while riding in the elevator.  As for the break room, I have learned to accept the prolonged periods of silence after we discuss how much work blows today, whether or not it’s going to rain, and how long until our respective weekends.  A nodding head and curt responses such as, “cool cool” or “no kidding” or “right on, man” generally precede 4-7 minutes of undeniably excruciating silence.

But like I mentioned before, I do not hate small talk.

I rode my bike to Floyd’s Barber Shop today.  Apparently it’s the Starbucks of barber shops, as there appears to be one on every other street corner in Denver.  My barber, a nice woman named Dawn, informed me that they’re opening a store in Cape Town, South Africa and London.  The walls were papered with posters of the Sex Pistols, Bon Jovi and back issues of Rolling Stone.  I guess the place maintained a cool but comfortable ambience; I just didn’t quite see the parallel with haircuts and rock and roll.  I’m probably missing something.

After 3 mintues of barbering, Dawn broke the silence by asking me how I slept.

Me: Oh fair, I suppose.  It’s my weekend, so I slept in.

Dawn: That’s good.  I woke up at 1am and couldn’t fall back asleep.  Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Me: I guess.

[silence]

Dawn: So….have you done your taxes yet?

Me: Yes, as a matter of fact I did.

Dawn: And did you get some money back?

Me: Well, I didn’t make that much money last year because I was volunteering in Africa.  Peace Corps.

Dawn: Oh wow.  Well, I guess I just wanted to know if you had to pay taxes or not, I didn’t mean to pry into your personal life.

Me: Um.

Dawn: How does this look?  See how I’m layering on the side?

[scene]

Dawn was a very nice woman, but she reminded me once again that people don’t care too much that I was in Africa.  I guess it’s not that she (nor any other person) doesn’t care; rather, I placed her in a position where she had nothing to say.  This is an example of small talk gone terribly awry.

Riding my bike back home, the wind was destroying my new doo.  On Grant and 10th, a man in a Crysler minivan with an elaborate Thule bike rack system on top rolled down his window and began complimenting me on my Gitane road bike.

Man in minivan: That’s one beautiful Gitane, man!

Me: [glancing at red light, then back at the man in the minivan] Thanks!

Man in Minivan: Is that an original leather saddle?  Are those original campagnolo derailers?  What an awesome bike, man!

Me: Thanks!

[light turns green, man in minivan drives ahead, waving at me while looking in his rear view mirror]

This is an example of perfectly executed small talk.  Not to mention I felt like a bona fide bad ass riding my dad’s custom-built Gitane from the 1970’s.

I guess small talk is like a polio vaccination.  It stings at first, but in time, you forget how necessary it is to have in your life.  Or something like that.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.