Thursday, December 26, 2002

Well, I'm back, and spent most of the day at work trying to muster the brain cells and get a little done. But, O Lord! it's hard. I was out of town for 4 days for Thanksgiving, then back for 7, then gone for seven, then back for 8, then gone for 2 1/2, now I'm back for 4 or 5, then off again for another couple of days (New Years). As a result, my sleep cycle is decimated, and my house is a mess. Naturally, then, tonight I'm going over to the new Kenpo studio to help paint and plaster.

There's no real significance to any of this, by the way, I just sort of feel like whining, and since I live alone, you get to hear it.

Christmas was good. I was teetering on the edge of saying "great" there for a second, but it didn't quite have enough staying power, or feel quite real enough to tip the scales into "great" territory. Just 24 hours ago, I was laughing and eating pie in my brother's dining room, with my grandmother on my right and my niece on my left. There was lots of love and laughter, and I got to spend time with most of the folks on my must-hang list, and I'll see the rest over New Year's, if all goes as planned, and I see no reason why it shouldn't.

Monday, December 23, 2002

In my never-ending quest to keep up with the Jones's, I've added an unflattering picture so you can (sort of) know what I look like while reading my fatuous opinions and vacuous musings. Being that I'm usually the guy with the camera, I don't have very many pictures of myself, so this one's going to have to do for now. Maybe I'll have a better one after Christmas, or at least a less squinty one.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

I've been writing back and forth with a friend, the kind of friend you let your guard down with. I've been accused of being insincere in my use of irony, and it's true, to an extent. There is a part of me where the men are men, the prose is purple, and metaphors run wild across the landscape. I have read self-help books and wished I could be more actualized. Yeah, when I say cheesy shit, I say it with a wink and a nod so I can pretend I'm just kidding, but I'm really not, not down deep. So, in the spirit of authenticity (and of Christmas), here's the latest letter in our correspondence. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Anger's been a trap for me in the past, so I've avoided it with all my spirit, which is another kind of trap. Now that I let the anger into the light, I find the monster much less terrifying, though it is a persistent fear.

The armor of love protected me from everything I feared for a very long time, and when that armor was taken away (or, at least, a significant chink revealed), the fears came back, redoubled at my weakness. I fought them with everything I had, but eventually I got tired of fighting, having found my fears a hydra that sprout two heads for every one I cut off. I stepped back, let drop my weapons, and felt my armor fall away from my skin. The monsters moved in, but as they attacked, I found them as intangible as the threats that dripped from their mouths like drool. They were but phantoms of my fear.

The prophets say fear is but a forgetting, that only love is real. Perhaps that's true, and if so, that explains it. Maybe God is holding me in the palm of her hand. Or maybe, just maybe, the phantoms of the mind can only attack the mind, and my mind is strong, having faced more powerful demons conjured by pain, death, acid, and math analysis.

I know that I am still in love with Carrie, and that when she was in love with me, I felt a comfort and a happiness that I haven't felt since. That doesn't mean I'll never feel it again, with her, or with someone else. I might. That doesn't mean I won't find a new love that makes this one look like a high school crush. I might. And that doesn't mean that there aren't nights when I sit on my front porch and see the moonlight arcing over the trees like a song, with the stars whispering their accompaniment in the cold, while my soul sings silently along, and my heart taps its toe to the beat. There are.

In other words, I'm doing okay.

Friday, December 20, 2002

As recently as two weeks ago, Christmas carols made me want to hit something (or someone). But, little by little, the season got to me. It started with whistling. As an experiment, I started whistling a carol, even though my mood was black, just to see what happened. Sure enough, it lightened my step just enough to make me stop and wonder what in the hell is wrong with me that a simple song can do that?

Tuesday night, I put on a carousel of carols, including the custom CD of Christmas songs Carrie and I chose together, the first CD of Christmas music we bought and listened to as a couple. But it didn't break my heart, didn't even crinkle it. Instead, it lightened. There really is something about this time of year.

I know. Christmas is too commercialized, I'm a tool of the corporate taskmasters, allowing their propaganda to wash my brain into putting my shoulder to the wheel of the capitalist machine of Amerika. Yeah. Whatever. Have a cookie. They have sprinkles. You know you love sprinkles. Did you notice there's a fire in the fireplace? Deforestation! Shut up, the wood came from a mulberry tree in a neighbor's yard that died of natural causes and took out his shed when it went. Have some cider, eat a cookie, and just let the vibe was over you. Did you feel that? If not, then I can't help you. You're doomed.

I've been broke as hell, where for Christmas my family got handmade cards in which I'd written long explanations of what I loved about them. And then there was the year that I had a ring made for Carrie, and the price kept going up, but I just didn't care. What I love about this season is that it's the one time of the year that we all sit down and make a list not just of things we want (which I do believe has some spiritual value), but of who we love and what we have to give. Sure, we do it grudgingly at times. In fact, other than shopping, the one thing pretty much everybody does this time of year is bitch about shopping. But we still do it. And now matter how foul our mood, there's still that one moment (maybe out of four hours, but it's still a moment, and you can find eternity in a moment if you look) where we picture the face of somebody we love and all we're thinking about is making them smile.

A friend recently ranted to me about the dysfunction implied in trying to make other people happy by giving them material things. Absolutely true. Couldn't agree more. Spiritually very suspect, and introduces the dangerous possibility of confusing stuff with love. But dangerous as it might be, shopping for my family lures me out of my own head and asks me to put myself in the heads of people who are very different than me, and to imagine what they might like to receive. Given that I'm a selfish man, unlikely to leave the safe confines of my own head except under duress, I consider it worth the risk.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

I'm having something of an off week. It's very tempting to put it off on the amount of caffeine I ingested last week in order to keep myself moving and functional in spite of being an hour ahead of myself and sleep deprived (can't sleep in hotels). Now I'm trying to get by on green tea in a desperate bid for intestinal health, so it's only natural that my energy be a bit low for a while while my body adapts.

But there's also a bristling kernel of something stirring in my stomach like I get just before I remember that I've left the house minus some crucial item that I need for the road trip/dinner party/campout/whatever that I'm already late for. This is the noise it makes when my head is telling me everything is fine, but my body's crying "bullshit!" Of course, there's plenty of times when my body's the one that's full of shit, but this feeling in my gut is the feeling of internal discord, and it's got me feeling curious because I was feeling like everything's okay.

Of course, it's all well and good for me to pretend I don't know what this is about, but I really do. It's about Carrie. I can talk all I want about getting/being over her, but she's stil the person I miss when I'm feeling lonely, and she's the face I see when I imagine spending the rest of my life with someone. My heart knows it and, honestly, has no problem with it, but my head thinks my heart is a moron and isn't shy about saying so. This feeling in my gut, I think, is either my body telling me that it thinks my head's an asshole, or it's playing kid in the corner, screaming, "I hate it when you fight!"

So, yeah, I'm still insane, thanks for asking. So why am I in a good mood?

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

I got off the phone with a friend, and she's watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD in French. If that isn't the dictionary definition of the word "geek", I don't know what is.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Now That's What I'm Talking About - Melissa Alexander is 17 years old, 5'3" tall, and weighs about 110 lbs. Three guys broke into her house, so, naturally, she chased them down when they ran off, tackled one of them and hog-tied his good fer nuthin ass until the cops showed up.
Gawker - Okay, it's way New York, and I'm way not, but it's so delightfully bitchy that I may end up reading it daily. Here's it's advice for how to handle the transit strike that wasn't for those of a certain income:

Catch rides with total strangers at alternarides or check out local bulletin boards. As you listen to Marty whats-his-name yammer on about that time he sat next to Spike at the Knicks game, calmly remind yourself that physical assault frequently results in the inconvenience of litigation; that hell is other people, but less so when breakfast consists of eggs benedict and an ecstacy tab; and that things will be back to normal soon and you'll no longer be forced to speak to people who don't work for you.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Apparently there is a significant population in mid-Missouri who only drive their cars once a year, for Christmas shopping. And apparently Tuesday is the day they've all picked to come into Columbia and wander aimlessly through parking lots.

What I find most frustrating about it is that I was just trying to buy cat food. Can't there be some kind of system where you prove you're just doing ordinary shopping, not Christmas shopping, so you get to skip the lines and not have to deal with all the Christmas shopping bullshit?

Monday, December 16, 2002

Obligatory Political Post - I talked last night to a friend who grew up in the south, and her response to the Trent Lott thing was, in essence, a sharp exhalation of disgust that sounded a bit like "Phhhhhhsssh!" When pressed, she expanded it somewhat to say that she thinks he's an asshole, and a racist, but nevertheless the elected representative of the people of Mississippi. Of course, it doesn't reflect well on Mississippi or the Republican Party to have Lott representing them, but that's up to them, not us.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Well, I'm back. For the first time in a week, I'm at home, it's daytime, and I'm not working. Of course, there's work to be done, like getting unpacked, sorting through the mail, and cleaning (entropy's a bitch). But I'm sleep deprived and brain fried, so I'm having trouble finding the motivation to do anything other than just sit. Luckily, the only thing I have on my list to get done right now is writing up my Christmas list and doing all of my shopping. No sweat, right?

Oh, and for those of you who are interested in such things, I'm working on a longer post about where I was last week and what I was doing there. By "working", of course, I mean that I've thought about it a little bit and have a vague idea of what I'll say once I find the energy to actually put fingers to keyboard.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

    Pre-Flight
  A swallow flutterflies its way from window to window feeling for free air,
  past passengers passing the time with talk,
  over teh heads of conference goers, cross-country coaches,
  grandmothers, preachers, and poets in businessmen's clothing,
  lifting our eyes from The Star and The Times, and Architectural Digest,
  until he tires of trying the air and settles on a seatback
  conjuring a mate with his song.

  There they sit,
  chittering away
  about, I suppose,
  the traffic.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

One For the Road - I'm off to Pennsylvania in the morning, so blogging will be scarce for the next week. But I anticipate missing y'all at least a bit, and have a map to the nearest public library, so there may be a post or two from the road.

I'd love to leave you with something pithy to chew on while I'm off, but my brain is full of bills to pay, laundry to do, stuff to pack, etc. As usual, I'm certain I"ll either forget something, overpack, or some bizarre hybrid of the two where I take too much of stuff I don't need but forget something crucial and obvious, like my razor. But it's okay, because I'm very good at pushing the panic out of my head once there's nothing I can do, so the second the shuttle pulls away from my house, any nagging thoughts can be banished with a simple, "Fuck it, what can I do now?"

So, anyway, play nice while I'm away, and I'll see you all in a week.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Why It's Good That I Live Alone - Yesterday, as you all know, I was in a black, black mood. Grumbled in solitude. Blogged about it. Watched Macbeth. Did laundry. Recycled some junk mail. I paused before throwing out one of the catalogs and decided to flip through it before pitching it. As I did so, I found three or four potential gifts. From "I hate Christmas! I hate shopping!" to "Ooh, my parents'd really like that!" in just a few hours.

Woke up this morning with such toxic thoughts that I screamed "Fuck!" and punched the wall while I was in the shower. Just now, I caught myself whistling Christmas carols.

Clearly, I am insane.

On that theme, here's a poem I wrote a while ago:

   Snow on a just-bloomed magnolia blossom:
   If this is Missouri weather,
   then I have a Missouri mind.
Poor Pamie. She's apparently lost her mind.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

It's disturbing to find yourself in the video store, looking over the DVDs and realize that the movie you are most in the mood to watch is Macbeth. Very disturbing indeed.
Coming back from Springfield last weekend, I turned the radio off and drove in silence. My thought was that I haven't been meditating lately, and that I might perhaps benefit somewhat from the quiet. It's turned into a bit of a self-dare. How long can I go without turning on the radio? How long can I drive around in silence? I only have a ten-minute commute, so it's really not that hard. In fact, I probably spend more time in line at the drive-thru than I do driving (on the days I hit the drive-thru for lunch, which is, honestly, just about every day).

Like I said, not a big deal.

But music has a way of setting the mood, and when choose a CD for the car, you're encouraging your mood to lean in certain directions. Sure, sometimes your soul rebels, and the CD ends up in the back seat, but most days you can smooth over the rough spots with the tunes you pick. I'm on day three of dealing with the rough spots, and some stuff seems to be seeping up.

For one thing, I'm angry. I'm angry at Carrie for leaving, and I'm angry at all the women out there who stay with men who don't deserve them. I'm angry at Salvation Army bell ringers and people who hang Christmas lights and all of that because I remember when I felt like I had so much to give and a reason to decorate. Once upon a time the snow was pretty, even when it was piled a foot high in the driveway and I was the one to shovel it. My lips might crack and I couldn't feel my feet, but somehow I never really felt cold. Now, now matter what coat I'm wearing, the wind seems to find its way in and I hate, hate, hate the fact that I've let it get to me this much, and that I'm on my second Christmas alone again and still feeling it like this.

I used to love Christmas. I loved the shopping, the music, the lights, the tinsel, the whole nine goddamn yards of it. Now the gifts are just another item on my growing list of things I need to do but don't want to (right up there with raking the yard and cleaning the gutters), the very thought of tinsel puts a picture of her in my head, pulling Hallmark ornaments out of their immaculate little boxes and hanging them around the living room, and every time I hear Silver Bells, even in my head, I either want to cry or hit something.

What I really want is to tell my family that I'll see them sometime in January, and just hole up with some crappy movies where they blow shit up. Maybe Die Hard. That's a Christmas movie, right? How about Lethal Weapon?

I'd love to play Don John for once: "I must be sad when I have cause and smile at no man's jests, eat when I have stomach and wait for no man's leisure, sleep when I am drowsy and tend on no man's business, laugh when I am merry and claw no man in his humour."

But I won't. I'll go. I'll find the energy to shop, and I'll find things that I hope the people I love will like. I'll let the people I love love me back until I absolutely can't take any more, at which point I'll take a long walk in the cold, and maybe have a cigarette. That's my secret to life, if anyone's curious: Do just a little bit more than you think you can. You don't feel like getting out of bed today? Fine. Do it anyway. Now that you're up, you might as well take a shower. Why not go in to work? It beats sitting at home. The first month or so is hard, but it gets easier.

This is the part that sucks about getting over someone. I did my first batch of grieving when I was still holding on to the hope that we might get back together. Now that I've let go of that, it's starting to look like I might have a whole new round of grieving to go through.

Damn it.
Grounded for Political Reasons? - Article in the New Haven Advocate on political activists (both left- and right-wing) who've had trouble flying, particular to overseas destinations. I'm not suggesting that the Justice Department intentionally created this list to make life harder for the Green Party, but the recent behavior of our government officials does not exactly inspire confidence, and stories like this don't help.

I'd use stronger language, but I'm flying to Pennsylvania for business next week, and I don't want any trouble at the airport.
The Economics of Logging - Douglas Gantenbein takes on the Bush administrations new logging rules. He may well have environmental or political axes to grind, but his arguments are based on the simple economic reality that standing trees are worth more than cut ones, through tourism, etc.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Inventing the Internet - The Daily Howler takes on that old piece of crap about Al Gore inventing the Internet. This came up again and again in 2000, where one of my friends would make some crack about Al Gore claiming to have invented the 'Net, and I'd have to explain again that 1. that wasn't what he said, and 2. what he did say was true. But still, to this day, everybody "knows" that Al Gore claimed to invent the Internet. If Gore runs again, I'm going to print up this URL on little cards and hand them out to anyone who vectors this particular UL in my presence.
She was in my dreams again last night. In the dream, she'd been lured away by a force that fed primarily off the energies of young men, but needed a young woman from time to time "to be a mother for our boys." I managed to get in to rescue her, but she turned to water as soon as I set eyes on her, and I couldn't get a grip to pull her out. But I kept looking at her, and I felt the quality of my gaze change, soften, and as I remembered her with my eyes, she solidified.*

Even a creepy nightmare with her in it has an effect on me. I know it's not really her that I miss; I miss how I felt when we were together. You know that "God is in his heaven, and all is right with the world" feeling you get when things turn out better than you ever expected? I got that feeling pretty much every morning I woke up next to Carrie, except for the last few months when things were starting to suck (and sometimes even then). I got it when I was cooking dinner or puttering on the computer in the evening, and I could hear her teaching a lesson in the studio.

I haven't had that feeling, not even once, since she left.

I miss being in love.

* This dream is, I'm sure, ripe for analysis. If nothing else, it certainly has something to say about the Male Gaze. And it gets more interesting the more I think about the dream. There are certain recurring locations in my dreams, including several different houses, some of which are real (like the house I grew up in), some of which are not; a couple of schools; and a road. This one was set on the road, which, by the way, runs through Kansas all the way to the mountains in Colorado. And, yes, it's always the same road, and always the same mountains.

Another thing about this dream: I could fly. This is not particularly unusual, as I can often fly in my dreams. It's not Superman-style flying, though. It's more that I can negate the effects of gravity on my body, then move through the air by the force of my will. It's easier and faster than running, so I'll often float just a few inches off the ground and float around rather than walking.

In other words, in my dreams I can ignore gravity, but not love. Just the opposite of real life. Except the part about love.

Monday, December 02, 2002

G.K. Chesterton on Chasing After Hats - Two tastes: "And the most comic things of all are exactly the things that are most worth doing -- such as making love. A man running after a hat is not half so ridiculous as a man running after a wife." and "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered."
I was hugging my grandmother goodbye after we dropped her off at the nursing home when my eyes, running over her wall of pictures, settled on one of you and I from several years ago. On the way back up to the city, I lay down in the back seat, looking up at the Kansas stars and remembering when we'd all go down to the country together, you'd sleep the whole way back with your head in my lap, and I'd look out the window at the stars, dreaming.

That night, I dreamed we'd gotten back together, and I woke up feeling the happiest I've felt in almost two years.

I want to be done with this, but I guess I'm not. I know I told you that I think I'm getting over you, and I stand by that. But I do still love you, and I do still miss you. Damn it.
Cartoon Haiku featuring a palindrome. Brought to you by Rhymes With Orange.
Four Out of Seven Ain't Bad - I went ever so slightly non-traditional this Thanksgiving. Thursday, as usual, was devoted to Gluttony, and it was a minor theme for the rest of the weekend, given the prevalence of leftovers. Now, normally, Friday would be devoted to Greed, but I didn't go shopping this year, electing instead to drive down to Springfield to hang with friends. But I was feeling large, as though my self extended to the horizon in every direction, and every landscape I drove over and through felt to me like my own, so I suppose that counts. Saturday was Sloth. 'Nuff said. Sunday was a travel day, which would normally excuse my having to get in yet another of the seven deadlies, but I managed somehow to squeeze it in. Which one? Well, that's none of your business.