Monday, October 30, 2006

It's 09:57 in Ogden. I can't help but wonder if I've taken a wrong turn to get where I am today, resetting passwords and fielding technical problems that are beneath the System Adminstrators.

I talked with a student from my alma mater a few weeks ago. It was... nice, really. Missoula is still quite the arts town, the fine arts department is flourishing. She noted it was unusual for a person with a Drama degree to be working in computers. I said, yeah, it is. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere.

But where would I be if I had "stayed the course?" Married and divorced, I'm sure, from the woman I was seeing and engaged to at the time. Penniless and defaulted on the $17,000 student loans, almost definitely.

So I joined the Air Force, at least to defer the loans for a while, and was assigned to a new DoD facility, a tenant organization at Hill A.F.B. One thing led to another, and before long, I was married to a lovely local, and later employed as a contractor in the same location.

I've passed up a few opportunities, making essentially the exact opposite mistakes my father made.

Now I'm a father, and I'm wondering which is better: stability, at the risk of stagnation, hypertension, high cholesterol, and hyperglycemia, or semi-(quasi-?) freedom at the risk of living in (near) poverty, possibly affecting my son's self-esteem and self-worth?

I have to get out of this, somehow. I promised myself I would avoid "quiet desperation," but here I am, getting stuck in it.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Malicia, Part One

There are some stretches in the Proctor district that still have the quaint cobblestones of a bygone age. It was on one of these streets where I most often met her.

In my second year at Puget Sound, I was finally getting my bearings, and yet still feeling an odd sort of confinement I get when I’m in a strange place. I often wondered from my quarters in campus housing to kind of get feel for the area, mostly after dark, when everyone else had had their dinner and evening socializing.

I got out the street map of the area, and glanced at the different areas on the map. I wondered how certain streets got their names, and if, say, the First Street here in Tacoma had become the same row of warehouses and shady characters as the First Street in Pocatello, like it might be some sociological phenomenon.

One night in early October, I was especially tired for no really good reason. Boredom, most likely, added to the effect that a week straight of overcast skies, rain, and being confined indoors just saps the energy right out of my being. I put on a sweater and my favorite coat, (the long, wool one I used to dress up as Dr. Who on Halloween), and my increasingly decrepit fedora.

Out the door, and to the sidewalk… North, I thought, or maybe to the waterfront in Ruston, who knows? I shoved my hands in my pockets, and started walking, letting my mind wander a bit, although it never strayed too far from, “Nice street lamp, interesting house, mind the puddle…”

Before long, I had meandered up a street and found myself in what appeared to be an isolated commercial district, with a few blocks of small hardware stores, craft shops, an odd restaurant here and there, most of them appeared to be mom and pop operations…

In the faint drizzle, in the faint light of another period-looking street light ahead, a lone figure was walking in my direction. Something about the gait told me it was probably female. I didn’t think too much about her, although it did seem odd that I was not the only one without the sense to come in out of the rain.
She seemed to vanish, blending into the dark between the lights, but faded back into view as she approached the next spot of light, as I too must have appeared as I walked into the same area.

The color. The lamps cast a cold, orange light on everything within its radius. Nothing looked quite right in this glow, but, in deference to 500 years of cultural conditioning that told me to keep my eyes straight ahead, I glanced over at her, and noticed she was dressed mostly in a long, black coat, but there was something about the color of everything else… such a dark, cool purple, that she seemed almost to radiate ultra-violet.

I could see her turn her head, and give me a sideward glance. Not hostile, but impassive. I kept walking on the opposite side of the street, and right before I crept back into the darkness between the light pools, I glanced back over my shoulder, and there she was, looking back at me with dark eyes from behind her dripping bangs, fading again back into the night.

The stillness of the night just had a lead brick dropped into the middle, and the ripples wouldn’t calm down. I paused in the middle of the street, too confused to walk any further, one way or another. I began to come to, and realized I was beginning to smell like a wet dog.

Probably time to go home, or at least someplace dry. My legs were very slow to react to the brain telling them to just move. Finally, a calf twitched, and the sole of one shoe began to grind across the stonework of the street, then planted itself, waiting for the other leg to do the same. At last, I was on my way, not so much lost in thought, but certainly muddled in… something.

I got back to my room, saying nothing to my housemates. I found my pajamas, and dropped off to sleep without even turning out the light.


Monday, October 16, 2006

On the occasion of my 38th Birthday (don't make me have to explain the numbering system), I started this here blog.

I am told I have a gift for writing. I believe those voices, but as far as the you're concerned, it's up to you to decide. I imagine I should have some kind of purpose to this blog, but so far, I believe there is just the slightest feel of the question, why even have a life? Why live? Why press on regardless, whether or not there is a (G)od?

So, just over 20 years ago, I asked a student teacher, "What is the meaning of life?" It was an off-the-cuff question, not really asking for a response, but if I got one, a good one, I'd be able to go home happy. She said, "To survive." Why do I remember that, given it was not an answer I was looking for... well, you know, you ask someone with presumably more life experience than you, and you expect some bizarre analogy comparing life to a box of chocolates or a game of marbles, and you get an answer that is basically self-defining, the old Reflexive Quality of Equality: a = a. Thanks for nothing, I thought, but damn that woman, it stuck with me for over 20 years now, and I remember it especially when someone asks me why do we suffer in life so much? They, in turn, thank me by attempting suicide.

Strangely, and maybe it's a symptom of our times, this pondering the meaning of life (or, "Life," as it were) doesn't keep me up at night. Trying to win at Civilization III keeps me up late, but not all night. Not when I have to work in the morning.

Once I read the book of Ecclesiastes on a Friday after we'd just sent a batch of summer camp kids home from Bible camp. It is, of course, good to actually know the subject one is trying to teach.

I started with Ecclesiastes because I was vaguely familiar with it. Dad read it to me, the "for every thing there is a season" passage, as it was playing on the radio in the form of "Turn, Turn, Turn" by the Byrds.

That Friday, I felt like someone had finally told me the punchline to the joke of life: "It doesn't matter." Get it? People, thousands, millions of people die everyday, and it doesn't matter what they did in life: criminals, the poor, the rich, street vendors, executives, housewives, athletes, babies... We all have the same end, so why worry about who has it better than the others?

I argued with a friend over this very issue: he argued that at least people like, say, Achilles are remembered for their famous deeds, even if they might be just a bit embellished. I replied, "Yeah, but he's still dead, isn't he? He's been dead so long, his remains can't even be reliably carbon-14 dated. In fact, most of his remaining carbon atoms have been recycled more than a dozen times, during which they spent most of their time as animal dung. Being famous in life does you no good whatsoever after you're dead."

So, what's the point? The question comes and goes, and sometimes it makes me laugh out loud, making the dude with the over-active shockwave generator in the car next to me look, and if he has half a consciousness, wonders what the Hell is so funny. If he has some consciousness, he thinks I'm listening to some "fuggin' hilarious" CD. If he's your average human, he just stares ahead, thinking "At least my stereo is bigger than his."

Sometimes the question depresses me even more than I already am, but I'm spared by the thought, "If life itself is pointless, why bother dying?"

I'm not all doom and gloom. Honest. If I were, do you think I'd be married? With a child who likes to make me say, "Ouch!" With two dogs?

Someday, I may do everyone a favor and get a zoloft prescription, but I think I'd miss what I consider the "real" me too much. Then I'd probably feel too good to blog.

I wonder what would have happened if Hemingway and VanGogh would have taken something to lighten their moods... Hallmark, I imagine, would have a veritable gold mine of material from uncle Ernie, and VanGogh would probably have been the greatest glurge artist of all time... BUT he would had died with BOTH ears, and Hemingway would have just died of natural causes. Huh. And maybe Margaux and Mariel might have turned out a bit differently, too...