Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Honeymoon in Venice *UPDATED*

Jody's entry now appears beneath mine in this post. Enjoy!

The group-blog writing project is underway. The assignment was to write a short essay about something that happened to you in a very specific place. The goal was to make the essay more about the intrinsic connection to the physical place than about what actually occurred there. Here are the participants:


And mine:

Being in Europe always makes me think of horror films. Trains zipping through the countryside and hundreds-year-old villages brings to mind old superstitions and ancient legends. I always feel like I’ve literally been transported back in time where people don’t go out after dark, and werewolves and vampires are the biggest threats to humanity, not oil or nuclear war. Everything in Europe has a slightly sinister feel to me. The way people are still largely clustered in urban areas with so much space in between them of rolling hills and forests, perfectly fit for all manner of beasts, fairies or goblins. The sheer age of so many buildings still in use (or at least still standing), with so much history etched into their psychic and physical structures, so much of that history so traumatic, bloody and violent.

There is no official origin of Venice, on Italy’s eastern coast. The most commonly accepted theory is that it was created by Eastern Romans escaping further encroachment by various invaders, most notably the Huns in the late 8th-century. The 118 islands making up Venice were the last physical resort, and they thought for sure, on those muddy, disjointed, sinking islands, they would be left alone. For the most part, it seems, they were right.

Crossing the brief stretch of ocean from the mainland of Italy to the heart of the city of Venice, I snapped a picture of my traveling companion staring out the window at the horizon of Venice approaching like the Emerald City. She’s chewing anxiously (or nervously) on a toothpick, the orange glow of early dusk spilling across the table of the booth we got on the train. Our backpacks and guidebooks are splayed across the table; anything to keep our restless hands and minds busy during what seemed like an interminable train ride from Milan to Venice. Venice was the crown jewel of our vacation, the one place we both insisted we see, even if we went nowhere else, and the place where we spent the longest.

Our guidebook informed us that very few people actually still reside on the islands of Venice (the majority of current inhabitants live in Terraferma, the mainland area of Venice), and of those, only the ones in the tourism trade are still there.

As we exited the train and stopped at a small cafĂ© to grab a quick sandwich, the only thing going through my mind was my most recent cinematic exposure to Venice in the 70’s thriller Don’t Look Back, about a small elfin woman stalking the dark alleyways and dead ends of a city built on war and desperation, slaughtering small children with a tiny knife. Venice is the perfect setting for a thriller or a horror film; I can’t believe more filmmakers haven’t made use of it, unless the cost is just too prohibitive.

As Collier (my friend) and I explored the sidewalks and alleys of Venice after dark, searching for a restaurant to get a proper meal, I was overwhelmed with the sheer darkness of it. Some alleys (“streets”) were no more than 6 or 7 feet wide, with buildings rising up 5 or 6 stories on either side. Most of those buildings were deserted, abandoned by people no longer able or willing to make a living in a city that no longer had any sort of practical function, except to be a tourist resort. It could be Detroit as easily as it could be Disney World.

What charmed me the most about the state of Venice was the complete lack of “dressiness.” The majority of the buildings remained completely dark, with only small lamps every ten feet or so to illuminate the alleyways. Restaurants and cafes weren’t the easiest things to come by, frankly, and the nightlife seemed to consist of two or three bars with drunken tourists crowding them to capacity and overflowing out onto the sidewalks and small plazas.

The name of the hostel where Collier and I stayed escapes me, but it was an old converted palace in what might have been the darkest and most hard to find corner of Venice. Directly on the canal with about a 3-foot sidewalk, we finally found it only by the “street” number. The name was posted nowhere. The hostel was run by three middle-aged ladies who didn’t speak a word to us (probably because I’m pretty sure they didn’t speak English), and sat in a hot, tiny office together watching television. Collier and I were the only people in the hostel, which was at least 4 or 5 floors. We had a room with 3 beds, and it was at the very end of a long, creepy hallway. And of course, the bathrooms were at the opposite end of said hallway, around 2 corners. The sheer immensity of the building was humbling, along with the fact that we were 2 of only 5 people in it.

Our second night in Venice, we returned from a late dinner, near 10 ‘o clock, and as we approached our hostel, warm, beckoning light poured out from the open second floor windows, which happened to be a small ballroom. We heard a soprano singing, some Italian aria that floated out like a vapor and ricocheted and echoed off the nearby buildings. The effect was ethereal. Unreal. Wordless, Collier and I sat down on some steps leading to the black, still waters of the canal in front of our hostel and just listened. A couple of small little crabs climbed from underneath the water, slipping and clawing at the moss on the partially covered steps. I commented on them, and we sat and stared at them, watching them do their thing, while the young soprano upstairs did her thing.

When she was finished singing, she was met with thunderous applause from her small audience. As we continued to sit there, soaking in this surreal moment, this exemplar of what, to me, Italy was all about, Collier said that she thought this is why people went on honeymoons. To experience something together that neither of them may ever get to witness again, or to make that first discovery of a place or thing you love, together. I think I tend to agree, though someday, I will go back to Venice. I probably won’t stay in that same place, and I may or may not go with a lover, or husband, or whatever, but I will go back, even if it’s by myself.

It was at that moment, that night, that Venice ceased to be creepy to me, and became completely magical and otherworldly. Despite having spent barely over two days there, it is my favorite city in the world, etched in my emotional memory like a first meeting with someone you fall madly in love with. I may spend the rest of my life getting back there, but I will get back.

And Jody's Story:


I walk by it almost everyday - the house in the middle of the block. It is painted white, but the paint is old and is flaking at the corners. The lawn is carefully manicured with planted flowers and tall ornamental leaved plants. In the driveway there sits a Ford Taurus as carefully kept as the yard. The house itself has two floors and large, wood- framed windows. The house is grand in an old-fashioned way. I imagine hardwood floors, high ceilings and light streaming in creating fancy shadows.

But in the midst of all of this careful and sophisticated grooming, there are inconsistencies. The largest window on the first floor facing the street is covered from the outside with a large, brown sheet. And sitting behind the shining car is an old, light blue and white Chevy truck placed on top of cement blocks. The house stirs my imagination.
Often, there is an old man trimming, cutting, and cleaning. He always smiles and says “hullo” as I pass by.

I imagine there is an old woman inside.

Her name is Maude and her hair is gray and trimmed into an above-the-shoulders bob. Curls line her face, coming in close at the cheeks. Today she is wearing white tapered slacks and a brown, tan and green flowered blouse. She’s standing in the kitchen; bright, midday light shining in through the two windows. She’s making sandwiches on paper towels. He’s in the living room rustling through something. She can hear him, but she only half wonders what he’s doing.

Maude tears some lettuce leaves from the iceberg head and pulls a plate from the cupboard.
“Maude, come here and look at this,” he calls from the living room.
“Just a minute,” Maude replies with a quick and unconcerned voice. But the plate she’s holding is set down too abruptly and it clangs loudly onto the blue and white tiles of the counter. Maude walks quickly to join her husband. She worries about her sandwiches. She walks heavily across the floor, her pants making brushing noises as her thighs pass back and forth against each other. She sees her husband in the corner of the room, kneeling on the dusty, hardwood floor.
“Look at this Maude.” He sounds happy.
In his hands is a picture of the two of them in a group with 4 other people sitting around a table. He turns to his wife and holds it up for her to see. Maude is in the center of the photograph holding her arms high into the air with her hands in fists as though she just accomplished something challenging. Her husband isn’t sitting next to her. Instead he is sitting between two women. Maude sees that they are her two sisters. On his right is Beth whose face is turned to the right looking at Maude. Her face is beaming. On his left is Anne. Anne is looking straight ahead with a perfectly posed smile, hands disappearing below the table, probably crossed nicely in her lap. In between the two sisters sits her husband. He is staring straight ahead with a sincere looking smile on his face. His brown hair is messy and one of his brown eyes is reflecting light in such a way that it makes him appear as though he is squinting. Both of his hands are placed firmly on the top of the table with his fingers curled as though he is trying to dig holes into the white, lace tablecloth.

He hands the photo to her so that she can take a closer look. “Do you remember this photo, Maude?”

Maude puts her hand onto her husband’s shoulder. She forces a smile and quietly replies, “I remember, Sam.” She turns and walks slowly back into the kitchen, her thighs swish, swish, swishing.

As Sam carefully places the photo back into the envelope where he found it, he hears the rustling of his wife in the kitchen.

“Did you want chips with your sandwich?” she calls.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rock Band is fun, but it's more fun if you have any clue what you're doing.

I started out on drums, playing "Orange Crush" by REM while my brother sang and my nephew played guitar, but I did very poorly. I fared slightly better on "Creep" by Radiohead, rocked the house singing "Don't Look Back in Anger" by Oasis (99%!), and got kicked off the stage playing guitar on "Don't Fear the Reaper." Too bad.

Things that were awesome:
My nephew knows all the words to "In Bloom" by Nirvana.
For some reason I did really well drumming "In Bloom."
Listening to my brother sing "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is pretty funny.

Mandy & Victor: I'm sorry Ellen and I poo-pooed playing Rock Band this weekend. It would have been really fun. And you guys would have let me play "Celebrity Skin," unlike my mean brother.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Playing Risk with my 2 brothers whenever I go home to visit my family is a tradition that goes back to 2001. That Christmas, I was living in Austin and my oldest brother still lived in Little Rock (about 3 hours from my parents), and we both got snowed in at my parent's for an extra 3 days because of a giant, unexpected blizzard. So to pass the time, my brothers and I started playing Risk. We must have played 6 games in those 2 or 3 days, and somehow it stuck. Now my oldest brother lives about a half mile from parents, so whenever I go visit, the three of us, at some point, bust out the board.

I actually despise playing Risk. I think it's boring and stupid, and even worse, it makes me feel stupid. My oldest brother, on the other hand, loves it. He's the total left-brain, total logic, math and science, computer guy. I guess he just has fun playing with my other brother and myself, because it never fails, every game, he just wipes the floor with both of us. This past Christmas, somehow, someway, I actually managed to win. It was a total accident, and if you'd asked me how I did it, I wouldn't be able to explain it. I just did. It was a fluke.

Nevertheless, I think it gave me an artificial confidence. Because tonight, we played again, and I do believe it might hold a record for the shortest game ever. In just over an hour, my oldest brother managed not only to win, but to win so swiftly and quickly that even I didn't have a chance to get bored before it was over.

So I play Risk. It's a fun thing to do with my brothers, and mostly we just sit around and laugh a lot and drink a whole lot. Not that I'm drinking, really, while I'm at home this trip, because my Sunday night binge in Dallas ended up all over the bathroom of the airplane the next morning on my flight to Arkansas. I knew I shouldn't have had those last two champagne/vodka drinks. Oy.

Today, however, I had a lovely afternoon picking wild blackberries in my parent's fields with my 6-year-old nephew, then baking a cobbler with them from scratch with my mom, then playing in the pool with my nephew for about 2 hours after that. (I was alternately the sea monster and the "rescuer.")

Tomorrow I'm going out on a long bike trail with my dad, then taking my nephew to see wall-e. I'm very excited.

Then possibly another Risk game. Which I might actually at least attempt to win, after tonight's humiliating crush.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


This morning at the Farmer's Market we bought eggs, meat, tomatoes, peaches, potatoes, onions, corn, cucumbers, a mint plant, spinach ($2 for a giant bag!!!), and about 20 pounds of raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries. But maybe the best part of the trip was the guy selling "'ponic maters!" (Hydroponic tomatoes.) He was pretty awesome.

Then we bought a lot of alcohol.


3 gin and tonics with raspberries, blackberries and blueberries floating in them;
1 mojito;
3 honey-flavored vodka drinks (this crazy vodka from New Zealand that Ellen bought;
and one bowl of vanilla ice cream with grilled peaches and more honey-vodka on top!

Tomorrow we're making vodka-infused chocolate milkshakes. I can't wait.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Go! Time

I'm leaving town tomorrow for a much needed reunion with 2 friends, then heading up to Arkansas for a few days to see the family before I head out west. Someone brought up recently that this will be the first time I haven't lived within driving distance to my family. As far away as I am now, I've always known that I could hop in a car and be home within a work-day.

Not anymore.

That's a very strange feeling, and one that I hadn't really contemplated before. That doesn't really change the tenor of the move for me. Yet. It may once I'm there, though being surrounded with 2 of my greatest friends from Austin and reuniting with a high school friend (from Arkansas) will probably lessen that "distance" feeling quite a bit for me.

So, yeah, life is interesting these days. I officially became "over work" today, towards the end of my shift when some douchebag customer (is that redundant?) was giving me all kinds of grief about the pettiest stupid shit in the world, and I realized that I truly didn't care. I just stared at him and let him rant then called a manager then went back to reading my copy of the New Yorker like I was doing when he walked up. I am disconnected, in the best possible way. I won't miss work. I will miss a lot of my co-workers (okay, a few of my co-workers), but the job? Not so much. My friend Jake and I, at work, have been trying to find a time to go to Barton Springs together for the past 2 weeks, and tonight I was all, "I've known you for a year, both at school and at work, and now that I have 3 weeks left, I'm trying desperately to cram in some hanging-out time." It's strange. The things you realize you've taken for granted. Ah well.

I'm feeling lots of pressure right now to cram in as much time as possible with people before I go, which is also ironically having the opposite effect that it's supposed to (or maybe this is the right effect?). I'm starting to get irritated with my lack of "alone time," which is very valuable to me, and need lots of (several hours each week, and at least an hour or so each day). But it's my own fault. Maybe if I'm sick of everybody before I go I won't be so sad to go.

Just kidding.

I could never get sick of my friends. I just might need to slow down a bit. Savor the time instead of cramming it. I had a lovely leisurely breakfast with Meredith and Noah this morning, which Noah, the little angel, slept all the way through. I need more of that stuff. Slow meals, unhurried hours.

My anxiety over how many loans I'm taking out is allayed slightly by a new budget I've drawn up, which, if I stick to, will allow me to save $12,000 over the 2 years that I'm in grad school. Barely a dent in what I will finally owe, but enough for a pretty sweet first payment. Ironically, while in grad school, I will have more money than I've ever had.

Well, that's not true (I made more at Esoterix), but considering I won't have a job, it'll be a fuckload.

I'm ready. Well, not quite, but if I had to leave tomorrow for good, I'd be at peace with it.

The next 3 and a half weeks are going to fly. Shit. I can't believe that's all I've got left.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Those damn dogs Part III

I don't think I've received more of a personal response to anything I've yet written on this here blog to anything than I have to this post, showing the email that was written to me by one Greg Heilers re: my own letter to the Statesman about the dogs locked in the car.

After I fired off my vicious rant, he did actually reply back again, after which I let it die. I didn't bother responding for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I lost interest and found nothing in his reply worthy of arguing about. However, almost everyone that's emailed me about that post has also asked if he responded back.

I sort of felt bad for the guy, so I never posted his reply, but when some motherfucker who doesn't even know me calls me lazy and irresponsible, they can go fuck themselves. (Now, if it's someone who actually knows me, on the other hand, I'll be happy to hear them out.)

So, on that note, since everyone's asked me about it, I'l go ahead and post his reply. I'll save any editorializing, except to say that his bit about the public schools is my favorite, I think. Especially when he blames "psychologists" for essentially making them into KKK training camps and brothels. Okay, that's all. (If it's confusing at all, he takes each of my paragraphs and responds to them.)

So without further ado:

I am aware that the Statesman places limits on the amount of wordage
one may submit in a letter. Perhaps, if you had spent less wordage
excessively complaining about what 311 *didn't* do, you could have
revealed more about what you *did* do.

> And yes, in response to your question, I do expect the government to supply
> health care, educate me (um, ever heard of public education, or are you one
> of those "libertarian" idiots who doesn't believe in public education, and
> that poor people don't deserve it?),

I believe that having public education so controlled on a federal level, and
with such a heavy influence from the teachers' unions, has ruined what was
traditionally and historically a quality system

> and to provide unemployment benefits.
> I also fully support social security and medicare/medicaid. I suppose
> you're one of those "politically incorrect" idiots who believes in anarchy
> and self-reliance while with the same hand, greedily reaching out to the
> government's hand at every turn.

I strongly believe in "self-reliance" - and in my entire life, I do not know of a
single instance where I, nor any member of my family, has resorted to the
taxpayers in time of need. And we are not "wealthy." My parents did not
even attend college. They grew up during the Depression and WWII -
when people learned to rely on themselves. My dad repaired everything
around the house himself, from hairdryers, to TVs, to cars. And my mom
would even frequently make and sew our clothes.

> Do you enjoy the roads you drive on? And
> for that matter, do you appreciate paying *only* $4 for gasoline, because if
> the government didn't interfere, you'd be paying at least 4x that?

I would rather the government, both state and local, would work to eliminate
the excessive taxes placed upon gasoline. And I would like our nation to
begin increasing production, by increasing drilling, and expanding our
refining capacity.

> Do you
> enjoy having clean water in your tap? Do you enjoy the fact that employers
> can't use your health records as a determining factor in whether or not
> you're hired somewhere?

It is this same "government" which has given us such a system of excessive
"records." The cleanest tap water I have ever enjoyed, was in rural areas,
with little to no government "intervention" in the water The water from my
grandparent's well, even though it contained visible dirt and other "nasties" -
was like nectar from the gods.

> Do you utilize public parks?

Believe it or not, I have not visited in *public* park in decades. Plenty of
private parks have entertained me, though. Cantigny Park outside
of Chicago is a "must-visit" - far cleaner, more beautiful, and more visitor-
friendly than any public park.

> Do you have a social
> security number, or a bank account? Do you benefit from quality standards
> in the food you eat at restaurants or buy in your local grocer? Are you
> married? Did you spend your stimulus check (or did you donate it all to Ron
> Paul)?

My bank accounts are matters between myself and my financial institution.
The government has no business even knowing about them, let alone the details.
We rarely eat out, as we feel restaurants charge way too much for what one receives.
I care little about "quality standards" in what I buy...as I am able enough to
determine this on my own. My stimulus check? I invested it wisely. And I never
supported Mr. Paul. My support went to Mr. Huckabee, because of his support for
the FairTax.

> As I mentioned before, did you go to a pubic school?

Yes...back when the "three r's" were "reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic" -
as opposed to today's "racism and reproduction and recycling."
It was in the days when discipline was still instilled and expected,
and there were no drugs, crime, guns, teen pregnancies, etc., in school.
(Ironically, there were also *not* "counselors" nor "psychologists" in
schools, nor the multi-tiered layers of "management" - there must be
a correlation...)

> Do you
> appreciate environmental standards, so that corporations can't (at least in
> theory) wantonly destroy every inch of this planet with pollution? Have you
> never called, or needed, the police for anything ever in your life?

Honestly, I have never had to call the police for anything. As far as the cliched
remarks about corporarations destroying the environment...*yawn*.
Have you seen the Dell Diamond after the State UIL Championships are
held there, and attended by high-schoolers from all over Texas? The most
primitive Eastern-European coal-fired plant couldn't produce as much filth.
And when it is over...the fine staff at The Dell has the place spotless and
pristine in no time at all. Let's see "the city" do that.

> What about my responsibility to behave in a civil manner, and trust that the
> laws that have been set up to not only protect me, but to protect animals,
> will be enforced? Do you really want to live in a society where no one is
> obligated to follow any rules, and everyone can just go about smashing up
> other people's cars because they want to?

Did I suggest you "smash up" the car in question? No. Were any of my
suggestions "un-civil?" No. And there are laws in place that enable common
citizens to legally handle such matters, so that one does not have to rely
on the police or other agencies.

> If someone rear-ended you in a
> vehicle, would you get out and immediately start beating them to a pulp, or
> would you call the cops?

I would exchange insurance information. I would photograph the scene's
details with the camera I always keep handy. Immediately calling the police is
not a requirement, as situations vary depending on where an accident occurs.

> Well, it sounds to me like you might do the
> former, but I don't want to pass judgment. I'm sorry if I believe that laws
> and civil behavior standards are in place for a reason. I know there are
> instances where they can, and should, be violated, but I wasn't there yet in
> this particular situation.

And nothing I suggested was "against the law."

> So take your self-righteous, blow-hard bullshit, and fuck off. Better yet,
> go back to keeping your head buried in the sand and ignoring reality, and
> stop sending out such stupid emails. What are you, some undergrad college
> radical at Berkeley, living off your trust fund while at the same time
> chanting "down with the government" or something?

No. I have never even visited Berkeley. I am a conservative-libertarian
Southerner, born in Alabama, and have resided in Texas since 1973.
I have never had a "run in" with the law, never have been drunk, and have
never even *seen* any type of "illegal drug" let alone imbibe in such.
I was a Cub Scout, Webelo, and Boy Scout. My hobbies include such
things as sculpting and painting historical miniatures and scale models
(specializing in military history), playing Bridge, fishing, and baseball.
I have voted Republican or Libertarian in every election since 1981,
from local to national. So I am the furthest thing from a "Berkeley radical."
I would *never* chant "down with government" - as I support all of
our national endeavors, even when others turn against things such as our
foreign policy. But I *do* look down on people who are so willing
to relinquish their own personal duties and initiative, simply because
there is some government entity that can do, what they can do themselves.

And your own use of the profanity reveals you to be of the all-too-typical
mindset: "I respect all views and opinion except those I don't agree with."
And you also seem to believe that the "private sector" should be
subservient to the "public sector."


Greg Heilers
Registered Linux user #328317 - SlackWare 10.2 (2.6.13)

For a revolutionary email program:

Gus McCrae: [Coming upon the sodbusters killed by Dan Suggs] I'god, a man could get rich
in the grave digging business around here. Pea, you ought to get a long shovel.

Pea Eye Parker: I don't think I'd want to do that.

Woodrow Call: This is a bad bunch we're after.

Newt: Gus, Jake wouldn't have nothin' to do with something like this!

Gus McCrae: Jake's always been easily led.

-- Larry McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove"

You want a job....?

People have told me for years (teachers, employers, my parents) that I have an outstanding work ethic. This has always somewhat perplexed me, given that I view myself as lazy, unmotivated and as someone who hates working more than pretty much anything in the world. My ideal job would be to get paid $18 an hour to read the internet and drink coffee and not have to speak to anyone. Whenever I have a job all I do is complain, and I often have a very bad attitude at work, even towards my bosses.

But in the last couple of jobs I've had, some of that praise has started to make sense viewed in the context of comparing me to most other people, who are not only completely incompetent most of the time, but also lack basic personality skills (managing to speak beyond mono-syllables) and often just don't show up for work.

Even in these dire economic times, I've lately been witness to some shocking displays of well, not necessarily incomptence, maybe, but some kind of thoughtlessness. At my place of employment, despite being retail, it's not incredibly easy to get hired. I work primarily at the customer service desk, so I see everyone that comes in the store, and in the last couple of weeks I've had various people come in for interviews, but not know who called them, who they're supposed to interview with, or what time, exactly, they're supposed to be there. Or they show up in flip-flops.

It's kind of extraordinary.

Yesterday this guy came in about 1, and said he had an interview, but he didn't know if it was at 2 or 2:30. Was it a group interview or a one-on-one interview? He wasn't sure, but thought it was the group interview.

So I call the woman who's in charge of those, and she says, "No, there are no group interviews today. Besides, ours are always at 2:30, never at 2."

So I ask the guy who called him about the interview. Naturally, he doesn't remember. I throw out some names. One of them kind of rings a bell, but he's not sure.

So I call upstairs to the operator who's supposed to have a fairly good grasp of what's going on. The guy up there transfers the interviewee to R____, the woman who probably called him, but her voice-mail picks up and the guy leaves a message. I ask who he was transferred to, I say, "Was it R_____?" His reply? "I don't remember."

You don't remember? You just left her a voice-message 20 seconds ago and you already don't remember who it was??

After a few more rounds of calls, and even a call to the south store, which is, in fact, having a group interview that day at 2, but the guy still thinks he's supposed to be at the north store, he finally leaves and says, "Oh well, I guess we'll figure it out later."

Someone else came in the other day (in flip-flops and torn jeans) for an interview that was supposed to be at the south store, and with whom she also couldn't remember. Don't these people write anything down or pay attention to what people who are potentiallly interested in giving them jobs are saying to them?

So yes, I guess compared to people like this (and the examples go far beyond just these two, trust me), I have a pretty good work ethic.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

wistful optimism

I'm feeling a bit out of sorts today. A little depressed, a little regretful, a little hopeful. Sometimes it seems difficult to even sort it all out into anything meaningful, or helpful. But then I have to remember that making it meaningful isn't even what's important. Just feeling it and honoring it is what's important. It doesn't matter what any of it means.

Last night while visiting with Kurt, Meredith and little Noah, we had a brief conversation about what we used to think our lives would be like and how they've actually ended up, at least thus far. naturally it's never what one expects; sometimes it's better, sometimes it's much worse, sometimes it's neither, it's just different. We talked about inner conflict. The way you feel about yourself versus what your life is actually like. I still feel like such a child, so immature, yet I desperately just want to feel like a man, like an adult, like someone that's in control of their life. I want to be a professional, and have a professional life, and feel respectable, and take pride in what I do. And feel secure: physically, financially, emotionally.

My life, I have to say is quite different from what I ever expected. I suppose making a complete 360-degree change when you're 27 from what you'd spent the last 10 years working towards has a tendency to throw one for a loop. And while I'm extremely happy to have landed upon my current path, it's still frustrating sometimes to be around so many people who have so much more of their shit together than I feel like I ever will.

I'm not complaining. I have gobs to be so thankful for in my life right now, and I am, but...I guess I'm just having one of those days.

Today at the library I checked out a book by MFK Fisher, and the very first thing in it is a poem that captures exactly how I feel today.

Why Again

At first, in the immediate impact of grief,
The body lay criss-cross.
The arms were spread out, and the legs stretched.
Gradually the immediate impact of grief grew less.
The legs came up, and crossed at the ankles.
Arms folded softly across the wracked rib cage,
And the abandoned heart softened and came alive again.
The body grew quiescent, receptive,
A chrysalis, not dead
But reviving, curling into a further acceptance of the same
process, the same physical position.

Within, there was still protest.
Why again, asked the vigorous spirit.
This time is surely enough, to be stretched out and pinned,
Pickled in the brine of the spirit.
No, said the spirit.
But the legs straightened and then pulled up,
The wracked arms crossed with gentle resignation over the
And the life began to slow to the waiting throb in the ever-
hollowed still soft bosom.

Everything was ready for more.

- St. Helena, California, 1965

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Gay Portland

According to some real estate number crunchers, Portland, Oregon tops the Gay Ghetto list for 2008.

I'm not exactly sure what that means, but the article describes it thusly:

Each year we choose our Gay Ghetto Top 10 by cross-analyzing demographics against real estate sales data to discover those especially prized metropolitan areas throughout the USA that are most in vogue with the diverse GLBT community. When the number crunching is over, we usually have 10 distinct winners, individually ranked by virtue of their popularity.

In case anyone is wondering, Austin came in at #8, which ain't too shabby either. Although I find that prize a litte weird, as Austin has always been known as a really gay city with no real "gay ghetto," meaning no real distinct "gay" neighborhood, you know, with the shops and restaurants and what-not, like Chelsea or Boy's Town. Which I've always sort of liked and disliked about Austin. I like it because I think it speaks to an overall acceptance of and friendliness toward gays all over the city without having to compartmentalize so much. But sometimes you just wanna go where everybody's gay and you can sort of take that for granted. I'm sure that sounds stupid, but that's one thing I sort of miss about living in Dallas. (And that's about the only thing.) Sometimes I think a lack of a distinctive area just leads to a real incoherence of any kind of gay scene, and I do think that's reflected a little bit in Austin.

Anyway, here's what the article says about Portland and Austin, respectively:

Portland Oregon
The “Rose City” boasts a thriving arts scene that ranks among America’s best; and its Hawthorne District is home to one of the most concentrated lesbian communities on the continent. Portland’s Burnside Triangle is a triangular district that underwent a complete renaissance and is now thoroughly established as a GLBT enclave stretching over several energetic city blocks. The influence of Burnside spreads into nearby neighborhoods including the Pearl District (a former industrial section of old Portland that now booms with art and commerce) and the rather upscale and upbeat Northwest neighborhood. Earlier this year, Portland became the largest US City to elect an openly gay mayor, Sam Adams.

Austin has a long reputation for gay-friendliness, and what was long ago a large gay underground is now a tremendously creative GLBT synergy that permeates the whole city in full view of everyone. Austin is the state capital, an important academic center, and the music industry’s newest crown jewel. Plus the city has a high-tech industry presence only rivaled by Silicon Valley. Austin offers a wide range of GLBT enclaves that are literally all over the map, and Texas is famous for low taxes and high growth.