Wednesday, May 6, 2015

on september 11th and comedy

Time: 9:11pm
Location: Kitchen
Knock knock.
Who's there?
September Eleventh.
This isn't a September Eleventh joke, is it?
Just ask, “September Eleventh who?”
Okay. September Eleventh who?
You said, “Never forget!”

My cousin was actually in the Twin Towers that day.
Oh wow.
He was on the sixty-first floor. They told everyone above the sixtieth floor to go up. That they would be evacuated by helicopter from the top of the building. But the helicopters never came. If he'd been one floor lower, he may have lived.
Oh my gosh, your cousin died?
One of my friends worked in an after school program with twelve-year-olds. One of their outings was to a local library where they learned about all of the research implements that have basically been made obsolete by the information dominance of the internet. You know, microfiche and the like.

The kindly librarian guide explained how they could use the library tools to help them with school research papers. The topic she chose to demonstrate how the available resources could be used was September Eleventh. To engage the youths she asked what year the September Eleventh attacks occurred. These children of the new millennium answered, “Sometime in the 1960s, right?”

To further illustrate how removed the school children of today are from the tragedy that defined mine and my peers' adolescence, one of these twelve-year-olds nearly ate pavement tripping over a crack in the sidewalk. Her response to her near-brush with scraped knees was, “Man, I almost went down like the twin towers.” The twenty-something group leaders we appalled alleging it was “too soon.”

I've always been an advocate of humor and its power to take the edge off of life. Everything is absurd an unpredictable and I guess we get to choose if we are going to laugh or cry at the chaos of it all. But maybe sometimes we have to cry before we can laugh? And we are not really allowed to laugh at the pain but is it okay to laugh at the absurd? Am I terrible person for telling a silly September Eleventh joke to someone who had to attend a funeral for someone who died that day?

Comedian Tig Notaroperformed some groundbreaking stand-up comedy after she was diagnosedwith breast cancer. She announces her diagnosis to her audience in her characteristic candid and dead-pan way. The respond with a concerned guttural sound, like they'd been gently punched in the stomach. However, as she continues to discuss the sounds emanating from the crowd turn from pained “oohs” to uncomfortable laughter to genuine amusement and a beautiful cacophony of encouragement. Interestingly, her monologue is mostly her convincing those gathered to hear her performance that it will be okay. And it is funny.

I like the idea of comedy as comfort. I also like the idea of comedy as a means of awakening sensibilities (e.g. racism exists, sexism exists, the world in many ways is not fair, etc.) However, I guess it has its limits, but I am all for gently and respectfully pushing those limits.

Monday, May 4, 2015

un[der]employment and thoughts and such

i got my hair cut today. it was out of vanity's necessity. the edges were frayed by the flames of an early spring bonfire where we roasted the carnage of the day's tree trimming ventures. those branches burn hot. hot enough to singe the tip of my pony tail, a few of my eyelashes, and a portion of arm hair.

the hair stylist kept clucking about how scraggly my ends had become as a result of this minor mishap. i bemoaned the four inches of length i parted with, though this this webcam shot has helped me to affirm that my locks can still be classified as "long."
Hello, Emo-Eye-Covering-Bang-Sweep.
these days getting a haircut marks the highlight of the day. mostly because right now, i tend to work one or two days a week tops.

i always get excited by the prospect of unemployment. while unencumbered by the responsibility to show up at a certain place at a certain time and trade my labor for dollars, i expect that i will engage in all those creative endeavors that i put off because of how much time of my day is reserved for that "the man" character referred to so often. 

but in reality, i spend an inordinate amount of time on websites like these:


(i highly encourage you to click on them. on, you literally slap a man with an eel.)

i suppose productivity comes down to goal-setting, but i do not want to set artificial goals and feel an artificial sense of accomplishment, you know?

i feel there is an often overlooked precursor to setting goals and that is assessing personal values, priorities and passions. A goal that makes splendid sense to you may be completely wrong for me.

like on old parks and recreation. garry/jerry/larry gergich and leslie knope.

one particular episode in which garry/jerry/larry's retirement is celebrated, leslie tries desperately to piece together the highlights of his decades-long public service career and comes up with next to nothing. she visits his home to see that he never cared much for professional accolades. he was more of the type of guy to leave early to spend time with his family rather than put in extra hours to win a promotion or to prefer dedicating time to a painting class than climbing the career ladder (in fact, in one of my very favorite episodes garry/jerry/larry paints a scene which ignites controversy. the painting even has its own wikipedia page.) 

conversely, leslie is a community and career-minded go-getter whose focus is building a better pawnee using the mantle of power granted to her by her deputy director of parks and rec status.

however, i do feel like the family/career goal dichotomy is far too simplified. nonetheless, i hope it drives home my point that a goal is only as good as it is relevant to what brings an individual fulfillment.

i guess that is what i am working on: determining my values and assessing what life objectives (big and small) align with those values--in between eel slaps.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

accidental satisfaction

These days, I essentially live inside a blanket fort, or if I am being perfectly forthcoming about my sourcing of materials, a thrift store bed sheet fort.

I still call the Foam Dome home and am beginning to earn the moniker "Summit County local."

Long-term residence in Colorado was never a part of the plan. I was to fulfill my duties as a fondue wench (which really means a young woman, especially a servant. I am not admitting to any lewdness of character here.) and take leave of the Rockies for some new adventure at the end of winter. (What sort of adventure was never really articulated in the [rather vague] plan: European backpacking? Career ladder climbing? Running away to join the circus?).

But Der Fondue Chessel closed, and I stayed. I deviated from the plan.

The grandeur of the place was a major contributing factor. However, more intensely, I became enchanted with my mountain people. I couldn't take leave of the people and place that made me feel so at home. Summit County will get at least one more seasonal change from me. I cannot imagine not being here for the summer with all of its promises of hikes and fishing and biking and watching beautiful sunsets and gazing at starry skies and kickball leagues and bonfires and campouts and hot springs and drinks with little umbrellas in them.

So, I am drinking it all in. Sometimes with my roommate's dog, TT, by my side.

I may not be putting my Italian studies degree to its full use (see Exhibit A), but I am pretty happy with the state of my life at this point in time. I feel like there is some sort of moral of the story that I could put here. Perhaps, I could craft some unique way to reiterate the sentiment that it isn't our achievements that make us happy but our connections to each other, to beauty, to the divine.

 But I'll just let Mother Teresa say something (that in my mind relates):
I am not sure exactly what heaven will be like, but I know that when we die and it comes time for God to judge us, he will not ask, ‘How many good things have you done in your life?’ rather he will ask, ‘How much love did you put into what you did?
I want to remember this no matter what I am doing with my life.
Exhibit A: This post comes to you from The Colorado Shop, where I am currently acting as a shopkeep to earn some of that green. Since it is mud season here in Summit County, the store is dead. So I like to try my hand (or should I say head?) at hat modelling. It passes the time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Home Sweet Dome

Nestled on the Blue River in Silverthorne, Colorado, the Foam Dome provides residence to a ragtag bunch of human beings drawn to the mountains, an eclectic living space and cheap rent in a county that boasts an average home price of $750,000 (fact courtesy of Wikipedia.)

When endeavoring to explain the structure to acquaintances I typically say, "Think Hobbit Hole."

Boot tries on his White Elephant gift at the Christmas Party
The place was built in 1971 by Stuart "Boot" Gordon, a WWII Fighter Pilot who on more than one occasion survived being shot down. He raised his children in the Foam Dome and now renting out spaces provides an additional income for the nearly 91-year-old. He also stays busy for a nonagenarian. He still goes out to chop wood and even went out ice skating with us.

He is also highly committed to raising consciousness. He keeps tabs on folks' LQs [Love Quotient]. Barack Obama's is rising, if you were curious. He's a published author of numerous writings. You can buy his tract Synergistic Capitalism on Amazon. He also just finished a new book that he is in the process of editing. He's one of the most interesting conversationalists out there.

Since I live in a Martini glass, should I change my name to Olive?
I live in the Martini Glass room. It is conveniently directly above the living room, so I can converse with my roommates without leaving the comfort of my bedroom or pajamas. Also, I very rarely wake up late and know right when the coffee is ready since I lack walls. Occasionally, I miss the privacy of four walls that reach the ceiling, but I figure this is an exercise in communal living [and did I mention cheap rent?] Also the view from my room is killer. (Speaking of that, my roommate obsessed with murder mystery shows recently saw one about the Blue River Killer, which featured a couple of scenes on our property. Don't worry, the crime occurred in the early nineties.)

My room lies beyond that window.
As with most things in life, sometimes I forget to revel in this unique and awesome living situation. Taking a walk around the property in preparation for this post caused me to rekindle the initial amazement at my luck in securing the opportunity to call the Foam Dome home. It has its quirks (read: mice) and I feel lucky to live with nine amazing people, but that number of cohabitants can pose its own challenges (read: my bladder has acquired new levels of endurance while waiting for the one bathroom to be vacant.)

I've definitely done a 180 (something I can't do on a snowboard) going from NYC to Silverthorne and am still compelled by vagabondish whims to take leave of this place when the snow melts. To where is the great mystery that will be revealed to all (most particularly myself) in due time. In the meantime, I'll try not to forget to marvel at the view of snow covered pine trees or the way I can make out what seems like every star in the universe on a clear night.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Contradictory Desires

Astrology, numerology, palm reading, tarot and the like are all pleasant enough diversions. In the past, I've written of my propensity to offer my hand to palmists in order to divine some sort of direction for my coming days (because honestly, my future seems quite shrouded in mystery--though I know "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain* of my soul" (thanks William Ernest Henley).)

So once, I simply did a google search as to what sort of characteristics someone born on the Gregorian calendar's July 13th might possess, and received the following opening sentences:
You are full of contradictions. You have deep domestic interests, but at the same time, you are really restless and you have a decided longing for travel and change.
I doubt these contradictory desires are reserved solely for the cadre of personages born on the thirteenth day of July, but they definitely resonated

Right now, I live in a foam dome [more on that, perhaps, in a later post] in the Colorado Rockies. My room is more of a giant bowl with walls that do not  reach the rounded ceiling of the dome, and actually barely reach my knee.

It is always a trip bringing people to the dome and watching them marvel at its unique design (as I did the first time.) But it is sort of a hub for the young, very transient population that passes through Summit County. Nine different living spaces are rented and I have already seen a fair amount of transition in my roughly six weeks here.

This morning however, I longed for my own little set-up with fresh flowers on an eclectic little kitchen table and only dishes from my cooking endeavors in the sink and a nice bedspread maybe with a real headboard. But all of this requires an investment in staying in one place. I've left beds and comforters and kitchen appliances many places because the freedom of being able to move was more important than being set-up.

I really deviate between wanting to be vagabondish forever and wanting establishing a hearth. I want to be able to take off at a moment's notice, but I also want a garden. I want to go places where no one has any preconceived notions of who I am, but I also want to be around people who've known me forever and understand my past.

*I used to think the line was "I am the conqueror of my soul." I've also really liked that interpretation. I little more violent, I suppose, than captain, but definitely empowers the I. But, is the I really separate from the soul? Ahhh, the deep questions of poetry interpretation.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On The Catcher in the Rye

Every so often I resist the compulsion to splatter the following quote all over the social media channels to which I subscribe: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."

The line comes from J.D. Salinger's masterwork, The Catcher in the Rye. I refrain from posting it because I have already shared it multiple times before and feel I ought to venture into new literary sentiment.

Because--to tell the truth--The Catcher in the Rye, while still ranking among the most loved books to have ever graced my hands and mind, doesn't hold the same all-consuming appeal it held when it first lured me in. Maybe that is because I am so familiar with it, but I also think it has a little [or maybe a lot] to do with growing up.
I can remember when Salinger first grabbed hold of my adolescent soul. I was fourteen. I was bored. I grabbed the nondescript copy of The Catcher in the Rye off of my mother's nightstand. It wasn't the ornately embellished version, but one that made ultimate use of white space. I did not honestly think it would hold my attention. My forays into my parents' respective literary realms usually ended with my abandoning the tome after fifty pages. (I just could not get into my dad's classic sci-fi collection, as much as I tried to enjoy Harry Harrison.)

But I remember so clearly being unable to put down the story of Holden Caulfield. Initially, I was fazed by the abundance of "goddamns" but I was so drawn in my the voice of the sixteen-year-old protagonist that I let unsavory language wash over me. I remember thinking I ought to have a highlighter and pen to demarcate important passages and scribble thoughts in the margin. I remember thinking that was maybe mild sacrilege, as that was the sort of thoughtful reading that I should be doing in the scriptures, and I felt guilty that I had never been as inspired by canonized text as I had by this story. I remember not being able to put it down. I remember lying on the berber carpet of my bedroom staring up at my dusty rainbow paneled ceiling fan. I remember being sad when I finished the last page, simply because it was over.

But do you want to know the line that affected me the most? The line I still think about most often? It is a bit of dialogue from Mr. Antolini, one of Holden's favorite past teachers: "I can very clearly see you dying, in some way, for some highly unworthy cause."

 That statement lodged itself in my teenage psyche like gum in the hair. Maybe it was my youthful belief that my life had to mean something, that I had to be bold and drastic as I became an adult to prove that I was worth taking up space on the planet. As a burgeoning adult, one of the things that I have grown to like most about myself is my level of idealism (I am an INFP according to Myers-Briggs), but I don't feel like I am required to prove my idealism through any sort of unnecessary flagellation. However, I especially love this line now in light of some analysis by author John Green (you know, that guy who writes all those deliciously witty and insightful, bestselling teen novels.)

Green said:
This is where – if you are the kind of person that thinks that books should be read with their authors in mind – it becomes relevant that JD Salinger saw more combat during World War II than almost any other American. The ‘Great American War Novels’ of that generation (Catch 22, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Naked and The Dead) were all written by men who saw far less of war’s horror than JD Salinger did. He was on Utah Beach on D-Day, at the Battle of the Bulge and he was one of the first Americans to enter a liberated concentration camp. And yet, Salinger returned home and wrote, not about war but, about Holden Caulfield bumming around New York City. So, you can say that the stakes aren’t high in this novel, but as Salinger well knew, the cruel and phony world of adults doesn’t just treat people like Holden Caulfield poorly, it kills them.
I realize I am on the verge of rambling. I already admitted that rereadings in my middle-twenties haven't mesmerized me like my first few runs of the novel. But I have read it in English and Italian. The Catcher in the Rye doesn't quite translate so the literal title of the Italian version is The Young Holden, which I sort of like. It aligns with my notion that the book has the potential to hit its reader hardest when they are young themselves. Still, it left me with something that has lingered into maturity--the notion that I am not alone in being uncertain.

I started this entry with a quote. "Don't tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." People take this quote a variety of ways. Some believe that it is Holden not wanting to get close to folks he hasn't yet acquainted himself yet. I take it as once you start reminiscing, you get lost in the longing for those you no longer see. I feel that. I have been a bit transient. I've moved three times in three years to different states. Once I start telling new associates of the dealings of my past lives, I miss the cohorts that occupied those past days.

I sort of miss Holden Caulfield. The one I first met when I was fourteen. I watched a documentary on Salinger once--one that came out shortly after he died. One devotee of his work managed to accost him in his isolation. That man said Salinger ranted to him that The Catcher in the Rye was "only a book!" And it is. Holden isn't real. He is forever suspended in the nebulous space of his adolescence. I wonder how he would change, if he was real. If I would have an instant bond with a twenty-something Holden expressed in ink on paper. But he's just a character. And it's just a book.

Monday, August 18, 2014

mountains make poor receptacles for dreams

the title of this post comes from a line in jon krakauer's into the wild. as he investigates and interpolates the details of the years before chris mccandless too-early death in the wilds of alaska, he weaves in some narrative from his own early adulthood. in his mid-twenties, he sought to ascend to the peak of an alaskan mountain called the devil's thumb taking a route no climber ever had. he acknowledges he recklessly took his own life in his hands as he perilously and miserably made it to the summit where he remained no more than a few minutes. sure, he had a sense of accomplishment that he was able to brag about to a handful other mountaineers who understood the significant skill and personal risk of his undertaking. however, just a few weeks after his death-defying adventure, krakauer found himself back in colorado doing the same old work he'd been doing before. it didn't transform his life. he remained the same man.

just before i read into the wild, i devoured into thin air, krakauer's personal tale of his climb to the top of mt. everest in 1996, on the towering peak's second deadliest year to date. (it would be the most deadly year, except it was just surpassed this spring when 16 nepali guides were killed in an avalanche near the khumbu icefall.) as the recounting began to describe the myriad of little mistakes that resulted in supreme disaster, i was wholly absorbed. when i reached this point, i would read roughly half a chapter and close the book as my eyes grew misty. i would pace the kitchen for minutes before resuming. as i was summarizing some of the book to a friend, my voice got oddly husky and emotional.

recently mr. jon krakauer has been my literary obsession, but reading the into thin air and into the wild were also the jumping point for my sudden consuming desire to summit everest. this desire may or may not be a sort of misguided receptacle for my romantic dream to attain what krakauer calls "something like a state of grace" (a phrase that was another potential title for this entry). (though, i recognize that summitting everest has become something of a commercial enterprise, which in seems to rob it of its purity. nonetheless, to stand at the highest point on planet earth...)

i suppose this determination to reach the top of the world's tallest peak was borne largely out of my inability to formulate any sort of trajectory for my life. i have found myself afflicted with an unfortunate sort of idealism that has compelled me to turn down two very nice well-paying jobs because i decided i wasn't suited for droll office work or was afraid that climbing the career ladder would pigeonhole me in to a destiny i didn't want. however, all of my declinings have created a sort of uncertainty as to what my next move will be in this elaborate game of life. it's like in improv. you are suppose to always "say yes" by going along with what your improv compadres come up with because if you doubt or undermine their character nothing can develop.

maybe life is a little a bit like improv. if you stop saying yes to opportunity, you suspend development.

then loomed everest. i could say yes to everest. i'd always sort of harbored fantasies of climbing it. i just assumed it was a pipe dream because a suburban girl like me would surely die if she tried it. then i started watching the discovery channel documentary everest: beyond the limit and one guy who climbed it was full of metal plates. i figured i was more fit to take on roof of the earth than him. however, i realized i was not financially fit to do so. just for a climbing license from the nepali government you pay like $10,000. then as an amateur climber who is not particularly strong (but not particularly weak either, mind you) i would surely have to go with some guided expedition which is where the bulk of the cost for the two-month journey would come in.

so, i figured, i won't be able to climb everest this year, or probably even next year, but i could work for a while to remedy my lack of savings. in the meantime, i could also train on how to climb ice. maybe tackle denali in alaska first and set the goal to reach the top of the world before my thirtieth birthday. i could definitely hone some mountain climbing skills and build up a reserve of cash over the next few years.

i excitedly told my mom this plan. it was the first thing that i had gotten truly jazzed, all-motors running excited for in quite a long time. she wasn't an exuberant fan of my new ambition, and my grandmother outright banned me from such an undertaking.

in the past weeks my fervor has lost some of its intensity, yet the flame still flickers. i do realize i am using everest as a receptacle of dreams. i can't deny that in the recesses of my soul (or my limbic cortex) i believe that somehow if i climb it, everything will make sense. even if it takes me four or five years to prepare and save up the funds to do afford the trek, it will all be part of my journey to satori. but rationally, i know this is wrong. an adventure full of risk and reward won't transform me into someone who suddenly has boundless faith in her human value and potential.

mountains are beautiful and dangerous. and i will love them forever. and i know that mr. krakauer is right. a mountain can't change your life, but at least aspiring to tackle one can give you something of a life trajectory.

even if it's just temporary.