Turkeyday Weekend

Happy end of Thanksgiving!I spent it in Phoenix, AZ, with a whole bunch of JVs. Chris, Lorraine, Julie, and I left around noon on Wednesday in a rented minivan along with Aimee, Lee, and Matt from San Jose, and we got to Phoenix around 4:30 a.m. Thursday.We spent Thursday and Friday hanging around the city with the other JVs. The weather was beautiful, and there were cacti (did you know you’re not supposed to pronounce the “g” in “saguaro”?), but other than that I was largely unimpressed with the part of the city that I saw—it felt like suburban wasteland to me. We left early on Saturday and drove to the Grand Canyon, got out and walked/climbed around for a while. It was beautiful, of course.You don’t realize just how big it is until you’re actually standing at the edge. I’m not going to waste your time describing it, though—just go see it for yourself.

That was a short post, so I will leave you with something to watch. To me, this video is pure beauty. See if you agree.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdAXC7Czc-I

(This video is taken down frequently due to copyright stuff, but it always pops up again.  If the link is broken, just do a Google video search for “Scorpio Rising, 10,000 Maniacs.”)


The God of Small Things

Finished The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy today. Uplifting? Definitely not. Worth reading? Very much so. It’s a book about childhood and time and change, about the interplay between history and fate, and about the dire and far-reaching consequences that can result from seemingly simple actions. It took a while for me to get used to her strange way with language, but once the story sucked me in I enjoyed it and found her phrases swimming around my head after I stopped reading. It’s a downer but it’s also intense, and it’s given me things to think about, so it gets a recommendation.

“It’s a blue, bright blue, Saturday…”

Days like this I know it does no good to think about anything. Days like this I’m frozen in time, moving through molasses, each motion requiring a monumental effort. Days like this are best spent in bed with a book, but somehow I forgot this basic fact and spent the day trying in vain to accomplish things.

Days like this, I don’t want to do anything. Don’t want to work, don’t want to talk, don’t want to write, don’t want to eat, don’t want to shower. Don’t even particularly want to go to bed, though I’ll regret that in the morning. All I want is to stop—stop moving, stop breathing, stop thinking—and turn in my resignation from the human race.

Days like this, I start to wonder how I’m going to get through life with so little motivation. And life seems so very long… But I know it’s just the day that does it to me, and it’ll pass if I just wait it out. So I light some candles and grab a book, curl up on the futon wrapped in a blanket, and wait until it’s time to sleep. (Or maybe post about it online, for my imaginary captivated audience.)

(Also, I’m aware that it’s not Saturday, but it’s close enough.)

Some musings…

One of the things I’m liking best about this year so far is that it’s been forcing me to think about things.  A large part of what I want to accomplish this year is to make steps toward “figuring things out,” which is a nice, vague concept that essentially involves trying to develop somewhat cohesive ideas about life.  One would think that living wouldn’t be all that complicatedeat, sleep, breathe, work, etc.but oddly enough, there are a lot of issues that arise in between.  (Shocking, I know.)  So I thought I would treat you to some of the stuff I’ve been mulling over.

Idealism: improvement vs. acceptance.

This is a long-standing issue for me.  As I’ve mentioned before, I consider myself an idealist in that I have (sometimes surprisingly specific) ideas of how I want things to be, and I’m always trying to figure out what I can do to get things to that point.  This is more pronounced for things that relate directly to my life and less pronounced for things that concern the world as a whole.  (Maybe that makes me selfish, but that isn’t the point.)  Okay, so my dilemma is this: If we can only be happy by accepting things as they are, then to what extent should we work to improve the undesirable things in life?  And phrased another way: If we are supposed to learn to love ourselves as we are, then how do we work toward self-improvement?  I can’t get past my conception of the two things as mutually exclusive.  Do you see what I mean?  To what extent do we accept the current state of affairs, and to what extent do we fight for positive change?  Do we just accept what we cannot change, like that quote says?  How do we love ourselves if we only love certain parts of ourselves?  Can we love something the way it is and try to change it at the same time?  It just doesn’t make sense.  I haven’t come up with a solution to this yet.*

The reason that this is such an absorbing issue for me is that it relates directly to what I’m trying to do this year.  This is supposed to be a year of change and personal growth, and some of the ways that I would like to change include becoming more confident and outgoing.  How does one become more confident?  By accepting oneself as one is, or by striving to become what one wants to be?  At some point, confidence has to come from loving yourself.  (Second person is much easier grammatically.)  So should I be trying to love myself as I am, right now, or should I be trying to love myself as I would like to become?  Do I learn to love what I am, or do I learn to be what I love?  I believe in self-improvement; therefore I’m more inclined toward the latter.  And of course, that is where this dilemma arises.  Is it possible to love what is changinglove in motion?  Can the love itself change in parallel?  And this also applies to loving other people, because of course people change.  This train of thought has the potential to get ridiculously long.

Although I have by no means resolved that dilemma, I have come to a few realizations that relate to it.  In the realm of self-improvement, I have a tendency to try to model myself after people I admireand I have a tremendous capacity for admiration of other people.  There are just so many amazing people in the world.  But recently it’s occurred to me that I haven’t exactly been going about this in the best way.  I tend to assume that unless I precisely emulate these amazing people, I am somehow inferior, and I have the potential to frustrate myself endlessly trying to become things that are just not part of my character.  It dawned on me a few weeks ago that, heyjust because I’m not exactly like someone who is cool, doesn’t mean that I’m not cool in a different way.  (Obvious, yes, but at the same time somehow not.)  Clearly there are myriad ways to be awesome, so there’s no need to beat myself up just because I can’t be awesome in the same way as someone else.

My other realization in the same vein was that not everyone who exudes confidence is worth emulating.  I have a tendency to be taken in by confident peoplethey say and do everything with such conviction that I assume they must be right, even when I would have disagreed with them.  It occurred to me recently that just because someone is confident about something doesn’t mean that they’re right.  (Again, not always as obvious as it seems when I type it out.)  Half the time these things are subjective anyway, and there’s no need to surrender my opinion for agreement’s sake.

Also along those lines, I’m starting to distinguish between people who are cool because they’re genuinely great to be around and they make everyone around them feel great as well, and people who are “cool” because they exude confidence, but they’re not genuinely open to the people around them and they inspire jealousy more than admirationthey make people feel inferior rather than challenged, inspired, and accepted.

…Ergo, progress :~)

* I feel like there are two separate but related issues here: accepting vs. changing the world as a whole, and loving vs. improving oneself.  The closest I’ve come to some kind of solution is the idea that we find happiness not necessarily in accepting things as they are at this very moment, but in accepting things as they are on a larger scalein accepting the transience of moments and the process of change.  Accept the mechanisms and change the specifics within them.  The second issue seems more difficult, for some reasonlikely because I’ve substituted ‘loving’ for ‘accepting’.  Acceptance isn’t a particularly difficult concept, but love is insanely complicated.  I’ve never encountered two people who define it the same way.  So the hypothetical solution I was toying with for this end of things was to expand my definition of love, or to revolutionize love itself.  (Am I talking out of my ass?  …That is a distinct possibility.)

The Fourth Down

“   I
let the day go by,
always say goodbye,
I watch the stars from my windowsill,
      the whole word is moving
            and I’m standing still—”

(The Weepies)

When I run out of actual work to do at work (which is usually only on Fridays), I’ve developed a habit of opening up a new email and typing whatever’s on my mind, and saving it as a draft. I’m up to twenty-five or so right now. One of them is entirely devoted to memories I miss—the actual subject line is “Memories I Miss (often perversely, but not always) (in other words, this will be an unabashed nostalgia fest).” I’ve written about this before: when I keep myself busy, I don’t have time to miss home; but when I have spare time to think, the missing creeps in. I’m okay with it as long as I keep it in check. Lately I’ve been getting hit by random bouts of longing for Eastwood 4, for the Canisius chapel, and for all the other miscellaneous places where I’ve unexpectedly found myself feeling completely at home and at peace.

I know that I idealize it, though. I know this rationally, when I think about it—things are always better in memory than they were when I lived them. I guess that’s essentially how nostalgia works. I try to remind myself that things weren’t as good as I remember them being, but it isn’t always very effective.

I’ve been trying to remember a time when I wasn’t missing someone. I have to stretch my memory back and back and back… I must have been very young. When I was a little kid, the only people I had to miss were my grandparents, and that was just because they weren’t there, not because I could never see or talk to them again. My first grandparent died when I was 4; my first close friend moved away when I was 12. Losing people starts young.

And then it just keeps going.

The worst part about college graduation was the anticipation of drifting. I knew it would come, because it came after high school, even though it took a couple of years to really set in; and I spent the last month or so of college in utter dread of it. I really, really, really don’t like losing touch with people—I’m not sure whether it’s worse when it comes suddenly or when it happens over time. But it sucks. …And it means that I can never go back, to that time that felt like home, because the place has changed and the people have changed and gone, and I’m not even sure where to look anymore. Is this what adult life is? —Trying to cope with the aftermath of realizing that nothing is stable?

Obama ’08

Election night in San Francisco: Tension, tension, tension all day long. They announce at exactly 8 p.m. that Obama’s won, and we run into the streets to find a bar to watch his speech. The bars are overflowing. Drivers are honking their horns all through the streets; people are yelling in triumph on street corners; every stranger is a friend as people congratulate each other. We rush back home to catch the speech on our TV, and we climb onto the roof and yell down into the street. Then we walk to the Castro to join the crowd there. We grab the Obama sign off our bedroom wall to take with us, and on the way we pick up a “No on Prop 8” lawn banner donated by a homeless woman. We high-five everyone we see and holler whenever the cars start honking. There’s a huge crowd in the Castro celebrating Obama’s victory and waiting anxiously for word on Prop 8. They’ve thrown toilet paper up over the Muni wires, and there’s a huge screen set up at one end of the street so we don’t miss any of the election coverage. When it hits 11:30 and they still haven’t announced Prop 8, we head back toward the Mission—on the way we come across another street party at 16th and Guerrero. There are people waving flags and a group of girls dancing on top of a car. We push our way to the center of the group to find a drum circle composed of a man with a marching band drum and several people banging on kitchen pots with spoons. I am indescribably glad that I am in this country, in San Francisco with JVC, at this moment in history—that I am a part of all of this.

(…But I’m pissed about Prop 8.)

Halloweekend 2008

Another crazy weekend in CA.  On Friday during work hours, Julie and I helped staff the Election Protection Hotline, for which we answered people’s questions about voting and their registration status and got to talk to callers from all over the US.  Then I rushed back and made dinner, and we got dressed up in our costumes and went out to the Castro for Halloween.  Some people were up from LA, and San Jose also came up for the night, so it was a big groupwe danced with drag queens at a club and then just wandered the streets, talking to people and taking it all in.  Highlights of the night (for me) included a conversation with a spitting image of Jack Sparrow who was in character to an extent that bordered on creepy, getting environmental protection information from the Lorax, and watching Spiderman try to climb the outside of Walgreens.

Saturday night we drove the LaRazaMobile down to San Jose for a big Halloween party, where we saw people from Berkeley, Oakland, and Sacramento as well.  Casa Pedro did an amazing job hosting the party, and it was a great night.  [I’ve noticed that I tend to speak in “we” when summarizing events… just to clarify, the “we” usually refers to people from my house, but rarely all of them at once, and sometimes includes visitors as well.]

On Sunday I went to the library and the USF pool and then wandered down to Golden Gate Park where I watched a drum circle for a while on Hippie Hill, before meandering down Haight.  After I got back, Teresa and I went to check out the Day of the Dead festivities farther down in the Mission.  We found ourselves engulfed in a huge procession of people with faces painted like skulls, wearing black and holding candles, some of them playing drums, whistles, or horns.  The parade would stop when we reached an intersection and the drums would crescendo as the crowd density thickened.  It felt more San Francisco than it did Mexico, but it was definitely a cool experience.

I leave you with the best video of this I could find on Youtube (not taken by me):