A week in pictures

Back and forth to Georgia. Not much to say, but had time to think.

Sunrise, after a night of working. Here I’m heading off to bed (2 hour drive later).

Sunset, heading to work.

Getting off work, the temperature has dropped. Finally, it feels like fall!

Here is a lovely shot of the sun going down, or coming up. Either way, that’s my view.

And this makes me want to pack up, and travel the highways and byways of the US. For a while now, I’ve wanted to drive backroads cross country, probably taking Route 66 from Chicago and heading out west. Maybe in 2018!

A view from a hangover

It wasn’t an all-nighter fueled by Red Bull and Stoli. It wasn’t a binge. It was some rum and cokes at Chili’s for Sunday football, and a few drinks later with the boys.

It hit me hard yesterday, though, and I was all I could do to get through the day with open eyes. It’s tough getting older.

I look back on numerous hangovers over the years, and can recall some of the more questionable circumstances. I’m glad this time it was just my bed.

How do we politicize everything?

Another week, another controversy (or three). Still we’re on the NFL players taking a knee. Still we’re seeing Puerto Rico suffering in the aftermath of the storm. White nationalist speaker at the University of Florida. President Trump’s seeming callousness in response to solders’ deaths overseas. 

The right is calling the left out of touch with America. The left is calling the right out of touch with American ideals. Both sides are calling the other elitist. Former presidents are critical of the current administration, and the current administration seems able to be critical of everything. 

Nothing can occur in this environment without someone taking issue, and sides forming, bolstering one or the other. I’ve imagined it would have come to a head already, but it seems to keep going.

This is the environment that has led me to investigate how I feel about politics. About what the nation is doing right, and wrong. The citizenry is on the whole disconnected from our elected officials, and in the highest echelons of the political spectrum, it seems that corporate interests have more sway than the common voter. 

We weren’t supposed to be this way. The American experiment is facing another critical moment, one of who knows how many in its 240 years, and there is nothing but the disconnect that seems to be guiding us. As I continue to write, post, and focus my thoughts into what I hope will be more informed (and better written) going forward, I fear that for the forseeable future we wlll have more controversy to cover. 

On the weather

It’s wet outside. Rainy and dark. Thunder crashes shake the hotel that I’m staying in, and the lightning illuminates the cloudy night sky. Looking out the window on this third story hotel room, I see into the back parking lot and the hotel that is somehow either behind us or beside us. I’ve no idea which way these hotels are oriented in comparison to each other.

The parking lot is wet, and there are few cars down there. Street lamps are shining around the lot, wet metal on the cars reflecting up light.

A thunder-clap shakes the window I’m looking through, and I take a step back into the room. I decide to write a bit, before it gets time to go to work.

Stretching past resistance

I’m stretching out the muscles in my legs.

As I’m stretching them out, pushing forwards and backwards on my legs, alleviating the tension that builds up, I notice the resistance. Resistance that is met in a forward bend and backward bend. And just as the resistance becomes so terrible, so unbearable, the tension releases. I can feel the muscle actually give way – it sort of vibrates, and then it’s loose.

I think of it as a metaphor for all resistance we face. I don’t push the stretch to the point where the muscle will tear. That would do irreparable harm. But I’m finding the space just past comfortable, where I’m living in the state of discomfort, until the muscle finally gives. The resistance breaks.

You must lean into the points, as Pena Chödrön says. 

More on welfare

Here it is, Friday, and I’m finishing up a job. At least, finishing it for the week. After a contentious lunch, wherein the conversation at the table included someone saying that he wasn’t watching football anymore over the National Anthem debate (I’m keeping my mouth shut). He’s giving up drinking Pepsi, because they haven’t pulled sponsorship of the NFL (I’m keeping my mouth shut).

Now it’s the end of the day, I’ve got a date I’m excited to get to later that night, and it’s all going well. Then he brings up welfare, and people not wanting to work taking tax payer money (dammit, I am keeping my mouth shut!).  And finally, immigration.

“Don’t you think that we should keep the immigrants out?”

Well, shit. I’ve tried keeping my mouth shut, but now you’re asking me a direct question.

“No, actually. My grandparents were first generation Americans, and I think the backbone of the American system is immigration.”

“My ancestors were immigrants, too,” he says. “But I’m not talking about those.”

“Oh, you mean the Mexicans and the Muslims.”

This conversation goes on for a little while, back and forth, about whether welfare recipients are deserving, about legal vs. illegal immigration.

There is a cultural bias in this country, and it’s fragmenting how we view what’s happening around us, and around the world. This conversation was merely another example.

 

Night Terrors

When I’m sleeping, I sometimes suffer from these twitches. I’ve been told that as I sleep I’ll give a full body convulsion. I’d chalked it up to night terrors, primarily because when I recall what I’ve been dreaming, it’s not usually the most pleasant.

Someone I was working a job with told me that before his anxiety attacks kicked in, he was having those twitching fits.

“Great”, I thought. More rough seas ahead. My parents already thought that I had gone through a nervous breakdown last year. I’m not entirely sure that I didn’t.

But I did some research on these twitches, and it turns out it’s much more common than I realized. They’re called hypnagogic (or hypnic) jerks, and also sleep starts, and perhaps up to 70% of people experience them.

It’s possible, then, that I just sleep poorly, and have numerous sleep starts throughout the night. Still, I’m more sure now that it’s not night terrors.

After…

I wrote this post several years ago, once again thinking of the tragic events of that time. Recalling it following last week’s tragedy, I thought I would post it again.


I was doing some cleaning last night, and I came across a memoriam for Robin Williams. Just over a month ago, Mr. Williams took his own life, and the subject of depression and mental illness took to the forefront of our collective conversations. How can we help? What can we do?

And what has been decided, I wonder?

The shootings in Ferguson and in other cities; schools where gunmen take others’ lives, or their own; domestic violence or sexual abuse; brutal murders in the Middle East – there is no shortage of tragedy that can keep our attention. But once our attention moves to the next “big thing”, what happens to those conversations?

Too often we sit idly by, talking about a tragic event until another occurs, and then we tune off. Sadly we are reminded because a similar event is coming, sooner rather than later. And when we stop talking about it, whose responsibility is it to keep the conversation alive?

I posit that it falls to the arts. It is the responsibility of artists, organizations and forms to provoke thought, and keep focus on events that the population as a whole might otherwise forget about. Sometimes that leads to protests. The NY Times article, “At Met’s Opening Night, Protesting a Production,” (9/22/14) illustrates how incendiary the arts can be. “Several hundred protesters gathered outside the Met before the performance of Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” for a noisy demonstration calling for the company to cancel its production of Johan Adams’s 1991 opera, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” which is to have its Met premiere next month.”

The titular Klinghoffer was a Jewish passenger aboard a cruise ship who was murdered by Palestinian hijackers. Considering the relationship between Israel and Palestine, it’s understandable that such a show could cause backlash. Former Gov. George E. Pataki called the production “the wrong show at the wrong time.”

Prior to the Met listing “The Death of Klinghoffer” in its season, how many Americans were familiar with the story? And if an opera, an art form which has been in declining attendance at least over the past few years, can spur conversations, isn’t that a good thing?

And there are many other cases. Thomas Cott curates a daily email, and today’s included the story of the Met, as well as other sensitive issues. (Read it here). When you’re dealing with hot-button issues, someone is going to protest. But if you let the controversies silence the arts, and the conversations themselves stop happening, eventually something tragic is going to happen again.

Vegas

It’s not funny. It’s not a political statement. It’s not a platform, and it’s not an issue of rights.

It’s 59 people dead. It’s 59 lives cut short because of one man with a gun. With a lot of guns.

There are so many words, in so many languages, yet nothing even begins to scratch the surface of what has happened. What these losses feel like, and what those families must be going through.

When will it finally be enough? When will the straw break the camel’s back, and finally something will be done?

I join a mourning nation once again for losses that could have been prevented.

Moving Forward

I burned a few bridges
As I walked these paths
Made forward the only
Way to go

Where I’ll end up
And who I’ll be
I guess that
God only knows

I’ve seen cities in Europe
And rode ships on the sea
Found love in the arms
Of another

I gave up on dreams
As new dreams took shape
And went off
To search for wonder

I went off to school
And I had me a time
I learned more than
I needed to know

There are joys and sorrows
In what we call life
And I savored
The highs and the lows

The journey’s begun
There’s no turning back
There are mistakes
I’d rather undo

Quite a few dreams
I wish I had held
A bit longer
Then I held onto

I’ve hiked through the mountains
Surfed in the oceans
Found myself while
Searching for more

And now what I see
Is only before me
As I step outside
My door