Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of the Year, End of an Era

Even though I'm 4o years old, nothing confirms full entry into adulthood like caring for an elderly parent. When the roles are reversed, and you are thrust into the role of telling your parents what to do, in the same way perhaps that you once spoke to your toddler, it is then that you realize that you are the next generation. You are now a keeper.

My parents have been in decline for years. It's part of the reason I moved back to California. In the year 2000, my father was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Back then he was just very forgetful and would get confused from time to time. Today he knows I'm related, but often doesn't know my name or exactly who I am.

My mother has been caring for him during most of his decline, and my sister and I helped her as much as we could as we struggled to raise our own families. About a month ago, it proved to be too much for my mother to handle any more. Not just caring for my father, we were already helping with that a lot, but just being with him. Her decline, which started about 3 years ago with a stroke, was followed by a diagnosis for Parkinson's disease. After that instance, our involvement in their care has been increasingly involved.

It seems that rise has crested now. My father was recently admitted to a Board and Care facility for those who suffer from memory disorders, and my mother who's health has rapidly declined in the past month will also go to a facility where she can receive the 24 hour attention she now requires.

I don't know which is more significant: that they no longer feel like my parents, or that it's beyond the abilities of my sister and I to care for them. Either way it's a poignant way to end the year, that leaves me wondering what's next.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Preoccupied with Occupy

Let me start out with saying I support Occupy Wall Street and it's many sister movements. I'm happy that the term 99% now has a resonance throughout the country. I hope that it is a permanent part of the lexicon.

But, now that participants of Occupy encampments are being evicted across the country, I worry that the message is getting lost. As the battle becomes more about occupying a space I can't help but think that space is irrelevant.

For those who want change, myself included, it is good to remember that being preoccupied with occupying a space isn't the same as preoccupying the mind with an injustice that effects all but 1% of us.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Getting beyond the Hippies who Occupy Wall Street

There's an old curse that says "May you live in interesting times." When I was a kid growing up in the Bay Area in the 70's and 80's I couldn't help but feel I had missed out on such times. The Summer of Love was just shy of a generation before me, and my parents were mostly squares committed to being good Americans.

But, I saw glimpes of interesting things when we visited my uncle in San Francisco. He was a Harvy Milk generation gay man living in the Haight at that time. His life and friends seemed romantically exotic, and it was from my visits there that I got my first archetype of a Hippie. To me they were funny, and happy, and artistic and with some higher purpose (pun totally intended) that was beyond my own existence. So to me, old Hippies were more like a favorite uncle. And I'll admit that as a result of those encounters, throughout my teens, I secretly mourned that I was born too late to be a Hippie.

It wasn't until Burning Man that I started to have a disdain for Hippies. You see, at Burning Man we have this ethos that is led by 10 principles, one of which is Radical Self Reliance. After several years of systemic preparation for my annual trek to the Playa, I began to grow weary of those who would rather rely on another Burning Man principle, Gifting. In fact it wasn't long before I started to despise the phrase, "the Playa provides." To me this was code for "I'm a hippie, you're suppose to take care of me." Almost overnight, I found exaggerated dread locks, drum circles and the smell of patchouli to be annoying. What was even more annoying was the notion that I was somehow lacking as a person for not living such an unconventional life.

When the first reports of Occupy Wall Street appeared in mainstream media, I recognized the embodiment of the movement, and that created a momentary conflict for me. The statistic used to measure who has most of the wealth in this country was something I was already very familiar with. Thus, my disdain for Hippies had to take a back seat to my sense of social justice, which I ironically acquired in Catholic high school.

Now, as the Occupy movement has moved beyond Wall Street to include union members, airline pilots and veterans, I can't help but think one of two things: either somebody, somewhere cast a curse upon us for interesting times, or at some point in the early 80's I wished too hard to be able to identify with Hippies.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Burning Man - What we build

As predicted, with just days before I leave for the Playa, I am in a state of heightened anticipation, and a flurry of preparation.

I've said it before, for me, the the Burn starts with the prep. I make lists, preconceive, search, clean, buy and pack. There is something increasingly satisfying as I imagine the needs I will have for my time on the Playa and construct a personal infrastructure to meet them. Shelter, check; food, check; equipment, clothing, gifts, creature comforts, check, check, check.

What I do is simply a microcosm of what the community does as a whole. Right now, as I plan my remaining days in the Default World, friends are on the Playa, probably already at work realizing another preconceived plan that will support a community of 50,000. Later that population will flood the city, each camp with it's own plan.

Many are there to contribute in very significant ways; others maybe not so much. But, despite that, we will build a community of creative expression.

What strikes me the most about the process, is that given an opportunity, people will contribute to making an amazing community. They will create infrastructure and even institutions that benefit both themselves and others. It's what makes a community work.

With that in mind, I have to wonder about the motives of those currently trying to deconstruct community infrastructure in the Default World with tax cuts. What are they trying to build?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rites of Passage

It's that time again. In about six weeks I will be chomping at the bit ready to go to Burning Man once again. This year the theme is Rites of Passage, interesting theme considering this is my 7th Burn. That has to mean something.

I was thinking about Rites of Passage over the holiday weekend as I watched an evening parade to celebrate the Fourth of July.

In my home town, the Fourth of July always meant a Parade, Picnic, Festival and Fireworks. From the time I was about four years old, I can remember always being in the parade. I rode on floats, roller skated, tap danced with a show troupe and marched in bands. A couple of years I rode my pink Hello Kitty bike.

When I moved away from home there were parades too. In Italy, where I was stationed as a young soldier, the Fourth of July meant standing on a parade ground, saluting as cannons were fired and then parading in step to a Sousa march. My favorite was Stars and Stripes Forever, and the first time I marched to this in uniform I admit, I was a bit choked up.

When I worked for a public access television station, I use to say that it was a lot like the Fourth of July Parade where one half of the town lines up to wave at the other half. It's a chance to say hey, this is who we are and what we are about. We're cheerleaders, and dog lovers and ballerinas and classic car enthusiasts. And when we walk down the street, showing that pride, those that recognize and appreciate it smile, wave back and sometimes applaud.

When people ask me about Burning Man, I often tell them it's a festival of self expression. Imagine the biggest Fourth of July parade ever with roaming floats, marching bands, a festival and even picnics in Center Camp. It's a place where you can display your enthusiasm if you dare. And if you are really brave you can allow yourself to display that kind of enthusiasm in the Default World as well. Now there's a Rite of Passage for you.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Where and When does the World End?

For weeks now certain Christians have been anticipating this day: May 21, 2011. An Oakland based pastor and his apostles are certain that this will be the Apocalypse, the day Jesus returns to earth, takes all the faithful with him to heaven, and leaves the rest of us to duke it out. My assumption is that I will be in the latter group.

But now, as this day has finally come, I can't help but wonder, in which time zone does the Apocalypse occur?

See the thing is, I'm currently in Japan. Here, it is 11:00 a.m. Saturday Morning. At my home in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is currently 7:00 p.m Friday, and in Jerusalem, it is currently 5:00 a.m. Saturday morning. So if the world is going to end, where is it going to end and in which time zone?

We've decided to have an Apocalypse party today with Movies like Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012. If the world is gonna end, might as well end it with a good burger and some hotdogs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Due East

Well, it's happened. The State Department has recalled all those evacuated from Japan in wake of the triple-threat disaster, earthquake, tsunami and a nuclear disaster that now rivals Chernoble. The boys are relieved to be going back, and I'm preparing for a major transition as I get ready to go with them.

In my head I'm already making lists of everything I have to do: finish up journalism assignments and consulting work, change addresses for major bills, set up mail forwarding, cleaning Jada's kennel and getting her health certificate, getting the house ready for someone else to stay here, disassembling and shipping my bike, packing and shipping boxes of what I think I need to take with me, stocking up on things I know I can't get there easily such as Mexican herbs and spices and Polenta, it goes on.

The other important thing I have to do is find a news outlet here who may want to use me while I'm there. At least now I know what I'm going to report on.

I like a change of scenery from time to time. I especially like living other places as opposed to visiting them. My theory is this: to really get to know a place, you need to live there through at least one change of season. Only knowing a place in one season, doesn't allow you to see how the people or the landscape change.

I know my kids are anxious to get back. I'm just anxious in general. I have a lot to do in a short amount of time and currently have no prospects for work once I get there. Makes for an interesting ride.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Repatriated Routine

The boys are home. They arrived after 36 hours of travel and processing.

Repatriation is a dicey business when living overseas as a Department of Defense dependent. The boys had to have orders that authorized their travel. Multiple forms were completed, reviewed, and completed again. Security checks were done at multiple points, and finally they boarded a plane filled with other dependents, most of which were under age 10. Also on board were 60 family pets and 46 baby strollers.

The evacuees flew to Denver Colorado, where they disembarked into a hanger and were processed again for their connecting flights. At the hanger representatives from the American Red Cross, the USO and Military members from local bases handed out snacks, carried bags, and assisted weary travelers. I heard one story of a full bird Colonel who walked one dog after the other so they could "do their business." Soldiers bounced babies, and played with young kids while parents napped, and a Sergeant-Major changed diapers. My younger son received a hand knit hat from a member of the USO and bags of snacks.

Finally, after another eight hours of processing they were able to get on their connecting flight that would bring them home.

They miss Japan. They miss the culture and the food, their friends and the routine they have become accustomed to. Now we have a new routine: I pamper the boys and makes all their favorite foods. They do about 3 hours of homework a day, catch up on American TV and talk to their friends online. We all go for walks on local trails, do housework, run errands and try to simulate some temporary form of normal.

I like having them here, but they can't wait to get back to Japan.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jack Can Keep his Limbo Stick! Kids evacuating from Japan

It has been more than a week since my kids experienced the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japanese history. They have weathered the disaster fairly well.

First of all, they have been reasonably safe the entire time. Being on a U.S. military base has it's advantages: power, gas, clean water, and an unbroken supply line. But as much as they have tried to go on as though it's situation normal, that is of course impossible. Continued aftershocks, cancellation of base activities and rumors of evacuation permeate their existence. Meanwhile I'm about 6000+ miles away simmering with concern and wanting them home.

Voluntary evacuations have begun, but getting them home is a challenge, even with a friend willing to escort them across the Pacific. So for the moment they wait. Their bags are packed and paperwork is completed, but they have to wait for the powers that be to figure out how to get hundreds of U.S. Government dependents, military and otherwise to multiple destinations. While they wait today, they will go back to school which has an increasing number of empty desks of other kids who have already managed to get out with their families.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Family in Japan - What happens next

I'm not entirely unfamiliar with crisis. I was a soldier for 9 years, and one thing you learn rather quickly is if you are unexpectedly recalled, turn on CNN to see where you are going. I can still remember the night they started bombing Baghdad in Operation Desert Storm. I was in training at Fort Harrison, Indiana, and all we could do was hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

That's a mantra for the military and their families. After 9/11, we did the same thing. I was admittedly was out of practice then. I allowed myself to develop a false sense of security when my husband wasn't immediately recalled from the Inactive Reserve. Just as I had convinced my self maybe it wouldn't happen, it did, and he was gone for 2 years.

There have been other crisis since then. Their dad is no longer on Active Duty, but a Department of Defense Civilian. It doesn't change much. We generally just go with it. But this one is a little different. Usually my kids are with me, and it's my job to maintain a sense of normal for them. When they ask questions, I always answer as truthfully as I can, and tell them, "sorry guys, this is just how we live."

But this time, it's my kids who are in danger.

In truth I know that the danger is subjective. They are currently about 150 miles from the failing power plant. At the moment, their air is good, they are well supplied, and surrounded by well trained, well equipped professionals. They are also among friends, kids their own age who have experienced some of the things they have, and are experiencing this crisis with them. I think it's important that they have peers.

But I also know that if there is a melt down, that they are at the mercy of the wind. While the radiation would surely dissipate before it reaches them, there is still a threat, and that leaves me very uneasy. But it's out of my control.

So what's next? One of two things: at present the President has authorized evacuations for dependents of US Personnel. I don't know if my kids are among those who are authorized. I suspect that they are. Their dad will likely have to stay. It's his job. I get it.

If the kids aren't evacuated then I'm on a plane late next week.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The new normal in Japan and at Home

It’s closing in on a week since tectonic plates moved Japan eight feet to the west in what is now classified as a magnitude 9.0 earthquake followed by a 30 foot tsunami.

The initial relief of “OK it’s over, lets move on,” didn’t even have a half-life. This disaster started as the largest earthquake ever recorded in Japan, went on to cause a wall of water that tore a 6 kilometer path in the north, and is now posing a threat to poison thousands more with radiation from a failing nuclear power plant.

This is the new normal for everyone in Japan, including my family who is currently living there. It’s also a new normal for me, who is currently half a world away, unable to get there for at least another week. Why not drop everything and just go? Well, I was originally scheduled to go and stay about this time anyway. There’s a lot to do when you are leaving the country for a fair bit of time.

So, my new normal is based on a few things: Skype, TweetDeck, cable news and online news streams from Japan. I follow the story best I can without becoming obsessed. I talk to my kids every morning before they go to school, and stay up late so I can see them when they get home from school as well. At the moment they are on their own a lot because their dad, understandably is working a lot of overtime. I like that I can be there with them to be sure they are ok, ask them about their day, and make sure that they are eating.

The base is making its best effort to have relatively normal operations, although many activities have been cancelled. Kids are still going to school, but sports activities are currently suspended. Mandated standardized testing however is not. So as these kids watch disaster relief stream through their base and hear about the possibility of radiation plumes, they also get to be sure to use a Number 2 Pencil and avoid making stray marks on the page.

Meanwhile, I am making lists of things to get done before I leave, finding foster care for my pets and wondering what will happen next.

Friday in California, Saturday in Japan

I called the boys the next morning, their time, which was about 3:00 p.m. my time. I tried to avoid calling to early. I wanted them to sleep. The worst I hoped, was behind them.

When I finally did call, I was able to get through on the land-line. The kids both woke up antsy. Wyatt hadn’t heard from his (not) girlfriend who was on a field trip with the school band. He called her phone repeatedly, but couldn’t get through. Nolan, who is a little high strung anyway, was pacing the room. I myself, was still a bit shaken from what I had seen on the news. The full gravity of the initial reports were starting to sink in.

It’s hard to be away from your kids who are stuck in a situation that is completely out of your control. But for the moment, I did what I would have done if I were there.

“You know what would make mom feel better?” I asked Nolan.
“I’d like you to make a survival pack with everything you would need to survive for a day or two, like we do on the Playa.”

My kids have been attending Burning Man since they were 8 and 5 years old. They know how to survive in extreme conditions. I gave them a quick list of what we normally carry: water, electrolytes, enough snacks for 24 hours, something warm to wear, bandanna, hat, flashlight, multi-tool, etc.

My husband made a trip to the commissary to get a few essentials that they didn’t have on hand, and each of the boys assembled their own pack. It made us all feel better knowing if they needed to, that they could grab it and go. It also reminded them that they have skills for stuff like this.

The rest of the day (for them) was spent at home. I did some work and then went out with a friend for drinks at a local tavern. Wyatt finally heard from his friend after several tense hours and dozens of calls to her mobile phone. She and the rest of the band members were on the bus working their way back through Tokyo traffic.

It wasn’t yet clear what would happen next, but for the moment I knew my family was safe, and for the moment that was enough.

Witnessing Japan's Disaster by Skype

When I saw words “Major Earthquake in Japan” appear in my TweetDeck window, I reached for my phone. But before I could even find the right number to call, a Skype window opened on my computer. It was my family calling me to say that they were OK.

My husband, who works as a Department of Defense civilian, is assigned to Yakota Air Force Base in Fussa which is a suburb of Tokyo. They have been in Japan for about 7 months. They live on base, in military housing and the boys attend American schools there with other DoD Civilian and Military dependents. For them, it’s been like living in small town USA, except in Japan. The schools are smaller, and everyone knows each other. Kids still get excited about Homecoming during football season, hang out at the bowling alley, and have the freedom to roam the base without concern about violence or random crime.

It was late afternoon there, when the ground began to move. My kids had just gotten home from school. My (going on) 16-year-old, Wyatt was famously peeing when the quake hit. At the time, he was quite proud that he didn’t miss the bowl. My other son, Nolan, who will be 13 in June, said he was lying on the floor presumably watching TV, when the house began to move back and forth.

We knew it was bad, but had no idea how bad it would get. They were shaken up, but there was no damage. Their dad, who had come home to check on them, went back to work, and I stayed on Skype with the boys. We chatted nervously about the quake and their school day. Wyatt was trying to reach friends to find out about a soccer game that they planned to attend, but phone service, including mobile phones was down. Internet was the only means for communication on base and otherwise.

I flipped through cable to see what was happening and as the pictures began to stream in, I warned Wyatt that the soccer game may be cancelled. “They’re not going to cancel soccer,” he said incredulously.

We decided to watch TV together, and just as we settled on a news channel that we could watch simultaneously, the first live images of the tsunami began to emerge. I didn’t even identify it as water at first. It looked like a black blob oozing across a Japanese countryside. Denial immediately set in as I told myself that maybe there would be a minimal loss of life since the destructive wave seemed to be in a rural farming area. But the water kept coming. It swept up cars, and semi trucks and then houses and buildings.

As we watched the tragedy unfold, I also watched over my kids as they sat together on the couch, and I realized how lucky I was to live in such an age where such things are possible. Had I not been able to do this, I surely would have been far more upset than I initially was.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Giving up Lent, kind of...

As a recovering Catholic, I find that one of the things I miss most about Catholicism is celebrating Lent. Lent is the season between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Good Catholics are supposed to forsake something they enjoy to commemorate the suffering of Christ, and not eat meat on Fridays. At least that's how I remember it.

How I really remember Lent is like a game. First you strategize what your going to give up. It must be something you truly will miss or it doesn't count. The first year I celebrated Lent, I gave up chocolate. All during the Lenten season I pined, and looked longingly at chocolate rabbits at the store. M&M's seemed to be everywhere, mocking me, and even the comfort of a cup of cocoa was verboten. Finally, on Easter morning I got a basket brimming with my previously forbidden treat. As we celebrated the belief that after the third day, Christ rose from the dead at mass, I celebrated a small personal victory over chocolate.

The other part of Lent, giving up meat on Fridays, always meant interesting dinner choices: Cheese Enchiladas, Mac & Cheese, Quesadillas and of course my favorite Fish and Chips. In high school I can remember going to the cafeteria and seeing the trays normally brimming with burgers and hot dogs, replaced with big trays of macaroni and cheese tuna casserole and fish sandwiches. Even though I had given up giving things up by then, it was still kind of fun to be deprived.

These days, I am typically more inclined to celebrate Mardi Gras, than Lent. I don't go to mass on Ash Wednesday, don't really celebrate Easter, but still enjoy making baskets for my boys who are quickly becoming young men.

But that doesn't replace the ritual of giving something up, so I decided to give up french fries for Lent, and to try and give up meat on Fridays. I think of it as an exercise in self-discipline.

I didn't think that through very well though, because now I've screwed myself out of Fish & Chips. Obviously, I'm a bit out of practice.

Monday, February 28, 2011

So I'm a Grown Up. But, Middle Aged? Yikes!

According to Studio 360, a show I heard on NPR, I am middle aged.

WHAT? That can't be! But. by their standards middle age is between the ages of 33 and 50. And in truth the fact that my source is NPR should have been a big clue, although I've been a listener for at least 15 years. None the less, here I am, smack dab in the middle of middle age.

The title of the show was "I realized I was grown up when..." This got me to thinking. When does anyone really become a grown up? When did I become one? I have a few litmus tests that I go by, but these things are not in the least one size fits all, so sing along where you know the words:

I realized I was a grown up when...

  1. I started getting excited about election day
  2. I realized that lying, in general is just lame
  3. I started to become exceedingly annoyed with people who use the word "like" more than one time in a sentence
  4. I was more interested in connecting with people on an intellectual level than a physical one
  5. I could moderate my drinking to get a desired affect: buzzed, happy, happy drunk, stupid drunk
  6. I learned to quit drinking before getting stupid drunk
  7. I started reading labels of every food I buy for calories, sodium and saturated fat
  8. Analgesics became a regular item on my shopping list
  9. I could be proud of my gray hair, but color them red or purple anyway
  10. I realized not only do I not know everything, but in the great realm of things I don't know shit
  11. I became comfortable with the fact that I don't know shit, and decided to do my best to know as much as I could
  12. I embraced who I am, not who I wanted to be, and interestingly I then became the latter
  13. The highlight of my day was getting hugs from my kids
  14. I started to recognize my parents' mortality
  15. I started realizing my own mortality

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Soundtrack to an Independent Life

I’ve been on my own a lot lately. One of the nice things about being on my own is being able to do things I want to do. So when I get a chance like this, I take full advantage and enjoy it while I can. At present I have full control of the TV remote, meal choices, and free time activities. This Sunday that freedom meant hearing some good Jazz with a nice lunch followed by creamy vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit.

A good four-chord progression is laid out like four easy rules to stay within. Jazz compositions are like saying here’s a big box for you to play in. Have fun, and it’s ok if you color outside the lines a bit. In fact it’s encouraged

I’ve also been on my own in another way recently. In preparation for a change of domestic venue, I’ve been freelancing as a consultant and news writer. Freelancing is always better than it sounds. It requires a lot more discipline and motivation than a regular job. I still have to get up to go to work, and to make that task more real I tend to work away from home a little every day. Usually this means a cafĂ© or some other establishment offering free wifi. I generally go prepared with my computer power cord, my own travel mug and enough cash to keep me in snacks for the day. Sometimes a change of location is required. This is usually happens when inane talkers or giggling teens manage to overpower my headphones. That only happens once or twice a week.

Jazz is the perfect sound track to my temporary independent lifestyle. The players play for each other but also for themselves. And when listening to live jazz I can’t help but feel like a kid on the playground watching the coolest, most fun game, wishing I could jump in. There’s also something uniquely intimate about Jazz because of it’s improvisational nature. It yields a kind of intellectual pastiche that makes me feel less alone and more in tune with the dynamic world that surrounds me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Date Night

I've been on my own as of late. Being solitary isn't a bad thing from time to time. I begin to notice things around me that maybe were previously ignored due to the distraction of others around me. I've taken up crocheting again, finally have time to read my stack of New Yorkers cover to cover and enjoy the company of my four cats.

OK, being on my own has some slippery slopes. So instead of staying home making sweaters for my cats on Saturday, I decided to take myself out on a date.

After a typical Saturday of running errands and doing chores, I took a shower, dressed, put on nice-looking but potentially painful shoes, shaded my eyes and headed out for dinner, a movie and drinks after.

Armed with a back-issue of the New Yorker, I opted to sit at the bar of a local Italian chain restaurant, where I was able to fully engage with a very clever article about a teen fashion blogging phenom. I've learned that having good reading material is a must when going out alone. Reading a well written article is the equivalent of hearing a great story from a witty conversationalist. Add a good glass of wine and Pellegrino, and well, you have great dinner conversation, even if it is only between you and the writer and only in your head. On this night, I was so engrossed in my article that I agonized putting it down when my salad arrived, after my entree. It may have been an American chain, but I still order in the Italian way.

Checking the time, I paid my bill and made my way to the movie theater. Normally, I opt for German train time, but for this date, I was OK with being just a little atrazado. I entered the theatre just as the previews began, found a good seat and pulled out a container of Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered cherries.

Had I listened to that inner voice that said, "go home now, it's been a good night," I could have saved myself for what came after the movie. A cold California night hastened pain that pierced my brain as I walked to the car. I contemplated going home instead of for a drink, but decided I could tolerate one more venue if I took an Excedrin.

It was a bad gamble. The pain medication dulled my headache but couldn't cure the absolutely suck-tackular cover band that I paid a five dollar cover to see. Before I could finish my bourbon, I ordered a tall glass of water to quicken my exit. When the singer felt it necessary to preface, Jesse's Girl, I took that as my cue to leave. It wasn't a total loss though. I got home just in time to see the pilot episode of Firefly.

Overall it was a good date. I had a nice meal, saw a movie of my choice, and was able to end the evening without any "it's not you, it's me" awkwardness. And when I came home, the cats almost seemed happy to see me. If nothing else I'm sure they were happy to not have to wear an embarrassing sweater.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

To Geek or Not to Geek

I'm a Geek. It took me years to accept it, but now I embrace it. It's who I am and I wear the badge proudly.

What is a Geek? That depends on your definition. We're not exotic enough to be misfits, extroverted enough to be mavericks nor malleable enough to be with the in-crowd. We are creative, thoughtful, curious and brave. We deconstruct, figure out, re-imagine, and innovate for fun, seeking out knowledge, appreciating insight, and doing our best to understand the world around us.

The best of us realize this early, and understand that having the will to stand alone with your imagination, thoughts and beliefs takes a special kind of fortitude. These are the bravest among us. They are the ones willing to take the risk of not trying to fit in early. Perhaps it's because they realize that fitting in is just a slick slide down to status quo and the boredom that suck a life implies.

I wasn't one of those. Even though I was flute playing, theatre performing, documentary watching twelve year old, I made great pains to separate myself from the kids who hung out by the library at lunch. I liked those kids. They were nice and thoughtful, and accepting and funny. There was even a boy I liked there. He was tall, cute and very sweet. We slow-danced at a school dance, but when a friend told me that she heard he had wet his pants at school, it was too much for me to brave. I never talked to him or went back to the library for lunch again. I wanted to be cool and these kids weren't cool. They were brave. But, I couldn't see it.

So I sought out a different crowd. I started smoking, drank some, cut school, did other nefarious deeds. After a few years of escalating trouble I landed in catholic high school. I had a few friends there, but by then we had learned how to at least not get caught doing naughty things. There were some odd flirtations with religion there as well, and though I was much kinder to geeks then, I still refused to see myself as one.

Twenty-plus years and several lives later, I realize I was a geek all along, and wonder why I ever denied it. It's one thing to learn to be comfortable in your own's another be comfortable in your own mind. And now, by the power of the information age, geeks rule and it's pretty awesome in a lot of ways.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Truth in Advertising and Easy Solutions

Well, a new year is upon us, with its predictable round of advertisements for diet plans and exercise programs. It seems the beginning of the year is an ideal time to begin new regimes and disciplines that help us to be better individuals. For some reason in January it is easier to imagine ourselves as more athletic, thinner and with fewer bad habits. Be it electronic cigarettes or fast food, in January everything is somehow geared to make us better people. Among advertisements in this trend I noticed that one fast food chain is now offering "natural cut fries with sea salt," as if being naturally cut with sea salt actually makes them good for you.

Of course, one wonders what exactly is a naturally cut potato? Is it grown in a special place where naturally formed crystals share the soil and through some special happenstance of circumstance the ground apple emerges pre-cut like a honey-baked ham? And even if this were the case, it doesn't change the fact that once saturated in hot boiling oil, and covered in salt from sea or table, it's both a tasty treat and potentially deadly foe. But it's January after all, thus even french fries can somehow be good for you when cut naturally and covered in something as natural as sea salt, right?

I suppose we can't blame advertisers who take advantage of our annual desire to be better people. What we can blame is our willingness to be taken by easy solutions. Solutions can be simple, but seldom easy. The former requires creative and elegant thought that choreographs effort with willingness and imagination. When such a circumstance is achieved one imagines that a great number of problems we encounter would be simple to solve. The latter simply calls for a desire to achieve goals with little effort, implying a lack of genuine will.

I don't really make New Year's resolutions. It seems that for me, resolve comes once I've decided to act on my contemplations, and that comes in its own time. And as much as I desire easy solutions, I know I have to have patience enough for my imagination and will to allamande making a perfect geometry that will show me how everything eventually ends up in its rightful place.

Oh, Happy New Year.