25 February 2011 § Leave a comment
“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places, there is still much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
21 February 2011 § Leave a comment
Egypt didn’t even react to what Hillary Clinton said in a speech about being pro-democracy, and they didn’t flinch when Obama and others demanded that the ‘violence stop immediately.’
Now Europe is condemning the violence in Libya. Yes, it’s a horrible thing, but did anyone expect this fight to go down without casualties? In our children’s history books, these revolutions will be validated by the number of innocent lives lost, whether run over by vans or bombed by military jets. The simple fact right now: this is their time. They are showing the world what they are capable of, but they don’t care to share their fight with you.
It’s not such a stretch to think that they, as cultures defining themselves as people worth fighting for, don’t give a damn what the West thinks of what they’re doing. They know their society best, and given the multiplying revolutions, they are learning that this is what it takes to topple a regime. This is what it takes to initiate reform. Tunisia was so much more than a simple protest to end the 30-year reign of a corrupt dictator – it was the spark that is changing the modern Arab world, turning it on its head.
This is what happens when people figure out they’re not worthless. They will write their stories now, and tell them later.
14 February 2011 § Leave a comment
first of all, happy valentine’s day. i hope you lovers are making out with reckless abandon all over the streets of new york and cairo and paris and hannibal, missouri. enjoy your night.
How often do we talk in the negative? In an effort to get across the right idea, I’m always in a rush to state what I’m not doing instead of what I am doing. My imagination takes the listener for a ride through tunnels and sewers where I do not want them to go, and I am the guide. And this is how the tours begin:
I’m not trying to…
I didn’t mean…
I’m not saying…
and how do these statements help my ideas? They don’t. There’s no focus there, and no real transference. If I’m trying to communicate what I am saying in the negative, I might as well say “I’m not saying a hippopotamus is polka-dotted…” It simply doesn’t accomplish anything.
Here’s an example: “…I’m not saying you’re a bad listener.”
This tendency comes from a lack of confidence in what I said or did the first time around, and out of panic, I want to reiterate it, just in case. In my mind, I think I can see how the listener took my statement and I want to make sure they don’t take it that way. Am I right? Probably not. Did I plant an idea in their mind that I specifically did not intend to communicate? Yes. Am I communicating effectively? No.
The issue of confidence goes hand in hand with this. If I think in the negative, I’m going to speak in the negative. But if I think in the positive, I’ll place the focus where it belongs and get across the idea that I wanted, not the one I didn’t want.
A better version: “I need to work on my communication skills.”
If I’m thinking in the positive, I won’t need to reassert my idea because I will have conveyed it the first time, and I can forgo the panicked, doubtful breath for the calm breath I’ll take after they’ve replied, before I start talking again.
It’s about what things are:
This is… something positive
What I’m trying to do is… something good with it.
I meant… to be clear
13 February 2011 § Leave a comment
While driving Friday night I had two things on my mind, and neither of them was the road. I passed the street I was headed for by forty quick blocks, so I got off the freeway to turn around. 76th Street invited me down its icy surface, and I was not careful to creep along it to the stoplight. When I tried to slow down, nothing happened. Turned the wheel. Nothing. Downshifted. Nothing. Highbeams and car horns and a subtle flash of what was to come, as soon as the read end of the Dodge put a stop to this nonsense sliding. Just before my beloved Nissan’s hood accordioned, before the Dodge’s bumper forcibly raped my headlight at twenty miles an hour – or in total stillness, depending on how you look at it – and something made its way inside my battery, I rolled my eyes and probably said ‘fuck’.
Normality ensued. The other driver was kind and civil, partially because he suffered no injury and virtually no damage, and we talked in the warm cab of his truck while the tow truck and the cop made their way to the empty parking lot we sat in. We talked about music and radio – he was a broadcast engineer, I was an audio engineer. He offered me a possible internship at the place he worked.
The cop was an asshole, didn’t ask me what happened. Told me to stay in my car while he ran our papers and plastic cards through the system. David the Hawaiian came in his tow truck and my car was ready to make its final journey home before the cop handed me the ticket with some bullshit written in the Offense column. It was as if I called 911 and ordered a hundred-dollar-ticket on a silver platter.
This is why I’m indecisive. Very often, when I decide to decide and then decide on something, it has the worst possible outcome. Even more than if I had decided to not decide one way or the other. That way, if I’m passive and let someone else make the decision, the responsibility is not with me, and I didn’t insist on making the wrong decision. I’m forever thinking that I haven’t done or seen all the things normal people have, and thus have no experience or basis on which to make my decisions. And yet I’ve been out in the world and been through quite a lot for the time. But nothing I learned about being homeless or responsible-for-everything or an ambitious-but-hopeless workaholic helps me now, because I tend to avoid them all now, probably so as to not have to show myself that I wouldn’t make any better decisions this time around.
But now things happen. I go into bars without getting nervous. I get into car crashes. I go to the grocery store and have no idea why I’m there (and then spend more time criticizing the society that created this place than shopping). I meet someone new and start the makings of a friendship based on some common interest that I’ve never really indulged in before – and I don’t know what to do. Sure, these feel like new experiences, learning the world and all that. But this is the me that isn’t supposed to fall apart. I don’t fall apart when I’m Out There (well, not that I’d admit, anyway). It’s Here that I have problems.
The next day, knowing that because I didn’t have insurance to cover my damages or the other driver’s, I reinstated my insurance because if I didn’t have it at the time of the accident, and didn’t send in the paper the cop gave me, they would revoke my license in 15 days. Translation: I now have useless and expensive insurance for an undrivable car. Decisions, right? Let’s keep the ball rolling.
Because I had an idea of how much the damages to my car would be, and because this amount is 1) far more than I have to spend and 2) more than the car is currently worth, I decided that looking for a cheap, temporary alternative was a good idea. (Let’s go back to the ‘learning from the past’ subject: this is something that I have done before. Twice. And both times, the cheap and temporary alternative was more temporary than it was cheap. Read on.)
I trolled craigslist, of course, because I’ve found many solutions on craigslist for various situations: jobs, apartments, bicycles,, cameras, instruments, snowboards, rides, and a hundred other things I probably shouldn’t have gotten in the first place. There was a sale post for a 1990 Suzuki Swift – a bare bones engine-and-cab on wheels that doesn’t belong in the American Psyche of driving, let alone in an Alaskan winter. It leaked oil but ran fine, the ad said. Okay. I need something, I decided.
Twice it started without issue. After that, I found that not only was the five-year-old battery dead and that it was nearly out of oil, but the alternator wasn’t passing power back to the battery. The cat I bought it from probably had to jump it all of the four times he drove it.
I made it to Anchorage for our Saturday night musings at the Dessert First café. We wrote and talked and read and argued and forced each other out of denial and confusion. “Do what you’re supposed to be doing,” says Trey. “If you’re not the best you you can possibly be, everyone else is missing out. If I’m not being the realest me I can be, you’re missing something important.”
It goes on like this all the time. We throw philosophy and style around like footballs, and sometimes someone takes a screwdriver and stabs one of them, and offers a perspective that makes the idea into something new and exhilarating. Breathtaking. Fresh. Worthwhile. We toss poems at each other like hot coffee brewed in the most inaccessible crevice of our bodies and minds. “Hey,” we’ll say afterward. “What’d you think of that?”
Trey jumpstarted the Swift for me and we sat in his truck and talked about jumpstarting the poetry scene, too. It’s happening. He knows what he wants – he’s the grandpappy of Anchorage poetry, or will be, at least, when there are grandkids – and I wonder if it’s something I want to be a part of. I didn’t see a place for me in the vision he’s obviously rehearsed in the mirror, as confident in his pitch for grant money and sharing his vision as he is on the mic, indomitable and fierce, and he’s never given a shit what you, the audience, thought.
The Swift accelerated to a very unswift 60 mph on the highway and I was loathe to push it any harder. The sputtering lawnmower motor couldn’t handle the highway life, and by the time I got home an hour or two later, faded and contemplative, I decided that this was not for me.
Three days ago, I had one perfectly good car that I loved and took care of. Two days ago, I had one trashed car that I would likely never drive again. One day ago, I had two trashed cars that will likely never be driven again, especially by me. Today, I’m cutting my losses. Get rid of them both, make out with what you can, and be done with it. Clean slate. Start over with the vehicle business. Or not.
But it’s bigger than just the car. Much bigger. I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I haven’t been for a long time. I’ve been making excuses and surviving, sometimes barely, to scratch at the horizon again the next day. My flakiness, as my brother calls it, is not the fact that I’m not willing to take responsibility. It’s that I take responsibility for the wrong things, and then try to fly with them on my back. Inevitably, it fails.
I’m not who I can be. Sometime in the past year or so, I took happiness and told it I didn’t want it, that I could make do without it. I decided to make decisions again. Without the thinking part of making them. It seems I thrive with the seasons – for every lovely winter, the next is my discontent.
“The world is full of people doing what they need to do,” Trey told me, “and no single act is more important than another. What happened in Egypt is no more important than what’s going on with you. The difference is that they’re there and that’s what they wanted, and you’re here. What do you want?”
I’m working on it.
10 February 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ve been keeping up with the news on the protests in Egypt since they broke out in Tahrir Square on 25 January. Every single day, as I drive my pathetic car twenty five miles over a sheet a ice to school, NPR blasting over the heater that only works on high, I’ve heard interviews with professors in Cairo, economists and politicians from the world over, and the protesters themselves. And they’re all saying the same thing: Mubarak must go.
Last night, a hundred thousand people marched on Tahrir Square to hear Mubarak’s speech, one they expected would be his last as president. Let me repeat that. 100,000. A Hundred Thousand People. For weeks, they’ve been stoned with bricks and teargassed by the army and police. No one really seems to know the stance of the Egyptian Army – whether they’re around to protect the protesters or to fight them. One thing seems to be certain, though: they’re not taking orders from Mubarak anymore. At one point, the protesters themselves gave the ultimatum: “Egyptian army, the choice is now, the regime or the people,” they said.
More than 300 have been reportedly killed since the protests erupted almost three weeks ago. Thousands more have been injured.
Mubarak’s speech did not make the people of Egypt happy. He said he would not step down from his post until September, when this term ends. He refused to bow to ‘foreign pressure.’ “Two hours ago we were crying tears of joy,” says Shadi Hassan, a protester from the city of Mansoura. “Now it’s tears of sorrow. Tomorrow, it will be anger.” She’s been in Tahrir square for more than a week.
He doesn’t need to bow to foreign pressure to do the right thing. All he has to do is look out the window of his office. his people are speaking, and he’s not listening. A march on the presidential palace is planned for today.
The interview I heard this morning features a professor in Cairo being interviewed by the BBC. The interviewer was hurried, making sure she got her questions in, but the man was going to say the same thing whether she did or not. “The people are young. They have strength and they have stamina. Mubarak is old and he is senile and very, very stubborn. I hope that the people will keep going, because they have the stamina,” he said.
I didn’t catch his name, but I heard the hope and excitement in his voice.
The protests will continue. They have momentum and they have resolve, which seems to be more solid every day. When this turns to rage, and it will, the world may not be ready for it.
But they should be, because this isn’t just about Egypt. And the rest of the Arab world is picking up on what’s going on. These protests are not limited to Tahrir Square, or even just Cairo. They’re happening all over Egypt. In Jordan, a new cabinet was just sworn in. In Tunisia, where anti-government protests first broke out in January, former president Ben Ali’s regime has totally collapsed. Perhaps a full blown democracy is on the horizon. Iraqis in Baghdad have begun to protest the corruption in their government.
The rest of the world can be cautious with their hope, but there seems to be little caution in the center of Cairo, and that’s where it matters. The people will get what they want – or die demanding it.
10 February 2011 § Leave a comment
The Oregon coastline is on fire.
Up and down the shoreline, less than a mile off the once-majestic beaches where Volkswagen buses and vagabonds have set up camp for entire summers, ferries and yachts and fishing boats idle in the calm Pacific water.
Three days ago, strong west winds blew through Siuslaw National Forest north of Florence, Oregon, and turned a parlor trick into an inferno. A handkerchief soaked in kerosene was set on fire by a contemptuous 13-year-old boy with a marijuana pipe and an abusive childhood. The zippo lighter he used to spark the inferno featured the Ace of Spades, a nickname his stepfather, Alberto Corozolli, earned during a 10-year card counting career in Las Vegas.
The suspect, Matthew Kritch, attempted a magic trick for a group of friends when his eyes “went bloodshot and a trident appeared in his left hand,” according to Melissa Bergman, a 14-year-old from nearby Eugene, who was present when the blaze shot up into the trees.
No one present had cell phones. Three teenagers left the campsite near the beach and called 911 thirty minutes after the fire started. Fire crews arrived an hour later. By then, the wind had spread the flames over fifty acres of national forest.
Three days into the heatwave, the wildfire had spread inland and a hundred miles both north and south of its origin. Residents as far east as Fern Ridge Lake have been evacuated from their homes, but thousands more are expected to be evacuated by week’s end.
“We’re doing all we can to keep the fire from getting into the heavily populated areas. We’ve never seen a wildfire spread this fast. It’s insane,” said Joe Ducker, a volunteer firefighter from Deadwood. He is one of hundreds of firefighters from all over western Oregon helping to quench the fire. Ducker’s own home succumbed to the flames yesterday morning.
Matthew Kritch arrived in Eugene with his family three months ago. Three weeks later, he was expelled from Northside Middle School for extortion. The school’s principal, Travis Caruthers, declined to comment on the matter.
Corozolli, on the phone from his luxury yacht moored near Cannon Beach, said “I knew the boy was trouble. Now look at the trouble he’s in. The fire is getting close to our house now, and soon he’s going to be in deeper [trouble] than he’s ever been in before.” The boy’s mother could not be reached for comment.