There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
I’m not the first to post this quote … but I like it. It’s a good reminder that we are quite likely living through a pivotal inflection point of our country. That our tomorrow, whatever it will be, will look very different than our yesterday. And rapidly so.
I am hopeful that recent years are not for naught. For some it has only been a few years of challenge living in a nation divided, where hate has replaced acceptance, where bigotry walks our streets and flies our airwaves uncontested, where so many who fought for the right to be acknowledged and to exist as they were born have seen their inalienable rights erode right under their very feet.
And for others, these few years are but a drop in the bucket; for many they were born into a lifetime of living in fear for nothing more than being different than the status quo. And more than this, others still it has been an unshakable, unwanted, perverse family heirloom and legacy that has haunted their family through the generations; all waiting to see promises made that to this day remain broken and unfilled for so many.
Who does not want for themselves, their children, their loved ones the simple act of living in a world where they can openly walk the streets without fear of retaliation from the systems built to protect, where they can apply to any institution that is meant to employ them without wondering how far the stairs truly go for them? Who does not want to live in a world where we live only with the limits we impose on ourselves, instead of living and dying by the limits imposed by those who cannot see their shared humanity in every face they encounter?
For many of us, myself included, we lived with incorrect assumptions about our successes. We believed our success was largely, if not wholly, a reflection of our merit. We confused merit with our privilege. It is not that we are not without merit, but that our privilege as white, as male, as heterosexual, as being brought up in a middle-class family set in a community where college-education and high-paying jobs were the norm not the exception, gave us far more than our merit alone would have achieved if all things were equal. And because we believed in the inherent rightness of our merit, we thought by being color-blind that we were not racist or sexist when we believed everyone, regardless of their disadvantage and lack of privilege, to be able to achieve the same heights as us through effort alone. And if they could not, then our flawed narrative made us conclude that those without were themselves somehow lazy, unmotivated; they were without sufficient merit. That is the lie we tell ourselves, the narrative of the American dream writ large but not true for the vast majority of our nation’s peoples.
None of us are born equal. We are made equal by the compassion, by the understanding, and the support of all those around us who understand this fundamental truth, and who further subscribe to the notion that we are all equal to the rights, freedoms, and successes found in a life lived freely. This compassion is not costless; it requires us to share and make room for everyone. It’s a compassion that requires us to be selfless, and may at times require us to sacrifice so that others may share in all these things. But this is not to say it’s a zero-sum conversation; what we share is returned to us all many fold by the peace, prosperity and well-being that such selfless compassion engenders and germinates in all touched by it. Again, these things do not just happen; they require us all to lean toward each other, with hands and heart open for this kind of world to materialize.
The stairs we climbed as a nation are long, hard ones. We have faltered. We have slipped. We have scraped shins and broken bones in our ascent, and sometimes confused our descent as anything what it is: a falling away from grace. We have lost ourselves in the romanticized notions of a nation that only exists in our minds, only exists in our myth-making words. We cannot be great again, because we were never great to begin with. And may never be truly great in all that such ideals are just that: ideals meant to be unattainable, just beyond our grasp but still forever inspiring us to reach higher, with deeper conviction and stronger resolve. We are meant to struggle with our humanity, we are meant to wrestle with our imperfections. We are meant to accept these things, and in them find the peace that comes from accepting this simple fact: we are all equals to each other unto our own eyes and our own hearts.
Yes. It’s a scary time. It’s a time of turnover. It’s a time of chaos. But it is also a time of change. We are not truly lost till we stop accepting who we are. We cannot arrive at a nation we believe we to be until we accept the nation that we are. It is now a time for us to accept our racism. Accept our sexism. Accept our national legacy of hate. And change. Each and every one of us.
At a time when decimals deeply mattered, I was a kid of 11.48 years bereft of everything I held dear. Some thirty years ago my parents moved us from Fairport, New York. It was situated outside of Rochester, an engine of industry right up till digital photography burned down Kodak in a green-flame heap of celluloid. But I digress. We moved form Fairport to a small town on the eastern edge of Finger Lakes appellation by the name of Skaneateles, a town of some seven-thousand inhabitants nestled amongst rolling hills at the northern end of a sixteen-mile long lake. Picturesque. Quaint. Charming. Everything you might want from a New England town. But for me, as a kid disoriented and feeling abandoned, it was a desert and I surrounded by philistines. I found myself in a school system where everyone knew everyone since kindergarten. I was a stranger, a ghost, a kid alone who did not have the social graces to fit in. Sure, I would eventually make friends. Kids do that. We bounce. But as was my wont, I was soon looking out to when I could rejoin civilization.
Civilization is filled with universities, libraries, museums and bookstores, or so I deemed as a kid. Nowadays I think about such things differently, but I am getting ahead of myself. But still, that story, the story of seeking civilization persisted with me for quite some time after my graduating class’ diasporas when we either went abroad or university or both. Still, as a kid I had an insatiable curiosity for knowledge. Skaneateles seemed the farthest thing from anything, my own Tatooine as it were. What I thought I needed was a world of knowledge and culture. As a means to that, I used to sneak on the Greyhound bus that stopped near our house in order to go into Syracuse, some forty-five minutes away, to visit the university library and read books. For those too young to know, I grew up in a time where inter-library loans controlled the flow of information, and online bulletin-board systems were still in their infancy, so getting your literal hands on books took a bit of adventure. And adventure it was! It would be seven more years, as a first year of undergraduate studies at Purdue University, that the World Wide Web would become a twinkle in the public eye … and everything with respect to the concentration of knowledge and wealth in city centers would start to be challenged. But that is a story still playing out, and it is, as they say, another story, even if it is nonetheless intertwined into this story.
Before I got to where I am sitting now, on a patio looking over the town of Chelan, Washington, let me mention another story. A year before moving to Skaneateles, I saw WarGames. It would be an understatement to say I idolized Matthew Broderick as computer-genius. I wanted to be him. I ached to be his character. It is likely I also was infatuated with Ally Sheedy who played his girlfriend in the film. When I saw him on a bike riding out into the Washington state pines of the Puget Sound, I felt an instant connection. Years later, much to my mother’s disbelief and likely heartbreak, I told her my destiny was to live on the West Coast. It would be decades later still before I finally understood my truer motives, but as a kid of ten I thought it was a sign, seeing those scenes of mountains and rolling greens telling me where I belonged. So when my path converged on the University of Washington graduate programs to study technical Japanese and computational fluid dynamics, it is not hard to imagine I thought Destiny had come to my door and knocked.
That was some seventeen years ago, and in that time I graduated, worked at three major hometown enterprises, bought a condo, and even got married three times, all while living in Seattle. I have been busy, what can I say. I was all about Seattle. I commuted through neighborhoods by the bus and by foot. I spent both my mornings and evenings at cafes reading books and doing artwork. Some days I quaffed up to sixteen shots of espresso, a poster-child of a Seattle hipster who was tens years too early to be of that generation. I spent summer weekends listening to Shakespeare in the Park, and my winters and springs at Benaroya Hall listening to symphonies and Nat Geo Live. I walked through museums with a sketchbook in hand, and through the zoo with a camera. I soaked in civilization. But then something happened. It waned. I found myself forever over-stimulated, the constant traffic and crush of people overwhelming. I could not breath, as it were. We were all strangers to each other. It is true I had found civilization, but discovered that what I — we — needed was community.
A little over three months ago we moved ourselves to Chelan, Washington. For over two decades I was chasing after civilization, only to end up in a town half the population of Skaneateles. Nor is it amongst the lush forests of western Washington, but instead nestled at a end of lake, much like Skaneateles, albeit surrounded by the high desert of central Washington. It is a town not unlike my adolescence. It has the same ebb and flow, the same energy and vitality and even socio-economic struggles. My spouse’s parents live just down the road, and I feel a bit rudderless if I do not see them at least once a week for dinner, watching TV together and just hanging out in each other’s presence. There is regret, too. I now recognize that the very same motivations that brought my parents and I to Skaneateles, are the same that bring me and my spouse to Chelan. I can, for the first time, see the virtues of the place my parents have now been at for some three decades. And to add to all of this, I am now of the same age my parents were when they moved to Skaneateles. I find myself suddenly in the shadow of my parents, and from that I now possess a key of sorts.
We have replaced the trappings of civilization for the comforts of community. My mornings no longer include a forty-five minute trot to get to a bus, but instead a stroll out amongst the hills and river that flow from the end of the lake. I have emptied my iPhone of my bus schedules, and rarely use it if at all. There is but a single cafe to choose from. A single bookstore, too. Sure, there is a town museum to visit, albeit it is not one where I’d take a sketchbook. The zoo has been replaced by yard goats and a rodeo down the road. When I go into town, I walk out the door with a single key around my neck and tucked under my shirt. I put on my headphones and jam to Daft Punk or listen to NPR … it depends on my mood and fickleness … something, I am told, that happens in your forties. I do not carry a wallet, cash or even a credit card since I can get everything I need from the local grocer on credit. I walk into town for yoga, or else get a crepe and coffee, or else stop into the local bookstore to make a new acquaintance. I carry a simple messenger bag to gather my groceries, and I avoid using my car except on stops to the recycling center at the edge of town. And I find myself singing “to da dump dump dump dump dump dump dump” in the vein of the Lone Ranger’s opening theme song, not so unlike my own father whenever we took the garbage to the Skaneateles Dump. I look upon all the tourists, and hope they enjoy the town and at the same time hope they do not change its sedate way of community. And I think more keenly and fondly on the town on the other side of the country where my parents still live. I get it now. I get what I missed some thirty years ago that only now I can start to appreciate. I am sorry, mom and dad, for not understanding nor appreciating what you trying to find and create. I feel the key now pressed into my palm. I turn it and something inside of me clicks, and a door long locked slowly parts. Thank you, even if it has taken me some thirty years to appreciate the gift. Thank you.
There is life, even Life. And there is living, even Living. But neither of these – life and living in either capital form or not – are necessarily related to each other. To have Life does not mean you are living, unless you are also truly Living. I have been coming to this conclusion over and over again this past year. I am 41, and I have been living, but I am pretty sure I have forgotten what it means to be Living. Or to put in the modern vernacular, then consider Daredevil on Netflix:
Matt Murdoch: I’m not afraid of dying.
Priest: A lot of people aren’t when it comes right down to it. It’s living that scares the holy crap out of them.
Trust me, I have not been afraid to checkbox off a lot of living. 5 earned degrees, 4 of these conferred and 3 of those Masters of Science in engineering-physics, technical japanese, and applied computational mathematics. I’ve lived abroad multiple times, and traveled abroad even more times. I’ve ate and drank my way through cities, countries and even cultures. But I am not sure I’ve ever known Home even if I was home. I’ve been involved in large, well-known projects including Boeing’s 787 program, Microsoft’s Xbox One, and Amazon e-commerce. Throw in a handful of shared patents, too. Heck, as an overachiever I have been divorced twice, and now happily married for a third time. Yeah, that is a life, but is it Life? Sure, I’ve been living and even making a living, but is it Living? What am I truly afraid of? Because it is sure as hell not dying – not anymore, not really ever. What am I afraid of? Isn’t it obvious? I have been checkbox-living because I have been afraid of Living. And now I fear living another 30 or 40 years only to end up still not having Lived. You following?
But how do you stop living and begin Living? By answering the essential existential question. It’s the only existential question, really. The question, of course, being: What is Life? Hmm. Yes, I agree with you. It is a child’s question that we leave behind in adulthood, having learned it to be too immense a wall to scale. So we stumble away from it, instead picking up our latest handheld device to read a wall of posts. And those posts, this post even, don’t answer much of anything at best, and at worst a whole lot of nothing. Still, we post about a myriad of life’s doings in the hopes we are heard. So that question – The Question – comes to us without any seeming answer, and we yield in mute response.
I cannot speak for you, so please forgive me any generalities. Let me step back into my own living, my own life and tell you how I got here: I have spent four decades hanging my coat and hat on someone else’s pegs. I looked for recognition in my father, my mother, my family, my friends and even my managers and colleagues at work. I counted the number of reads and likes of posts, and I amassed my degrees and my accolades like Smaug hoarding treasure. I got rid of all the mirrors inside of me, and instead hung you all up on my walls to tell me how pretty I am. I am pretty, right? I put down my pencil. Then my pen. Then my brush. Then finally my words. I burned them or else tucked them away, up on bookcases and in boxes. Then finally I went to sleep in this den of my own making, unwittingly having cut myself off from the rest of the world to await the footfall of my own doom. I had no idea what I had done, since living and Living seemed to be the same thing until now, when I see ahead to another four decades spent cowering under the weight and banality of that kind of living. What remains around me is all baubles now, having no hold nor charm over me. What was once an immeasurable treasure is now worth very little other than to be melted down and hammered into a key to open a door, a door to Living.
So yes, I’ve been a coward. I never realized that I already had all the wealth I ever needed. But it was not the kind of wealth I knew to look for. I looked outward, and so became blinded to who I am. A beautifully imperfect human. More so, I’m a beautifully imperfect brother, son, friend, colleague and spouse. I only ever really needed what I was born with. This soul given a Life so that I might pluck, feather by feather, the quills to write my own story for myself to read. It is just a story; it may or not be worth reading. But it was my story, and I forgot to read it, let alone write it. That was the first misstep from Life to life. And the second was not sharing it with the people I love, with the world around me. And so I lost Living to living, left Life behind for a life. Truly, the cake is a lie. So then, what is not a lie?
Again, I do not know what all of this means to you. Why title this post Legacy? Well, now we get to the meat of the matter! I used to think legacy a four-letter word, a thing that amassed estates and children alike to act as billboards posted along the road-side of history to proclaim to others: “I was here. I will not be forgotten!” And that was exactly what so much of my own living was about, even if I did not realize it at the time. I wanted to be heard. I wanted to be acknowledged. I wanted to be remembered after death. I wanted to be seen while living. But how can anyone see me, if I am blind and mute to myself first? I now know that was neither living, nor a legacy worth working toward.
I will admit that I began to recently think then that Legacy was having children, and that Living was raising a family. In a way, it is, but not as ends, but only a means. Bear with me here for a moment. The greatest gift we give ourselves is ourselves. The answer to Life is a simple refrain: Here I am. In that refrain we give ourselves the permission and strength to have a voice for everything worth saying, “Here I am. I love myself for who I am. I love you for who you are.” And then is not this the greatest gift to give our children? It’s not estates or wealth or even ourselves, but instead we give them our compassion and love so that they might join the fray to say “Here I am, too!” Yes, our legacy lies in our children and our families, but our true Legacy is that we might Live and Love so that they might join us in really the only refrain the Universe, Life, Living and Love will ever utter: here I am.
I thought I would dust off the blog, and in the process of the house-cleaning I came across these two drafts of posts that I never published (till now). While inarguably from a different period in my life, I found in re-reading them something, something latent worth sharing – or, if I am to be honest to say they are worth exposing – for what they are: purpled and incomplete. Like any draft, they are forever dying from a lack of words and lucidity. Nevertheless, when has a parent ever not loved their own children over all others?
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
DRAFT February, 2011
Calm thyself, little pollen. The great river flows and we are just here as spectacle and spectator. Oh, how we languish amongst the many eddies and tide pools believing it is our own gravitas that so conjoins the river’s waters into these turbulent times when instead it is the river in its buoyant, orotund song that carries the melody that is our life. I am often reminded how spectacularly fortunate, lucky, even spoiled much and most of my life has been. Even amongst the innumerable hallmark moments that capture my own picture-perfect postcard moments of auto-perfidy still I find a humored malaise that belies my contentment in sordid slices that sluice over me.
I As Coward
DRAFT May, 2011
I as coward? Yes. Coward. I am a coward. I wish it were different. I wish I might be truer to the many multitudes of words in my mind and in my mouth, spewing out the very shadows of lies that stand resolute to the image of my self that I wish I were. But I am the Napoleon on fears and the Caesar of defeats, I stand here resolute to say I am coward.
I remember myself as child in front of the globe, as well as standing in front of the many maps that can be found at Metsker Maps on First Avenue in Seattle, wherein in the five-year-old child in me screams to me over and over again “I want to see that and That and THAT!”. But I go deafly, even mutely, from the store knowing that I live here in Seattle, a displaced central New Yorker amongst the dander and down layers of PNW life. Here I am. Coward. Do you remember when I did not climb Kilimanjaro, starting out on the plains of Africa trekking my way to the summit where, even in this remote land, the steel cans puncture the azure skies? Do you remember when I did nothing on the treadmill while the planes slammed into the towers, the debris that fell in rag-doll time from heights meant for angels? There is was not much for me that I knew how to do when my grandmother died; just breath and hope there was nothing my absence would suspend. I remember fondly the road-trip I did not take to New Zealand in a beat up VW van, a sojourn to revere the sites that disciple Peter Jackson has, with 35mm cellular uncture, wrought now most holy. How many times I have not stopped to introduce myself to the smile wrapped in sunshine and water falling hair? Were there not nights I would have been better home with friends than trying to cram one more line of code into a source code that will never be there to help me when I am sick? How many times have I dared to not deviate from the marks on the door that everyone is trying to match? And when she asked for my hand for life, did I not willing give her mine because I believed any hand, even a cold dead hand, was better than no hand at all? I am a coward. But then so aren’t we all? Are we not all the compromisers and usurpers to our needs? We step to the beat drummed by The Others, and follow with musket resting on shoulder to do our duty and die. Cannon fodder us all. We cowards.
It has been awhile since I opened up a jar of balloons or the uncooked rice. I honestly did not think I would let this project lapse for so long, but here I am in December with some six months separating me and part III. What can I say other than I am honing my skills in procrastination or else building up suspense for those of you following along one installment at a time.
Note, I pretty much just transcribe these questions and answer as I go. That said, if you come across incomprehensible questions or answers it is most entirely due to my inability to read and type at the same time. Please let me know and I will remedy it or keep it as-is if it is funnier that way.
Would you say you “exist”, in the sense that you can sense some thread of you-ness tying together, as handwriting ties together a person’s hand-written words, the way you behave in bank lines, around bosses, around lovers, friends — in all situations, I mean? Ah, the solipsist’s dilemma. I can certainly feel my own “thread” even if it is, or is not, split across an infinite set of slices of infinitely small bits of space and time. And in so much as I am aware I am also aware of my self; however, are those others with whom I interact with observing me truly? Or are they, including yourself, just figments of my own who are “observing” me, which is really just some abstracted sense of my self observing my self from an externalized position? Do you follow? Maybe not, but frankly, this may not be wholly what you are asking, now is it? I believe I have touched other people’s lives and I further believe that it is something we should all strive to do whenever (reasonably) possible, even if it is just to smile to a stranger or open a door for a parent pushing her child in a stroller. In this we “thread” ourselves into others, knitting a fabric of community, as it were, if you can bear with me this rather saccharine metaphor. But there it is and that is how I feel.
Doesn’t your heart just plummet when you cause a big mess? Yes and no. Yes in that I never wish to cause harm to another. But at the same time we are all human, myself included. (Surprise!) And some times the mess I am involved with is more as catalyst or stimulant than as causer (sic). In this I mean we are all responsible for how we respond to stimuli; I cannot bear the weight of any person’s response to something I do or say.
Do you hate the rich? What a silly question. I try not to spend too much time thinking about other people, nor do I spend much energy (anymore) concerning myself with the “shoulds” and “ought to’s” for either myself or others. I do not think people are materially better off than others are necessarily “wealthier” nor just “better” than others. For myself, the wealthiest people are those who have found love in themselves, nurtured love in others, and made the time for both.
Or pity them? I try never to pity anyone anything; we are all on our own journey with our means to find ourselves, or lose ourselves, as the case may be.
How much help have you had in life? In some ways I have had more help than others. In other ways I have had very little. I grew up under the guiding words, “Do not do as I do or say since I do not know what I am doing, just figure life out for yourself.” And yes; I quote. I took that advise to heart and raised myself … sadly not too well. So I am starting all over in my mid-thirties. I think I have a chance of getting it right this time, too.
How many beds have you had in your life? I must presume you mean how many beds have I owned or at least were deemed mine, not just slept in. Off the top of my head, I had a crib, child’s bed, waterbed, bunk bed, futon, queen, and two king’s, or eight (8) total.
As a little kid, did you consciously act like a little kid? Oh god yes! It was the best way to drive my father nuts, especially nonsensical baby-talk.
Do you see a shrink? Not presently, but in the past I have sought the help of therapists and counselors. Some of the best revelations have come from moments with a “practiced guide.”
Have you ever been on a blind date? No.
Where did your grandparents end up? In a grave.
Did they stay where they were or immigrate toward the heat, chasing sunshine like cartoon potted plants that creep about on tiptoe roots? Oh, you mean that. My one grandmother remained in the area where she was born and raised. My other grandmother did an annual migration between summery north and wintery south. Neither of my grandfathers I knew well, but one of my grandfathers, too, remained to his last days in the area we was born and raised.
At a certain point, will we all switch to “old people’s clothes”, or will we go on dressing as we always have until we learn what we have been wearing ARE old people’s clothes? The latter.
Macs or PCs? Macs.
Do you finish most books you start, or do they lie around on coffee-tables and night-stands, open, face-down, slowly deforming? I am definitely not into the deformation of books. Books should be respected, in my opinion. But you are certainly free to crack the bindings, just not on my own, though. And I normally finish a book once I start it.
Do you take good care of things? Yes.
Have you ever had an injury from sleeping badly? Yes. I swear I have sprained my big toe from tossing and turning.
Do you belong to any online friend networks, or has that box where you’re asked to cram yourself into 200 words always been too intimidating?Yes.
Are you very (or would you be if you let yourself be) hairy? I am told by others I am hairy. I consider myself average. I have thought of going the other way (hairy) and removing hair from certain areas.
Where, if you have a choice, do you like to sit when at the movies? Two-thirds of the way back and center of the row.
Do you like to turn around and look at the shining, rapt faces? No. And I do not go to those kinds of movies.
Do you like watching people watch tennis, the uniformly turning faces? I have never really watched people play tennis, let along people watch tennis.
When did you learn to tie shoelaces? I have no idea, but sometime between my birth and now.
Do you remember when three o’clock was the most important time? Yes; those were good years.
Boxers or briefs (if such applies)? Boxers.
What is the worst injury you’ve ever sustained at a beach? I accidentally ripped off the toenail on my little toe. I did so by tripping over a rock I had hidden in the sand. I hid it in the vain attempt to trip an unwary person. One might say I discovered how quickly karma can get paid back.
Do you like to go in? Do I like to swim at the beach? Yes; except for the sharks.
Do you like going around shirtless or going around in bathing suits, or are you secretly electric with nerves? I do not like going around shirtless. And for the rest, I am not even sure what you are asking. Are you smoking something?
As far (as) places you’ve been, if you are tallying the list for the sheer pleasure of a large number, do airports counts? No.
Shoes with Velcro, have you ever owned? Yep. I love velcro shoes, especially my Vibram FiveFingers.
Who do you think has more friends, me or you? You. But then again, you spent all this time writing all these questions which may imply you are a quiet introverted writer. And then there is me who is diligently answering all your questions, another introverted aspiring-writer. So maybe we have about the same number of friends.
When indoors and too warm, is your impulse to blame the room or fear a fever? I like warm rooms, but I assume the room is warm and not I with a fever.
Is a lack of exterior corridors how you go about judging a motel? I have not thought of it till now, but on reflection it does seem to signify (to me, at least) a place of lower quality.
Have you ever walked along a highway for reasons other than a broken-down car? I have walked along country-side highways, but never one with purpose-built on- and off-ramps.
Is there any ordinary walk more desolate than the longer-than-you’d think walk between huge joined chain stores (such as between a Best Buy and Home Depot) where you vacillate as to whether to drive but don’t because it’s all the same parking lot? Walking along a road with strip-malls along the side is the most desolate to me, such as walking up and down Aurora Avenue in Seattle north of 100th Street NE.
Have you ever sharpened a knife? Quite regularly.
As a teenager, did you loiter? No. I did not grow in towns like that. We had garbage cans like most civilized places.
What is the longest you’ve ever gone without speaking to another human? Months.
Do you think you could go a week? When I was younger that was my norm.
For whom have you caused the greatest joy? As an aspiring self-actualized person I hope it is myself.
Who has hurt you the most? Myself.
When is the last time you purchased pornography? Twenty or more years ago when I was in high school.
Do you tend toward pigeon-toed or penguin-footed? Penguin footed.
Did you ever purchase CliffNotes? I think once when I was in high school.
Do people generally listen to you or ignore you? I depends on the person for sure, but I feel I am listened to by most people. But then again, I might infer from the question, that you are referring to situations when I might give people advise. I loathe giving people advice lest I am willing to take responsibility for my advice.
Are you vigilant about seatbelts? Yes. When I am the driver I will not move the car until everyone has buckled up. It is one the few times where I will not respect individual rights.
Peppermint or spearmint? Peppermint ice cream or peppermint chocolate. Otherwise, spearmint tea or spearmint gum.
Which you find increases more rapidly, your age or your idea of what age is old? I grew up with older parents so I tend to think “old” begins in a person’s seventies. But as I have aged that age has actually decreased since I feel my own mortality more acutely. I only apply “old” to myself. I am old. Other people in my same age bracket are not old, in my opinion.
Why does it feel like such a victory, just remembering certain instances, certain people? Because you and I both likely have crappy memories.
Do you set you watch at the exact time or ahead? Exact time. This includes all clocks. Ideally, I set them to within tenths of a second against a world clock.
If ahead, do you find you simply subtract the difference, thus making the point of setting your watch ahead entirely irrelevant? For awhile I did this with an alarm clock. And yes, I just ended up subtracting the difference. And while I always knew how to read the clock, others did not and regularly complained to me.
Do you mess with things, such as a watch’s tiny winding knob, just thumbnail it out , then thumb it in? Yes. I love to mindlessly fidget with things like that.
Do you ever mess with the button inside the fridge that makes the light go on and off? Only once as a kid to verify that is how it worked.
Does your weight go up and down or stay the same? My weight used to fluctuate more than it does currently. Currently it fluctuates by 1-2 pounds per day above or below my average.
What roller coasters, generally, is your mental health strapped into? I am always one for the old timber roller coasters. I like something that has character and can be a bit unpredictable in little ways but ultimately gives you a rocking good time and never really lets you down or gets you hurt.
Have you ever been caught in the act of sex? Yes.
Were you secretly proud? No. I was mortified.
When was the last time you ran as fast you possibly could? It is how I end every run no matter the distance is to sprint at the end. It is a lot of fun.
You can recall when you were pooped on by birds, no? Actually, I cannot. But I can remember when a seagull pooped into my grandmother’s hair. It, the poop, was the same color as her hair which made finding it rather difficult. I recall it being very funny at the time, however, in so remembering it does not seem particularly funny. Maybe you had to just be there in the moment for it to be funny, eh?
Do you ever find yourself (particularly when dressed up) tallying the total cost of all that you have on? Yes. It normally shocks me.
When naked, do you think “zero”? No. But it is a good point.
Do you say “take a shower” or “have a shower”? In this instance I am a taker. You?
Is “like” your vocal tic, or is it “you know”? Neither.
At what age did you buy your final pair of cleats? I am not certain of the exact age, but I was younger than sixteen.
Does scrawling your name on a screen when you pay by card scare you? Never. And nowadays I much prefer not getting a bag to carry my items along with getting my receipt emailed to me. It seems all very much more environmentally friendly.
As if they might think you are a forger? That has never crossed my mind.
In what grade in school did people begin to date? I think people began dating, at least as far as I was aware of it, in sixth grade. And by seventh grade it seemed pretty common except for myself. I never dated till after graduating high school.
Were you in on this? Like kickball I believe I was in the position right behind the “last person picked”.
If you had to dispose of a dead body, how would you? The simplest approach seems to call the coroner. Assuming I am in the middle of nowhere then I might dig them a grave. And if it is the end of the world I might just leave them there.
Who is your least judgmental friend? It is a tie between girlfriend and my best friend. Both of them just accept people, but then again that is a quality I value very highly in people so it is not too surprising that they are also closest to me.
Do you own or have you ever owned leather pants? No. Wait, I may have owned a pair but I cannot rightly remember. It seems like something I would have wanted when I was a teenager.
Is there anyone to whom you can tell everything? Yes. Finding such people is very important to me; those who I can form my closest ring of people with whom I share my life. There is a very strong correlation between non-judgmental and me sharing everything.
Can you sing any songs a cappella from beginning to end? Nope. But it would be neat if I could.
Do you like being followed around a house by an animal and then stopping, saying, hands on hips, “What are you looking at, little fellow?” You are a very strange person. No, I have not done that. But I imagine I might do that if I had an animal living with me.
Do you prefer being more loved or the more loving, the hunter or the hind? When I was younger I loved to be the one being loved. Nowadays, and I like to think it is due to wisdom or maturity gained at the hand of my mistakes, I prefer to both love and be loved in equal parts.
How many dogs, alive right now, do you know by name? Three.
What is the first website you go to after checking email? Either http://www.facebook.com or http://www.google.com/ig
Who, of those you know personally, has had the shortest marriage? Sadly, me. And likely me in both instances of my two marriages.
What is the oldest couple you know that has gotten divorced? I do not recall exact ages, but it seems like a lot of people get divorced around the twenty-year mark which would put the oldest couples in the late forties or early fifties.
Aren’t old-age divorces really sad? Divorce is always sad. The only time I truly mourn or lament over a divorce is when still-living-at-home children are involved. Otherwise, I only hope that the couple involved is making a decision that will (eventually) lead to them individually both being happier.
Did you know that Robert Frost loved gossip and was secure enough, as an old man, to admit it? Nope.
Do leather belts, when the excess isn’t tucked into a belt loop, ever confuse you into thinking they’re exposed penises? No. But I have thought it rather phallic when I used to tie my overly long, braided leather belt into a loop such that the excess hung down just a little to the side of the zipper. I was young. I was foolish. I had no common sense.
Do you then try to sneak back into that unknowing place, and continue trying to see then as 2-D penises? Ummm. No.
Two piece bathing suits or one (again, if such applies)? One.
Are you more an exhibitionist or a voyeur? My entire life feels like I am just one continuous stretch of voyeurism.
But the sight of yourself having sex in a mirror is exhilarating, no? No. I used to feel sorry for my partners having to look on me. Yes; I have a lousy body image.
Is there any furniture of your parents’ (a clock, an antique chair, a crystal bowl) that you’ve had your eye on for most of your remembered life? No.
When you see an old man or woman in a supporting role at a film’s outset, do you immediately begin thinking, “Well, it’s a given this one is going to die”? Yes. I do so whenever I read, too.
Is it really a bad thing that most films are predictable, as little else is? I do not think a story works, at some level, if it is not predictable. Stories are deeply ingrained in we humans and there is a reason that cultures separated by time and space repeatedly reproduce the same archetypes because fundamentally we share a common human experience. And when a story is not predictable it is often because the creator follows the basic structure of a story and yet is sufficiently nimble enough to vary parts in a way that does not violate the fundamentals. And whenever a story truly feels strange (e.g. French films) it because they are working at breaking down the deepest structures. As an aside, it may be that like language structure is an instinct (see Steve Pinker) story structure is built into the human brain at birth.
Do you, if you celebrate it, celebrate Christmas on Christmas or Christmas Eve? I celebrate it like it is 1999 and celebrate both on the Eve and the day of.
When making approximate sock matches, do you pair on texture (“these feel about right”), color (“well, these two have gold toes”), or both? I do not make approximate sock matches. I also buy socks in batches and ensure they are all the same style so I do not have to worry about this whole “approximate sock matching” farce.
Did you have chicken pox early in life? No. I actually had it when I turned 30. I got it on my way to Florida for Christmas with my family. I likely got it from one of the kids on their way to Disney World. And karma being what it is, I was my most contagious while at Disney World with my family, so I likely infected a lot of kids.
How much money do you make? More money than I need.
Is it less now than you’ve made in the past? No.
Which dish of your mom’s is or was your favorite? My mother used to make a delicious shepard’s pie made with real beef, corn, vegetables and potatoes. In the intervening years she has replaced it with ground beef, frozen peas and fake mashed potato. Sadly.
Which was your least favorite? Her idea of “chicken soup” which basically involves chicken meat, chicken bones, celery and water. Yes; no salt or seasoning.
Do you listen to phone messages all the way through or delete them? It really depends on who left the message. But I normally jump off the message and phone the person once I get a gist of what they need or want.
What is the longest book or series of books you’ve ever read? I suspect that Hardy Boys is the longest series by number of books. And certainly L. Ron Hubbard’s Mission Earth series was pretty long and a bit more “mature” in nature. The longest book, most likely, is David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.
Are you at a loss when you finish? I love reading books, but I am not sure I have ever been at a loss for words. But then you did not ask me if I was at a loss of words. Some books I feel a loss then they end. In particular, I feel this way whenever I read any of Tad William‘s books or J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings.
Are you a sucker for products on infomercials, adhesive putties, magnetic brooms, new devices for rapidly dicing vegetables? Absolutely not. Quite the opposite; I have an allergic reaction.
What about the extras, thrown in at the end, though predictable as a rock band’s big hit delayed until a concert’s encore, (“All this for only…”)? I do not get them. Both physically and intellectually.
Are you a sucker for those, too? Nope.
Do you find it frustrating that although you know how certain things “work” (for instance, how a love interest not calling you back automatically increases your interest), you can’t help but being drawn in?
But isn’t it human to be drawn in? Sure, it is human to be intrigued. But that does not mean we have to react to it, either. We can achieve self-actualization and allow ourselves the opportunity for interspection.
But then again, what is it to be “human” anyway, and why do we even want to be it?
Why not something else? Who says we are not something else? Who says you are human? Or me? A bit presumptuous, aren’t we?
Which would you rather be? A blue whale, unconscious and in tune, or God? A blue whale.
Do you ever miss appointments entirely? Yep, but only if it is a group of people getting together where I may only know one or two people.
Are you ever guilty about wanting too much, and monitor, like a waistline, your wants? Yes.
Isn’t it nice to stir butter around in, say a pot of pasta, and watch the pat dwindle and dwindle — “Oh, and here it comes again, now a little smaller”? I actually very much love seeing butter melt in things. Because I know it will soon my yummy-in-my-tummy time!
Do you think that? Umm, didn’t I already answer you?
Likewise, do you like watching flying helium balloons disappear into specks? No. It makes me mad because I think of how much it will likely impact the environment or kill some animal later on.
Do you watch loved ones disappear on train platforms or in rearview mirrors? I like to the stand in the front of my place and be sure to watch my guests leave safely. I only return inside after they are out of view. Does that count?
How often is it, would you say, that your life, to you, resembles a movie? Never.
Less often as before? I do not think I have ever thought that.
Are you adept at remembering birthdays? I cannot remember squat.
As a host, are you skilled and willing, skilled and unwilling, unskilled and willing, or unskilled and unwilling? It really depends on a lot of factors. I am willing if the party-size is small and intimate. And I think I am skilled for these size parties. But as the party size grows so does my willingness and skill diminish, likely exponentially.
In general, do you feel it’s your fault if someone is not having a good time? I used to think it was my responsibility. Nowadays I think everyone is responsible for themselves.
Are you a person that thinks he can fix people? No.
Can you? Even if I could that is not the issue.
Can you recreate the facial expression you use when purchasing items like condoms or Preparation H? I have a specific facial expression for this kind of purchase? I guess I use my normal face.
Plastic or paper at the grocery? First I use my own cloth bags. Then I ask for paper bags.
Are you one of these people who just doesn’t give a shit? I give a shit about myself. And I care about others. But at the end of the day, where my responsibility for myself ends my caring begins.
If no, do you think that these people actually exist? Yes.
Are they conscious of the fact that they don’t care and chant their un-caring down their collars? Yes.
Do you ever wish you could break dance, just spin and spin on your head in a subway station on a pizza box? I used to dream of that when I was younger, but I never could bust’a move.
Who would you guess is happier, me or you? I am pretty sure you already asked me this. Oh wait, you asked who had more friends. I know I am the happiest I have ever been in my life. But I do not know you so I really cannot answer that with any amount of confidence.
Do you like black liquorice? Yes.
Do you ever invite yourself? No.
Tonic water or soda water (yellow label or blue)? Tonic water. I believe it is the yellow label.
Bottled water or is doesn’t matter? I normally do not care, but on occasion I like bottled water.
Do you buy generic? If I buy bottled water than San Pellegrino.
Do you think you’re capable of letting yourself fall without bracing your body in any way? No.
How much money would that take? Nothing. It founds like a fun experience.
How much will? It is not a matter of will but a matter of mitigating the risk of injury. In that regards it takes will to not care about injury. And I think it irrational to intentionally hurt yourself.
How little must you sleep before you round down to none, tell others you didn’t sleep a wink?Three hours? Two? One? No sleep. Pretty simple, huh?
Do you still have possessions in someone else’s attic? No.
How conscious are you of your breath? Not at all. But I am now that you have asked.
When eating Thanksgiving, do you like to mash together the turkey and stuffing and potatoes and beans or keep them apart and them eat them separately? When I was a kid I loved to mash all my things together. Nowadays I like to largely keep them separate and on occasion add some of the carbohydrates to the proteins. And yes; I keep my favorite dish to the last so I am ensured my last bite is the best.
What’s been your toughest birthday? The day I turned 30. My first wife had contacted me on IM a few weeks prior while I was abroad on work to inform me she was divorcing me. I returned around 11PM the night before turning 30 to an empty house. The newt day, on my birthday, I went to see The Two Towers in a packed theater by myself. It was smothered in “awesome” sauce.
Are their any card games you’d say you were good at? I won the single poker tournament I was in. I used to be pretty good at Black Jack. I am otherwise not a card player of any repute.
Can you predict the rain with aches? No. But I can smell the rain in the air.
Do you knock on wood? No unless I am trying to be “ironic”, as it were.
Are you famous? I mean, do more people know who you are that you haven’t met than people that you have met? Marginally famous for somethings, but overall no.
If you opened the hood of your own smoking car, would you have any idea what you were looking at? Yes, an engine that is smoking.
Do you like to pretend? I have an enormous imagination so I love going on trips in my head whenever I get a chance, especially when I am running.
How often do you Google yourself? Rarely if ever.
Do you have any collections of things (books, wines, sports cards, jeans, fountain pens, stamps, toy figurines in original packaging) that you actively grow? Yes. I love buying (and reading, too) books. I also have started to collect wines, and yes I love to drink them, too.
Who is the animal you’ve loved the most? I had a goldfish I had for a few years that really grew on me.
What was its name? Kipper? Munchkin? Jake? Goldfish.
Do you like guessing names? No. I actually think it is rude and tends to indicate a more a prejudice of the caller than the callee.
What about guessing games? Those I enjoy.
At what age was your first kiss? I think I was 19 years old.
How often do you think of this? More than once a year? Never.
How often do you sleep till you wake? Normally I never sleep till I wake when I am working. But I am now do that more and more now that it is winter and I have less of an urge to go running in the early morning.
Is there anything better than climbing into bed and knowing this, knowing you’ll be sleeping an indefinite length? Only when another person is in bed with me.
What’s the most you’ve ever shelled out for shoes? $350.00
Do you like to camp? I love to camp, especially when I can see the stars.
Have you ever killed an animal with a car? I killed a few birds.
A gun? I once killed a bird with a BB-gun. It was the worst feeling ever.
Have you ever been in a boat from which you couldn’t see a shore? No.
What catalogs do you get? Catalogs that I want? None.
Can you ski? Yep. I just started skiing again after a near 20-year hiatus. It is awesome! I will be a ski instructor for kids with various challenges in the Outdoors for All program. I assume you mean alpine skiing. I used to nordic ski but not often. And I have also done water ski.
Id you could own a pro sports franchise, which sport would it be? Soccer or ice hockey.
Which team? Seattle FC Sounders or Buffalo Sabres (but I would move them to Seattle).
Who was your favorite teacher? My high school art teacher, Smo(lenski).
Is he/she still where he/she was, still teaching? I do not know.
What alterations to your form have you imagined? Unscrewable limbs? An extendable neck? A third arm, very short, projecting from your sternum? Perhaps four more fingers on each hand to fill the gaps between fingers, so as to double the noise you could make when drumming on tables while waiting, four more fingers to keep fine things like sugar from falling through fingers (though a doubling of fingers would, of course, double the number of gaps)? I used to think bionic lower legs would be cool so I could run faster. But all your other options sort of convey your sense of imagination at the expense of pragmatism or any degree of aptitude for engineering. Just saying.
Do you wash your hands before you eat? No.
Can you play any guitar? No.
Do you floss? Yes.
Have you ever pulled your car to the shoulder due to driving rain, and then just sat, waiting, totally overwhelmed? Yes, I was once in a thunderstorm with visibility down to 30 feet or so.
Are you disappointed by your windshield wipers’ highest speed? No.
Can you talk like Donald Duck? Yes! I heart Donald Duck.
Are you a fast walker? I am a moderately paced walker.
Do you or have you ever had a nickname? I have had a few nicknames. Wardo. Wardly. Interestingly, “Wardly” has been given to me on distinct occasions from different people who did not know each other or the shared nickname.
Were you one of these people at whom nicknames, like noodles at cabinets, were thrown? Just a little bit.
Do you count the books you have by a certain artist and then just delight a moment in the number (“ah, 13” or “ah, 7”)? No.
If you smoke, do you stub butts mid-way or always suck them down to the filter’s end? I do not smoke.
Do ringing phones on televisions cause you confusion? No.
Do you take your pulse a lot? No.
Are you ever afraid to take it, in the way one is afraid to take a receipt from an ATM? No. My pulse is between 45 and 60 depending on how rested or relaxed I am.
Are you salaried or hourly? Salaried.
At what age did you cease taking baths or cease exclusively taking baths? I stopped when I was very young. 10? And then I started taking them again in Japan. I love hot baths.
How rare or not rare are those days in which you don’t leave your home or don’t spend any money? I can certainly leave my home without spending any money since I love to run. And now that it is winter I enjoy staying inside, but I still try to get out at least once during the day for physical activity.
That feels great, doesn’t it? Yes.
Who am I? You.
Have you ever let a roach or some other bug in your apartment or home live? All the time.
Do you always eat breakfast? It is very rare that I ever skip breakfast.
Did you cheat in school? No.
Did you let others cheat off you? No.
At what age (if such applies) did the thought of a pink room begin to sicken you? Does it sicken you? I cannot say I would love it, but I cannot say it would sicken me, either.
Were you allowed, as a child, to watch R-rated movies? Nope.
Which minds do you admire? Any? That has changed over the years from abstractions, or at least people I did not know, to people I know. I used to admire Einstein and Feynman and Jobs. Nowadays, I admire the people around me who exhibited a sense of measured proportion and balance such as my girlfriend.
Have you ever stayed overnight in a hospital? No.
Do you like being patient and having people coming to see you like a kind, or are you driven mad that you can’t get up and go? That is an interesting characterization of two extremes without a middle ground. I like to be patient. But I also like to get up and go once something is decided upon. And I do not like people coming to me like I am a king.
Do you hope for a swift, abrupt death, or would you rather spend time on the deathbed? I think it is important to let go and help yourself and the people love move on, as it were. In that sense I think spending time before my death is an admirable and worthy way to spend some of your time living.
Have you ever, imagining the deathbed as a kind of perfectly edited highlight reel of your life, filed away certain items to recall later, such as “Yes, the first time I biked home from work through Times Square at about 4 am, hopping through red lights, and no one was there, and the whole square, that 75-foot-tall cube of light, was something I was having to myself, and the wet white litter was everywhere, just an unbelievable amount, yes, yes, absolutely, that definitely makes the deathbed reel”? No. But I do often think upon what I will be remembered for. I hope it is for kindness. I hope it is for some sense of wisdom and empathy toward the people in and around me. I hope that if I have children they will strive to duplicate and then exceed these attributes about me, the things that I believe make a human noble even not always humble (in so much that it is not humble to have these thoughts).
Would you put low-lights on your reels? I think we think a bit differently. And I am not too sure that that means.
Say, some childhood scene when you spilled a whole quart of yogurt on your lap, or the time you waited in a 45-minute line on your birthday for a roller coaster you ended up being too afraid to ride or when you pushed a friend’s little brother into a swimming pool in his clothes and their mother screamed at you and screamed at you because the child could have died? I prefer either the touching scenes or the ones that make fun of me. Like when my sister put me in my grandmother’s bra and snapped shots on grandma’s camera without telling her and she only realized that her grandson was dressed in drag after the pharmacist who developed her film commented on the pictures and then she called us up mortified that everyone thought her grandson was gay and that everyone in Kitchner-Waterloo knew it. I am not gay, but that is not the point. She yelled at Renee for what seemed like an eternity; it was the best thing ever.
Do you begin to think of yourself as a year older before your birthday? Yes. I turn 38 in a week or so and already I feel it better to round-up ahead of everything. It is just easier that way.
If so, how many days or months before? By November rolls around I have already added a year to my age.
Do you mind when dogs lick your face? No.
If so, will you pretty much let any non-stray dog lick your face? Yes.
What websites do you like? Wouldn’t you like to know, eh?
Have you ever flown first class? Yes. I got bumped up to first class on my first return trip from Japan. And I happened to have caught mono but did not yet know it at the time. I was popping aspirin like it was candy to manage the pain in my throat. I did not enjoy the experience at all; sadly, too.
Do you ever fantasize about returning with your present abilities to a situation where your lack of those abilities caused you shame or just ordinariness? Yes. I wish I could go back to Japan as an exchange student but being as fluent as I am now. And then once this break in time-space continuum is generated, it loop over infinitely and then 1 second afterwards I will be a world-expert in Japanese. It will be awesome.
What is your favorite month? I love August and September.
Are there businesses that you boycott? No. But I prefer to buy from local stores and those owned by people living in my community.
Were you a real go-getter when it came to selling raffle tickets? Raising money? Securing magazine subscriptions? Once. I sold the most items when in Cub Scouts. But I really did not enjoy the experience; it seemed a lot like manipulating people.
Among relatives, who is the biggest low-life? My mother’s sister.
How tall was your dad? I think he was once 5-foot, 10-inches. He is now closer to 5-foot, 8-inches.
When you sense your breath is bad, do you exhale into your cupped hand then attempt to sniff with your nose? Yes.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but the cold showers you’ve been forced to take have survived in memory, have they not? Yes. I love them.
From top to bottom, off the top of your head, are traffic lights red-yellow-green or green-yellow-red? Red-yellow-green. That is to ensure that the red-light is visible from the furthest distance since stopping is more important than going.
Do you know who know things like that? Yes. Me.
How frequently do you say your own name followed by “is dead, is dead” in the imagined voices of sorrowful friends? Never.