Some nights you find yourself happening back upon the words of your favorite poet and it’s pure bliss.
This one to Vincent, from Frank. Notice the acrostic of it. “We’re all for the captured time of our being”–after all of that headlong movement like a train barreling on he comes to stillness; “captured time”. Ahhh, yes.
You are Gorgeous and I’m Coming
Vaguely I hear the purple roar of the torn-down Third Avenue El
it sways slightly but firmly like a hand or a gold-downed thigh
normally I don’t think of sounds as colored unless I’m feeling corrupt
concrete Rimbaud obscurity of emotion which is simple and very definite
even lasting, yes it may be that dark and purifying wave, the death of boredom
nearing the heights themselves may destroy you in the pure air
to be further complicated, confused, empty but refilling, exposed to light
With the past falling away as an acceleration of nerves thundering and shaking
aims its aggregating force like the Métro towards a realm of encircling travel
rending the sound of adventure and becoming ultimately local and intimate
repeating the phrases of an old romance which is constantly renewed by the
endless originality of human loss the air the stumbling quiet of breathing
newly the heavens’ stars all out we are all for the captured time of our being
For the sake of ledger(ing), here’s a review of my H1 2017 goals and a listing of my Q3 2017 goals (all personal goals—professional goals excluded).
H1 2017 Goals
Buy less than H1 2016
— Success. I’m sure I’m missing a few variables (tracking reimbursable work spend, for instance), but my YoY spend through Q1 and Q2 in 2017 is down 15.02% from the same periods in 2016.
I don’t have a great hack for this—I still think I spend too much. I tried to spend less on Amazon (down almost 50% in same time period as last year). I tried to make myself think about any clothing purchase for at least 3 days before purchasing (do I really need this?). Lastly, I tried to not buy books, with the only reasoning being that I have more than enough to read through this year (and several more). I’m essentially building my own queue that’ll hit impossibility eventually. So…….I bought 11.
Volunteer at least 25 hours
— Not success. I volunteered a total of 21 hours in H1. I have no excuses here. I know that volunteer work is good for myself, my community, and my world. I didn’t prioritize this. It was a failed attempt at a worthwhile goal. And it’s not that many hours. Darn.
Publish 2 literary criticism essays (+1000 words) on my blog
— Not success. I published one very not-well-thought-out piece of criticism. I had another draft. I just couldn’t get behind this. It’s not an excuse since it’s just a lack of discipline but it wasn’t my favorite goal. I did throw up one review of the exceptional Nick Cave documentary, so many that can count too. Either way, no success on this one.
Deadlift 160% of BW
— Success. On 6/5/2017, I deadlifted 275lbs. I weighed myself that morning at 169.8 pounds. That’s 162% of my bodyweight. I’m glad I set this goal too since it was the morning after a later night—U2 show at Soldier Field. Without having this goal set, I likely would have skipped the gym or held off from going for 275.
Can’t say how good this feels to see progress in my deadlift. It was just 4 years ago I was walking with a cane in Vancouver.
Q3 2017 Goals
Moving to quarter goals. Here’s what I’ll try to achieve before October 1, 2017.
Unsurprisingly, I think a lot about destinations. A lot about geography. This comes naturally to a traveler; and for a long time I identified as a traveler. In even the slightest of caged-in moments, I still do.
Some of this came swelling up my stomach recently as I read W.S. Merwin’s lines: ““we travel far and fast/and as we pass through we forget/where we have been”
These lines pained me in a small way; thinking that the destinations of the past might not have the hold they once did. That travel is tied to a being-present(ness) and it becomes a series of moments that center around the current.
Anyway, it got me thinking about destinations, like I said.
And all of this got me thinking about another time, one from earlier this year. It was in a moment where I had a fleeting obsession with my own geography. Of my very particular geography. And it happened in Bali, in March.
It happened in Bali because while in Bali, amid doing the things one normally does in paradise, I read Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. Why I made this decision, I don’t know, but since I didn’t find any bookstores flying from Manila into Bali (late at night) this book was what I was going to read at my villa—or on the beach—for the next 4 days. And that I did.
While reading, a gulf occurred to me. A rather meaningful one too, or at least I thought so at the time. Wise Blood is the story of Hazel Motes, a vet returning home to the South, sometime in the early part of last century.
Through the story, he takes his disenfranchisement with certain cores of Catholicism to bat—by way of oratory and persuasion on the less intelligent. As it unwinds, it drives him to murder. In between all of that is a slew of creepy characters, copycats, and more Biblical allusions than one could mark properly in marginalia.
For me, it’s not O’Connor’s best, but O’Connor’s best is some of the best there is. But this isn’t a book review. So here’s why all of this matters.
Wise Blood is dark, ominous, and foreboding. There’s not a happy step in it. And I read this in perfect 89º weather, with a pool, the ocean, fresh fruit, yoga, beautiful people, you name it. Paradise.
Even more, Bali isn’t just all aesthetics. It itself has religious roots, though far from the ones Hazel clobbers with his sloppy proclamations. It is the Hindu foothold of Southeast Asia; a place whose beauty is owed to the various gods, whose rice paddies are in pious symmetry. The landscape a sort of prayer, or ode, of its own.
This was odd enough to be remarkable (at least to me, which is why I’m writing this at all). Why so? Because it left me with a central question: the criteria for any good literary essay. And the question is this: what does the reader’s geography mean to a story?
So let’s start here: I don’t have the answer. And I don’t expect to find one in the next few hundred words, either. But let’s see where we get.
Undeniably, we’re colored by our landscape. Our moods, our smiles, our tone are all affected by the seasons and the views we’re in at any moment. Wallpaper matters, you know. And I’m confident the same can be said for any reader. Even the best reader, so absorbed and engrossed in some text, is textured by setting. Think of any time your room is too warm, too cold, or too loud. These change you as a reader.
So we know there’s an effect. The question is on the magnitude of the shading.
And so I’m looking for the longball here. I’m thinking about the effect of opposites; reading something totally antithetical to surrounding. And it’s not the actually effects of my surrounding worth examining here, it’s the geography of place. I can’t change the settings on Bali like I could on my air conditioning.
First, my thoughts are on the escapability of your two worlds. A book is easily escaped, at least tangibly, simply by closing it. You have, then, no access to anything further, and all that you could bring up are (a) already read pages, based on your memory, or (b) a memory of your feelings while reading the preceding pages.
Your limited in your geography in a similar fashion. You see what your eyes see. You feel what your heart feels; warmed by sunlight, calmed by the tide, or disturbed by something jarring. You can know more by hearing about a place, but cannot go beyond knowledge—into experience—until your senses grab hold of your surrounding.
So we have equalization there—in one’s exploration of each of these facets.
In the comparison of physical geography and literary geography, one of these is easily defeated, however. The world of a book ends in totality when that book is closed; even really if you’ve kept it in your mind. It exists only in the worlds on the page—while the real world one occupies is created based on the five (or more, definitely more) senses. One would need to lock oneself in a room with no windows and walls of concrete to escape ones real geographical surroundings—and even if one did, that stale room would then become one’s geography. You cannot escape place. You can likely escape words (can you language?), and certainly someone else’s.
One last point is about contributors. We can say that, with varying degrees of effect, an author is affected by her geography. More suitable critics than I can pick where those effects take part in one’s story. But the author does not know the readers’ geographies; and cannot predict. This puts one at a disadvantage if we can assume, and I think we can, that a reader’s geography plays some part in the experiential part of being an audience.
The author can provide instructions on reading, which may mitigate this mystery. We see this in music sometimes (the Stones’ Let It Bleed came with the very specific instructions of “Play this LOUD”, for example) but it’s not often, it holds no guarantee of instruction following. AND it might impose a limitation in story that many authors are not interested in.
Going back to Wise Blood, I cannot imagine O’Connor penning these words on a beach, and likely can’t imagine her imagining her reader reading her words on one. We know, from its history, that part of it was written in Iowa, part in New York, and others in other inland places of high Americana. No Bali listed on that part—nothing foreign, no Indian Ocean tide. The terrains seem light years apart.
I think this is where the geography question gets most interesting. It’s intriguing to me to think about reading southern catholic gothic (some call this the “grotesque” in O’Connor’s works) in one of Earth’s most beautiful places. It’s even more bewildering to think of O’Connor trying to hold the idea of her book being read one day in such a diametrically opposed setting. That for me holds the most substance.
For now, I think that’s where I can take this. I’d add in an urge to any reader to reflect on their environment. Where are you reading this now? How is that changing your reading of even this? On the other side, authors must somehow come to grips with the mystery of what any future readers setting will (not might) be; and then somehow sacrifice some truth of their story to the whims of geography.
I got turned onto Nick Cave by way of a smattering of recommendations, and from all angles. See, it’s fairly apparent after spending time with me that I have a sway toward deep-voiced, brooding lead singers (see Morrison, Jim and Vedder, Eddie). Nick Cave fits into that—with a more poetic bent than the rest, another reason I was drawn to him once I heeded those recommendations.
I saw on Metacritic that Cave’s last album Skeleton Tree was getting rave reviews. I read some of those reviews. I quickly learned the story that has become inextricably attached to that album: it’s a portrait of heartbreak after Cave’s 15-year-old son died unexpectedly during the recording of the album.
It takes not even one single second of starting that album to get that vibe. The first track ‘Jesus Alone’ starts with a wicked theremin-like wail of lightning. And then Cave’s voice comes on, guiding our ears through the tunnels of some dark, dark, dark poetry. And we’re entered into it all.
Around that same time, Metacritic also featured an exceptionally praised new documentary called One More Time With Feeling. It was a music film (I’m tempted to avoid the word “documentary”) about Cave making the album. Or, more appropriately, it’s Cave putting the final touches on the album—post-tragedy.
Let’s just say that the air is thick with this one. There’s a few light moments and they cut through hard, but the mainstay is much closer the character that Cave portrays externally—dark, suited, clean around the corners, and bathed and aged in experience.
This is, at least, the main crux of the film. There are other parts mixed in—Cave’s narrating of out-of-studio scenes, for instance, allow us a glimpse into the man’s existence. There’s also a crafty director playing games with the cinema of the music; swerving camera angles and bending our perception points. The whole thing is filmed in black and white (with spontaneous bursts of light so stark it might as well be color) and with some new-fangled kind of 3D camera. I’m sure there’s more info on that online.
The director that pulls these disparate parts together into a cohesive unit (at least as cohesive as a chaotic punk like Cave would allow for) is Andrew Dominik. I know him from The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford—a film as solid as its title is long. He’s benefited, at least in my view, by Cave’s knack for understanding the point where music can meet with cinema for a collaborative and combined, rather than negative, effect. Cave, after all, has scored several movies (including last year’s excellent Hell or High Water).
It could be for this reason, or another entirely, that Cave plays his part on camera so well. While his voice echoes almost like statuary, he is animated in the way a wise elderly poet is animated. His genius is cast through. His musical partner’s genius is cast through by way of lens work, as well. We are swarmed by genius—musically, visually, emotionally.
In the end, its one of the most unique films I’ve seen in years and touches upon the nerve of the viewer in ways both beautiful and dark. And that doesn’t require one more time. It’s got all the feeling offered that we’re ready or able to accept.
The last five or six weeks have been oddly up & down for me. I think the stoic in me is usually able to keep things on a more even keel. The epicurean in me keeps joy as a fundamental priority. Usually, this is my mainstay: a streamlined and consistent happy.
And the last few weeks have been seen plenty of that. This last Saturday my friends and I hired a live band that put on a rocking house party AND two parades around the neighborhood. I had a great weekend in NYC recently; hopping around Xanadu. Friends are still warm, books are still wonders, exercise moves my body and strengthens me.
But there’s also been some downs. Work has had a few letdowns; both in my small area and in the larger ones (Uber’s string of headlines haven’t been rosy lately, to say the least). The weather, after being away from Chicago for so many years, probably has me down more than I care to admit. Politics, of course, have been, well, some kind of deliberate hell.
But I’m breathing and I’m alive and I’m happy despite these things. And if I get down, I’ve found a few inspirations lately that have brought out some poignant uplifting in me.
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
Pearl Jam’s ‘It’s OK’ Performance, Virginia Beach 2000
In 2000, Pearl Jam played a festival in the Netherlands. Early in the show, things got out of hand and nine people died from being crushed. That, I can only imagine, is likely the worst thing you could experience as an entertainer. The band made it clear how hard it hit them.
That was June 30.
They cancelled a few shows after that. The next show they played was August 3rd, about 5 weeks later, in Virginia Beach.
His instructions: “Sing it loud. Sing it loud beacause we’re outside. Sing it loud because we’re still alive. Just…..just sing it loud.”
Clearly, it’s as much for him and the band as it is for us. But it’s a useful reminder; after tragedy, after boredom, malaise, terror, anything…..It’s ok.
This is my life/This is my chance/This is my hope in an alleyway
Langston Hughes’ “Dream-Dust”
Gather out of star-dust Earth-dust, Cloud-dust, Storm-dust, And splinters of hail, One handful of dream-dust Not for sale
Mahershala Ali’s Interview
I saw a lot of movies last year. Should-be-Oscar-shoe-in Moonlight was my favorite. And a big part of that was Mahershala Ali’s character Juan—a mentor, father figure for the main character. Juan, more than any of the other best support actor nominees, or any supporting role really, loomed on screen in nearly all the scenes he was not in (no spoilers!)
I was impressed with Ali’s acceptance speech at the SAG awards. The idea of oppressed people folding into themselves was a profound way to put it.
BUT, it was this interview he did that really got me this month. I must have read it two weeks now and I still think about it. Why?
Because, here’s a man who has had MASSIVE success this year. Like peaking in his craft, his life’s work. And, how does he end an interview? Not by saying he’s grateful or that he’s basking in the success of his hard work. No, he leaves it like this, a perfectly reflective, all-too-human look at ourselves and our own capabilities. It’s really quite profound.
“Now, I’m just dealing with the things that all men and women deal with when we recognize our faults. We all have to do work to be our best selves, to civilize ourselves in the way we see fit. I’m dealing with the things that keep me from being the fullest person I can be.”
2016 was, well these things are always so hard to whittle down to simple adjectives, but it was fun, surprisingly both stable and unstable at times, and packed full of new and unique experiences. All in all, it was a good year. I’m happy to say that upon reflection. I suppose that’s all we ever really want, yeah?
But it’s especially important since 2016 was the first year in a long time that I stayed put. I lived in one place for the year. I signed my first yearlong lease (since college, which really doesn’t count the same way). I built myself a room in an apartment with some friends and kept coming back to it like a boomerang. It’s the longest I’ve ever done that for in my adult life.
So I’m glad that I could find joy; both in the present and upon reflection, without needing the influx of new locations streaming through.
So the year. I’ll start with the highlights: the Chicago Cubs, my team of all teams, finally ended its famous drought and won the 2016 World Series. Since the baseball playoffs are a month-long affair, I got to enjoy their winning ways all through October and a bit into November. It’s an experience I won’t soon forget.
I got to go to Burning Man and check that off the bucket list. I was prodigious in my reading (less so my writing but that might be a 2017 focus). I finished my ebook and got it on Amazon. I got my first tattoo. I tried the ketogenic diet. I juice cleansed. I bone-broth cleansed. I’m currently in a bout of vegetarianism.
I said at the beginning of the year that I wanted to be in a relationship (since it went hand in hand with the whole being location-stable part) and I was able to do that—for most the year. I decided later in the year that I wanted to explore something else, but the relationship gave me great joy and I’m grateful for it. It’s a year that will be tied to many memories with that individual.
I wanted to spend the year in service to others. I set a very ambitious goal of volunteer hours that I did not meet (goal was 150, came out around 55). I do, in many ways, find my job to be a fulfillment of that idea, but I know it doesn’t always count when you’re getting paid for these things. Still, it’s a bonus to receive that sentiment—one of doing service to and for others—from my professional day-to-day.
My other three goals for the year are related to the above: read more books than last year (19 last year, 21 this year), get a tattoo (done!) and go on an experiential retreat (Burning Man). Accomplished. Nice! I set some professional goals as well and hit most of those, but that’s for a piece of writing and reflection outside of this blogpost.
Ups and downs. Swings to and fro. They happen in every year, but it was an important reminder for me that this year had them too. That I have an identity outside of being a nomad and a wanderer, and that life can and will reward me with its richness even as I do, like I said, stay put.
So, some other notes, highlights, and favorites from 2016.
Unique Destinations Traveled To:Roatan (yep, started here!) > Chicago > Madison > Phoenix/Scottsdale > Mexico City > London > Dubrovnik > Mostar > Sarajevo > Split > Zadar > Plitvice > Rijeka > Venice > Crothersville > San Francisco > Black Rock City > New Jersey > New York City > Flagstaff > Los Angeles
Writing: In 2016, I finished my ebook on traveling while working (link). It was a project that started in 2015, got semi-abandoned in 2016 and then picked back up again. Though it’s not exactly what I pictured from my first (e)book, I’m proud to call it my own. There’s a lot of good nuggets of learning packed in there for my years traversing the globe.
Over the year, I published 9 blog posts. That’s a fairly slow year for me comparatively. (I did do a fair amount of notebook scribbling that I didn’t publish anywhere). I did have my single most successful (in terms of visitors/page views) this year; a letter to my little sister on the election of our future president (who shall go nameless).
Reading: Book list below. Goal was to read more books than last year (19) which I did! Dates are when the book was finished.
Aunt Julia and The Scriptwriter (Mario Vargas Llosa); January 5
Momo (Michael Ende); February 9
The Principles of Uncertainty (Maira Kalman); Feburary 10
Consolations (David Whyte); February 29
Gilead (Marilynne Robinson); March 10
The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards (Kristopher Jansma); March 27
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (Daniel Pink); March 29
M Train (Patti Smith); April 26
Waiting for Godot (Samuel Beckett); May 30
Tinkers (Paul Harding); June 27
The Bonfire of The Vanities (Tom Wolfe); July 10
Notes from No Man’s Land (Eula Bliss); July 23
33 1/3 Series: Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville (Gina Arnold); July 29
The Sleep Revolution (Arianna Huffington); July 30
The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov trans. Burgin & O’Connor); September 26
The History of Pi (Petr Beckman); October 23
Flash Boys (Michael Lewis); October 31
Ready Player One (Ernest Cline); November 13
Modern Lovers (Emma Straub); November 18
When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi); December 2
The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950-2001 (Adrienne Rich); December 22
Professionally: This was my first full year at Uber and first full year at an office. It was nice to have that kind of stability, but it’s the unique opportunities that a year coming to the same place can afford you. This year I got to know my coworkers in a deeper way and got to enjoy the diversity of my specific office. As chaotic and challenging as my job can be at times, it’s rewarding in these ways and so many more. Several times over the year I felt a nice pang or rush of satisfaction for what I got to each and every day and the people I get to serve in my role.
Pearl Jam: 2 shows. Glorious nights at the Friendly Confines (Wrigley Field)
Favorite 2016 New Thing:Going to the Movies Alone
I don’t mean this as a knock to anyone I’ve been to a movie with, but there’s something so much free(r) about going by oneself. And it’s not just that I tend to be shyer about showing emotions surrounded by people I know—it’s the thinking and intaking. The depth of what you’re being shown. The “is”-ness of the movie (which a friend recently sent me) that you can become part of on your own. It’s just a simpler way to go deeper in the silence of your own mind (or the walking out of the theater after), and I love it.
I did this about a dozen times this year. Lied about what I was doing once or twice, and other times just flat out told people. Either way, I reveled in it.
(This section was originally Hardcore History, the amazing podcast by Dan Carlin, but I had done a podcast the last two years and really wanted to think about my favorite new “thing” in 2016. It was the movies thing).
Favorite book I read in 2016:Consolations by David Whyte
Definition as poetry. Poetry as an attempt to escape metaphor and become concrete. David Whyte merges these and more in Consolations. And it’s a whirlwind of prose and story and explanation and precision with shades of beauty.
The book is divided into chapters which seek to define a word. A common word. Friendship. Pain. 50 others. The full title of the book is Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words and there’s a sense that Whyte takes his mission to heart. Each chapter peels a word backward only to leap them forward in your mind. No more are there limited definitions for the ways we use these words; but wider maps (*) that each allow us to explore.
Reading Consolations was like opening a dictionary to find only obscured photographs begging you to interpret, realize, define, distinguish, and so on. I was grateful to do it 52 times over.
Other Favorites:Notes from No Man’s Land (Eula Bliss), The Master and Margarita (Mikhail Bulgakov)
Favorite 2016 movie: Moonlight
It’s already a critical success—one of the biggest in the last few years, and I’m sure reading the heaps of praise put on Barry Jenkins’ movie swayed me in some ways. But there’s something undeniably unique about the way this movie brings you in. And, more importantly, how it spits you out.
Split into three parts, each seems to end abruptly. In the middle of some development (not necessarily action) and you find yourself aching to have that character back (or, really, that version/age of Chiron). You never get to. But you do get to see into that person’s future, and an almost fresh narrative forms around our character.
It’s a brilliant and brutal way to tell a story of an adolescent (and one just as daring, I might add, as Linklater’s extreme on the other end in Boyhood). Especially when that narrative revolves around the character’s search for his own identity. If the motif of a movie dealt with location, or a relationship, the chopped up storytelling style might play off easier. Instead, it’s hard. It’s hard to have three different actors play your main character. Hard to see the others around him grow. Hard to not see the middle parts, the ties that bind our Chirons together.
And, yet, it pulls this off beautifully. Both with subtle color and with dialogue acting as a a hammer to the emotional core.
Other Favorites:Arrival. American Honey. To Hell or High Water. Demolition. Jackie
Favorite 2016 album: Teens of Denial (Car Seat Headrest)
There were some great albums this year, no doubt about it. This one stood out as something new, but also nostalgic. It brought me back to my days of listening to punk/pop-punk and doing so loudly.
The album has its moments, some concentrated in that punk tradition and others found it longer songs, nearly jam sessions themselves, sprawling out with tales of growing up and teens of all walks (some in denial, as the title suggests).
It’s a fine tuned album that has some creak to it and it kept drawing me back. It’s hard to separate the spring and summer of this year from it. And, in many ways, it will be a quintessentially “Chicago” album for me (alongside Coloring Book, a more appropriate home perhaps, but just the same for me).
Other Favorites: Masterpiece (Big Thief), You Want It Darker (Leonard Cohen), Painkillers (Brian Fallon), Coloring Book (Chance the Rapper)
Favorite 2016 song: ‘Same Drugs’ (Chance The Rapper)
I recently made a c.d. for my car with my favorite tunes from this year. On a long(er) drive back home, flipping through the tracks, it was this Chance song that stood out among the rest.
Not just for its different genre from the rest (see below), but for its uplifting soul and storytelling. It’s a sing along that instantly possesses you, a driving piano, background vocals, a gospel-like appeal.
In it, Chance uses “drugs” as a metaphor of identity and the story is one of displacement and separation from an old friend. It’s a tale of growing up, growing apart, and interests. It carries the aura of something potentially big: a play on Peter Pan (at least the internet thinks so) or a comment on American opiod addiction. But as much as it could be these, it’s a simple song with a driving piano to back its ballad. We grow up. Time makes no guarantee that those we once shared something (anything) with will always be together.
Other Favorites: ‘Fill in the Blank’ (Car Seat Headrest), ‘Paul’ (Big Thief)
(Favorite non-2016 song listened to in 2016: ‘Drive All Night’ (Bruce Springsteen))
Favorite Place Visited: Mexico City, Mexico
It’d long been a dream to make it to North America’s biggest city. The 2000s saw an increase in violence (whether real or perceived) in Mexico’s capital, but these days parts are booming, safe, and one of the more attractive traveler’s destinations I’ve been to recently.
Whether it’s streets lined with mansions, sprawling parks, delicious street tacos (3 for $1!!!), the city has an energy that’s moving millions and tourists from all over the world. There’s no doubt that it’s a city of the world and it’s reputation continues to build. And all for good reason.
Was only there for 5 days but it made an imprint on me for sure (Sarajevo did too, but alas my trip was so short there). It’s an easy jaunt there and I hope to make it back (and stuff myself full of tacos again!). Highlights were Frida’s house, a Lucha Libre night, a dance club with swanky 20-somethings, and just the opportunity to wander the criss-crossing streets of such a bustling metropolis for the first time.
Favorite Meal: Cevapi (in Bosnia)
Cevapi is a Bosnian sausage-like dish. I believe it’s made up of various meats but mostly veal. It’s stuffed into a pita-like bread and you’re given sauces on the side. It’s intensely caloric, and insanely satisfying. I had Cevapi in Croatia before I got to Bosnia and was impressed but it wasn’t until I got to Sarajevo that I had the meal of the year (and I had it twice!). I could write poems to these sweet little sausages and checks to the chefs who packed my plate full of ’em.
The specific place for this meal was called Zeljo (there are two in Sarajevo, not sure if I ate at 1 or 2) and it’s in the old part of town—the famous part, the part that looks like an 18th century Turkish outpost and just blocks from the place where Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated.
If only I could find some good Cevapi in Chicago (might get me to eat meat again immediately!)
And, that my friends, is a wrap on 2016! Some more pics!
I don’t know a way to answer your question other than writing this out. I hope it helps.
One short answer is: I don’t know. I’m no expert in this. The only thing(s) I know is/are from experience and I’ll tell you what I think I’ve learned from that and how that might have gotten us to where we are today. You’re only 13 now, but someday you’ll learn just as much as I have in 28 years and probably more.
First, it’s important to understand that you live in a bubble. I do too. We live in a place that has a more unified message than the country at large. So part of what is happening is disbelief—that the country voted in a way that is not consistent with your own experience. It can be jarring to realize this in any manner.
In the coming days/weeks, you’ll hear a lot about how divided our country is. It’s important to take that message in, but understand that most Americans are living in a bubble too. We’re divided, but clustered together. A lot of those bubbles are different than yours and mine. And it’s hard to hear what’s going on in those other bubbles. Now we know a little bit more.
Maybe we did hear some things, though. We’ve known the country is divided and we knew that Donald Trump’s message was resonating. The losing candidate in this election, we knew, would have at least 50 million people vote on their side. That’s a whole lot of people.
We’ll get to what that message is in a minute but you can think of this closer to home. Our father, for instance, has talked about Trump and his message for months. I don’t think Dad voted for Obama, but I don’t think he voted for George Bush either. He’s a swing voter, and his clinging to Trump was a sign.
I love our father and he’s taught me many things about being a good person, but it pains me to know that it’s voters like him—white, of the working class—that have decided this election. It pains me because I’ve seen what sits within that bubble and cluster. The racism, sexism. The belief that an American white male deserves more simply for being just that.
Someday you’ll get to read and hear the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I’m excited for you to do so. Dr. King was one of the greatest thinkers in this country’s history. His messages deserve so much more weight than they are given. He once said:
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling blockin his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice”
He wrote that about 60 years ago and it’s still true today. Things are decided by white men (and women) who are scared of disorder and choose to pursue security, safety, stability rather than fairness and justice for those that cannot pursue security, safety, and stability themselves.
This was Trump’s message. Make America Great Again was directed at the disenfranchised working class. I liked my America. It was already great. I’ve been to 35 other countries and none of them have what we have. We get to vote. We get great art, great schools, and the freedom to be (in many cases, not all unfortunately, but many) who we want to be. This is a good thing that I loved when thinking about the USA while not in it.
But that was not the case for many people. Those who lost jobs and saw nowhere to go to get new ones. Those who felt that politicians never did anything for them and their bubbles. They were frustrated. They were angry.
I don’t know if you know the word disenfranchised. It’s okay if you don’t. It’s not a commonly used word, but it’s an important one to know when it comes to politics.
A disenfranchised group refers to people feeling pushed out. They feel like no one is fighting for them or that no one cares. They feel like they’re losing and are helpless. It’s a very powerful feeling and one that an orator can exploit (you learned a bit about this with 1910’s Russia and will learn a lot more about 1930’s Germany). Still, someone needs to answer how these groups got to feeling that way in the first point.
In this race, the Democrats will need to examine this. I won’t get into the whole breakdown or game of politics but they’ll see the way the votes broke and have to create a new strategy.
For now, we know that Hillary Clinton was not the candidate to defeat the Trump message. I don’t know why, and I don’t know why there’s such a predominance of hate for her. In terms of logistics, her campaign did not do its job. They took some states for granted (Wisconsin) and lost them. They could have had a better strategy. At the end of the day, lots of voters simply just voted against her, rejecting her for one reason or another.
IF people rejected her because she is a woman, directly or indirectly, then that is a sin of great cowardice. Those people will have to look themselves in the mirror and know that they’ve thought lesser of someone because of her gender. They’ll have to live with that. Sadly, it seems like that’s the case for thousands, if not millions, of Americans and nothing about this outcome will change that cowardly way of thinking.
But, and I cannot stress this enough, you cannot let that stop you, Lindsey. You are a woman and this is not a world that’s made things easy for you the way it has for me. The best way to change that is by overcoming it, by beating down the pillars that have it this way. But it will not be easy and it has not been easy for those that have come before you. Continue to do well in school, go to a great college that challenges your mind and then spread messages of wisdom and love and peace and compassion.
My hope is that the amongst all of the pain that we’re feeling from this, we will see a strengthening of the causes we care most about. Equal rights for everyone, regardless of skin color, gender, sexual identity, anything. ANYTHING.
We will move on and survive from here. And in our fighting against the injustices that this man represents, we will find great strength and learn about the struggles of others and what we can do to help. We will band together in our bubbles and work to expand them and listen to others, but be relentless in a pursuit for people’s rights to be free.
You will be a part of that and the next four years will be so instrumental in who you are as an adult. Know that this is an opportunity and not a curse.
In those years and the ones after, there will be many times you want to fight with great vengeance. And fight you will. And so will I. But our fighting is not done with brutality, or hate, or shaming. It is done with discourse, with wisdom, with trust and empathy and love and hope and optimism. We will not revert to any level lower than that. And on the days you find it too hard to do that and so much easier to cut someone down, to debase a group of people, to hate…..you call me. And we’ll talk through it, kid.
Try to remember what another poet once wrote: For all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
It’s been less than 24 hours since the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series. Most of you know this. I’ve certainly lived with that news in my blood for every hour since then. It’s been something like a rendering of heaven.
This is a picture of me celebrating the victory last night—probably around 1am or so.
I’m no actor. That is a real face. My real face. In all of its vulnerability and honesty, its joy and curiosity. It’s a captured moment of the purest disbelief I’ve ever mustered. An inability to fully comprehend that a day I’ve always dreamt of has become a glowing, warm November reality.
It is a face of my 5-year-old self meeting my 16-year-old self smashing quantum into my 28-year-old self.
The 5-year-old is the boy who first sees Wrigley Field. Who sits next to his dad and grandfather on an April day. Who gets an official game program and learns to track batters and bases. To watch the game through observation and not passivity. That Wrigley is a special place. Open-air, unlike the United Center and those winning Bulls. Green and wide. Fully of 7th inning singers and those great radio voices that would lull me to sleep so many nights of my childhood.
The 16-year-old is a teenager who gets a summer job selling hot dogs and peanuts and coke at Wrigley Field. Who drives each day to Evanston or Skokie to take the L into the city and learns the stops on the red line until Addison. The 16-year-old works hard but not too hard, catching long looks at the game. Learning to watch the game through cheering and jubilation only to find exhaustion back on that long red line journey back up north. That Wrigley is a special place. Not a highway near it, tucked into its pocket of this old city. No parking lot, not like those other stadiums with their insane stretches of gravel. Putting on those after-game radio voices to remind him of childhood.
The 28-year-old is the me of yesterday. The one who doesn’t always appreciate the wonder of his home city. Who loved seeing the Cubs hats in Seoul, in Rome, in Vancouver, but forgets to love it here. Here where it all matters. Whose first stop on any out-of-towners tour of Chicago is Wrigley Field. Who won’t jinx the franchise because he’s been burnt before. Who bought a baseball yesterday just to grip at the seams when things got too nerve-wrecking. And they did. Who learned that Chicagoans celebrate this day we’ve always wide-eyed about with hugs and high-fives, not destruction. That Wrigley is a special place because it will be home to these Cubs. These world champions.
I still have that program from 1993. I still have my vendor uniform from 2004. I’ll always have last night.
I first read (a part of) “Diving Into The Wreck” in a hostel in Thailand. It was on a quote page before the dedication of a book. I’d have to think hard about which book it was.
But I ripped that page out and kept it.
The lines were either these exactly or a larger portion.
I came to explore the wreck. The words are purposes. The words are maps. I came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail.
Likely, it included a later portion too.
we are the half-destroyed instruments that once held to a course the water-eaten log the fouled compass
We are, I am, you are by cowardice or courage the one who find our way back to this scene carrying a knife, a camera a book of myths in which our names do not appear.
Here’s the whole poem. The book of myths. The diving into a physical wreck and the metaphor of diving into oneself. The guidance of words and the true lack of any real guidance that words, the ingredients of stories, of mythologies, of fictions, really provide.
The words are purposes. They might not be truths. But they were once willed and strung together by a tradition of artists and writers forever. The words are maps. They are plotted lines of which to follow, or not to follow.
Reading the book I’m currently reading, I’m struck by how many words the famous mathematicians used. To describe. To map.
We are the half-destroyed instruments.
We are, of course. We are always in some scale of destroyed and some scale of convalescing and some scale of transcending and some sunshine of our own being internally.
I came to see the damage done and the treasures that prevailed.
I hope I always am finding the treasures. This is the point of life in some way.
I’ve been staying up all night for work this week, doing the overnight shift. That means I start my work day in the late evening and get off just before 6am and drive home (on a sleep-deprived drive I’m convinced no one should be able to do legally).
My mind is some kind of wobbly, a little bit wrecked, but also energized on some kind of reserve adrenaline. It’s a different filter on the neural network up there, that’s for sure.
It’s equally reserved and lost in haze as it is vulnerable and honest.
So, in the name of that odd congregation on the late side of 6am, here are thoughts. (In no particular order or seriousness).
Losing Bowie was tough. Prince was crushing. But I’m going to split my little blue eyes wide open with tears when Dylan dies. I’ve thought about this a lot. And it’s odd because Dylan as Dylan as I see/hear/believe in him is somewhat dead in one way. But the day will be cold and ugly and nothing good could possibly happen.
I can feel myself less happy working this night shift. It’s temporary and so it makes for a very interesting experience, but I oddly seldom feel such a loss of waking joy. I suppose, then, that’s a good thing.
Is this the best ‘Boots of Spanish Leather‘ cover? Unknown. But it’d make for a multiple choice option.
On a podcast I listened to today, Julia Turner (Slate‘s Editor-in-Chief) said she hated the word “longform” when describing journalism. She hated it as a substitute for well-investigated, deeply researched and resonating journalism. Fair point. Short articles, as she points out and I agree with, too can be powerful. Length need not determine all. To which I say, yes, but then what do you call it? How do you differentiate short pieces of shit from short masterpieces? The masterpieces, perhaps not long in length, are long in life and vitality. Maybe that’s it and space (which =time in reading terms, no?) is an irrelevant dimension like time?
Here’s a passage, chosen at random, from the book closest to me:
“The circumstances of my life run counter to the coils of my inner mechanism”
“I recognize this fact and am always conscious of it, in normal conditions. I find it a cause for rejoicing. When I am alone I am left with nothing but these coils. If I succumbed to their action I would be ripped apart the minute I moved.
Just from that:
Who says that so, I don’t know, casually?
And that’s translated from Russian.
(I should write more letters.)
Ripped apart? By the coils of his inner mechanism. So brutal. Mechanical.
(And I see where he intersects Mayakovsky. Loosely remembered: “Love for us is no paradise of arbols. It is a reminder that the stalled motor of the heart is humming.”
A friend asked recently: is “Science the poetry of reality”?
No. Poetry is the poetry of reality. That’s what it’s for.
More fitting might be: science is the poetry of the speechless.
I’ve always thought that the last word of the fourth line of ‘Badlands‘ (Springsteen) ended with the word “gut-span”. I loved that word. That not real word.
“Guts man”. That’s what it is. Disappointed.
Sleep is calling my deli number. The deli of the beckon(er?).
This was fun. Let’s do it again sometime. Yes, let’s. Be careful how deep you go, man. Right, safe word: Sarajevo.