Unemployment? It’s a Bitch, Yo.

I thought the pit of despair was literally, like, just a pit.  Now I know that’s just fallacy—there is much more than the pit of despair—there are also the chair of despair, bed of despair, shower of despair, toilet of despair, kitchen of despair, and barstool of despair.  This unemployment shit?  It’s a bitch, yo.

Look, we all know it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there (or as my sister says a doggy-dog world).  The only question is which dog ends up with a happily engorged belly and which becomes Alpo.  Lately, I’ve been feeling like the latter dog.  At my age, trust me, there is no joy in being jobless.

Arby's Roast Beef Sandwich = Reason to Live

When you’re young, of course, a stint of unemployment is like damned sunshine in the sweet sweet summertime.  No rules, restrictions, curfews.  As long as you’ve got enough bread for a sixer of Special Export, an Arby’s roast beef sandwich, and a little gas in the tank, it’s smooth sailin’, Jack.  But when you’re older, this crap gets old after about…oh, five minutes.   Continue reading

Four Days in Bangkok: It’s Not What You Think

It’s just a ten minute walk from the drunken granola of Khao San Road to the genuine (if changing) soi one.  Shaking off the granola but not necessarily the drink, I stumble/stroll the challenging Bangkok curbs and walks as if they’re mine—not arrogantly, but confidently.

I am confident because I’m freed (physically, philosophically) from Khao San, but also because I’ve walked these streets in ten different cities.  I’ve seen in them New York.  Graffiti-clad corrugated storefronts closed for the night, if not forever.  I witnessed a rare Hong Kong slice of isolation, replete with hard-to-cross spans of concrete and surprisingly open air.  I’ve taken in bits of London, Hanoi, even St. Louis.  I’ve seen every homeless soul, every filthy river, and I saw music.  Jarring, disjointed at times, but other times finding sweet groove.

Perhaps most surprising, I saw a desolate main street of Moorhead, Marshall, or Bemidji Minnesota.  The weather, of course, was starkly different, and for the better or worse, depending on your attitudes toward extreme cold and oppressive humidity.  But there was this one particular feeling, the one of being alone on a desolate street yet not wholly by yourself, where you know a few scraggly others are scraggily straggling home, emptying cheap beers, pausing to take in a view they “see” everyday but have never legitimately “seen,” saying good night to friend, or just now finally laying down for a rest. These kind (or less than) folk are all unseen as I pass through the Philadelphia block of Thewet, hardly strangers as I am not at all alone.

Courage: It’s a Bitch, Yo

Half my life I’ve been convinced I lack courage.

But lately, I’ve been thinking I just worry that I lack courage.

It’s seems a fine line to be sure, but it’s an important one.

Lacking courage, of course, means not having the guts, will, or impulse to take on the hard things in life.  And, presumably, the harder the challenge, the lesser the chance you’re goin’ headlong into it…whatever it is.

But the second condition entails something entirely different, and that’s that courage as an inherent or learned characteristic is itself what is questioned, and the truly difficult part is all the time you spend worrying about whether you’ll rise to the challenge, if, presumably, you get off your fat duff and try to even do something. Continue reading

Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty? It’s Both, You Freaking Idiot

Well, I guess the title kind of says it all.

But lest you think the raw power, the curious structure, or the liberal use of a metaphor is lost on me, it’s not. I am clearly aware of my own quite (and probably overly) literal pecking at the nape of what, for many, is undoubtedly at least a useful thought, if not a philosophical gem…the “half full or half empty” conundrum.

But I’m here to tell you that metaphors aside, at least in my experience, it is literally true that this Barney the Dinosaur “sippy” cup we call life is simultaneously half empty and half full.  By definition, in fact.  And by necessity, to go even further (and I verge now upon the hallowed ground of many legitimate, actual philosophers)…for without half empty, there is no half full.  It’s sip-ple.

One Year, Two Stories

Okay, so this is the most “blog-ish” thing I have written to date. It’s almost as if I’m about to tell you about young Blane’s first piano recital or to reveal the great cupcake recipe I just stumbled across. Still, format is format, and by the end you should get the point and forgive me this foray…

Man, what a year.

I left my life behind, and with it my closest friends and entire family. Oh, how I miss them. It’s really hard. I moved to a foreign country for the first time and it’s difficult adjusting to an entirely different culture, people, system. I enrolled in a challenging educational program and at times wondered if I would make it through. I got depressed and anxious, which although not new to me, were intensified in this unfamiliar context as old self-esteem and self-confidence issues reared their ugly, familiar heads. In January, a ruptured disc in my spine was discovered, and I went through the physical and emotional challenge of neck fusion. A few months later, finally recovered, I took up bicycling, only to crash in a cement culvert, breaking a rib and incurring various other bruises, cuts, and abrasions. I haven’t felt physically “right” since I got here. Whether it was the neck or rib or ongoing sinusitis, it’s been hard dragging these aging bones around. The record is getting impressive (or, more accurately, depressive!)—two knee surgeries, two spine surgeries, broken hand, broken rib, broken spirit.  Continue reading

Am I Just Tired?

Am I just tired, tired of being, or tired of being me?
Is there desire? Desire for being, or desire to be set free?
And if freedom means dying, don’t think I’m not trying
Life is like that, you’re on your way
And if it’s truly over, look back but go forward
You can have it all, your dying day
Is there a fire, when danger is a given?
Isn’t it stranger to hold it at bay?
Can we find safety, or is safety just illusion
Does it matter if we last the day?
Kick it around, and what will be found
Depends on a point of view
But is there a point, and is there a view?
And what binds or makes the two?
More questions than answers, but perhaps that’s the fun
Certainty is compelling, but tends toward the one
One is a paradox–that one, a one, anyone, someone
No need to explain
To make it plain
It’s plain to see
We’re straight up trapped, until we’re free
Is it better to know your time is up, or is time prone to slice you up
It’s up to us though we may never know
Nor do we have much choice
But to choose on imperfect information
For bittersweet and eternal vacations
But no one really knows, or been back from the brink
Some say they’ve been, some say they think
There must be something more, or simply what’s the point?
They insist they know, they self anoint
And that’s just fine for me
‘Cause it’s out of my purview
But if you’d ask, I’d guess, there are no special cues
When we leave this life its final, and finally we shall know
Where it is we’ve come from, and where it is we’ll go
As for me I think it’s nowhere, though nowhere is still a place
Reality and nothingness are sure to share a space
With what we know, the unknowable
With what we think, the unthinkable
With who we are, the un-be-able
There has to be middle, if muddled, ground
Transience and permanence
A yin, a yang
A face, a dead serious proposition
A lie, a guess, an earnest admission
In the end it’s clearly unclear, why we try, why we’re here
Why we sing, why we shed these sorry tears
Does life owe us a debt?
Could a cost even be set?
Would we ask for payment in insights, joys, or years?

Playa Bonita

I travel whenever I am afforded the opportunity.  Good for the mind, good for the soul, travel can teach a great deal about life.  It makes plain the common elements of man.  It can reveal the colorful fancy of culture.  Sometimes, as was the case with my year 2000 trip to Cozumel, it can expose the intricate and delicate fabric of the heart.  All of its fear, all of its hope, all of its simple dreaming.

Looking back, the trip evokes so many differing images, snapshots filled alternately by peaceful remembrance of that tranquil island, and by the haunting revisiting of a near-death experience there.  These memories are complex for me now, and I focus more on sorting and categorizing them, searching them for meaning, than I do simply recalling them.

My friend Justin was the mastermind behind the trip that was to become, we were quite sure, the “time of our lives.”  Eight of us would depart for the Caribbean, our itentions being simple…to take over the island.  With the proper respect and reverence due, of course, no matter where the road may take you.  But there could be no mistake.  With this eclectic and so very hungry for fun crew, we would get what we had coming.  Deliverance.  Release from the mundane, colorless, dreary repetition of daily life.  We would take a stand, stake our claim, and for at least a brief moment, consume all of life’s offerings.

So on the second day of the new millienium, Justin, Jenny, Scratch, Tony, Jessica, Corey, Travis and I arrived in “The Land of the Swallows.”  Instantly transported into a world that held no boundaries for us and required nothing of our time. Continue reading