Tuesday, June 24, 2003

I'm still in Florence, though I'll leave for Avianno here in a couple of hours. I've done so much in Italy that it's hard to keep track of what I've written and what I haven't, and I don't really have time enough to check over things as properly as I should. So if I repeat information, my apologies.

Travelling, I've discovered, is a little like marching band in high school. You're dressed funny, you walk a lot, and you have no idea where you're going most of the time. It's also very hot, and you have to carry heavy stuff all of the time. While I don't dislike travelling, there are certain things that I've discovered that I don't like at all. For instance, while I rather like flying, I detest airport security (I got searched in Dublin, yay!). While I like being a tourist, I hate other tourists. While I like riding trains, I hate finding my platform. While I like being a minority, I hate my own frustration over not being able to communicate properly.

Today has been a very difficult day for me. I didn't sleep particularly well last night. Partly because of loud, drunken neighbors; partly because of heat; partly because I didn't feel well. So this morning has been difficult too. Though I managed to pry myself out of bed, and walk across town, I'm totally beat now. Jody went to a museum by herself because I just plain don't feel like walking around anymore. Though, I'm feeling a little better and more active since I threw up. That's right, I puked in a public restroom, in the middle of Italy. In fact, I puked in this internet cafe. It was horrible, and I thought for a split second, that my misery might either cause the earth to open and swallow me up, or it might consume the entire world in its suffering. But rather instead, I just puked a while, walked out, went back to my computer and have been typing ever since. So far as I can tell, I'm no worse for the wear, though I think I should force myself to eat something now.

Yesterday, I talked about Rory all day because I kept seeing things which would make him happy. I saw Machiavelli's grave, and a statue of him, for instance. And the Church of Dante, among other things. I wanted to find a post card for him. But the best I could find was a totally irrelevant card of Cerberus in hell. Anyway, email me your snail mail address Rory. Mike too, by the by. I seem to have left your address at home somehow too. Hand delivery isn't anywhere nearly as cool.

I'm damnedably sleepy right now. Which is bad because my day has hardly just begun. I have a five hour train ride ahead of me. Though, trains are nice mostly, because you don't have to do anything but sit there and watch for your connections. If you're lucky, you get quiet, air conditioned trains. If you're me, you get loud, crowded, hot trains. When we were on our way to Perugia, this Catholic lady got on the bus and tried to convert us. She was touring holy sites in Italy, I guess, and had just come from some Marian apparition site, and was rather excited. She gave us holy medals, which was nice I guess. But it was the first time I've been prostelyzed by a Catholic. Jody and I were both pretty amused by the whole thing.

In Perugia, we were going to take a train to Assisi, but we got on the wrong one. We asked the tourist information guy, who I think didn't speak English, if the train would take us there, and he was like "Si." So we got on, but halfway there, some English speaker heard us talking about Assisi and told us we were heading in the exact opposite direction. So we got off at the next stop, which turned out to be pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The next train wasn't scheduled to leave for another three hours, so we were stuck. But upon exploration, we were pretty happy to find ourselves on this huge public beach, which was really beautiful. So we spent three hours just relaxing, sleeping and whatnot, which was very much appreciated. Then we went back to the train station. This Italian lady, and her two little daughters came up from the beach riding their bikes. She checked the train schedules with us, and we waited together. Apparently, the schedules are wrong, and no train came until 6:20. But none of us knew that, so we had to just wait around at the station. In the meantime, we played with the little girls, who I'd assume were only maybe 6 and 8. We spoke no Italian, and they spoke no English, but we got along quite well. They taught us important things like how Gatto is cat, and Capello is hat, and that me coloro perforito is azure (my favorite color is: . We actually learned quite a lot of Italian from them. And they were happy because the Whitmans, Jody's friends in Perugia, had stocked us up with pizza and cookies before we left, so we fed them. Eventually, the kids were getting kind of grumpy, so I brought out a pen to draw for them. They ended up drawing on one another, but their mother didn't seem to mind, so we joined in too. We drew all over the kids, signing our own names, and theirs (Natasha and Sharon). They'd squeal and scream "Gatto! Tattoo Gatto!" and we'd draw cats on their arms. It was really a pretty unforgettable experience.

But there were other unforgettable experiences in Perugia. I went to youth group for the first time in my life, for instance. The Whitmans are missionaries, apparently, and I didn't want to be rude about the whole thing since they were nice enough to let me stay with them, so I went to their Church. It was kind of funny though, cause John was like: "Oh, you'll love it! Youth group is great! We have sing-a-longs!" I smiled politely, of course. But I was thinking: "WTF? No! I don't love any of those things! Neither youths, nor groups, nor singing!" It actually wasn't THAT bad. At least I was supposed to look foreign there. And I successively threw a monkey wrench in small group prayer. I just wouldn't shut up about other things, until the very end when everybody wanted to go get ice cream, and they could only throw up a generic prayer. The missionary team of kids staying there actually weren't that bad. I made a couple of friends, which is strange because I don't think I ordinarily would get along with kids from a school called "Bible Baptist College." But I think they were desperate for any fresh blood, so they were glad to talk to me. Plus, it was refreshing to hear American teenagers swearing again. Even if they did have to whisper.

I successfully avoided youth group the next night, by looking very tired and "going to bed" early. And Sunday I flat out stated that I really just wasn't much of a church goer. They seemed very surprised by it. Probably because I was fluent in the Bible, and Jody was willing to travel with me. But they let me stay home, which made me happy. And Jody got to go to a church she could half-understand, which made her happy. So Sunday was a good day.

Anyway, I'm down to a minute and a half on this thing, so I have to sign off. Peace and love, and more return emails soon. Don't forget to send me snail mail addresses.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Still alive, but spending way too much money for internet access, so I can't write much. In Florence, currently. Enjoying myself immensely. Love to one and all. Promise return emails as soon as I'm back to a reasonable internet rate.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

This keyboard is far worse than even the ones in Northern Europe. As I write this, I'm sitting in an internet cafe in downtown Rome, a mile or so from the main Termini. If my grammar, spelling and syntax is off, it's only because it's freakin' hot here, and I can hardly think of anything half straight. I have a great many adventures to tell of, but I can't recall most of them now.

The most important one has to do with how incredibly difficult it is to find your way around in a country in which you neither speak the language, nor overly understand the culture. Our first night here wasn't so bad. We found another backpacker in the airport who helped us find our way to the city. But after that we were on our own. We found a restaurant on the street, ate spaghetti, and found a nice American couple to talk to. The waiter apparently also works at a pub and he gave us free beer tickets, and we went down. We spent the next three hours drinking there. Well, Jody didn't drink much. Just a little red wine. But I had three glasses of red wine, the free beer, half of the strongest marguerita I've ever encountered, and most of some strange tasting fruity mixed drink, which was also quite strong. I didn't get drunk, which impressed me. Anyway, we had to walk clear across the bad part of town at like 3am, which scared the holy living bejesus out of Jody. But I found it pretty funny.

The next day was less funny. A lot less funny. We woke up late, headed out into the midday sun, which was mistake number 1. In Italy, it's way too hot to go out into the midday sun. The locals work in the morning, siesta through the midday, and then come back to life in the evening when it's cooler. But we didn't realize this, so we walked out like little lambs to the slaughter. Now, in the US, and in all of the rest of Europe we've seen so far, when you want to ride a bus, you climb aboard, pay your exact change and just get off at your stop. Not in Italy. In Italy, you have to buy a ticket first. But we didn't know this. So we got on a bus, looked for the change-taker, and got nervous. We asked an Italian lady, who alerted the entire bus that we had no tickets, and everyone was in an uproar. Not an angry one, mind you. It's just that we were breaking the law and they wanted to protect us. But apparently, they couldn't kick us off at the next stop because it was in an awful part of town, and being mostly old gentlemen and ladies, they wouldn't do that to two young girls. An old man sold Jody his ticket, but I was still screwed. So finally we found a safe neighborhood, were escorted off the bus, and walked around lost for a while until we could find tickets.

We found the right bus, among much screaming in Italian regarding which way would be the best way for us to go would be. Note to future travellers: Never ask bored Italians at bus stop the best way to get somewhere. We roasted in the sun; I was massively sunburnt already an hour into the trip. Finally, an English-speaker pulled us on a bus, gave us an address and went on her way. Apparently the bus across Rome takes like an hour, and there's no freakin' air conditioner, so to put it lightly, by the end I wished for death. But eventually, the locals kicked us off at a stop that they said would take us to the Vatican and we went. The fact was that they kicked us off at the wrong spot, and we had to walk forever more, in the damned heat.

But eventually we got to St. Peter's Basillica, which was really amazing. I rubbed St. Peter's right foot, on the statue inside, which apparently means I'm sinless. Or in any case, I was for a few seconds before I resumed my sinning. I stood on the place where Charlemagne was crowned. I took part in mass genuflection before the throne of St. Peter and his bones and all that. I won't try to describe how beautiful it all was just now. After that, we went to the Colloseum. I was tired as hell after that, so I went home. But Jody stayed out, and met some kids from Berlin, who promised to show us around when we get up there, which is cool. In fact, she's out with them now, while I'm wasting away all my money in this internet cafe.

I can't bear to type anymore right now. But you should all go on the internet and check out pictures of the tremendously beautiful Trevi Fountain, which I saw today. I also the Spanish steps, the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and more. But I haven't got any energy left, so I'll tell those stories later.

Anyway, at this internet cafe, everyone but me is African, I think. In fact, the vast majority of them appear to be Muslim. They seem very curious about why I'm here. Italians don't come here, and tourists don't usually frequent this part of town. So I guess I'm an oddity. I like it that way. I really quite enjoy being the minority. It's good for me I think.

Jody and I have had many great conversations about God, the meaning of life, and loving our neighbors. I really kind of like her brand of Christianity. She bucks most of the ideas I hate about stupid Baptists, which surprises me a little. Anyway, I'm very, very hot and hungry. So in closing, I'll leave with a terrific quote from the airport, I overheard from some school kid:

Am I hungry? Dude, I'm going to the home of pizza and you ask if I'm hungry? Hell yeah I'm hungry!

Monday, June 16, 2003

Can't talk long because I've already racked up a ridiculous bill here. But I thought I'd update and say that I've been to London, Dublin and Galway Bay now. In London we got lost on the Tube because the Circle Line was down. It took us all day to get to freakin' Westminster. But it was actually quite a lot of fun, and valuable train experience. As we were eating dinner of sorts out on the street in front of Big Ben, a drunk bum ran up to us, threateningly, jeered and stated: "Nonny for you. And Poppsy you are!" It was fun.

In Dublin, I saw Trinity College, heard a concert in Christchurch, and saw a great many wonderful things like St. Patricks Cathedral. And I bought chips (read: fries, americans) from some really famous place that everybody really incredibly famous eats at. Chips are a meal unto themselves over here. And the best news on food is that they have Cadburry Eggs all year long. Yay!

Galway is like madly liberal and young, and very touristy. When we arrived, there was this hippy Save-the-Trees benefit concert thing in the main park, and we went and sat down to eat there. And this one hippie was all dressed up, looking a little like Moses. And he was thanking all these local businesses for donating food and money and things. And this snotty liberal college student type screams out: "Supporting Capitalism means supporting Corporate Oil you over the hill hippie bastard!" Moses hippy was not pleased, let me tell you. There was a lot of anti-American kind of things around there. Mostly about the war on Iraq. But they were anti-Israel too. All over the telephone poles were stickers reading: "Boycott Israeli goods! Support Palestinian Liberation!" The people are really friendly though, and they seem to like people from the US.

One thing I didn't expect was that there'd be so much racial diversity over here. Apparently all of the cities are overrun with immigrants. In London, we talked to a native Londoner and he said: "Ahh, its a real treat that you've met me, because your chances of finding someone of my skin tone who's lived here all his life is rare." But personally, I like immigrants pretty well. In Ireland there seems to be more racial squabbling. At least it's more overtly shown; there are swastikas etched into the walls. |t first I thought it was just some sort of ancient symbol I was misinterpreting, but then I found one that had an Iron Cross on it too, and scratched under it: "Learn English or Go Home!"

Anyway, running up a huge bill here, so I must go. I have a plane to catch from Rome in the morning. Will update again when I can. Joy and love to everyone.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Arrived in London this morning. \ have good stories to tell, but can't seem to figure out this damn \european keyboard. had to pay fifty pence to use this thing, and can't run out my time on blogger much. but i'm alive. remember to send my emails to trewqazx if you're emailing, it's easier if \i only have to check the one email.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

I wanted my last blog from this continent to be nice. Something perhaps meaningful and contemplative. But alas, no, my head is full of curses from getting chewed out by my mother, who told me, poetically, I think: "We will not remember this night fondly." It's true. We really won't. But hopefully I'll be enjoying myself from the other side of the Atlantic very soon. Blogs will certainly slow down. I hope to update when/if I can. But I'll be home sometime late at night on July 18th, or as the case may be, July 19th in the morning. Until then, goodnight sweet princes, London in the morning.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

I am so apathetic today. I have so much to do, and yet I do nothing. I was just thinking that I probably won't miss sitting around on my ass in Europe quite as much as previously believed. I'm going to be on a ton of trains. I wish I had more money. I don't need more; I've got more than I thought I'd have. I just want to be rich without laboring for it. Cartoon Network commercials are irritating, but I sort of like Dexter's Laboratory.

I don't have to get to school until noon today, but every time I look at the clock, I feel like I'm running late. I'm going to go try some Strawberry Pie.

Blogger's been a bitch today. I've posted the same basic message repeatedly, except it won't post. This is my last effort for the night.

I've felt pretty lousy all day. I packed up my stuff, and I felt doubly awful. I can't explain why but I have this godawful sense of impending doom. It may just be that I suspect my own happiness. I've always felt that Jesus was spot on when he said in the Gospels: "Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh...Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep."

My parents had a surprise birthday party for me today. Just the rents and my brother and his wife, but I got nearly $100 and a lot of cake, which is pretty nice. I got my license finally. I feel quite like an adult with a blue license. It's an odd thing that that's the most profound thought I've had about my 21st birthday thus far. I guess I'm too busy to think much.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Today has been long and arduous. I woke up in such a clear mood. I wish I was in that mood now.

But instead, I saw one of the most awful things I’ve ever seen, and now I can hardly straighten out my thoughts. I’ve written recently about my saint of a grandmother. And today I went to see her, in what amounts to being the nursing home my aunts have put her in. She cried throughout the visit. She begged us to take her back home. She said that she was confused, and so sorry to upset us. She called me pretty and said that I was getting prettier all of the time, and she genuinely meant it, and that’s all the evidence I need to prove that she’s really a saint.

My grandmother did everything in life completely right. She was born poor, and will die solidly upper middle class. She was a good mother, and a good wife; she was the gentlest person I’ve ever known. She was one of the only honest and sincere Episcopalians I’ve ever met. She took care of everyone around her; especially children, to whom she never condescended, and whom she always made feel like they were on equal, and quite agreeable, footing. She gave freely to charity, or to any drunken bum who asked, and she never acted the martyr over it. She educated herself thoroughly even though she had to drop out of school in eighth grade and, for more than anything else, I’ll always remember how quickly she thought and how genuinely intelligent she was.

But now she has Alzheimer’s disease, and her mind is almost completely gone. Her short term memory is totally shot. She can’t remember things she said even a few seconds ago. But every now and then, she becomes aware of the fact that it wasn’t so long ago that she asked the same question, and she becomes incredibly embarrassed over it. She’s aware that she’s a burden to everyone around her. She retains a long-term memory just accurate enough to remind her that every one she knew and loved as a young woman have been dead for decades. She understands just enough to know that her own children have condemned her, by sending her away from home, which was the only comfort she had left. She cries, but no one dries her tears. Or no one that she can remember anyway.

She did everything right in her life. And God has been cruel, and sustained her. She lives; but only in misery. Her good health belies her diseased mind, and mocks her with the knowledge that she’ll still probably live a good while yet. She lives; but I can only refer to what she was and never what she is.

I feel selfish even saying that I’m heartbroken over my grandmother. My own misery at watching her stare down the hallway after my father and I as we left is nothing to the misery she must have felt watching us leave without her. Though I’ll probably not sleep tonight, thinking of the awful way her so-called golden years played out, she probably won’t sleep tonight thinking of the very same thing. And I’m young, and I have my mind, and there’s nothing but future ahead of me.

The passage of time does not necessarily mean progress. And all progress is not forward, just as some movements are backward. If my grandmother had lived in the days of her own grandmother, she would be at home now, with her family all around her. She would suffer, but the laughter of great-grandchildren and the warmth of the hearth would surround and sustain her. She would be lonely for those who had preceded her in death, but never too lonely, since she would never be alone. But as I write this, she’s in a room with whitewashed walls, alone and confused, and only sure that she’s been deeply betrayed somehow.

And then Jody came over to plan for Europe. I really wasn’t in the mood to plan, honestly. She was very excited, and I feel a little sorry because I probably killed her joy. My mother embarrassed me repeatedly, just by being herself. Which shamed me, because I should never feel embarrassed about who my mother is. I ended up probably looking like more of an ass than usual, because I didn’t really feel like talking about anything much. Poor Jody’s probably at home right now praying that the fates will find a way to null and void our trip, so she doesn’t have to spend so much time with such a jackass. And I’m a little annoyed that I have to spend the rest of my life with myself, when I can’t even live up to the simplest of my own ideals.

It just hit me that I have a German final tomorrow morning that I probably really should study for. But I want to spend some time with my friends first, though I’ll probably just piss them off because I’m in a jackass sort of mood. Anyway, I won’t write anymore.

This is the first basically quiet moment I’ve had in a while. I’m not in a rush. I will be soon, but I’m not now. I don’t have anywhere to be. I don’t having anything pressing to do hanging over my head. There aren’t any people around cluttering up my thoughts. In the next hour I will be rushed, with lots to do, and surrounded by people. But for the moment, I’m really quite free.

There’s nothing I crave like detachment.

I’ve been uncharacteristically emotional lately. I’ve been downright sentimental over things that I haven’t concerned myself with in a long time. I can’t explain the emotions really. It’s as if all of my bottled up emotions, that I’ve kept basically quiet about for a decade, have found a way out. Though it’s the proper and obvious metaphor, I won’t say that any leaks have been sprung. It seems a crass way of putting it, and I refuse to be any crasser than I have to be right now.

My life is about to change so drastically that I can’t even begin to contemplate it. Some of the changes, I’ve initiated myself. Going to Europe will change me. I know it will. And I’m willing to accept the responsibility for it because I chose to go. But the much more pressing and overarching changes will come from things I have no control over whatsoever. I don’t care to detail what I foresee here. If it comes about, it will, and I don’t want to start creating self-fulfilling prophecies of woe.

I’ve always felt that an individual is only liable for their situation in a limited way. Life happens to people, with all of the great and horrible random events that that entails. And while a person isn’t at all responsible for the random events that hit them, they are responsible for their own reactions to those events. They are, to an extent, even responsible for life as it hits them, insofar as their reactions determine their situations. But individuals have limited liability and limited glory.

When I was young, I counted myself an extraordinarily unlucky person. And now I consider myself quite a lucky person. I do believe in a luck of sorts, anti-rationalistic as it certainly is. It isn’t like karma. I don’t deserve what happens to me, for good or ill. And it doesn’t preclude my own free-will. I have a will that determines my reactions to what happens to me. I am not only the product of some random chain of events. I am a semi-rational response, and a challenge, to a semi-rational world.

To clarify that last point, what I mean is that, however much I’ve been influenced by the world around me, I’ve influenced the world just as much. Though my death would be, to a shallow glance at least, utterly inconsequential on a universal scheme, in actuality it would earth-shattering. All births and deaths are earth-shattering.

For me, reading the obituaries has always been something that I can compare only to a religious experience, akin to adoring the Eucharist. It was true for me even before I really understood the meaning behind my own emotion. Human lives, when they begin and when they end, are not just infinitesimal marks on the pages of time. To even begin to consider the significance of the individual is near-ridiculous.

Human lives have often been summed up in terms of milestones, or rites of passage. To use my own experience somewhat, it would be rather like saying that a child is born and brought into the Church and the Kingdom of God through baptism. He attends school, both secular and religious. He is confirmed and is spiritually considered an adult, an event coinciding with his actual physical maturation process. As a young adult, the man masters the tools which enable his survival. Religiously, he learns the meaning of purity and sinfulness, how to fight off spiritual temptation, how to govern his life around morality. Secularly, he learns how to work, how to exist socially, how to take after himself so he can gain and maintain an advantageous position. The man is married eventually and procreates, guiding his children and then grandchildren through a similar process. Eventually he dies, and is buried, and is irrelevant until Judgment Day.

But human lives are so much more than that. When a child is born, he profoundly changes the universe, by the brute force which is his existence. On an obvious level, his family is changed. But the truth is that the entire family of man is changed. Because, as John Donne wrote it, “No man is an island.” A child influences not only his parents, but as he grows, also his peers. When he becomes a man, he defines his morality and lives by it, or does not. This isn’t insignificant; it determines all of his actions toward God, toward man, toward the very earth he lives on. He learns to work, and not only to exist with others, but also to support others. He marries, and learns what it means to live for another human being, a process immensely intensified by the birth of his children. Eventually he dies and is buried. But he isn’t irrelevant. The whole of a man’s life is relevance, and there are no idle moves. The death of a man can be described so many ways: as the pinnacle of his work; as his rest, and as his descendants call to labor; as the return to the ground from which he came; as the ascendancy of his offspring.

Every moment is potential. Not only for ultimate goodness and ultimate evil, but often for both at the same time. We have been told that if a butterfly flaps it wings, it can bring up pollen from the ground, causing an elephant to sneeze, change the currents of the air, eventually resulting in the rise of a hurricane which will destroy entire human settlements. Such a small action with such immense meaning, and we can’t understand all of it, or even very much of it. To imagine the human dramas involved is intriguing. We imagine the small child, who loses her parents to the storm, who grows up embittered, turns to drugs, who destroys herself for the sake of a butterfly, flapping its wings. We imagine the young man terrified, and profoundly thankful to God for his survival, who in a flash of zealotry sparks a revolution, as did Luther, and who changes the whole of human history in a way which is very and obviously tangible. We think of the people who die; of the deeds they never did, of the children they never bore, of the contributions they never contributed, and of the taxes they never taxed. Every moment is unfathomably powerful. Every action is unfathomably important. Every human life is full of such infinite, unfathomable potential, that it’s utterly earth-shattering.

All births and deaths are earth-shattering. All thoughts and actions are earth-shattering. Human beings are as gods and devils; even in their infancy, even in their pre-infancy. Every person we see, even the most drab and uninteresting, as C.S. Lewis put it, “may one be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”

The changes in my life are very small, when considered by anyone but me. But they’re of infinite importance. I am considered very small, when considered by anyone but me. But I am of infinite importance. I’m not sure whether I should be comforted or terrified by the thoughts I’m thinking today. The burden of responsibility for my own actions tears at my conscience, even though the changes haven’t come yet. The fear of the unknown makes my stomach churn and my muscles tighten. Life is so worrisome that it makes my chest ache, and my teeth clench. And yet, I’m not utterly bowed to despair, as yet. I am a hopeful person. This universe is filled with unknowns, and I do not yet see the narrative the humanity is weaving. I do not know, and I can not know, and my control is only very minimal, and only over myself. And though that means that I could be carelessly cast aside at any time, I do not believe that I will be. And somehow, I think I might be okay even if I was. Though I am drab and uninteresting, I am also a monster so awful that I should only be met in nightmares, and I shine with a light so bright that it almost cries to be worshipped. I am these things not only someday, but now.

There’s nothing I crave like detachment. And there’s nothing which comes to me, or any human being, quite so foreignly.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

That’s what they ought write over the entrance to Meijer, I think. Or at least that’s my experience of the thing. For, today, I experienced hell.

My father and I were standing in line to check out. We thought we’d picked a good line. It was rather shortish; the people in front of us didn’t have much in their cart. But we were wrong. Oh, how we were wrong.

First, the cashier was slow. Not just slow, but I’m pretty sure he was disabled somehow. I’m not making fun of him, or blaming him, but it’s important to note that he was extremely slow. Because it compounded the other problems.

First, there was a couple in front of us. I would guess the man was thirty-five, and the woman thirty. They looked kind of preppy. So it rather surprised me when I looked down and the man was groping the woman’s rear end. She was rubbing her hand up and down his stomach – his lower stomach, if you follow. She wasn’t doing anything explicitly obscene, but she was hinting at it. He took his hand and started pushing his fingers into her chest. Not her breasts, mind you. That would be obscene. But he was hinting at it.

Terrific, I thought. I’m stuck in line with my father, and there’s a peep show just a few feet in front of me. Oh, well, I thought, this can’t possibly take very long.

Then the plot thickened.

Three women came up behind me. They looked kind of trailer trash, but I don’t care much about that sort of the thing. What did bother me was that they were clearly, incredibly drunk. And possibly gay. Which is also okay by me, except when they decide it’s a good idea to grope each other publicly.

They stank of alcohol, and the one girl kept running into me. The one must have just dyed her hair, because the one that kept running into me kept calling her Blondie. Not once or twice mind you, but incessantly. She was almost singing it in a refrain, except there was no tune, and she kept interrupting it with other things. “Blondie, Blondie, Blondie, Blondie, Blondie, hey what’s that on the wall, Blondie, Blondie, Blondie, Blondie, hey, you have nice tits ::grabs her breast::, Blondie, Blondie, Blondie, hey, do we want candy bars Blondie? Blondie, Blondie, Blondie, Blondie…”

My dad wouldn’t stop gawking at them, with that quizzical WTF sort of look old men have sometimes. I knew that if the women noticed him, they’d probably bitch him out. Shit, I thought, shit.

Twenty minutes later, the line moved a little, and I escaped out the door in a mad dash. I hope never to return.

Today went pretty quickly. I almost felt a little sad that this quarter's pretty much over. I don't like my classes much, but I have friends in all of them and I usually have a bit of fun. There are no guarantees for the fall. Though I do know six of the eleven kids currently signed up for my Roman Republic course, so that one should be fun anyway.

I've been feeling oddly depressed again today. I'm assuming it's just anxiety mixed with frustration. But as I write this, I'm sort of harboring a vague hope that maybe I'll die in my sleep tonight and go to a nice long rest.

I think the Hulk looks like an incredibly stupid movie.

My English professor told us a great story today. Apparently when he was a student at the University of Toronoto, they took their final exams in a converted hockey rink, lined with rows of desks. Squirrels had a tendency to get up into the rafters. And one year during finals time, one of the squirrels slipped, fell down quite a distance, and splatted all over some poor girl's final exam. She stared at it for a second, then promptly passed out. The moral of the story? Don't worry too much about your finals, at least you don't have to worry about squirrels raining down on you from the heavens. But then again, this is an English Bible class, and God inflicted stranger plagues on people over time. Perhaps it would be a fitting recompense for our general irreverance.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

I just wrote a really huge paper on a topic I know next to nothing about since I read the book over a month ago. The paper is pretty poorly written. And I think I just don't give a damn. I'm going to try to proofread it in the morning, but I think my chances are good that my paper just happens to suck. It's fine. This quarter's almost over anyway; and I'm going to Europe, so who cares?

Anyway, I'm feeling kind of peculiar lately. Almost despaired and disconnected. I think it's related to Europe, though I'm not sure why. All of my feelings about leaving are positive, so I can't imagine why there should be so much looming sadness. I guess I do have a vague fear it won't really come about, but that's dying off as the date comes closer.

On the other hand, I have a lot of things bothering me right now. I have a feeling that going away is going to change things in my life a lot. That it'll change me a lot. And I know that changing is hard, and I'm worried about it. Not just going away really. But there are a lot of things going down right now with my parents that are going to change my life considerably. It's nerve wracking in a way I haven't felt since I was a kid and they first got separated.

But enough of all that emotional stuff. I can't connect it to anything much, so I can't really discuss it much. And I don't want to be miserable anyway. I want to be happy, so I will be. I'm going to concentrate on how I did my last trip to Columbus today, and then I'm going to think about going to bed. And then I'll be quite happy indeed.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I'm pretty happy at the moment. I just finished paper number two of three, and that puts me ahead for the week. Plus, I'm sort of happier with my paper than usual. It's rare that you get to write about Early Christianity in a secular, critical, paper, without coming off as derogatory. Tomorrow I have to start on my Sociology paper, which will very likely be considerably more difficult.

On the bright side, I bought some stuff today. I'll buy some more stuff tomorrow. I got some lodgings research done. I've prepared some emails. I did some scheduling. I've been doing almost nothing recently it seems, but I've been extremely busy all of the time anyway.

In any case, I've been productive. After all, I managed to give a kid in my German class my illness. And one of my nostrils is swollen from having been so runny for so long. I like to feel that I'm doing some good in the world, you know.

Schedule for the next two weeks: German exam Wednesday; Papers due Thursday; Mohican Saturday; German Final Monday; Anthro. and Sociology Exam Tuesday; Bakesale Tuesday; English Final Wednesday; New York Thursday; London Friday; Dublin Saturday; Sligo Sunday.

Oh yeah, and I beat Angela and April at monopoly.

And, judging by the time anyway, I seriously need to go to bed.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

I’ve gotten almost nothing done this weekend that I should. I didn’t finish my Sociology book. I didn’t finish any of my papers; about which, I must say, that I discovered, much to my own disgust yesterday, that there were actually three instead of two due. And while I’ve gotten a start on the one, the sad fact is that I probably won’t sleep for the next few days whilst working on everything I should have been doing all term.

In any case, I probably still won’t get much done today. I’m going to Daysi’s going away/birthday party and I have to drive to Columbus. The third paper, that I forgot, is due tomorrow. So while I haven’t worked on it at all, it needs to be done first. And the one I’ve worked on a bit, I still have a little time for. Guess I should get more organized.

After Rory’s post on friends, I’ve been thinking about them a little. That is to say that I’ve been thinking about friendship more than individual friends. Sometimes I’m a little surprised that I have any friends. It’s not a low self-esteem issue. I’m not saying that I don’t deserve friends, or that I couldn’t have any. But it still surprises me a little, given my personality and values, that I’m not alone. Working for companionship was never really high on my list of things that I really must do. And somehow I ended up with friends anyway.

Philosophically speaking, removing myself from the affection I have for certain individuals, I see limited value for friendship in my life. If I get really very sick, or if I can’t or don’t work, or if I have more children than I can naturally take care of on my own, I don’t have to look to friends to help me. The government fills that role in American society now, so it’s really quite a lot less important that I find people I can rely on. If I want someone to talk to, I don’t necessarily need a lifelong confidant. If I’m estranged from my family, I can always hire a psychiatrist. If I want something to do on a Saturday night, I’m by no means limited to a group. I can go anywhere I like singularly, safely and quickly. It’s not at all necessary to have friends.

At the same time, I can’t remove myself from my affection for certain individuals. While I could certainly easily survive without them, I have no urge to do so whatever. It’s not that I’m necessarily a social creature. I’m not really a social creature at all. I would generally prefer to live away from my friends, and meet them only on occasion. I would generally prefer gaps of time between our meetings. It isn’t that I have some inner drive to see my friends; sometimes I’m quite satisfied seeing no one for months at a time. But my joys are heightened when I’m with them, and nearly all of my jokes are funnier when someone else is there to laugh at them. And I’m still happier, I think, knowing that they’re there.

In any case, I have very strange friends. Among my core group, there is almost no sense of shared values, or interests, or even preferences. We don’t even really have the same senses of humor. The only thing I can think of that all of us certainly share is this very abstract imagination, that is, I suspect, in general very bored with the bare facts we see in front of us. It manifests differently in everyone, but I think that it’s still there.

So, in the style of old internet web pages, and quite in the imitation of Rory’s post of yesterday, personal salutations to friends I haven’t quite yet lost:

Angela: It seems like I’ve known you my entire life, even if I did only start to hang out with you in sixth grade. It’s funny to look back at all the pictures there are of us together, when neither of us really cared two whits about the other, when we were only half aware that the other was alive. I’ve fought with you, debated with you, harangued you, plotted against you, embarrassed you publicly, even stabbed you in the back, and you’ve done all of the same to me. Sometimes I wonder, given our history and our violent personalities, how it is that we still manage to talk to each other at all. But in a strange way, our friendship isn’t really dependent on liking each other all of the time. Even if you did something that made me infinitely angry, even if I grew to hate you, you would still be my friend. If we wanted to, we could stay up all night listing all of the evil things we’ve done to each other. And we could probably only spend a few hours listing the very nice things. But it doesn’t matter somehow. We’re there like the earth is there, like the sun rises and sets, like the rain falls on good and evil alike. We may not always be good to each other or good for each other; but there isn’t much in the world that you can count on like the earth, the stars, and the rain. I couldn’t ever just write you off, and I don’t suspect you could ever write me off. That makes you important to me in an almost entirely singular sort of way.

April: You’re the most baffling of my friends, and the most emotionally charged. You’re the person who I enjoy the most, and therefore also, the one who can piss me off the most. I’ve told you more about myself than anyone, and even though I know we have to get “back to [you],” you probably really do know more about me than anyone else. I’ve grown to depend on our little chats. I enjoy the little ways we pick on each other; the challenges we present to one another. You’re the only one of my friends with much power to make me feel quite bad about myself; you’re the only one of my friends who often goes out of her way to make me feel quite good about myself. I love the way we create our own little worlds: Attic man, Rudy, Which One?, ASS, Old Ladies, Shaddy, Glaucoma Dog. I love that you almost single-handedly created perversion in me. I love when I hear you say something quite morbid about drunk driving commercials, and I get to feel responsible for it. I love that we can make fun of literally anything together. I love that we don’t always have to talk when we’re together; that we have a “mature relationship.” I love that you’ll never read this unless someone makes you; I love that it frustrates me to all hell that you never read anything I’ve written. Anyway, I’ve disgustingly overused the word love in this section about you, so I’ll end it with something more appropriate. “Dear Shaddy Journal, today I told this fat chick that she was all cool and shit, and then once she got her hopes up, I told her she was a fat bitch and she’d die of cancer and SARS. She cried. Hahahaha, it was great! Signed, Shaddy.”

Rory: I never understood why you hung around the rest of us. You were different. In a sense, the rest of us chose the geek table; at least in the sense that we rejected what might have led us elsewhere. But our choices were sure as hell a bit more limited, and less obvious, than yours. You were always sort of my buddha character, rejecting the princeliness of the popular table, for whatever enlightenment you found at ours. You’re the friend I think, that’s changed the most since I met you. You’re the friend that I worry about the most; whose ideas I take the most seriously. You’re the friend I can really imagine doing great things in the world, or the most truly terrible things conversely. You’re the friend, I think, who’s most like me, and who I affect the least. You’re the friend who requires the least emotional attachment from me, but perhaps the most effort. You’re the only friend I have, who I think I could be separated from totally and absolutely for fifty years or a hundred, and who, upon reintroduction, I think I could just as easily discuss the sort of things we ordinarily discuss. You’re the friend I understand the most and the least, who I miss most, and am most quick to defend.

Ben, Jim, Jonathan, Mikey and Sarah: Five folks who’ve managed to influence me as much as anyone else on this list, even though I’ve never met any of them. Much has been said in the past few years of internet friendships, and I don’t care to repeat any of it because it’s largely bunk and cheesy anyway. But you guys have filled such a void in my life. You helped me learn to think, to properly form an argument, and how to send something off confidently. You’ve given me such independence and such pride in my own ideas. You've taught me such discipline and fierceness It’s a strange thing, but I know so few details of your lives, and yet I feel like I really do know your minds. So we only talk on message boards, about politics and religion and humanity; I share more with you than almost anyone, because we’ve read the same books, and we agree on the same systems of logic. It would be unnecessarily corny and personal to say that I loved any of you; I very likely don’t. But it’s true that I respect the holy living hell out of each and every last letter in all of your posts.

There, and now I'm tired. I could write a lot more. About Mike and his good naturedness, and his insecurity, and how I like his obsessions. Or how I remember old Mrs. Whistler yelling at Brooke and I on the bus, that we "seventh graders think [we're] hot stuff!" Or how much I enjoyed Amanda throwing up in my bathroom, explaining that she really did love me, really she did, etc. Or how Mark and I whored ourselves out for votes, and cheated our johns at the very last moment. But I won't today, because I have a lot of things to do and not much time to do it in.