Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Having been absent from the American media for five weeks, I’m really quite out of touch with what’s considered acceptable behavior for reporters and what’s not. I’m not kidding; five weeks is long enough to really change things. And for the past two weeks, I’ve been trying to avoid the television over much, because it’s sort of overwhelming to hear references to apparently important events which you don’t remember happening. But today I watched part of the President’s press conference and I was quite surprised.

To be fair, today’s awful behavior wasn’t entirely new even out of the context of the past five weeks. President Bush has always been attacked; and he’s an extremely attackable guy, the way I see it, since he doesn’t seem to manipulate the media like Bill Clinton did by barring reporters and all that. At least, overtly, he’s not so manipulative. Anyway, the last question asked by a reporter at the press conference was asked by a guy from the Los Angeles Times, and his question was, typically, about California since Californians and New Yorkers consider themselves the only states in the Union, and additionally, highly abusive toward President Bush even making reference to the 2000 election where, supposedly, he got into office through some sort of “partisan[ism].”

Who the hell is still hung up on the 2000 election?

I’m serious, if you’re still bitching about that, shut up. You lost. L-o-s-t. You’re not going to get the past three years back, nor next year either. You’re just not. Shut up and deal with the reality you were defeated. D-e-f-e-a-t-e-d. Legally, too. Just because the Electoral College doesn’t suit your present purposes, that doesn’t mean that it should be cast out until it does. What you ought to be doing now, is building up your cracked and bleeding political party so you stand half a chance in the next election. But of course, you can’t and won’t do that because it’s too damn hard. The Democratic Party is in one hell of a state. So your only option is to continue to bitch and moan about the 2000 election, even though it’s sad and obvious political mud flinging, and ceased to be very persuasive to any normal (and no I don’t mean Conservative, I mean non-Commies; no, I don’t pretend there isn’t a difference between the two) on 9/11, for right or for wrong.

I used to think about going into politics. I used to sort of like politics. I wanted to care about what was going on in the world. I didn’t want to save the world, per se. I just wanted to affect the thing in a positive way. But I got tired of politics on my first set of teenage news message boards, and I’m well aware that they’re a lot less political and a lot more free and idealistic than real politics were ever intended to be. Not only do some people truly cherish crackhead opinions; they continue to hold those crackhead opinions stubbornly, after having been effectively corrected through a sound verbal beating. I love a well-constructed argument like nothing else in the world, and my poor heart can’t take the constant frustration of seeing a good argument fall on deaf ears.

In any case, I’m tired of American politics. I don’t like George W. and I never did. I found him a terrifically better option for America than Albert “Green Party” Gore, and I still do. But I didn’t vote for either one, and you can bet I wouldn’t again if I had the option. I voted third party in the last election, and “threw away my vote,” but I did so with a relatively free conscience. I spent a lot of time in Europe trying to explain the complexities of American politics to people who believed that we all just loved W. and hated the entire continent of Europe. Not so.

The American dual party system, while still superior to that nasty proportionally representative system they mostly use in Europe, has brought about, basically, a system in which most people attach themselves to one pet issue and assign themselves to a party based on that issue. For instance, if you’re pro-life, and fervently pro-life, then you’re going to be a Republican. The Democratic Party is all about abortion, and you can’t escape that. So no matter how much you like the idea of – umm, say, what else is it the Democratic Party has these days? Oh yeah, no matter how much you like the idea of Gay Public High Schools, you have to vote Republican because it’s the only way to save the unborn babies. And this is an intelligent voter in the US; someone who actually cares about at least one issue.

I’m tired of American politics, but I’m damn well glad that I don’t have to deal with the whole of world politics. In France, I learned that the French hate Chirac, and they only keep him around because it means that they stave off LePen, that neo-Nazi. And in Germany, they only keep Schroeder around to piss us off. Nobody seems to elect anyone because they really want them; democratic elections are based on who seems the least offensive, and most tolerable. The entire world community is utterly apathetic; we’re spoiled.

And maybe it’s not the worst thing. A generation of average politicians, or below average politicians, can do a hell of a lot of damage. But then, so can a generation of above average politicians. The main thing, it seems, is that we should all work on slowing down change. Real change comes about from the bottom up, so stifling the legislative process is generally a good thing. If it has to be imposed from the top down, the nation isn’t ready and won’t be without some blood being spilt somewhere. Changes imposed from the top down always reflect the minority opinion anyway. At least in American politics it does, and I suspect it’s much worse in Europe.

I’m always for the party that pisses off the most, and let’s me do what I need to get done without getting in my way. I don’t vote for anyone who preaches as if they’re the salvation of man. I don’t believe in anybody who condescends to me; or worse, who condescends to the fatherless, the widow, the poor and the uneducated. I don’t oppose social safety nets, but in this day and age, you have to be silly to think that they’re the answer to all of America’s problems. Communism is not the answer, Fascism is not the answer; it may well be yet that Democracy isn’t the answer either. And it’s wrong to be satisfied with our current system just because it’s just okay enough for now.

I wonder where all the world’s decent troublemakers have gone. Where’s our Socrates or Locke or Jefferson?

Monday, July 28, 2003

Tonight I watched Gangs of New York and John Q. I liked Gangs of New York, and am grateful that I never have to watch John Q ever again. Not that it was really that atrocious a film; just that it was another reminder of how incredibly shallow liberal rhetoric is.

Admittedly, I’m a bit biased on the American healthcare system. I’ve dealt with it more than most people. And I’ve seen my mother’s operations written off to charity before because doctors really care about chronic cases, even with people who aren’t so poor that they really require charity.

Just because someone’s talking about a serious subject, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have anything intelligent or meaningful to say. Healthcare is a serious issue; I’m the first to acknowledge that. But films which exert mass effort to take potshots at HMOs, guns and cops during election years are too much akin to junior high bullies which bend over backward to tease the obese wheelchair bound kid with a bladder control problem and a lisp, to make me comfortable. There was really no challenge in a movie like John Q; and yet, somehow, the script writer managed to bungle the whole job.

Gangs of New York was much better. It was awkward sometimes; the dialogue and costumes were a bit campy. And the bloodshed was possibly a little overboard too. But what I really did like about the film, was the very neutral way in which bloodshed was portrayed. Natives oppress; Irish oppress; Natives die; Irish die; nobody’s just a victim, and nobody’s so evil that they’re without weakness. And it makes the argument that I’ve been making for years beautifully for me: the world isn’t getting worse, human beings have always been this lousy.

Anyway, I’m pretty damned exhausted. I don’t seem to be able to focus long enough to write anything much lately. My apologies.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Yesterday was a nicer day than the day which preceded it.

Angela, Amanda, her infant and I went to Chuck-E-Cheese. We took some really awesome pictures there. And I beat everyone, at every game, every time we played it. Seriously. And I didn’t cheat either. Not even when Angela purposely bumped my arm so that my water gun would miss its target (gah, I wonder where she learns these tricks!). I always take the high road; you know me.

Afterward, April, Angela and I went to Denny’s. Angela, being the total and utter dork that she is, warned the waiter guy that we have a tendency to be loud. And then she showed him our pictures. And as if that wasn’t enough, she then proceeded to spill her Coke everywhere. Yeah, I felt cool being with her.

Today, I woke up feeling sort of lousy, so I skipped out on lunch with Angela and the other girl I’m supposed to be going to the Dominican Republic with this Christmas. But I’m still going with Angela at two, to get some kids signed up for college. And then Mike’s friend Doug is coming down to visit him, so I guess we’re going swimming and out to eat and such.

It’s been a busy couple of days, and I’ve been abnormally tired throughout. I think I have a kidney infection again, which is irritating as hell because I’m getting entirely too many of them and may have to actually break down and go to the doctor for it. We’ll see about it all. I hate doctors.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

"I place enough value on my own life that I don't mind sacrificing another." - Rory, regarding his backup plan to flip over the guy he's skydiving with so that the other guy will hit the ground first and take the brunt of the fall, in the case that his parachute doesn't open up.

I'm heading to Chuck-E-Cheese tonight with Angela, Amanda and her baby. I've never been before. But I think I'll fit in in any place where a kid can be a kid.

Yesterday was an exceptionally bad day. But you'll get no more on it. Basically, my mother lost her job, and I found out that my pregnant niece is another state. A number of concerns of this sort are coming to a head. And yesterday just sort of sucked.

But I promise to blog more and better tonight. Really I do.

I got my pictures back from Europe! Maybe I'll post some later.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Today has been an exceptionally bad day. More on this later.

To make up for yesterday’s absent post, and the fact that my poor blog has spent the majority of today untouched, I updated my template, finally. I’m not really satisfied with the changes as yet. But I am thoroughly frustrated with trying to update it. So here we have it, for now.

I really haven’t been doing very much the past few days, which is as nice as it is boring. I’m used to being busy all day every day, so I can’t decide whether or not I’m pleased or displeased. In general, I like doing very little and eating a lot. But on the other hand, I just feel so damned lazy. The lazy angle is something that should never naturally even occur to me. Europe has done bad things to me. I’m all concerned suddenly with being engaged in the world around me. It’s a disturbing trend.

In any case, I’ve actually written two blog entries today that I decided not to post, on the grounds that they were really far too personal. The first was about my family and the second was about my strange psyche. While I’ve never been one for keeping the literate world at a distance from my troubles, I don’t know that it’s the best idea to advertise the more troubling aspects of my personality in a public venue frequented by the people most able to manipulate me. As such, you’re stuck with a post talking about secret posts, which must be quite annoying, I should think.

Sorry. I earnestly apologize for not having anything better to say. But I’m off to rent a movie off television. So, as our dear president is so fond of saying, goodnight and God bless. And I promise to start writing things soon that the world is allowed to read.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Apparently, in addition to acceptance of the Euro, membership in the European Union implies the wholesale cultural embrace of thee mobile phone. While cell phones in America can certainly be irritating, the entire North American continent, ordinarily a leader in these arenas, does not contain, combined, the number of incessantly ringing cell phones found within the confines of a small Swiss hamlet.

On a sleepy, morning train in the shadow of the Swiss Alps this past June, I was giddily awoken to the sound of the ringing cell phone of the frail, Swiss grandmother beside me. And why was I giddy, you might ask? Because the song my beloved Swiss grandmother had programmed to ring was Big Pimpin' by Jay-Z.

It’s a strange thing to feel vaguely foreign in your own house. It isn’t like flying into Rome for the first time. I know how everything works; I know where everything is. It’s just that for the last five weeks, everyone and everything has become used to me being elsewhere. It’s like being the old end table stored away in the basement for five weeks that, upon being reintroduced to its former position, now finds itself the cause of everyone’s stubbed toes. In other words, though I’m rather embarrassed about being out of place, I’m also drawing that cruel and perverse pleasure that naturally comes with watching everyone jump around, holding their foot, trying not to howl.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

So I just arrived home from my five week trek roundabouts Western Europe. My feelings are a jumble and a mess currently, but that probably has a lot to do with the ocean I had to cross today, and the long car ride back from New York, and the utter lack of rest of the last few weeks. I’m not complaining, mind you. Because I think I just experienced five of the most joyful, unusual and memorable weeks of my life. But at the moment, I’m a just a little mixed up.

On the one hand of course, I’m very glad to be home. I’m glad to see my dogs, and to sleep in my own bed, and to have a refrigerator with food labeled with names I can recognize. I’m glad to see my family. I’m overjoyed that my cynical jokes make sense to someone again, and that nobody thinks I’m depressed and negative just because I make them. I’m happy to see my flag waving; I’m happy to feel as if I’m on equal footing with everyone around me.

On the other hand, I’m very sad to leave Europe; and I think that I’m going to quite miss Jody over time. It’s not that I’ll never go to Europe again, and it’s certainly not that I’ll never see Jody again; but from now on, things will always be different. One of the nicest things about the entire trip was the utter lack of expectations I had. I knew about Rome, but I’d never been to Rome, so how could I say what it would be like? I’d talked to Jody before, but I’d certainly never spent 24 hours a day, seven days a week with her, so how could I say what it would be like? From now on, I’ll always have expectations: Rome is very crowded and hot; in London, they remind you to mind the gap on every single Tube stop; Jody really is that nice all of the time, and she doesn’t have to fake it or put on a false front, and in fact it’s quite contrary to her nature to do so.

Expectations aren’t bad necessarily. But I will never again be able to have the utter terror, to the point of near nervous breakdown, or so it felt, that I experienced as I boarded my very first airplane flight. It may not sound like a nice thing to be so terrified, but it was really incredibly wonderful. I felt so stupid and small and desperate; and yet I was filled with such excitement and such a spirit of general whimsy. God above could smite me in a blinding flash, at any time at all, but I was willing to wait it out, with a big stupid looking grin on my face.

On the other hand, I’m so much better educated about Europe, and the entire world, than I was before I left. There are so many issues I hadn’t been able to properly consider having never left North America. I didn’t realize that jobs were so hard to find in Europe. I didn’t realize the lengths that young people went to just to find decent work. I knew that there was a lot of immigration, but I didn’t understand that it was feasible to walk around London a whole day and never once meet a single person of English decent who was born and raised in London. I didn’t understand just how serious the EU is about uniting Europe against America; I didn’t understand how closely the economies and cultures are beginning to align. I didn’t understand that in so many places in Europe, everyone learns four languages and it seems the most natural thing in the world to them.

And I’m much better educated about myself too. For the first time in my life, I think I was really able to view myself from the perspective of a complete outsider; not just from the society around me, but from societies in general. While I wouldn’t say that my personality has changed completely, there have been some definite changes. I’m not so anxious anymore. I’m not so prone to emotionally martyr myself for someone else’s happiness. I’m more ready to stand up not only for my ideas, but also my feelings. I’ve realized on this trip that I’m not such a bad kid after all. I have some godawful habits and predilections, but I really don’t think I’m defined by them. My fundamental traits are mostly good. And I’ve had to realize that I’m a part of the humanity that I have so many romantic ideals about and so much natural respect for; no man is an island, not even me.

Adjusting to life at home will be very difficult I think. For the past few weeks, I’ve thought of no one but myself, and occasionally Jody, who’s easy to please. The politics of living at home are much more cumbersome. I neither know if I’m up to the challenge, nor if I’m really even excited about trying to be. But what I do know is that I’m really very fond of everyone in my life. Not because they’re convenient companions or because it’s advantageous for me to be with them, but because I really have a tremendous family and tremendous friends. I’m very lucky to have all of the things that I have, and I can’t shake this feeling that I have so much more in life than I deserve. So even though I'm worried about all the issues which might have cropped up while I was gone, I still can't wait to give away souvenirs and bore the hell out of people with my long, complicated stories about Europe which really have no point. I can't wait to watch silly romantic films with April, and then dance around her living room because nobody can see us; I can't wait to ride around in Angela's car singing bad country songs in loud, annoying voices; I can't wait to walk the whole of my own hometown, and think of London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, etc. wherein all of the people are pretty much exactly the same, except they live in more costly housing.

I wish I could express my love for the world today. But I can't do it in words. If I could kiss the globe on the forehead, I would. I'm joyful to be alive. I'm joyful to be home.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

I've missed this blog so much. I'm always wanting to write while I'm over here, but a pen just isn't the same. I'm such a child of my generation; I have a mechanized, wired mind. And I can't escape that. I don't even want to.

I'll be home in less than a week; my flight leaves from London on July 18th. While I don't really have time to wax poetic about the whole thing just now, I really do feel like I've seen and done one hell of a lot of things. In some ways, I almost can't imagine being home again. It's not that it's been so long as that really. It's just that my mind is always geared to be on the move. I don't relax here, so the idea of just relaxing seems strange and foreign. But I love the concept. I miss the practice. And I miss everyone at home too.

I'm writing today from Brugge (Bruges), Belgium. I spent yesterday in my grandmother's hometown of Tongeren, Belgium. Before that we were in Amsterdam, which is a very cool city. At least six times, scruffy looking junkies tried to sell me drugs. But they were so polite about it that it wasn't distressing in the least. "Excuse me, ladies, but would you be interested in buying some Charlies?" "No, thank you." "Well, then, have a nice day!" And before that we were in Berlin, which I very much enjoyed. Especially the East. Jody wasn't quite as thrilled as me; she found it depressing. But I like concrete, and Soviet blocks and bizarre sculptures devoted to the working people. I bought things in East Berlin, and I rarely buy things over here. Everything in East Berlin is dirt cheap, and utterly junk. My kind of city. Sort of like the Odd Lots of Germany. Scruffy, with just a hint of danger and filth about it.

In two days, I'll leave for Paris, where I'll spend three days. Then we'll fly to London and then home.

Well, my bill is quickly amassing. And I want to get out and see Brugge. And escape this awful instrumental version of U2's "With or Without You" they're playing here.

Peace and love to everyone at home. See you in a week or so.