Friday, May 10, 2013

How to Cross a Desert.

Several days ago I went to the local bookstore because that is something I like to do sometimes. I like to buy a small coffee drink and wander around touching all of the books. I do this at the library sometimes too, but at the Barnes and Noble they have cookies!

So several days ago I went and did this and I came across a slim book called “Vagabonding” by Rolf Potts. It is subtitled, “An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel”.

Several things about this that are immediately interesting: I recognized the photo on the cover (from behind, a man with a big backpack walking away from the camera along the ridge of a small sand dune and with an endless desert stretched out before him) from having seen it on numerous ultralight backpacking blogs. Also interesting because: I like it when nouns get used as verbs and as far as I know “vagabonding” is not a real word, but “vagabond” is. (My friend Mike The Director likes to tell a story that requires him to say, “... elephanting around ...” that’s why we’re friends). Also interesting because: this dude Rolf Potts is clearly the kind of guy I would cross a busy street to punch in the face because he is living the sort of life that I would have enjoyed living. Also interesting because: the subtitle is so audacious that it makes one go a little, “what the fuck are you talkin’ about Willis?”

I flipped through it a little bit that day and discovered quickly that it is not a travel book exactly and not a travelogue exactly, but more it is a book about the idea of travel. And maybe a little bit about how to experience the world. It is a book that understands people like me will be buying it for the fantasy quota and so it is thoughtfully but insistently encouraging. It is a book that not only encourages one to travel, but to travel well; to enter the world on the world’s terms. This is not a book suggesting that you take a prepackaged Carnival Cruise to Mexico (although that has become a much darker sort of adventure in the past year or so), this is a book that is begging us to go out there and be part of the wider world and to maybe even learn from it.

Well I did not buy the book that day (because I have placed myself on a pre-unemployment budget that I am calling the “Do-Not-Buy-Anything-Ever-Again-Budget”) but it has been in my brain since that night. That is how I know something is worth buying; it rides around in me like a dark passenger for awhile.

This morning I woke up and discovered that Barnes and Noble had emailed me a coupon while I was asleep. I took it as a sign and after work I went to the bookstore and made my B-line straight to the travel section and straight to the one copy that they had. I took it straight up to the register and the woman there (who was about my age) took the book and looked at it and said - in a way that I’m not sure I was meant to hear - “Oh, I want to do that.”

And so I told her, “I am quitting my job. I think that’s why I’m buying this.”

And she looked at me and said, “Are you really? Quitting your job?”

And I said, “I have two weeks left.”

And she said, “Me too! I just gave my two-weeks notice! I just need to move on and do something else.”

And I agreed and said, “Yeah, it is good for the soul.”

And she said, “Yes! The soul needs to be rejuvenated!”

And in my brain I went, calm the hell down hippie, but I said, “That’s the idea,” and I pointed at the book she was selling to me.

After she gave me the receipt and a big kindred spirit sort of smile she said, “Well good luck, I know you’ll be fantastic!”

And I said something like, “You too. Good luck!”

I’m not going to make too big of a deal about what a small and wonderful little moment of destiny all of this was, but I just want to take a moment to step back and appreciate that the moment occurred at all.

So thank you Destiny and Mister Rolf Potts and LAdy at the Barnes and Noble. That was a great - small, but great - and random moment of authentic human connection and understanding. Those are sadly few and far between in the real world and so I try to appreciate them when they occur. And what a perfectly elegant harbinger when one is buying a book about how to make one’s way forward in the world and across that wide desert before us.  


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Yes, This Entire Post is About Salad.

I know this is going to sound ridiculous, but I’m not sure anymore that I know how to make a salad.

Here is the problem: I enjoy eating salads. A good salad can actually be quite good. The grocery store across the street has a great salad-in-a-bag Ultimate Caesar Salad. What’s so ultimate about it? The cheese and the croutons and the spices and the dressing and also the lettuce. Basically all of it, okay? Well I had gotten in the habit of buying it and coming back to the apartment and mixing in some chicken and eating it. Good times, right? You’re goddam right they were! And I didn’t even feel that bad about how lame I was to be buying a pre-packaged bag of salad. However, the goddam Ralphs across the street has raised the price of a bag of salad by a dollar! For no apparent reason! And just suddenly and with no notice and I didn’t even get a call or a nice letter on corporate letterhead or anything! And for me this (apparently) is one of those things where they have crossed the threshold of what I am willing to pay for a bag of salad. Three bucks was okay, but four? Are you out of your ever-loving mind? So basically Ralphs is run by dirty salad pirates. Those sons of bitches.

And so now I am going to have to endure the shameful indignity of having to purchase all of my salad ingredients separately. SEPARATELY! Do people even do that anymore? That isn’t just something that people stopped doing since The Past?

I am pretty sure that this whole endeavor is going to require that I find a head of lettuce, buy it, and cut it up into small pieces. I tried this once before. It did not go well. That was back when I thought a Salad Spinner was for mixing all of the ingredients together (turns out that is not what a Salad Spinner is for).

So now I’m going to have to Google things like, “What kind of lettuce makes a Caesar Salad?” and upon realizing that the answer is far more complex than I am able to understand, I will have to backpedal and Google something like, “How do I make a salad?” and if that is not just the saddest thing for a grown man to Google, then I don’t know what is.*

Then inevitably I will have to watch a bunch of Youtube videos about it and all of the videos will be sort of passive aggressively talking down to me and then I will try it and I will still do it wrong, you know, the first several times. And then I will start to question my skill as and ability to continue living as a grown up. And then it will just be a long hot spiral down into insecurity and crying alone in the dark.

And why? Why do we have to go down through all of this?

Because Ralphs raised the price of in-a-bag salad to just a fraction of a hair past the red line of what I am willing to pay for it.

So - I guess - let’s let the salad adventures begin!

Also, if you wanta come over and show me how to make a salad, taht would be an adventure too.

* Things that might be sadder for a grown man to Google:

- Why can’t I stop crying?
- Why won’t my mom return my calls?
- Does size really matter?
- What should I do with my life?
- I can’t afford to fix my wheelchair, what should I do?
- How to be cool?
- Is Michael Bay the best movie director ever?


Michael Bay May or May Not Totally Blow.

Have you seen this bullshit?!

Michael Bay May or May Not be Sorry for Armageddon.

Now you may or may not know this about me, but I LOVE the movie Armageddon and so do you. As huge, big budget, explosion-filled craptacular extravaganzas go, it is basically the bee’s knees. Name me a move that is larger, dumber, more earnest and yet somehow still touching? Go on, I dare you. Name one … well, whatever you just said is bullshit because Armageddon is better.

Just to be clear:

Is Michael Bay a good director? No, no he is not.

Is Armageddon “good” in the way that we usually mean when we say that a movie is “good”? No, no it is not.

Is it a stunningly perfect piece of summer blockbuster Americana? Yes, yes it is. Right up there with Top Gun, only BETTER. YEah, I said it. In whatever weird sub-category of film these things exist in, Armageddon is better. It is basically perfect. I mean it even has Ben Affleck in it doing his “acting”!

And don’t you dare for one second pretend that you doing cry like a little girl at the end when Bruce Willis is telling Liv Tyler how much he loves her. You do. You cry EVERY SINGLE TIME, thereby proving that - contrary to common opinion - a tiny human heart does beat somewhere inside your chest cavity.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Ready ...

So I have had some massive brain blockage as of late. If you need evidence of that just look and see how long it has been since I posted here. Um … sorry about that.

The truth - I suppose - is that I simply haven’t felt very much like me lately. When I feel like me I am always super excited to tell you about it! If you need evidence of that just look and see below at the entire blog I have spent years writing! Blogging is, if nothing else, always a love note to one’s self. Hey, I’m just the guy who is willing to say it.

So why the blockage? Why the weirdness? Why the not feeling like me?

Fuck if I know.

I could blame it on stress or work or being all constantly lovelorn and such, but those become tired excuses after a while, don’t they?

So let us focus not on the disease, but on the cures, shall we?

At long last I finally decided to quit my job. FINALLY! It was a nerve wracking experience, but I did it! I turned in my two week notice because I simply couldn’t stand continuing to do what I was doing. I have always tried not to get specific about my job on here and that isn’t going to change now, but suffice to say that although it was a very grown up job, I wasn’t finding it fulfilling and I think that the stress and the way I was being treated was actively doing damage to me. So finally I got my shit together enough to quit. I have no new job lined up. This may very well prove to be an unwise decision, but I know that it is still the right one. I am finally betting on myself again. And that part feels good. That part makes me feel more like me.

So what in the holy hell am I going to do with myself now? Well, a couple of things! First, I am going to go back to school and get my Masters. For several reasons (not the least of which are convenience and a liberal policy of acceptance)  I will be going back to CSU Northridge. I am still waiting on my official acceptance, but I was told by the secretary of graduate studies that I should be a shoe in. So that is the big picture, at the moment.

In the shorter term, I need to find an apartment! The lease isn’t up here until August, but I want to lock something down as fast as I can so that I don’t end up living out of my car with no job and two cats! Although there is a part of me that has always expected that I would end up that way.

Depending on how quickly I can line up some little apartment, I hope and plan to do a little bit of traveling. I’m going to spend some time up in the Bay area and also Sacramento. If I can make it work I may be taking a very long train trip. I may get to go back east and see some family. There is a possibility that I may get to go to London again for a little bit, but we shall see how all of that works out. BUT LOOK AT HOW INTERESTING I HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO BE!

There is - of course - the question of getting a new job. Yes, yes, I know that quitting my current job does not mean that I get to retire. Though how fucking cool would that be?! I am confident that I will be able to find something; maybe not something that I necessarily WANT and maybe not something that will pay well, but my goals right now are to go back to school, to write more, and to be goddam happy for once. I think that I have taken some steps toward building myself my own little bit of happiness. I have accepted that I am single right now, so I’m going to quit bitching about it. I have - believe it or not - been working on coming to terms with who I actually am. That is not to say that I’m accepting my lot in life, or anything as mundane as that; I am nothing if not restless. But if that is what I am, then that is what I am. I’m trying to make some peace with that and to learn to enjoy it.

So, as I mentioned before, I’m betting on me. I’m going to be basically starting over again from scratch (again), but not really, not entirely. I have all of these experiences, all of this life, I have some friends and a few people out there in the world whom I still love and adore. And, not for nothing, I have had to remind myself (what it says over there on the right hand side of this blog) life is beautiful, but complicated. I’ve had to remind myself that complication is not a vice, in fact, it may just be a virtue. Because happiness that is earned is far more satisfying than the sort that just falls into one’s lap. So I am ready now to go out there and earn some.