Friday, December 31, 2010

A literary Odyssey


I've begun my greatest literary undertaking. I'm reading Ulysses. It's often listed as one of or the greatest novel ever written. I wouldn't exactly consider it pleasure reading. It's more something I'm forcing myself to do. A resolution. A relic of college work ethic. Some unfinished English major duty. Whatever, I'm reading it. I tried once, but I cast it aside after 70 pages. I even sold my copy to a used bookstore to underscore my refusal to read it. But here I am, two years later, with renewed fervor to read the damn thing cover to cover.

I'm being thorough this time. I did my homework by reading Homer's The Odyssey first, which Ulysses roughly parallels. I also have a reader's guide, and an audiobook version, because I've heard that some chapters are better heard than read. I'm already on page 100 or so, and I definitely need all that help I can get. Some chapters are so dense with stream of thought and references that even the reader's guide is hard to read. I need a reader's guide for the reader's guide. I'll share my reaction when I eventually slay the beast.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My favorite spot (in the universe)


There is a spot in Boulder I call the "rock sofa." I call it that, because it's literally a semi-circular seat of piled sandstone overlooking the city. I'm quite fond of this spot. In fact, It's my favorite spot in Boulder, and Boulder is probably my favorite place in the world, so you see what I'm getting at? In all the vastness of the universe, this spot is dearest to me. It's just a short hike above Boulder and I've gone there many times. The strange thing is that there is NEVER anybody there. I think there has only been one occasion when I came up to the sofa and found it occupied. I think the reason is that it lies off a main trail on a dead-end trail, and people seem partial to trails that make round trips, not dead ends. (Who can blame them, really? A dead end is a powerful metaphor.) I can't remember how I found it myself. I guess I've just been in Boulder so damn long that there are few places I haven't discovered.

A short digression: When I studied abroad in France, my favorite place for passing idle time was in cathedrals. The streets of Paris were cold, busy, noisy and windy; the insides of cathedrals were precisely the opposite. Their stillness was surreal, and I found much tranquility there for writing, or just sitting. That's what I find when I go up to the rock sofa. I recently read through my journals during my last year of college, and I was shocked at how hard a time I had, but I always found solace up at my spot.

December 24, '08: "This is becoming my spot for perspective. I come up here, above the city and above the life I lead there, to think--or not think. I come up here as a paragraph break to whatever is going on in my life below."

February 7, '09: "I'm at the rock sofa. I haven't come here for awhile. I haven't had the time. School is tough, but I need to stop being so tragic about it. I'm feeling fine now--this spot always makes me feel fine."

I don't have much to escape from these days, but it still gives me a different, more removed perspective on things. I'm a bit protective over the sanctity of this spot, so forgive me if I don't post a google map or anything. If you're interested, just let me know, and I'll take you there myself.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

With my own two hands


For many, building is a commonplace and reliable profession. Kids may learn how to wire, plumb, fix, or build from family or friends, and instead of going to college, they work at what the already know. For me, building is a novelty. I have a mostly academic background, and so I'm entering the realm of building like an academic. I wax philosophic on the satisfaction of working with my hands and having a tangible result at the end of the day. In college, all I did was work with abstractions, pushing ideas around, borrowing from and adding to man's pregnant body of knowledge. I enjoyed it, and grew from it, but I also tired of it to the point where building is a breath of fresh air. Ideas are pliable, forgiving things, but building is ruthless in its exactness. It might be called "manual" labor, but it's just as much intellectual labor too. To complete any simple task, spatial awareness, geometry, and precise measuring are crucial. There are only guidelines for how things are to be done, so if you come to a problem, it's up to you to figure out a solution, and if it works, it works; if it doesn't, it doesn't. There's no ambiguity. Your wall is either plumb or not; your layout is either square or it isn't. These things exist in reality, and they have objective measurements. And through precision, the fruits of your labor aren't abstract notions, but a building--a home, the ultimate in usefulness.

I'm not alone in seeing the novelty of building. When regulars at the coffee shop ask where I've been and I tell them I've been building a house, they say something like, "Really. That's awesome," and they mean it. They get a faraway look in their eye as they walk back to their laptops. On the other hand, if I said I was just starting grad school, I might not get a hint of genuine interest. That's what everyone does in a town like this. Saying you're going back to school is like saying your heart's beating, or that you're breathing oxygen. Of course you're going back to school! The interest people show in building makes me think it's rooted in our genes. A life in academia is noble and respected, yet the urge to build, to work with one's hands, calls out to people. It called out to me, and I can't put my finger on the fullness of why. I try to figure it out, but it doesn't really matter. They're just ideas.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Annals of Meditation

I got back from another meditation retreat the other day. Meditation seems like a practice of the privileged. If you don’t have a roof over your head and food on the table, you’re probably not going to allocate any time to sit and do essentially nothing. In fact, in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, meditation seems like the pinnacle of self-actualization. It goes beyond trying to fulfill oneself through or education and aims at the ultimate goal of fulfilment from and acceptance of what already is. It’s also an interesting result of evolution: humans are a species that supports groups to remove themselves from productive society for days or weeks to just sit still and come back with nothing tangible to show for it. It’s not an obvious strategy for survival.

I feel very fortunate and privileged to be a self-actualized human being who can practice meditation. It started with a vague interest and curiosity, then experimentation, and then I saw that it was actually changing me. In short, it makes life easier and better. That’s what keeps me doing it, pure and simple, and I encourage every other self-actualizing human being to do the same.

One short experience from the retreat:
By day five I was starting to get pretty settled in and experiencing some interesting things. One thing that would happen is that my mind would produce an endless stream of images. They weren’t thoughts, but more like avant-garde film projected in the background of my mind that I could chose whether or not to watch. One time, when I was rather deep within my mind, I was trying to turn my observer (that nebulous awareness in my head) back in on itself. I wanted to observe my observer, so I thought, “What would it look like if it looked in a mirror?” Just then, my mental stream of images produced a mirror that swung into view. My observer looked in and in the reflection was another mirror reflecting back to the first mirror, which mirrored back and forth, on and on all the way to a tiny dot of infinity. I was so taken aback by this clever and almost devious rebuttal to my probing, that I lost my concentration and couldn’t probe any further. Someday…

Monday, October 25, 2010

Making Happy

Writing the schedule for a business is an interesting thing: I decide where 14 human beings will spend a combined total of more than 200 hours each week. All I have to do is fill in a name and its corporeal counterpart summons itself at the given place and time. Not all shifts are created equal. Some are more enjoyable and/or more lucrative than others, so I also govern, to a point, how happy and wealthy 14 individuals are. I could tip the scales one way and make someone's schedule a dream, or tip it the other way and make it a nightmare. People say to love your work. Well, I could make an employee hate his/her work. Obviously, this isn't my goal. My goal is a middle ground--an even and fair distribution of the scheduling wealth. This isn't an easy task. I agonize over the details. Sometimes while editing the schedule, I stare at my computer screen for ages without making a single change. I try to imagine the life a certain schedule would allow and how it fits an employee. But then I also have to consider how each employee is going to fit with whomever they're going to work with. It's something I don't think I can analyze too much. It's people's lives I'm dealing with, after all, and I don't want to be responsible for any anger, malcontent, angst, disquiet, malaise, or any other deficiencies in spirit.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm a rock

“Oh, hey, Rock. I didn’t see you there. Mind if I have a seat?
“Not in the least.”
“Boy, you are a nice looking rock, has anyone ever told you you’re a nice looking rock, Rock?”
“I mean, look at all this colorful moss all over you.”
“That’s lichen.”
“Well, whatever it is, it looks nice. Does it bother you being all covered in it?”
“Well, it looks nice––You don’t mind if I stretch out a little bit on you, do you?”
“Ah, that’s better––so, tell me a bit about yourself, Rock.”
“I’m a rock.”
“Yeah, I can see that, but I mean where are you from, what do you do?”
“I sit here.”
“I see. Not much of a talker, are you, Rock? Well, if I had to guess, I say you were granite, which is a metamorphic rock. Do you know what a metamorphic rock is, Rock?”
“It means you were formed deep inside the Earth from lots of heat and pressure. Isn’t that something?”
“There are also igneous and sedimentary rocks. Someday you may even become a sedimentary rock, Rock, did you know that?”
“Oh, yes. See, you may feel big and rocky now, but one day you’ll erode––you know how erosion works, right?
“Well, like I said, you’re rocky now, but after a few million rain showers you’ll be a pile of sand. Look, you're even crumbling already––see this piece, I can just––oops, sorry about that, Rock.”
“That’s okay.”
“But see, there’s nothing to worry about, because you can become other types of rocks. I see you’ve got your heart set on being a rock, but the fact of the matter is you cannot be granite forever––you just can’t. The sooner you get that through your stony brain, the better. But I don’t want to worry you rock, because I think you’d make a great sandstone. Wouldn’t you like to be sandstone someday?”
“Sandstone is great––and there’s also limestone, though I don’t know if granite can become limestone––perhaps not enough lime. But there are some great sandstone landscapes. You ever been to the Canyon Lands in Utah––no, of course you haven’t, you’re a rock.”
“Well, I’m just going to sit here quietly and take in the landscape a bit.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty. Say, Rock, you want to here a joke?”
“What did the sedimentary rock say to the teacher during the test to become a metamorphic rock?”
“’This is too much pressure!’”

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Me and She

Another poem of yore from the archives of my journals:

I met a girl
and she the one for me
but me not for she
and I goes crazy
and the world all hazy
cause I love she
but she no love me
and we will never be

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Still Staying Good

I’m happy about something and this is it: My life hasn’t been getting any lamer. There are no days that I reflect on and think, “Those were the days…” I don’t have a kick ass career or anything, but I like the job I got at Folsom Street Coffee. They even gave me a promotion. Ahem, General manager, ahem. I’m not making heaps of money, but I’m able to get by and still have free time to do cool stuff like go on canoe trips. I talked with an old high school friend today who said that he sometimes works 90-hour weeks at his accounting firm. I nearly had an anxiety attack on his behalf. I’ll take free time over superfluous money any day. With this mentality I’m not exactly on a fast-track to the top of any ladder, but small things keep working out for me, e.g. the promotion at work. I also recently got this cool work trade/study arrangement at Om Time yoga studio. I work there a few hours a week, and they let me take yoga classes for free. Doing more yoga is making me consider becoming an instructor, but that’s a-whole-nother topic worthy of its own blog post. I’ll admit that the monotony of having the same schedule every week wears on me sometimes, but that ought to be cured by my next random opportunity. Pat was living with his dad up Sugarloaf, and their house burned down in the Fourmile fire, which is awful, but they’re going to rebuild with insurance money and hire Miles and me to help out this winter, which is cool. I’m delighted at the prospect of learning a trade. Something done with one’s hands and the fruits of one’s labor is a tangible, useful thing. In six months, I could learn skills more valuable than what I learned in five years of college (Though I weigh the value of college in more terms than just fiscal ones. I’d probably be incapable of the kind of self-reflection needed to make this blog post, were it not for the growth I underwent during those five years.) This isn’t exactly a heyday for over-educated youths, so knowing a trade is a great way to hedge my bets, should my other intellectual dreams (writing, teaching, who knows?) fall through. I bet I’m not alone in this logic. I wouldn’t be surprised if colleges see a decline in applicants within a few years. Back when I graduated high school, my impression was that I was a zero if I didn’t go to college. But by now high schoolers must be hearing about how all a bachelors degree will get you is a mediocre job and a boatload of debt, so those on the fence will probably say no thanks when the college recruiters come around.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Time marches on

Today the average temperature was six degrees lower than yesterday's. By comparison, yesterday's average temperature was only about a half a degree lower than the day before. What I'm getting at is that, relatively speaking, from my subjective point of view, it was cold today. If any one day can be marked as the start of fall, today was it.

Working in a coffee shop, I get to talk to a lot of people about a lot of things, and as mundane as it may be, weather is a common topic. Today, everyone was marveling at the onset of a new season and the passing of another. Almost without exception, everyone also commented on how quickly summer went by. People say these sort of things all the time: "Such and such just breezed right by." "I can't believe it's already blankety blank." A summer is a fixed piece of time consisting of 91 days and about 7 hours. That's how long it is. Period. But there seems to be a consensus in the world at large that this particular summer went by more quickly than expected. It's as though the collective consciousness felt time constricting around it. Maybe this isn't our imagination. Maybe there are things we don't know about time, and maybe for the last few months time, space, and the whole shebang contracted around us little sentient things, making us remark on how fast a season was progressing.

Maybe. But what's more likely is that winter spilled into spring, spring blazed quickly into summer, and summer cooled quickly into fall, making anyone with a keen eye for weather comment on the long winter, and the short spring and summer. But there probably is a lot we don't know about time too.


The sun sets on summer

Friday, August 27, 2010

Don't Let the Bedbugs Bite

There's been a bedbug scare in my building. Our neighbor to the east already moved out, and our neighbors below are on the fence. Mary Kate, whose room shared a wall with our bygone neighbors, has been getting bitten for the last couple of weeks. My room is farther away from the apparent bedbug source, and I've yet to get a bite, but I was getting concerned that they might start making forays or a full fledged exodus my way. My fears are a bit relieved now, because the whole building got sprayed and fumigated yesterday. To prepare, I stuffed all my things (clothes, books, etc.) into black trash bags and put them out in the sun to cook. Hopefully the problem is solved, because it seems like bedbugs can be a plague on your life. When you have them, everything you own, including your epidermis, becomes toxic waste. I stopped telling people about the issue, because they'd react with sympathy, then silently recoil. I think people are so afraid of bedbugs, because they're so elusive. In the two weeks that Mary Kate was getting bitten, she failed to find a single culprit, yet fresh bites appeared regularly. They're like terrorists, making anonymous attacks, and then assimilating back into the surroundings.

Yesterday when my place was getting fumigated, I couldn't help but think about the precepts I took at the vipassana retreat, one of which being not to kill. As I sat there, sipping ice tea and reflecting, thousands of tiny sentient creatures were murdered, and I was partly responsible. But I can't see how bedbugs and I can live symbiotically. They just come to feed on my flesh without bringing anything to the table. The best I can do is acknowledge their deaths, and hope that they reincarnate as something less vampiric.

Friday, August 20, 2010

From here on out

I have my own place again, and I'm paying all my bills, so I'm busy, and I think that's just the way it's going to be from here on out. Since that's the case, I simply can't and won't make plans for the future that end in: "when I have more free time." My time is right in front of me, and if none of it is free, then tough shit, enjoy whatever's filling it. I can't go to work and already be anxious to leave; I can't be in the middle of a busy week and be craving the weekend. Every moment I need to be aware and appreciative of the passage of time. I'm finding that I don't really care how fast or slow it goes by, just as long as its significance and preciousness has an impact on me. I don't want to bide my time, or think of how things could be better, because this is it. This, right now, is all there is.

On my way to work
On my way to work

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My new [theoretical] piano

Here is a mockup of a piano I might get. How do you think it fits?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nail in the coffin

I read an article in the New York Times yesterday that quite nearly, almost entirely, very near completely dissuaded me from seeking a career in journalism. The article is about burnout among young journalists in the world of online media, and you can read it here

Let me pull an illustrating quote: "Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news--anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way."

And now that the internet is able to quantify interest by page views of a particular writer's story, some papers and magazines are paying their staff on that basis. Testifying to the stress, my friend and fellow journalism classmate Jean Spencer, who interned at the Wall Street Journal last spring, said that for the first few weeks she had a cathartic cry after each grueling day.

The article quotes a journalism teacher who says, "When my students come back to visit, they carry the exhaustion of a person who's been working for a decade, nor a couple of years."

This topic is on the high stress of internet media specifically, but almost all media is on the web now, so the exceptions are probably few. I still want to write, so my education wasn't for naught, but do I want a job like the ones in this article? Hell No.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Sometimes it's hard reconciling past versions of myself with my current self. It happened the other day when I tried to express an opinion I once strongly held. I was at a loss of words, and while trying to express myself I realized I hadn't even thought about that particular topic in years. I figured the opinion just needed to be dusted off and re-articulated, but not so. Numerous changes big and small in my worldview had rendered it totally null and void. I no longer had the ideas and convictions to even remember exactly what my past point of view was. I was pretty confused for a minute or two, until I figured out what had happened, and then I dropped the conversation.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Is the world made up of binaries? Does everything have its counterpart?

Up, down. Hot, cold. Chaos, unity. Reverence, disdain. Gumption, naïveté.

If so, what's the opposite of irony?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Just Sleeping

I found a trove of poems that I wrote several years ago. Here one is:

Last night I slept with a girl,
but we didn’t “sleep” together –
we just slept.
Both lying and dreaming, but not touching.
Thinking of touching, but just lying.
Tossing and turning with thoughts running,
but not acting for fearing of ruining
all that’s been long in creating.
Cold sweating and goose bumping,
but just resting for everything that’s coming:
the talking and joking which can be so taxing.
Deep breathing and hearts beating,
but simply sleeping and sweet dreaming.
Then eventually waking to day breaking,
and me leaving –
leaving with just having slept with a girl.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Crestone Needle

Approach to Crestone Needle

Miles, Chad, Erin, Arman, and I hiked Crestone Needle (14,197 feet above sea level) on Saturday. The Needle is a little sister to Crestone peak, but it's still ranked as one of the harder fourteeners in Colorado. The difficulty comes in at the final hour-long push to the summit. It's an unwaveringly steep crawl up coarse conglomerate rock that has an unfinished look, as though it were forced from the depths of the earth too soon. The view from the summit was obscured by clouds for all but 5 seconds when the skies opened up and gave a glimpse of the world below. High mountain tops are always barren places, and I feel like I'm defying nature just by living and breathing atop them. Being the highest thing around is exhilarating, but it's nice to descend back to where birds chirp, flowers bloom, and oxygen pervades.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Will to Produce

Lately I've been feeling this feeling. It's a vague but persistent feeling, and this is it: I feel like creating. I want to be making something, whether it be as simple as ideas or something more. My life is filled with duties and activities, but I feel like I have little output. The world can get along fine without whatever it is that I can produce, but I want to make it anyway--whatever "it" is. Since I don't have something to create, I get meta on this impulse and ask why do I feel like creating. It could be to help the world, but I don't think so. I think it's to change the world. We want to exert ourselves on our surroundings and make differences that we recognize as our own like drawings in wet cement. "TEAGUE WAS HERE." I think it's a silly impulse, but I don't know if I'm powerful enough to overcome it, so I'll have to find something to create just like all the other little egos bumping into each other on this planet.

Red winged blackbird up at my gramps's place

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Not-so-outer space

When we look up to the stars--to that great black twinkling ocean of nothing--it seems like we're separated from it, like there's a invisible barrier and we're seeing it as though it were an aquarium. I think the idea of infinite space is so mind blowing that we can't believe we're a part of it. But we're in it! When we step outside, our heads are poking into the great beyond as much as an astronaut floating in it. The only difference is that we've got an enormous hunk of rock stuck to our feet (or backs, for those of you lying down in a meadow staring at that void). If you want to travel through space, just jump up in the air, and you've done it.

Bikey Bikey

Sunday, June 13, 2010


P1010244.JPG, originally uploaded by pbsdrc.

P1010240.JPG, originally uploaded by pbsdrc.

I went to the Anne U. White trail up Lee Hill Road today. My coworker, Jamie, said it was a great, little-known trail--that it was never all that crowded. When I was up there today, I found myself thinking, "boy, there sure are a lot of people on this trail." Well, I talked to Miles later, and it turns out the Daily Camera ran an article on great, little-known trails this morning. The Anne U. White trail was the closest one to Boulder.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


Doodles.JPG, originally uploaded by pbsdrc.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fact Check

Pat noticed this, and I looked it up after my last post. The Moon causing a rise in crime is folklore. Read about it here. I heard it on an episode of Cops years ago, and thought, "gee, that's interesting." Oh, well. I also looked more into the menstrual cycle thing. There is a bit of folklore behind it too, but some scientific backing as well. So, yeah.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Sun and the Moon

P1010202.JPG, originally uploaded by pbsdrc.

The sun is underrated. When we hear about health benefits from the sun, we hear how our skin converts UVB into Vitamin D. That's about it. Otherwise, the sun is often demonized for the same UV light which can cause cancer. They're both testable, quantifiable, true facts. I'm not worried about rickets, and I don't want cancer, but I think there are other things at play in our bodies when we're out in the sun. Take the moon, for example. Police report more crime during full moons, and If women spend enough time away from city lights, their menstrual cycles match up with the lunar cycles. If the moon can have such an affect on people's behavior and physiology, imagine what the sun can do--it's way more powerful! Just look at parks during the first sunny days of spring. Everyone isn't lying in the grass to satisfy their Vitamin D needs. They're doing it because it feels good, and who cares why?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cutting hair

Cutting your own hair is tricky. You're looking at yourself in the mirror, so all your motions are in reverse, but you can get used to that. To see the back of your head you can use another mirror on the wall behind you. You can see what you're doing fine, and since there are two mirrors your motions are reversed, and then reversed again back to normal. The only thing is that if the mirrors are, say, five feet apart, the total apparent distance from your eyes to the back of your head is ten feet, so it looks like you're cutting someone else's hair with really long arms, but that someone else is you.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ma Truck

My grandpa gave me his pickup. It's beat to hell and rusting through, and I love it. He bought it new 28 years ago and used it as a ranch truck. I remember getting pulled in a toboggan behind it. I remember petting our dog Slick when he poked his head through the back window. It's one of the first cars I remember, and now it's my truck.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Get-out-of-a-career-free Card

It’s May and hordes of new college graduates are flooding a country where there aren’t enough jobs to go around. But is this really a bad thing? In one sense our society is becoming overeducated and overqualified. Look at college towns, for example, where grocery baggers have BAs, waiters have MAs, or baristas are working on a PHD. Most of us recent graduates make some attempt at finding a career-like job, but those being scarce many of us give up the perpetual job hunt and take a less-beaten path. In a way, we have a guilt-free excuse to opt out of the mainstream path of graduating, establishing our profession, and then preparing for retirement. With this get-out-of-a-career-free card, graduates may go teach English in China, work on farms in Europe or Australia, volunteer in South America, or backpack through Southeast Asia. If grads can’t find work in their field they may still want to put their educations to good use, which explains why non-profits like Teach for America and The Peace Corps are getting more applicants than ever. Or some grads may just work menial jobs while they self-actualize in their free time with art, tutoring, freelancing or whatever. It's a time when we can do all the things that if we don't, then in the future we'll say we wish we had. Someday the job markets will get better, and someday we rovers and bohemians will need to find gainful employment, but these rough and wayward years will prove to be formative in ways we can’t predict.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From the Source

The other day I took a drink of fresh mountain spring water, and it wasn't from a bottle--it was from a fresh mountain spring. I was on a jog in the hills and thirsty as hell. I passed some water gurgling from a snow covered slope, and I impulsively stopped, cupped my hands, and slaked my thirst. Giardia be damned, I needed water, and the risk I took made it taste better than ever. I've been conditioned to fear untreated water (probably for good reason), but drinking clear wild water is such a primal fulfillment. The fact that I was so exhilarated by taking a simple drink shows how domesticated us city folk are. In the future I see myself throwing caution to the wind and drinking from more natural sources. But knowing that I have some ciprofloxacin leftover from traveling does put my domesticated mind at ease.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

4:20, Brah

The 4:20 smoke out at CU is a strange event. While I was observing the gathering from the library steps, I knew there was something strange, but it took me a few minutes to figure out what it was. And this is it: People go there to smoke weed, but I think their main motivation is to see how many people go there to smoke weed. It's like a meta-event where the spectators are also the spectacle. There's nothing to see except for the other people who came because they're curious to see all the other people who came. And the bigger it gets, the more people will want to come to see how big it gets.

It's also a good example of how smoking weed is not a big deal at all. In the minutes leading up to 4:20, there were thousands of people standing in a field. In the minutes after 4:20, there were thousands of stoned people standing in a field. The scene looked exactly the same, except for a plume of smoke that rose at the appointed time. And then 20 minutes later, the crowd dispersed, perhaps a little more placid than when they arrived. Imagine how different thousands of people getting hammered in a field would be.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Plan

These days, I frequently get asked, "So, what's your plan?" It's a rational enough question. I'm 24, graduated from college, returned from worldly gallivanting, working in a coffee shop, and living with my mom. One would think I should have a plan to use my education and move beyond my current casual lifestyle. But my answer to that question goes something like, "I don't really know," or "I have no idea whatsoever." Right now my life is a blank slate--a table rasa, if you will. It's the first time I've ever experienced this. I thought I did after I graduated, and while I was traveling, but in both those cases I had plans. I had either a plan to travel, or a plan to go back home, and as vague as those are, they provided comfort. I remember people talking about the post-graduate blues or angst, trying to find their way through the world and find gainful employment. I thought I was immune to such afflictions, but now that I'm trying to find my way through the world and find gainful employment, I see that I'm not.

I have a feeling of anxiety, or restlessness. At first I thought it was from not making progress toward some larger goal--we all have to plan for the future, after all. But when I thought about it, I realized the same feeling of anxiety/restlessness has been with me for as long as I can remember--it's only the apparent cause that's shifted. When I was in school, the cause of my restlessness was to graduate; when I graduated, the cause was to leave Boulder; when I was traveling, the cause was to go BACK to Boulder. Now that I'm back, I'm restless to have a plan, because part of me thinks that will cure me of my restlessness. But it won't. Once I'm onto a new thing, I'll be anxious to move onto the next. And the next, and the next, and the next, until there aren't anymore nexts.

I don't think I'm unique. I think 99% of the population (At least In America, though I have my suspicions about the rest of the world) has this same feeling for their whole lives. Why else are people so driven, and our society so goal oriented? America was founded on this restless feeling. Just look at manifest destiny. It's like we have someone standing behind us, prodding us with sticks into the next moment, making us feel guilty when we fail to make progress.

Well to hell with that. The cat's out of the bag. I'm wise to this affliction and I'm not going to let it follow me till I die. For now, above all, my plan is to work on getting over this anxiety. To outsiders, It may seem like I'm doing nothing with my life, but by doing nothing, I'm working on one of the greatest somethings of life. Now all I have to do is figure out how to explain that when people ask, "So, what's you plan?"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

New Appreciations

I just finished reading Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy. I tried reading it just one year ago, but I cast it aside in disinterest by page sixty. This time around, I was wholly absorbed in every page. It makes me wonder at past versions of myself who were too dense or close-minded for certain appreciations. I can't fathom what specific changes took place in the folds of my pale brain that allowed me to enjoy the book now, when I was rather put off by it before. This also makes me wonder at my current self and what appreciations I lack through my present denseness. What things will my future selves be able to appreciate through awakenings yet to be?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I'm United States of American

For those of you who cannot stomach patriotism, read no further.

I'm proud to be an American. No, that's not it. I'm happy to be American. No, actually, I think I'm happy to be from America. It's something I don't care to rationalize or put into words. All I can say is that whenever I leave and come back, I swoon over this place--this land of the free--this home of the brave--with their purple mountains majesty and such. Other countries are good too, but this one is great.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

So long, Asia

So Long, Asia--your southeastern portion anyway. We've had some good times, but it's time for me to leave. We got along well mostly, but our backgrounds are too different to keep this up any longer. Let's keep in touch and I hope our paths cross again someday.

Goodbye SE Asian food. It took my bowels a few weeks to get used to you, but I glad they finally came around. My love and appreciation for rice and its derivatives blossomed these last few months. I wish we didn't have to part, but I'll always savor you in memory--your pickled vegetables, stubby bananas, sticky rice, fresh coconuts, and all your cheap exotic fruit. I'll miss you all.

Farewell SE Asian weather. You surprised me with rain a few times, but were pretty consistent otherwise. I'd almost call you climate rather than weather. If I wanted to know what the day would bring, I could just look at one of those yearly charts with two big parabolas for temperature and rainfall. Overall you were a bit too hot and humid for my liking, but farewell nevertheless.

Goodbye SE Asian architecture. From temples to telephone poles, you were built mostly of concrete, but I liked you anyway. Your use of bamboo, corrugated metal, and tarps was truly inspiring. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

See you later, SE Asian beer. You were refreshing at times, but that's about all.

Take care, SE Asian people. Firstly, let me apologize for lumping you all together as one people--you varied greatly from region to region, but you were all consistently helpful and usually wore a smile. I was always amazed at your heat tolerance, wearing black jeans and long-sleeves in tropical heat. A good number of you tried to swindle me, but that's alright, I don't blame you--I'd try to swindle me too. Farewell, and thanks for putting up with my monoligualism .

So long, Asia. I'm going home.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Engrish and other Asia-isms

Not really any water rights here.

Efficient oil disposal

It's hard to read, but: Cock Testicle. Either boiled, stir fried, or steamed.

The dark want to be light, and the light want to be dark. We're all after the same shade. I hope the kit doesn't actually include a stethoscope.

Too much whitening cream.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

These Roads

These roads are filled with wandering souls
like a cast full of actors without any roles
like birds without hives and bees without nests
they wander about on undefined quests.

They left their homes for a faraway land
hoping to find some untrodden sand.
With minimal possessions and a few foreign bills
they keep going forward with unwavering wills.

What do they seek? What do they find?
The meaning of life or peace of mind?
Or maybe they find that for what they roam
was never really all that far from home.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Vipassana: Part II

I forgot to tell about this one thing:
On the last day during the final moments of noble silence, we were practicing a meta-meditation where you focus on spreading your positive thoughts and energy to others. During the instruction, a fly landed on my right thigh. I put out my hand and it landed on my finger. I put up my other hand, and it WALKED from one hand to the other like an obedient bird accepting its new perch . I'd never felt so trusted by a fly before.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


The retreat went well, even though my body threw a revolt or two. The morning of day one was fine; by one o'clock I was feeling a bit queezy, and by three o'clock I puked my guts out. I laid in bed during the afternoon group sittings, and I may have gone home that evening were I not so weak. At 7:00 pm I was strong enough to attend the evening discourse and then hold myself upright for the final sitting. Before bed I took some travelers antibiotics and in the morning I was well enough to go on. Last time I did one of these, I got this dizzy, woozy feeling on the third day, and by the seventh it wore me down enough to send me home. This time I didn't get the dizzy feeling until day eight. I was sort of expecting it to come the whole time, and when it finally did I was too far along and too resolved to not let it bother me. I'm glad, because the feeling of finishing such a course is a rare one. It's not elation or excitement. You're happy to be sure, but it's a very calm, lucid happiness. In the middle of the retreat, everyone looked kind of like bewildered animals constantly being herded around. By the end, everyone was holding themselves up straight and confident with a vast, placid look in their eyes. Since I leaned how to speak, it was the longest time I've gone without speech. Midway through the tenth day noble silence was broken, and I was giddy and awkward with the novelty of communication.

I'd like to describe the mental experience of having to meditate for so long, but it's hard to sum it up. You learn things about yourself that you couldn't learn any other way. Again, I'd like to express what those things are, but there aren't proper words for them. I can say that I felt my body as mass of flowing energy, and experienced the constantly changing nature of the universe... see I told you there wasn't a clear way to describe what I felt. All I can do is recommend that everyone do this same retreat. There are centers around the world and you can find one at

The Dhamma hall. That's my spot in the back left.

The walk to the dormitory

I had this cubicle all to myself!



Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Points and Gestures

I guess I've sort of dropped the ball on keeping this thing up to date. It's been two weeks and two countries since my last post. The lapse is due to expensive or slow internet, but also to apathy on my part. I've been traveling around on this subcontinent for so long that time and experiences are blurring together as a normal sort of routine. Things that would have caught my attention when I first got here like lady-boy cocktail "waitresses" or buckets full of live ells in markets are now familiar parts of the scenery. I used to ordering food with points and gestures, and having locals stare and talk about the felangs (westerners) as they walk by. It's amazing how normal a place can become, even when you're a perpetual stranger. There is always companionship here, though. Westerners always glom onto each other out of comfort and safety, and even when I was "alone" I had a solid crew them to travel with through Laos.
I went to a city called Vang Vienne, which is part of the deeply rutted tourist path. I would guess the local population to be a few thousand, and the tourist population to be three times that. Every other building in town is a hotel or guesthouse, and they were all full when I was there. The attraction is beautiful scenery and a bar-lined river. In the early afternoon, people take taxis to the starting point and instead of walking from bar to bar, they just jump in the river and float down. If you hail them, locals will throw out life preservers and pull you in. When you climb up to the bamboo dance floor, your first greeting is a local offering free shots of Laos whisky. There are also 20-30 foot rope swings and slides into the water. Remember, this is when the sun is high in the sky and pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The whole thing seems like the kind of party that would happen right after the apocalypse before society totally unraveled.
I stayed a week in Vang Vienne, and halfway through, Miles met up with me. We spent a coupleof days hiking through the hills, but I had to be on my way again and left him there while I went to Vientianne. I only planned to spend a night there before crossing the Mekong into Thailand, but while walking to a market to buy a sandwich, I ran right into John. We had split up with him over a month before and last we heard he had bought a boat with his brother in Cambodia and were motoring up the Mekong River. We each had no idea the other was in Vientianne, so you can imagine how surprised we were. Because of the reunion, I stayed an extra night, but then Miles showed up the next day, so two nights turned to three, and we all went out drinking and reminiscing.
Now I'm back in Thailand and alone again. Miles and I crossed the border together and got dinner in Khon Kaen before he caught a night train to Bangkok. He's flying home in a couple of days and those were the very last hours of our four and a half months of traveling together. I'm excited for my own ticket home in three weeks, but I still felt the somber weight of something coming to an end. After seeing him off on a busy street, I went back to my bland hotel room and thought about my own remaining time. 21 days--10 of which will be spent at a Vipassana retreat (Check it out here: The retreat is pretty much my last thing to do here. It starts tomorrow, and I'm a bit anxious--anxious to get started, but also just about going. Little thoughts about not going have flitted through my mind like a bird darting in and out of a room. I'm going--that's for damn sure. I don't even know what I'm nervous about. It's not as though I'm being plucked from some active, fulfilling lifestyle. I sit around most days anyway, so I may as well sit around with a purpose. I guess I'm just nervous, because I know that it'll be hard and some days will pass with agonizing slowness. But like I said, I'm goin.


My morning routine, in a nutshell

That was my bungalow--the one on the left.

Around Vang Vienne

That's Vivi from Phili. We shared a bungalow for a few days.

Some crazy quarry. We were going to watch them dynamite a boulder, but they made us move along.

These little spelunkers guided us through a pretty deep cave.

A market here in Khon Kaen