Apologies for Silence (Post-Laptop Reality 2.0)

It’s been months since I’ve posted anything of length here.  In the interim, I ‘ve done a lot of traveling, a good bit of introspection, and as I have  moved back towards writing and posts of real substance I’ve hit a small speed hump that means regular posts are still, for now, a thing of the past and future but not something I can commit to now.  My laptop is officially on life support, having been resuscitated temporarily by a computer-savvy friend and returned to me with instructions to retrieve anything I have not backed up ASAP or risk losing it forever.  It turns out laptop video cards, at least in the case of my model, are soldered to the motherboard, so when they go out your options are replace the motherboard (which is expensive) or replace the laptop, which is (apparently) only slightly more expensive.  The DIY temporary fix involves covering the intake and exhaust ports of the machine and then turning it on for half an hour so that it overheats.  Sounds dreadful but it is simply a dire patch for a permanent situation.  Apparently, the intended result (and the result that my friend achieved in my case) is that the heat causes the solder points to expand and fuses the cracked solder back together however temporarily.  This fix, he says, can last for a day, a week, a year, two years, etc., but that when the solder cracks again, as it likely will now that it is weak, you will have to undergo the overheating process again.  Which may fix it again, or may not, as overheating the computer may cause other problems.

With that as my new reality, I have ordered another cheap back up drive to archive and possibly image my laptop before stripping it of substance and consigning it to the role of guest computer, I suppose.

So here I sit, at a Memphis Public Library  public computer, hammering out this place-holder for real prose (not lovely but certainly long overdue).  The guy next to me just left (finally!) after playing video games, punctuated by game-over sounds and repeated, more-than-audible, exclamations of, “Oh! My! God!” after each termination.  When his session ended (they have patrons on a two-hour timer here), he started singing (terribly and nearly tunelessly, of course) about computers and video games.  I believe the tune was “Deck The Halls,” but with more nasal delivery than strictly necessary for someone who wasn’t actually striving for obnoxious.

The going forward plan is that I will continue my lack-of laptop until after Christmas, so that we can take advantage of after Christmas sales to pick up another cheap laptop for regular internet use, bill-paying, ordering online, playing DVD’s outside, etc.  In the mean time, we will set up my study/office in our old bedroom (when we finish the floor of our new bedroom), and I will bring a much older desktop model out of mothballs and set it up again as my writing and blog-only computer.  I will in the meantime look around for a cheap (used) flat screen monitor to use with it, as the only monitors I have left from the old days will swallow half of my desk.

Until all of that happens, I have only these fleeting moments to log on and post, so that is the state of things for now.

dreaming, fragments

dreaming, fragments:

like a rocket

only bigger,

and more beautiful,

and more pristine

than anywhere.

A level above,

at the tippy top,

of a long ladder

(beyond a trap door)

A penthouse,

roof of the world

24 February 1996, Saturday

beautiful hands

caress

banjo strings

such a sweet instrument

 the “devil’s choice”?

so young…

I am

so

young

(am I too obvious?)

stealing covert glances at his hidden folds

smooth, soft fingers

tap-tap of cigarette

softness of the palm against my stubbly face

silent music

A Morbid Fear of “Flying”

I am finding myself vastly intimidated by my lack of a scientific background. I am currently studying for a Naturalist Certification in the state of Tennessee. The course, though it is just a simple survey, is still overwhelming in its scope. I have been a big fish in a very small pond in my area of expertise for a number of years in my chosen profession so I am finding my ignorance a bit daunting but a really exciting obstacle to overcome.

I have more than a passing interest and quite a bit deeper than a novice’s knowledge and awareness of the use of natural substances for healing but I’m finding that little of my expertise is applicable in the nuts and bolts of the Naturalist course. In short, I have spent almost twenty years engaging in a very, very small sliver of the vast continuum of knowledge of the natural world. In fact, much of my experience with that infinitely small sliver is frightfully specific to the inner workings of herbs and plants that you can purchase in capsules or tinctures, vs. the infinitely vast cornucopia of edible, medicinal, and useful herbs, plants, fungi, ferns, forbs, etc.

I have quite a bit of catching up to do. Twenty years out of the classroom and in fact, the majority of that time out of the field as well, has left me scrambling to get up to speed. Much of my experience in plant recognition is remarkably rusty, due in large part to the fact that I crammed a lot of experience and knowledge into just a few short years and then, for all intents and purposes, stopped engaging with the subject much at all outside of my job and just coasted on previous knowledge.

Another obstacle that I have barely begun to face — except by the simple act of accepting the challenge of this course — is my fear of public address, which I would characterize as severe. I am a great one-on-one engage-r, in my humble opinion (and in the opinion of many of my peers), but I remain mortally terrified by the prospect of speaking to any group larger than a couple of people. Seemingly, my fear is further magnified as the formality of the address increases, so I am fine with extended discourse on my areas of expertise with small groups of people in informal settings but seemingly paralyzed by the prospect of the same discourse in front of even small groups of my own associates. By accepting the challenge of becoming a naturalist I have (however inadvertently) accepted the challenge to confront what remains perhaps my own greatest challenge — how to step past my fear and engage an audience with my knowledge and my passions without choking up, without freezing, without getting lost in self-esteem issues, fear of failure, and self-perception of a wide, shallow vessel an infinitely huge ocean of knowledge.

A requirement of this course to get certified as a naturalist is that I must volunteer 40 hours of my time to engage with the subject. While I am not on the face of it, required to speak publicly that I am aware of, it is likely that I will at some point be called upon to address someone about something. I have heard rumblings of such a requirement in the near future, so I guess I feel I may as well break down some of these hurdles now, on my own, before I am compelled by outside circumstances to do so.

“It’s The Greatest Thing You Can Learn, So Why Not Learn It?”

6 Sept 98

Things just keep getting more and more interesting. Yesterday I met the homeless lady with Jesus postcards crumpled on her front seat. Tonight in the store I ran into K., a customer of mine who is this immensely intelligent architect who is a vegan and a follower of Khirpal Singh. He had seen me at the Beethoven Club for that meeting with the followers of Thakur Singh (phonetic spelling), and based on that he began explaining to me in a much more comprehensible manner the benefits of his particular form of meditation.

What it boils down to, for him, is that you relax your body, allow your psyche to relax to the point where the unused sense organs in your brain can flourish and grow. The function of these organs is to act like a receiver for a human radio by tuning into the cosmic frequency. If you use your mantra — which you get from a teacher — to keep yourself tuned in to your surroundings, you will be aware of what is going on around you all the time every day. One of the ways that you can do that is to keep a diary: i.e., “I was so pissed at that lady and flipped her the bird,” or perhaps, “I found myself watching for a reason not to help that homeless woman.” I got the impression from K. that the point of the exercise is not to pass judgment on yourself for not living up to a certain standard but rather to keep up awareness of how you are behaving, how you are interacting, perhaps.

Ultimately, he suggests that energy work is very limiting because if you do it with good intent you build up good karma,and if you do it with negative intent you build up bad karma. The point of it all is to build up no karma because, whether good or bad, accruing any karma commits you to returning to this plane again to reap the consequences of that karma, at least in K’s view.

For him, the realization that he is going to die, that I am going to die, that my parents are going to die, that R. is going to die, that we are all going to die and then our bodies are going to rot away — all of this is very liberating. Once a person realizes and acknowledges that, this is the time to give up all impediments to meditation and use the mantra to transcend the body.

He also got into the idea of personal vs. group or sangha enlightenment. He said that originally the Buddha taught the way to personal enlightenment because he realized that you have to begin with each person singly, to turn each person individually, to show each person the Way and give the tools to follow the Little Path. Then, as people come together and sanghas develop, one can begin to affect group change. Then, also, there are Bodhisattvas, people who once enlightened, volunteer to return to this plane and help others become enlightened. The biggest “problem” of all — and everyone has it whether they admit it or not — is that we are all going to die.

Sweet

Vivid.

Drums.

Walking through desolate places, so beautiful.

Geese, wings cutting the air, as startled, they took flight.

Green trees ringed the scrub grass and dusty flatness.

Before we began:

L. and I at Elsewhere. His brow furrows. There is concern. He’d borrowed a credit card from his cousin, “the small blond one,” to buy the plane tickets. Because his cousin had loaned him the card but L. hadn’t told him that it was for plane tickets, now he was nervous.

“Do we really have to have the card to pick up the tickets? I already gave him the card back, and I didn’t tell him it was for plane tickets.”

We had found a way.

It was India again, and a group of us trudged across the dusty field.

Geese, startled, back to where we began this.

A small village, trailing down from the driveway of a prominent local merchant. The merchant, an expatriated American whose son was now attending college in the states, was throwing a party.

On the drive we met two men who remembered me from my first visit so many years past. We are truly back in India, land of my dreams, a place where 1000 years is young for a communal memory and where tradition dictates the coexistence of 300 million gods.

Our host also remembers.

He says our friend P. and his partner B. (now of two years?) had been there but had already gone. He is most insistent that we make it back for the Festival of Lights (Diwali?) in a couple of months.

Perhaps insistence is too mild a word. He offers to pay for our trip from his son’s college fund.

His family immediately embraces us. Hospitality is the key here.

There is so much food, laid out on silk-covered tables. The servants keep the glasses full.

As we lay back against brocade cushions to enjoy our meal, the sun is setting in a sea of crimson, amber, violet, gold — a vibrant and cacophonous tapestry of light. The lake, rippled by the most temperate breeze, mirrors the sky in its audacious display.

I look around.

Home: sustenance, fond friends, lovers, and family. Sometimes all the same thing.

I feel only a hint of tomorrow’s jet lag.

Life is as sweet as the bowl of lychees at my side.

Then the alarm comes, a digital rooster crowing.

I awake.

I am a raft in a sea of pillows.

Surrounded.

And I am still home.

In the Park Again

18 July 98 ~9:10 pm Friday

In the park again, wondering why I don’t get out more often. I picked up a little trash tonight, but there really wasn’t much to pick up. Now I sit listening to Kiss 107.5, Planet Soul doing “Set You Free,” backed up by a solid, droning chorus of cicadas and crickets.

I wonder again about the soul of gay Memphis. I wonder who I really am — am I just treading water here? I feel like I’m in an edgy place of transition at Wild Oats. Do I really want to stay there? Do I really have a choice, without changing my profession? Does my money really allow me any choice?

Remember: I always have a choice. As long as I have free will, I have a choice — I can write my destiny. At rock bottom — following Thoreau — one can either suck out the marrow of life or one can pick the meat off its bones. One can either kick around in the shallows of the river or wade out into the main current and sink feet down into the mud until one hits bedrock. So says one person.

*

Right now, I’m asking myself what I’m doing here. I have groceries in the car that are getting warm and yet still I sit in this car, unable to relax. I have the radio on, though I’m unable to concentrate on it. I’m much more interested in a couple of cute guys caught in the cruising loop, seemingly not paying me any attention. I want to join in, but I’m still not sure how or if I should. (Note — interesting slip of the pen here: “want to join in.” So perhaps I just crave attention, friendship, companionship, contact and though I hope to find it here, on some level I still doubt it is here.)

The only interest so far comes from a man who probably is mostly curious why I am sitting here.

If I were to see me from the outside, I might wonder who I am, whether I’m an undercover, why I persist in sitting here but refuse to join. I might think, in fact, that I’m an asshole. I might.

Age Is No Barrier To Connection

28 June 98 Sunday ~12:57 am

I touched a raw nerve (in me) when I was talking on the phone to R. tonight.  I was telling him about going to Overton to pick up trash because I have had anxiety attacks, and I said that such activities helped cool my mind and quiet my thoughts. Then I told him that I’d reconsidered what I’d said on Thursday night about this 18-year-old he might be interested in.

What I’d said the other night was that this guy could be too young and immature to deal with the intensity that is R. What I chose to say tonight was that I really didn’t think that age should make any difference, based on my relationship with Greg, who was 19 when I was 24. I said that all that really matters is that he makes you happy and that you find him interesting. I said, in short, that age was basically irrelevant to other concerns.

Then as R. was saying, “Yes, yes – but of course,” I felt my face flush. I felt the sting of pent-up grief and sadness in my eyes, and I thought I was going to become unglued. I don’t know why — nor do I know how I suppressed my feelings or how to reach them again. I think I need a good cry, among other things. I closed my eyes while R. was talking and felt grief well up from within. I pulled up G.’s picture in my mind, and the grief receded. Did I suppress genuine grief by trying to put it on a person who wasn’t any longer worthy of that focus?

Later in the conversation I told R. about my brief dating relationship with S. (who, ironically enough, later became R.’s live-in beau) and how we ultimately proved incompatible because he made me feel like he didn’t want me in his life, just in his bed. I realized just then, I think, that I do very much crave romantic friendship, though I frequently deny that I do, both to myself and to others.

English, August, On The Road, and a Life Wide Open

23 June 98 ~7:00 pm

I was groping around for a book tonight — something appropriate to go with dinner, and nothing quite right… until my hand fell on the spine of a poignantly familiar book, English, August: An Indian Story by Upananyu Chatterjee.

My first instinct when slipped that thin tome out of its berth was to say, “Uh-oh, what does this mean? What does it mean that my hand is comforted by this, of all books? Why am I drawn to read this one a third time, twice this very year, when there are so many other books I could choose?”

As I sat down to eat, a thought came to me: when, I found myself asking, have I previously been drawn to this book? The answer that came to me is both a comfort and a revelation. I am pulled to this book when my life is in flux — when I feel like I’m at a crossroads and need a push to go on. More specifically, this book represents for me not just a time of transformation, but a time when my life was wide open, and I could do anything. The first time I began reading this, I was in India — I no longer recall in which city — and I remember being blown away at the life of Agastya Sen. How he struggled to right himself in a life that had been enough for his father but seemed both tedious to him and quaint and novel to me.

How am I to survive is perpetually a question worth asking. Better still, how am I to live? Who am I really?

Where go? What do? What next? [to paraphrase Kerouac in On The Road].

Quite suddenly, my perspective has broadened, and the scope of what I can do has become limitless.

Joel Hurley was right in his reading when he said nothing would be quite the same again. I still don’t know quite what to make of my desire for a change, but I feel it quite strongly. By going to Colorado, I altered something in myself utterly, the pieces have come loose, and I don’t yet know how to put them together again.

This morning when I woke up, I looked around my trashed and dirty apartment and prepared myself to make a difference. Using lavender and eucalyptus essential oils, I wiped down my new cabinet and began filling it with folded clothes. Then unused supplements were given their turn.

Now, after dinner, I’m going to move the rest of my supplements into the cabinet and begin to try to reorganize my herbs and healing library on the shelves. The bottom shelf may still be dedicated to photography, but the middle two shelves will be taken up by books. ….

A missed bus, English, August, and a wasted life? (part 1)

+25 Jan. 2005 Tues. ~9:30am,  13 August 10 Fri. 12:15pm, 23 August 10 Mon. ~9:00am, & the better part of September 2010

While waiting for the bus at Poplar & Clark this morning, I sat in a pleasant, sunny spot that Hi and I had discovered a few days before.  This morning I am re-reading (for the umpteenth time) English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee when I come across this rather poignant and telling passage.  The scene takes place at The Club, and Agastya (the August of the title) has just endured an afternoon playing cards with his superiors where the atmosphere is a smoldering rendition of politics as usual:

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