Saturday, February 27, 2010

The dangers of speaking aloud

March is coming. Earlier this year, or rather very, very late last year, I called myself making some resolutions. I said I was going to exercise more. I said I was going to write more; I have a deadline in early April, two in fact, one of which I didn't find out about until earlier this month.

So how am I doing? I park farther from the job so I walk more at work. I take the stairs (doesn't really count, there is no elevator). The push ups and sit ups continue. Overall, it's a bit of a bust, but with warmer weather comes the avalanche of guilt. "Well, it's still cold out."

Over the next six weeks, I'm going to have to finish an art project, submit about fifteen pages of sterling prose, and marry some friends in holy matrimony. The project has been mired in the sort of dust and minutia that populates the back burner, and the prose isn't sterling, and there certainly isn't fifteen pages of it (rather, I have a running tally of the absolute dumbest ideas I've ever had in my head, and they just keep coming).

A Chinese curse came to me from the television, which of course makes it about as accurate as wikipedia. But, that it even could be a curse never occurred to me, and that made it fairly intriguing: "May you live in interesting times" is about how it goes. I don't know about anyone else, but I constantly envision myself someday doing amazing and great things, interesting things. Which would make the times I live in interesting. Which means that for all the good, I have to enjoy some bad, too. Stress and migraines and deadlines and failures.

Sunday I have to call an editor about some poetry I submitted to his online magazine. His correspondence inferred that he liked it; at least, it didn't seem likely that he'd want to talk me on the phone just to reject me voice to voice. And a novella I wrote will be published by a web-zine in the same March that's going to be so busy and surreal. That's some good for the mix. Maybe life is a recipe that always produces a different dish? You can put in whatever you want, so long as it fits in the pre-heated oven. Bake for a few decades. Let sit until cool. And you have to eat it. Hopefully enjoy it.

And supposedly, according to my dubious sources, there's a second part to that curse that doesn't sound like a curse but maybe is a curse: "May you get what you seek."

Count me cursed.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Come now plaintiffs

On Wednesday morning, I was served with papers at my residence by a county sheriff. I didn't immediately look for hidden cameras or a punchline. It was 7:00 am. What I did do was promptly, in my own reserved, laconic way, freak out.

I showered early, ate breakfast numbly, and dressed hastily. When my hands were free, they were attached to the document. In the beginning, because the pages were filled with unwieldy, archaic language, the only thing that made sense was the dollar amount that I was being sued for. I thought about losing my grip while climbing out of the hole I was already in, and falling even deeper; I thought about those numbers plus the numbers I already owed for student loans like decreasing altitude. I felt guilty, not guilty like I had done wrong, but guilty in that the verdict had already been delivered. I was at the point when an author might write: "things had come to a pretty pass."

Eventually, I got around to calling people, scrolling through my phone list at 8:00 am while sitting outside the courthouse. And that helped. The accident, my friends pointed out to me, was back in May. If they were citing medical expenses, said my boss, this would have come up much, much earlier. The hospital, she told me, doesn't wait to send you a bill for services rendered. And other things which helped buoy my confidence about the situation. The day took on a kind of equilibrium, but I still felt beside myself.

Because through it all, I thought about the plaintiffs. They had sued the wrong guy. I'm not out for revenge, or litigation proof; I'm just not rich. I don't own any amount of resources even comparable to the money they were asking for. I remember them, a timid little couple, first staring at the back of their car, searching carefully for damage that wasn't there, then refusing the paramedics' assistance, looking at the police report and my insurance information like they were strange artifacts, then driving off. What had happened in those 9 months since?

The solution seems to have been to call my insurance agent, who made copies of the complaint and hired a law firm, assured me things were going to be okay, and asked that I only comply. You'll be fine, a friend of a friend had assured me. You're covered by one of the big boys; all they got is lawyers. So, I guess that poor couple will be drowned in lawyers who look after big businesses, and I suppose when all this dust clears they will have moved no closer to taking care of their own problems.

And I can't be sure why I assume them not to be nefarious, why I see them grasping at whatever they can to keep from drowning, and through it all, happened to have snagged my shoe lace. After all, one of the problems is that no one knows what evil looks like. I feel like if I were rich, I might have just paid them the money. But they did what they did, and now I've done what I've done, and all of it is defensively aggressive and ferociously greedy.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Temporarily waving the sap ban

"I guess this is turning into a weekly thing." - Me, about my blog.

Also a man, commenting clumsily about the status of his relationship with some other person. Is this getting serious, he might ask then.

I have a lot of things rolling around in my head, mostly about writing. But today, tonight, as many of you may know is special. Being single, I really don't have any viability in the realm of relationships, or much of anything to celebrate on Valentine's Day (no, I'm not that guy that celebrates in mockery of the those people too "stupid" to attach themselves to someone else).

But I did spend the evening with a friend. He poured himself onto the table for us to introspect on about the foibles of the romantic overture while he spent some time pouring alcohol into his body. I tried to empathize. And if not, sympathize. Together, we tried to understand. As they say, you only have to get it right once, 'it' being a good and lasting relationship with some other individual that jibes with us. As we decided over drinks, just having to get it right once doesn't mean that it will happen the first time, or the second, or the third, etc.

Which might be another reason they call it the game of love. It's like a contest that comes on every night, with millions of viewers and contestants, spinning wheels and flashing lights, prizes and losers. You just have to keep playing, and trying. On the way home, I spoke with another friend who was experiencing some ugly aftermath over a recent breakup. The emotional wreckage was severe, and the misunderstandings (which w'ed think would happen less with a person that knows us so well) are just as costly after a relationship as during.

And until tonight, I had never had a cause to celebrate, or be contemplative about Hallmark's day of love. I had never been given pause about how special and unlikely love is. True, the holiday is a scam, but simultaneously it is about something truly great in a world that produces fantastic amounts of the mediocre. Like the perfect blossoms Japanese poets spend their lives searching for, among millions of imperfect ones.

I had a discussion recently about the internet. A revelation about how useful youtube could be was cited. I stretched and posited it as analogous to humanity in general. Some of it's good, I said, and some of it's bad. Later, I concluded, we come together and argue about what is one, and what is the other. And parody, that friction of cognition, is what creates knowledge. Debates are ongoing, discussions perpetual.

But I think everyone got together a long while ago, some congress of elders, scholars, thinkers, and children. The topic was love. All in favor, someone said, and every hand in the room went up.

Love is good. And today, we celebrate that. We includes me, and you. I celebrate your love. Congratulations, folks. And Peace.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The human mechanism

I watched a revolving door of hospital staff walk in and out of my friend's room, asking her the same questions and getting the same answers, never talking to one another, and not investing a great deal of empathy either. They had seen a hundred cases that day, had seen a hundred more the day before, and would see a hundred more the day after. The surgeon of my friend, whose work was partially at fault for her visit to the emergency room, showed up as well; she smiled and she soothed. She outlined a plan and struck out confidently into the hallway, where she announced "I'm admitting room 32."

Later, I passed a slack-shouldered boy facing the open back of an ambulance, holding onto the nothing inside his pockets. As I went, I could see paramedics inside working hurriedly over someone I didn't know, but likely connected to the boy, who I also didn't know. But I fabled about him a little, while I tried to remember where I parked my car, and how badly the person next to me positioned their own, and about my friend back in room 32. I thought about what was in that boy's pockets, and what he would become as a result of holding onto whatever he had been holding onto. "And that's why..." the story concluded.

Another friend recently concluded emergency service training, and he told me what he had been tasked to do in the event of a disaster, about little colored tags he would use during triage to label assessed victims. I got hung up on black. Black was the color left on people who were dead, or dying. He related a story about his instructor telling the class that sometimes the black-tagged wouldn't even be dead, but had to be left by the wayside so others would have a better chance of living. I vocalized interest, not because of the horror, or the difficulty, but about what that person, whoever they might be, could be thinking about, holding onto the little plastic note left for Death.

Tonight, a few million people are cheering in a big small place in the South because retribution (of a sort) is at hand. The New Orleans Saints are super bowl champions. They're going to talk about what it means, and who it was for, and a sundry of luminous connections are going to result from all the cheering and smiling and clapping and laughing. How bright they are, and will be, will be determined by a different bunch of variables all contingent on something intangible yet real: we come close to describing it, but never closer than heart.