25 March 2009


Pillars of fire in the desert

"I can imagine you would get used to being very quiet and alone with all that desert."

I have been getting nervous as our Mexico trip approaches. Logistics, money, employment, etc.
I have even contemplated certain 'outs' from time to time. One of those times was today.
I said to someone in conversation, describing my indecisions and regrets as thirty approached, as I look back do I get discouraged, do I take it as motivation?
Neither, he replied. That's escapism; you remember that you made choices for a reason and you are living the results of those reasons. Live that, remember it, be aware and continue with that awareness.
I understood this, it is known but maybe not felt, at least not always. But, I said, half joking - I just want a burning bush to be there.
I was thinking of Moses, and was amused by the unintended humor. Moses did not even trust the bush. Confused by my reference, the reply was a reference to The Last Temptation of Christ, A favorite film of mine, and one I had just been thinking about.
He says- Jesus went into the desert for forty days right?


Without food and saw he burning bush (actually a pillar of fire and Satan in the film. Same thing really), but the burning bush was always there, the desert just brought it into focus. You ask for a burning bush, but it is always there. (Now referring to my trip), you will know if this is something you need to do or just a symbol that has gotten larger than it is worth.

The amazing thing is he had just given me the signal with his analogous misstep. Here I am at thirty thinking back, in decades as we tend to, looking down at where I am and reaching forward. Ten years ago, I let myself be talked out of a purpose. I was near the apex of spiritual crisis and intended to drive my van to the desert in Mexico and fast as Christ had done. No one supported this, least of all the people I expected to. I leaned back on that lack of support. Had I gone, then what...?
I did not go and then, the next ten years of my life. Here I am on the precipice of a similar endeavor. Here I go. We are going. Jesus was thirty when he started walking.
That burning bush is always there. Fire walk with me.

Here is a biblical twin peaks:

featuring Willem Defoe, a favorite actor

24 March 2009

We lose to life, every time

We were full on with motivation and dirty earthen life. But it rained - it is the sky coming low to our puny hills. It rained for the month of February - mercifully a leap year. We were maybe foolhardy to plant in January, maybe deluded by our own vigour at the vigour of our seed.

You can tell, looking out the steamed bathroom window as I do every day, the vibrant green of each supple flora blurring into a singular verdure, as if the window had been enveloped in moss.
Everything grew that we did not touch. Our straight rows are bare; our hard worked beds beset.
There is an empty hole where there should be a fruiting tree. There is mud where paths were planned. Twenty laying hens and rich warm eggs with golden yolks are displaced by the reality of garden detrious - scattered bricks, warped lumber, rust. Things undone. We levelled ground and planted a spa. It is filled with rainwater and uncovered, a wrinkled blue tarp peeling off it like a drying membrane in the sun. Benches, solid things upturned. Did the rain accomplish that?

We were drowned that month. And waterlogged we lie about, lower that the sour grass waving in our gentle breezes like kelp beds in the currents.

20 March 2009

I am but a resounding gong...

I would say that I am experiencing a paradox. While I am excited about my present state, and look foreword to my future state optimistically, I feel subject to a subtle haunting by my past. It is hard to describe. I am planning a month long expedition, leaving my job with the a literal blessing of my supervisor who I respect insurmountably. I am fulfilling a promise to myself in doing this and feel I might return to a perspective with more possibilities. My wife is more beautiful each day, quitting smoking and successfully hustling in her unique and creative way. I am reading more and getting out in the world...but I feel that upon this scene someone has folded a decade old section of me.
What section it is I do not know. But this thing, this hook planted so long ago has sent its line ahead and I am just now snagging it. Perhaps its a potency I had once that I lack. How was I reminded of it. An old vibration -

...and why am I writing in awkward analogy? Because I do not know, but I do feel.

18 March 2009

Who I serve

This site is an advocacy group attempting to document the lives of homeless youth, the population I serve at my job, our clients. Covenant House Oakland clients are featured in the video section, but the whole thing is pretty poignant.

17 March 2009

St Patrick's Day

Quick check in: Awesome sledding adventure with friends, brothers, children & wife. Not so awesome casino adventure (-$20). Fun family game night surprise dad visit & intoxicated mother. Hot tub. Too much thrift storing - good finds: record player!, practically a new library's worth of books, black dress shoes. Kayak paddle#$%!!!%^&!!!
A great trip with too much drinking but no drama.
That said - I need some alone time, preferably with new books or kayak.
Tonight 'm going to go get a Shakin' Jesse Guinness milk shake and go home.

I'm not Irish after all.

12 March 2009

30, Thirty, 3 decades, XXX, a score and a half, 30% of a century

I am coming up on my thirtieth birthday - thus being completely untrustworthy to hippies. Well that's good anyway.
I am not really flipping out about being the first person in my house to crack the decade. After all, my two best friends are already there. But I am taking the opportunity to reflect a bit. Where was I a decade ago? Ten years ago (aged 20), I was experiencing a spiritual crisis as an independent Christian. I was disillusioned with the people who brought me up in the Church, and more with the people in the Church supposedly studying the good word along side me. I focused the resentful disillusionment usually saved for the actual religion on these practitioners. In fact, I left organized religion but did not abandon the twenty years I had spent in it. Many people (including my mother) are so put off my the hypocrisy that they seem to spiritually rebound to that watered down Buddhism/Taoism so common in product marketing these days. Others join demagogues like Christopher Hitchens in proselytized atheism. They are free to do that, but I cannot help but maintain that the Jewish/Christian tradition is a core touchstone in Western (i.e. everything west of India) culture. So many analogies and memes are baseless without it. I cannot help but be little Jungian about its influence on our collective awareness.
The last time I cracked a Bible was when I was in basic training in 2001. I was twenty one years old. It was one of the few books we were allowed and being the vociferous reader I am, I managed to bully through the new testament NIV. I have decided to re-read the bible beginning on my 30th birthday. I am inspired by a series I read on the online magazine Slate, blogging the bible. The author read the Hebrew bible, which is pretty much the old testament, unassisted from cover to cover and commented on his thoughts and reactions as he did.
The Bible is a historic document. It is not a written history, but a product of western history from very close to its cultural beginnings. In it we can see the progression of Judaism from Egyptian/Syrian/Babylonian synthesis, through Greek and Roman reason, and - I believe - on to Eastern Mysticism. In it we can watch a religion progress through thousands of years from the gates of animism, through state sanction, to scholarship, to prophetic rebellion and back again to the state in a very few generations. It is a Mystic book and a legal book, a history and a collection of legends, it is uplifting and depressing.I am sure many people would say even angrily something along the lines of this commentator (on the Slate series):

"Wow, I find your assertion that everyone should read the Bible as smacking of so much relativism, I can't believe it. I have read the beginning of the Bible and I found it so silly and laughable that I stopped. I'd really rather the chatters and your readers get caught up on history, science, literature, etc. instead of a book of fables. Would you also push for the teaching of satanic texts? I'm so tired of people acting so high and mighty about their religious preferences. Write an article on the truly important texts that people have never read (Plato, Aristotle, Copernicus, DaVinci, etc.) and I'll take you seriously."

I would say that there are some very important books of fables that are also a part of the Western Cannon (just as the Eastern Cannon has its own): Grimm, Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, etc.
And while I would suggest that anyone who wished to know about or contest satanism read the satanic texts, I would not say that satanism has a great and intrinsic influence, and that it is a direct reply to Christianity and borrows one of its main players.
And while I would say that one would certainly gain insurmountably from reading the great minds of western thought, it is precisely because people have not read them that they lack the broad influence of other works that have had consistent influences for millennium. These books' influence is mostly chronological: Socrates begot Plato begot Aristotle... begot Thomas Aquinas...begot Copernicus...Nietzsche, etc.

As for relativism...well there is a lot to read and you have to start somewhere. I am going to read the bible, cover to cover. I have not decided on the translation, but I want to read without commentary and with a nice red pen. I want to see how ten years of loose and undirected study directs my reading it now. I might comment on it here from time to time.

11 March 2009

its morning time

Today I am being proactive. Today I am typing before anything actually happens!

Yesterday, I accompanied T to the Oakland YMCA; had a good workout - 20 minutes of ellipticals, 40 each of 50 lb curls, 50 lb tricep extentions, incline sit-ups, crunches, dips & leg lifts. Perhaps pushed myself too hard. When I woke up this morning, my triceps were so sore and stiff that I could not bend my arms to scratch my nose or adjust my collar! At least nothing else is sore. I was expecting my abs to be the pain, I felt like throwing up when I was done. Good old army training - work till muscle failure.

I am really looking foreward to this weekends trip to Nevada. I always seems like it will be restful, though usually it is too quick and too busy. Always fun though. I miss the almost meditative calm and quiet of visiting my grandparents in Big Bear. Go for a walk in the woods, play solitaire, watch squirrels. I should write them a letter. I miss them.

I miss so many people right now. I think a little letter discipline is what that calls for.

09 March 2009

I lied

Some would say you have lied if you say you will do something and then do not, if action does not follow intent...
I said I would write every day and I certainly have not. I did not lie, but I certainly showed temerity in proclaiming that goal in the face of my past. A lie is an action that needs intent itself. I merely showed weakness in character. However, I will not be so discouraged.

I have had a fine weekend - played scrabble Saturday evening, slept in Sunday, woke up and read the comics with coffee. Then had some face time with friend 'J' tea and toast and masted boats. Went and saw "the Wrestler" with my lady at the el Cerrito speakeasy (nicer than the Oakland one). I really enjoyed the film, not so much for standout qualities, but for its normalcy. A simple story with fleshy characters living out the subtle arc of a story in part of their lives. I appreciate that the film suggests so much but is not a morality tale, like a well written story in short form. You should see it.

I received news this evening that two of the clients at my work got into an altercation and have been discharged. That these particular clients did this is not a surprise, though they might not have done it with each other. As a staff member it is also an experience worth being anecdotal, amongst other staff at least, and somewhat comical. However, it is hard and good to remember that now two people have lost their best option, at least for a while. Of course they are experiencing their situation as a result of their own actions, but who is not. That does not preclude compassion. It is good to remember that the ones who have it least of all, who are confused and frustrated by the world around them more that I could imagine are the ones in greatest need. My job will be easier and safer with these two particular clients gone. My job will be less effective with these clients gone. The ones who are most difficult are the ones most in need.

06 March 2009

Books I want to read

I missed yesterday so today I'll do two...and the first will be an open and continuing log of books I might want to read based on whatever makes me think I might want to read them:

These are mentioned by a reviewed who admits his favorite fiction reads are actually genre stuff - Detective Mysteries & Espionage Thrillers, and has a hard time getting into most contemporary fiction or as Tom Wolfe memorably put it—novels by Iowa Writers' Workshop fellows who move to a corn belt state exurb and have five conversations with a plumber named Lud and think they've had an epiphany about the American soul that makes for the weak-tea post-Carver "mall-fiction" we had to suffer through for so long
Detective Mysteries & Espionage Thrillers happen to be my favorite genres and I can smell the stink of Iowa writer's workshop a hectacre away.

The List
A Coffin for Dimitrios
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
Phillip Kerr's Berlin Trilogy
The Book of Daniel
The Sot Weed Factor
The Year of the Dog
Pale Fire
Tristam Shandy...

05 March 2009

Have you seen Lawrence of Arabia?

I netflixed it, feeling there was a very specific reason I needed to watch it. I have seen it before and some recollection of emotion or feeling was asking to be re-felt. I came home and my room-mates were halfway through it.
This is not much of anything today. It is two in the morning and I cannot assemble my scrambled thoughts on the day. I have been sleeping more than usual and dreaming all the while. Maybe that will help. Good luck out there world and good luck future Me.

03 March 2009

The banality of evil

I am at work, and have lent to my clients the film "City of God." I have not been watching, but attending to tasks of the evening. I went out at random and watched the following scene:
This taking place in the slums of Rio, two neighborhood leaders are vying for control. The first is up and coming and celebrated by the community for bringing a level of order to his neighborhood. The second is more laissez faire and controls a gang of prepubescents. These kids are running rampant, mugging and stealing from within the community etc., disrupting the so-called order of the first. Initially the second lead man is confronted, then a group of kids is caught in the act by the first and two are apprehended - approximate ages: 6 & 9. They must choose between being shot in the hand or the foot. The foot. But wait, this is a perfect opportunity for the leader to initiate his own prepubescent protege, aged maybe 11. He must kill one of the kids, and eventually shoots the older one.
I experienced an intense emotional distress watching this scene, that has not really subsided an hour later. Most likely and most viscerally because the youngest kid reminded me of one of mine. More cerebrally I am affected because I am aware that though this is a potentially fictional scene from a movie based on real events, it is possibly a representative of a real event and is a representation for uncountable similar events and worse. Regular events.

I have often contemplated the narrow path of civilization, where a deviation toward the lack of can create situations of horrific chaos in otherwise respectable people and deviation toward too much can create horrific bureaucratic indifferences at the hands of otherwise loving individuals. The more horrific events in human history have not occured because someone suddenly emptied all the maximum security prisons. They happened because something or someone found a switch that empowered many people to realize their always present negative potential, be it the dismal power trip of an anonymous desk job wherein submitting certain forms literally destroys people, or the lack of moral accountability that allows people to exlore and exercise their otherwise externally monitored feelings toward violence.

Read about how terrorists are not inhuman monsters and neither really are the people who tortured them at guantanamo bay here: http://humanrights.ucdavis.edu/projects/the-guantanamo-testimonials-project/testimonies/testimonies-of-military-guards/testimony-of-brandon-neely

Jesus supposedly said "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment."

I am not prostelytizing here. I am not a Christian but this is my upbringing and my knowledge-base. What I see in that, is the potentiality in all of us. His larger point being that we are all "sinners" and the playing field is rather level. It is a freightening bundle of potentialities, from Godlike to daemeonic, but most horrible things come from the mediocre in between.


Quote of the day from a woman who's husband and children are vegetarians: "They tell me, 'Your body is a graveyard for dead animals,' " she says ruefully.

02 March 2009

Second verse, same as the third

This blog has already caused a bit of a scandal around here. I'm not sure why but in the spirit of this fine nation, I am willing to capitalize on it. I'm waiting for publishers to come running, or maybe Oprah.

Today we had a play-date with G's friend P. I was thinking about the otherworldly feeling I have of being judged by teachers and other parents. Maybe it is because I am divorced and have the experience of actually having my parenting come under Judgement. I am not used to operating as if the presumptions of other people actually mean much to me; I have always had a fair amount of that for myself, let alone the hard measure from religion (I will get to that later in depth, hopefully). Maybe it also stems from being at least a decade and social class under the other parents I encounter. It is worth thinking about and I would recon for myself worth correcting. The difficulty of that is that I am bound through not necessarily friendly, and certainly not representative, tendrils to my childrens' mother.

Ho hum - tonight's game night, so off I go. Game night here every other monday night. a forced sociallizing that is probably good for me.

Signing off

Why I'm here.

Everyone else is here, right?
Well I know a good tool when I see one.

A rejected title to my blog was "discipline thyself". When I met 'T', I was in a deep period of self contemplation. On a cork-board in my otherwise spartan bedroom I had that as a personal mantra. Maybe the mantra itself is a little spartan, but it certainly has its applications.
This blogging tool I hope to apply to the task of disciplining myself to input something of substance everyday. Maybe in this way I can finesse
out of myself a certain level of skill at and a comfort in writing. One day I may write something of some worth.

Of course another mantra in my life has been everything in moderation[including moderation].
I am christening this blog with my first drink in a month(albeit the shortest month), whiskey and ice. happy trail!

...we shall see.