Friday, May 28, 2004

Metropolitan Diary

Anecdote of life in New York

I must disclaim this: I am staunchly against life lessons on e-mails or blog posts.
But this one, even though there's a life-lesson built in, typifies a certain
New York attitude--that everybody 'makes it' one way or the other. It comes from
the Metropolitan Diary feature in Monday's New York Times. It's a great Monday
treat that takes me back to the good things about life in New York, and as an ex-
resident I find that I appreciate it a great deal. It follows:

Dear Diary:

In the late 1950's, when I was just out of law
school, I had the responsibility of taking an early-
morning train to the city to drop off some papers at
a Wall Street firm. This was in the days when there
were no faxes, no e-mail and no FedEx.
When I had completed my duties and had picked
up some papers in response, having time to spare and
it being a Wednesday, I thought I would take in a
Thus I found myself at the box office behind an
older man, clearly there for the same purpose. As I
recall, there was a discussion back and forth as to
seat location and then price, etc., which involved a
certain amount of if not negotiation, then certainly
adjustmet, until the buyer seemed satisfied, took his
ticket and left.
It now being my turn, the purveyor said something
to the effect of what seats were left and what the
prices were. In response I asked if I could get a
seat pretty much in the same place, and at the same
price, as the person before me.
His reply was memorable. "Sonny boy," he said,
"don't spend your life trying to play the other guy's
hand; he was dealt different cards than you were. You
play your own. Now here's what I got."
I have never forgotten those words, and the
admonishment that came with them. They have helped me
along life's way.

George D. Brodigan

Chanson d'instillation: Willard Grant Conspiracy, Evening Mass

Monday, May 17, 2004


One year ends, another begins

May. These are the days of limbo. My summer employment is up in the air, and when prospective subletters call me I have to finesse them into waiting for my word--I will likely hear next week, if you can wait--so they don't run off and leave me with 460/month in rent to pay for the duration of the summer. It's an incredible web. Job begets income, income begets accommodations, accommodation begets space, space begets the environment to do what I do when I'm not doing what I do: write stories and shorts, make webpages for me and [mystical] clients, draw, the photographing of things, scheme travels and adventures. All the things that school ordinarially consumes. May is the days of limbo.

I began May with frantic communication to align summer employment. When I swiftly and effectively had contacts and channels secured I fled Ann Arbor with a weekend in Chicago, where I stayed in Wheaton and was interiorally
divereted from the reality of summer, and exteriorally basking in its freedom. I spent good time with dear friends, and the weekend was a validation of sorts. Validated were the years of friendship building with both Andrew and Megan as our very separate lives were present to each other for a few brief days and what resulted was indeed something collective, as though there was a history capsule that we could all plug in and find a way to coexist. All real friendships can be picked up and moved. Even Megan--yes, you Megan, my dear bundle of festering angst--even you have a history capsule. Backpacking came next, with Rich and Godwin, and we hiked the Manistee River Trail/North Country Trail in a few days of much banter and bizzare affairs. Godwin consistenly pointed out fallow tree trunks along the terrain smoothened by rain and wind but no less present than they ever have been; probably more striking if Godwin was compelled to point them out. I harassed him with Bush jokes and the sarcastic, detrimental humor that I share with friends. Insult is love, love a flower of thorns. Rich lamented his girth and nature's own harassement upon various worlds of his trunk. Crying 'I'm a fat bastard!' from the mountaintops was a spiritual howl, and Rich was full of bemoanings. This past weekend, I spent another brief time away from the Deuce in western New York with five other friends who comprised part of the SLT at URC. No agenda, no program, no leadership paradigm, no expectations. The fact that such quality times came out of these conditions shows how real a team we were this year. All but one went for a morning swim in the 50-degree rain, and were fortunate to experience the deep-green and smooth warmth of the waters of Findley Lake. Brilliant. We were the Big Chill of URC, each with separate lives, but each with a reason to share them for the moment.

I want to get out of here again. I want to hand-select people to count each other among firends and then go and have adventures with them, and not neglect our souls and histories. I want to weave together stories despite relationships and twisted ideas of "stage in life" and age gaps, and I want to see people move with diligence and criticism at Intervarsity instead of setting their minds and hearts on the table waiting for a student leader to come around and validate their commitment to the message for them. I want the summer to be full of rain and clouds and dry warmth and apathy, shame, guilt, and the ambiguous motives absent. Why do we see our lives as being coursed by the current of time? Why can't we be like a bend in the river--a tree rooted into the bank that watching the current of time go by? Frames of reference make the difference here. I don't want to be at the mercy of time, because there's not a way that I can be. I want time to be the great renderer of that which I'm already rooted into (and for that matter that which surrounds me along the bank). Why can't people forget their ideas every once in a while and accept a new prompt cleanly--without exterior expectations and principles, measures, meters, rhyme, adages, received tokens of what is and is not. Why can't the Pistons just win the Eastern Finals already. Don't Americans realize that there are fields and houses and Mason jars sitting on wood shelves with cicadas and katydids and crickets buzzing about in the early evening of a woodsy summer? What happened to our collective sense of melancholy? Shit ya'll--the world's a pretty fucked up place. Shouldn't we have some sort of shared sense of trauma, unfairness, doom, strife, beauty, pain, pleasure, motivation or will? Man, I'm just talkin, I can't even set it straight in my head. I can just write it down. I'm just talkin. To all of you getting married out there--frankly: don't mess it up. Don't be stupid and negligent and forget who you are. Don't be self-righteous and passive. You owe a hand in a collective melancholy just as much as anybody else. May is limbo.

Chanson d'installation: David Gray, Please Forgive Me