Saturday, January 15, 2005

Something to do 

If my friends are now bankers and doctors and lawyers – engineers and account executives and consultants and real estate developers and business owners, what can I be?

Dot-com researcher, without knowing anything. Litigation consultant, without trying anything. Banker, without living at all. But all that ca$h! Break. Jumpstart, jump jumplivinglibertyclimb-swim-dive-walk-release. Unemployed, without motivation at all. Advertising producer, without understanding at all. Banker again, greed-moneyconfusionpride---thrill, without truth at all. But the ca$h! Website developer, social networking evangelist, salesperson, project manager, hired worker, uninspired businessperson, temporary recruit, without regret at all, without glory at all, without money or creativity at all. With time. Time to think to decide to move.

A policy maker? A social entrepreneur? … A writer. Without guilt without motivation without assurances, at all. Just a need.

Friday, January 14, 2005

one more day 

Williamsburg. Billsburg. Tip-toeing on the edge of Brooklyn, the motherfuckin’ cooler stepchild of Manhattan. I never thought I’d move out of Manahttan. But here I am, saddled with a less paying job of my own choosing, with roommates in a sort-of barrio, 5 minutes across the river and a thousand miles away from my previous year/life/thoughts/self. I’m living in hipster central, in the nexus of a Manhattan-derived inferiority complex, trying to show those braggarts how cooler life is here. Low rising tenements and shops and pubs and boutiques-cafes-grocerystores run by immigrants jostle for position among sad forlorn sidewalks splashed by bits of graffiti (gorgeous renditions, actually, from jumbled and disturbed geniuses). The streets are cracked and places to frequent are frequently spaced apart. But there’s a wine shop around the corner and a take-out Chinese place with $4 hot dinners.

I talk to people less now. Probably because my cell phone does not work – my place is located awesomely just underneath ground on the first floor so that it’s out of reach for Verizon (great service!) networks. But even so, I talk less to people now, divided by the invisible wall that is the Williamsburg Bridge. I enjoy this new freedom. Unencumbered by social obligations and the distractions of city lights and city life I can hear my thoughts again. It’s like my brain has been released from the vise of trying-things, of schedules crammed with eating out and drinking out and lazy nothings.

And the first thing I noticed was that my thoughts were starved for ways to express themselves. Words, for so long, have been escaping from my mind. In the city, talking had elbowed thinking out of the way. Talking with clients about work --- the meaningless chatter of sales, talking with friends about the same shit and concerns... my dialogue was a game of round-robin… round and round of repeated concerns and regurgitated plans and recycled dreams. Any newness, any creativity was suffocated by my lack of words. Talking simplified thoughts. It relies on habitual use of words/phrases/slang. Shortcuts are made because a steady stream of sounds is needed in good conversations. My want to recognize dharma in my life: to experience the lush thrill of joyous thanksgiving and wonder and excitement/expectations for things to come and the things that are here and now --- seeping into my pores at this very moment; to revel in the simplicity of my life, of waking each day and feeling samsara course through my body, to love and be loved and feel that it’s enough, that breathing is enough, that eating a bowl of cereal in my PJs is enough, that making music, making stories, and making art is enough… those thoughts were crushed underneath the weight of my talking too much. Those thoughts were marginalized and expressed as “I want something more.” Something more? Of course I wanted something more!

But now, across from the concrete jungle of the “greatest city in the world”, perspective comes back. My brain has time to reflect, to react, to question and to want again. The coffeehouses aren’t that far apart. And there are great cheap ethnic restaurants. And people here say “Hi” one another. They smile! And they’re working on movie scripts and digital art projects and new additions to photography galleries. It’s a poorer life for sure, but so far, it’s a truer life. It’s a meager life -- it’s a fuller life.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Marvelous... city? 

The trip to Rio is a big unknown. Since deciding to go 8 months ago, I’ve pushed it out of site/out of mind until now. Asked for time off last week and got it after some bull-shitting. “It’s a present from my GF, ya know, and well, she’s leaving NY in the summer and this is our last trip together --- I know, it’s 11 days, but I can check emails at night and.. and I won’t be completely gone.” And so it’s now in ink, etched into some future memories of mine (as well as the office calendar): Rio and Carnaval and the temptations of the southern Continent. Girls in fio dentals covering their asses and beaches surrounded by mountains, punctuated by opaled lakes and the freedoms of a people infused by a thousand different genealogies.

I bought a guide the other day and asked some people about this city Marvelosa. “Ever seen City of God? The movie?” – “Nope” – “Well, watch it.” Then the email from Vinicio, who’s planning the trip from his outpost in Chile. “Stay in the tourist areas when you get there and wait for me. Don’t bring a camera on the streets. They’ll kill ya for your sneakers. Don’t be adventurous and try to explore the favelas. Don’t wear jewelry or nice clothes. Take cabs! We’re gonna have a lot of fun!”

What the fuck.

Another person and another story. “Yeah, I was in a group of guys backpacking through the city and we were getting on a public bus. A group of guys came up to us and demanded all our stuff -- By the way, don’t carry anything valuable on ya. Keep your credit cards at home. Take, like $15 and divide it between your pockets and socks. Don’t take your IDs with ya. You have a nice SLR? Don’t pack that. Actually, don’t even wear your watch. If you have some crummy watch, that’s ok. So anyways, we all handed our stuff to this gang except for this Brit. And now, we were pretty big guys, so the Brit was acting tough for these young punks. And he had in his backpack a video camera. And all the people on the bus, the locals, were saying, ‘Give them the bag, give them the bag! Don’t mess with them! And the look in their eyes were wide open with… something. And this was on a public bus!”

“If you go swimming on the beaches --- and fuckin’ Jesus Christ, they’re amazing... and the girls!—if all of you go in the water, they’ll just rifle through your stuff man...Oh yeah, and down Impanema and Copacabana, ya know, the touristy spots during Carnaval, if you see hot college looking chicks, and they’re fuckin’ hot man, they’re all prostitutes. You’re going with your GF? Well, tell the guys you’re with... they’re all for sale -- but don’t do it cause it can get you in some nasty shit. But the beaches man… they’re real nice. Check out Barra – it’s pronounced ‘Baja’, double r’s are like the Spanish ‘j’. All the locals go there and it’s really great…”

So I’m reading the guide and thinking, “What the fuck.” I’ve traveled to a lot of places but have never heard the amount of caution reserved for Rio. Can’t be worse than Cambodia or Thailand, can it? I mean, these are just tourists talking. Every city has its shady spots. What about Carnaval? The Bacchanalian festival of Whatever the Fuck we Wanna Do we’ll Do It? The colors and the women and the food? The jungles rising from the mountains and the blue sweeping ocean stretching out from the curving beaches? The history plus architecture? I’ve heard so many good things about Rio before I hunkered down and looked at the logistics. There are those good qualities too, right?

Put on a backpack and grab my boots – everything will be fine and lovely and beyond stupendous, darling.

Monday, January 10, 2005

the images of music 

it's a brisk new york january night. i walk past the pink and yellow and blue glowing stores - past the warm huddled masses of dreamers and wanters behind oak counters sipping their lattes, their venetian coffees and their earl grays. tonight i don't notice them as much cause i see myself, 7 or 8 years ago, in my red corolla winding my way around the empty streets with the boys of Texas. the Ipod is set on random and a tune washes to the shores of my forgetting.

DJ Sammy - Summer
"i'm driving by your house, tho I know you're not home
and i can tell you my love for you can still be strong
after the boys of summer have gone" [cue effervescent pop dance beats]

the words don't mean much to me, they're vapid and meaningless. but the music, the music calls out and it's high school again. i'm struck at the oddness of it all. i'm listening to the most common of music compositions: regular drumbeats mimicking the heartbeat, regular lyrics copying the stupidities of youth, and regular melodies evoking nothing but the most basic of teenage thoughts. the singer's voice was impetuous and undeveloped. but yet somehow, i'm caught -- the song washes over years of growth and rips away the layers of college discoveries and adult dissappointments. and i'm back in 1996, dancing to euro technobeats that were so popular with the asian kids in school. i'm back to a time of indiscretions devoid of real consequeneces, of fun in its raw form, of silly high school romances and sillier declarations of forever and ever. and it's great.

before the greendays and brubeck and weezerness. i'm walking past the blinking streetlights, far past the waning day and into the untouched years of remembering, where everything was possible because possibilities have yet to be fully grasped. i'm there - with mary and lionel and quyen and lisa - with college brimming full of grand goals and a life of romance and penthouses and promises of fulfillment.

it's funny why i like techno: not for it's inherent value but for its ability to unlock my long forgotten treasured memories.

i can tell you
my love for you will still be strong
after the boys of summer have go-ne.

Friday, January 07, 2005

it's been a rainy week 

Wow. I read that last post and what a maroon. What a schmuck. What loads of crap was that? Am I that sniveling and cliched? I sound like a college advertisement. Actually, more like a community college ad, half torn and scratched up on a subway during rush hour, something no one takes seriously at but because it's such a sad state of hilarity and tripe, you can't help but notice. "I want to be inspired, excited, successful.." Pffft. "I'll go get a fuckin college degree and accounting and come out and be a corporate drone so I can succeed! And then maybe I'll get to don the uniform of the elite -- blue shirts and gray slacks and rise above the proletariat... have a corner cubicle and work on intellectually stimulating things.. like financial models and the Internet and policy!" Yeah.

I came to work early Monday morning, before all the goobers got there when it's silent and I can feel samsara coming on, when the city is still drowsy from its work and revelry and crazed sex the night before --- I came cause I wanted to be alone, without roomates and co-workers and the nagging worries of an involved life. My office is constructed out of glass. Glass walls, glass windows, glass doors. But I had never looked through the glass before, never really looked outside. A slight drizzle was tapping against a window on the south side and a glimmer of light was shining through. It was just the right time of the day, where the haze of the morning can be seen elbowing through between the ashen clouds.

The view is amazing. I'd never looked at the buildings outside before. Never looked up at the concrete trees before. Never really saw the utopian neoclassical friezes nor the sweeping curves of the baroque facades; never saw the gargoyles sleeping on the roofs and the praying steeples of the gothic cathedrals. I've worked here 8 months and have never really looked out the window. Ever since coming back from traveling around Oceania, I've never really looked. Didn't think to notice. The city waking up reminds me of the mountains waking up. The sun casts the same shimmer over both concrete walls and granite slopes. I saw the adjacent building turned gold then tangerine and then pink - cascading joybreathlessdharma(awe) into the canyons below -- where ants are slowly beginning to march, up from the tunnels of the N/R/Q/W.

Oh, if I only had my backpack and no entanglements.

I walked to lunch today. Didn't want to order in. It was sleeting outside, slightly, but wrap on my scarf and slide into my mittens and everything was ok with the world again. I walked to a pizzeria and ordered spaghetti. Everyone walks so fast in the city, head down, weaving between carts and traffic signals and manholes and a thousand lives crashing together but never meeting. I wanted to slow down and absorb everything. Slow down and see the city. I wanted to love the honking cabs and the glittering shops - the manic movements of delivery boys and the sashaying of girls in their designer coats. It was fucking cold. And my meeting was in five minutes. I walked back to the office -- head down and straight ahead. Through illimitable saints and countless fallen souls.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

the book of samsara 

Some people achieve illumination when they're young, fresh to the battered and wearied world. Others grow old and touch the glimmer on their deathbeds. And some, like me, search for it, tantalize by the promise of knowing, touched by it like the melting of the sun on your face. It so happens that I'm wriggling out of the cocoon at the age of 25. Quarter-life and I'm finally beginning to see, to have the courage to realize what's always there.

I don't want to go against the tide. I want to be satisfied in what I have, because I have more than what a lot of people have. A great job. Enough money. A place to live. But yet, there's this dull pain. A frustration. A tumor of want spreading in my insides. I can't help but feel the movement towards something other than what's here and now. There's got to be more to living then making money, earning enough to live, to purchase. Self worth is not measured in things.

I seemingly have everything a person can have in their twenties. Good friends, good potential, good health. But I want more. I see friends settling down and working their way to greater positions and salaries and living standards. And I don't see the meaning in it all. I'm happy for them, the ones that have started businesses and will have made their millions in the next few years --- but yet, I can't be happy for myself. I see myself in 10 years, with a place of my own, with a senior position at a company somewhere, with family and the comforts of the 21st century... and I find no meaning in it. And still I'm looking for the grace of satisfaction, of being proud and happy with what my life is.

2005 was a year of stalling. If I didn't think about what I'm doing, maybe the questions will go away. But they didn't, and a job change and the acceptance of my place in the City didn't fill the gaping hole inside. So 2006? It'll be a crazy year. A breakout year from 20 years of thinking a certain way and behaving a certain way. What people feel is important is not so important to me. It only took my 25 years to find that out. To accept.

I want to feel the joy of creating, of teaching and helping others. I want the excitement of new faces and places and ideas. I want the fulfillment of growing and learning, of self-completion.

I certainly don't know how things will turn out, but maybe it's time to turn inwards and see who I am --- and not see who I should be.

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