November 26, 2003

Perfekt Imperfection

It’s funny how things always have a way of working out. There’s an old Taoist proverb about two old friends talking about life. One friend said to the other, “So, I bought this new horse. It’s a great horse, really strong.” The second friend said, “Oh! That’s good!” The first friend replied, “Well, my son was riding it a couple of weeks ago and had a really nasty tumble. That horse started bucking him and my son fell off and broke his arm.” The second friend exclaimed, “Oh! That’s bad!” The first friend continued, “Well, a week later, the king’s army came to our village and took all of the young men who were old enough to fight in the war. My son couldn’t fight because he’d broken his arm.” The second friend replied, “Oh, that’s good!”

The story continues on in this manner. The point of the story is that when there is bad timing for one thing it is only because, later on, there will be good timing for another. This idea became vividly clear to me this past weekend. Some friends and I had made plans weeks ago to head out to Mexico and camp at a beautiful desert oasis called Guadalupe Canyon. It is, quite literally, a desert oasis; natural hot springs flow out of the mountains and into the canyon. Palm trees grow in groves along the canyon floor and waterfalls cascade down its rocky walls. The days were warm in the sun, but cool in the shade. La Virgin de Guadalupe, a human shaped boulder at the peak of the mountain, looks over the canyon. It is a holy place.

Paul was our tour guide. He had been to Guadalupe Canyon many times and new his way around Mexico. He is also a Spanish speaking Puerto Rican and a really fucking cool guy, so I always knew I could trust him to speak for me when having to deal with the locals, since my Spanish is so limited. All of this would come into play over the weekend. Paul and Steve, another cool guy who was ranked tenth in the world for wheelchair tennis and plays guitar like a mothafucka , took on the grocery shopping and cooking duties. Gabe, cool guy #3 and amazing ceramics artist, had planned on doing a pit firing (I’ll explain this process later). Jason, another incredible artist, brought out his drum and his good vibes. I brought a big ass tent, a cooking stove, some percussion instruments and a small bag of shrooms.

Some pretty serious planning had gone into this trip. Reservations had been made for the best campsite. Under normal circumstances, we would’ve left on Friday and gotten a jump on the weekend, but Gabe was having an art opening at Playa Gallery and we all decided it’d be better to simply leave on Saturday morning instead. Still, our reservations were set and we had decided to stay until Monday. The art show was great and, after a night of partying, we all headed home to try to rest up for our trip.

The next morning, we managed to get out of San Diego by 11:00AM. Not too bad. We had three cars heading out caravan-style and everything was going great. We made it over the border without any problems and were about 45 minutes west of Mexicali when we turned off the highway and got onto a bumpy dirt road. And I’m not just talking about little bumps. I’m talking serious mounds of dirt and rocks. We traveled this road for about 40 minutes at 35 mph until another Guadalupe Canyon sign directed us onto a road that was even worse than the one before it. Whereas the first dirt road had been mostly straight, this new road was 10 times as bumpy and irregular as the first road and had all sorts of hairpin turns. We finally drove into the camp at Guadalupe Canyon at around 4:30.

The sun had already set behind the Virgin of Guadalupe and the canyon was cast in shadow. It would be dark soon. We had hoped to set up our camp before it got too dark. Paul scouted ahead to the camp office to check in. He had said that we’d either get El Mirador or El Sol; two of the best campsites complete with a stone walled palapa and natural hot spring bath, not to mention an incredible view of the canyon spilling out into the salt flats. While Paul and Jason went to deal with checking in, Gabe and I went to see the campsites that were supposedly reserved for us. Both of them appeared to be occupied by happy Mexican families. Fuck. What did this mean for us? We waited patiently for Paul and Jason to return, but after awhile, we got antsy and went up to see what was going on.

We found Paul and he told us what we already knew; they had mistakenly given our campsite to someone else the day before. To make matters worse, the whole camp was filled. There wasn’t a single campsite available. Fuck. However, there was other news: apparently there are actually three different camps in Guadalupe Canyon. Three brothers own the three camps; one brother owns each one. All of the camps were full, but one of the brothers had a brand new campsite that had never been used. However, apparently, the two brothers we had been dealing with have a bit of a feud with their third brother. One way or another, the guy decided that we could stay there. Getting our money back from the original brother was another matter that took time and when we finally drove out of the camp, it was almost 7:30.

Unbelievably, we got on a road that was worse than the first two put together. We were bumped and jostled left and right by boulders sticking up through the earth. We had to drive through a fucking river. It was like being inside a commercial for one of those hulking 4x4 jeeps, except it was now dark so you couldn’t see further than your headlight beams projected. A half hour later, we were driving into one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.

The original camp we first drove into seemed pretty fucking cool. Each one had its own cool little set up with a grill and hot spring bath made from the stones jutting up through the earth. However, compared to our new campsite, the first place looked crowded. The new place had a huge area that stretched for about 50 yards in one direction and 20 in the other lined on one side by a grove of tall palm trees and on the other by huge granite boulders and beyond that, the canyon floor. As with the other sites, a nice, large, stone hot spring bath was built into the boulders lining our space. Unfortunately, the one problem with our place was that the pipes were not insulated so that, by the time the spring water made it to our tub, it was only hot and not super hot (about 120 degrees). Still, we were just happy to have a place to set up camp at all.

By the time we started in on making dinner it was 8:45 or so. The menu included about 4 pounds of mahi mahi with a mango chutney and seasoned white rice. There was more than enough food to go around and everything was delicious. We had just eaten the best meal any of us had had in awhile and we were happy to have our new spot. It certainly didn’t feel like camping. We were doing it in style. Hell, we even brought out a special grill for our meals. We smoked bowls and jammed on our instruments. Very cool. The night was damn cold, actually, but we had built a good fire and kept ourselves warm. Good things had come out of a potential disaster at the first camp.

The next morning was leisurely and included breakfast (leftover mahi, scrambled eggs and a delicious avocado tomato salsa served in a burrito), bowls and Frisbee. Paul had gotten friendly with Ernesto, the owner of the camp and brought him over to check out Gabe’s pit firing process. Basically, Gabe creates some ceramic forms and fires them in a normal kiln. He then gathers up a bunch of organic stuff (seaweed, pine needles, hair, banana peels, etc), liquid metals, wood for burning, and a shovel and heads out to places where he can build big fucking fires. There was a perfect area amid some boulders and away from vegetation where we decided to build the pit. It was about 3 feet deep and we moved some smaller boulders around the edge of it. Gabe worked all afternoon, carefully draping organics dipped in liquid metal around his ceramic forms and then wrapping each one in aluminum foil. After this part of the procedure, the forms are placed in the bottom of the pit and covered with wood. The wood is then lit on fire producing heat in the 800 to 1000 degree range which oxidizes the organics and causes the liquid metals to leave traces of color on the ceramic forms. Ernesto watched us build the pit as Paul explained the whole process to him. He seemed impressed by it and gave our project his blessing.

As we were digging the pit, we watched the Mexican families loading up there things and heading out from the site. It became apparent to us rather quickly that we’d have the whole camp to ourselves. Even Ernesto was leaving. He told us to lock the gate behind us when we left in the morning. Very cool guy. Jason, Paul Gabe and I went on a hike while Steve studied (he’s a English lit student working on his masters degree). We hiked up to the waterfalls and checked out the breathtaking view. Jason and Gabe headed back to camp a little earlier to continue his pit firing preparations and Paul and I went back a half hour later.

The sun was beginning to descend in the sky and we were all excited for the pit firing. Paul, Jason and I took some mushrooms and had a great time laughing and watching the intense colors spreading across the desert as the sun went down and the mushrooms kicked in. Just as it got dark, Gabe lit up the huge pile of wood. Within minutes, the wood was completely ablaze. The colors coming out of the fire were incredible. Transparent blues and greens. Deep purples and, of course, burning oranges. The fire was getting so hot in its middle that it was burning white. The flames were easily 7 feet high. Jason and I sat on a large boulder and watched the flames from above. Suddenly, we heard a voice yelling, “You can’t do that! You can’t do that!” A man with a headlamp and pony tail was running towards our fire and said, “Help me get some water to put out that fire! We can’t have a fire that big here!”

None of us knew what to do. This guy was the caretaker for the three camps and he was completely steadfast in putting out the fire. He took the lid to our grill, submerged it in the water from our hot spring bath and threw it on the fire. By that time, I had decided that the guy was not going to stop until the fire had been extinguished, so I helped him. Meanwhile, Gabe stood by silently outraged. When you take a ceramic form that is heated up to 800 degrees and then suddenly throw water on it to cool it to 200 or 300 degrees, they crack. Gabe had about 17 different forms that he’d created over the span of a couple of weeks. A whole body of his work was ruined. Or so he thought. He argued and debated with the guy for a good half hour while the rest of us got dinner ready (4 ½ pounds of organic steak and potatoes with carrots, onions and spices. Un-fucking-believable). Gabe finished his conversation and rebuilt the fire. The guy had been really nervous because another campfire had gotten completely out of control and burned through the valley. He saw a big fire and got worried about floating embers burning some of the extremely dry palm fronds on some of the trees. Gabe convinced him that this fire wouldn’t get out of control and explained the pit firing procedure. The guy said we could build the fire again, but make it smaller.

Although we were all sad about Gabe’s ceramics, we tried to salvage the evening and ended up having a great time. And even though our own hot spring tub wasn’t hot enough, we had access to the tubs at other camp sites since no one else was around, so we used another one instead. It was exquisite! The stars were out in full force and with the air at 35 degrees, it felt great to get into 120 degree mineral water. We got out of the tub after awhile and, one by one, went to sleep.

The next day, we all got up and were curious to see if any of the ceramics had survived the caretaker’s fire dousing routine. The ceramic forms were visible, some of them still packed in their aluminum foil. There didn’t appear to be too much damage to the ones that could be seen. Usually, when he does a pit firing, Gabe knows he will lose 10 to 20 percent of his pieces. It’s something he has come to accept. For whatever reason, Gabe didn’t lose a single piece in that firing and he got some incredible effects that he might not have gotten had it not been for the water that was poured on them. Again, a bad thing that turned into a good thing.

Finally, our trip was coming to an end. After one more dip in the hot springs, we packed up our belongings and headed out of the site careful to lock the gate behind us. We ventured back out to the open salt flats and cruised back to the highway. Before we knew it, we were back across the border and on our way home. The trip was perfect in its chaotic imperfectness.

We’ll definitely go back to Guadalupe Canyon. Paul and Ernesto became friends and Ernesto talked to Paul about producing a webpage and logo design. We also talked to him about doing postcards that would be available in the little market there. We’re going to create these things for him in exchange for a free place to stay whenever we want. It’s a beautiful thing that wouldn’t have happened if things hadn’t flowed exactly the way they did.

Posted by Dlove at 12:32 AM | Comments (6)

November 24, 2003

Much Ado about Tattoo

Why would anyone get a tattoo? When in your life would you ever be so absurdly confident in what you like that you’d be willing to permanently mark your body? No one commits to a haircut, an outfit or even earrings for their lifetime – why would anyone consider body art differently? How rarely do we make decisions that are both painful and permanent? So it will hurt a lot and I can’t change my mind, ever? Sign me up! And lets be honest, haven’t you seen how terrible some people’s tattoos are?

“Wow. That’s a pretty big and ominous tattoo for the band ‘Skid Row’. Good call.”

So why do I have a large tattoo on my back? (photo below)

I always thought getting a tattoo was a bad idea. When I was a teacher I saw many high school students with truly terrible tattoos. My students always seem to have a friend who had a tattoo set. These friends would do them a ‘favor’ by giving them a tattoo despite the fact that they were under 18, the minimum legal age to get a tattoo. Do you let your friend cut your hair just because they have a pair of scissors and a combs soaking in suspiciously blue liquid?

I worked with 16 year-olds with tattoos of boyfriend and girlfriend names, song names and, perhaps in case they forgot it, their own names. I would think this would be a decision you’d make with some thought to the person performing the minor surgery. Masturbating in front of your web cam doesn’t make you a “porn star”, reading a Dalai Lama book doesn’t make you a Buddhist and owning a tattoo needle doesn’t make you an artist.

One poor student had his buddy tattoo the name “BOB MARLEY” around his arm. While this may have been the best possible choice of any musician name to get inked permanently onto your body, the design left something to be desired. The letters got progressively larger making the ‘Y’ nearly twice as big as the beginning ‘B.’ It read bob mARLEY. Ouch. And it was massive. Not an easy one to cover-up with Celtic pattern or a girlfriend’s name. Unless he dated a woman named BOBi MARLEY, I suppose.

So why do I have a large tattoo on my back?

When I was in college I visited an apparently eager dermatologist. He was an older man with curiously soft hands. I can’t say I’d previously ever noticed the texture of a man’s hands when I shook them, but this creepy older man’s hands were shockingly smooth. Since he spent time touching my skin seeking out imperfections, it was appreciated if a bit odd.

As a kid growing up in Southern California, I spent most of my time running around with my shirt off. Not in a ‘very special Diff’rent Strokes’ kind of way (no one was taking a photo of me in my skivvies), but in a ‘lets-play-in-the-sun-all-day’ kind of way. As a result, the many moles that mark my skin like a nonsensical connect the dot puzzle were unhappy. Some of the moles grew tired of the constant sun and began to be troublesome as I entered college.

Fortunately, the old man with the soft hands was able to seek out the infidels and remove them from my back. In order to make sure we got all of the potentially cancerous moles out, we had to dig deep. He removed several moles from my back, one so deep that I wondered if he was hoping to find a route to China, find oil or see if there was a secret, underground city thriving beneath the skin on my back. This required stitches and left a minor scar.

However, the other excavations were not so lucky. These moles were not cut deep enough to require stitches, he said. So he used what must have been a melon baller to scoop out the treacherous moles, leaving perfect circles below by should blade on both sides of my back.

Having a scar is cool. Having matching scars because you had cancerous moles removed is not. Having girls at school see your scars and ask if you got shot is cool (true story). Having to explain what actually happened is not (I said it was an unfortunate melon balling accident. Never drink and prepare for a picnic, I told them).

So why do I have a large tattoo on my back?

One Christmas a few years back my grandparents gave me a beautiful painting by an Alaskan artist. It was titled “Communication” and featured three birds stylistically intertwined above what appear to be wings. Convinced that my spirit animal is a red-tailed hawk, the painting took on even more significance. My grandparents are a constant inspiration to me. While my grandmother passed away in ’02, my 92 year-old grandfather is the grooviest guy I know. I truly appreciated the gift and couldn’t wait to display it.

About this time I was becoming disillusioned with my school counseling job and thinking about moving on. I was single, 25 and had some money saved up. Why spend this time doing a job that wasn’t particularly interesting and that I didn’t feel I was good at? I decided to join my good friend on a backpacking adventure in South America. The time frame was undecided, but we figured it would be at least 3 months.

Why do this? Why take off? I guess I felt that this was my life and I didn’t want to be a spectator in it. This life was impermanent, as all things are, and I should make the most of it. If this life is impermanent, then so is my skin. By this logic there would be no such thing as a ‘permanent’ marking. A tattoo suddenly became only as permanent as this skin on my shell. It would only last to the end of this lifetime…a flash in the pan of the universe.

With my newly grasped intro-to-Philosophy concept of impermanence and the encouragement from some key friends as well as my brother, I decided to get the “Communication” painting tattooed onto my back. I would be reclaiming my back after the soft-handed dermatologist marked me, I would be paying tribute to my amazing grandparents, I would be committing to the idea of ‘communication’ as the painting shows and I would be reminding myself of the glorious impermanence of my life. And chicks might dig it, too.

So that’s why I have a tattoo on my back.

I went to get my tattoo from an artist that worked on a friend of mine. He had done a great job and was very into the craft of body art. Painkiller in hand, I went in to get worked on. Ignoring all of the cliché images on the walls of dragons, butterflies and skulls we got to work. (Who picks a tattoo off the wall of a tattoo shop? I can’t imagine someone simply wanting ‘a tattoo’ as opposed to wanting a tattoo of something in particular. Do people go to a plastic surgeon knowing they want work done, but not sure what? “Hmm, maybe I’ll get my floating ribs removed…ooh, or collagen injected into my lips! What’s that lady doing? Having the fat of her thighs drained and shot into her face? Sounds good to me!”)

The tattoo artist first drew the image on my back so I could decide if I liked the placement. While it was a tad difficult to judge the position on my back, I was satisfied. I lay down on the table and he began to jab me with the vibrating needle. He had made a couple of marks when he said, “Well…now you know how it feels.” He knew exactly what I was thinking. And, oh my, it hurt more than I thought.

It’s not the pain of the needle so much as it is the stopping and starting. Once he’s going, I could breath into it and relax. It’s that he can only work for a few seconds at a time. This means there is a stopping, re-inking and starting again. Going from zero pain to intense stabbing pain is tough to endure over and over and over again. The most painful portion was when he was working directly on my spinal column. There’s little skin covering the vertebrae and it feels like the needle is literally bouncing off of my bone. Must…fight…urge…to joke about…phrase… ‘bouncing off of my bone.’

After two hours we were done and my body was shaking fairly significantly. I was buzzing and it felt invigorating. I suppose it would be invigorating to stop after two hours of anything intensely painful and glamorous such as waxing my bikini line or stapling my leg repeatedly.

Everyone said that once you get one tattoo you’d want to rush to get another and another. It’s been five years and I still haven’t gone back to get my first one worked on again. I will, it’s just tough to rally to make time to let someone hurt me.

It’s unusual to have something I’ve added to my body that I can’t take off. For example, I couldn’t ‘turn it off’ when I went to the beach with my future father-in-law. And swimming with a shirt on or constantly moving to make sure you’re always facing each other makes an even more bizarre first impression than having a tattoo.

I guess that’s what makes it such a statement and commitment. Just like someone with a boob job can’t turn off the appeal of having large breasts. Having massive, gravity-defying breasts must be fun when going out to a club on a Saturday night. I’m sure it’s a blast having a strobe light hypnotically flashing on your sweat-glistened globes knowing that you’re getting positive attention. But what about when you’ve got a head cold, you’re tired and at the store to pick up some Thera-Flu? Your face and body are saying, “I feel like crap. I want to take some medication, watch ‘Elimidate’ and sleep,” but your breasts are blowing an air horn and yelling, “I’m a hot, chesty vixen! Check me out! My breasts have magical powers!” And, as a rule, I hate it when my breasts speak for me.

In looking back, I don’t regret getting a tattoo. (I do, however, know many who do. Drunken decisions made with fraternity brothers, drama-prone girlfriends or bikers rarely turn into sound tattoo ideas. Unless your evening involves all three – then you’re probably okay.) Waiting until I was twenty-five and spending time thinking a lot about what image I wanted made a big difference. I like the reminder the tattoo gives me – be open in communication, this life is impermanent and even your high school teacher can have body art.

I’m really glad my grandparents didn’t give me a painting of a clown or one of those “Magic Eye” pictures where you relax your eyes and see a 3-D image of a dinosaur or something. That wouldn’t be nearly as cool on my back…or would it? I’d better grab me some Boone’s Strawberry Hill and call up my old frat bros!

Posted by Kaya at 05:25 PM | Comments (15)

Angels

In the last week since I've had my new camera, 2 pictures have jumped out at me.
I realized that they both evoke the same feeling in me.
WONDER.
Wonder from both sides of the life spectrum.
At 7 months. At 91 years.
If you can keep that wonder...even slightly...between those 2 points in your life...that's as close to nirvana as I can comprehend.


I am awed by the gifts of these two teachers: Baby Em and Grandpa Caleb.

Posted by Halcyon at 08:13 AM | Comments (4)

November 17, 2003

To the Citizens of the Universe

My fellow citizens, I write these words today, not as a citizen of the U.S., or even a citizen of the world, but as a citizen of the universe. It is to this citizenship of the universe that I address myself. It has come to my attention recently that there is simply too much negative shit going on out there. Maybe I’m just hypersensitive to it. Maybe I spend too much time perusing the “rants and raves” section of craigslist.org. Whatever the case, I implore you to be good to each other. As a citizen of the universe, there are really only a few rules you have to follow in order for everything to work. What follows is a little refresher course that will help make your stay here in this universe as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

In the beginning there was darkness, and then there was light and, little by little, everything came into existence and now here we all are doing our best to scrape by in life. We’re born and then, what the hell are we supposed to do? What’s the purpose? Why am I here? The purpose for each part of the universe: each being, animal, vegetable, and mineral, every single molecule and atom, neutrino, quark and string, is to do the thing that it does, whatever that is. Since humans are able to think and feel, our purpose is more obvious and yet, for some reason, more difficult for some citizens to accomplish.

When thinking about your purpose, it is also important to recognize that life is a gift. Maybe there’s a God, and maybe there isn’t. It’s not important. Even if the creation of the whole universe was one huge, random coincidence, it is still a gift to be alive. Gift-giving is reciprocal in nature; someone gives you a gift and, eventually, you give a gift back if you are interested in maintaining a certain level of friendship with that person. Thus, you must give a gift back to the universe. That is your true purpose as long as you are alive.

Many different tribes throughout the world have their methods for giving back to nature. Even the ancient Jews were instructed to sacrifice the first cow or first crops as an offering to God. If the gift stops moving, it is no longer a gift; it is a commodity. Here in the U.S., it is easy to think of life as a commodity. Car companies do it all the time; is it more cost-effective to recall all of their vehicles because they have defective tires or to simply settle the handful of wrongful death lawsuits that are an eventuality if they don’t do the recall? I’m sure that, if the car company decides not to do the recall, no amount of money would ease the pain at losing a loved one. Life is not a commodity, even if we try to make it one. It’s a gift, so the gift must continue to circulate if it is to remain a gift.

Don’t worry; you don’t have to sacrifice a cow or bury a hundred bucks in the woods as an offering. There is a much simpler way to give your gift. The universe is vast and has many citizens. Your gift should be given to each one. Sometimes just saying “thank you” and meaning it can be enough. Some citizens of the universe are not aware of their duty to the other citizens. They don’t understand their purpose. But you do. You are still obligated to give them your gift and explain to them their responsibilities as fellow citizens.

The really interesting thing is that, the more you put your gift into circulation, the more gifts you will receive. It’s a weird cause and effect type of model, but it’s very true. You may not receive monetary gifts, but you will receive gifts that help enrich your life and make you feel better about yourself. There’s something really special about someone saying to you; “Thank you so much. You really helped me. You’re one of the most generous people I know. I appreciate you.” If you don’t think that’s a gift, you don’t understand and I advise you to go back to the beginning of this essay and read through it again. It will make more sense the second time around.

I am thankful to be alive and, somewhere along the path of my life, I realized that it was my purpose to have as positive an impact on as many people, places and things as I possibly could. It is only recently, after reading a wonderful literary anthropological book called “The Gift,” by Lewis Hyde, that I have fully understood the connection between accepting the gift of life and passing the gift back to the universe and its citizens. I see so much negativity in the world. People seem to be in it only for themselves. It seems like people need a reminder of their true purpose. As a fellow citizen of the universe, it’s my duty to point it out to those that are getting lost along the way. It’s certainly not a new concept or even a particularly deep thought, but it is something that gives our lives more meaning than simply surviving. Accept the gift and pass it on.

Posted by Dlove at 10:43 PM | Comments (12)

Stone Tablet Tech Support

Every Thursday I have lunch with my grandpa. It is a multi-purposed event.
If fulfills the social function of staying in touch with my family patriarch.
It fulfills the basic body needs of food and drink.
And it fulfills Grandpa’s need for weekly computer help.

Keep in mind he is 92, so the fact he has computer problems at all is a miracle. It’s like needing weekly time-travel assistance.

Each week he has a list of questions scribbled on a scrap of paper.
He can rarely read his scribbling. At best, he will recognize a word that will trigger his memory.
“Oh, um…I think I need to delete more things” is frequently on the list.
Or perhaps it is simply the same scrap of an envelope that he picks up each time I visit.

This week he had a simple request, help fix his printer. Despite the fact that the whole point of a computer is to store words and pictures digitally, Grandpa doesn’t trust the bits and bytes. He sees the computer as a holding tank for the documents until they can be printed out. Any digital photo or email that he likes, he prints out.

So you can see why printer trouble would be disconcerting for grandpa.

Usually when I come to fix his printer it is easy to trace back his steps and see what he’s done so far:
1) Click “PRINT.”
2) If nothing happens, go to step 1.

So by the time I get to troubleshooting, there are dozens and dozens of print jobs in the cue. I question the need for ONE copy of “Why Jesus is Better than a Cucumber.” But 26 copies is clearly excessive.

First I clean out the print queue and then try to see what is wrong. No ink? Paper jam? Cables plugged in? Is the printer turned on?

This week, it appeared to be a paper jam. I fiddled around, reached in the paper feed area, and discovered what was going on.

I held out my discovery to grandpa…
“Well, I think I see the problem. You dropped a prune into the printer.”

He laughed like it was an accident. But I wonder if he was intentionally trying to keep the machinery regular. I suppose we'll see next Thursday.

Posted by Halcyon at 08:36 PM | Comments (21)

Teachin' and Learnin'

Working in education was quite an education. The education I received was both educating and education-related. I also learned how to clearly express myself.

Teaching high school students in an alternative education (read: dropout prevention) program was rewarding, frustrating, inspiring and mind-numbing at times. I suppose most jobs are all of those things at some point, but working with young people truly is unique. Looking into the impressionable eyes of a teenager and trying to convince them to focus on the magic of the Pythagorean Theorem (A squared plus B squared really equals C squared? My god! It’s….it’s beautiful.) instead of smoking pot out of an aluminum can with their friend’s older brother is both satisfying and impossible.

I really did enjoy being a teacher. When a student would do well in school for the first time and finally break free from whatever negative shell they’d been trapped in, I would feel like the greatest educator in the world. However, there were many times when I would be left speechless knowing that I hadn’t even made a dent in that shell.

One of the first times I was stunned was early on in my teaching career. I was discussing science with an eighteen year-old female student when she stopped the conversation, lowered her head and cocked one eyebrow. “Wait, Mr. Styn, you don’t believe in dinosaurs, do you?

Wha? I didn’t realize this was up for discussion. I really didn’t have much of a rebuttal ready, as it didn’t occur to me that I might be debating this issue. Just as I don’t expect to defend gravity, photosynthesis or leprechauns. They’re just facts we all accept. I stuttered through evidence of fossils, etc. (which she was completely convinced were simply assorted rocks coincidentally shaped in a way that we might believe them to be bones) but it was hopeless. Somehow I was losing this debate and I had science and logic on my side. But how could there be identically shaped fossils/rocks all around the world? How did Michael Crichton write “Jurassic Park?” Why would Carl Sagan lie?

Collecting assignments from students was like a box of chocolates – you never knew when you’d get the one with the pink nougat-y soap flavored piece. I would receive art projects with not-so-subtle drug references (that a high school student would assume their teacher wouldn’t understand), essays copied directly from another source (including references to “diagram 4.2 below”…which, of course, was no where to be seen in the plagiarized version that I was reading) and math answers with all the odd numbers miraculously correct (which just happened to be listed in the back of the math textbook) without having to show any of the pesky process that lead to the answer.

My favorite response to a math problem?

#7. Answers may vary

That’s your answer? Your answer to number seven is that ‘answers may vary?’ The only incorrect answer to this question is ‘answers may vary.’ If you had written 3,548,976 or ‘Doug Llewelyn’ (the People’s Court reporter) or ‘banana hammock’ I wouldn’t have marked the answer wrong. At least pretend you didn’t just copy the back of the book.

I remember a student saying “Math sucks. Who invented math?” What a great question! I was so excited to answer. I told him that no one “invented” math, they simply put a name to what existed. Math simply is – and certain people throughout history have given a name to what happens. Pythagoras didn’t make the square of the length of the sides of a right triangle added together equal the square of the hypotenuse. It already does – he just pointed it out one night at a dinner party after having too much wine.

Needless to say, the student was not as excited at this revelation as I was. Then again I don’t recall enjoying the wonders of math in high school either. My interest in math was just above my interest in exploring snake handling or celibacy.

Grading essays was always an interesting experience. I never knew what lay before me. I may read a two-page, but one sentence and punctuation-free, essay on the Cliff’s Notes version of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ or a well researched report on the life of Edgar Allen Poe (who’s nanny would give him a gin-soaked rag to suck on to quiet him as a child. Which I happen to think should be considered child abuse. I mean, gin? Maybe if you dipped that rag in some tonic and lime first. Wouldn’t coconut rum or peppermint schnapps be more appropriate rag dipping treat for a toddler?) I think I learned the most from a 10th grade student who wrote about music in our society. Some of her gems from the essay:

“Old people like classical music because they think it’s good for their soul.” Well, that’s not too far off. It was followed up by, “Latin music stems from the ancient language, Latin.” Um…I’m not sure Ricky Martin is fluent in the language of Latin (unlike the well-versed Gloria Estefan). And the final straw in my questions about what ‘sources’ she was getting this information, “The greatest jazz musicians ever were Sammy Davis, Jr. and James Brown, both of whom are dead.” Ouch. I don’t even know where to begin on that one. I’m going to need more red pens.

Then there was the 11th grade student who asked me what day is was?

Jim: “It’s September 20th.”
Student: “Oh man, I missed my brother’s birthday.”
Jim: “When was it?”
Student: “Two weeks ago.”
Jim: *long sigh*
Student: “Hey, what month comes next?”
Jim: *Pause* “You don’t know your months?”
Student: “Nah, I never learned.”
Jim: “Sure, when are you going to know the months? I mean there are twelve…how does anyone keep them straight?”

I’m glad sarcasm doesn’t get you fired.


I also remember tutoring one student, in what may have been bizarro world, when the following conversation transpired.

“In looking at the progressive era in your history book, what do you think they meant by saying the city was run by “political machines?”

Robots?

“Um…almost. Well, what do you think was going on at the “sweatshops” they spoke of in this chapter?”

They made sweats?

“Close. Well, in your science book it discusses the concept of evolution. If we look at the make-up of members of the chimpanzee and see the similarities in human beings, what might we think happened?”

Um…we screwed animals?

I promise this actually happened. It can be tough to stay optimistic. And just when you think you’ve made a positive difference in someone’s educational career a student will break it all down for you.

I had asked a creative but dark 15 year-old if I could see her poetry. She told me, “You may not like my poems, they’re kind of depressing.”

Her 13 year-old sister replied, “That’s okay, he’s a teacher. He’s already depressed.

Posted by Kaya at 06:03 PM | Comments (8)

November 10, 2003

Christmas Miracle (Bra)

I was reading the latest Victoria’s Secret catalog - for the articles - and
saw something that caught my eye.

I mean *aside* from the oceans of too-perfect boob orbs assaulting my biological suckling instinct.

No, I mean there was a piece of clothing I really liked.

It was a sparkly jeweled bra that I thought would be great for burning man. I lack the cleavage for it, but it would be a sweet for Buttercup or any of my female friends.

Hey, I thought, I could buy this as a Christmas gift! Maybe get some fun flannel jammies, too, so I save on shipping.
I checked out how much the sparkly bra was...
Where is the price...what?
$998 bucks?!
Oh, no that's the price of the accompanying jewelry ...whew.

Here it is…
WHAT?!?

Let me double check the zeros.
Yep, Eleven Million dollars.
11,000,000.00

It’s sparkly because it is COVERED WITH DIAMONDS.

3236 diamonds, actually. With a weight of over 200 carots.

I’m sorry, but if it can cut glass, it should avoid nipples.

It’s a simple rule, but one I stand by.


Maybe she'll be happy with a 3 pack of panties and a Chirstmas Miracle…Bra.

Posted by Halcyon at 09:28 PM | Comments (3)

I'm Okay, You're Okay...to Masturbate

My parents always stressed the value of communication with their children. They went to great lengths to make it okay to discuss topics with their children such as drinking, drugs and sex. And really, what child doesn’t crave to talk about smoking a bowl, shot gunning a Keystone Light and trying to figure out which way a condom unrolls on your stoned, drunk wang.

I truly respect the open communication my folks established with my brother and me. While it was “my folks” that believed in being so open, it was clearly my Mother that was the spokesperson. I suppose the term “spokesperson” makes it sound too commercial – but had masturbation been a product, my Mom would’ve definitely had an endorsement deal.

I love that as a child of the 70’s, and of a family that didn’t want to feel the shame associated with sex that their families had placed upon them, I was not only given permission to masturbate, I was encouraged. There weren’t bedside bleachers and concessions stands, but there certainly wasn’t anyone telling me not to squeeze the Charmin. I don’t recall what religion I grew up with, but it must’ve been the opposite of Catholicism. Pro-choice, Pro-shame-free sex, Pro-masturbation and my only childhood “confession” was that I occasionally squirted Magic Shell dessert topping directly into my mouth after being told not to.

Ever since I was little I remember the collection of self-examination/puberty books around. We had ones with cartoon images of naked bodies (the cartoon image of a circumcised and uncircumcised penis jarringly sticks out in my mind – like a four-square ball wearing a pink turtleneck sweater) as well as actual photographs of naked adults. However, this was real nudity. Raw nakedness in all of it’s un-airbrushed and hairy glory. The awkward men and women of these books were not models nor particularly into grooming or fitness. It was the 70’s and appreciating the body and its naturally existing hair (facial, pubic or otherwise) was valued.

The books were available but not forced upon us. Each one offering gentle nuggets of life lessons on why our bodies change and why we were all beautiful in our own way. There was “Our Bodies, Ourselves,” “What’s Happening to Me?”, and “A Stroll in the Cavernous World of the Vagina.” These books dispelled playground puberty myths and taught that even if we had bad hair and awkward posture, someday someone may still want to take a picture of us naked.

Perhaps the most memorable incident of “open communication” (or the memory I’m least able to numb in my brain despite a steady stream of Keystone light and bong loads) involves an intimate discussion between my Mother and me when I was 13. We were discussing school and girls or whether the Russians loved their children, too or something, when my Mom steered the conversation to romance.

I suppose since she thought I was a handsome and well-mannered guy there must be hundreds of adoring women forcing themselves upon me. While the idea is flattering, the closest I had been to a sexually intimate moment was when my older brother gave me his Heather Thomas bikini poster. (Why Heather – you’ve signed the poster for me? “Love and Laughs, Heather”. Oh Heather, they’ll be lots more love and laughs when I join you in that Jacuzzi and show off my emerging pubic hair.) The point being I was not the stud my Mother so generously supposed I was.

Then she offered some words of wisdom. Perhaps they had been passed down from wussy tribal leader to wussy tribal leader for generations. A comment, despite good intentions that would stick in my mind like gummy bears in your molars.

“You know Jim, if a girl wants to be intimate with you and you’re not ready…it’s okay to go into the bathroom and masturbate.”

Oh. My.

I opened my mouth to respond, but no words came out.

So let me get this straight. There’s this woman and she actually wants to have sex with me…but I choose to leave, go into the bathroom alone and masturbate?

If there was a woman, anywhere in the world, who out of the grace of god was interested in being physical with me, I can guarantee I wouldn’t be in the bathroom masturbating. I’m thirteen years old – all I think about this the slight chance that there may be a woman somewhere, perhaps a blind, amputee leper, willing to be intimate with me. I had been watching the scrambled signal of the Playboy channel as a training in case this situation was ever realized. Now there’s the option to leave and masturbate? Oh joy.

I imagined Ms. Thomas twirling her tan fingers in the curls of her glowing blonde hair and giggling as she asked me to tell her again about how many stolen bases I had last year in Little League. She bites her lip suggestively as she asks me if I want to join her in the Jacuzzi. Of course the material in her soft pink bikini might get ruined by the chlorine so she implores me to help untie her top. Being the helpful young man I am, of course I comply. I feel her smooth, warm skin as my hand accidentally grazes her back while I undo the bikini. She turns to me and pulls me near, pressing her globe-like breasts against my baseball uniform. “I. Want. You, “ she whispers in my ear as her lips delicately taunt my ear with every word.

I look deep into her eyes, run my hands down to her feminine hips and excuse myself. I politely scurry away to the bathroom where I feverishly masturbate.

So much for my fantasy world.

While the lesson of my Mom’s statement was valuable (masturbation is okay, don’t let anyone pressure you into anything, Mothers are shockingly out of touch with a 13 year-old’s sexual temptations) the words were a bit jarring to hear. I told her I’d remember her comment and secretly hoped I’d soon be in the position of turning away throngs of women so I could pleasure myself in the bathroom.

Another classic example of this glorious open communication concerning sexuality was when my mother decided it was time we learned about condoms. I was in the 9th grade and knew about rubbers, heard rap songs mentioning “jimmy-hats” and generally understood the principle behind putting a thin layer of plastic over the wiener to prevent the escape of millions of miniature baby-makers swimming towards their destiny. However, I’d never actually used one (I was 15 years old and unconcerned with any STD or pregnancy issues – of course, I was my only partner).

My mom had made some chocolate chip cookies to lure my brother and me into the kitchen for a fresh baked dessert. When she also pulled out a bunch of bananas I thought it odd, but no reason to be alarmed. Then she pulled out a box of condoms. Suddenly, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be at this party. Hey, I love my family, not to mention chocolate chip cookies and bananas, but this wasn’t really “my scene.”

She explained to us that many men don’t know how to properly use a condom (a tidbit I hoped was learned from a magazine article and not field research). She had bought a box to show us how to use them correctly and to make sure whenever we did have sex, we were safe. So very cool…and, perhaps, so very odd.

Despite our crossed fingers under the table, my folks had not decided to get us each a hooker.

So we each grabbed a banana and opened our foil square. This would prove to be the least erotic moment I had ever opened a condom wrapper.

I carefully unraveled the latex-sheath onto my tauntingly large banana. I really didn’t need my training banana to make me feel inferior. I was also a tad nervous that this banana would be wearing a condom before I had and was therefore closer to having sex than I had been. I uncomfortably unrolled the condom onto my banana and proudly pulled the reservoir tip tightly over the top.

“No, no, no,” my dad chimed in. He reached over and grabbed my dick, I mean banana, out of my hands and told me that, “you’ve got to leave some space at the end. The semen comes shooting out of the tip and this allows a space to catch it and make sure it doesn’t enter the woman.” Awesome. I was learning so much. I was mostly learning that I may never get an erection again due to the numerous haunting events of the evening.

And surely, after all this, we wouldn’t be eating these tasty penis substitutes? Eating a banana is already tough to do without questioning my sexuality, now I have to conjure up images of placing a rubber on them? I could now scratch off eating bananas, looking at my parents in the eyes again and having sex with another person from the list of things I’ll ever do in my life.

At the end of the practice session (fortunately, there was no further instruction on what to do after the organ in question was properly sheathed), my mom gave us both a box of condoms to keep. She didn’t want to encourage us to have sex anytime soon, but she was a realist. She never bought the idea that giving a kid a condom was giving them a loaded weapon. She felt we already had the loaded weapon (thank you very much biology), and a condom was like showing you how to switch on the safety.

I felt slightly excited about the idea of having a box of condoms at my disposal. Perhaps that’s why I hadn’t been getting laid? Maybe it was that I didn’t have rubbers around? Once the ladies knew that I was a virile young man with a box of twelve, count ‘em, twelve condoms, the serious humping could begin. My only worry now would be if twelve was enough? How many Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders are there?

A nearly forgotten part of the Cookies & Condoms night (sounds like an ice cream flavor gone terribly wrong) was to make sure to read the expiration date on the box of rubbers. What became a confidence booster (my parents thinking they’d better get me condoms and teach me how to use them properly before the Cowboys came to town) turned into a sad “after-school special” moment. While checking on my secret condom stash, I realized that the box of condoms my parents had lovingly (and disturbingly) given me had expired. In the time since the infamous night, I had not had the opportunity to have sex. And, as much as I wish I could, I can’t even say I had the opportunity to have sex with a girl but declined due to my solitary focus on self-pleasure.

Perhaps that was for the best. It was also about that time that I learned that the condom actually went on my penis. I could now stop bringing a handful of bananas to parties in case I hooked up. Some lucky lady would’ve been in for an interesting evening.

I truly appreciate the lengths my parents went to in making our household one where we could freely talk about sex. I’ve been able to get most of our discussions out of my head during acts of intimacy and I stopped having recurring nightmares of my father discussing reservoir tips. And someday I imagine I’ll be able to buy a banana at the store and not assume that everyone thinks I’m going to slap a condom on it and “show it a good time.”

Posted by Kaya at 06:37 PM | Comments (13)

Sick and Twisted

I hate being sick. I’m a really active and social person, so when I’m sick, it’s a big blow to my lifestyle. Despite the fact that I should rest and quarantine myself from the world, I usually have a really difficult time doing so. Thus, it came as no surprise to me that I completely disregarded all warning signs of impending illness and instead continued to live my life at a breakneck pace. Although I knew it wasn’t a good idea, I simply wouldn’t allow any flu bug to stand in the way of the commitments I had made to myself and others before the weekend started.

There were some things that I chose to do, even though I knew they were bad ideas. It made no sense to go see the band that was playing at the bar around the corner from my apartment, but it was very easy to rationalize. The bar is, literally, less than two blocks away and there was no cover charge to see the best band (I think) in San Diego. How could I possibly pass that up? It seemed like an especially good idea after I’d already turned down the alternative: a trip to L.A. to go see an art show. In my mind, I was taking the less strenuous route. I was only going to be around the corner from my apartment, so I could leave at any time. My plan was to take it easy and listen to some tunes. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that the music was going to make me dance, my friends were going to be buying me beers and that I’d probably want to smoke some weed. None of those things, unfortunately, is good for stopping an impending flu bug. Still, I had a great time and tried to counteract any negative effects of the evening by eating tons of carrots and drinking orange juice like a fish….that drinks orange juice.

I’d had a difficult time sleeping the previous couple of nights due to my sinuses dripping into the back of my throat and constantly having to clear that mucus. I decided the best way to insure sleep was to take half of a valium pill I’d stowed away a couple of years ago for just such an occasion. I slept deeply and soundly that night but woke up in the morning to make another bad decision.

For the past four years, I’ve been meeting up with a group of guys in the park to play Ultimate Frisbee. It’s a great game and I look forward to playing every week. We have an email list and, at times, there is serious shit-talking that happens on that list. This particular week, I was talking an awful lot of shit. Some of the guys who hadn’t played in months (some over a year) had said they were going to come out and play. There was no way I wasn’t going to show up. You can’t talk all sorts of shit and then flake like a whiny baby sissy boy. The remnants of valium induced sleep fought to keep me in bed, but I persevered and got my ass up.

On a side note, it’s not like I’ve been completely and utterly sick the past few days. Yes, I’ve been congested and had a cough, but I haven’t felt too bad. So, yeah, I knew it was a bad idea to go and play Ultimate, but I didn’t feel so horrible that I couldn’t play at all. I made my way to the field and played one full game. By the end of that game, I was done for. There was no way I could play a second game. Instead, I watched from the sidelines and then headed home.

Next, came a barrage of commitments that I couldn’t possibly break. I had a wedding reception to attend, I had told a friend I’d help him move, I had a painting demonstration to do at an art event, and I’d told another gallery that I’d help them clean up after the art event. Basically, there was a chunk of time between 2:00PM and 11:00PM that was completely booked with activities other people were counting on me to perform. I didn’t want to let anyone down and I did them all. After the last activity, however, I had bad idea number three and continued to hang out with friends until 2:00AM. This wouldn’t have been such a bad thing if I’d been able to sleep in Sunday morning, but instead, I’d told a friend I’d help him move. Thankfully, my friend didn’t have a lot of stuff to move and the place he was moving to was only a couple of blocks away, but I still had to drag myself out of bed at 9:00AM to help him out.

When I finally got home a couple of hours later, my only plan was to jump back into bed and rest for the remainder of the day. This was exactly what I did. My slumber was only interrupted by concerned friends calling me to make sure I was alright and asking me if I needed anything. If there was a silver lining to my sickness, these calls were it. Yes, I’m still sick (although I seem to be on the mend), and yes, I might already be over this flu or cold or whatever had I not done all of the things that I did this past weekend. Friends would have understood if I’d told them I was sick and there wasn’t anyway I could help them out. I could’ve missed the wedding reception and my painting demonstration. I’ve already mentioned the few strenuous activities that I should’ve probably avoided but didn’t.

It might’ve been smarter to sequester myself to my bedroom this weekend, but I’m glad I didn’t. Those calls I got from concerned friends today are a direct result of the consideration I give to those friends and their projects. If someone needs help moving or has an art project or needs to talk or whatever, they know they can count on me to be there for them. On a day like today, I know I can count on them too. And I don’t even have to ask. I feel truly blessed.

Physically, I can’t honestly say that I’m feeling better, but in other ways, I feel fucking great! Oh, and I played one helluva good Ultimate game, enjoyed the band immensely and had a blast hanging with friends after the art event. Some things are good for the body, others are good for the soul.

Posted by Dlove at 02:43 AM | Comments (4)

November 04, 2003

Grand Grandparents and Elf-Mail

My grandparents are amazing. In their lifetime they’ve had to adjust to some of the most radical and rapid changes in human history. Perhaps more than any generation they’ve had to adapt in how they work, travel, communicate and generally live their lives. For example, my grandfather grew up without light bulbs that turned on when you clap. And in my grandmother’s house, they lived contently without a 5-Disc CD changer. Truly ‘America’s greatest generation.’

While their adapting to modern technology is admirable, the car continued to prove to be a challenge. They say that practice makes perfect, however my grandparents had driven for years and their skills were far from perfect. It might be stereotypical to say that my grandparents are bad drivers. It would also be frighteningly accurate.

My grandmother drove in sort of a “perhaps-it’s-in-my-best-interest-to-slow-down-at-every-intersection-regardless-of-who-might-have-the-right-of-way” style, while my grandfather subscribed to what might be referred to as a “Braille-style” of navigation. Just let the bumps in the road guide you. Perhaps he thought the lane dividing dots in the road were transmitting secret Morse code messages. Maybe driving this way would reveal universal truths or the location of Jimmy Hoffa. All I know is that it freaked me out a bit…it also felt curiously energizing as the car seat vibrated my bottom. Oh, maybe that’s the reason he drove on the bumps.

As time went on, my grandfather went from being a bad driver to being a seriously bad driver. His vision got worse and he even had the cornea in his right eye replaced. The cornea was kindly donated by someone who had died in a car accident while driving drunk. He often joked that the eye was still drunk and didn’t see so well. Having a part of you replaced so you can drive better by someone who died in a car accident seems a bit odd to me, but thank goodness folks are willing to donate their organs. A donated organ (musical or body) is truly a wonderful gift.

As far as I’m concerned, once I’m done with using this body-shell, feel free to grab whatever you might need. My organs, my hair, my skin, my shoelaces, whatever. I’d prefer that my body be used to make some sort of expensive and highly sought-after breast moisturizer only used by supermodels and Alyssa Milano, but I’d be fine with helping out other folks in need, too. Think a Jim-skinned rug would look good in your dining room? Go for it, I’m done with it. Any men want to have a more accurate way to keep your dress shoes ready to wear? Stop using those cedar insoles (?) -- use my feet. I won’t be walking anywhere. Always wanted a human skull to practice your soliloquy for ‘Hamlet?’ Look no further.

Not that I’m in any kind of a rush to donate my organs. My first choice is to run my organs into the ground, squeezing every last bit of worth out of them shortly before my 22 year-old jazzercise instructing trophy wife smothers the life out of my 100 year-old face with her taut, tan breasts. However, if that scenario did not come to be I’m just saying that I’d be fine with my funeral doubling as an auction of sorts. “I see $74 for the left nipple, do I see $75? Yes, $75 from the jazzercise instructor in the leotard.” And If I died around Christmas time, perhaps my brother could dress like Santa and pass out “a little slice of Jim” to everyone. Ah, who am I kidding? What are the odds that I’d die so close to Christmas. And, if so, where would my brother get a costume on such short notice?

So, even with his bionic/6-million dollar man cornea, the state agreed with what his family had said for years; grandpa shouldn’t drive anymore. As he began to rely more and more on my grandma for his connection to the outside world, the Internet began to creep into his life. While he was less able to physically visit his friends, my brother had him e-mailing friends and surfing the Web in no time.

I’ve always been incredibly impressed by grandparents’ willingness to work with computers. Not everyone is so courageous as to take on a new and daunting task when in their late 80s. If you’ve been able to get by without something for 85 years, it’s pretty easy to say you can do without it for a few more.

Unless you’re Amish or comfortable buying porn in an actual, physical store, you should know how operate a computer. You don’t have to be able to locate and download obscure David Hasselhoff b-sides or hack into the FBI’s files on Area 51, but it’s important to have some experience with a tool that is used by billions of people each day.

I don’t get folks who say they don’t “do” computers. Even without the sexual connotation of that statement, it sounds crazy. It’s like not “do”ing the phone. “Yeah, I know it’s easier to communicate with a phone than smoke signals, but I don’t really do phones.” Put down your smoky blanket Chief Outtatouch and watch this mpeg of a woman peeing on a guy wearing a diaper. Trust me.

Tutoring my grandparents on the computer is tricky. When every concept is new, it’s tough to move quickly.

“Okay, grandma, I want you to double-click on that icon. Yep, click it twice. Twice. No, two times in a row. Like, ‘click-click.’ Almost. Okay, now click it twice but without moving your mouse. ‘Click-click.’ Okay…why don’t ya just let me get past this part for you.”

Since my grandma understands the computer slightly more than my grandfather, she has total freedom to explain to him how things work as she chooses. She tells him that his e-mail didn’t send because it was too long. In reality, she has no idea why it didn’t go through, but this makes sense to her. And with no one around to disagree, it becomes truth. “You used too many vowels! That tires out the computer. You should use more consonants when you write letters. And ease up on the capital letters!”

It’s like watching myths being formed. Like the Greeks explaining the rising and setting of the sun by a great chariot in the sky pulling the sun across the heavens, my grandma explains how the computer works. “Your e-mail message is sent through the phone lines to a village of dancing elves. They, in turn, fly to the phone pole closest to your recipient and, once they’ve tapped into the right connecting line, re-type the exact message. This is why it’s called ‘e-mail.’ It stands for ‘Elf-Mail’.”

Perhaps the most entertaining part is hearing my grandfather tell us what the computer “said” to him. He recites what the computer text “said”, but in doing so gives the computer a personality. With a furrowed brow and his index finger shaking, “You do not have the required permissions to access this page,” he says sternly. When he tried to erase something off of his desktop he told us with one eyebrow cocked and a smirk on his face that computer asked, “Are you sure you want to delete that?” I wish my error messages held such wonder!

It’s refreshing to be around someone so appreciative of the digital age. He lights up at the fact that he can instantly communicate with someone from another part of the world. His eyes grow big as he tells me of making new online buddies. He reminds me of all the wonderful possibilities the Web holds. If you really think about it, the power of the Internet is baffling. Imagine…anything being possible. It only takes imagination and drive. I mean, you could have an mpeg of dozens of women peeing on a guy wearing a diaper. Just imagine.

Dream the impossible dream.

Posted by Kaya at 12:07 AM | Comments (8)

November 03, 2003

Fuck Me. Literally

I think we can all agree that sex between two willing partners is a good thing. If it’s done correctly, it almost always feels good. In fact, it feels great. I’d be willing to even say it may be one of the most pleasurable sensory experiences on the planet. It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that most people feel this way. Thus, it’s probably not too shocking for you to hear that I want sex. In fact, I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that you want sex, too. Male or female, we all want to have sex. So, what’s the big deal? How come we all went home alone at the end of Saturday night?

A conversation I had this morning crystallized things for me. Yes, men and women both want sex, but our views on how to negotiate the sexual act diverge dramatically. What it comes down to is this: in general, men are able to enjoy the physical act of sex without getting emotionally intimate and women aren’t. As I write that blanket statement, I can already feel the waves of protest to it. There are many, many exceptions, but on the whole, in my experience, women want more than just a hard cock for the night. In contrast, a man will gratefully accept a one-night stand if the saintly woman he is chatting with offers it to him. The man who makes this offer to a woman will, in most instances, receive a slap in the face or a drink dumped over his head.

I’m not trying to say that men don’t want relationships. I think they do. In fact, one of the best things about being in a relationship is the constant sex. I might even go as far as saying that many men get into relationships specifically for the constant sex. I have to admit that it’s a pretty great thing to really dig a woman, be attracted to her, and repeatedly fuck her silly. To be in love with the person you’re fucking is, obviously, the ideal sexual experience, but are we doomed to celibacy until we find that person? You can live your life that way, but I’m not going to. If sex is one of the most pleasurable sensory experiences out there, I’m going to do what I can to experience it.

Unfortunately for straight men, most women don’t feel this way (although some do). They want something “special” with the person they’re fucking. I can completely understand this desire. During sex, a man is basically invading the woman’s body with his own body. One might argue it becomes equally intimate for the man, even though he is the one who is doing the invading. Regardless, the difference is that a man’s desire to feel the most pleasurable sensory experience he can imagine overrides his fear of being physically intimate with a stranger. In women, it doesn’t.

I have had very little experience with the lesbian lifestyle, but I have been fortunate to observe the gay male lifestyle through my gay friends. For two years I lived next door to Gay M. During those two years, Gay M was never desperate for sex. As a gay man, it was easy for him to find other gay men that wanted to have sex. As he always says; “With gay men, there’s no ‘no factor.’” In other words, if you want to fuck, you just tell the person you want to fuck that you want to fuck him and, generally, he’s going to say yes.

As a straight man, this concept blows me away. If things worked that way between women and men the world would be a different place. We’d definitely be a lot more connected to our fellow human beings. Yes, STDs and AIDS are a reality, but if we felt more connected with each other, we’d probably be a lot more careful about the shit we were spreading around to others. If we were all sexually active all the time, it would become a necessity to constantly get ourselves checked out for STDs. If you wanted to participate in the sexual free-for-all, you’d have to have recent documentation of your STD-free status.

If we all fucked each other without all of the emotional intimacy that comes with it, we’d probably be a more relaxed society also. I know I get pretty tense when I haven’t been with a woman in awhile. Yes, I can masturbate to release that tension, but as anyone will tell you, it’s just not the same. I’m a pretty relaxed guy by nature, but sometimes that tension builds and even I can get a little snappy and tense. If we were all having sex regularly, we’d all be a lot happier. The fact of the matter is that sex is an emotionally intimate act. That’s fine. I think it should be. I think it should be an intense positive exchange physically, emotionally and spiritually. When that exchange is over, however, that intensity doesn’t necessarily continue to exist.

Why can’t sex be like a good, pleasurable game? At the end of the game, both sides have played well and reached a satisfactory conclusion. The players shake hands (kiss?) and call it a day. Maybe it is more like theater. Two actors enter the stage of the bedroom and take on their roles. They go through a series of acts which eventually results in the climax of the plot, the resolution, and then the curtain falls. After the play, the actors put on their street clothes and continue their normal lives.

Honestly, I think I’ve just stumbled upon the crux of the problem: men are virtually guaranteed a “good game;” one where they feel satisfied. Women, on the other hand, are usually disappointed with the “game.” Often, the man only cares about his own pleasure and doesn’t think about the equal exchange of energy. The woman simply isn’t satisfied. What a mess. The question then becomes, how do I, as a man, assure the woman that I will be generous during the sexual game?

The rabbit hole just goes deeper and deeper and the fact still remains that the one proposition I did get this weekend was from a man. I didn’t take him up on it, because I’m not attracted to men. However, I could appreciate and understand his straightforwardness. What it comes down to is this: both men and women have to be more giving to each other. Men have to do what they can to give women explosive orgasms and women have to give us more opportunities to

Posted by Dlove at 01:33 AM | Comments (25)

Disaster

As San Diego was burning, I thought about natural disasters quite a bit.
Fires. Floods. Landslides. Hurricanes. The current presidential administration. Fat Free tapioca pudding. Etc..


With the exception of the president and the pudding, all the disasters on that list are a natural part of the planet’s workings. Yet, so often we are tempted to curse fate when disaster hits.

I don’t mean to downplay the heartache and hardship that the disasters cause.
I just wonder how we can continually be surprised when things like this happen.

It is the way it is.

We are the only species that ignores that truism.

As humans, we broke the cardinal environmental rule of working within the existing cycles of nature. Other animals watch their populations drop when the conditions deem it so. Human’s fight desperately to overcome the world’s natural checks and balances.

We do not bend to our environment, we bend our environment to us.

Too hot? Air condition it.
Too dry? Irrigate it.
Too steep? Bulldoze it.

Then we seem shocked when nature reclaims its power.

We are surprised that a house on the cliff is in danger of falling in the sea? Cliffs erode. We are surprised that the earthquake cracked the home’s foundation? The ground shifts.

These events do cause heartache. But I think the pain is increased because we believe the cultural lie that we *can* control our world.

Our fault is in believing that we can create permanence.
Everything is transitory.
And the world ’s natural order is that of creation and destruction.

Death. Decay. Struggle.

These are the foundations of the natural world.
But long ago we learned that our big brains did not have to be subject to the whims of this violent world.

No more food? We would cultivate it rather than follow it.

But once we started living outside the rules, we forget that we are not in control.
We become shocked when reminded of the natural state of chaos.

We are like ants who have overrun a picnic. And we fail to realize that someone or something could shake out the red and white checkered blanked in an instant. Despite all our preparations, everything we have would be gone.

Sometimes as I read about overpopulation and pollution and our general abuse of the planet, I wonder if the host of the picnic is finally fed up.

I wonder if the fires and floods and famines are the inevitable “shaking of the blanket.”

Then I remember that the blanket gets shaken every so often, regardless of who is eating.

And a tree burns in the forest even if there is no one to hear it.
--

True, disasters can be shocking.
But that shock is good if it can remind us of the natural chaos.
Disasters are good for re-calibrating our perspective. The fact that we are *not* fighting fires, hunger, or beasts every day is the shocking part.

The occasional chaos reminds us of how precious every moment of peace truly is.

Posted by Halcyon at 01:07 AM | Comments (5)