28 November 2004

I wish I were more inadequate.

All right, I'll admit that statement is quite arrogant, not to mention short-sighted, merrily overlooking the fact that I am, like everyone I know, an extremely flawed person. Sure, in the T-chart that is I, one can place several items into the PRO side and several items into the CON side. Of course, just as groups debating the importance of tangibles needed for survival following an airline crash in the desert, the importance these aspects of said "I" are vary greatly. You'd be surprised how difficult it is to be smart with impeccable spelling skills--proofreading notwithstanding--and a copious vocabulary, funny, and, if I don't say so myself, not too bad looking. Throw in a dash of tremendous, though unproven, theatrical talent, above-par cooking skills, and other general skills (all in a myriad of areas free from skilled labor), and everything seems great. And, in many and most ways, everything IS great. What, then, could possibly be so troubling?

The short answer is that the trouble stems from being so damn adequate. In retrospect, I endure nothing but difficulty in finding any sort of major failure. Recently, I've been sorting and recycling a lot of old school work, mostly from high school and college, and nearly every paper was free of red ink, most every set of math problems were free of check marks, and, without having the grading rubric as an companion, knowing that a mark existed other than ?+ would be damn near impossible.

The long answer is that, without experiencing any sort of major failure, the very idea of failure is overwhelming. How will I react when this inevitability occurs? Will I, as in my past romantic relationships, either sense the failure coming and terminate the relationship, or will I, not wanting to endure both the guilt associated with hurting another person and the failure of the relationship work to force the partner to break off the relationship, thereby taking no responsibility for its downfall? (Sadly, I've done the latter twice, but each time I have later apologized and admitted total responsibility for the death of the relationship, for what that's worth.) Because failure can come in any area of life, avoidance soon follows. If you fear failure and rejection as failure, why make the effort to meet a lot of people? Why apply for a job without knowing that you have an extremely good chance at being offered the position? Why show everyone just how talented you can be when they can just deny it? Why be logical when irrationality is so much easier to justify your decisions?

I've grown up a lot in the past four years, and I have the crow's feet to prove it, but I really can't say that I've lived much. Living is hard when you spend all your time worrying about your life. You can't give much of yourself when you don't like yourself that much. I'd like be bold and say that all stops now, but I know that's a ridiculous idea. My degrees are currently sitting in a frame from the University of Iowa, while I sit on my brains and play solitaire, do logic puzzles and the number puzzle from the newspaper, and play with the cat. I am, however, committed to working on feeling good about my flaws that I like and working steadily to change the flaws I dislike. I'm optimistic, and that is a great start.

19 November 2004

When I first held you I was cold,
a melting snowman I was told,
but there was no one there to hold,
before I swore I'd be alone forever more.

Wow, look at you now, flowers in the window,
such a lovely day, and I'm glad you feel the same
'cause to stand up, out in the crowd,
you are one in a million and I love you so,
let's watch the flowers grow....

--Travis: Flowers in the Window

I wonder if I'm a melting snowman.

12 November 2004

"As democracy is perfected, the Office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."
H.L Mencken (1880-1956)

The time has come.

10 November 2004

Fifteen years ago yesterday, the Berlin Wall came down. I remember seeing it on television, a 9-year-old kid sitting around while Dan Rather used words like "historic" and "triumph." I remember watching people with sledgehammers pounding away at a that piece of concrete, marveling at all the spraypaint graffiti that covered the wall. Before it came down, I had a scarce idea that it even existed. If it weren't for Alvin and the Chipmunks and the episode in which they do to West Berlin and befriend a girl whose brother is stuck in East Berlin, I probably wouldn't have the same memories to the end of the Wall.

When I was in Berlin a few weeks ago, I was struck by the history of it all. The idea that fifteen years ago, I would not have been able to be standing where I was--no one could be standing where I was--at the Bradenburg Gate, weighed upon me like an enormity. The fact that if I were to have been standing where I was fifteen years prior I would have not been standing long is harsh in the shadow the guard tower that still exists more or less in its original location, along the former "death strip." The idea that I could eat a Schlotzky's Deli about two blocks in former Soviet/East German territory from Checkpoint Charlie makes the concept of ordering a chicken sandwich with no tomatoes more significant. At the same time, imagining that where I sat eating said chicken sandwich with no tomatoes was filled with ten Soviet tanks with their guns facing the facing guns of ten American tanks in 1961, the idea that any sudden reaction by either side could have led to an outbreak of war in a nuclear-happy age doesn't aid digestion well. I keep trying to imagine what could have happened if, as the tank gunners sat in their tanks, a motorcycle drove by (most likely on the American side) and backfired. With tensions that high, fingers on the triggers, staring down your hated enemy, what could have happened?

But, anyway, perestroika happened, and the biggest blunder made by a Communist bloc country occurred on November 9, 1989, fifteen years ago yesterday, and Berlin is better for it. The rest cannot be said for what was East Germany Former East Germany runs with unemployment levels near 20%. Saxony, which includes Dresden, has unemployment near 25%, and most East Germans believe that the word "reunification" is a nice euphemism for "annexation." They're probably right, too. But at least they don't have to stand in three hour lines for bread. At least they wouldn't have to, if the had the money.

08 November 2004

Right now, I'm having an existential crisis in my search for employment. I've come to the realization that I have to stay in Iowa right now, part in parcel of my having spent a good deal of my savings on my trip to Europe. While I would love to relocate, the cost of relocating is beyond my means at this juncture (of course, so is lunch, but not Samuel Adams Winter Lager--I have my priorities). At any rate, my existence is rather boorish at present, and I need to find some way of improving that. Also, I need to make my car payment, so I'm back to the whole looking-for-a-job situation. A little over five months ago, I walked away from the Walt Disney Company, opting for summer camp and my Eurotrip over central Florida. In reassessing that decision, I am more resolute than ever that I made the right choice. Breaking away from that company ended four years, four great years, of my life dedicated to making magic, telling stories, and bringing education to fantastic life. Summer camp was great, but not as great as summers in Florida (although the weather was infinitely better in Iowa).

Looking back on my jobs with Mickey Co., I realize now that working for the Youth Education Series was the most rewarding job that I have ever had. It combined my love of attention (after all, a group of kids HAD to pay attention to me for 3 hours) and justified itself in the positive effect of education. Now, I have to find a job that I can enjoy nearly as much. Somehow, a job in retail, ANYWHERE, doesn't seem to cut it. With my wish to remain in Iowa only as long as I must until I am prepared to move to a BLUE state, I must somehow figure out what I can possibly do in the interim to fulfill my financial needs and existential potentialities.

04 November 2004

The following contains my thoughts on Amsterdam on my last night in Europe. Although my flight home was from London, I was in Amsterdam because I wanted to catch a flight to London Gatwick airport the next morning to avoid returning to that wretched city. I've entitled this piece "Amsterdam. Holy Hell. Holy Hell."

As I have resolved to become a gentleman at some point in my life (most likely a result of my recent reading of David Copperfield) and pursue a nice lady someday, Amsterdam is scary. REALLY scary. My hostel is located in the said "Red Light District," a mere five minute walk from the Amsterdam Centraal Station. Upon check-in, two other backpackers were sitting, stoned, in my room. After I began to pack my belongings for tomorrow's flight home, a woman, probably in her late thirties, entered, clearly under the influence, and proceeded to ramble about the bargain she had gotten in this wonderful new gray sweater; whereupon she fell asleep for four hours--I thought she was dead.

The stories of Amsterdam are, indeed, true. Marijuana is legal, and very legal at that. So are "magic mushrooms" and a variety of other miscellaneous psychoactive herbs. Oh yeah, and so is prostitution. While I definitely wouldn't mind getting some action, somehow seeing these woman, standing and dancing in the windows of their employers, advertising themselves to be bought for a decent price, isn't sexy. At all. Neither are the throngs of sex shops, with their paraphenalia and other such devices ready for viewing and purchase.

This hostel is full of three kinds of Amsterdam tourists: those who are college-aged and here for the pot among other things, those who are well beyond their college years and are here for the pot, among other things, and those who are here to be here, into which category I include myself, as I here for the airport tomorrow.

As I write this, the aforementioned bargain-sweater woman has just rolled a HUGE joint. I think she'll have the courtesy to smoke it awy from the room, but it IS starting to get cold, so maybe not. She's also singing to herself and seems quite amused about something that isn't there. Of course, it is her consciousness that is expanded, not mine.

I write this with an attempt not to judge. Having my disposition what it is, I cannot condemn people for using pot--goodness knows I've wanted to do that for a long time and it is legal here, but the crowds that finds its way to engage in Amsterdam's lifestyle are not that alluring, to say the least.

To be sure, I am very grateful that Amsterdam exists. Humans are meant to be free and this place is truly nothing if not free. I enjoy seeing people being able to do what they desire without causing harm to another. Having said this, I'm glad that I live far, far away. This is like New Orleans on LSD. Without being overly pious, I am more proud to be the gentleman that I portend to be right now than I have been in quite some time. BMK 26 October 2004

03 November 2004

Before the dust settles into the suffocating reality that George W. Bush has been elected (somewhat legitimatey) President, I must take the time to comment on a few of the Election Day 2004 surprises. Or rather, rail against one surprise: moral values.

All of you who believe that moral values is the single most important issue of the 2004 Presidential campaign need to think of a few things, which I will list now.

#1. Isn't "honesty" a moral value? George W. Bush LIED repeated to the world about Iraq. He lied to Americans about "compassionate conservatism." He lied about being against nation building in 2000. He LIED. And his lies have cost what you all claim to be so dear: human life. Forget the fact that more innocent people have died in Iraq (which had NO CONNECTIONS to the September 11 terrorist attacks) than died in at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Doesn't that mean anything to you, you ridiculous, anti-intellectual, anti-science morons?

#2. All of you "moralists," please take your children out of our public schools and home-school them. Your tax money is corrupting children who learn about science in the classrooms. Heaven forbid that they go on to "cure diseases" someday (of course, that would be God's doing, not any thanks to science). Heaven forbid that we use the possibilities of sciences to help protect that whole human life thing.

#3. The Bible is not literal. Get over it.

#4. GOD doesn't want someone who EXECUTES RETARDED PEOPLE to be in charge of anything, you idiots.

#5. Constitutional amendment banning divorce...I'd have to support it. If you can't let gay people be happy, I think you can afford to be miserable.

All of this has really gotten to me. While I would love to bail to Canada like I've promised to do since 2000 (when I actually had a chance of getting a job), I might just stay around and watch the country to go hell under the control of you ideologues. Bite me.


01 November 2004

What follows is a faux-letter I wrote to my dad while traveling from Berlin to Brussels last Sunday.

I'll be home in time to vote!

Dear Dad,
Don't worry, I'm coming home in time to vote. Remember how I said I would be happy to be in Europe during these past seven weeks, especially because I would miss the barrage of "My name is (blank), and I approved this message"? That was not to be, Dad. Everywhere I have been, my plain way of speaking, while hopefully eloquent, sets me apart as an American, and once that happens, it's all-election, all the time!

When I was in Norway, I met some very nice German travelers, all of whom asked me if I would be voting on November 2. They knew the EXACT date! After I told them that I was from Iowa, they asked why the Kerry-Bush race was so close, and if I thought Iowa would be a red state (god forbid) this election!

But it gets better, Dad! The nice Berliners have planned an Election Night party at the Potsdamer Platz CineStar movie theater, and it starts at 23:00--that's 11pm for us, and doesn't end until 6:00--6am! All for free U.S. election coverage! Incredible! They all seem so concerned that Bush might "win" again, and that it would be catastrophic for them, which might be the only evidence that ANY sort of trickle-down theory works!

When I was in Poland (that country that Kerry "forgot" during the second debate), someone at the hostel reception asked if I had heard that the New York Times endorsed Kerry, and they, too, used words like 'catastrophic' to describe Bush! What are the chances?!

When it comes right to the point, Dad, don't worry. I'll be home in time to vote. And I'll be voting against catastrophe.
Your son,