Monday, September 27, 2010

Hardly Getting Over It

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's been a year (about)

About one year ago, I was driving across the western half of the U.S. to relocate back to Omaha.

It feels like ten.

In the last 360 days, I've driven the entire length of Interstate 80 from San Francisco to Omaha and from Omaha to Washington DC. I'm pretty sure I knew what I was looking for. I was just too entrenched to admit it to myself. And now that I know I can admit it, it's probably too late.

While I've been a pretty ardent non-fan of Beck for the last 15 years, today I've found myself listening to this song about driving, memory, and regret. It's been caused by one of those weird Pandora moments, I suppose, when the universe responds to an unspoken need:

All that's left now is memory.

Does memory always lead to regret? I'm thinking here of the last moment from the first season of Mad Men, when Draper tells a client:
Nostalgia - it's delicate, but potent. [. . .] In Greek, "nostalgia" literally means "the pain from an old wound." It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.
The fragility of that twinge is what makes nostalgia powerful. You have to try to preserve it, because the pain will help you repress it if you're not careful.

But I don't want repression anymore. I could probably watch Eternal Sunshine once a day for the rest of my life, if only to remind myself not to forget. Forgetting may be easier....but remembering is truer:

Once the rain passes and the sun comes out, I'm going to go for a long, slow spin along the roads I've discovered with Redemske, Shim, Brady, PB, Rafal, and Tim.  New people.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"God blessed me, I'm a free man
With no place free to go
I'm paralyzed and collared-tight
No pills for what I fear

This is crazy
I wish I was the moon tonight"

Crazy lady read my mind. 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Once I was

Charlotte stuck this damn song in my head. I've been trying for two days to write a blog post to accompany it, but I just can't do it. I even posted something yesterday but then pulled it down almost immediately.

This kind of inarticulateness is really rare for me, so I know I must be onto something. I can usually hold forth for hours in both speech and prose (yes, I know that I sometimes talk waaay too much), so when an idea lodges itself in my head but won't let me express it, I usually take notice.

An explicitly stated inability or refusal to put something into words is a type of metaphor. My dissertation director calls it occupatio. It's a type of apophasis, a sort of definition by negation. Think of Shakespeare:

"Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds"

"Love = -(x)." But rather than definition by negation, occupatio occurs when the speaker claims that he or she cannot put something into words at all. Think of an athelete being interviewed on the field right after winning the big game:

Interviewer: Can you describe your feelings right now?
 Athlete: I can't put it into words.

I use this idea in my critical work a lot. Here's a snippet from my notes to my "Introduction to Literature" lecture on Romanticism. In "Tintern Abbey," Wordsworth tries to describe his former self and fails:
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Wherever nature led: more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all.--I cannot paint
What then I was.

Imagine that: the purveyor of what Keats called the "egotistical sublime," unable to describe who he used to be.

I think that may be what's happening to me right now. For the Wordsworthian speaker of "Tintern Abbey," the past, present, and future have all collapsed into one another:

And now, with gleams of half-extinguished thought,
With many recognitions dim and faint,
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years.
Just like the Wordsworth of this poem, I find memory creeping up on me, and within that memory, I remember my former self anticipating the self that I would become. In other words, who did I used to think I'd be? And how does that formerly anticipated self differ from the person that I've actually become?

This retrospection also compells my thinking forward in time: who will I be next, and how do I use the lessons of my past failures and successes to better shape the person I hope to become in the future? How did I get here, and how can I use that map to plot my future path?

*          *          *

I can't really figure out what to do next. Who to be. Where to go. To quote Thomas Wolfe, talking about the wind, "O lost! amid the hot mazes, lost."

When I first came back to Omaha almost exactly one year ago, I was pretty damn sure of the choices I'd made and my plans for the future. Now, all of that certainty has gone to shit. I have no fucking idea what I'm doing. And maybe that's the best first sign of my recovery? Admitting to myself  (and all 12 readers of this blog) that I have no idea might just be the first step towards figuring it out. Saying "I can't say it" might help me realize just what the hell "it" is.

So here's Tim Buckley, stuck in my head. He's also experiencing a temporal collapse of past, present, and future. Two lyrical moments are sticking with me: 
Once I was a lover
And I searched behind your eyes for you
And soon there'll be another
To tell you I was just a lie
In other words, the self that I thought I was is in danger of being retrospectively invalidated, which sucks. Because the self  I was with you is the only one who mattered.

The other moment is this:
And though you have forgotten
All of our rubbish dreams
I find myself searching
Through the ashes of our ruins
For the days when we smiled
And the hours that ran wild
With the magic of our eyes
And the silence of our words
And sometimes I wonder
Just for a while
Will you remember me
"The silence of our words." Damn. THAT'S an occupatio.

The hardest part about being in Omaha? None of the people who knew the self I was in Davis are around to remind me of who I used to be.  But even if they were here, they'd have "forgotten / all our rubbish dreams". I saw Ginny last week, and that helped remind me.

But I still miss the wind.

Friday, September 10, 2010

first the butt, then the hands, and now... the feet?!

I love my Fi'zi:k Aliante saddle. I'll never ride anything else--unless I get to try the new version with the cut-out:

I also think we can all agree that Fi'zi:k makes the best bar tape; the white grips really well in your hand but doesn't turn brown ten seconds after you install it, like other white tape does. It cleans up nicely with just a little sprayed-on Simple Green.

Now the mad geniuses from Vicenza are making shoes. Here's my question: are these kicks the epitome of style or way over the top? Zoot suit boogie or bowling night buffoonery?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Time present and time past

I was awake from 6:30 AM to 11:30 PM yesterday, and of those 17 hours, fewer than five were spent on my dissertation. The rest of the time was spent waking children, making them breakfast and lunch, driving them to school, walking them home from school, shopping for gluten-free cookie mix with them, making dinner for them, playing soccer with them, wrestling them into the shower, reminding them to use floss for the 1,000th fucking time, and reading them bedtime stories.

I barely had time to shower and feed myself, let alone delve into the archive of 18th-century agricultural writings. I did manage 60 minutes of yoga, but only because I desperately needed a momentary respite of mindfulness.

When I berate myself about how long it's taking me to finish this dissertation, I should probably remember days like yesterday and give myself a break. 

When I lament that my training has been so wildly inconsistent, I should probably recall that Abbey was just chosen for the gifted and talented program at her school and that Katie has blossomed after many, many hours of occupational, speech, and behavioral therapy. 

Maintaining any balance is damn-near impossible sometimes. But giving up either the writing or riding would lead to disaster. So it all goes slowly.

Except the days. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Welcome to the Occupation

Here's where my thinking goes on Labor Day:
The directing motive, the end and aim of capitalist production, is to extract the greatest possible amount of surplus value and consequently to exploit labor power to the greatest possible extent. As the number of cooperating laborers increases, so too does their resistance to the domination of capital, and with it, the necessity for capital to overcome this resistance by counterpressure. The control exercised by the capitalist is not only a special function due to the nature of the social labor process and peculiar to that process, but it is at the same time a function of the exploitation of a social labor process, and is consequently rooted in the unavoidable antagonism between the exploiter and the living and laboring raw material he exploits.

Hang your collar up inside
Hang your dollar on me
Listen to the water still
Listen to the cause where you are
Fed and educated,
Primitive and wild
Welcome to the occupation

Here we stand and here we fight
All your fallen heroes
Held and dyed and skinned alive
Listen to the Congress fire
Offering the educated
primitive and loyal
Welcome to the occupation

Hang your collar up inside
Hang your freedom higher
Listen to the buyer still
Listen to the Congress
Where we propagate confusion
Primitive and wild
Fire on the hemisphere below

Sugar cane and coffee cup
Copper, steel and cattle
An annotated history
The forest for the fire
Where we open up the floodgates
Freedom reigns supreme
Fire on the hemisphere below
Listen to me

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Road Trip hangover

I just drove from Omaha to Toledo, Toledo to Philly, and Philly to DC. I spent a day packing Thomas into a pickup and UHaul trailer, and then we drove back from DC to Chicago and Chicago to Omaha.

I got to see Gin, Micheal and Ann, Thomas, and Timmy Moore. that was all great. But the driving? The imprisonment in a motor vehicle for five days?