Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Love Letter to Yonder

Dear yonder,

Anticipating the goings on at the hill beyond yond hill is usually better than being there. Yonder. Yonder yonder yonder yonder. Good word, yonder.

In case you didn't know, I quit my job back in July and then drove around the country for a month. I spent a lot of time studying state maps, memorizing the major highways and then avoiding them as much as possible, fanning off in every direction with a loose plan and no schedule.

I ministered the marriage of two of my friends on a mountain in Colorado. Hit up a rodeo. Then I hit a deer in Utah and was stranded while I waited for shiny new bumper. I finished a case of High Life on a motel porch with a couple of sixty year old Hells Angels in Greybull, Wyoming. I worked at a sheep farm in Montana for board and I camped alone for the first time. Many times. Camping alone is relaxing. I drank wine at Hemingway's grave, hiked a few miles of the Oregon trail, took way too many pictures on the Enchanted Highway, gambled poorly in Deadwood and tailgated the sunset every night I could. 

Good country, this.

On a trip like that, there's always something over yonder. Nothing here? How 'bout over yonder? Yep, sure enough, something's yonder. But then once I got to one yonder, THERE WAS ANOTHER THING OVER YONDER.

And I couldn't fucking wait. I wanted all of it. Couldn't wait til I crossed yonder mountain, hiked yonder trail, wandered the town over yonder. Everything looked like this:

All yonder. Distant, but within sight. Possible.Yonder yonder yonder.

I do not miss my job. It was an amazing nonprofit with wonderful humans, but I had a shit job with shit responsibilities. Daily dread. Eventually I started showing up at 11am, daring them to fire me. I just started doing shit without asking. Because fuck off, that's why.

Honestly, they treated me well. Over seven years there were two promotions and seven significant pay raises. But my responsibilities never really changed. Every year the higher ups learned more about my workload, but they never had a clear picture until I left. They split parts of my job between two existing coworkers, hired two people to replace me for day-to-day stuff and then outsourced my event and fundraising responsibilities. If they had doubled my salary I still would have left.

Working in a job absent of variation, growth, and advancement can really murder your outlook on the future. My imagination couldn't take me far. I basically decided that I had to keep earning money so I could survive, sustain, and take care of my parents eventually.

A lot of wanting is involved in that. A lot of self-reflection and inaction, a lot of realizations that zero in on one thing, like the point of a dagger: if I follow this road, there isn't anything over yonder. I had to quit.

Right now I'm scrambling around looking for writing gigs. It's hard. I'm not making much money and I'm burning through savings. I'm inspired, hopeful, worried, restless, daunted, eager, and fucking terrified. IT IS WONDERFUL. There are so many things over yonder, just littering up and down my timeline, and none of it is dreadful. I could move to Ireland! I could get married! I could die alone! I could publish a book! I could start a business! I could fail goddamn miserably! I could get a dog! I could declare bankruptcy! Isn't that brilliant?

Everything over yonder, some of it's good, and some of it is not so good. But all of it is vivid and possible. Distant, but within sight. It's not a stiletto. It's a feather. Yonder yonder yonder yonder.



Monday, November 17, 2014

A Love Letter to Words

Dear words,

In the summer of 2012, blogger Ted McCagg created tournament brackets for words beginning with every letter of the alphabet and let them duke it out on his site to determine the best word ever. The winner was diphthong, which is a grand old word, but it's no hobgoblin. The whole thing was just fucking thrilling, and while I agree with several of the words on the list (like rapscallion and juggernaut), there are words that I love so much more than his top eight. The sound of a word is so personal that it's hard to completely agree.

It is probably totally pointless to explain why I like words. They are words. I like to use them for writing and speaking. I would write a love letter to just general literacy, but that's kind of like saying, "I love the concept of currency" or "I love the distribution of resources" or something, and thar be monsters and repercussions. So instead, here is a list of words that I really, really, really love, and not because of their meaning, but because of how they sound.

Some of these words sound the same, like dusk, lullaby, and bungalow. They got that "uh" sound. (Typing out "that 'uh' sound" looks ridiculous. I don't like it. Phonetically that "uh" sound gets a symbol that looks like an upside-down v, but I can't be all like, "you know, the phonetic symbol that looks like an upside-down v sound" because that is a silly thing to say, and it would confuse people.) All I'm saying is that I love the soft u. Shuttlecock. 

Who's with me? Don't you all have favorite words too? Words that pilfer, ripple, and thrum? According to the google machine, a common favorite word is serendipity. Not my jam. It sounds like saccharine smarm. But that's one thing that makes a word great: my saccharine smarm could be your blessing and truth. Another that seems to pop up all the time is loquacious, and that reminds me of a racist joke so fuck that word. Ephemeral is popular too, but it's a little too melancholy for me.

Pandiculation is a word I discovered like an hour ago:

A stretching and stiffening of the trunk and extremities, as when fatigued and drowsy or on waking, often accompanied by yawning.

I pandiculate pretty much every time I stand. I like it. It's like a scientific surprise. There are other words like that on the list. Cahoots sneaks up on you, because it sounds like a cartoon rabbit instead of a sneaky alliance.

Sometimes a word is almost too well-tailored. Glutton is brutish. It catches your throat and forces you to stop breathing, just for the tiniest of spans. Magnanimous sounds all ancient and grand, and it stretches out like an extended hand. Or a hero, standing akimbo. Ah! Akimbo! Great word.

I suspect I've always been better at words than nearly everything else. Or more accurately, I've always felt more confident in my words than nearly everything else. Words are about sharing something personal and valuable, and about believing your rhetoric is impressive enough to be shared at all.

Words are an antidote to loneliness. They're bridges. Words are about pride. They're paranoid and lovely and full of brass and balls. Brass! Balls! Also excellent words.

Each word has a specific function, and words chosen are just as significant as words that aren't. At the moment of use a single word is the most important part of a person's vocabulary. Even if a word isn't carefully and consciously selected, word choice is so damn particular. It's mesmerizing. I love listening to a well-crafted sentence. The rhythm of a phrase is salient. Cadence is captivating.

Words are just plain dreamy. Yes you are. Yes you are.



Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Love Letter to Jam

Dear jam,

In no particular order, here is a list of things consisting of or relating to jam:

Stephen Colbert

It's the connected versatility of jam that really, really makes me love it. But my favorite jam-related rendition is the verb. Not because I like the idea of things being crushed, crammed, or hinged, but because it sounds so aggressive and resourceful. Just the sound of it. JAM.

In physics, jamming is the process where particles harden due to increased density and take on the behavior of a solid, like when sand becomes glass. Traffic jams when the space between cars decreases, and then no motherfucker is driving anywhere until it cracks. Jamming a radio frequency disrupts a transmission. Jamming is tenacious and resolute. Fruit gets jammed for preservation purposes, machinery jams when it breaks, and sometimes we get ourselves into a jam and we can't move forward. Jam-packed. Shit, I hate crowds.

But then again, jam is a freedom. Musical notes jam into one another to create an improvised wall of sound, but the wall ebbs and flows with mood, ever-changing and evolving. It's living in the moment and allowing things to happen. It means something sweet and excellent, like blackberries. That shit is my jam. Michael Jackson jams because he's Michael Fucking Jackson, and that dude can goddamn jam.

Culture jamming, which is, you know, the subversion of mass media and popular culture messages designed to expose flaws or hypocrisy in whatever system is under fire, is usually obnoxious. Seriously. Stop changing "FedEx" to "FedUp" because it's stupid. We get it, you're jamming corporate communication. You're sooooo rebellious and interesting.

But when it's done well, like in the case of Banksy or Stephen Colbert, it makes us question and dissect an idea, and I'm all for that. Especially when it's unexpected, when it sheds light on something I've never thought about before. Like anything awesome, it takes skill to do that shit right, and sometimes it's so, so good.

Jam is diverse. It works as both offense and defense, control and release, a means to either make something happen or to prevent it. You, jam, you sound like anger and bliss, you can slam into us unexpectedly or creep onto us slowly. You're the convergence of particles and ideas. Jam, your dichotomy makes me love you. All of your parts.


Friday, October 17, 2014

A Love Letter to The Field Museum

Dear Field Museum,

I was debating if I should write an entirely new post or if it's acceptable to pull from a previous post. It would be a raging pile of horseshit if I denied something I love the words it deserves, so in the end of course I have to write another.

The Field Museum's objective is "the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge and the preservation and exhibition of objects illustrating art, archaeology, science and history.” What's better than that? Answer: nothing. Nothing is better than that. 

The first time I went to the Field Museum, or the first time I remember, I was in first grade. The Nature Walk blew my fucking mind.

I knew about the pros and cons of a zoo at the tender age of seven: I loved the zoo because I loved the animals and I hated the zoo because they were caged. Let's not start a debate about zoos. 

Field Museum
The Field Museum was like a replacement zoo: it was full of these frenzied, gorgeously creepish dioramas piled with taxidermy animals, some of them living in their natural habitats, grouped by geography and species and like, foraging habits or something. There's a poetry to immortalizing an animal that most humans will never see in its natural habitat. They were shrewd and outlandish and I learned things.

There are greater and lesser gnus. Hyenas were the most bizarre and bewitching animals in all the kingdoms. Deer can be the size of squirrels. The streets near my parents' house are named after common North American birds: warbler, swift. I took notes and wrote an article about birds, streets, and what I learned at the Field, then submitted it to the neighborhood homeowner's association, and they totally published it in the local paper. I was seven.

Natural History Museum in Ireland
It's not as if I have a great appreciation for taxidermy as an art form, although I know that many people do. And there's a difference between the delicately prepared specimens at the Field Museum and the fucking fantastic bullet-holed nightmares at the Natural History Museum in Ireland, although both are hypnotic in ways that open up a world of did this animal die? Who skinned, stuffed, and mounted it? Are the bones on display somewhere else? Did it have a family? What was its last meal? Did it have a favorite tree? Why did the taxidermist choose to display it in that particular pose, with that snarl or furrow or bend? Is it because of a meticulous love for science, for art, or for both? Do they only stuff animals professionally for museums, or do they mount family pets in their spare time just for giggles? If an animal has a soul, would this animal feel pride or despair knowing what happened with its body?

We can google a diagram of bears and their relative sizes, we can go to a zoo and hope the bears are outside at the same time we are, but at the Field Museum they're lined up in a row and you can feel their sheer size, marvel at the biological diversity, wander around just generally overwhelmed. Full of whelm. There's so much goddamn whelm that if we measured whelm on a scale of sun bear to polar bear, my whelm would be arctic as fuck.

Then there are the cultural exhibits: everyday items are presented fat with memories and purpose, arranged in relation to other pieces that have their own story. Each object is used to create a narrative that helps visitors understand how things were made, used, valued, and discarded. But why is that relevant? Why...why does it matter?

I have a favorite piece in nearly every exhibit. I watch every single video and I try to imagine how to use each tool, because everything has a purpose. Every thing was chosen for a reason. Every damn thing is significant and part of the narrative, even if it's a needle or a spoon. Especially if it's a needle or a spoon. Now all other needles and spoons are trite in comparison yet fundamentally extraordinary, designed so efficiently they haven't been improved upon for thousands of years.

It matters because museums facilitate understanding. They exist not to pass judgement, but to share things that are extraordinary and true. Collect, question, display, involve, educate, connect: good verbs all.

Here's a chicken and egg scenario: do I love certain things because they fascinated me at the Field Museum when I was younger, or does the Field fascinate me because it exhibits things that I love? Animals and biology, evolution, travel, cultural exploration. I've always had a weird thing for that because of the Hall of Jade at the Field? Or vice versa?

Most likely I love those things because of the Field. A good museum should make you yearn for more knowledge and boost your aspirations, and no place, nowhere, does that like the Field. Fuck this, I'm going there tomorrow.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A Love Letter to Zealous

Dear zealous,

It's the way you make me feel, it's the way you sound. You're a word I love to use and a word I love to say, probably because you're just so fucking rad.

If you're gonna do something, do it with everything. With punch. With fucking zeal. Drink the blood of the divine and burn it like fuel, let your purpose, your passion, your enthusiasm and intensity blaze until your only release is single-minded obsession. Become a radical. A fanatical. FANATICAL. Hashtag MusicReference. 

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit - That's from the Bible (nerds) and it's about the lord, but I'm not talking about god. Or maybe I am? I must be, in a way, because talking about the zealous without referencing religion is like amateur hour at the Sears Tower ("Can you tell me where the Willis is?" "I'll tell you where you can put it.").
Have zealous energy in your actions, because zeal is the action that fuels love. When someone is zealous they not only have something they love, but they pursue it with warmth. So love your obsessions. Fuck the shit out of them. Unless it's a person, then ask politely first, and if they say no then you have to suck it up and be all, "oh well, crumbling cookies etc" and then you need to redirect your fucking zeal. I might start saying that to people. "I'm with you, champ, but maybe you should redirect your zeal."

Like most things in the world, being zealous is only a good thing as long as you're also being nice to people. When we are properly zealous, our love is sincere.

The reason zeal is so damn enchanting are twofold:

1) Sincere zeal for a subject is way more interesting than irony.
2) Sometimes zeal can go a little too far.

When your zealousness is just scrambling on the edge of overzealous, dipping a toe in every once in awhile, that's when your shit gets excessive. And annoying. And WAY more interesting. That's when zeal moves into the zone of requiring analysis, that's when zeal becomes the focus instead of the subject, and let's face it: no one is interested in things that you only care about a little. We're interested in the things you care about a lot. I support aggressive advocacy of ones beliefs? EhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhYES. But see above: as long as you're being nice to people.

I think this subject requires further exploration.

Do you know what the super very best thing is about being a real live person who lives in a place and has thoughts and feelings? It's not just the layers, which I'm allowed to have. It's that I can change whenever I want.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Turn Signal

Why can't you use a turn signal? ANY OF YOU? Mad scientists built a lever into your wheeled robot house, on purpose, just so you could alert other robot drivers that you are moving laterally. And just to keep it simple, this lever lives next to where your fucking hands go.

Your assumption that you can just weave in and out of traffic all willy-nilly with little regard for your fellow travelers is fucking egregious. EGREGIOUS.

As with all things in life, when you make a decision, please take a second to reflect on how your decision is going to effect the people around you, and in the world. Even Ashton Kutcher knows that small actions make a difference, and he's a fucking dumbass. Then he made a shitty movie about it and made things worse. Don't see it. It's terrible and it doesn't make any sense. In a bad way, not in a good way. Ashton Kutcher did not consider the butterfly effect of his own movie back in 2004 that makes me feel angry today. The fucking nerve.

Thor 2 didn't make any sense either, but that movie goddamn ruled. Do you know why? Because the filmmakers didn't try to logic something that they didn't really understand, they were just like, "um, bibbity bobbity bifrost SCIENCE = MAGIC BLOODSMOKE" and then everything was fine.

Ashton Kutcher, on the other hand, tried to explain something that he didn't understand to serve his own agenda, like when Christians appropriate "science" for their religimagic, which is backwards. Technically not Ashton, but the guys who made that movie. You can't say "magic because of science." That defeats the purpose of fucking magic. Science will negate the magic. BUT! Undiscovered science? That is magic. Do you see? Idiots. EGREGIOUS.

Don't try to make sense of something you cannot fathom in the first place., that's wrong. Always try to make sense of things. But do not flaunt your blatant misunderstanding of a concept on film. Talk to someone who knows what the what before you act like an idiot.

Then again, I got my shit on here, and I have absolutely no fucking idea what I'm talking about.

I didn't get in a car accident or anything. I just really don't like cab drivers. They're slippery bastards.

AND DO YOU KNOW WHAT? I don't think cab drivers really like NPR! I think I just get into a cab and they switch the radio to NPR because I have glasses and I dress like a hungover junior high school teacher. Well, your deduction is inaccurate, cabbies, because I like my ignorant pop music from time to time, and I'm only wearing these pants because finding pants I enjoy is very difficult, and I'm not as cultured as you think I am. BOOM!!!! Suck it.