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In Remembrance of Names Past [10 Apr 2013|03:57am]
Another sister is to marry in less than a month.

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I write because an awkward nostalgia has been thrust upon me. In recent weeks, several people have come out of the proverbial woodwork with a plethora of motives or circumstances.
A former lover whom I repelled for needing a different love than I could give, talked to me for the first time in months (I let her know my door is open before asking her not to enter too often) and, for once, she took me at my word about my observations. She needed to talk to her family and let her distorted views of reality come out so that they could all heal together as a family. Apparently, their collective wounds were far worse than I imagined. It was right of me to show her that she was wounded, but now she fears she’s beyond saving. I don’t know. I just hope she’s wrong, but I don’t know she’s wrong.

The next day someone who caught my fancy a year ago sent me a message. We hadn’t talked since October; I asked her back then, to wit, to be my eye-candy in tow so I’d not awkwardly attend the symphony alone. That was too much growing up for her, to play that role. Her beauty is like the woods and isn’t fond of being shown about town. I didn’t press for a reply and I thought it best to leave that ball in her court. Five months later, she messaged me because her Italian wasn’t catching up to her as fast as she hoped it would. She apparently got tired of her retail job and moved to Italy. I eventually responded with a plea for her to not look back in anger because I wouldn’t do the same. I was careful not to apologize; perhaps I’ll hear from her again in five months.

Two days later I received an email from a free spirit who wanted for us to go on an adventure. I cut ties to her in silence because it became clear that this was something that I was taking more seriously than she was, and it seemed like the only way to prevent acrimony. She broke the silence to ask for my address and if I wanted a postcard. It was not made clear that my address would be used to send me a postcard. I responded that it’s not like me to admit wanting anything if doing so would break parity. I gave her my address and said that I could send her a postcard from an ocean shore in a month if I had hers. I conceded my reticence as a fault of mine; perhaps I should have apologized.

A few days pass and I get an email from a young man whom I knew years ago, a kid of great integrity and admirable humor. He had given me a profound sense of worth in the Summer of 2008 by having me proofread his admissions essay for medical school. He’s been too absorbed in studies for me to have heard much at all from him in the passing years. I’m so very glad that his matters are going so well.

Perhaps two days later, I find that I have another follower on Quora. It’s someone that I’ve not really talked to in years whom I felt was forever put aside. I was glad to know that I’m still somehow a part of her thoughts.

The next day, I’m informed that I’m not in the “Circle” of someone with whom I cut ties a few months ago in the same fell swoop as claimed some of the above along with some others. There was a pragmatic issue of consideration and avoiding awkwardness about why I no longer wished to hear from her; the underlying cause was that I’m tired of waiting for her to become less of a bad person.

All of these people had entered my thoughts somehow shortly before they entered my correspondence. Seeing a familiar piece of art to what she might create, catching a few moments of a show that described the sort of architectural salvage she was passionate about; driving by her place of work, reading the narrative of a protagonist who reminds me of him, seeing a conference on the calendar that she might attend, describing her hyperbolic absurdity to someone else to demonstrate a point. (Those are all different people.) It makes me wonder, Could I arrange the thoughts of any day to see who of all the people who’ve entered my past occupy my present in quotidian nostalgia? How many people belong in those thoughts? Who is absent that shouldn’t be?

They share little in common, those mentioned, except that I spend time hoping that they find their happiness.

Last Thursday I asked a girl I barely knew if she wanted to go with me to the symphony. She affirmed she would, but that I would make her late. So, we were to hear the first half from the lobby, I assumed. I pick her up in her work clothes but she changes into formal shoes. She’s pretty enough that her attire wasn’t at all a detraction. We chat a few blocks and I park in the garage adjacent the Hilbert and pull her awkwardly through the labyrinthine alley into the theater. We arrive during applause for an opening act that wasn’t on the schedule, so we sneak into our seats at the center near the stage amid glares at our tardiness. Yet we didn’t interrupt the show, serendipity blessed us with perfect timing. Krystof Urbánski gave us an awkward smile, as if relieved that those carefully-selected seats wouldn’t remain empty. My companion asks me if I bought the seats knowing they’d be stereophonically perfect. I did. The young solo violinist did a beautiful job with Tchaikovsky, during the intermission my date bought us champagne cocktails and we sat back down to see Pictures at an Exhibition. I’ve seen the ISO perform that piece before, but that was a rather unpleasant memory which needed to be overwritten. After the show we figure we should get to know one another, so we sit in an underground speakeasy and I savored the pleasure of spending way too much money on cigars and whisky for the both of us.

After leaping through traffic to get us back to the garage so I can get her to her car and she can return to work in the morrow, we lock arms so I can guide her back through the labyrinth. She tells me in the garage elevator that I’m really good at first dates, which I accepted as an invitation to kiss her. We held it stubbornly from the third floor until the door opened and almost closed on the seventh.

Ephemeral though it may be, I find great value in coming upon little victories.
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Parody of yourself, in color. [24 Aug 2012|03:08am]
Then and now?

A couple weeks ago I attended my decennial class reunion. It was an overwhelmingly positive experience. D-'s husband remarked after a few drinks to anyone who'd listen that he just knew that I was a good guy from the moment he met me. And this was confirmed to him by his observation at the reunion that "Everyone likes Seth. All types of crowds."

I like him, too. A good guy.

E- asked for me to chaufeur her there and back. Afterwards we lay on blankets in her lawn and watched the Perseids. I felt like that was some sort of victory to myself, that I retained that old joy of mine to see a shooting star. Sometimes I seem so deterministic that I look forward to regrets. This was not another year when I looked forward to a summer night when there would be a meteor shower I'd be too preoccupied to behold.

I feel like if I'm going to put sporadic use into this Live Journal, I should note to the teeming millions that the past can, indeed, give us thoughts that deserve both a smile and the time for us to think them.



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Lest we forget.
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(Don't) Look back in anger. [02 Aug 2012|03:37am]
You might say I'm doing well for a member of my demographic. I'm working on doing great. My company sent me an email asking for a more complete list of my credentials for promotion consideration, since I'm apparently among "the best of the best."

If I hope for my foot to walk in a better direction, am I likely to end up shooting it? I guess I do feel like I'm just staring at my feet.

And when does, "when does life begin?" become, "Oh God, when did life begin? I'm not sure I want this all so soon."

I currently weigh less than I have since 2008. Knowing how to milk thrift stores has been quite useful for replenishing my wardrobe with size-medium shirts, though I wish there was a more standard "small but tall" size.

I guess I came here to this Live-Journal because I just learned that a member of my friends list is now deceased. I'm extremely mad at myself because I had been so embarrassed by the events causing our (real)lives to diverge that I never reached out to her when I found out about her struggles with cancer. We'd see each other's Face-Book statuses but I don't know when the last time we interacted was.

I'm mad at myself because I knew better. Perhaps I allowed my embarrassment to keep me silent because another dear friend of mine fighting her own terrifying bout with cancer right now, and I've put in my effort to make myself as available as she desires.

I've described to several people in recent weeks that my stoic rearing, coupled with my relatively recent embrace of empathy, has put me in a position where I only have two stages of grief: acceptance and anger. I generally just accept it until I can rout out a justification to be angry at myself. And it vacillates. Acceptance usually comes first, anger is an afterthought. Then I accept it again until a new reason comes into focus for why I should be mad.

D- noted in agreement with this by remarking that, in 2010, I described to her my mother's ailment like I were talking about my lunch. After my mother was in the clear, I found many reasons to be mad at myself.

That's sort of been how I am with my abounding love of humanity and my acquiescence of its path to self-annihilation. I'm grieving for this lot of thuggish knaves, my Earth-bound brethren whom I love dearly, moreso for what (it seems) irrevocably preordained to do. And I'm mad at myself for not stopping it. I'm mad at the existence of impossibilities.
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It has always been too late.
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You better learn to swim or you'll sink like a stone. [10 Jan 2012|05:19am]
As it happens, things in my life are changing. I think there are a lot of respects in which I can look at 2011 as having been a reasonably successful and productive years.

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I'm in Indianapolis now.
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Isn't it Byronic, don't you think? [21 Oct 2011|10:31pm]
The cliché goes that a man defends his restless nature by comparing himself to a shark. Sharksmust swim to pass water through their gills and take in oxygen. A shark must keep moving or it will asphyxiate, or "drown."

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I'll endorse that cop-out for myself. I'll just play the metaphor further by saying that I can't tell the malaise of strained swimming from the malaise of not taking in enough oxygen-rich water. And, perhaps the stress of recent years is something that produces withdrawal symptoms, as might a chemical addiction. Contentment is one of those qualities that only exists when it is willfully observed, something ripe for a cringe-worthy comparison to Heisenberg.

It takes practice to say to yourself, "if this isn't nice, what is?" It takes practice to subdue the voice speaking in counterpoint, "If this is all that 'nice' is?"

In two weeks I will have my ten-thousandth day of life.
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Requiem aeternam dona eis [28 Mar 2011|01:27am]
For over two years I've felt really guilty because I'd fallen out of contact with a friend whom I greatly admired. Going through some old contacts I found her and looked her up on the usual social outlets. After all, she came up in conversation last night in the context of an anecdote I was relating to a girl I'm dating. I thought it would be nice to get back in touch with her for those times when I'm in my old stomping ground.

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As it happens, though, she died of breast cancer last autumn. Now I have something else to feel guilty about.
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Happy St Patrick's Day! [17 Mar 2011|05:55pm]
best political campaign of all time
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You're no one until somebody hates you [16 Mar 2011|02:32am]
J- went to New York City last week and returned Monday. She gave me a post card that she'd bought from MoMA.

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"See, you can tell by her face that I actually hate you," she explained.

See, relationships should based on honesty.

I made it back from The Flowering Land. My experience at the Fort Myers airport was an interesting one in the sense that this new-fangled tendency I have toward extroversion got tested in a different sort of crucible. I was accused of being rude! This strikes me as comical! Even if it were accurate! Okay, especially if it were accurate! In my defense, I wasn't being rude by western standards. What sticks out in memory was that I didn't buck in cowered shame to the middle-aged woman who implied that I was being rude. And I didn't even find reason to be all that upset about the insinuation, either. I think she was just having a very slow day and she wasn't prepared to endure others moving with normal human celerity.

When I was speaking to J- about airports, along with her sister and another friend, one of them mentioned that airports are places where people have free license for bad behavior. Having yet to describe my recent near-forays into bad behavior at an airport, I piped in, "yeah, that's the only reason I prefer to fly". It seemed apropos at the time.

I wonder what it would be like to be that class of person. I wonder at what point I would notice if I were to become that class of person.

Same bar, most of the same people, different night: they expressed a consensus view of me as being a "people person". This expressed this because they were surprised by my mentioning that I prefer to go to work at the geology department when there are no classes in session. See, I do this so as to avoid people. I mean, I have an abounding love of humanity. But people? Who needs them!

Let me prove a point to you, gentle reader, with semiotics.
I love everybody!


I love everybody.
Catch the difference?

And, follow-up on the familial loyalty bit from last time:

I had sinus issues while in Florida because I was suddenly attacked by the onslaught of new and mysterious pollens for the chasms within my forehead to discover and collect. As the plane descended into Indianapolis, the shift in pressure caused what was probably the most severe physical pain I've had in years. It felt like my brain was trying to carve its initials into the meningeal lining of my frontal lobe. So, I was not in a good mood on the drive to Noblesville where I was to celebrate Z-'s birthday.

We ended up at a bowling alley because Z- and I were too polite to say "no" to an invitation. When I walked in I found my way over to a bartender and I asked, by name, if the owner was in. She was not. Z- asked why I needed to talk to her and I explained, "Well, when I got to my parents' house there was a four-figure check that she had sent me. I owe her an enormous 'thank you.'"

See, the owner of the bowling alley in Noblesville is the daughter of my grandfather's third wife. My grandfather and the bowling alley owner's mother set up a trust fund to be dispersed upon their passing to all their grandchildren. My step-grandmother, who had such a dedicated sense of familial loyalty that she continued to treat me like her own grandchild for over twenty years after my grandfather died, passed away last year. So, a year later I got a check. I felt rather honored and grateful. And I need to write a very nice letter to express these points.

And I did go to my step-grandmother's funeral despite it being three hours north of here. January 2010, I learned of her passing. On the 12th I sorted seismographs with a gnawing pain that none of the geologists had a real understanding of Haiti's cultural backdrop in the immediate wake of its catastrophe. I internalized the fear that the earthquake was to be far worse in human terms than anyone was talking about. After all, in geological terms it wasn't a big deal. When the television crew from an Indianapolis station came into the seismic room, for once I had a lot of meaningful things to say that would hit a large and needy audience. After all, by I had been engaged in a long conversation about Haitian Creole with a geology student just a few days prior, so that girl and I probably belonged in the interview as much as anyone else in the building at the time by virtue of having any previous knowledge of Haitian culture. But I didn't have the energy to say anything. A post-doc faculty member commented about me wearing sadness on my face so I clocked out. I got a speeding ticket on the drive north that night. And I didn't know if I should feel like I belonged there at the funeral. My family connection to the departed was himself departed for over two decades. I sat next to my mother who had her own mortality weighing on us heavily, as she was slated to go in for her marrow transplant any day. I could only hold her hand as she cried and I doubt that even she knew if her tears were about herself or about her step-mother-in-law.

We were told, in fact, that in her last days Nina had been more worried about my mother than she was about herself. Naturally.

But! It felt very rewarding when the owner of the Noblesville bowling alley pointed something out: "It's such a testament to her as a person that you guys were still close enough after all these years that you came here."

She did really earn that kind of testament.
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I'm hope and you'll die with me. [03 Mar 2011|02:35am]
As a child I strove toward stoicism because it seemed liked a necessary addition to a list of attributes I'd write for a far-fetched, highly-idealized hero-citizen into which I wished to grow. I guess "unflappable" better captures the gist. Stoicism came easily, I guess, because I came from a large extended family that had so much volume it was unrealistic for each branch to have commensurate attachment or utility. You have to be stoic to deal with that, lest you just happen upon your stoic mannerisms and feel like a monster on account of them.

Stoicism begets anhedonia. Anhedonia makes it easier to be unflappable, I guess. The hero-citizen I imagined was, by necessity, loyal in a fashion that only makes sense in a medieval world-view. (It was more vogue in the Romantic period, but strictly for motives that were conceded to be farcical by their adherents. Add that to the list of reasons why the British Empire was doomed.)

Out of a sense of self-disinterested loyalty I'm finding myself writing this entry an absurd geographical distance from that home of mine where I usually write entries. The loyal stoic chauffeured some relatives of mine a thousand miles in gratitude for the fact that they're alive and reasonably well. This is written on their computer, miles and miles and miles from my own.

On the drive I thought of these things along with things that I've learned not to write about in online forums. (No kissing and telling, avoid using names even if a proxy like "K-" could probably describe half the people worth noting in my life and will invariably scandalize any reader who actually knows me well but misinterprets them, and metaphorically abide by the adage of firearm safety to "never aim a gun at something you have no intention to kill.")

I came up with an accurate episode of recent weeks that sort of embodies the conundrum of an unflappable life. Wanting to be the right kind of person trumps all other wants until they're negated into oblivion. And one is to approve of that, but never to approve of anything too ostentatiously.

I'd speak less cryptically but I never imagined the unflappable citizen-hero to be publicly crass. This, then, just functions as a note to myself.

Apparently I am unaware of what his alternative to writing in a Livejournal would be.

After driving sixteen hours I found out a cousin has had her turn come up to have a brush with death. I guess that's what we do with mortality. We take turns with it. Among my kin it's been a long time since it was caught by one of my generation, though. Memento mori. Morituri te salutant.

I do hope she survives. Based on the conversations that happened in the hours of driving that happened after the news, I doubt that much of the family has a logical grasp of the situation. Or maybe my grasp of the situation is illogical, which would be great.

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I don't know whether the unflappable hero-citizen is a goal worth attaining or merely one worth pursuing. Just for kicks, let's say that he's also a great dancer. Deal?
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The Guns of August [17 Jan 2011|02:42am]
I don’t think I’ve ever written this in any type of permanent form, but it’s a story that I’ve told a number of people because it strikes me a great deal as a paradigm of some sort.

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My grandfather died when I was 11, on 13 August 1995. Two or three summers before that a number of his children and grandchildren, myself among them, were gathered at his house where my grandmother still lives in the outskirts of Elwood. It was bright, sunny, hot, and humid; I was presumably 8 or 9. I remember sitting on their back patio, a gathering space of about 10 by 40 feet enclosed with a steel wire screen, the door of which leads to a concrete walkway that cascades into stairs down a steep incline as their property gently slopes lower until it reaches their northern field, which stretches a quarter mile or so further north.

With a few of my fellow young siblings and cousins about, my grandfather stood stoically and stared at the field. This was his routine, verily his life, especially if it were raining. With a calm but abrupt break in his stare he turned and entered the house, then some of my aunts and uncles hovered back and forth through the door and made verbal inquiries that everyone was accounted for and they knew all the family members to be in the house or on the patio. There was a strange concern and they told us to stay where we were. Eventually someone explained with a strange tension that there was an animal in the field, and my first curiosity was that it was perhaps a deer or fox that we should go admire.

I looked intently for the source of the commotion and squinted to vaguely see a rustling in the bean stalks. It had to be at least a hundred yards away, fully testing the ability of my glasses prescription. Within seconds of me spotting the anomaly among the static stalks, I saw my grandfather enter through the door leading into the house a few yards away. As I opened my mouth to begin to ask him what it was, I muted myself upon seeing his left arm raise with a ballerina’s fluidity. In his hands was a pistol, and the very moment his arm had ceased its upward draw he fired. There was no clamor in the bean stalks of a startled animal and the spot that had captured everyone’s attention had joined the space around it in perfect stillness.
From over a hundred yards away, he shot a cat-sized animals (I believe it was a fox) without taking time to aim.

Despite the business run by one of my best friends, I’m not a member of gun culture. But, I understand their place in American society and I know how to recognize exceptional marksmanship. (To that end, my skill with rifled firearms is pretty average but for some reason I seem to have an impressive level of talent with trap shooting.) As years go by, I have fewer occasions to go to that house but every time I look for the spot where my grandfather felled that animal. As years go by, it seems more and more amazing. In fact, I researched this entry by looking at the satellite images of the property to validate my wonder. I have no doubt that he could have been a professionally competitive marksman.

It was not in his character to be a professionally competitive marksman. It was in his character to stare silently at the rain for hours. It was in his character to align his telescope, a rather impressive one for its generation, to an astronomical wonder he’d overheard was taking place on the radio during his drive to work. It was in his nature to amass a large collection of vinyl records—Johnny Cash or chamber music—but never listen to them if anyone else was around. It was in his nature to smoke box after box of drugstore cigars in such a way that entering the kitchen there’d be a wall of smoke that separated the open sill to the dining room.

He fully inhaled those cigars, and doing so capped his life with lung cancer in the summer of 1995. It was only then that my mother and aunts began to collect any three-dimensional understanding of him as a person in spite of their decades of knowing him as a father. They had known that he used to be a pilot and would fly his own airplane to visit his brothers in Kentucky whenever he had the chance. They knew he always dreamed of seeing Alaska and the Rocky Mountains. They knew he had machined a component for NASA that ultimately went to the moon.

At once he was able to talk about his youth. His children’s families collected their money and bought an RV and many of us, myself included, formed a caravan to take him to the Rocky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. (Once while driving through the Garden of the Gods, he lay reclined as he usually did and hallucinated a bit, so he asked for his pistol to fight off the Indians marauding the RV.)
It became known why he was a fantastic marksman. My mother asked about his relationship with his father, someone who died before anyone of my mother’s generation could know him. I don’t know if he had a trade beyond owning cattle and tobacco fields, but apparently he was a prolific fiddler and served as a medic in The Great War.

In response, my grandfather merely related a story. One time he was charged to herd the cattle back to the pen when he was a young boy. When he quickly mastered the task of getting the cows to go in the right direction, he thought he’d save himself any further exhaustion and he straddled a steer to ride his way home. Upon arriving at the pen he saw my great-grandfather waiting with obvious disapproval. “My father beat the hell out of me,” my grandfather concluded, for the sin of treating a cow like it were a horse.

In the summer of 1994 my sisters and a cousin spent another hot, humid, sunny day with my grandparents. One of us observed that the cherry trees populating the front yard had ripe fruit and we tasted a few to find them rather delicious. My grandmother encouraged us to pick them, generously furnishing a wicker basket and telling us she’d bake us a cobbler. After perhaps two hours we returned with a decent number of cherries and she briefly scolded us that there were still so many more out there. All of us spent that day in the sun and had horrific burns to show for it, but we also had a fine cherry cobbler. By the time it was ready to be eaten, our grandfather returned from work and he told us that when he was a boy food was so scarce and expensive that if there was a cherry at the top of a tree, he’d have to race his brothers to climb up and be the one who got to eat it. I inspected part of my cobbler and found almost every cherry to be housing a dark, baked maggot. I was highly displeased, but I continued to eat it. “That’s how I got my protein,” my grandfather added in epilogue to his childhood story.

My grandfather was a world-class marksman because when his father left in the morning to try to find work in the throes of the Great Depression, he would hand the bullets he bought from yesterday’s pay to my grandfather. As the oldest of 15 children, it was my grandfather’s responsibility to shoot something, anything except the cattle, which could be put on the dinner table. And for every bullet that did not bring back dinner, my grandfather was severely beaten.

I don’t think I would have taken those skills to competitive marksmanship contests, either.
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Recordare, Iesu Pie, [22 Nov 2010|03:32am]
...quod sum causa tuae viae. Ne me perdas illa die.
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