December 18, 2002

a handful of haze

I’ve done a lot of stuff this semester. I won’t belabor the point with a list or anything, as there’s nothing invigorating about someone listing off their accomplishments. If you did something grand I want to see it. Take pictures and write about it, sure, but bring your experience to me. Please don’t say “Egads, twas so beautiful mine words cannot do it justice.” That may be so, but such is the burdern we shoulder in being social creatures. We need to twirl our words not only to describe reality, but to recreate it.

Such is one reason I became a writer (and to say I ‘became a writer’ makes it sound like I mailed off a check to Young America to order an official certificate. If I did do this, perhaps at one of those seams where the memories don’t line up right, I’m still waiting for the paper. I would frame it. You don’t so much as become a writer, as you muck around with words for so long they start cooperating against their own will). I feel a responsibility to distill my experience down into words so others can have a taste of this backwoods swill. In this, though, I don’t feel like anyone owes me anything for my words, as though because I’m a WRITER and I’m WRITING that they damn well better read my tripe. Nah. I say if you like it, read it, please, and enjoy it. If it ain’t your fancy, so be it. I don’t like football. Golf is for ninnies. We don’t all agree on what’s fun or not. I’m just tryin’ to make this as much fun as possible for those that, well, find it fun.

Thoreau once said he wouldn’t talk about himself so much if there was anyone else he knew so well. I think there’s a lot of truth to this, but I also feel that our friends know us better than we know ourselves. One way of knowing more about yourself is to see what your surroundings think of it. Don’t get hung up on it, per se… if people think you’re a fool because you’re playing school girl paper-fortune-teller games at Old Chicago during a jazz party, so be it. Be aware, but don’t care, really.

Our friends are special in that they can act as feedback loops upon ourselves. Take Mr. Luke, for instance. When this boy is having a good time everyone knows it. He trips on the dishwasher and blames the dishwasher, and then blames the Dishwasher. Everyone lays down on their backs and watches the fan spin. Suddenly they’re all riding bikes! Suddenly they’re all injured! Suddenly they’re in Alaska and Mr. Luke is flinging rocks at Canada! Suddenly he’s riding a sled down a glacier and mowing down an entire family!

Being aware of the Secret Powers behind your friends makes you more aware of yourself. Many times I’m so conscious of the flies buzzing in my head that they drown out all other thought, and I’m left an irritated husk of introspective skin that I believe isn’t quite representative of me. By seeing fragments of yourself externalized in your friends, you become more familiar with your own being. Often times the buzzing can be so loud that you are surprised by what they know about you, and what you may have forgotten.

You break your toe and your foot doesn’t fit in your shoe anymore. You wear sandals for a winter’s week. Your friend says something about headaches and it doesn’t make sense. Then you remember that you get bad headaches when your feet get cold. You had forgotten. Your friend remembered.

If this past semester has taught me anything, it’s that the memory is infinitely fallible, and we really need to do everything in our power to compensate for it. I’ve forgotten many, many, things. I unwrap some burritos for the microwave and ten seconds later make pitas and hummus. The microwave dings and I wonder what the hell is cooking. I rise from my meal. Oh yeah. Burritos. Don’t need these, anymore.

I leave the milk out. I miss combo rehearsals. My car disappears. I’m lucky I don’t have a girlfriend because that would give me a whole host of new and important things I would need to forget. All this forgetting is exhausting, and I need to pace myself. I can only take on so many things to forget.

But really, you can’t dwell on the things you forget because, well, you forgot them, didn’t you? No sense on dwelling on something that isn’t even there. I say compensate for the human mind, sure, but don’t rag on it. I think that’s an intrinsic difference in the minds of guys and dolls. Ladies, listen: When a guy forgets something, IT’S GONE. POOF. There’s no hierarchy of less-important/more-important things that will be forgotten/remembered. If we forget something it’s not because we don’t care, or because we don’t think it’s important, but because that section of the brain went dead. Completely. For us, it isn’t a choice between picking you up at the airport or playing Grand Theft Auto. If we forgot, it was because the thought of picking you up just TWAIN’T IN THE HEAD. We have no choice in the matter, really, and it’s an infuriating feeling for those of us that want to be loving individuals.

At least so far as my experience. If he’s forgetful and an asshole to boot, lose the jerk and give me a call.

So really, with a mind splitting at the seams it’s a bit difficult to pick out the main points from this semester. I could conclude that I haven’t done a damn thing, but that would be an inaccurate representation of reality. What actually happened? I can call up the details… sneaking into the Banff Film Festival, exploring the abandoned ore docks, sitting in front of my computer for six hours a day, setting my graduation date for next May, maintaining academic excellence across the board, getting spun into the debate between nature vs. nurture and evolutionary psychology vs. social constructionism, honing my intuitive skills as a photographer, registering and building an empire at, sauna-conversations attempting to resolve my romantic soul with my intellectual brain, the Gorge, then not the Gorge, then suddenly the Gorge again, definitely, this time around…

I need a bit more distance to draw meaning from these swirling colors, but so far it appears to have been a productive four months. It looks like a microcosm of my four years in college, with all sorts of people and activities and atoms bouncing around in whopper-jawed patterns. Am I a better Writer, now? Photographer? Philosopher? Old Woodsman? Person? Certainly. But in what ways? In what ways that will be condusive to a long and vivid future?

The writer in me demands an order, a sort of meaning that can be skinned, dried, and hung in the sun. The story is in the details, and it’s also about how you’ve arranged the details. Every detail you throw down should be there for a reason, and you should know those reasons, even if you don’t voice them in the text. But such is the counter-intuition of human life, where we dance around with only a hazy idea of why. We dance around so we can burn off the haze and find out why. Like all good fiction it is indirect and demands that we dig. Dig and burn.

However, just as with all those forgottens, you may need to just let that one go. Perhaps there’s no logic at work here, but big freakin’ deal. Breathe deep.

Hold what you got.