Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Wake me up when September ends


The snooze button hitting, the leg-bobbling and doodling and playing with my watch and counting arm hairs to try to stay awake, the suddenly realizing I'm just staring at some old man's receding hair line and haven't registered a word he's taught in several minutes, the saying "sorry I can't, I've got homework," the avoiding eye contact with those people I know from somewhere but can't remember or totally remember but just don't want to have that conversation, the outrageous lines to get anything anywhere, the freshmen holding hands and making googly eyes in EFY-esque romances, the daily car accidents... I'm officially back in class with 30,000 other BYU zoobies.
Every day is a battle against my newly discovered ADD and against my frequent desire to make one of those paper chains to count the days until Christmas. Still, I try to enjoy the moment and there's plenty to enjoy--like my job that had me barbequing last night on some ghetto grill that kept shooting flames up in blatant attacks at my eyebrows (and got grease on my favorite pants!), my service-oriented ward with tons of authentic, genuinely cool people (although my roommates tell me there are no hot girls), having friends in every class, just having friends, a nice apartment and great roommates. Oh, on the roommate thing, I love them, but turns out they have no taste. When I got the condo I loved the fireplace, the mantle, the paintings, and the wrap-around bookshelf. Then landlord's son moved in with his new TV which he put in front of the fireplace, took down the mantle, moved the bookshelves, and announced that he was going to cover the walls with movie posters. I gently objected and I think in the end we'll maintain some of the original coolness.
Anyways, I'm having a good time. From initial experiences, I think the theme of this school year is going to be realizing the great opportunities and responsibility I have and looking for ways to give back during my life. One of my professors quoted Elder Eyring questioning why so few have so much and why so many have so little. I wonder that same thing a lot and feel the responsibility of having so much. It's my last year at BYU and I really want to take advantage of everything it offers so I can leave without regrets and yeah, hopefully leave here and actually do something worthwhile with my life.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Coolness


...In honor of reading all 254 pages of The Essential Calvin and Hobbes yesterday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Where to rest my head

Three days on the street can make a man hard. Luckily I'm not much of a man.
Everything usually just works out perfectly for me, so I was surprised upon returning to Utah on Monday to find no one to let me in to my new apartment. The dude with the key was in Mexico and expected to get back early this week. Sitting in my over-stuffed car in a park on Monday afternoon with nowhere in particular to go, I accepted that I was homeless.
On Monday and Tuesday, I split time between two jobs, some friends' apartments, random stores, and mostly my car. My car may not be a beauty but she has been through a lot with me. Even while filled to the roof with my junk (including lots of dirty clothes)she still smells great and offers a comfortable retreat to call my own. I spent my afternoons on benches in parks reading. Reading is something I've been wanting to do all summer but didn't get around to until I had exhausted all other alternatives for entertainment. Last night at about 10 p.m., I found myself parked under a street lamp reading the final pages of my latest war novel-- The Things They Carried.
I appreciate my friends who let me crash on their roommate's beds and dirty their showers.
This morning my new roommate came back from Mexico and let me into the apartment. I tried not to act too excited to move in, but turns out I really don't like being homeless.
Today I showered in my own bathroom and opened my bags of stuff and felt puffs of heat come out from days of sitting in the sun. I finally found my fingernail clippers which is great news because sometime Monday my fingernails reached that point where you suddenly notice that they're too long ever time you touch something and especially when you type. Maybe if I had just been able to find the clippers earlier the whole homeless experience would have been much more laughable. Anyways, now I'm chilling on my floral couch which is definitely my favorite feature of the new place and taking advantage of the novelty of in-suite laundry. On the mantle there's a picture of Jesus and a little daily calendar/quote thing. Today's quote is from Arnold Schwarzenegger and says "I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman." Hmm.
School starts on Monday. I've got my books (I could go off about the new return policy though) and I'm ready to go. I just counted, and I've spent the night this summer in three countries, five states, and 12 cities. I saw some sweet places (and some holes) and met some awesome people. Movement and change is a blast, but the way my body is just crashed out on this couch reassures me that now's a good time to settle down somewhere and give myself several months of consistency.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

On my mind

This is where I basically vomit up all the things I can't get off my mind. Please feel no obligation to read this.
- Best feeling I've felt in a while: Cruising alone in my truck on the road near the lake on a sunny northwest day with both windows down and back window open, listening to my current favorite song "Way Away" by Yellowcard, shifting gears, elevated above the other cars by the 4x4 suspension--for several minutes, no worries.
- The two things I really look forward to each day are the feeling of water beating on my face in the shower and when I'm out running and move past the initial discomfort to "the zone."
- Does my mom think I'm Christopher Lowell? She asks me for decorating advice every chance she gets. My answer is usually "leave it how it is."
- I feel better when I’m healthy. I need to run more, lift weights more (ok, I never really started), eat more of everything but especially fruits and vegetables, less Wendy's.
- My ideas about love and romance are totally flawed—basically I'm living in a fantasy. I've known it was a fantasy for a long time, but for whatever reason I haven't given it up. This is a conflicted area for me that I prefer not to think about but the idea fills my head several times a day.
- Funny how you can be in the same room with someone doing the same thing but see and feel something totally different.
- Everybody thinks I'm a goody-goody--even my best friends who know a lot about me. I guess I portray that image and maybe I am, but I hate that label, or any label.
- Here at home my mom has me going through boxes of my old stuff. I've had a successful life. I've seen stacks of perfect report cards, papers, and projects, awards, scholarships, and notes of congratulations. From my second grade report card: "El Veneno is very quiet in class but he seems to have made many friends and is very active and interacts with his peers on the playground. He is a very conscientious, hard-working student who is serious." From third grade: "El Veneno is a delightful student who is well-liked by his peers... El Veneno enjoyed our chickens (we had an incubator) and unit on Mexico." I read that and think- I was such a little stud. But honestly, I haven't changed much. Why can't I see myself like other people do?
- I should write more frequently to my brothers on their missions. My relationships with them should be two of my most important.
- I'm needy. That's dangerous.
- I have issues. I'm independent. I get annoyed with anyone who becomes so involved in my life that it keeps me from having time alone to introspect and decompress. I'm selfish. Everything I do is basically for my self-gratification. Even if I'm acting interested and sincere, I'm probably doing it to satisfy some need inside of me. If its not convenient to me, I don’t care. I worry about that stuff more than being gay.
- My worst fear is ending up alone and realizing I don't enjoy the company.
- I shouldn't have let the girl slip away over the summer. I can't remember anymore why I let it fizzle out but I know I was tired of it. Now I remember her as this ideal person and want to restart things with her. I'm going to see her next week and just keep wondering what I'm going to say or do. Maybe she's engaged already. Still, I think about her a lot. More than anything I think about how idiotic I am in relationships.
- I'm tired of old ladies offering me their daughters and granddaughters. At the same time, I think I'm flattered (which is why I post it here). I ran into some lady in a parking lot who my mom knows somehow. As she was interogating me, she said "Of course you've served a mission." Of course (that bugged me). "How old are you?" "Are you engaged?" She asked me to wait to marry her granddaughter who has just entered the MTC. Sure thing. Later my mom told me that lady is something like my dad’s fourth cousin.
- The other night my parents conveniently went out for a walk and asked me to stay and wait for a girl from the singles ward who was coming to drop off some bbq grills they had borrowed. My parents had been telling me about this girl for several months so it was hard for me to believe this wasn't a set up. With no way out, I went along with it and helped her unload the grills. She was actually cute and interesting. I know her family, and they're awesome--her dad makes movies and has painted murals around their back yard. Her older brother has a band. She loves Mexico and just returned from teaching English in Africa. Once the grills were unloaded, there was an awkward pause then she said "thank you" and "have a good night" in a way that I actually believed she meant it. I was happy to say "see ya" and go back to feeling sorry for myself. I'm an idiot.
- A lady from my ward just knocked on my door right now to return something she borrowed from my mom. She invited me to come over in a few minutes for a birthday party for her son-in-law (married to her daughter who I went to school with). I acted uninterested. Then her daughter yelled from the car "Tell him to ask Brenna (her younger sister) out. She won't say no." Yeah, now I really want to go over to that house.
- I love my Hollister jeans. The problem is they only make them in 30 and 32" waists. I wish they made 31" the 32s are just a tad too big. I guess I could solve the problem if I just pay attention to the “I need to eat more” thought from above.

Blackhawk Down

Time at home allowed me to read Blackhawk Down--the true story of the problematic Delta Force/Ranger assault on Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993. The plan was for a quick capture of some clan leaders who were causing drama in the city. When two Blackhawk helicopters went down, things kind of went to pot. Basically the entire city started raining bullets on our guys and our guys started gunning down anything that moved. The U.S. lost 18 men and 500+ Somalis were killed. Despite the gore (or maybe because of it), I couldn't put the book down.
The two most fascinating things to me were:
1. The feelings the soldiers had as they passed from excitement, to utter fear, to this amazing state of heightened awareness and determination.
A quote: "It was hard to describe how he felt...it was like an epiphany. Close to death, he had never felt so completely alive. There had been split seconds in his life when he'd felt death brush past, like when another fast-moving car veered from around a sharp curve and just missed hitting him head-on. On this day he had lived with that feeling, with death breathing right in his face like the hot wind from a grenade across the street, for moment after moment for three hours or more...A state of complete mental and physical awareness. In those hours on the street... he had no connection to the larger world, no bills to pay, no emotional ties, nothing. He had just been a human being staying alive from one nano-second to the next, drawing one breath after another, fully aware that each one might be his last. He felt he would never be the same. He had always known that he would die someday, the way anybody knows that they will die, but now its truth had branded him. And it wasn't a frightening or morbid thing. It felt more like a comfort. It made him feel more alive."
I've spent so much of my recent memory with my emotions turned to "low" that I sometimes just get sick of feeling numb. I wish I could break down crying, get dirty, bloody, beat up, or something. Just feel like these guys were feeling.
2. World peace isn't as easy as we thought. It's fun to think that America is so perfect and noble and strong that we can go around and beat up "the bad guys" and make the world a happy place like the "It's a small world after all" ride at Disneyland. Truth is, life is a little more complicated. I love books and movies and stuff that remind me of that.
Some quotes: "The idea used to be that terrible countries were terrible because good, decent people were being oppressed by evil, thuggish leaders. Somalia changed that. Here you have a country where just about everyone is caught up in hatred and fighting. You stop an old lady on the street and ask her if she wants peace, and she'll say, yes, of course, I pray for it daily. All the things you'd expect her to say. Then ask her if she would be willing for her clan to share power with another in order to have that peace, and she'll say, 'With those murderers and thieves? I'd die first.' People in these countries--Bosnia is a more recent example--don't want peace. They want victory. They want power. Men, women, old and young. Somalia was the experience that taught us that people in these places bear much of the responsibility for things being the way they are. The hatred and killing continues because they want it to. Or because they don't want peace enough to stop it."
"[Somalia] ended a brief heady period of post-Cold War innocence, a time when America and its allies felt they could sweep venal dictators and vicious tribal violence from the planet."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Luna Luna Luna

I was awakened last night by a light shining in my eyes. I got up to close the blinds and realized it was the full moon shining like a searchlight directly through my window and onto my bed. Maybe I was just tired, but I like to think some aliens were trying to communicate with me or something.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

quiet desperation

Some late night alone time at home and a lazy sunday afternoon have given me enough time to completely skim/read In Quiet Desperation. My friend lent it to me last week. He had it double-wrapped in plastic bags. It's provocative reading. I think I'm past the point where that kind of stuff is like manna to me, cause, although quiet, I'm not in desperation (for the moment). More than anything I'm struck by the continual reminder how many people are out there exactly like me. We may be a quiet army but we are powerfully fighting our own little battles. Those rare moments of united understanding are encouraging. I was amazed how other people's experiences shared in the book--blessings they'd received, solutions they'd found, impressions they'd had--are the exact same things that have happened in my life. Apparently God gives pretty standard responses. That's good to know. Reading about Stuart Mathis' suicide irked me a little. I can partially appreciate what happened, but like Elder Holland, I'm sorry that it ever got to that point. The fight is real and important and often misunderstood, but there is so much more to life than our "struggle." Even if there weren't, the struggle itself still makes for an interesting life.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Being Home

I am so lucky. I think I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. My family is awesome (and my mom cooks really well), the weather is perfect, the bed feels like sleeping on cumulus clouds, my nephews and neices are cuter than ever and I'm here with a great friend.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Going home

I found the sweetest condo for the fall. Its got everything I was looking for plus a paisley L-shaped couch, plants, retro lamps, and a plasma TV, oh yeah, and two refrigerators. This morning I was stressing about finding a place, now everything's cool. Amazing.
After just a couple weeks in Provo, I'm packing my bags again and heading to my grandma's tonight then home for a bit before school starts. I miss my mom and dad and my malnourished body misses mom's cooking.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Kicking against the pricks

I talked with one of my best friends tonight who happens to be a pretty recent member of the church. He had some questions about the temple and other things because of a website he had stumbled across. The website talked about the “strange” rites we perform in our temples and some of the other quirks of Mormonism.
My buddy was confused and a little scared. He hopes to go to the temple someday, but things on the website made it seem unappealing. More than anything, he wondered why a former Mormon would make such a site.
My response was, yeah, the stuff in the temple is a little weird. A lot of it is signs and symbols that you have to understand in context to appreciate. To those unfamiliar with the rite, the act of dressing someone in white clothes then submerging them in the water while praying must seem kind of strange, but to Christians who understand, it’s a meaningful symbol of baptism. Anyways, I just told him to take it one step at a time and see for himself. Before he was baptized he had many similar questions about being a member of the church and the strange things that would happen there. As he has since discovered, none of those things have happened. I told him that this literature about the temple is similar. It’s not aimed at convincing the faithful temple-goer of the error of his ways. Those who go to the temple know that there is nothing freakish or scary about it. Instead, this literature is aimed at people like my friend who are new to the church or looking from the outside. The goal is to make them believe in some conspiracy theory among the church leaders and fill the investigators with fear so that they never dare discover the truth for themselves.
Anyways, that irked me. I have heard of very few people and don’t know a single one who left the church because he decided the temple ceremony was too weird. I just wish that the people who are so excited to proclaim the truth from the housetops would stick to the truth. So you left the church cause it just wasn’t making you happy, you didn’t see the point of certain commandments and not living them made you an outcast, the guilt was driving you to suicide, you never felt “the spirit,” Mormon culture got in the way of pure worship, you needed to discover yourself, whatever. I have friends in and out of the church and respect them all. I can’t pretend to judge their hearts. But if the church just didn’t do it for you, then say that. There’s no conspiracy, no group of old men plotting to drive homosexual boys to self-hate and suicide, no secret sexual meaning in the temple worship. Just cause the church didn’t make you happy doesn’t mean it won’t make others happy. We’re not all mindless masses blindly following fables and grandpas. Let us try it for ourselves and see. If we're not happy, I think we'll have the good sense to do something else. The gospel works for millions of us. My buddy is happier than he ever has been. My life is great because of what I know and believe, not in spite of it.

Back in the running

When I was young, running was my salvation. I was never the brightest, most popular, best looking, or most coordinated child in my classes, but I always, and I mean always won the mile run. When the “cool” kids did their “cool” things, I took comfort knowing that I could beat them in a race. In Junior High and High School, track and cross country were the two things that kept me from being beat up like every single day. I trained like mad. I discovered my competitive side, made friends, and learned to deal with pain, defeat, and a little glory.
In Provo, running has become less of my defining characteristic and more of a personal hobby that keeps me sane. Running is the ultimate stress-reliever, time for reflection, and time to be with my favorite person—me. I’ve been lazy this summer and haven’t run like I used to. I just haven’t felt the calling to hit the streets. Since coming back to Provo, I’ve begun to venture out once again. Tonight I laced up the runners just as the sun was beginning to set.
The night was ideal and a perfect reminder why I run.
Some things I saw:
- A man mowing his lawn in his office clothes.
- Hoards of FHE families walking back from a park sweaty and carrying volleyballs and Frisbees.
- The sunset over BYU campus.
- The street lights flickering on along a steep road.
- A young girl swinging in her yard in the dark and singing a song to herself. Her sisters picking fruit in a tree.
- An old man peeking out his front door, and turning out his porch light to resign to bed (at 8:30 pm).
- A girl and a guy chatting and playfully jabbing each other on a blanket in the twilight at the park.
- The crickets chirping.
- Little houses with windows glowing with orange light with families milling around in kitchens.
Its good to get the blood flowing again and get out to see the neighborhood. When I run I feel more keenly in tune with my body and my surroundings and I feel more alive.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Days go by

"You better lose yourself in the music, the moment. You own it, you better never let it go. You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo." -Eminem, Lose Yourself

Friday, August 5, 2005

Music that moves you

Does this happen to you?
You hear a song on the radio, in a commercial, or in some train station in Bangkok and you just can't get that beat out of your head. You write down the few lyrics you can remember then google the song title the next chance you get. Once you know the song, you download it to the computer and begin the marathon listening that will drive your roommates crazy. You burn it to CD and put it on repeat in the car where you introduce all passengers to your new discovery. Sometimes there are hangups--like when the only version you find to download is some Russian techno remix... or when the version you heard was some Russian techno remix and now all you can find is the original... or when the song you heard was in another language so all you know of the lyrics are "fan ja chi mal ni da" (that's the one I heard in Bangkok. It took me several days but I actually found the song, then realized it wasn't that great after all). The worst is when you just have too little to go on and finally have to call off the search. I heard an enchanting song in Italian this summer but all I could remember of the lyrics was "nella mia mente" which turns out to be in way too many songs. I actually spent several late nights watching Italian music videos online hoping to see that song and never did find it—devastating.
Last year I discovered that O-Zone song “Dragostea Din Tei” long before the chunky numa numa boy ever popularized it on this continent. I picked it up as soon as it started to hit the European charts. As my friends will atest, I’m strangely proud of that. Even after the song got annoying (it didn't take long) I kept playing it just to see my roommates’ reaction.
I was thumbing through my mission journal this week and noticed a little section titled “hymns that stir my soul” with a list of some hymns that touched me out there. Right in the middle of “Be Still My Soul” and “Nearer, My God to Thee,” I wrote “Son by Four is a music group I like here—the song that says “estoy moriendo.” –Not exactly a hymn but it was the first song I downloaded when I got home.

Driving down a dark highway this week, I balanced a pen and paper on my steering wheel to scribble these lyrics to a song I heard on the radio. Somehow I was able to decipher what I had written and find the country song “Best I Ever Had” by Gary Allen. Lucky for those who don’t like country, I also found that Vertical Horizon did the original version of the song.
Tonight I just found two more songs I’ve recently liked off the radio—“Better Now” by Collective Soul and “Almost” by Bowling for Soup. That search wasn’t too hard. There were three versions of “Almost” available on i-tunes--"Explicit," "Clean," and "Radio Disney." I guess the Radio Disney version is made for little kids and Utahns. Note the change of lyrics:

Original:
I almost held up a grocery store, Where I almost did 5 years and then 7 more, Cuz I almost got popped for a fight with a thug, Cuz he almost made off with a bunch of good drugs

Radio Disney:
I almost worked at a grocery store, Where I almost did five years of sweeping the floor, And I almost got popped for a fight at the (something unintelligible that rhymes with game), Cause a guy made off with my video game.

So the message there is that fighting over drugs is bad; fighting over video games though… that’s cool.
Anyways, that’s pretty much how I spend my free time. What’s the last song that you couldn’t get out of your head? It’s probably better than mine. Post a comment and share.

Monday, August 1, 2005

A really cool sunset

Took this picture in Barstow last week on the way back from my internship. It was a cool feeling sitting on a curb outside an outlet mall, eating Wendy's, overwhelmed by the heat and the smell of thundertorm, admiring the sky.
If I haven't learned anything else in life, I have learned that things usually work out--wounds heal, you make the payment, you finish the paper, you pass the class, the next day is better than the last, you find better love, strong as it ever was, and most of the things we worry about never happen. I don't know why a sunset made me think of that.

Sunday thoughts

First off, I’ve got to say I’m enjoying this blog thing. I haven’t been at it long, so I fully expect the initial excitement to soon wear off, but for now, I enjoy having somewhere to vent, somewhere I can at least imagine people are listening to my opinions even if no one really is. I loved writing in my journal in the past but I’ve gotten lazy there. I need validation in a form that I can’t get by writing to myself in a journal. The possibility that I may never have posterity makes it kind of hard to think of my journal as a gift to future generations. Even if I do have all sorts of babies, I’m not sure how much of some of the stuff I go through I want them to know about.
Some of my close friends have noted that I’m a private person. I’m sure that’s something I’ve developed from years of hiding some significant things about myself. Now that I have some people who I can actually talk openly with, I still notice that I’m too guarded. There are too many things I’m still ashamed of about myself and too much I don’t even want to deal with in my own head.
I posted some comments on another person’s blog who suggested that the solution to our lot in life is to become a global nomad—moving frequently, avoiding profound relationships. He said: “Before anyone gets too close...before I become vulnerable, before I fall in love, before anyone can make me feel stupid or ugly or dull, I will pack my bags in an instant and RUN.” A good idea? I initially responded that yeah, its exactly what I’ve been doing and it seems to work. The more I think about it, I realize that’s a lot of my problem. I should say I’ve come a long way in the last year, accepting things about myself, understanding myself, making friends, and finding happiness with things exactly as they are. The last year is the best I’ve ever had, but I still feel like something about me is fundamentally wrong and needs to be fixed. I yearn for something I can’t quite put my finger on—some of it is physical but mostly its emotional closeness, accetpance, and belonging—the same things my nomadic lifestyle prevents. Anyways, I guess that’s what motivates me now to at least begin to pour my heart out on the world wide web. I never want to go back to hiding in my little dark corner in quiet desperation. I want disclosure and honesty. I'm willing to take some emotional risks and feel some pain. Numbness gets nauseating.
Anyways, my first few days back in Provo have been sweet. I missed this feeling. Today was a good Sunday. Probably the highlight was playing ball with a little two year old. My roommate invited over a former mission companion and his wife for some brazilian food. Their son is a little brown half-brazilian, half-japanese rugrat who latched onto me like an abandoned puppy. We tossed a rubber ball back and forth for about an hour as the food cooked. He caught the ball once in that entire time but wacked it a few good times. I think I caught the ball at least three or four times (good to know I’m at least more coordinated than a two year old). Throwing a little ball back and forth for an hour may seem mundane but this kid never seemed to get tired of it—funny thing is I didn’t either. After dinner he snuck off to my roommate’s room and I put him up on the bed so he could jump. He was having a blast. Man, I wish I had a trampoline right now. Anyways, I starting singing “10 little monkeys jumping on the bed, one fell off and broke his head…” About five monkeys into the song the boy started singing along. What makes this funny is that this kid doesn’t know a lick of English. His parents both speak Japanese and Portuguese so as he started singing the song he had the tune right but the words were a bunch of gibberish. He was busting up laughing and I soon joined him.
Ten minutes before ward prayer, one of my new roommates told me I’d be giving a testimony and prayer in ward prayer so everyone (the girls) can get to know me. …..Great…… That kind of stuff pretty much intimidates me but for some reason I said I’d do it and I’m glad. He suggested I share a short experience from my life and what it taught me. I told about a little tender mercy of the Lord I had last year that reminded me that God knows me and is aware of me and my problems even in the moments I feel most alone. It felt good to say “I know…” and, as planned by my roommate, the ladies went crazy for me. Wait, I made up that last part.
I reread one of my favorite talks this morning and post the link here for anyone interested. Elder Holland explains how Christ can give us hope to get through the daily grind. A sample: “Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!”
Here’s the link:
www.lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,49-1-14-15,00.html
To those who read this post: Honestly, thanks for being my sounding board. I've posted on a few random blogs over the past few days and really have no idea who you are. It's good to know you're out there though and going through a lot of the same stuff I am. It's a crazy fun ride. As Darryl Worley sings in the country song, "I love this crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful, beautful life."