Monday, December 31, 2007
A good time was had by all during my reunion with Jeffery & Derek, and a leisurely brunch was definitely not enough time. It's amazing to think that sometimes you can actually fall into easy and hilarious conversation with old friends even after thirteen-plus years since last seeing or talking to them.
Is this candle flame the same candle flame that was burning minutes or hours ago? As they say: yes... and no...
We're all doing well. It was a great day. I'm happy I made the effort, and really happy that I got those two back together (in the city they both live in, no less!).
Today's lesson?: Go ahead, Google and send an email to that long-lost friend (or two) that you've been meaning to look up. After all, it's the New Year.
Happy 2008, everyone!
Friday, December 28, 2007
A very brief eulogy for Benazir Bhutto. May she rest in peace, and may her country find it as well.
This house hath been a fairy’s dwelling-place;(photo: Mary Ellen Marks)
...She who stayed with us a little space,
Then, as was meet,
On her immortal journey went her ways.
~Hafiz of Shiraz
I thoroughly enjoyed spending time playing with my six-month-old nephew, Drew, whom I met for the first time last week. My brother and family were in town for only three nights and left on Sunday, so it was a whirlwind visit of infantile cuteness.
While being around a baby (who incidentally contributed to a nasty cold I came down with) didn't totally cure me of my desire to procreate, it didn't necessarily intensify that slow-simmering desire either. Despite the fact that Drew was so charming and endearing, it also became obvious how parenthood would be more of a full-time, here-and-now, focus-thyself kind of "job" than I've ever really undertaken in my entire less-than-commited-or-responsible life. It may sound ridiculously naive of me to make such a simplistic, obvious pronouncement as "Wow, man, parenting is, like, biiig...", but I just don't spend a lot of time around people with small children, so I'm a little more clueless, ok?
It felt very appropriate when, a day or two before Christmas, I really listened for the first time to "For Unto Us a Child is Born" from Handel's Messiah. The music actually gave me chills, it was so beautiful (and really, I'm not strictly speaking a huge fan of choral music).
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.I hope everyone had and is having great holidays, in whatever form those may take.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Notes on the first 36 hours of my 2-plus-week holiday:
- If you only have 20 minutes to make a connecting flight, there's a good chance your bags won't make it to your destination at the same time you do.
- One notices an awful lot of hot men when traveling by air... one might call it Larry Craig Syndrome. However, in any given aircraft/airport, there are probably a greater number of unappealing specimens.
- If you sleep through your train station, it's a plus if the end of the line is only a hundred yards further down the tracks.
- The upper 20s is pretty damn cold, but at least I have nothing that needs doing but napping.
- The Philadelphia accent sounds pretty trashy and uneducated; good thing I'm not judgmental.
- My mother's conure has a motherfucking sharp beak and has grown into one nasty bitch.
- I'm tempted to try the Delaware Valley specialty of "Scrapple", which occupies some prominent real estate in the supermarket breakfast-meat section here, along with "Pork Roll" (with which I have a long and fond history).
- I just received a sort-of open invitation to go with a friend to a Christmas party on Saturday in... the Bronx. As a complete outerborough virgin, I'm a little scared. In my mind, Grand Concourse is more or less the same as Normandie & Vermont. I'm such a white boy.
- I manage to get pretty unmotivated and lethargic pretty quickly when I do this annual return to the womb, of sorts. Good times. I think.
I think it's telling (and interesting) that many vocal supporters of this legislation were actually family members of victims. I think the case could be made that life imprisonment is potentially a more severe -- or at least prolonged -- punishment than death. As someone who's experienced only the briefest of involuntary confinements, I have to say that to me the idea of being imprisoned forever is horrifically soul-crushing, so if soul-crushing is your goal, don't worry further.
I found it almost disturbing that a lot of commenters on JMG felt the need to say something along the lines of, "I wouldn't be opposed to the death penalty if it were possible to guarantee non-racist application and there were no unjustified death sentences carried out." In other words, these people would have no problem executing a confessed, confirmed-with-video serial murderer, for example. I'm not sure what those contributors were asserting, but basically, that's just a total pro-death-penalty argument, in my opinion. Either you're against execution as punishment or you're not. Whether or not you're "against" racist bias and unwarranted criminal conviction is a completely separate topic, if you asked me (and um, who other than a psychopath would be "for" those things, anyway?).
There was also commentary along the lines of people feeling that they were theoretically anti-death penalty but they'd probably feel differently if a loved one was victimized. I never want to be in that situation, but again, I think the message is given more weight when crime victims' families come out against the death penalty. I read blog comments in which people said, "well it's only natural to want that kind of revenge." To which I would just reply, well, no, it's not really "natural" (if "natural" is meant to be a justification)... it's something learned, and it's something cultural, potentially akin to heterosexuals' so-called "natural" aversion to homosexuality. I firmly believe that what is societally accepted or sanctioned is, with very few exceptions, constantly evolving. We've got real hangups and issues with "vengeance" vis-a-vis "justice" in this country, and to assume that's devoid of a cultural ethos or context is just naive.
In any case, this public abolition was welcome and frankly, somewhat surprising in our current political climate. I'm proud of New Jersey, not that I needed another reason to be.
Friday, December 14, 2007
However, two of my top favorites are the following (click titles for links to videos on YouTube):
2000 Miles by the Pretenders
Fairytale of New York by the Pogues, with the late, great Kirsty MacColl.
My heart still breaks at the following couplet traded between Shane McGowan and Kirsty:
- I could have been someone
- Well, so could anyone... You took my dreams from me, when I first found you
Go ahead and have a listen, both are really good stuff and should manage to warm up even the frostiest of Grinches.
Update 12/18: This morning on "The World" by BBC/PRI, I heard about BBC Radio 1 playing an edited version of the Pogues song above in which the words "faggot" and "slut" are bleeped out (see story here). Ridiculous. That's something I'd expect more from American radio. I wonder if the FCC issues any guidelines on the use of "faggot". Apparently, other BBC channels are still playing the unedited version. Also, apparently Fairytale of New York was voted 'favourite' Christmas song in BBC/VH1 audience polls in 2004, 2005, and 2006.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
That's economics humor, by the way...
So, if plans work out, I'll be meeting up with a long-lost college roommate in New York City next weekend.
Me: For all I know, you were a volunteer to get GW Bush re-elected, and we'll have nothing to talk about!Frankly, this does make me worry -- just a little. Whenever I hear someone defined as JUST fiscally conservative, I wonder: What the fuck in Jesus's-wealth-redistribution-loving name does that mean? Does it mean someone believes:
Him: Don't worry -- I'm still left-leaning, though fiscally conservative. I'm sure we'll have plenty to talk about.
- Welfare benefits are only for the lazy who don't actualize sufficient "personal responsibility"?
- That businesses "in the long run" will hew to ethical standards that are a priority for a majority of the population in which they conduct commerce, thus making governmental regulation an unnecessary tampering with "the marketplace"?
- In "trickle-down" or "rising tide" economics?
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
One final thing: I'm one hell of a first date. Can't you tell?
Disease-Ridden seeking anyone who doesn't mind
After reading all these ads day after day where guys make it crassly clear that they want only someone DISEASE FREE (that's the same as saying "hiv-neg," right?)... I thought I'd try something new: If anyone is interested in meeting a nice, smart, funny, goodlooking, sometimes sexy, DISEASED (yet healthy) guy, let me know and we could meet for coffee and a chat or something. I may not be "DISEASE FREE," but I might be a DISEASED guy worth meeting... and maybe even (what?!) casually fucking around with.
I've been smacked up by T$ of Buffalo Void on the subject of the following "Ten Things." Here ya go...
1. When you were born, how much did you weigh?
To be honest, I have no idea. I have to get that kind of info from my mom... along with the exact time of my birth so that I can consult an astrologer to find myself an auspicious husband match. In any case, I've been hoping lately to creep back down just a little closer to my birth weight, since the opposite trend is distressing me. I know... I should be blaming Panang Curry.
2. What's your sugar poison?
I really have me quite a sweet tooth, but I tend to go for the carby-sweets rather than the fatty-sweets. I'll take a big fat slice of pound cake any day over a bowl of ice cream or a hunk of chocolate. If I had to select my last earthly dessert, it might just be a pastel de tres leches or a buttery-crusted lemon tart. I also have a weak spot for pineapple upside-down cake (and I bake a mean one).
3. If you had to choose between meat and cheese for the rest of your life, which would you choose? Then be specific.
This is almost more difficult than the "deaf or blind" dilemma. How terrible to never eat another tasty morsel of manchego or gruyere, but I'd have to go with meat. However, I sincerely believe in the concept of vegetarianism on moral grounds -- sentient beings and all that. As a carnivore, though, I could easily live without beef. On taste alone, my favorite would probably have to be the pork products -- specifically some succulent, moist carnitas, a crackle-skinned roast fresh ham, or some paper-thin slices of prosciutto or jamón serrano. I'd give up both meat and cheese in favor of seafood, though.
4. What, in your opinion, is the worst song ever?
Where do you even start with this question? There are way too many musical train wrecks out there, though I guess I would immediately eliminate from contention entire genres that are barely on my radar because they make my ears bleed (actually, hardcore metal may be the only one that fits that bill entirely). I do, however, have a high tolerance for cheese (see #3), treacle (see #2), and nostalgia. I just had to consult some online lists for inspiration, but the answer was immediately apparent because I dashed for the radio remote just the other day in order to switch off a tune that I'd be happy to never, ever hear again in my life: Don't Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin. Hideous.
5. Who was your favorite teacher growing up and why?
Mr. Rodney Brito, 8th grade science. He was an Bombay-born Catholic (with some kind of Portuguese-Goan connection) who I felt expanded my world with all kinds of interesting anecdotes about the wider world and life in India. He also had a wicked sense of humor and was just downright entertaining. I wrote him a thank you letter at the end of the year in which I quoted Virgil: "Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito." Oy, what a dork I was. I also really loved my 9th, 10th, and 11th grade English teachers -- Mrs. Engel, Mrs. Reed, and Mrs. Niemiec -- because, well, because literature really is mind-expanding!
6. What personal activity, when performed in public, bothers you the most?
Um, I would say masturbation, but then that would be
7. Ok, there's a $50 bill lying on the ground. You pick it up. Dumbfounded by your incredible luck, what do you selfishly purchase?
I'd be really tempted to give at least half to charity because deep down I probably believe that I'd reap some kind of cosmic benefit from it or that it would add some merit points to my cultivation of paramis, or some such nonsense. However, given my most recent obsessions, I'd probably put it toward dinner at a really nice restaurant or a bottle of a coveted perfume/cologne.
8. Do you have a recurring nightmare? If so, explain.
See here. That's as close as it gets.
9. Name one place on Earth you've never been, but vow to visit at least once.
Let me make it clear that my greatest regret in life will be not being able to travel to all the places that I'd like to. I could probably toss a coin for any of the following places:
a) Taj Mahal or Rajasthan, India
b) Angkor Wat, Cambodia
c) Pagan, Myanmar/Burma
If I were including places I've been before, I might pick Venice, Italy.
10. You notice that question #9 wasn't really a question. You feel smart for catching such a small detail. What else can you do really well that reminds you how smart you are?
Reeeeeeally well? I'm ashamed to say -- and I like to think I'm learning to stop doing this -- that it's been said that I can expertly cock an eyebrow, knit my brow, or give an askance look at people whose alleged "ignorance" I just will not humor. Yeah, it's not the best social skill in the world, and it doesn't exactly help win friends and influence people, not to mention not exactly greasing the wheels of career success sometimes. But um, yeah, I guess I do those things now and then to remind myself of how "smart" I am. More like smart aleck. (Oh yeah, and don't you forget it, bizatches.)
This meme shit takes a long-ass time! No wonder I never do them. Thanks, Chopper, for putting me through my paces. Since I only have three (or maybe eight?) faithful readers, it seems silly to tag anyone, but I'd be interested to see the answers of Huntington, Miss Jill, Junk Thief, and Dave and Stash.
Mainly because I don't want that stupid stuff from the previous post popping up at the top of my page until I get around to posting something more interesting... I actually love this time of year. Five more days until I head back to NJ. For now... fa-la-la-la-la, la-la, la-la.
Monday, December 10, 2007
I think I've almost gotten to the point where the Freepers seem humorous:
- Muslims are going to reject this. If you liked the riots in France, just wait til you see 'em in the morally bankrupt Netherlands.
- Western hedonism versus Islam. Which side to root for? With any luck, they'll snuff each other out.
- I have to side with the muslims on this one.
- Sweet Moses! Am I really going to have to pull for the Muslims in this mess? Europe is practically aborting its own culture. What a horrible shame.
- For their stand against gay unions,the Polish people must be the brightest people in Europe.I refuse to listen to another Polish joke!Anyone know any Dutch jokes?
- Interesting indeed. WASP europeans and other typical products of Western civilization are determined to die themselves off via abortion and homosexuality, but also want everyone else to die, as well. Hmm. I’d rather worship Allah. Perhaps it is time for this particular cultural product to be killed off.
- It may appear to be sufficient that people who find homosexuality naturally revolting just stop giving their opinion, but in time even that will not be enough for homosexuals. Even if some people are scolded into silence, or even sufficiently “re-educated” to accept homosexuality, God has already sufficiently published His judgment on the matter.
- Sounds like a “pass the popcorn” situation. I’d like to see them stage a Gay Pride parade that is timed to pass by the biggest mosque there right as Friday services are letting out
- I’d get cable if one of the news channels took cameras to the “homosexual propaganda in Moslem youth group” sessions.
- Yep. Wait ‘till the muzzies get out the video cameras and the dull knives. And you know, in this instance, I couldn’t care less what they do the dutch degenerates.
- A substantial culling on both sides would be nice.
- We’ll see how powerful the homo activists are when they are headless.
- Perhaps it will be the muzzies who end up saving western civilization by some unintended consequence.
- I say we send Rosie O’donuts and Smellen DeGenerate over there to lead the “sensitivity” training.....it’ll be the last we ever see of the two of ‘em!
- Well, that certainly cinches it: I will not waste a minute nor a DIME in Holland on any European vacation. Let them rot in Rotterdamn.
- Yeah, good luck on those Muslim kids! Can’t wait to see cars burning on the streets on your cities.
- The gay groups are defying Islam--in a weird, censorship kind of way, trying to enfoce a kind of "sharia" on the Muslims.
This isn't like defying Christianity--you can get killed defying Islam. Like I said,a weird and "thought crime" way to go about it. However, I'm looking at any group that defies Islam as having a lot of nerve.
- Yeah. There’s not much hope for a society where the main concern about Muslims is that they don’t like to see two men kissing and groping one another in public places.
- Still, for all their claims of being so terribly tolerant that everyone else should be ashamed, the Dutch too often turn out to be little more than jackbooted thugs with a decided taste for buggery.
- Don't fascist western swine have any respect for multiculturalism and "otherness???"
I arrived on campus this morning to see a strange sight: Two small trees in front of the library had probably forty or fifty Red Bull cans hanging from them by ribbons. At first I thought it was some stupid undergraduate "art" project and I started to get annoyed remembering that the Luddite-eco-no-nuke-hippies left a bunch of paper flyer-tent thingies hanging in the trees (attached to plastic water bottles, no less) for months after one of their demonstrations last Spring. I thought, "If these motherfucking tin cans are still hanging from these trees at the end of the week, I'm gonna make some cranky phone calls."
But then a student cruised by on his bike and pulled one of the cans off and said, "Sweet!," so I realized they were actually full cans.
It's the first day of final exams week, and I'm sure this is some oh-so-sly marketing campaign from those people you see zipping around in some cities in the embarrassingly garish "Red Bull Cars." I always laugh when I see those, thinking that they sucker recent grads into doing that job with ads under the headline "Management Trainee Opportunity" or some other horseshit (or, er, bullshit). However, those twenty-three year olds driving around in that stupid car probably earn a higher salary than I do -- or at least one of them will by the time s/he is thirty and the regional marketing manager of the Beverage Division of some evil corporation.
Still, evil marketing gimmick or not, those Red Bull trees were kind of cute, and I'm sure they'll make some stressed-out, sleep-deprived students happy today.
Update: Stash's comment reminded me that I neglected to mention one important thing: Red Bull is one of the most vile, nastified beverages ever created by the industrial corporate food-science machine. Better living through chemistry my ass. I'd rather drink that South Seas island drink I read about once which is made from taro pulp chewed up by island natives, spit into a vat, and fermented until sour and frothy. Well, maybe I'd actually rather grab a Red Bull, perhaps with Vodka for a little extra kick.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Er... I mean "bench," of course...
Saw the highly entertaining Michael Clayton with J. last night. Gotta love the agribusiness-litigation-classaction-murder-mystery thriller. You'd think they'd come up with better than an Erin Brockovich equivalent of a title. This reminded me I have yet to watch the Syriana DVD that a friend gave to me last Christmas; I guess it would be only polite to watch it before seeing him again on my upcoming trip to New Jersey?
Of course, all of this is just a roundabout excuse of a way of taking the opportunity to point out that George Clooney is absolutely, positively so smoking hot that it isn't even funny. I need a moist towelette just thinking about him. Seriously, the man is the Cary Grant of our day. I can only dream that he's as gay as old Cary allegedly was as well.
Oh, and Tilda Swinton (whom we love, of course we do) is splendidly simpering and evil at the same time. They actually manage to make her look like a frumpish/dowdy corporate lawyer in this via great (by virtue of being hideous) costumes.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
The Motherland awaits: December 16 redeye. Return ticket SBA-PHL has been purchased for an astounding price of under $390.
I'm excited about the prospect of heading to NYC for at least one day trip to reconnect with a college roommate who's now in Intellectual Property for the Favourite Brand of the Chavs. It should all be a really good time. New Jersey and Me: Perfect Together.
If there were ever any question why I fritter away time blogsurfing, today's task list provides a good answer: Updating Contract Templates, or Why I Love Bureaucracy.
Actually, I probably like doing this more than anyone else in my office, and at least it makes me feel competent that I know what the hell we're talking about in all this gobbledygook.
So, if you see me posting too many comments, don't spare the rod: remind me of what I should be working on...
Monday, December 03, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Off to a business gathering at the campus in the “planned community” of Irvine for a few days.
I'll be back to “entertain” all three of you soon.
Monday, November 26, 2007
For some reason, I have indelible memories of two incredibly trashy novels that I read during my junior-high or high-school years. I’m sure that both were library loans that my mother had checked out and that I picked up out of boredom or (more likely) for the titillation factor.
I actually feel pride that my mother was a frequent library patron in a world that seems to have an awful lot people who don’t read books of any kind. Her choices may not have been Tolstoi — or even Agatha Christie — but at least reading was considered an acceptable leisure activity (though, make no mistake, the television was often on from sunrise until the wee hours every damn day).
In any case, the two books in question have come to mind now and then (for whatever neuro-electrical reason heaven only knows), as they did last night. Thus, I thought I’d share a brief summary of each train-wreck of a tome:
The Searing by John Coyne (I had to Google this to find the author, and I almost suspect that this was some kind of “best seller” in its time). This was a supernatural horror mystery about some phenomenon that was causing women in a certain neighborhood to have spontaneous orgasms which — if I remember correctly — progressed to the point of being so intense that they literally fried the women’s brains and killed them. I seem to recall imagery of striken women having a tiny trail of blood trickling out of one nostril [upon further reflection, I think it was actually gray matter oozing out of their orifices]. What I had forgotten (but re-learned, thanks to Google) was that this phenomenon was also killing little girls in the same neighborhood. Trashy as the subject matter of the novel was, I am pretty sure that the tots did not also get afflicted with the orgasmic consequences of this ungodly force. Please see the horrendous abortion of jacket art for this travesty of literature here. Those women look pretty ecstatic in an “I’ll have what she’s having” sort of way, don’t they? Note that you too can pick up a silverfish-laden remainder of this gem on the internet’s mega-book-purveyor for under a dollar. It’s worth every penny, and I may just need to re-read this for nostalgia’s sake.
The name of the second thriller has, sadly, been lost to time and gray matter deterioration, and I fear no creative Googling will ever unearth such a piece of pulp from the dustbin of paperback history. I want to say the title was something like Dark Abbess, and the plot revolved around a series of gruesome present-day serial murders at lovers’ lanes, in which the men were swiftly castrated before being killed. The murders were revealed to be the work of a medieval Northern European abbess being channeled through a local teenager. Clues to the origin of the mysterious killings were revealed through a psychologist working with the troubled teen while he was having a fit of what seemed like speaking in tongues, but discovered to be medieval Frisian. Interwoven were stories of the original abbess’s nefarious and authoritarian ways, including her determination to create her own castrati choir for her abbey (regarding which I vividly recall this bit of absurd dialogue: “The Vatican has them! Why cannot we?” In contrast to my ambivalence toward The Searing, I would absolutely love to read this nameless piece of trash again in a minute. If anyone ever procures information about this book, he or she will be richly rewarded with any bounty I have at my disposal. I dare you.
I awoke again in a terror sometime in the dark early hours one morning last weekend. Every now and then I have these horrific dreams of torture and persecution (or just simple, execution-style shooting), and I’m pretty sure I know what they stem from.
I don’t know if I’m ever going to escape from under the guilt and self-loathing that come from knowing that I’ve engaged in unsafe, somewhat safe, not-quite-safe, probably-safe, almost-certainly-safe, or not-quite-honest sex. Maybe there really is no excuse, and maybe some things I’ve done in the past were nothing but purely selfish and careless. Sometimes the life of a eunuch almost seems desirable. Hyperbole aside: the minefield of “casual” sex and skirting around the “P-word” really don’t seem worth it on a logical level. I truly hate it. There but for the siren song of biology go I.
Note to the sexually active: if health-related questions are important to you, it’s probably not a good idea to broach them for the first time only when you and your partner are already (or milliseconds away from being) in flagrante delicto.
My solution going forward seems simple enough, doesn’t it? So I’ve heard.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Rob Brezny really has all the answers, but I never seem to follow through....
PISCES: Week of November 22, 2007
“You owe it to us all to get on with what you're good at,” said poet W.H. Auden. Make that your motto in the coming weeks, Pisces. Your motivation for doing the useful work you love to do should not come from you alone. We, the rest of the world, want to be there inside you so that we can root you on and encourage you to give us your very best gifts. Tap into and refine and explore your talents for your own sake, yes -- but do it for us, too.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
“Becoming, which results from clinging, involves the idea of having or being something more satisfying than at present. We want to become a very good meditator, or we want to become spiritual, or more learned. We have all sorts of ideas but are all bound up with wanting to become, because we are not satisfied with what we are.
Often we do not even pay attention to what we are now, but just know that something is lacking. Instead of trying to realize what we are and investigating where the difficulty actually lies, we just dream of becoming something else. When we have become something or someone else, we can be just as dissatisfied as before.”
~Ayya Khema, When the Iron Eagle Flies
Monday, November 19, 2007
Friday, November 16, 2007
Grattis på Födelsedagen!
Anni-Frid Lyngstad ~ November 15
And here's a video of hers for your viewing and listening pleasure.
If you don't think about death in the morning, the whole morning is wasted;By many benchmarks, I'm lazy. But if the proverb above holds any wisdom, I don't waste much of my time.
If you don't think about death in the afternoon, the whole afternoon is wasted;
If you don't think about death in the evening, the whole evening is wasted.
It's not that I have an obsessive, pathologic/phobic preoccupation with death. Partly, it's just that, being on the cusp of the age of forty, my awareness of death is more heightened than it was at twenty-five. To be fair, circumstances have also conspired to provide me with what I consider a damn good reason to think about death a lot: though I'm a reasonably healthy man, I'm also HIV-positive.
Upon further consideration, I'd probably say that I think a whole lot more about life than about death. More specifically, I wonder and worry about how much more life I've got.
Even in "the best of times" (whatever that means), that kind of speculation is a fool's game. As anyone who reads a daily newspaper knows, we can't be guaranteed that we're going to make it to work or back home again on any given day. However, the laws of probability are still on our sides most of the time: If you make it to forty, your chances of making it to eighty — all things considered — are better than not. Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but it's still an average life expectancy. Probability...
There are times I've wanted to corner my doctors and demand that they tell me: What can I expect? How long do I have? What's the best I can expect?
For the most part, I've come to understand that those would be foolish questions, and I'm a voracious enough reader regarding HIV that I know (sometimes, I think, too well for my own good) the details of a slew of various "best" and "worst" case scenarios. Still, I can't stop my brain from wondering: What's going to happen to me? In that regard, I may not be different from any other human being on the planet. Don't we all wonder? What's going to happen to me? How will the end come? Maybe we're not all thinking that, but somehow I'm convinced we should be. And therein has been the blessing of Buddhist philosophy in my life.
I hesitate whenever prodded (though that's rare) to call myself "A Buddhist." But I admit that "Buddhism" has had a profound effect on my life, both as a cause and an effect: my first ten-day meditation retreat prodded me (in a purely undramatic way) to finally get tested after years of being afraid and "assuming" the worst without accepting the responsibility that "confirmation" would confer on me. In turn, after receiving my not-quite-surprising diagnosis, I found that many Buddhist-oriented writings helped me make sense of the "impermanence" that is perhaps the central hallmark of "all of this."
Last weekend, I read and saved the obituary of a physician, R. Scott Hitt, of whom I was perhaps only peripherally aware at some point, but whose death notice was somehow as striking to me as the handsome photo that accompanied it. In 1996, Bill Clinton appointed Hitt (a prominent and high-profile HIV physician in the Los Angeles area) chairman of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. In 1999, at the age of 40 or 41, Hitt was diagnosed with the colon cancer that eventually led to his death last Thursday (I haven't seen any references that indicate that Hitt was HIV positive, so I assume he was not). He was a physician who certainly knew and cared for many who suffered and succumbed in the pre-HAART era; he would have seen many virtually resurrected in the mid-1990s with the advent of protease inhibitors. He was a man at perhaps the apex of his career a mere ten years ago. Ten years! How easy is it in thought to flash back through ten years as if they were just an eyeblink! In the same eyeblink, ten years hence, where will we be...?
Of course, medical situations similar to Dr. Hitt's play out for thousands or millions of people every month. What draws me to his death notice is that it's a sharp reminder to me — a clarion call — to focus on exactly that which I don't know and will never know, but which I must expect, if not greet as an expected guest, without surprise and without lack of preparation.
I'm not really ready for a visit from death or severe illness, and I'm afraid of them. Terrified, at times. But I like to think I'm somewhat prepared. I know they're in the neighborhood somewhere. They may not knock for awhile, or they may be right next door, or on their way up the front path. They may visit a close friend, relative, or acquaintance first, and then stay far away for some time. It could be a swift, surprise visit that's over before I know it, or it could be a long, drawn-out affair. But I know, at least, that I've contemplated what I might say to them, how I might greet them, the conversations we might have, and the unfathomable places they might take me.
If you don't think about death in the morning, the whole morning is wasted...
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Continuing through my breezy social calendar of "highbrow faggotry" (a term coined elsewhere)...
On Sunday night I dragged J. to a concert by Long Beach band Dengue Fever at Goleta's inimitable Mercury Lounge. That link to the band's MySpace page includes music clips, including the infectious Sni Bong, for which you can also see a video here.
Dengue's brand of resurrected 1970s "psychedelic" Khmer rock is just plain fun, and it was enjoyable to see them perform in a bar rather than in the somewhat sterile auditorium or theater setting that I'm used to seeing most "world music"–type acts perform in.
I need to finally pick up a CD by Dengue (eBay and Amazon.com truly love me). The concert also prompted me to do a little bit of research, and it's always interesting to discover (hail, Wikipedia!) information such as the tragic biography of Khmer diva Ros Sereysothea.
Update: An interesting article from the UK Guardian that details Khmer rock and includes references to Dengue Fever, lead singer Chhom Nimol, and Ros.