Tuesday, September 23, 2008

“I had not always bleared eyes and red eyelids; neither did my nose always touch my chin...”

Were you ever told that people don't want to be around someone who is moody?

I'm not sure I've ever been given that advice directly, in so many words, but let's face it, it's advice like that that makes the world go round -- and sure, often the sentiment itself is true enough.

But you know, sometimes you just have to say, "Screw it," and be moody anyway.

I am happy to report that the week is going better, for no reason perhaps, other than that time has elapsed.

And with that, I leave you with the inimitable words of Marge Simpson:
“...it doesn't matter how you feel inside, you know? It's what shows up on the surface that counts. That's what my mother taught me. Take all your bad feelings and push them down, all the way down, past your knees until you're almost walking on them. And then you'll fit in, and you'll be invited to parties, and boys will like you, and happiness will follow.”

Sunday, September 21, 2008

“I give you leave to throw me headforemost into the sea.”

“This ridiculous foible is perhaps one of our most fatal characteristics; for is there anything more absurd than to wish to carry continually a burden which one can always throw down? to detest existence and yet to cling to one's existence? in brief, to caress the serpent which devours us, till he has eaten our very heart?”

Thursday, September 18, 2008

“While he was thus lamenting his fate, he went on eating.”

I find myself regularly remembering a line from Cunningham's The Hours:
He was the person she loved at her most optimistic moment.
Romantic love's not necessarily even the primary issue these days, though it — or its absence — is a major thematic thread. I'm having trouble remembering what my most optimistic moment was, or if I ever had one.

I think I had one, because I know that there was a time when life seemed full of possibilities, even if I didn't know what they were. There was still excitement and discovery somewhere around the bend, and it's what prodded me on toward California and Africa once upon a time, without caring whether I had a plan or if I really knew what I was doing.

At some point, those undefined possibilities became unfocused dreams and maybe too many questions. They also ran headlong into financial and other practical realities, which now, more critically, include the non-negotiable requirements of comprehensive health insurance and an eternal (truly) regimen of expensive medications.

I've spent a lot of time learning (or unlearning) how to avoid getting stuck in the whirlpool of dissatisfaction. Buddhist philosophy and meditation experience (though not nearly enough of the latter) have helped substantially in that regard, but I still get stuck in this dilemma, which is maybe really more of a cliche: "Is that all there is?"

About a month ago, my answer to that would have been that it really didn't matter, and that I was ready for "this" or "that" to be all there is. This week, I'm not so sure.

I feel like I need to figure out something to look forward to other than more of the same. I don't believe in the hamster-wheel of discontent, but what's the answer?

Why do I sometimes feel this emptiness or this desire for something I can't even define... feel it so strongly that I want to thrash and scream until I figure out the answer?

Why haven't I grown up? What would that even feel like? Will I ever really be content?

Does anyone else feel this way?

What defines a whiny, lazy, loser?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Seven Thirty Three

The back garden of my grandparents' house. I once grew things here, mowed the grass, sat reading on many warm evenings.

Lightning bugs at dusk: I didn't take any pictures of them, but I was thrilled at seeing them for the first time in probably well over a decade.

I think I almost forgot about their existence.
An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits
     in a cherry tree in his back yard.
The clocks say I must go--I stay here sitting on the
     back porch drinking white thoughts you rain down.

                                                                ~Carl Sandburg

Friday, September 12, 2008

Salubrity of the climate

"Recommended by the salubrity of the climate as by its many other advantages it is not surprising that New Jersey was soon celebrated by the early writers with higher commendations than any other of the colonies. The proprietaries stimulated by the hope of a rich revenue industriously proclaimed its advantages in Europe and America and from time to time despatched from England vessels freighted with settlers and stores to reinforce the numbers and supply the wants of their people."
~The History of New Jersey From Its Discovery by Europeans, to the Adoption of the Federal Constitution
(Thomas Francis Gordon, 1834)

July 11. The SEPTA R1-R7 trip from Philadelphia International to Trenton. Images include:
* Philadelphia 30th Street Station
* 30th Street Hoagie
* Tacony station stop (very Third World, non?)
* Bristol station stop with Grundy Mills visible
* Scene near Bristol
* Delaware River crossing
* Delaware River with view of "Trenton Makes" bridge (image from July 15)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Het gat

That literally means "the hole" but can also, I believe, mean "the inlet" in a geographic sense (where is SK?). The previous post got me thinking about the origin of the name Barnegat, and I think I'd heard way back in seventh-grade "Social Studies" class that it was derived from something Dutch (and I think around that time I was in the nascency of my nederlandophilia). A memorable class went something like this: "What are some local Indian place names?" Mantoloking, Manalapan, Assunpink... "What are some local Dutch place names?" Kill Van Kull, Schuylkill, Hoboken.

Well, apparently, Barnegat comes from the phrase barnde gat or barende gat (see here and here). I even found an example of a Barnde Gat that still exists in Nederland:

Noorder IJplas
Locatie: Ten noordwesten van Amsterdam, staat ook bekend als Barnde Gat.

[NB: greater detail of the 1878 map above can be seen here and here.]

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Zonsondergang = Sunset

Better late than never: I'm finally getting around to posting photos from my trip to New Jersey in mid-July. It was the first time in many years -- perhaps since the mid-1990s -- that I've been able to visit there during the height of summer, and it was glorious and bittersweet. In some ways, it always feels as if I never left, but of course I know that I have and that visits like this one are somewhat rare.

I spent time at the family beach bungalow on Long Beach Island with my mother, grandmother, uncle, brothers and their significant others -- and in the case of my youngest brother, his stepdaughter and my 13-month old nephew. Writing about it now, it seems like it was so much longer than two months ago. Summer vacations have often been like that for me: dreamlike in their intensity and the way they're carried forward into memories.

After the age of about eleven, I grew up in a town that wasn't on the ocean, but was located in Ocean County nonetheless. This meant that the water was never much more than a thirty-minute drive away or so, to towns with names like Point Pleasant and Seaside Heights. But summer vacation was further south, in Surf City on Long Beach Island, and as cliched as that name sounds, nowhere else evokes summer and the beach for me more.

Here are just a couple of the many pictures I took there this summer. I chose to title this zonsondergang due to the fact that I often remember my art teacher in high school telling us that he was enamored of Dutch landscape paintings because their sweeping renderings of sky and flat marshland reminded him a lot of our landscape along the New Jersey coast (he lived much closer to those beach towns, one of the towns on the bays, inlets, and creeks). It may seem like a silly comparison, but I can see it easily -- the incredibly flat land, the tiny sliver of marshy bog beneath a tumultuous and colorful sky... this is sunset over the Barnegat Bay:

Monday, September 08, 2008

Den vackra söndagen

I think every week should end with (or begin with?) a three-day weekend. It may be the next best thing to not working at all, and we know that that option's not coming into play anytime soon. I may try to adjust my schedule for a few months later in fall so that I either leave at noon every Friday or take every other Monday off; that's a ten percent reduction in time, which the esteemed Institution for which I work seems to be encouraging people to do in these uncertain times. My department seems to be "flush" enough, as our budget doesn't change with the wind as so many do. Still, since we're not so busy after September, I may run this by Those Who Wield Control and see how it goes over. I just need to figure out if and for how many months I might be able to deal with a reduction in net pay. I may need to learn to reduce the amount of money I fritter away on various trifles; perhaps not a bad strategy.

In the meantime, the following photos sum up my dinner and dessert -- eaten after attending a string concert at the neighborhood Episcopal Church -- on what was a really incredible Sunday.

First up was Green Beans with Pork and Tofu (Thai Prik Khing style, with garlic, fresh green chile, red chile paste, and shrimp paste), lest you think that all I ever cook and eat are desserts. Of course, it was followed up with the next-to-last piece of Peach Custard Pie, because the pâtissier in me just can't be kept down.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Es tan corto el amor, y es tan largo el olvido...

Happy Birthday!
... He visto desde mi ventana
la fiesta del poniente en los cerros lejanos.

A veces como una moneda
se encendía un pedazo de sol entre mis manos.

Yo te recordaba con el alma apretada
de esa tristeza que tú me conoces.

Entonces, dónde estabas?
Entre qué gentes?
Diciendo qué palabras?
Por qué se me vendrá todo el amor de golpe
cuando me siento triste, y te siento lejana?


... I have seen from my window
the fiesta of sunset in the distant mountain tops.

Sometimes a piece of sun
burned like a coin in my hand.

I remembered you with my soul clenched
in that sadness of mine that you know.

Where were you then?
Who else was there?
Saying what?
Why will the whole of love come on me suddenly
when I am sad and feel you are far away?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Ginger-Rhubarb Loaf Monday

So, I figured out that the way to really get comments out of you folks is to turn this into a food blog. Serve the people! [Oh, and FYI, this tastes ok, but it's really nothing special; I keep trying with the rhubarb, but I think I'm going to stick to just turning it into a basic compote from now on... maybe with variations on the compote... which is better than applesauce, in case you wondered...]