On Being Positive

First off: Mickey gets to go see an advance screening of the Firefly movie, “Serenity” I’m damn envious, and you should be too; the trailer looks tight. Just wanted to toss that out before moving on to the main topic.

I’m in a pretty positive place right now. Given the circumstances, people are pretty surprised at how well I’m handling everything. They say that inside every dark cloud, there is a silver lining. That may be true, but that still ultimately implies that the cloud is dark. That still requires a judgement on whether an act is good or bad, instead of simply accepting the act as it is. We cannot know whether something will harm us or help us later in life, whether it will enrich our experience or hinder it, and to declare otherwise is unfair to ourselves, those around us, and the situation itself. Even in hindsight, we can only declare the impact it has had up to that point, and no farther.

That’s not to say we don’t have regrets, or wish something hadn’t happened, or miss who we were and how we lived before an event (tragic or joyous, it doesn’t matter, that once again is a judgement of an event’s worth). But this is a part of life, and need not color our outlook on life as a whole. Put simply: there is no point in being bitter or hateful, and being so is inherently selfish.

So why should I be bitter or hateful? Why shouldn’t I try to put the best spin I can on a situation that did not go as I wished? It’s not the end of the world, it’s not even the end of my life. It’s just the end of the way it was. Change is not a bad thing. It’s just different, and it’s the only way we can truly grow, evolve, and discover who we really are.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I still wish it hadn’t happened.

All in the Timing

When it rains, it pours. Life is currently in a state of extreme turmoil, as I’m sure most or all of you are aware. Well, to add insult to injury, my laptop has started to make the unmistakeable warning signs of a dying hard drive (extremely slow seek and load times, and the occasional metal on metal sound if it’s a deep search). This is in addition to the broken hinge which has continued to worsen with my lack of time to send in the laptop. I was going to send it in once I got back from Vermont, and that plan has been somewhat shot to pieces.

“But didn’t you get money to buy a new computer?” Yes, yes I did, and I purchased a new computer, a desktop. Which is in Seattle. Where I am not and will not be any time soon. So, super happy fun time! Looks like my options are: pay out the nose to get it fixed (new hard drive, new hinge), or pay out the nose for a new (to me) machine, or let it die and be laptopless indefinitely. That last option is decidedly not an ideal solution, especially given my current living situation. All I have to say is, “Argh.”

In the meantime, I’ve backed my files onto a portable hard drive, and thankfully have most of that data already mirrored on the desktop in Seattle. I hate to say it, but I may just wait and let her die, try and eek her through til MacWorld in July, and see if anything new comes out that would drop the price on an equivalent machine to something more reasonable. If she dies before then, then I’ll have to reassess, but hopefully I can get to July by treating her VERY gingerly (I already have to hold the screen in certain places just to open it). In July I should be receiving an influx of money (an investment sorta paying off), which should help the situation dramatically.

“Write down ‘I am okay’ a hundred times, the doctors say. I am okay. I am okay. I’m not okay.” — Eels, Electro-Shock Blues

Really Shitty Time Right Now

Life currently is a state of major shit. I don’t want to get into details until we decide what is happening, but the short of it is that Mickey and myself could really use some hugs and support. I just spent two nights in a psych ward as a precaution to make sure I didn’t go and do something stupid. I’m not going back to Seattle, at least not any time soon.


I’m abysmally bad at keeping hydrated. This has, for the umpteenth time no less, reared its head when I realized that depite the mid 50s temperature and sunny day, I just can’t handle the cold. This is generally a pretty good sign that I’m dehydrated. Headache, mild brain fog, tiredness, and suddenly I realize I doubt I’ve even had a liter of water a day out here, let alone the amount you are supposed to have.

I think I’m going to try and lay low tomorrow, do some laundry, and start hydrating like mad. I want the 65+ degree temperatures this weekend to actually feel warm to me, thanks. It’s also nice to be feeling healthy and clearheaded when going into a residency, but really it’s all about the warm for me. I’m sure at least some of you understand.

On New England

Because life is currently rather circular, I’m currently sitting in the Hopkins Center on Dartmouth campus. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat here, or near here, but suffice it to say that it was a mainstay of my high school and early college years. I’ve blogged probably 70 entries (out of 240ish) sitting on the wireless connection of this campus, and spent countless hours talking to my friends over a cup of coffee or tea, in particular chai.

Something is marginally different now, however. This is no longer where I live. I live three thousand miles away, and only come here once every six months. Time is relative, however, so the amount of time away is largely irrelevant. The difference is far more subtle: walking through town here, people generally don’t smile. If people know each other, they might smile briefly, they’ll say hello, and on some occasions stop to talk further. But by and large, everyone is solemn faced, if not grim. Now, Seattle has its fair share of depressed and grim people, but there is a generally acceptable mood in the population. We are not the most free-speaking area of the country, but even with that in mind, we’re lightyears ahead of New England Stoicism. It’s not that New England is dead, and in fact there is quite a bit of activity and growth occuring. But the general atmosphere is simply grim. I can’t think of any other word that would better describe it. It’s like they are industrious and unhappy about it, but don’t realize that they are unhappy about it.

There is the beginnings of an economic boom occuring the area, with several major stores moving into the area, and apparently there is even talk of a mall going in. Additionally and simultaneously, the counter-culture (people living alternative lifestyles, often artists or musicians) is also beginning to explode in the area, complete with a non-profit low-power radio station (WXND), and even a soon-to-open comic book institute. If after October I didn’t come back for several years, I honestly don’t think I would recognize much of anything but the basic layout of the roads (and maybe not even that, purportedly, they’re finally going to make modifications to Route 12A, to help clean up the traffic problem with the plazas).

Every time I come back to the Upper Valley, I realize more and more how done I am with the area. I enjoy seeing my friends and family, but as I become more acquainted with good coffee shops and places to hang out and good restaurants, I find myself less and less missing the area. That’s not to say I don’t miss Vermont, or Squam, or my friends, or my family. Far from it. It’s more that I’m trying to explain that the allure of the UV is really fading. Of course, if I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d probably buy some land up in the Northeast Kingdom and build a house up there. Not as a primary residence, but as a place to hole up and enjoy the world a bit more than cities really afford. I think it would make living in a city the rest of the time a lot more palatable to me, which I think Mickey would definitely appreciate.

I will give New England credit for one thing: history. In most other parts of the country, entire regions have been overtaken with housing developments and suburbs, cul de sacs, and factory fresh houses. New England has some of that, but you also get to see older architecture, and older town layouts where roads went somewhere and the housing was designed for a non-car centric style of life. It engendered a sense of community that has largely been killed through suburban planning in the rest of the country. It’s affected this area as well, but not as much, or at least more slowly. That is absolutely a good thing, and hopefully with the beginning realization of the need for communal interaction, it won’t lose any more (and maybe even improve).

We’re in Vermont

Four days and ~3300 miles later, we’re in Vermont. Check this spot later for updates (and believe me, there’s cause for some), but for now, we’re here, we want to see people, and I’m going to BED.

For those that have known me for a while, you’ll understand when I say that the drive itself was no big deal. 14 to 16 hours a day at an average of 75 miles per hour for four days, not really an issue. With that out of the way, let me explain the more notable points in the trip:

The first notable item was the weather. We left on Thursday morning, and as such ended up behind one front and ahead of another, in this large weather bubble of warm, sunny weather. The average temperature for the trip was probably around 70, and ended up as high as 86 degrees in Sturgis, South Dakota. Believe me, this is a hell of a lot nicer for driving across the country than a snowstorm or rain or cold temperatures. (Imagine that.)

Next item: I am now convinced that out of state drivers do in fact get targeted more by cops. I was pulled over just outside of Sturgis, SD for passing too close to the vehicle in front of me (which is bullshit, I was a good distance behind, and only got close because the truck in front of me slammed on his brakes… that’s the POINT of driving distances, is to give you time to react.) IN reality, he saw two scruffy looking guys driving along in an out of state vehicle, and pulled us over because he suspected we were carrying drugs. He had a drug sniffing dog with him, and did a circuit around the vehicle with it. After he didn’t find anything (again, those that know me should be saying “Well, duh“), he let us go with a “courtesy warning”. The next time we were pulled over was coming into White River Junction, literally 5, maybe 6 miles from home. Again, the officer saw two scruffy guys coming in at most a few miles over the speed limit (which suddenly drops at the exit from 65 to 55, and I simply let off the gas instead of hitting my brakes, something I’ve done on that exit literally over a thousand times), and pulls us over, and tries to give us shit, comments “You’re obviously not from around here.” To which Uri and I just laughed and explained that our parents’ house was 5 miles down the road. That sort of flustered him, and once again, we ended up with just a warning.

Flipping back to “good” things, we detoured through the Black Hills, and I’d just like to say that it really is amazing out there. We ended up following this dirt road up to the top of a hill and got some photo and video footage of the view. I haven’t uploaded it from the camera yet, though, so no pictures for now. The roads were remarkably well maintained, and I can totally see why Sturgis is such a Biker mecca.

Wrapping up with a sour note, the hotel we stayed at in Erie, PA sucked, hardcore. It was late, and the hotel was largely full, so we ended up getting a smoking room for $90. We got to the room, and Uri’s key didn’t work. Mine did, so no big deal. Get in, and it stinks of smoke, and since it was on the fourth floor, the windows were unopenable. It had a door to the adjoining room where the laminate panel had begun to peel away from the core of the door, but hey, not that big a deal, we don’t need to use it anyway. We woke up late because the alarm didn’t go off, but no big deal, it probably was our error. We get downstairs and scrape up the remnants of breakfast (full house, not enough food for the numbers), eat, and then I stand in line for half an hour to check out, because they only had one person on checkin/checkout (with a full house, half an hour before checkout deadline). It’s also worth noting that the person in front of me paid $66 for her room. The person in front of her paid $100 WITH three $19.95/per passes to the local waterpark. Needless to say, I’ll be formally complaining to the chain, because that’s some serious bullshit.

Other than that, it was a largely uneventful and pleasant trip.

Pavlovian Response to Crash

When I was 15 and Uri was 17, we spent two weeks in June at Squam, essentially on our own. It was the week of and the week immediately following the Laconia Biker Week, which we largely ignored. The weather was idyllic, and we cooked two or three meals a day on the new griddle that Jain had picked up for Squam that spring. We had very little money, and we cut corners and ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches and the like, and frankly I’ve never had any taste so good as those. For pretty close to the entirety of those two weeks, Crash by Dave Matthews Band was playing on the stereo. We only had the tape of it, which meant that halfway through the album, one of us had to get up and flip it over in the stereo.

Which we did, even at night, as more often than not, we simply crashed on the couches in the living room, the ceiling fan spinning and the evening breeze rolling through the open porch doors. We spent hours just reading and whiling away the time, and at sunset, the sun would reflect off the lake and onto the ceiling, creating this golden shimmer. And through all of it, Crash would play, with the exceptions of when we went out for groceries, or to the movies (we watched Fifth Element in an empty theatre the week after Biker Week), or to go laze about in the lake that had already warmed up enough to merit lazing about in. It was a really fantastic time, and I envy the simplicity of it.

I don’t listen to Crash much anymore, but every once in a while, a song or two ends up in my playlist, and that’s where the title of this post comes in. It’s pavlovian. My mood, my physical sensation calls back to those weeks at Squam, with the cold floor in the kitchen walking barefoot and enjoying the feeling of it, just the atmosphere around me suddenly shifts to Squam. I can’t help but think of it, it’s automatic. I’ve been conditioned.

And that’s alright.

Zoka Coffee

I finally made it to Zoka, a much renowned coffee shop with two locations. I’m at the one in the U-District, which is next door to OmniGroup, and where Delicious Monster does 90% of their development work (or so they say). It’s crowded, there isn’t a seat with a table available, so I’m sitting with my laptop in my lap, on a throne by the entrance, and hoping a table opens up before my battery dies. It has an interesting atmosphere; I think Caffe Coccinella is a bit more welcoming, but Zoka has a much stronger feeling of industry; even the people just hanging out seem like they’re getting stuff done, and the rest of the room has their laptops out and are working or studying.

The counter is burlwood panelling, and the flooring is a dark hardwood, the color looks like cherry, but that has more to do with the stain than the wood, if the grain is any indication. All in all, it seems like it would be a nice place to hang out and meet people (several communal tables, for instance), if it wasn’t quite so crowded. There is a banner above the counter that talks up Phuong Tran, the 2005 US Barista Champion, who also serves as Zoka’s head barista trainer. Kudos to her. The Cafe Au Lait I bought is certainly tasty. If forced to choose between Zoka and Caffe Coccinella, I’d pick Caffe Coccinella, but it’s a hard call, and both are quite enjoyable.

More seating at Zoka would be nice, though.

Sin City

After dropping off my car to be serviced (in preparation for the trip east next week, we leave here in 5 or 6 days), Mickey and I went to the movies, in particular to the 11am showing of Sin City.

Go see this movie, right now. It’s brilliantly done, and largely shot for shot from the comics, which is quite impressive. It is primarily done in a black and white noir style, with the occasional flash of color. The action is intense and bloody, but is done in such a way that you don’t shy away as grotesque. The dialogue reads like a comic, for better or worse, but the voice over work is perfect, and captures exactly the gritty world of the film. My hat goes off to the folks involved in creating this masterful film.

Worth mentioning: it doesn’t matter if you’ve read the comic or not, going in. It stands on its own QUITE well, and may interest you to go read the comics after watching it.