From the State of the Union Address last night:
"Another cause of hopelessness is addiction to drugs. Addiction crowds out friendship, ambition, moral conviction, and reduces all the richness of life to a single destructive desire... Tonight, let us bring to all Americans who struggle with drug addiction this message of hope: The miracle of recovery is possible, and it could be you."
I believe George W. was speaking directly to me when he said these words, and I thank him for his encouragement this week as I wrestle with my own addiction and cut back to 3 cups of coffee per day.
Rode the bus down to the mall and Target, which brought back fond memories of last summer when I rode it to work every day at class.com. When I got on every morning the bus driver--Dwayne I think it was--would always say "Good morning, young man," since he didn't know my name. That "good morning, young man" always gave me a cool grown-up feeling.
Malls weird me out nowadays, especially those big department stores with their looming heaps of pastel-colored cosmetics products at the entrances. After that comes a protective layer of body lotions and women's jewelry. As a male if you can make it through these then the coast is clear, but I imagine many males recoil in horror somewhere short of this, and probably think the whole store is that way. But it's not dudes, you've just got to push yourself onward and head for the nearest down escalator, because if there is any product intended for the male species in the place, it's going to be in hidden away down there in the sublevels. Keep your eye on the prize. Once you've got it and made your purchase, you've still got the escape ahead of you, and this part can be tricky too. If you don't watch it you could end up wandering around endlessly in the Petites section like some kind of lost pedophile. The department store, of course, is going to make escaping as non-intuitive as possible, because if they had their way you'd be trapped in there forever like a wild animal, making purchasing decisions out of sheer desparation.
Saw Bowling for Columbine last night at UNL's film theater. Incendiary is definitely the right word. It's a pretty harsh criticism of America which centers around the question: why do we shoot each other here more than anywhere else? (Apparently over 10,000 Americans die each year in gun-related deaths, while in Japan, Britain, Australia, Germany, etc. the number is under 300).
Moore explores several possible answers, among them that we have more racial tension because of our higher ethnic mix, that bloodshed is a part of our national history/identity, or that we're simply a gun-saturated culture, with guns and ammo available over every counter and present in every home. But Moore discards these explanations because they don't differentiate us from these other nations without the "gun problem." We don't have a significantly higher racial mix. Germany, Britain, or basically any other industrialized country you can think of has had their share of bloodbaths. Canada has 10 million homes and 7 million guns, and arguably more "gun culture" than the U.S.
Halfway through the documentary Moore interviews Marilyn Manson, who (oddly enough) gives the explanation Moore eventually settles for: guns and shootings are a symptom of our fear of each other, a fear fed by the news media, by the government, and ultimately by the corporate world--because there's a huge profit in doing so.
As for me, I can't buy into this rage-against-the-system message, because it's just too adolescent. Sure, there's some truth in it. But pointing your finger at corporate America, or "the system," or whatever blanket conspiracy you care to conjure up, is a cop-out. Anyone can do that. And nothing is made better; you've just transferred the blame to a non-entity.
My own explanation seemed pretty different to me at first: guns and shootings are a product of our fierce individualism. It's also why, for instance, we drive cars everywhere instead of developing efficient public transportation, as other industrialized nations have done: because a car is about one driver controlling his or her destiny, and a train is not. And I think our individualism is something which sets us apart. The rest of the industrial world is socializing, and there's pressure on us to do so too, but there's more resistance from the individual here in America than anywhere else. So our growing pains are much worse.
Then I got to thinking...maybe individualism is just the name we give to our essential fear of "the other." Maybe it isn't the highest of virtues, as we'd like to believe, but an inability to cope with the idea of other people. This brought me around full circle...
A Monday night at UNL. It started with one head and spread. Drew, reaching way back to his days as an RC car spray-painter, played stylist for a night with a can of blue Jerome Russell.
Drew preps with a cup of coffee. Mark, at right, spectates.
I inspect the new 'do.
Prashanth gets in on the action with a racing stripe down the center. Drew insists on blue eyebrows.
The two of us with our stylist.
Jonas comes in and gets painted too. Here he is with his swirl. Note pimpin' 360 shot.
Drew monkeys around in our mirror afterwards.
Drew, in triumph, does a Patrick Bateman.
Just got back from a party at Suga's and it is now 4am. To recount, yesterday night was shaping up to be pretty extreme, as I was coloring my hair blue and planning to hit some clubs in Lincoln afterwards. But I ran out of blue right before I finished so I had to wash it all out. With Autumn and her friend Libby plus boyfriend Derrick I just went to eat at Lazlo's and then learned Canasta, as no one (including me) was really feeling up to the clubbing thing. Still it was a pretty enjoyable evening. Tonight started off pretty tame again with some bridge playing but things got better. At the end it was Suga and Hammond, his new pipe hanging out of the corner of his mouth, playing riffs on a giant wooden spoon for about the duration of an hour. The two girls left at the party got bored of this real quick. But to me it was hilarious, vintage Sug entertainment. I forgot how much I missed this guy.
To recount some of the shenanigans that went on over my Christmas break...
Drewsky and I drove out to Laramie, Wyoming for a couple of days. We were going to ski at Snowy Range but the lodge burned down two days before we got there. So we just putzed around. The old part of town is still somewhat like it must have been originally, and has not yet been discovered and cashed out by the tourist industry. We ate in a wood-panelled bar beside the train tracks. Trains rumbled by in the night about every 15 minutes, shaking the tables. The next night the only bar open was the Ranger Motel so we went there to shoot some pool. There were five distinct groups there and not a lot of intermingling: a bunch of hippies with a dog, a group of frat guys, sorority girls, the locals, and two out-of-towners (Drew and I). The next day we went to the yuppie coffee shop downtown and saw the lead hippie with his dog at the hippie coffee shop across the street. The small town effect can be neat if you haven't felt it for a while.
After stopping by the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, we went on to Frisco, Colorado, where we skied with Kauffman peeps for the next three days. Hintertux paid off and I was attempting/crashing on a lot of jumps by day three. There was a hot tub at the motel, which was nice after a hard day of skiing. One night there was about the most densely tattooed dude I've ever seen in it, and all of them were (get this) Christian tattoos. He had a crucifix on his chest and an entire chapter from a gospel on his back, and I overheard that a belt of truth and a breastplate of righteousness were in the works. He was talking "the talk" with an older guy who I assumed was a preacher or something. Anyway after a while the Illustrated Christian left and we got to talking with the preacher. During a lull in the conversation, this guy got up quietly, climbed up onto the ledge surrounding the hot tub area, and did a somersault dive into the pool one story below. We had seen some drunk Colorado State students pull this dangerous stunt the night before but I never expected it from a fifty-year-old, especially since I had him cast as the preacher character. Guess that goes to show.
On the way back from Colorado Drew and I stopped at a Texaco for gas. None of the squeejees were there, but there was a second Texaco across the highway, so I ran across and brought a squeejee triumphantly back like an Olympic torch. As I was standing around idlely looking at junk food inside the station, the clerk gets a phone call, and says to me "Sir, the Texaco across the way called. They want their squeejee back." "We were going to take it back, actually," I told her, which was the truth, but less out of respect for property than from a desire not to see the squeejee-less Texaco benefit from the deal. When we did return the thing the clerks across the way were watching like hawks and waved at me, and there probably hadn't been that much excitement around the place since the last holdup.
I think life consists of basically three stages: acceptance, rejection, and creation. As a child you accept every idea that's told to you because you have no reason to suspect otherwise. As a teenager you find out some of them weren't true and begin to reject ideas. As an adult you create them yourself, or possibly return to those first ideas and accept them on your own terms.
Well at least that's what I think should happen. But a lot of people never seem to make it past that first stage of accepting on faith everything that's poured into them (they're permanent children), and others never get past defining themselves in terms of ideas that they oppose (they're permanent teenagers).
I'm still in stage two I guess, but I'm starting to outgrow it. On my trip to Vienna I realized that I can't define myself as an antithesis--that I must be a thesis of my own. And recently I've started to see that a lot of what I do--pleasure-seeking stuff, craziness--is basically self-destructiveness, and to engage in it further with this knowledge would be to actively oppose my own existence.
Well after 4390 miles of car travel I am finally back at college. Did New Mexico with the family (1094), then up to Iowa to see the other grandparents (1270), then back to Rolla for an evening of frantic packing (365), then up to Lincoln for moving in stage 1 (412), then to Laramie Wyoming (493), then to Frisco Colorado for skiing (212), and today back to Lincoln again for good (554). Am badly in need of a shave, am wearing a shirt that hasn't been washed in weeks for the third time, and just want to go to sleep in my own bed (whatever that means) for once. People are luring me into the living room with nachos so this is goodbye.