Farewell Spring

Posted on July 13th, 2010 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, life, poetry.

The words I do not utter
The thoughts I do not voice
The photos I don’t take
For taking is thievery
The memories I’ll never share
And the ones I let slip
The moments I refuse to tarnish with my speech
These are the most important to me
For the greatest things in life
Are ineffable, indescribable, transcendent
And attempting to capture them
Is futile
They will always elude you
And you will rob yourself
Of that moment
That deep breath
That knowing smile
That ever-so-delicate
Truth
It is only by letting go
That we can begin to grasp

2 comments.

Rat race

Posted on February 3rd, 2010 by george.
Categories: automotive, epiphany, society.

Photo by Roger Smith

Let’s say you’re looking for a job.  You find an announcement for one that matches your skill set, apply, and get an interview.  You show up, the interview goes well, the boss is nice, and the job sounds great.  You agree on a fair salary, and discuss benefits.  You’re just about to sign on the dotted line when the boss jumps in.

“Oh, I almost forgot.  There’s one more task we require for this position.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s nothing, really.  Most people don’t even think about it.”

“Okaaaaay.”

“After you work here for a while, it just becomes part of the routine.”

“Huh.”

“In fact, most of the time we don’t even talk about it.”

“What is it?”

“Well, you may have noticed the track outside.”

“Yeah, I thought that was kinda odd for this company.”

“Sure.  It may seem that way.  But it’s just something we do.  It’s just the way it is.”

“What’s the way it is?”

“Look, I don’t make the rules.  It was like this when I got here.”

“Fine.  Just tell me what I have to do.”

The boss sighs.  “Ok.  Well.  Every morning before you get to work, you have to drive a few laps around the track.”

“Really!”

“Yes, really.  And in the evening before you go home.  Same number of laps.”

“Well that’s…interesting.”

“Oh, it’s fun.  A lot of people enjoy it.  You can listen to music.”

“Sure.  Ok.  So this will be part of my normal eight hour workday?”

“Actually, no.  We’re gonna need you to make these laps before and after your normal shift.”

“Oh really?  We didn’t discuss this when we spoke about salary.  And what about the extra time spent away from home?”

“It’s no big deal.”

“Are you going to pay me for my time on the track?”

The boss laughs.  “Oh no.  We consider it part of the job.”

“Huh.  Well, I really like the position.  I guess I can make a little sacrifice with my time.”

“It’s no sacrifice, really.  Everybody does it.  It’s normal.”

“So you said.  Will you at least provide me with the car?”

“No, that’s not our responsibility.”

“Really!  So you’re making me buy a car.”

“I’m not making you do anything.  But you need one if you want this job.”

“How do you propose I pay for it?”

“Out of your paycheck, of course!”

“Ok, what about fuel?”

“Your responsibility.  Oh, and it’ll need to be insured.”

“Insured?”

“Yeah.  We don’t want you to have to pay for damage to the other cars.  It’s optional if you want to insure your own, so you don’t pay for damage out of pocket.”

“Other cars?”

“Yeah, we all start work at the same time in the morning and leave around the same time in the afternoon, so we all hit the track together.  Plus, not everybody’s going the same direction.  Gets kinda crazy out there.”

“That sounds dangerous!”

“Well, maybe for a new hire like you.  But the more experience you get, the less dangerous it is.  You’ll learn how to go with the flow.  Just pay attention.  We only lose about three out of every 20,000 people.”

“Lose?”

“Yeah, they die in crashes.”

“Die?!  How many are injured in crashes?”

“Hard to say.  But we have emergency response crews, and a hospital nearby, so you won’t need a helmet or roll cage.  Or a fire extinguisher.  You’ll be fine.  Of course, you’ll have to pay for any ambulance rides.  But there are bonuses:  you can use the car and the track 24 hours a day, even if it’s not before or after work.”

“What for?”

“You know, to get around.”

“Let me get this straight.  Every day…”

“Rain or shine.”

“Every day, rain or shine, you want me to give you laps on the track outside, for free, in a car that I purchase, fuel, and insure…”

“By law.”

“What?”

“It’s a law.  You have to insure it.”

“Okay, by law.  So I have to drive, without pay, my own car…”

“You can get a nice one.”

“What?”

“A nice one.  That way you’ll stand out from the rest of the field.  And there’s less maintenance with a newer one.  Maintenance can cost you a month’s pay.”

“Don’t I just need to make the laps?  Can’t I get something cheap?”

“Sure, but you don’t want to look trashy while doing it.  It could affect your promotion potential.  You want to feel good about yourself, don’t you?”

“I guess.”

“Oh yeah.  And not everybody has to drive the same number of laps.”

“Why not?”

“Well, it depends on how far you live from the office.  The further you live, the more laps you have to drive.”

“Well I didn’t really get to choose my house based on its distance from here.  There weren’t many places I could afford…”

“Not our problem.  You can move.”

“Listen buddy, I don’t like your tone…”

“Buddy?  You’re the one being interviewed here.  I really don’t see what the big deal is; this is how we do business.  I mean, I even take my kids out on the track.”

“What?”

“Yeah.  If you drive your kids to school, they have to spend time on the track too.”

“With all the other people out there, all of different skill levels?”

“You bet.  And some people knock a few back before hitting the track.  Takes the edge off.  So we wrote the laws, and now all the cars for sale have seat belts.  If your kids are young, they’ll need a car seat.”

“Let me guess:  by law.”

“Yep.”

“Are there any alternatives?”

“Oh sure.  You can ride a bike.”

“In the rain?”

“Yeah, some people do it.  Claim it’s good for exercise, whatever that is.”

“They ride bikes.  On the track.  With cars.  Some of which are piloted by alcoholics?”

“Yeah, crazy, right?  You can’t ride on the shoulder, either.  You have to take the same path the car does.  Make ‘em slow down, that’s the law.  Of course, drivers don’t like it.  Plus, it takes a helluvah lot longer to finish those laps when you’re doing fifteen miles an hour.”

“You’re telling me.  So if I get a car, I can go faster than a bike?”

“Up to a point.  We can’t have people going too fast.  We commissioned a study a while back.  The faster you go, the higher the risk.  So there’s a speed limit.  Plus, we’re trying to help you out, keep your fuel costs down.  Oh, and part of your paycheck will be withheld.  Taxes, you know the drill.  To pay for maintenance.”

“What happens if I just wanna get my laps over with, and go a little faster?”

“You can try, but there are fines.  Bigger fines the faster you go.  Go too fast, and we’ll put you in jail.”

“Perfect.”

“You don’t wanna drive?  Fine.  There’s also a bus that makes laps around the track.”

“Oh!  That sounds good.”

“It runs once an hour.”

“I knew there had to be something.”

“Yeah, that’s why we all drive.  Those bus riders spend a couple extra hours at the track, waiting for the bus.  And the buses are slower.  Aren’t too clean, either.  I mean, all those people sharing the same uncomfortable seats?  No control over the temperature?  Honestly, who would want to ride one?  That’s why there’s only one bus:  not enough demand.  And not all tracks have buses.  It just depends on the office.”

“This is insane.”

“Look, I don’t make the rules.  In fact, I didn’t even have to mention this to you.  I just thought I’d do you a favor.  You look like a good kid.”

“Thanks.  But this is all a little hard to swallow.  I don’t have the money to buy a car right now.  They cost a significant percentage of the yearly salary we spoke about.”

“Don’t worry!  There’s plenty of financing out there.  You can just make payments.  In fact, you can have them taken right out of your paycheck.”

“For something that has nothing to do with this job.”

“Sure it does.  We all do it.  We just don’t get paid for it.  Don’t think about it too hard, champ.  You’ll get used to it.”

“Huh.”

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“What are you waiting for?  Sign right here!”
___________________________________________

If you commute to work by car, you are an unpaid racecar driver who finances the race team, pays for the car, and underwrites the fuel and maintenance.  You race on a track with speed limits that requires insurance.  Everyone on this track is going a different direction, and has a different finish line.  There is no prize for crossing the finish line when you’re supposed to; it’s just expected.  You pay taxes to maintain the track.  You risk your life every day on this track for your job.  They don’t compensate you for your time, and they make you pay for it.  All of it.

Emily Haines says it far more succinctly than I can.

“Buy this car to drive to work.  Drive to work to pay for this car.”

1 comment.

Boy with a Coincidence

Posted on June 19th, 2009 by george.
Categories: coincidence, epiphany, friends, life, music, numbers, poetry, serendipity.

This morning my hands were so full that I left In Rainbows on the kitchen counter by accident.  I had to choose a CD on the commute, so I picked one from my case that’s been neglected for weeks:  The Shepherd’s Dog, by Iron & Wine.  At work I got a tweet from Sholeh.  She hadn’t tweeted in over a month. It read, “One year since I came back from Haifa: http://sholeh.calmstorm.net.”  I hadn’t been to her blog in months.  I read her prose and poetry and realized I hadn’t written in just as long.  I was inspired, so I wrote this:

deep in diodes
the world at a stop
my lifeblood pulsed
the same shade
as the light
cast off by electrons
funneling down the rabbit hole
at the moment
providence beamed upon my crown
a glimpse
of the essence of red

now drinking daily
from the only watering hole
the ripples calm
to reveal a change in stripe

is this some new animal
some tender new shoot
or the same heart
sheathed in endless years?

what use is fluttering
madly
in a cage designed
not to confine
but instruct?

wings newly wed

will spread
soon enough

for now they flutter
bear
and endure

for ultimate reunion awaits

more powerful than any
in this life

At the exact moment I finished writing, I got a text from Lorenia reading, “New blog post!”  I clicked through the link to fresita.org on Sholeh’s blog, read all about psycho kitty (qu’est-ce que c’est?), and promptly posted a comment.  The second it posted, I saw that Sholeh had commented at the exact same time, down to the minute.

Ok.  So great coincidence, right?  Just wait, the braid draws tighter.  I was lost in thought on the drive home, Sam Beam

cooing my worries to sleep, when I realized I had just heard The Lovesong of the Buzzard, the song whose meter inspired my last good poem, Alhambra, written about Lorenia.  Down the road, I glanced up at the glowing, green traffic light passing overhead, right at the moment Sam sang, “Like stubborn boys with big green eyes.”  In fact, I saw it precisely as he said, “green.”  It struck me that in the poem I’d just written, I referred to sitting at a red light, staring at the LEDs.  Now the light was green, a symbol of hope, and I was moving forward.  The song ended, and the very next track was “Boy With a Coin,” which Sholeh had first clued me in to on 07-11-07, while she was in Haifa, the place she wrote about today.  Coincidentally, we had one opportunity to launch of STS-127 this week, but a faulty GUCP valve scrubbed it until 07-11-09, exactly two years later.  Furthermore, on the poem Alhambra, Sholeh’s comment was, “makes me think of sunsets, for some reason. lovely.”  The poem she wrote that inspired me today?  It’s entitled, “sunsets always make me miss everyone.”

In searching for where she mentioned that song, I entered “coin” on sliding thoughts and came up with exactly two entries…both about coincidences.  In searching on LJ for the same, I found a fitting end to this post.

into my heart’s treasury
i slipped a coin
that time cannot take
nor a thief purloin, –

oh better than the minting
of a gold-crowned king
is the safe-kept memory
of a lovely thing.

-Sarah Teasdale

5 comments.

Pale blue dot

Posted on January 30th, 2009 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, environment, epiphany, film, future, life, music, society, space, synthesis, technology.

Didn’t think I was gonna get a post up in January, didja?  HA!  That’ll show ya.

Here’s a month’s worth of hope in one short film.  Watch it full screen.

2 comments.

Alnilam

Posted on November 7th, 2008 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, history, life, poetry, space.

No light from any star on high
Can ever reach your earthbound eye
Unless it travels ‘cross the sky
Through time for you to see it

For time is just a form of space
As poets past have long embraced
So every photon starts a race
The moment its star frees it

The race is won when through the air
It strikes your eye while standing there
Its maker’s beauty brought to bear
The journey done at last

The sky of now you’ll never see
From here unto eternity
For stars in your reality
Are from the distant past

Indeed the closest star to us
Past twenty trillion miles must
Ring out its light in hope and trust
In four years it will shimmer

Watch it sparkle watch it dance
Think of how it took the chance
That in the future you might glance
Above and see it glimmer

So when you take in constellations
Think of ancient men and nations
Of firmament’s eternal patience
In shedding all its light

And know you’re watching history
That stars aren’t where they seem to be
And some have even gone to sleep
In that unending night

2 comments.

Space/travel

Posted on October 28th, 2008 by george.
Categories: epiphany, health, history, mathematics, space, travel.

Hey kids!  Been a while, eh?  I hope you’ve been enjoying the photos from our trip to Bolivia and Peru; I’ve been using my nightly internet allowance to edit and post those shots.  Lorenia put it best this afternoon when she said, “I consider flickr the same as blogging.  You’re simply leaning on images more than words.”  I hope that explains my absence of late.

Huge changes are afoot.  I get married in a matter of weeks (YAY!); my fitness, diet and sleep goals (yes, I have sleep goals) are getting closer to reality; new opportunities are arising at work; and I just got word that one of the references on my astronaut application has been contacted.  You could say things are going well.

There is so much I’ve wanted to blog about.  I have several ideas every day, and it pains me not to have the time to write about them all at length.  Now that I’m on the Zone diet, I spend a little more time each day planning and preparing meals.  Add work, crossfit, and flickr to that, and I do well to get a movie in here and there.  Right now I have over a hundred blog entries started, just waiting to be fleshed out.  At the very least I know I’ll have plenty to do if I ever lose my job or go to the hospital.

What’s broken my silence tonight, first and foremost, is a little something about NASA I’d like to share with the general public.  As you may be aware, most of the infrastructure at the Kennedy Space Center was put in place in the early sixties.  The VAB has recently been re-clad after a series of hurricanes over the past few years, and many other upgrades are underway in advance of the new vehicle.  One of those projects is the removal of the large blast-shield louvers on the front of the Launch Control Center.

LCC Louver Removal

Given the decades that these iconic shields have been in place and the millions of visitors to the Kennedy Space Center every year, there are probably billions of photos of these louvers in existence.  Now, with the fancy new windows going in, they are being dismantled and removed.  Out of curiosity, I called up the project manager today to see if they were being donated to a museum.  He was very excited to tell me about the project, emphasizing the care with which the crane operator removed them and gently placed them on a flatbed truck to be sent to KSC excess.  His mood changed, however, when he recollected that once at the salvage site, the workers stabbed the louvers with a forklift and tossed them into the woods.

My plea to you is this:  if you know anyone who would like to include a large part of U.S. space history in a museum, memorial or large-scale art installation, please contact me, and I’ll get you in touch with the right people.  There are three more firing rooms whose louvers have not yet been removed.  Now is your chance to do something to support the space program.

Ok, next topic!  I was on the crossfit website today looking up WODs when I ran across this little gem of an article.  The TSA is one of my favorite whipping boys, and I consider this piece to be the final word on the futility of their existence.  I hope the next Administration has the good sense to abolish the organization and apply their seven-billion-dollar budget somewhere it might actually do some good.  I mean, seven billion dollars?  Where did that even come from?  That’s more than half NASA’s budget!  Do you realize what we could do with those funds?  At the very least, if you’re worried about terrorists, apply them to intelligence where they might actually do some good.  I’ve always found the hassle of the TSA’s security theater galling.  I’m convinced it’s a) a jobs program and b) a crutch for the airline industry who otherwise wouldn’t make as much money on non-refundable tickets.

I’ll leave you with a few words about an epiphany I had today.  After a near-death crossfit workout at the gym, I walked out into the brisk evening breeze and witnessed the glory of the fading sunset.  The cold blanket of air hovering over the continent had pushed all the clouds out of the Florida sky, so we were gifted with a rare, clear-sky dusk.  I marvelled at the strip of orange resting on the horizon, and how the gradient passed through green before fading into the midnight blue overhead.  Two bright planets pierced the veil of the heavens before the stars spilled out, and in thinking about the tilt of Earth’s axis and its role in the seasons it dawned on me:  someday soon we’ll model all the molecules in the atmosphere, and the secrets of how the giant globs of warm, wet, cold and dry air dance around the globe will be revealed.  With a clarity that only intense exertion can create, I further realized that all of mathematics is but a simplification.  It is true, it is correct, the science that rests upon it can be empirically verified, but it is an approximation.  If our beloved equations fully described reality, we world create worlds when we wrote them down.  Instead, they allow us glimpses into creation; they are useful tools for understanding our place in this universe and how to manipulate this wonderful reality to our ends.

Not bad for a weightlifting session.  Exercise is for nerds.

4 comments.

T-bone Burnett

Posted on September 23rd, 2008 by george.
Categories: coincidence, enlightenment, epiphany, friends, health, life, photography, travel.

Blue Willie
On the way to the movies tonight, Willie and I stopped to pick up Tony at the nursery where he works.  As we pulled out of the driveway, we stopped, then had to make a three-point turn to go back and close the gate.  The movie was starting in ten minutes, so Willie sped off but quickly got behind slower traffic.  This was good, considering the cop sitting by the side of the road.  “Which way do you think we should go?” he asked.  “Take 95,” I replied, “It’ll be about five minutes faster than all the red lights on Fiske.”  He made a right turn, and we carried on with our conversation about how happiness is a choice; that you must be content with your life exactly as it is, that true joy can never be derived from material things.  Lacey twittered about being frustrated, stuck in hellish traffic in Houston in the wake of Hurricane Ike.  I remember saying a Remover of Difficulties for her as Willie went on about how he wouldn’t be upset if his house burned down.  We were on SR-520 approaching the I-95 overpass to turn south on the highway, when, to quote They Might Be Giants, “then came a knock on the door which was odd and the picture abruptly changed.”
The truck that hit us
Suddenly everything was moving in slow motion as I realized we’d been broadsided by a big yellow truck.  I hadn’t seen it coming; luckily Willie was paying attention and had swerved to the right at the last moment.  This kept us from plowing head-on into the oncoming Ford F-250.  Instead, he t-boned us.  I remember a sharp jolt, then watching the world slide past the windshield as we swung through 270 degrees.  “Is everyone alright?” I asked when we came to a stop.  Grunts in the affirmative.  “Willie, do you want me to call 911?”  “Yeah,” he replied as he jumped out to check on the other driver, whose airbag had deployed.  I tried to take stock of myself as I dialed the number.  Within 30 seconds the nice lady had all the information she needed, and a minute later the sheriff arrived, followed by the paramedics, a truck full of firemen, and a state trooper.  As it turns out, the other driver was within 50 feet of his destination; he was a construction worker working on the surface of the on-ramp.  We were swarmed with men in hardhats, his colleagues snapping photos and asking us if we were ok and what happened.  It added to the official nature of the scene, to be sure.

We weren’t visibly injured, so we called Rene to come pick us up while Willie got GEICO to tow his mangled truck.  Rene dropped Tony off, then drove us to my place, where we picked up my car and drove ourselves to the ER.  We were taken to the back before we even finished filling out our forms (how quick is that?).  The nurses and doctors were very kind, even joked around with us.  Willie and I got the same diagnosis and prescriptions, along with the directive to take a couple days off work to rest and recover.

It dawned on me as I took a hot shower just now that I said the Tablet of Ahmad on the way into work this morning.  I find myself pondering now just how dangerous cars can be.  Interestingly enough, my friend Christy had the exact same accident in the exact same intersection last year, except she plowed into the person who pulled in front of her and totalled her friend’s brand new car (she was designated driver).  You’d think by now they’d install a green left-turn arrow.

As I drove home from work today, I saw a motorcycle pop a wheelie and get up to a buck and change on my street.  I remember thinking about how cool that was.  Nothing like a little wake up call to make you appreciate the unforgiving brutality of momentum, and savor each new moment you’re granted that much more.

State trooper

19 comments.

Nine slices, five seeds

Posted on September 11th, 2008 by george.
Categories: enlightenment, epiphany, future, history, life, love, music, synthesis.

Over the past few days I have been listening to Radiohead’s “Hail to the Thief” on the commute to and from work.  It strikes me that when I first played this album on the stereo, kicking back in my 70’s-era chartreuse La-Z-Boy (oh, how I miss that chair), looking out my bay window on the streetlights of Laurel Avenue, atop the ridge of Fort Sanders in arguably one of the most coveted properties for students at the University of Tennessee, surrounded by meticulously-tended gardens and rosebushes too often robbed of their blooms by passersby, that I didn’t like it.  It’s strange to have adored “Kid A” and “Amnesiac,” coming so hot on the heels of yet such a departure from Radiohead’s timeless masterwork “OK Computer,” only to have “Thief” stick in my craw.  At the time, I couldn’t place why it didn’t resonate; I’ve since heard that it was “thrown together” on a short schedule, and suffered from what some say is a lack of polish compared to previous efforts.  I now realize, after having “In Rainbows” wear ruts into my soul, pressing its melodies into the fiber of my being, rivaling the majesty of what to this point was my favorite album, that “Hail to the Thief” suffered only from lack of context.  It was simply ahead of its time; too raw, even though it was finished and complete, like a bridge suspended across a chasm whose far side has only now seen the tectonic plates of time grind past each other, lofting the perfect cliff into place under what seemed a terminus hanging in dead air.  The bridge to nowhere now emerges as a grand paean to the future as told by authors of the past, a gathering together of the sine wave of repeating history, a needle and thread through the wrinkled fabric of this collective consciousness, drawing tight the crevices to be filled with the golden light of meaning.

 

  

It dawns on me now that my love for this group of musicians was tied to the future more than I could imagine, their prescience wholly overshadowing my own, a hand reaching down and transcending the dimension of time, their glowing ladders of song rising out of the misty and dark swirls of this material world to the ethereal flights of the spirit.  I see too, now, that I have not yet fully appreciated my time in the city of my education, the lessons I learned in and outside the classroom, the mistakes I made and the choices I got right that have led me to this day, this moment, these words spilling forth over the banks of my stream, tumbling down white over the rocks of fortune.  Even for all its gray skies and cold nights, its mists and trials, its mazes and morasses, worn desks and defaced walls, I see that I loved that city, my time there, the people I shared it with, the sunshine they reflected that pierced the hazy air.  The rainbow arcs high and bright over the sapling of my existence now; for all their deep and abiding knowledge of past predicting future, I cannot recall a band that’s been through the hourglass that has enjoyed such lofty greatness for so long, or excelled so magnificently so late in their glorious career.

 

P.S. I’m getting married.

 

10 comments.

khamsin

Posted on February 28th, 2008 by george.
Categories: epiphany, friends, future, history, life, poetry, prayer.

a gift from within the stone fortress
sent on feathered wings
graced with golden dust

a release
in the form
of an embrace

an ambassador
with a gossamer key
to the shackles of my own design

a prayer for peace
sent back with the dove
to the point round which all angels

fly

3 comments.