February 26, 2007

I've Been Out Walking

I've been out walking,
I don't do too much talking these days,
These days.
These days I seem to think a lot,
About the things that I forgot to do,
And all the times I had the chance to.

I stopped my rambling,
I don't do too much gambling these days,
These days.
These days I seem to think about,
How all the changes came about my way,
And I wonder if I'll see another highway.

And I had a lover,
I don't think I'll risk another these days,
These days.
And if I seem to be afraid,
To live the life that I have made in song,
Well it's just 'cause I've been losing so long.

Well I'll stop my dreaming,
I don't do too much scheming these days,
These days.
These days I'll sit on cornerstones,
And count the time in quartertones to ten,
Please don't confront me with my failures,
I had not forgotten them.

I've Been Out Walking,
Jackson Browne

February 19, 2007

Why Bother?

I remember a space in the basement of the DeVries Science Building at Calvin where I liked to hang out between classes. Natural light filtered down through the atrium above from skylights four or five stories high. Much of the interior structure was exposed, revealing stairs and crosswalks overhead. At the base of a column, near the floor, someone had impressed a small epitaph into the surface which coated the concrete - "why bother?"

It was a question that I was oft to ponder in the DeVries basement, vaguely aware of the bustle and activity above. The burden of all my amassed perceptions and limited understanding was becoming too much to bear. I felt like I was thrashing around in the dark, groping and jabbing out of pure desperation, not finding anything to hold onto. I had essentially come to the conclusion that my world and the lense through which I viewed it were predicated on euphemisms, persistant denial, desperation, and all-out lies. The pillars upon which my universe was constructed were not slowly eroding; they were vaporized.

Imagine you are born into an all-compassing shell. Although it poses no threat, it is dense and restricts you to only the smallest range of motion. It does, however, nourish and keep you insulated. Of course, in order to accomplish this, all your potential for self-destruction must be suppressed.

There would be little cause for frustration if it weren't for the occasional streak of light, delivering the idea of an outside world. You become engaged by this concept, building knowledge. In a rush of enlightenment you burst free of the former confines and restrictions of the shell, annihalating its power over you. For a fleeting moment you are bathed in sunlight, free at last to explore untethered being.

Unfortunately, as you soon realize, the very bubble which nearly suffocated you also kept you afloat in a bottomless sea of nothingness. Celebration is rapidly replaced by panic, but there's nowhere to go and you don't know how to swim. Let the sinking begin.

P.S. - The "Big Steps" in the title of this blog refer to growth and changes in my way of thinking about the world, resulting in part from a liberal arts education. I took a few big steps and before I knew it the door had slammed shut behind me.

Is ignorance bliss? Is the grass always greener? Have you ever met anyone who kept a New Year's resolution? [No.] Did they make (and break) one the year before? [Yes.] Is refusing to be sustained by an endless cycle of self-delusion a blessing or a curse?

February 03, 2007

NYC Delivery

4:45PM - Parcels parking lot, Wilmington. "Hey, Pete, how about New York?"
4:52PM - Young Conaway, Brandywine Bldg. "The box is in the mailroom."
5:07PM - Wilmington Trainstation. "You're on Track 2." Ticket: $135
5:12PM - Onboard Amtrack Acela express train for New York City, carrying a single box.
7:03PM - Penn Station, NYC. Get into cab and out of rain, trying to keep box dry. Cab: $12
7:19PM - Cab drops me off at corner of 51st West and 6th avenue, three blocks from the hotel.
7:40PM - Michelangelo Hotel, 4th floor. Addressee signs for damp box. No tip.
8:02PM - Long wait for a cab outside the hotel, finally get one. Back to Penn Station, $7.
8:15PM - Purchase return ticket ($71) for next train (9:05PM).
9:08PM - Train is rolling, Wilmington bound.
11:00PM - Back at Parcels, get ride to parking lot and drive to Newark. Home by midnight.

February 01, 2007

Joe's Pond, Vermont

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My first day working at MetroColor (Parcels' color printshop). I get in at noon, cut a few display boards and am dismissed by 4:00. To the parent's house to collect ski goggles, hats, gloves, etc. (it's going to be cold...more on that later). I forget my insulated winter boots, as well as neglect the neoprene face masks at the bottom of the ski bag. Back to Newark for packing and departure.

7:30PM, off to Phelps Lane to meet the group at the Jones house. Pete Jones is late in coming and we don't leave until 10. Stop in Upper Darby or Lower Contchy, or Baliwhowhatz Philadelphia to pick up the ubiquitous Jordan the Jew. Northwards!

5:45AM, January 26. Thursday morning, arrive at the cabin. The outside thermometer in the Jeep is reading -23 F, and I am impressed that it is calibrated to go that low. I am also wishing I had my insulated boots. The cabin is warm thanks to a previous arrival from the group, and despite being tired from the road the growing group opts to kick off the weekend by drinking into the morning. I sleep until after 5PM; the cycle begins afresh.

After dinner on Thursday we start a $10 buy in 11-handed Hold'em tournament. I feel like I am playing perfectly, and work my way into the final 5 with a decent stack - but the blinds are getting high. I have a little over 2000 chips and limp in for 100 under the gun with two Kings in the hole. The button called - I wanted him to raise - but Jordan cooperates nicely by raising to 300 from the small blind. To my delight the big blind decided to call. Now there was 800 chips in the pot, and I didn't get cute - I re-raised for all my chips. Jordan called quickly and showed me two sixes (a generally weak hand, and one that I am a 4.5:1 favorite to beat). I assure him that he's not dead yet just in time to watch a six peel off on the flop - hooray! I steam my way over to the fireplace wondering how much lift tickets at Stowe cost.

I discover Friday that the answer is $59 for a half-day pass. Tack on the $75 for two-day ski and boot rentals and the cost of additional cold weather gear and my fragile bankroll is looking pretty bleak. That 5000 chip pot last night might have enabled me to discount $60 from my travel expenses, oh well. Even during the daytime the thermometer at Stowe's summit was at 20 below zero, and I'm loving my new leggings ($35), facemask ($26), and glove liners ($18). Especially because the gondolas are not running due to extreme weather conditions. The high-speed quad ride to the top of the mountain takes a delightfully long time (big mountain), and provides amazing views of the surrounding peaks between shattering gusts of -45 degree chilly wind.

One positive aspect to skiing in such radical cold is that snow doesn't stick to clothes, which end up nice and dry. A downside (other than frostbite) is that any moisture freezes instantly. An ice scraper would have come in hands for my goggles, but despite difficult visibility the skiing was awesome. I stick to the "Vermont Blues" and am plently challenged by the intermediate slopes, but I feel good on the planks after a few years off (zero wipe-outs). Dan, Toma, Tyghe and myself get in four afternoon runs before the lifts close, Blaine bailed after one run, citing prohibitive cold. The whole group reconvenes in the lodge for a beer, capping an excellent half-day at Stowe.

The evening dinner tastes especially delicious on an empty skiing stomach, huge props to Pete Jones for the food preparations. Chicken parmesan for 18 people is no small order, and we finally ate around 8PM. I fared better in the after-dinner poker tournament on Friday, and eventually swung my way into the final two with Toma. We agreed to chop the prizes for 1st and 2nd after about a dozen hands of heads-up play. Profit: $40. Which happens to be exactly the price of a "student" lift ticket at Jay Peak, where we headed the next day...

Everyone gets up "early" on Saturday and we're out of the cabin by 10AM. The ski-rentals from yesterday are already loaded in the cars, and we head north to Jay Peak, which is near the Canadian border. I borrow Noah's University of Delaware ID and continue to make good use out of my new ski-mask at the outdoor ticket window. She never suspected a thing. The weather conditions are much more amenable today, and the skiiers in the group are more numerous today. We attack the mountain in small groups, opting for the quad lift over the long wait for the 60-person gondola ride to the summit. Five excelent runs breeze by and it's time for lunch. Bowl of chili: $5, Onion rings: $4, Bottled H20: $2, Cheeseburger: $4, Rolling Rock beer: $4. Overeating, overpaying, and loving it.

After lunch we get in line for the gondola, which gets packed to the gills with skiiers and their gear, nuts to butts. The ride to the top of the mountain is made more colorful as Jon "F-ing" Stull regales us (and everone else in the cab) with some bull words. I remember it being loud and inappropriate - derp! Incidentally, guess who snowboards. Any asinine chanting is quickly drowned out by the stark natural beauty at the peak of the mountain. The sidewinder trail that led us around the back of the moutain was amazing. Tyghe pointed out the "sundog" formed by sunlight refracting through tiny particles of frozen vapor in the air, an aparent rarity. The valley below us was completely blanketed in snow covered pines, untouched by the likes of trails and lifts and snowboarders from New York. It was an ethereal experience which I savored by skiing slowly...regretting that I had no camera. We get in a few more runs, including a rather tedious trek down "Bonzai Bonanza." For future reference, kiddies, stay away from trails with a surplus of the letter "z" in the name...