And Sweetest in the Gale, Part Two: I Thought I Saw a Cape

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the on less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

– “The Road Not Taken”, Robert Frost

Hey Gang!

Round Two! Ding, Ding!

So, I spoke about a hero of mine. My cousin. He died but is not dead. He was but still is. The man he was is not the man he is. Time and addiction are corrosive to our very being. It is the erosion of our foundation by hit after bump after tablet after drink until we are the husk of what it was that we were. Shadows cast larger than our frame show the greatness that these small bodies once held.

I tell this tale objectively as I am able. This is but an observation. It began a few days after the incident of part one. I was looking forward to meeting with him as it had been months since I had seen him last. It was a beautiful day. The sun shone bright through the skeleton-like trees and a bit of nip in the air was present as he walked up our sidewalk with his mother. This man that is before me looks like my hero. Take a photo and compare them a few years ago and it seems like it is him but I know the truth.

They come in and sit down. He begins to talk about government conspiracies and hacking groups that are monitoring him. He discusses legal issues. You never have a discussion with him when he is like this. You sit back and hold on. You try to keep up with him as his mind unleashes these thoughts and streams of consciousness that are inconsistent. Expletives fly as there is an idealization of crime and objectification of women along with the paranoia of government involvement. Reason is not there any longer and I must admit that I do not shatter this narrative fantasy in which he lives. I listen and try to accommodate. I try to be part of the reality that mental illness and prolonged drug use has helped him construct. Why do I do this? What would happen when the reality you escape to is better than it is and what would happen if that was shattered? I would rather not know.

This time to pretend is sobering to me. How did this happen? The man I looked up to, saw as a father figure in lieu of my own is now a  memory. Our lives are too similar for this disparity.

He is five years older than me and our mothers are the oldest, my mother, and the youngest girl, his mother. We were inseperable as kids. they would come over and we would play for hours. Well, he would play and I would try but I did not “play right’. So, I would watch him play with my G.I. Joes in the Ghostbuster house and watch him unfold these elaborate tales. When they left i would do the same.

Beneath his collar, I thought I saw a cape.

A tragedy happened and they came to live with us for a year or so. He taught me about everything. We talked about girls, video games, and music. He is the reason I got into music. We would lay next to one another on the floor of my small apartment and watch MTV. Hours and Hours of music television. We would sing along to it and began talking about the beauty of Nirvana. The genius of Blues Traveler. The insight of Weird Al Yankovic. The poignant nature of Garbage. These beautiful realities we discussed. He told me facts about the bands and he knew so much more than me about science and math. I would go to school and tell my teachers facts that he taught to me. They would be shocked that I knew such “advanced” things. Five years advanced, maybe?

At the tale of his shirt, I thought I saw a cape.

We got older and he began getting in trouble. So, he moved in with my grandmother and helped her. We would go out and visited them every weekend. It was the highlight of every week. He eventually got to be in high school and should have been too cool to hang out with his 13-year-old cousin, but he did not. We still were close. He began drawing these incredibly elaborate pictures. Beautifully detailed. Talent that was natural. He had the detail that artists study at specialty schools for but he never had a lesson. They were dark and comical, much like our humor. However, cracks began to show. He eventually began getting in even more trouble and decided to extract himself by going into the Navy. I cried as he left the train station. My best friend was leaving.

Beneath his white, long sleeved uniform with a flag on it, I thought I saw a cape.

Years pass and we grow apart as distance filled the gap. I talked with my aunt the whole time but I went into a phase where I started putting distance between myself and my family. I grew up. I started drawing. Music was life. I was training to go into the Navy. I made friends and we started hanging out. My cousin stayed in the Navy. He became a man. I think I began to do the same. He leaves the Navy and eventually marries. They move away and our lives begin to go different ways. I went to college where as he tried to be the family man. He tried.

I see him again, I did not see a cape.

We come back to the present. His talks about conspiracy and delusions of grandeur. I look hard for my hero. His cape fell somewhere far down the line. My hero died sometime ago. I miss him. The person who always took a step up the mountain of life just ahead of me. Now, the only steps I have are my own and it frightens me. He tells me he may go to the local community college. he tells me he wants to get his degree in information technology. I do not know if he is being truthful or if it will come to fruition but for a moment, I thought I saw a glimpse of an old, tattered cape.

When he came back, we hung out quite a bit. He would regale me with all of his life stories. Tall tales that were not tall to me. He looked at me one day as he exhaled smoke from his lungs and said, “Chris, I want to write a book one day. I’m going to tell you stuff and you write it down. Like my biography. You can be my ghostwriter.”

So, with this post, I am no ghostwriter. I have written about a ghost.

-Chris

And Sweetest in the Gale, Part One: Anatomy of a Sword

Hey Gang!

I am back! Unfortunately for you… Now you must once again listen to the ramblings of a 27-year-old that enjoys Hemingway and Fitzgerald all while having “Adventure Time” playing in the background.

Holidays are my time of year. I think once you shed that childish skin of naivety about Christmas and the existence of the man with flying reindeer, it becomes something more. It is an exalted ideology  of hope and kindness that I find to be intoxicating. I love giving in every form. It is much easier to do so during Christmas time as charities abound at your favorite markets and consumer hotspots for you to donate. I also love doing charity work, however, as I spoke of in an earlier post, individuals are not always about helping when it comes to working with a charitable organization.

Along with the holidays come family. I really do not have a close family. So, this year it was mainly communication via phone with friends and hanging out back in my home town with my mother and Sofie, of course! I felt strange at one point a few days ago. I was at a local steak joint with my mother. We had went out into the bitter cold evening air to meet with my best friends mother for dinner. She and I are pretty close as well and she is a great woman. I was excited to get to speak with her again. She had been an integral part of helping with my mother while she had her heart surgery recently (hence my absence).

So, my mother and I sit in the cold entryway of the southern-esque steakhouse. Hard wood seats line the area and young ladies put on their best fake accents with far too many “y’alls” in the mix. I sit next to my mother in a long section off to the side; it is only us and the only light comes from two large, neon signs that illuminate the darkened hall. It is incredibly loud as fake southern accents welcome person after person that enters. I am perpetually early and this occasion was no different as we were about 45 minutes early. Accross from me, illuminated by blue and red light from the Bud Light sign, is a large barrel of peanuts in the shell. I oblige myself with quite a few as a large group of individuals come in and begin sitting in the voided benches around me.

I sit down and count them: 8

They talk jovially and laugh frequently. My mother doesn’t speak as she finds conversation in public awkward. I decide Candy Crush Saga is the best alternative as I follow suit of discarding the peanut shells on the floor. It felt like, in doing so, I was doing something wrong. I imagined a man in a large hat and overalls holding a broom would come around the corner just as I dumped them in the floor. We would make eye contact just as a tear rolled down his face and I would feel the ultimate “a-hole” shame. Luckily it didn’t happen but the guilt was there. More begin to pour in as I fail once again to pass the level.

I count them: 13

There was an older woman there who was quite beautiful. The kind of beauty that you can tell was timeless. She was beautiful when she was young, she was beautiful in her twenties. Maybe she met her husband then and had two daughters. Then she was a mother in her thirties and still beautiful. Years pass and she ages, as does her beauty. Her face and kind brown eyes give one a view to a past of good things. She looks beautiful and pleasant. Her looks simply changed as we all do but there beneath the lines of worry and laughter that grow over time, you are able to see the beauty of a woman that once was and somehow still is. Somehow she shows beauty from her whole life in each facial expression. A laugh. A smile. A frown. She was someone whom Vermeer would have painted. Placid beauty. My assumption that she seemed to to have been a good person was solidified by a scream.

I count them: 15

Two women come in and scream as they run over to the older woman and hug her, yelling, “Grandma!” I see two women that identify as her daughters and the plague of grandchildren that abounded. They began chattering so loudly I could not help but laugh. They all talked at once and their individual voice became a loud hum as they joined together. They finally got a place to sit and left but I could not help but admire them. At the same time, however, I found their ways quite strange. I never felt like that to see my family. The joy and excitement I heard felt disingenuous to me but it seemed true. How foreign and strange it was.

I count them: 2

I sit and think about my family. Countries divided. Truces not truths. Swords sheathed but hand on the grip. Always one sharpened blade away from war. One comment. One thought expressed wrongly. This is what it means to be related to one another. We are at odds. We are rivals. Progeny fight the fight of those that begot them. I have decided, as expressed in other posts, to lay my sword down with this family. This is their fight, not mine.  This is family to me.

However, there was once a man that lived and died a long time ago whom I admired. Biologically he was my cousin but he was more like my brother. He was family. He was my hero.

We eventually meet with my friend’s mother and have a great time but I was plagued by the family that I saw. It made me realize how much I want that but also how much I do not understand what family is.

This is how it was until I saw what was left of my hero.

 

END OF PART ONE

 

The D.C. Diaries

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The DC Diaries

Day 1- November 21, 3:30 a.m.

              Sleep evades me. It is so quiet and still here on the lounge deck where people lay on the ground, sprawling out wherever they can. I spelt for a few moments but it was not nearly enough. Every blink of the eye feels as if sand is within it. I can’t help but remember the events of today. It was actually somewhat unremarkable. We got on the train to go to the conference in DC at around noon. My telling partner and I met a woman who was very wise and calculated when she spoke about the past in a voice that signified years of smoking. I enjoyed speaking with her right up until we got on the train. It was much more cramped than I expected but still enjoyable as my friend and I talked aimlessly. Joked about coworkers and girls. Things of that simple nature.

              We got to Union Station at about 3 pm and we waited in a terminal gate for our next train that would come at around 640.

As you know, I love people watching and this did not disappoint. There were Pennsylvania Dutch men and women that sat not too far away. Their black clothing with just hints of color beneath were interesting. I saw women with blue hair and piercing in their dimples which was actually kind of attractive if I do say so. I loved seeing individuals and meeting people just for a few sentences or a complete conversation. That one moment shared is a treasure to me. How lucky am I to share a few words with this random person, out of everyone in the world I am among a few.

              We finally board and I remember the hilarious saying that a woman said at the tiny convenience shop on the main hall: I will put two pieces of bread around her hate and make a sandwich. It cracked me up.

              The train is a monolithic superfine and I ascend the small spiral staircase to my seat. This would be home for the next 17 hours.

              Time. Time is a terrible thing when you dode over it. Which is what I have done, what I do. I nodded off for an hour or so but that was all. Now I am in that awkward twilight phase when I am not sure if sleep is worth it. Maybe I should just read and wait until the sun rises in an hour or two.

Only time will tell.

DAY 3 November 24, Midnight

My trip comes to an end as I sit here on this train with all of these sleeping bodies around me. The weekend was full of panels of people saying the mosþ interesting things. I was fascinated by the research thaþ is out there and how illuminating it was. There was something I realized though, I am not a creature that likes to mingle. I love having long conversations with friends and enjoying talks about existentialism, women, and other things of lesserorgreaterimportance. However, there are those conversations in a room full of people, static voices around you that drown out your own thoughts, this place is where you are supposed to go up to people and begin inane chatter about this or that and then move on to the next person when you realize you just don’t have much in common. I stood there with my friends in that room full of people and the two nights prior had caught up to me. Nights soaked in alcohol and beer, laughing and dancing; it was beautiful and perfect and exhausting. I drank the rest of my 7 dollar bottle of Sam Adam’s Boston Lager and made leave. I did not say good bye to everyone because, honestly, I knew I would see them soon. I went down the large escalator and out into the cold night.

I used my phone as a GPS and decided to walk back to the hotel. The sky was beautiful and clear that night. Stardust was visible as I began the three mile hike that put an end to my trip. The buildings towered over me. Monoliths lit up in the darkened sky by orange city loghts and car headlights that made their shadows move as if by themselves.

It was quiet for the first time in days. I walked over the bridge where stone lions guarded the entry way and I noticed clouds began rolling in. I walked beneath large scaffolding and when I came out, I came to a stoplight where I waited for the orange hand to turn into the white walking man. Then, I felt something cold hit my face, a speck of icy coolness. I looked up and it had begun to snow. It was somewhat refreshing to know that these white specks falling down signaled the end of the fall.

We left the next day and I must admit that I grew from the experience where my naïve nature was put to the test. I learned of the holocaust and those that suffered, I learned of good beer, better friends, and the simple, yawning quiet that befalls a city at night, even if for a moment.

-Chris

The Fall

https://i0.wp.com/www.get-frenched.com/images/fall_leaves.jpg

 

Hey Gang!

It was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. This came into direct opposition o the few hours that preceded when tornadoes whipped around the state leaving dozens homeless and thousands without power. I was walking in the large grassy backyard at my mother’s house. My dog ran back and forth enjoying the sun about as much as me. I recently got a Canon t3 and was using it feverously. I looked all around and saw everything as a potential subject. I found piles of leaves that were densely packed against the fence as wind held them there.

Sticks jammed into the ground during the storm.

Rain dripping from evergreen needles.

Sofie looking into the distance as the sun shined through her calico fur.

My mother as she took no notice to me and my antics.

All these things surrounded me and I was in awe of it all. These beautiful moments that fade with the click of a shutter. It was all so beautiful but never meant for me. It just happened. It made me think about a person I work with who could not understand me. He needs concrete and data to understand things. To understand life, he needs directions. He could not understand the way I am and I believe he judges me for that. He does not take me a sincere because I refuse to see the world in one solid plane.

He asked me once why I was so calm about a situation. Why was I not freaking out? How am I able to travel alone and so. I looked at him and I said, “I don’t know. I just am.”

I wonder about that exchange some times. Why do I look at things and see them as they are. My interpretation of the event is met with the ideology of, “This is how it is. How do I adapt?”

This idea of living life came to me that day while taking pictures. I suppose it began a few years ago when I read this book. It was insanely disgusting and I had to pretend like I had not read it but there was one line that makes me think about life and all that comes with it every time I bring the verbiage to the forefront of my thoughts.

“Like the rain, I was born to fall.”

This ominous passage is more grave in the story than what I intend it for. For me, it reminds me of life. Oscar Wild once said that youth is wasted on the young but I believe that is false based on the simple fact that our bodies are perpetually falling. Youth is a state of my and we are never young. From the moment of conception, or whenever you believe a being is created, we begin to deteriorate. We grow up and hit puberty but we are aging. We are all in a different stage of the fall but still falling.

I think there is some sort of tragic beauty in that thought. Once you realize that you are falling and always have been, it becomes easy to accept everything.

What is it that makes it easier for a calculated person to handle life? Is it the routine? The belief that stability is tangible?

Is it the idea that life is something you build? These bricks you lay with mortar slathered around them. Mortar made of reason and caution. Knowledge of peripheral concepts. Knowledge of the fringe of what it means to be.

I talk a lot about life because it means a lot to me. I always thought the way I think is how everyone does but it is not. I love to question things. I love the idea of something new and foreign.

I look at that and I look away because it is something so scary to think about. To believe that I know everything or that I have life figured out is an insult to myself.

If a child says that they are as tall as they ever will be at age 5 and never measures themselves gain is missing out on all that growth until they realize that they are taller than they thought. Then there is the surprise that comes with this acceptance of the new you.

Us. The Immortal Jellyfish drifting somewhere far away from the certainty of land. We reinvent ourselves because we go back to our youth. That feeling of being younger but never attaining that because it was never meant to be attained.

Live long.

Live well.

That day I was taking pictures. I saw something extraordinary. Things happen. They are either about to happen, happening or happen.

One person may see the wind blowing a road sign, the next may see the road sign blow down, and the last may see the blown down sign. Rarely do we see all three. Those events, much like seeing people reunite in an airport after a long time and their tearful reunion, were never meant for us. Somehow, we see it in its entirety and we know it is special.

I looked up at a branch and I watched a leaf break away from the branch as the wind blew furiously. All other leaves fell directly to the ground and tumbled along as the wind blew, this one was different. It slowly drifted and turned, flipping over and over as I saw vibrant orange and earth brown flickering at me. It hovered and dropped quickly then rose again as it continued the show. I watched in fascination.

Finally, the show stopped. The leaf came to rest on the ground and was blown along with all the other leaves but for a moment it danced in the air despite the wind or maybe because of it.

Just like the leaves, we too dance in the winds of change. That is what he does not see. He does not see the wind for something that can be used to dance and to sing praises of. He does not see that the wind is meant for us. The fall is natural and the winds are constant but fluctuate.

When you realize that you cannot get back to the branch, you begin to understand the fall and how beautiful it can be.

-Chris