Saturday, June 23, 2007


Oops, I forgot to post Thursday night. I was so exhausted, I did the work I had to do, then collapsed.

My O'Hare experience Thursday on United contributed to the exhaustion. First, they delayed my plane a bit. Okay, that happens. We board, and all seems well.

Not so fast: one of the plane's air conditioners isn't working. We sit for over an hour while they try to repair it.

No luck.

Away we go, off this plane, down to the other end of the terminal, and into an already overcrowded gate where we wait some more.

Finally, we board! The entire sold-out flight releases its breath, relaxes as the crew shuts the door, and then...

They announce we have to wait for catering.

We wait.

We finally take off. We're going to be only about an hour and fifty minutes late. Hurrah!

We land in Raleigh, taxi to the gate, grab our bags, fill the aisles, and...

wait. They can't get the jetbridge over to the plane.

Twenty minutes later, they tell us all to sit, which we do so a small vehicle can tow the plane out of our gate and into the one next to it.

I heart business travel.

Best line overhead on the plane, from a rather attractive woman with an extremely foul manner: "No, d**n it! He's doing it, and I'm going to do it! I've got forty-eight hours, and I'm going to get laid!"

Thursday, June 21, 2007

When is it not worth going to bed?

How little sleep must you be facing before you're better off just staying up all night?

I face this question more often than I like, but so far, my answer is that any sleep is better than none.

I'll be testing that answer again tonight, because I have to leave the hotel in less than four hours and I'm nowhere near ready for bed.

You know you're tired when your dreams focus on you sleeping.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Learning from Calvin and Hobbes

You can learn a lot, maybe even build a simple life philosophy, from some of the titles of the collections of Bill Watterson's wonderful Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. (If you don't already own the immense complete edition, start saving now for it, put it on your Christmas list--just find a way to get it.)

Consider: It's a Magical World. The Days Are Just Packed. There's Treasure Everywhere.

We're talking serious California-style, watered-down Zen, but in a good way.

Okay, ignore the titles with words like "homicidal" and "deranged"--or build a different philosophy with them.

The others spring to my mind at times when life presents me magic in the midst of the mundane (or worse).

Today has been a reasonably hellish interval, with plane flights and crowds and work issues and non-stop work work work. I stopped for the first time at 9:00 p.m. to take a brief walk to a shop to buy some Diet Coke and bottled water. (Portland's water is fine; I bought bottled because drinking one reminds me to stay hydrated.) I emerged from my hotel into...

...magic. Almost the longest day of the year. Perfect blue sky. Perfect temperature. Light so bright that you could read comfortably. The air tinged with the energy of summer, of growth and play and green and young and immortal.

It's a magical world.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On the road again

I head to Portland, OR tomorrow. Okay, five hours from now, but it's tomorrow to me, because I'll sleep at least a tiny bit between now and then.

I've come to quite like Portland, though all my trips there have been on business and thus have stopped me from really getting to know it. Despite the rain, which is frequent, and the overcast skies, which are the norm at least on my visits, its climate seems manageable and its vibe is good.

What I most enjoy on trips when I'm alone is the people watching. I almost always collect good stories for future use. I'll hope this trip will bring me some.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Burning with the fire

Early this afternoon, we dropped Sarah at the writers' camp where she'll live for most of the next two weeks. This year marks her fourth consecutive attendance. She loves the camp and looks forward to it all year. While she's there, she's among a different family: young women and men who all, like her, love writing, exist more than a bit outside the core of their schools, feel they don't fit in, find joy and sadness and the full range of emotions in art, and who most of all burn with the fire of ideas and passions and emotions almost impossible to express.

Sarah tries to explain it to us, but I'm sure she's convinced we don't understand.

At one level, we don't, because we're not there. Each human's experience is unique, each moment a fresh bit of magic that will never occur again, and we can no more know the heart of another than we can swim in the center of the sun.

At a different level, though, we do, at least some of us do, because we've been there. We were young, and our passions burned us, too. Everything was both possible and impossibly magical and far away and frustrating and out of our control and bound to be better and different when we were in control.

Do you know the game in which someone makes you close your eyes and answer truthfully, with the first number to pop into your mind, the simple question: on the inside, how old are you? I'm sixteen. Always will be.

At sixteen I thought I would change the world for the better. Songs, books, movies, poems, stories, pictures--art of all sorts--threatened to rip my heart from my chest. Each flame of passion flickered so hotly and so brightly that I could scarcely approach it--and yet I had no choice but to stand in them all, each and every one. I was so intense few could stand to be near me.

I'm now the older, slightly wiser, mellow me, and if you know me you probably find the mere confluence of the words "mellow" and "Mark" to be hilarious. I work to be calmer, more controlled, more adult, a decent parent, partner, colleague, lover, friend--whatever role I'm playing at the moment. I teach safe sex to my children--and I mean it, don't have unprotected sex!--and I try to help them reach adulthood and have happy, successful lives.

At night, though, when I'm alone in my office, writing, or sometimes when I'm trying to sleep, I open my heart to sixteen again. I am sixteen again. I rage at the idiots hurting our world, I lash out at those who want to turn other people into beings less than human, I shadowbox with the demons of my lifetime of failures, I wrestle with all my might with my constant sense of inadequacy from giving those I love and who depend on me so much less than they need. The demons and I go to war. I play music, and my heart breaks with love or sadness or hope or joy. I read passages that move me. I stare at art that shakes my core.

I burn, burn, burn.

So, my advice to Sarah and her friends is simple: soak up this time and store it as you must to get you through the coming days of normal life. None of us can sustain the heat day in and day out for all the moments of our lives, but when you get the chance to join hands with those who feel as you do, do it, dive in with all you have, and wring all the joy and art you can from these precious weeks. Stand in the magical fire of art and passion and the collective might of those like you, and burn with it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Things that piss me off

Proprietary cell phones. You buy a PC or a Mac, you enter an open wireless network, and it works. If you enter a for-pay network, you sign up, pay, and everything works.

Buy most cell phones, however, and the experience is entirely different: the thing works only with one carrier's network. Want an iPhone? Better love AT&T. Want a particular Windows Mobile 6.0 smartphone? Better plan on changing to its carrier.

Yeah, I understand the history and the business model, but plenty of useful alternatives exist that would not cost the carriers money.

Different phones from different vendors, different feature sets on the same phone from different vendors--it's stupid, and it pisses me off.


Blog Archive