Journal Archives - August, 2001
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August 2, 2001 ... The Baxil Weekly Name-Drop: Yep! A BWND! Remember those? I hit a baker's dozen back last November, and decided that the concept was starting to bore me. But I'm feeling sufficiently retro today, and I have enough names to drop, that my journal is again (temporarily) going to read like a local newspaper's gossip column. (I've never understood those, aside from the reader's fascination at seeing their name in print, no matter how poorly contexted or meaningless. But then, most of my exposure to gossip columns came from being forced to read through them as a copy editor -- a pitiable, underpaid man faced with nothing but solid lists of names which were impossible to spell-check, had to be hand-formatted into bold print, and inspired within me the urge to chuck the editing station out the window.)
Over the last week, I've actually managed to keep up on all of the people on my LiveJournal friends list ... at the expense of such insignificant things as, oh, my e-mail inbox. It has really driven home Aahz's Truism for me: "I don't have enough time for all the cool people I know, let alone all the cool people they know." Yes, all of the people I keep up with on LJ are cool, but ... wait, what? You want a list of my LJ friends? You've got to be fscking kidding. Didn't you read that first paragraph? Remember that little stipulation about "solid lists of names" and "hand-formatted into bold print"? ... I'm getting flashbacks here. Don't push me. Editor rage is not a pretty thing.
Uhm, anyway. On Saturday, I actually got out of bed before noon (that wasn't a name, merely strong emphasis) in order to get to a Seattle Dragons gather at the Seattle Center. I would have made it on time, too, if I hadn't gotten tied up in a last-second e-mail to Kylee and consequently missed the bus I wanted by a few minutes. At the bus stop -- and on my way downtown -- I sat next to a nameless woman and her preschool-age son; I inferred from snippets of their conversation that they were of Native American descent, and heading downtown to catch the ferry. My summary judgment of the woman as a harsh, cold parent -- she was talking quite crossly to the child while at the bus stop -- had to be thrown out the window when I heard her tell him a story about a boy who wanted to fly in response to her son's disparaging comment about it being impossible for his mom to live to a thousand years old. This boy, said she, was much like her tyke, very smart and dedicated. All the grown-ups were saying that people flying couldn't be done, but the boy really believed that he could -- and (to make a long story short) one day he built some wings and off he went. So, the woman concluded, don't ever say that anything is impossible. I wanted to applaud.
I'd have gotten a great Tomorrowlands story out of that one -- if I didn't already have something eerily similar in my story file, waiting to be written. Life imitates Art, I suppose. Even though my name's not Arthur.
So I made it to the Seattle Center, only slightly late (but better than usual), and met Breimh, Purrzah, Digi, Wyvern, Rayanth and Cray (visiting from out of state), Technodragon, and Z. (Tarpan was supposed to show up later in the day, but ultimately ended up missing her ferry.) The nine of us talked, wandered around, retired to a pizzeria several blocks away for lunch, and hit the midway.
There was a booth with a multi-player shoot-the-pikachu game thingy, and one of the prizes you could win was -- get this -- ky00t little plush Spyro the Dragon dolls! The nine of us gravitated to it like free electrons to a positive magnetic monopole, and resolved to spend enough money at the booth to get a Spyro for everyone who wanted one. First, eight of the nine of us played a single everyone-in game (the size of what you won was dependent on the number of players), and Cray took the prize, some two feet tall, prompting speculations on just how he was going to get the thing home. (Carry-on luggage?)
Some lively discussion about the most cost-efficient way to win dolls -- and some cheerful cluing in of the booth attendant, who was entirely ignorant of the whole Spyro phenomenon, and probably thought it was just another Pokemon character -- later, and we took our six prizes (average cost, amortized over everyone who played: some $6 apiece) and wandered away. I challenged all comers to a game of air hockey, as usual, and Wyvern stepped to the plate -- promptly, and quite unnervingly, kicking my scaly tail 7-5 (and 7-3 on the rematch). He was a solid wall on defense. I think I'm losing my touch.
The rest of the gather mostly consisted of walking, photographing the pig statues that have crept into downtown Seattle like a cockroach infestation, walking, animated discussion, and walking. (We hiked down to the ferry terminal to meet Tarpan, except that she never made it.) Back at the Seattle Center, the gathering split up by mutual consensus of tiredness, and I wandered into the sparsely-populated arcade to check out the Dance Dance Revolution machine I'd spotted earlier.
To make a long story short, I played seven games. I only humiliated myself four times -- once when a toddler wandered onto my pad right as the song was starting, and I had to stop, physically pick him up and move him away from the danger zone, and reorient (by which time I was already dead, and to make matters worse, couldn't even pick up the beat enough to make a decent showing of myself for the rest of the song). I worked my way up to where I was consistently losing on the three-footstep difficulty level, and even attracted a crowd once (although it was obvious that they were there more because of the inherent fascination of the game than because of any skill on my part). Not bad for my first seven games ever.
Of course, I had to sneak away when the real experts arrived -- some Asian kids who cranked the difficulty level up to seven, in "Tricky" instead of "Normal" mode, and with the instructions disappearing halfway up the screen. It was like watching a sabre dance at times, I tell you. (Incidentally, one of the Northwest's regional DDR champions is a furry whom Wyvern knows; I imagine that if I ever watch him go through his paces, I'll swear off the game in shame.)
As arcade games go, Dance Dance Revolution is just that -- a revolution. It's something genuinely, honest-to-gosh new, and a great leap forward in gaming (if only because it encourages physical fitness as well as reflex). I heartily support the concept, and I don't mind having fed over five bucks into it at a sitting, something I can say for very few games ever. (The classic two-joystick tank game Assault would be one of the few others -- although it's not revolutionary so much as damn enjoyable.)
Yesterday night, I took advantage of Antwon's monthly "Talk to me so that I can use up my cell phone minutes!" calling spree. It was well after midnight, and correspondingly strange. I don't remember much of the conversation, except that we were being exceptionally geeky and highly entertaining (at least, there was much laughter involved on both ends, and I don't recall being more sleep-deprived than usual, so I have to assume so); and we made some promise that we'd start a chain of meta-postings about the phone call, roping in other people to make posts about our posts about the call, and so on and so forth, so that we could build up a "meta-posting streak" to rival Twon's "daily site update" streak. Yep. All part of my evil plot to take over the world by filling Twon's BBS with therianthropes, and I'll figure out just how this fits into my evil plot ... uhm ... sometime next Tuesday. Mwa ha ha!
Tonight, Erin came home! Yay! As she's pointed out repeatedly in her journal, she's been in the hinterlands of California's north coast for a month, doing such exciting things as "painting her folks' house" and "walking Dopey the dog partway to the beach" -- but now she's home, and I was able to give her the Spyro doll I won as a welcome-home present, and she brought back some silver rings in our respective sizes that we can craft into what-would-be-wedding-rings-if-we-were-able-to-get-married, and, and, and, I've run out of words except for the bin filled with the part of speech that "and" is a part of. So I'll just boldify some random phrases to preserve the succulent flavor of the BWND, realize that I'm so sleep-deprived that I shouldn't be trusted with a keyboard, and get myself into bed.
August 3, 2001 ... I find myself explaining this point every few months on one forum or another, so I figured I might as well put down the definitive story, for posterity.
Who is Baxil?
Baxil, best pronounced through human throats as (bach-HEEL), is me. Baxil is a name. It refers to the person who I am now -- the sum of all of my parts. The man behind the mask, and even the mask itself (my human name goes on tax forms and employment documents, but nearly everyone calls me Bax in physical life).
Baxil is not, nor ever was, nor ever will be, a role-playing character. Baxil is not a name that I went by in a past life. Baxil is not a rejection of "right here, right now": Baxil is an affirmation of its importance, a commitment to face life openly and honestly, not holding back who I am from those whose lives I touch.
Baxil is a title. Baxil -- and if you're still pronouncing it "back-sill" mentally, correct yourself NOW, before it gets any further ingrained -- is a word from a dragon language meaning "beloved." Once, thousands of years ago, I was known as Baxil Pridus of Kaloth. I am no longer Pridus (although there are certainly a few old dragons out there who treat me as though I am); I did not take my name because of my past.
I first called myself Baxil about a decade ago. I was in high school at the time, and involved with my first girlfriend Diane. Even at the time, I was open about my draconity -- although it hadn't yet achieved the level of certainty that it has today, and the closest approach I made was "The best explanation for the way I am is that I am a dragon in spirit." One night, Diane and I were laying on her driveway, looking up at the stars, and the subject came up of, well, if I was a dragon in spirit, did I have a dragon name? I admitted that I didn't know, and she turned to me, and said, "Baxil. That's your name." It felt immediately right. All of the details on its meaning and derivation came later. Diane was quite amused when I told her that it meant "beloved". As was I. And I find it a very touching and immediate reminder that I am constantly surrounded by people who love me.
I am the original Baxil; accept no imitations. There is a Bazil in the dragon community (possibly more than one), who is not me, and who was very likely named after Christopher Rowley's "Bazil Broketail". (No, Rowley's book is not my namesake; see the story above.) There are apparently some humans named Baxil out there -- you can find mention of them if you do a web search on my name -- although it is my understanding that all of the living ones are overseas and not currently online. There is a "Baxil Hall" on a campus in Scotch Plains, N.J., although I don't know the story behind that name (my only source for it is here). I am not associated in any way with Bax Moving Company, out of California, or Baxil Septic & Excavating, in Parkman, Ohio. There is a "Baxil the Ferret" who once lived at an adoption agency somewhere in the continental United States (there used to be a webpage about that Baxil, but the link is long dead); this ferret was apparently named after me (the original owner responded to my query by saying they'd "seen the name online somewhere, and thought it was neat").
And ... you know what? They're right. Baxil is a pretty neat thing to be.
I'm going to observe a minute of silence when I get up in the morning, and pray that we can all someday overcome man's inhumanity to man.
August 7, 2001 ... I feel like I should be writing something here ... if only because it's been two days since I last updated.
Boy, you start off a journal entry that way, and it never turns out well.
I just don't feel like I have anything to write about at the moment. Last month's burst of journal inspiration is sinking back into its typical lull. So ... uhm ... random bits about what's going on in my life.
First of all, hopefully the job search is getting back on track this week. It's helped a lot to have Erin home. Her being here, and being so visibly motivated about work (not that others in the house aren't, but there's that visibly thing; I cue off of Erin much more than I cue off of the roommates), might be the kick in the pants I need. I just want a job, dammit. I'd rather be mopping bathrooms than looking for work. I don't mind the free time of unemployment at all -- I'm feeling rather productive -- but the process of looking for a job is in itself a job, one with three huge disadvantages:
I've been playing through the Playstation game "Alundra" lately, and I finished it tonight; I'm slowly burning through the small rush of satisfaction this has given me. I know this isn't exactly going to be a shining star in my highlights of Earth life ("Accomplishments: Discovered a cure for AIDS; served two terms as governor of the Federation of the Americas; finished the Playstation game 'Alundra'"), but hey, take your victories where you find them.
Other than that, life has seemed ... isolated. I haven't heard more than a sentence or two from Kylee since she left for the weekend on Friday (and returned, presumably on Sunday night); I haven't heard more than a sentence from Ssthisto since ... uhm ... last month. I've gotten a chance to catch up in detail with Erin, which is good, because otherwise I'd be going stir-crazy. I think I'm in one of my rare social moods. I've even answered some e-mail since the weekend. (Wow.)
Well, off to work on some TTU stuff before I go to bed; plenty of new material around the corner. Hopefully, the same will be true of my nonfiction as well.
August 10, 2001 ... My younger sister got in a car accident this morning.
She's OK. The car, actually, is fairly OK -- the front end got smashed, much like in my collision, but she was driving a big ol' demon of a van, and from what I hear the damage didn't go much beyond the bumper. On the other hand, the car that she ran into suffered over $2,500 worth of damage. She's also been facing a string of personal problems which I don't want to get into here, but it was the car crash that brought everything to a head.
Things are starting to go well here in Seattle; Myles picked up a part-time job (one night a week) on site at Microsoft recently, I'm feeling productive, Erin's home with some (quite inspirational) new resolve, and in general I'm getting cautiously optimistic again that I/we are going to be able to break out of this streak of unbroken crap.
And then I hear about my sister.
It feels like coincidence -- not directed coincidence, probably not even meaningful coincidence. But I can't help but be frustrated. When I have to deal with crap, it's not too bad in the long run, because they're *my* problems and *my* solutions and the only person I'm hurting if I screw up is myself; but when things go wrong around me, when I'm faced with someone else's problems and the best that I can do is to be strong for them ... I hate it.
I'm of a temperament that wants to see problems fixed. It hurts me when all I can say is "Life sucks, and I'm here if you want to talk." I feel like I haven't done my job -- that if there's a possibility of healing wounds, it is not sufficient for me to stand around and hand out Band-Aids. Even when that's the best possible thing for me to do.
I hate cheering people up. I hate giving advice. I hate to reassure. I hate it when all I do is give someone a brief boost, and they walk away feeling better but no closer to a solution. I know in my heart that I have helped, but it often doesn't feel like I've done a thing.
Those are all sacrifices that I will gladly make for my friends and loved ones, because I write off that effort in the cause of the goal of "make people I love happy," but it's a sacrifice that I cannot maintain over the long term, because it leaves me empty, and because I need to know that they don't need me to be strong. I cannot be strong for people when I am going through a crisis, and I know that that's going to happen to me every so often, and I can't deal with the thought of not having the strength to help a friend when they really need it. I can't set myself up for failure that way.
August 11, 2001 ... I have just discovered, to my infinite delight, that Final Fantasy Tactics has been re-released as a "Playstation Greatest Hits" disc; and whereas a week ago you couldn't find a copy for love or money (the game being long since out of print), you can now buy one for $20 new.
I have also discovered, to my extreme dismay, that the discs don't work.
I must be patient ... I will be patient ... it's only a matter of time before the problem is fixed. And then I will be able to disappear for several weeks down into the basement to play and re-play one of the greatest games ever made.
And then my crack team of teleporting ninja calculator mage knights will once again be able to rampage into the final boss' chamber and kill her AND all her minions before they could even attack (not only that, but the only one who even got a chance to move was the boss herself, and only once). Mwa ha ha ha ha.
Okay, I'll stop drooling now.
August 12, 2001 ... My mind works in mysterious ways sometimes, and it seems like the universe is often equally inscrutable.
For some reason, while I was cooking tonight (making macaroni and cheese, naturally), a long-lost verse from the children's song "Yankee Doodle" kept running through my head:
Yankee Doodle on the grassI also had some puzzling dreams. Rather, one long, continuous puzzling one (which occurred after I woke up, turned off my alarm clocks, decided that I had insufficient incentive to get out of bed, and went back to sleep -- a state of affairs which deprives me of a great deal of time, but leads to very memorable, easily remembered, and often lucid dreams). Most of it involved a long, heroic quest to find a parking place for my roommate's grey car, for which I did not have the ignition key -- hence I spent most of the dream pushing the car around the city (often in dragon form; the better to get leverage with, especially with some of the San Francisco-esque hills I conquered).
It took me a while to get the car off of the shoulder of the freeway and onto the city streets. Once that was accomplished, a random police officer happened by, and I attempted to enlist his aid in finding a spot for the vehicle; the advice he gave me didn't help me accomplish my task, but he was being generally helpful, so I paid him back by going into his house and helping him to fix his VCR remote.
See, he had two black VCR remotes -- very similar looking, except that one of them had white highlights (and was more complex) and one of them had red highlights (and fewer controls). For some reason, the red-trimmed one was working and the white-trimmed one wasn't. He wanted to use the white-trimmed one. So I took a look at them both. The red remote had some button labeled roughly "Exclusive Remote Lock." The light next to it was on. I pushed the button, disabling it, and the other remote started working. I checked the white remote; it also had a similar toggle (which was off), saying the same thing but in highly obfuscated language. I then handed the remotes back to him and told him that that button had been the problem. The cop started to get worried, though, because his iMac was hooked up to the TV as well, and he was worried that what I had done would prevent him from getting on the Internet. I had to try to convince him that, no, allowing other remote controls to work wasn't going to modify his TCP/IP stack. At some point he just seemed to accept that things would be OK (which was fine, because he wasn't understanding a word of the techspeak I was saying), and I left to resume my parking space journey.
Finally, I managed to find a spot in a little side street halfway up the town's big central hill. Just as I pushed the car into the space (in dragon form and perched on top of the car, reaching inside with one forepaw to turn the wheel, one hindpaw pushing off against the pavement to keep us moving), my roommate Sarah and an unrecognized boyfriend of hers walked up. They seemed happy to see that I'd brought their car back for them (after all, I had found it at a rest stop a few miles into the mountains). The boyfriend tried to unlock the driver's door so that he could get in and drive away, except that (since I was still perched on top of the car) my wing was blocking the door, and he stuck his key into that instead. So I obligingly mimicked a little "creeek" noise and swiveled my wing up and out of the way.
What can you say about a dream in which someone unlocks your wing?
Finally, it seems like someone Up There (for some value of "Up" not necessarily limited to an arbitrary "Heaven", but rather indicating generally "within that place whence the universe is controlled") took notice of the rant I posted two days ago, in which I grumbled about how much I hate (consoling/giving advice to/etc) other people. So what happens this afternoon? An acquaintance of mine attempts suicide, recovers, and posts about it on hir journal, and consequently I spend upwards of three hours writing this person a long, involved e-mail full of moral support and advice. Moral of the story: Baxil is a hypocrite.
Well, actually, the moral of the story is that Baxil needs to choose his words carefully and make certain that his point comes through clearly. I was trying to convey two days ago that what I hate about support-giving isn't the act itself (and every minute of those three hours was a willing sacrifice), but the feeling of helplessness that comes from doing one's best and not even knowing if the effort will make enough difference. Or, worse, when it doesn't.
My philosophy is that I do not intervene in other people's lives with the goal of changing the outcome. I attempt to help others find the things they may have overlooked, or find fresh perspective on something they've long since lost to routine, or gain resolve to tackle a challenge they hadn't thought themselves worthy of. But the fact remains that I do try to help other people because I perceive imperfections (nobody's perfect, after all, and I certainly hope that others are kind enough to approach me about mine), and I offer a hand because, like every other sapient being ever, I have the hubris to say, "I think I can offer something to make your situation better." It's inescapable to have some degree of entanglement when you get involved. I think that's a good thing. But it also leads to pain when that entanglement is rejected.
I choose my battles carefully. I'm pretty good at finding people who my viewpoints are in sync with, and whose situations my advice/perspective is likely to affect positively. I'm very aware that the way I think isn't for everyone, and I'm extremely adamant about not forcing my ideas at others. But friendship can't be balanced like a checkbook, and occasionally I will try to help a friend, and my intervention will do nothing (or not enough), despite my burning desire to help. That's what I hate.
That, and the idea that one of my friends is hurting in the first place, that there is pain there for me to attempt to treat, and that even when I do help out, it's not enough to solve the problem. Any simplification into an essay is going to necessarily lose some of this, and so my only real recourse is to snarl ineffectually at the English language, and to continue to wish for a perfect world where none of the people I care about ever has to hurt again.
August 13, 2001 ... Today, nothing really changed.
I still don't know what I was waiting for
Today, I felt frustrated. Disappointed. But not hurt. Never once hurt.
Today, I felt loved.
Today, I cried.
Today, I found resolution.
Today, someone kicked my self-built cage, and showed me its back door. It wasn't the exit I wanted, but it still leads out.
I watch the ripples change their size
Today, I did not lose anything. (You cannot lose what you do not have. The things I have, I am glad were not lost.)
Today, I was reminded of just how valuable one who is "only" a friend can be -- how much they can mean to me. You know who you are. Thank you again.
Just gonna have to be a different man
Today, I cleaned my mental slate. I left the space once occupied by those lost expectations open; I will gradually fill it with new dreams.
Tomorrow, I will wake up without a moon, and be able to see the stars.
(Lyrics: David Bowie, "Changes")
August 16, 2001 ... Seattle has settled into a long, lazy Indian summer. The weather for the last several days has been perfect. After a week or two of what might charitably be called a "heat wave" (which is to say, there was actual sweating involved, and I felt just as comfortable in shorts as in slacks), it's settled down into a steady distillation of sunshine, temperatures in the 70s, and a light breeze keeping air circulating through the open doors of our house.
It's warm enough that I feel comfortable, which is no small feat for someone 6'4" and 170 pounds who lives closer to the pole than the equator. It's cool enough that I don't have to put up with the continual whining of the weather wimps who think that 80 degrees is an excuse to collapse on the floor in a puddle. The skies promise more of the same. This beats the pants off of weeks of continual rain, let me tell you.
As I've remarked to several friends, I'm with Blues Traveller on this one: "When people think of holidays, they think of cold weather. 'Let's spend this frozen wonderland together.' Not me, I'm into warmer days."
I think it's a measure of how much I love Seattle that the weather is the only thing that gets on my nerves. Seattle, for all its charm, is a sprawling metropolis of one and a half million people. It is urban. I don't have room to swing my tail without hitting someone's leg. But it's grown on me nevertheless. The Emerald City has managed to successfully transform me into a city dweller; no small feat given my preferences for solitude.
August 18, 2001 ... The fact that this is going to sound abrupt to most of you just indicates that I've failed somehow. That I'm not putting myself on this page enough for you to have seen it coming. Or that I'm more erratic of a person than I admit, that I'm not as strong as I need to be.
No fewer than four of my seven housemates have asked me in the last few days if everything's OK, or if I'm angry with them, or just the all-inclusive "What's wrong?" when I've tried to interact with them. I haven't been actively hostile. I haven't even been particularly emotional about anything. In several cases I've gotten that reaction just from staring into space in someone's general direction. The worst part is, nothing is wrong, which just means that I don't fucking know what is wrong that I'm coming across so sullenly. I take that back: The worst part is that I just don't seem to care. I don't care. Nothing matters.
Erin chewed me out this morning for slipping back into a night schedule. Yeah. I struggled and squawked and made a good-faith effort earlier this week, and I was getting myself up at 10 AM for a few days, and that slipped to setting my alarm clock for 10 AM and sleeping through it, and that slipped to staying up until 4 or 6 or sunrise, and suddenly last night I was playing Diablo II when she got up in the morning. She chewed me out over my lack of motivation in the job search, too. She's right. But I don't know if I even care enough to be guilt-tripped. Right now, my general attitude is, "I fucked up. So?" Apparently I'm content to let myself fuck up and stay there. I don't really feel like there's anything better to look forward to. You were asking if this was self-sabotage, love. There you go.
I still don't have a job. I haven't even been really trying to find one. I mean, I have, but it's the sort of half-hearted bullshit that stops just short of picking up the phone. It's not a problem strictly of laziness -- when I am working, I don't have issues with staying that way -- but one of inertia. To use an analogy, I'm at just exactly the wrong angle to be able to kick myself in the ass. I don't know how other people manage it. (I don't think they do. I think there's always something outside of them, looming over their heads, some threat that kicks their ass for them, and they take the credit later. If I'm wrong, you know where to correct me.) ... And nothing else has hurt me enough to make me sit up and take notice.
That's the long and short of it, really. I don't care. I just don't fucking care. I've been going through the motions for ... I don't know ... some really long time now. I've been updating my journal, talking with friends, dealing with the world not because I want to but because there's some inner voice saying that I should. It's all the same to me whether I do or not; I've just spent almost two days straight immersed in a video game, and it doesn't feel any different from wandering around the house and talking to people (except that I don't get worried looks and people asking me irritating questions about whether I'm OK).
It worries some small part of me that, right now, I can't even compare friendship favorably to sitting in my room with the lights off curled up in a ball. I'm becoming my (spiritual) father; after his mate died, he basically did just that, and now doesn't even acknowledge the outside world any more. The few times I've visited, I could faintly hear him screaming, alone, inside his walls, far too thick for him to even notice I was there. I've always feared becoming that. Now I don't even care that that seems where I'm destined to go.
I thought about suicide ... I won't. You know why? Because it's more trouble than just keeping on. I would have too many people to say goodbye to, too many plans to make. It would be too much of a pain telling all of my loved ones that I'm leaving, and dealing with their protests and trying to get me to change my mind, yadda yadda. That's what's keeping me here right now. There's nothing else I want to do that's enough to justify all of this. That's the level of apathy I've sunk to.
Consider this a cry for help. I'm too numb to drag myself out of this pit any more. What would help would be someone else to care for me. What I want is for someone else to do all of my caring, so that I don't have to, so that I can just get on with my life knowing that I've always got that passion to draw on if I need it ... intellectually, I know that is completely counterproductive, but right now it's got to be the first step; I've got to have people around me to care, because I can't get in touch with my own ability to do so. I need someone to connect with me. It won't be easy, but it would be nice knowing others are making the attempt.
Tell me what makes this all worth it. Share your fire. Right now, I'm ash.
I'm off to go do something spontaneous; it's a dumb idea, but I'm in just the right frame of mind to be amused by it and not to really care about the consequences. (It doesn't involve anything too stupid; I care enough to want to come back and read what replies I get from this post.) See you all in a few hours.
UPDATE: I walked six miles and had a little adventure, which I will write up tomorrow. I'm now tired and need to sleep, but would like to extend a group thank-you to all of the people who have already responded; I'm sincerely touched by the amount of support and good advice I've received. Now, off to get eight hours straight sleep for the first time in a week.
August 19, 2001 ... So. Yesterday afternoon, I threw myself into Lake Washington.
If you read yesterday's post and got concerned about my stability, this may seem like cause for significant worry. But please don't; it's not what you think. I suppose the best way to explain is to reassemble the story from the four pages of notes I took during the adventure ...
3:40 PM, Saturday, Aug. 18. Having just written my journal entry and posted a friends-only pointer to it on my LiveJournal account, I consider the merits of the Really Stupid Idea that popped into my head while I was getting my angst out into the written word. Namely, to go and walk into Lake Washington (closer than the ocean, and equally big, wet and chilly), fully clothed, and walk home wet. It strikes me as ... well ... something to do for an afternoon. Something dumb to do, but not too dumb. A way to get out of the house instead of staring at the computer screen waiting for replies to trickle in.
4:20 PM. I finish shaving and packing -- part of the experience is walking home cold and wet, but I want to take with me a bare minimum of extra clothing so that if it's colder than expected, I won't collapse of hypothermia -- then throw a handkerchief into the backpack for reasons not quite clear to me, and walk out the door. Tim notices me walking out of the house with my backpack, and says, "See you later."
4:25 PM. I walk back in and grab my paper journal and a few hair ties. "You always forget something," I explain to Tim apologetically.
I walk down to 45th Street and down the bridge -- ramp? -- connecting the university hill with the level plains to the east. Several times, I look over the edge. Most of the bridge is 50 to 100 feet above ground level. It gives me vertigo. I calm myself by imagining wings on my back, and that I'm not really standing on a flimsy human structure at a height where a fall could be fatal. I find myself wishing I could turn off my awareness of gravity to heighten the illusion.
I reach the intersection where 45th Street turns into Sand Point Way, and notice something that looks like a railroad bridge crossing above a nearby side street. I decide to investigate -- heck, what's a five-minute detour on a walk this long? It turns out to be not for a train track, but a bicycle path roughly paralleling Sand Point. This is far more appealing than walking on the street, and I hike up onto it and walk there.
I'm walking and writing in my journal when I'm distracted by blackberry bushes by the side of the path. There are ripe blackberries on the bush! As I haven't had anything to eat yet today, I grab a few, find that they're as good as I remember, and get a sudden inspiration: While I'm here, I might as well pick some blackberries to take home to the roommates. Hey ... I've got a handkerchief in my backpack! I fold it into a makeshift bag, and start picking.
5:30 PM. I've got a good double handful of berries; I glance at the watch I threw into my bag, and decide it's about time to start walking again.
So why am I doing this? is the thought occupying my mind for most of the walk. I write out a big list of ideas:
At some point I begin to be concerned that the bike path isn't going the way I want to walk, and find my way back out to Sand Point Way. The walk stretches out into timelessness, and I wonder just how much city is in between me and the water; I'd thought the university was right next to the lake's edge!
6:25 PM. I finally reach the entrance to Magnuson Park (Sand Point Way and 65th Street; far further north than I remembered it being). I walk to the water, and start looking for a secluded spot -- it wouldn't do to have people think I was committing suicide, and try to "rescue" me, and cause a big scene.
I find a nice grove of trees just to one side of the picnic area -- but it's completely visible from a thin arc of the path, and the shore there is poor. I walk on. I'm vaguely surprised at the large number of groups there having picnics, until I remember that it's Saturday; I'm genuinely surprised by how overwhelmingly Latino the picnickers are. Where are the yuppies?
I walk along the shore, and finally find a secluded trail through some thick undergrowth. After passing by an occupied clearing (startling a man who was taking a break from his newspaper reading to urinate in the bushes), I struggle past some blackberry bushes and find a lovely glade with a little seven-foot cliff overlooking a thin beach.
6:48 PM. I set down my backpack and my handkerchief of blackberries -- which has suffered a few concussions during my travel, and is beginning to bleed dark red berry juice all over everything I put it down on -- and contemplate the water. The plan seemed so simple: Reach the lake, walk out (not just jump in; it has to be done step by step) until my whole body is submerged, walk out again wet, go home. Now I'm staring at a wind-whipped shoreline with foot-high waves breaking on the rocks at the base of the mini-cliff, trying to figure out just how far I'll have to walk to submerge my body (the lake floor doesn't seem terribly steep), and wondering what the point of this whole exercise was ever meant to be; I could simply walk home with blackberries and call it a day, and nobody but me would know.
It doesn't hit me until I'm actually sitting there looking at the water: I'm doing this, I had been doing this from the beginning, to see if I was going to chicken out. The walk into the lake metamorphosizes into my job search in microcosm: relatively brief, unpleasant, producing unsatisfying results. The job search, I remember, is necessary -- and thus, this is necessary too. Am I capable of a commitment to something so thankless, pointless and unpleasant? I'm facing my self-doubts, and I have to find out.
So much for this being a pointless get-out-of-the-house activity with no deeper meaning. (sigh) Damn my subconscious mind for having a reason for this all along. On the other hand, it did prompt me to bring a handkerchief, so I got blackberries to bring home, so I can't hate it completely.
6:50 PM. I finish scribbling that revelation down in my journal and walk back to the cliff.
6:53 PM. Nothing inspires like impending unpleasantness, apparently. I have Toad the Wet Sprocket's "Walk on the Ocean" stuck in my head, and I'm mentally filking it -- sitting and staring at the water while rewriting the lyrics to fit my situation. I get as far as transforming the chorus into "Walk in the ocean / Step through the sea / Something something water / Something like 'follow your dreams'," and realize that I'm stalling.
6:57 PM. I finish scribbling all that down in my journal and return to the water's edge.
6:58 PM. What the hell was I thinking?
6:59 PM. Company. Some lady wanders by, notices me scribbling in the glade, wanders to the cliff where I've been watching the water, and makes a show of looking around. I'll have to postpone anything until she wanders out of sight. (sigh)
7:00 PM. She's left. It's now or never, big guy.
7:01 PM. The lady is long gone, and I'm psyched up. I return to the cliff, and climb down to the water's edge. A wave breaks over my shoe, and I know that I'm now committed to this. I take my first step into the lake. I had been expecting some sort of sub-arctic shock, I suppose, and instead just get a vague sense of cold and a sudden flood of wet. I walk laterally a few steps to avoid some ugly debris on the lake floor, and turn to walk straight out from the shore.
7:02 PM. The fear hits as the water level reaches waist deep. (The water is still nowhere near as cold as I was expecting.) I can no longer make out the lake floor through the water ahead of me, and every step becomes a test of faith against pure swirling uncertainty. I hadn't expected this. Some primal center of my brain is shouting at me that any step from here on out might be the one that goes off the edge of a yawning glacial abyss, that my water-burdened clothing will get seized by merciless gravity and I'll plunge like a stone into the anonymous depths, that goddamn it Bax, we are going to FUCKING DIE and THIS WASN'T IN THE AGREEMENT and STOP, STOP, I DON'T CARE WHAT ELSE YOU DO, JUST STOP and then simply resorts to vetoing any conscious decision to move my legs forward and by then I'm chest-deep in the water and I can't possibly take another step even though my brain is saying come on we need to keep walking just until we get to the neck and then you can duck down and get fully immersed and it'll be over but NO the instincts shout LAKES AREN'T MADE FOR WALKING THEY'RE MADE FOR SWIMMING AND WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TRUSTING GROUND YOU CAN'T EVEN SEE and the fear overwhelms me. I throw myself forward, because it's that or stop. I am submerged, and there's a moment of complete loss of motion, total and utter inertia, strange currents swirling around me but in complete stillness with nothing solid existing in the universe, and then I'm twisting around madly and my flailing arms and kicking legs drive me to the surface, and I gasp in a breath of sweet air and stare at the blessed cliff of salvation, and keep swimming until I'm damn sure I'm close enough to shore again that I won't swing my legs down and not find solid ground, and my shoes touch rock and my heart soars. I walk back in to where it's only knee-deep, and stand there realizing that I just struggled and ... well, not triumphed, but at least survived ... against something far deeper and more primal than I'd ever intended this to confront.
My mouth is so dry that it hurts to move my tongue.
I stand motionless and trembling, which sounds like an oxymoron but really isn't if you've ever been in that position. The wind seeps through my clothing and I get the first taste of the chill I had been expecting. I crouch down into partial submersion again, and the water is much warmer than the air, and I actually leave it (and climb the cliff) with some reluctance.
7:03 PM. Back in the glade, where the trees provide a slight windbreak. I'm shivering crazily, my handwriting is for shit (and I'm dripping all over the journal), and all I can think is, "FUCK!" (In capital letters. With the exclamation point.)
7:04 PM. Even though the motions involved are colder than standing still, I strip off my T-shirt and wring it out -- it's got a picture of a lion on it and the phrase "The courage of our convictions," and I swear to you on everything I hold dear that I picked that shirt out this morning completely at random.
7:06 PM. I have come to the conclusion that the experience was sufficiently climactic. I'd been fearing, if only a little bit, that I was just going to walk into the water and it would be like, "Ho hum, I've walked into the water." Heh. As if.
I am now shivering almost uncontrollably, despite the windbreak of the trees around me. I notice some very ominous clouds on the western horizon; given the time, I don't have much direct sunlight left.
I duck under a branch while walking to put my journal down on my backpack; I stand up a little too early and a spur of wood jams into my back. It's briefly very painful, but nothing breaks or bleeds.
7:08 PM. I strip off my shoes and wring out my socks.
7:09 PM. More company. A man in shorts, carrying a can of soda, strolls by, admires the cliff, notices me standing there and dripping, and asks if I'm okay. I suppress the urge to throttle him for this unexpected, life-affirming gesture of human kindness, and tell him truthfully, "It was warmer than I expected."
7:11 PM. He leaves. I wring out the second sock.
7:12 PM. A woman with grey hair, dressed in a neon purple blouse, saunters by (although she either doesn't notice me or pretends not to notice me in order to preserve my illusion of privacy). Cripes. As isolated, hidden spots go, I've picked a friggin' Grand Central Station.
7:14 PM. It's actually not very cold, as long as I remain perfectly motionless so that the wet clothing doesn't shift against my skin. The parts of me that are neither clothed nor haired are now completely dry.
7:15 PM. As I appear to have reached another point where the equation for "number of visitors plotted against time" is at a local minimum, I strip off my pants and wring them out.
7:20 PM. I've put my shoes back on and picked up my stuff. I decide to go pick more blackberries at the bushes ten paces away. The berries are growing thickly, richly, and very easily accessible; if I'd picked them all here instead of back at the bicycle path, I'd have filled the handkerchief with better, lushly ripe berries in less than half the time. C'est la vie.
7:30 PM. The handkerchief is now not only full, but so full that the berries at the bottom are being squished. I hold the handkerchief up to examine its bottom, and it looks like I'm carrying around a severed body part in a bright yellow cloth -- the bottom is solid red with berry blood. (For the entire walk home, I will feel conspicuous, and will wonder if anyone is freaking out over this -- heaven knows you can't miss something that glaringly obvious, but ultimately nobody would even so much as ask me about the contents of the makeshift bag.)
It's time to walk home.
I enjoy the last fading rays of the sun in among the long shadows of Magnuson Park; by the time I reach Sand Point Road, I'm out of direct sunlight, and will be for the rest of the journey. The main effect of the wet clothing seems to be that my shoes are unaccountably heavy (even after squishing as much water as possible out of them). The wind isn't that bad, away from the lake, and while I can certainly feel the wet clothing against me, the air isn't particularly nippy. Hooray for Seattle summers!
I walk up and down some unbelievably San Francisco-esque hills, taking a different route than I had on the way to the lake -- this time, straight down 65th Street until reaching a cross street near home, then walking south from there (a much more direct route, now that I know exactly where I am and where I'm going). I cross the bike path several blocks west of Sand Point Way, and file a mental note that next time I go to Magnuson Park I can just go along that the whole way. I admire the houses; pass a large, well-lit temple thing where a large group of apparently Orthodox Jewish men are holding a service; realize just how far I have to walk when I notice the numbers on some of the cross streets; and make consistently good time despite wet shoes and still having eaten nothing today save a handful of blackberries. I really do appreciate this body, and the fitness and endurance that I really shouldn't have, given my mostly solitary and seated lifestyle.
8:30 PM. Twilight is approaching. I reach 20th Avenue, and decide to walk south. I reach a footbridge running over the deep, wild valley that is Ravenna Park. I look over the side as I start walking, and my head swims: again I'm more than a hundred feet above the ground. To heck with this. I double back, and find a footpath descending into the undergrowth; the ground route is guaranteed to be more interesting, more scenic, and less populated.
Scratch that last part: loud voices break my reverie as I cut down the hill toward the very bottom of the valley. There are a group of young adults being young adult-ish some distance away, underneath the bridge. I try my best to ignore them, make myself invisible, and zig-zag over to the other side of the valley without getting too close; I have brief thoughts of getting mugged -- walking alone through a not-completely-deserted area in the darkness of twilight -- and decide that if someone threatens me, I'll offer them some blackberries, and show them that I have nothing on me except for some spare clothes and a $5 pocket watch.
As it turns out, the park is a lot more populated than I gave it credit for. I pass three groups of people (including the aforementioned young adults, who were just standing by the side of the path jawing, not "hiding under the bridge and doing drug deals" as I'd feared). I find a not-quite-path that goes straight up the hill alongside the bridge, and ultimately walk out onto the street exactly where I would have gone if I'd simply walked across the bridge in the first place -- but feeling much more satisfied.
8:55 PM. I pass Kylee's apartment complex, having nearly reached home; I go to the lobby and dial her up to see if she wants some fresh blackberries, but she's not in.
9:01 PM. I return. The blackberries are well-received. Erin and I have a very long, emotional, and very connecting talk, which was exactly what I had hoped for. I finally make it back online after midnight; I've already received a large handful of replies, an odd but touching mixture of equal parts Supportive, Insightful, Sympathetic, and Worried.
It's now approximately 24 hours after that; I've gotten a good two dozen heartfelt contacts from people whose lives I've touched, and it's given me a great deal to talk about. I need to get to sleep -- tomorrow is a work day, after all, and I need to spend some of this newfound resolve and support on actually getting a job -- but I hope to recap some of today's big realizations and resolutions the next time I can update my journal.
Again, I would like to say thank you to everyone who has cared enough to respond, in whatever fashion. I don't know what I was expecting when I posted the last entry -- certainly not this. I'm getting some incredible suggestions and some straight truth from trusted friends; I'm getting some touching support from people who know me mostly (or solely) because I've touched their lives through things like the Draconity FAQ; I'm getting a lot to think about from all corners; I'm going to take the advice of at least three different people and take up a fun hobby (i.e., fencing -- SCA fighter practice is a short walk from our house, and some of my roommates already go); I'm going to respond to as many people individually as I can, but if I don't, please know that I'm still grateful for your support and friendship.
Oh, and I'm getting some truly interesting answers to the question I've asked several people in real-time chat* -- Micca, Kaijima, Sev, and Nate (who called me, twice ... wow) -- "What is your passion? Not what keeps you going moment to moment, but what drives you." The range of perspectives I've gotten on that has surprised me.
What's your passion? Let me know. It may or may not help me (re-)discover mine, but it's a fascinating question.
August 23, 2001 ... Damn. Now I can't kill myself -- someone beat me to the punch. "Fairwind" launched a ninja attack against me, with the cheerful message, "Because roses are cliched." To make a long story short, the ninja attack succeeded. I knew I should have kept a closer eye on that ninja painter last month -- he didn't look like he was up to any good.
Whoever you are, Fairwind, thank you for keeping my week interesting. I apologize for not responding in kind, but the ninja deployment webpage does not seem to appreciate my setup of Netscape on Macintosh.
So, anyway ... the news everyone who reads this regularly is waiting to hear: My week's been up and down, but I'm rallying. Erin has been talking much more regularly about what's going on here in the house, and you can peruse her journal if you want the minutiae. The meat: I have found enough strength to throw myself back into job searching; I go in early Friday morning to an employment agency, Todays (an amusing little irony), and Tuesday to Adecco -- and on top of that I've contacted several other employers about more specific opportunities, and have more calls to make. I will get a job. By the end of the month, I hope, I hope. This is the I'm-throwing-myself-into-the-lake part, except now I'm going to keep swimming until I hit something, and if I fail at least I'm going to go down moving instead of treading water.
I'm still snowed under by e-mail, but at least I cleaned out my inbox today. I was reading through some posts on the Truewyrm E-group, and somebody mentioned All Your Base, and Adragan FlaymStrike posted an amusing snippet of a medievalized version (including the "all your castles" line, which I stole), and the next thing you know, the following dumped itself from my fingers onto my keyboard:
... I apologize. It had to be done.In A.D. 1201 ... ... War was beginning. King: What occurreth ? Peasant: Somebody blocketh up us the well. Guard: We getteth signal. King: What !! Guard: Main gate turn open. King: 'Tis thou !! Dragon: How art thou gentlemen !! Dragon: All thy castles art belongeth to us. Dragon: Thou art on thy way to destruction. King: What thou sayest !! Dragon: Thou canst not survive make thy time. Dragon: Ha ha ha ha ... Guard: My liege !! King: Mount every 'KNIGHT' !! King: Thou knowest what thou doth. King: Ride 'KNIGHT'. King: For great justice.
Everything from last weekend is still rearranging itself inside my head, and I've been trying to let it settle; job-hunting; hammering myself into a proper sleep schedule; and playing a lot of Diablo II ... I need to set aside some time to sift through all of the helpful suggestions and perspectives, and wrap them up into a big journal entry (and several individual replies). Fortunately, it looks like I'll get to do just that this weekend -- everyone except for Erin, Myles and I is leaving for an SCA event, and I do much better processing when I'm not distracting myself with nine people running around the living room behind me.
Incidentally, have you all read the latest TTU story up on the site, Batty's "Tracks"? I added it over a week ago, but I don't think people read the update boxes at the top of the site home; at least, I haven't seen anyone comment on the story in the forum.
Now, to bed. I have to be up at 7:30 to get downtown for the Today's appointment.
August 26, 2001 ... This morning, I must say, did not rate very high on the "incentive to get out of bed" scale. For one thing, I was sick. I'm actually running a temperature. Considering that usually my only clue when I'm sick is the trail of germ-ridden destruction I leave in my wake, for me to have noticed this is no small feat. I couldn't even stay fully warm by huddling under the covers.
Perhaps the cold is my body's way of telling me that I need to stop sitting around all day and playing Diablo II (which is what I did for most of the weekend). If so, it's an awfully poor way of getting the message across, because when I'm fighting off a cold, all that is really within my capabilities is sitting around all day and playing Diablo II.
On top of that, I had a nightmare. By definition, nightmares aren't fun, but I think this is even more true when they involve rape.
But, regardless, I did manage to drag myself out of bed at some vaguely embarrassing time. I stumbled upstairs; told Korray that no, I didn't actually want to play Spyro (most of the housemates went off to an SCA event for the weekend, but they returned mid-afternoon, before I left my room); made myself some lunch and managed to eat a bowlful before the scavengers descended (thank goodness I ended up not being hungry enough for seconds; it saved me the trouble of a confrontation); and -- still feeling ill -- walked the eight blocks to Ravenna Park for some extended outdoor alone time.
That, at least, was fantastic.
Heaven knows how I've lived here for nearly a year and not managed to discover the treasure that is Ravenna Park, practically right underneath my nose. It was surprisingly deserted for a sunny weekend day; there were several stretches of time during which I was completely alone, and not a building in sight. I sat down on a log spanning the creek at one point, underneath the dizzyingly tall footbridge at 20th St., and dangled my fingers in the water. The quiet chattering of the stream and the pattern of reflections off the water were mesmerizing, and it was quite an uplifting experience.
I came to the conclusion there that, if there is such an entity as a non-denominational monastic order, I'd like to seriously investigate the possibility of going on a moderately-long-term (a year, or several) monastic retreat. I'm not sure quite why I came up with this idea, other than it suits my temperament, and the world is too complicated a place. I do have to say that the idea of "step away from the world for a year and see what it's like when you come back" is growing on me.
I also noticed something curious: When I was on the footbridge at 20th, which is a huge 20-foot-wide, paved, steel-and-concrete affair some 75 feet above the ground, I could barely look over the side without getting vertigo and freaking out. At one point, a jogger ran onto the bridge while I was standing there; I noticed that the steady thump, thump, thump of his footfalls (which I could barely even hear) were setting the bridge to swaying. Not much, mind you, just enough to perceive a slight rocking if you stood still and held the railing. But I was inwardly panicking in that standard afraid-of-heights, going-to-fall fashion.
And yet, later in the day, I crossed over a thin, dinky wooden pedestrian bridge -- barely wide enough to walk two abreast, and nearly as high off the ground as the earlier one -- and felt completely unfazed. I even leaned over the railing -- something which I couldn't bring myself to do on the newer stone-and-steel affair -- and felt no concern beyond "I hope my hat doesn't fall off". I'm not sure what this shows, except that I'm more afraid of huge manmade structures than I am of heights.
It's now well past my bedtime, and I hope to get more work stuff done tomorrow, so I need to go to sleep. I guess I should count it a small victory that I at least worked up the emotional energy to post in my journal. Since last weekend, I've stabilized, but I don't think I've un-broken yet.
August 28, 2001 ... So ...
I got a job!
Data entry, downtown, for an insurance company. Not by any stretch ideal (the work day starts at seven in the morning?!?), but full time, decent pay, and I will once again be paying my own bills instead of floating on credit cards.
Found it through a temp agency, but a cool agency; they even offer health benefits (!!) and same-week paychecks (!!!). It's a six-week contract. The important thing, though, is that I am once again going to be unhappy with corporate America, instead of being unhappy with being broke, and I think the former state is vastly preferable.
All things considered, this is a very small victory, but I'm grateful nonetheless. You can't win a war without winning some battles.
There was other stuff that happened the rest of the day, too, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow to hear it; I exhausted myself so thoroughly that I fell asleep on the couch at 10 PM, and I'm writing this before dragging myself off to bed to get the rest of the eight hours' worth. Might as well start switching myself over to a morning schedule now ... I'll need all of my remaining week of freedom to make the schedule change stick.
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