Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Interplanetary Quandries

One of my favorite New Yorker cartoons is these two people walking down the street and one says to the other, “What is this endless series of meaningless experiences trying to teach me?” Which brings me to today. I HATE it when I start questioning my direction in life. Oh yeah, I never stop questioning my direction in life.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve been nailed into my bed at night—pushed deeply into the feather bed, the silky pillow—locked into a down-filled embrace of slumber.

I went to bed at 8:50 p.m. just because I wanted to be abed—cushioned, enclosed, warm, comforted. So I slept and awoke at 3:00 a.m. Lay awake until 4:30 a.m., not sure if I would be granted the blissful seduction of the second sleep—that fickle taunting bitchtress who all too often does not oblige. But I was pulled in—all laudanum airy unconsciousness.

Woke up in time to exercise. I wondered why in the HELL it is so hard to get out of bed—is it because it’s dark and everyone is all still snug in their beds? Is it because I know I have no choice? That I must get out of bed at 5:50 a.m. so that I will have that minimum 30 mins. of AEROBIC activity on the elliptical, with the Washington Post ruffling around me like paper in a hamster cage?

I walked up the stairs—all huffing and puffing and sweating and feeling VIRTUOUS and incredible but actually thinking—WHY DON’T YOU DO THIS EVERY DAY??? Exasperation. And then I had the Bad Thought—the kind you want to keep at bay—as I ascended the stairs from the basement I thought: Is it better to just keep going on this endless rat-in-a maze mode so I can’t stop for long enough to think about it?

Oh, yeah, we want to step AWAY from those kinds of thoughts. But we know, deep in our heart, that this routine—the 9-5 razzle dazzle—has worn down to the bone. The jobs have improved over the years—I do things that I like to do and that I am even good at, and yet. And yet.

So what do you do? Move to New Zealand? Move to a manse in Kansas with a fireplace in the kitchen and more square feet than the Taj Mahal? Because if you sell your house in the DC region, everyone knows you can buy a PALACE anywhere else in the universe. Except New York City. Ah, these tantalizing challenges.

DC’s my hometown, though. I mean as hometown as if I had grown up on Main Street in Pine River, Minnesota. It’s hard to think of DC as anyone’s “hometown” because it’s so marble-y and formal and political. But I have the same kinds of soft focus, hazy happy childhood memories of a banana seat bike and riding to school along Macarthur Blvd. in Palisades as anyone else.

I grew up in the leafy northwest region of Washington DC. And I can never extricate myself from this place for very long. It’s my home. The fat lush green trees in the summertime, the heat, the stupidity. My heart lies here—over the sulfuric brown Potomac River—I connect with something far more primal and undiscovered here—the river, the trees, the palisades above the river. The monuments are just trinkets—marble sugar cubes dotting the landscape.

My father is buried in Arlington Cemetery, so he’s across the river from me now.

Everywhere I drive; no matter how many concentric circles outward, has a place and a memory for me. It’s my place in the world. But maybe to achieve more wisdom you have to leave that world and learn a new one. I saw a bus ad for the Lonely Planet guides this morning that said, “Don’t let the world pass you by.” And it beckoned.

That is the state of MY union this morning.


Cynicism is another word for reality

Email me, you derelict wastrel

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