Saturday, October 21, 2006

wrapping up interviews

Just about done. My most recent one went well, but it ended me being soaked in the rain, peeing in a soda bottle, having to avoid a double-parking situation and almost wiping out on a flooded interstate.

Monday, September 11, 2006

five years ago

I think we all know what happened five years ago today. It affected me about as much as any ordinary American--I did not know anyone who died and I was not living in New York City or the DC area when it all happened. Now, I doubt there's much interest in my memory of that terrible day, but for my own sake, I think I might write it down for the first time before I forget ever more about it.

If I recall correctly, it was a Tuesday. It was my sophomore year in college. On Tuesday and Thursday Mornings I had a pretty regular schedule: I would rush up the hill to my multivariable calculus section which started at around 9 and then, when it was over a little after 10. I would do homework for that class in the nearby library. Then, when 11:40 rolled around, I would go to my Constitutional History class for a lecture.

I think I would normally check news sites and what not before I would leave but often that early morning class meant that I was late and in a rush. All I do know is that I left my dorm room without knowing that the first plane had already hit the World Trade Center. Neither my TA nor anyone in my section knew about what was going on either. The TA walked us through some problems and soon class was over a little after 10.

I made a quick walk to the library, sat at an empty desk and did my math homework. I know I was there for awhile, but for exactly how long I am not sure. Near where I was sitting, there was a study room. A guy had been doing homework there since before I got there. Suddenly a guy rushed into that room and asked him if he had heard what happened. It was hard for me to make out, but I thought I heard that they had knocked down the World Trade Center with a plane. In my mind, I was imagining some sort of small prop plane packed with explosives when I overheard this. It didn't sound right, it didn't seem real at all. I almost dismissed it as being some sort of sick joke.

Despite my doubts, the guys talking sounded serious enough that I decided to go upstairs to where there were computers for quick Internet surfing and email checking. Still, I talked to no one. The Internet was slow. Each news site that I tried would not load. For a brief instant, I was able to get something from I almost gasped. So much had happened. Already, four planes had been hijacked and used as weapons, the towers had already come down by the time I read the article. Bush was talking about catching who did this. It was such a short article, it was so surreal. Now there was a girl standing next to me using another computer. The first words I spoke to anyone was "can you believe this?" She looked and me, her face serious and sad, replying "I know."

I left the library in a daze, not sure of what to do or where to go. I ran into a high school friend, someone who was now a freshman at the college. He was someone with whom I could never have a serious conversation. It was weird, we both kind of didn't have much to say and quickly he ran to class.

I went to the campus book store. I am not sure why, but maybe I saw so many people there watching TV. I joined them. CNN was going through the sequence of events: the planes crashing, the fall of the towers, the Pentagon and United 93's crash in Pennsylvania.

Class started at 11:40. I did not know what else to do, so I went. As you can imagine, the lecture for the day was scrapped. The history professor just opened it up to the floor for discussion. There was a lot of misinformation. A few people were saying that there were still another 4-8 planes unaccounted for and that there were fears that there would be more attacks. The history professor predicted that American foreign policy would become more aggressive since the usual response to terrorist attacks was to do the exact opposite of what the terrorists wanted. I remember one of the TAs standing up and saying that we should not jump to any conclusions about who did this--pointing to the Oklahoma City Bombing as an example.

I think we ended early, but I don't know. My then girlfriend (now fiancee) lived in the same dorm as me. I came to her floor and she was sitting in the lounge. I think we went back to the dorm room and she hugged me and cried. I remember her saying how awful it was and how I took too long to come over. (I had no cell phone at the time).

We watched the news together. Nothing new was said, but we felt like we had to still watch. We went over to the student union where everyone was watching the news there as well. We ran into people just saying how awful it was and how many people must have died.

At some point I remembered that my father was going on a business trip around this time. I called my mom just to double-check--relieving me, she told me he was to leave the next day.

Later that afternoon, my girlfriend and I went to the Campus Police Office to retrieve my recovered wallet that I had lost the day before--not having anything else to do.

I remember that a couple people I knew from high school were already taking the opportunity to post offensive away messages relating to the tragedy to bolster their own political or philosophical world view. I don't know if I talk to those people much anymore.

That night I called my parents and told them that I loved them for the first time in a long time. That Sunday, I went to church for the first time in the long time.

The other days were a haze, blending together. Classes were cancelled, somber messages were sent by university staff, we all watched as much news as we could. Slowly life returned back to normal but even for me--so far removed--it has never felt the same.

Monday, September 04, 2006

only cowards mock dying majesty

When someone famous dies--or for that matter, whenever there is a famous death of anyone, celebrity or non-celebrity alike--lots of people give appropriate statements of regret and grief. Invariably though, there are people who either resent the public outpouring of grief or openly mock or joke about the person's death.

I can understand those who become annoyed that a celebrity's death seems to affect people far more than, for example, anonymous soldiers and civilians dying in far off lands.

I cannot understand why so many feel the need to mock the way someone dies or to view the person's death as just a joke. Most often, these people hide behind anonymity in messages boards and in blog posts, but sometimes they openly laugh about the method of another's demise while talking to friends in class or at work.

Case in point: in a law school class today, someone was laughing as he told a fellow classmate about the "hilarious" way in which Steve Irwin died. "Haha, a stingray!"

There are few things that bother me in this world more than the cowardice and meanspiritedness that this person showed today.

I think of a fable and a poem at times like these. I think they say how I feel much better than I can.

The Sick Lion by Aesop

A Lion had come to the end of his days and lay sick unto death at the mouth of his cave, gasping for breath. The animals, his subjects, came round him and drew nearer as he grew more and more helpless. When they saw him on the point of death they thought to themselves: "Now is the time to pay off old grudges." So the Boar came up and drove at him with his tusks; then a Bull gored him with his horns; still the Lion lay helpless before them: so the Ass, feeling quite safe from danger, came up, and turning his tail to the Lion kicked up his heels into his face. "This is a double death," growled the Lion.

Only cowards insult dying majesty.

For Whom The Bell Tolls by John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Monday, August 21, 2006

panning for shit

Sometimes, when I am cleaning out our cat's litter-box, I imagine that I am panning for gold.

If only my finds were worth anything...