The last thing I did before he took me home was change into the outfit I'd bought for the wedding. I still don't know if it was cruelty or kindness that made me do it. We drove the hour back in silence, Tom Waits on the stereo, and me in that dress. I watched him drive away, then sat down and cried.

I promised him I wouldn't blame myself over what happened. I do that enough for things that aren't my fault, he said. I just wish I could blame someone, be angry with anyone, to feel something other than broken right now. I can't be angry with him— not to sound like a complete idiot, but I love him too much for that— so it doesn't leave me many options. Besides, it's a familiar enough hat for me to try on. One more time around the block won't make it any worse.

So, here I sit.
24 years old.
Alone in my apartment, crying.

I've got my whole life ahead of me.

With my luck, it'll be a long one.

A little update on my travels.

I have now been back in Germany for ten days and am still reeling from the culture shock. Every time I arrive at Frankfurt Airport and am blasted by the smell of cigarette smoke, the neon lights and the mustachioed border guards I ask myself why I got myself talked into this 27 hour trip yet again. I immediately start longing for the solitude (and smokelessness) of my house on the beach in New Zealand and can’t imagine that I ever lived in a urban environment like London or Cologne as the masses of souls trying to wrestle themselves into position in front of the baggage carousel piss me off immensely.

I’m of course not back permanently. I am just here for a 2 week tour of duty to celebrate my s.o.’s 40’th birthday (for which she understandably wanted to be near her identical twin who still lives in this country) and my dad’s 66th birthday. While here, I also took the opportunity to see my beloved brother and hang out with him for 2 days (which is pretty much the maximum timeframe our calendars can come up with, with both of us living lives dominated by this fiendish little device). Seeing the family alive and kicking is great and reassuring, as - like it or not - it is one of the few stable anchors in our lives and even though it’s sometime quite a hassle I find it important to see them all well and happy. With the family all kicking and screaming and me reassured about their wellbeing, it was time to organise some other distractions:

I managed to meet most of my former classmates for a spontaneous twenty year high school reunion in a cool little greek restaurant in a nondescript town on the lower rhine. It was interesting to see the girls again (there were only 12 of us in the final year, 9 of them girls): all beautifully matured with only a hint of new lines, but without doubt even more attractive then with 18 or 19. It is interesting how much we’re afraid of ageing at 18, just to find out that twenty years later we’re having the time of our lives, the synapses in our frontal lobes still firing at exactly the same pattern, just with some extra experiences stored away in our insula and our limbic system a little better controlled by our parietal lobes.

Reassuringly, most of my female classmates were nevertheless still as annoying as ever. Which of course proves my little neurological excursion earlier.

Tomorrow I will relocate to Cologne to have an evening out with my best friend, followed by the second quadrennial Cologne Nodermeet, two events I am immensely looking forward to. Cologne has always been the only place in Germany I found enjoyable to live in: it has a genuine liberal and egalitarian feel to it, has some gorgeous cityscapes and the best bars and pubs in the world (yes, that includes New York, Sydney and Oamaru). I will reside in one of my favourite hotels and will enjoy every pampering facility available to me.

Next up is a little trip to North Wales: With the s.o. and myself planning to move back to the European Union next year, we’re checking out potential places to relocate to, and as the Llyn peninsula pretty much fits our profile (rural, plenty of sea and mountains, not England, a plethora of needy GP-practices and a DSL connection), we’ll have a look at the real estate and maybe even squeeze a day at the beach in. Then it’s back to New Zealand with a little stop over in Singapore to catch our breath.

And that’s it. Thank you for your attention.

When the ghosts came again; there were strands, threads caught in every which way, to begin to stitch up the universalities; un-truths and bounded realities, mirroring actuality; in truth a mirror of shards and sharp ends; profoundly ugly to behold, to favour to acknowledge; broken dreams that flow over endless islands of hope, like rocks smoothed by a stream, like the edge over which the water falls; yawning, gaping, inviting; never knowing; never seeing, blind and mute; thwarted senses; having never seen or known, would have had emancipated the luckless, the slaves, the bulldozers, the proles; unmitigated ridicule as babel fell and grew again; yet nothing freed that could be perceived; all therein was darkness, utter and complete and motion was free of meaning or relation; then points like stars arose; blinking out strobes of direction and vagaries; leading out into the saturated holes of daylight and death; duplicitly lyric and prose; turning and churning to a standstill, centrifuge and fuse; burnt and charred beneath recognition; and then there were alkalis and oxides; exploring regions that were helpless to conciliate, a strain, replete with hoarse, rasping scratches; ashes like dust buried in the leavings and autumnal piles; eternally hoping against the brutality of the changing seasons;

the moon, the sky, the stars and the sun; vastly majestic, cruelly empty, like needles leaning left, that bow to the alarming tendencies of the courageous hue and shades; the fiery reminder of auto-nutrition gone horribly mainstream, capitalist like spreading shadows over blank earth, tired of growth and life, the ceaseless battles of death and microbes, challenging, breaking; all within; all tucked in, and so there was morbidity, as there was life, and there were spirits, grey and unsubstantial, always fleeting out of the corners of shapes,

smoke rising out of the depths of burning quarries, of the bleeding earth; and then the ghosts came again, falling into step with the marching troops, the uniform and the consonant, their cries; whimpers of subordination; subservient to banners of heaven and nature, as they lay open to the sky, pounding, like feet on asphalt and concrete; relentless; creep and unabate; seep; the sound of utter defeat; the sea, roaring to sweep its waves over the functionary masses, plebeian thoughts cleansed by the streams of earth's vessels; no longer hollow; filled by the forces that govern the universe itself; the mysterious, cascading, indiscriminate; that balms like bitter roots; tearing into stone and mortar,

that which breaks and contains, that shelters and crushes; a lilting vine that twines, weaves and laces; as it rips into gossamer lace that sublimates, diffusing into the open light; the death of night, the dearth of blight, the spreading dawn; the prolixity and suffusion of day, as the words begin to take hold, to have effect; as the brain registers the impact and the inevitable reaction; the battering of atoms and particles over the laid out paroxysms of brilliant blue depths; unconquered, as yet untouched, unfinished, the resolve of being, of reaching into self and glimpsing divinity and glass, the wind blowing, shuddering into sighs and eddies, forever lost to the eyes of man...

All right, peoples.

I am currently vying for the as-yet-to-be-created role at my firm of Creative Director. In an effort to show my overlords that I can, in fact, be the CD, and win $250, I am going to Make E2 Pretty! I'm gonna make it the prettiest damn website you ever did see! You see, they want to see that I can not only make pretty designs, but that I can also do all these other important things like make a robust style guide to go along with the design. But regardless, you're about to find out what the art in artman means.

So if you're in this contest, too, watch out, because I plan on kicking your ass. You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry, you'd better not pout and I'll tell ya why: the Artman is coming to town, and he isn't playing any Reindeer Games.

Well, if something happens and despite my best efforts I run out of time and can't finish it before the Sept. 28 deadline, forget everything I just said. :)

He Makes Me Cry

From: Me
To: Him

We all miss you desperately, desperately. Grandmother wants us to encourage you in college, but Mom doesn't care very much because art can't exactly be tested. I miss you the most.
How is your job going?
What am I saying, I don't care how your job is going. You make vegetarian food, how bad could it be.
My mom's afraid of you losing yourself in your future and forgetting about the present. I don't think it's such a bad idea, I bury myself in my future fantasies until I can't see over them. We all here just want you to be realistic.
Mom's sending your birthday presents, but I already sent mine. I hope you liked them.
I still always think of you as my brother, know that.
I'm lonely for words. Please write back.

I wrote this for another blog somewhere else, and thought you all might like to know how I still remember you guys.

Back when I was in 10th Grade, I joined a website called e2 was a community of writers, where anybody could write whatever the hell they wanted on any topic they wanted. Some wrote to entertain others, some wrote to hone their skills at prose, and yet others wrote to teach. I was in this latter group; these were days before Wikipedia had established itself as the ultimate compendium of anybody-chiming-in-with-whatever-knowledge-they-had. My writeups tended to be of the dry, factual variety.

Yet through it all, e2 was a community. The chatterbox was crude and was only pseudo-realtime, yet there was a group of “noders” that were always in the chat and were well-respected. There were inside jokes, people who didn’t get along, and all of the wonderful and terrible things that a community brings. I tuned into Jeopardy! one night because a guy I knew from the Internet was going to be on. He won, and I congratulated him on the Internet the next day, along with many of his other fellow Everythingians. And through it all, people on e2 were respected as writers, as that was what had drawn us together in the first place.

I don’t visit e2 very often anymore. With the success of The Wiki, writeups like mine were no longer needed, and I didn’t have the ability with prose to switch over to the new dominant style of noding. The focus of the site had changed; and I found myself unable to take that new direction with my fellow noders. And yet, I miss it what it was sometimes. I look at the list of Content Editors and Admins, and the familiar faces I’m used to seeing on that list are gone. They’ve been replaced by people that I knew a long time ago, when they were just another respected community member like myself. Some I remember when they first joined the site and we would joke around in the chat. Yet I’ve been away from so long, I’m no longer in the community. If I tried to get back in, what is my role now? I’m…well, I was sort of important, once.

Community is an interesting thing. Many of my closest friends have been involved in Res. Life in some way or another, and it’s a topic that gets bandied about a lot in job interviews or training sessions. People all give their own definitions of what community is, but I find that I can sum up what makes a community in five words: a sense of shared purpose. My main community at Western Oregon University consists of people who had Res. Life as their purpose. Now, that purpose is shifting as many of us move off-campus or take up new roles in WOU. I used to joke that once people moved off-campus, I never saw them again. I know this isn’t true, but every now and then I worry. Hell, I’m modding a game of Mafia right now where moving off-campus is a metaphor for death. The game is fun, but the flavor is probably not healthy at some level.

Mafia is another interesting community, which overlaps pretty heavily with the Res. Life community. What started as an exciting new way to play a game that we enjoyed has turned into a community, complete with a party and a Facebook group, and a forum with areas for discussion about non-Mafia things. I love what we’ve done, because it strengthens the community that we had. Galen, Mark, and Megan have all moved away from WOU, but THAT DOESN’T MATTER. They’re in our online community. And as new people come in, I’ve noticed that it does feel more like a community than a group of people who get together to play a game on the Internet. Perhaps this was my goal all along; my quest to find some new mortar to replace the rapidly-dissolving glue that was “a purpose of Res. Life”. When Jess suggested making the forum administrators voted on by the members of the WOUfellas Club, I balked. I built the forums, and I don’t want the direction shifting without my say-so.

Again, I find myself wanting to make sure that when people ask me who I am in the future, I never have to say, “Well, I was important once.” It’s hard to say when you realize that you are now on the outside of somewhere that was once cozy and warm.

When you find a community that you feel at home in, you do what you can to keep it intact. And once you’re in, you never leave. Not with a clean break. Parts of every community that you have ever belonged to will cling to you, shaping you, and reminding you of all the good and bad times you’ve had. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, part of you will cling to the community.

The telephone rings
"Mom, I just got home last night!"
I can breathe again

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