It was one of those days that makes you smile for no reason. But, as always, there is a sense of fear that something will go wrong. The human in me is telling me not to place a lot on the good things that are happening to me. I wonder what will go next? What is the next thing to slip out from underneath my feet before I can even notice how beautiful it really is. Pretensiously fidgiting with the possibilities of tomorrow, I know that the next step could trip up the wire of my future. Please walk with caution...

We live in a beautiful world.
Yeah we do
Yeah we do.
~Coldplay "Don't Panic"

It's finally a cold weather day. I've been waiting for these kinds of days, sifting through the boredom and tedium of gray bland hours.

Today it was cold all day, not just in the morning. The chill hung around and hurried people down streets and smacked you as you went around the corner of buildings. Cold enough to see your breath even in the afternoon. The cold wakes me up, in the larger sense. It reassures me and makes me feel more alive. It's a weird thing, I know. But I have always liked that feeling-that sense of exposure that cold air makes on me. The way it burns my face and chills my feet. Some people say it numbs you, but I think that's backwards. Heat and humidity numb you-slow you down and creates inertia. The cold speeds you, heightens your awareness of where you are and all things around you. The air is so thin you can taste it. All smells within miles become vivid and every whisp of steam and smoke race across your horizon. Life is sharper, fuller.

Maybe seeing my chilled carbon dioxide is visible proof I am living and not dreaming. All I know is it feels better than another damp rainy afternoon. Breathe deep-exhale, see it, taste it.

/me stands in the middle of the room, staring listlessly at the door.

roommate: you alright?
me: just thinking...

Thoughts drift through my mind, another average week drawing to a close, I pretend to do some homework, yet I remain distracted.

I waste a few hours reading nodes, it's been a few months since I've contributed, I keep saying to myself to start doing write-ups again, but the spectacular inspiration never comes. I wonder if there's not a greater underlying problem beneath the surface.

When I was a child I used to imagine things. Things that could never happen, things that I wish would happen, things I feared would happen. My nose was always in a book, even while everyone else in my class played at recess. Some grown-ups thought I was "special", I just didn't like the other kids. They didn't really understand me.

I wonder if I even understand myself anymore. A billion thoughts collide in my mind at once in some kind of hyper-Darwinism, but little remains. I have momentary flashes of inspiration, but I lack the imagination to carry them through.

I still manage to entertain myself, I've always been good at that, but I find time spent with other people to be less rewarding. I was never too fond of people in general, but those that I "clicked" with I treasured dearly. I used to spend hours talking with my friends about everything, now most of my time talking to my "friends" is spent discussing assignments, petty college relationships, or some dull event that occured during the day. There's no real sharing. No real moments. Maybe I don't have anything left to share.

I start to see how average I've become, I fear the mean. How did I end up in this position? I still read a fair amount, I understand more complex things than I did five years ago, I buy "engaging" music, and watch "intellectual" movies. Is it my lack of intelligence? My lack of imagination? Something is definitely missing, there's no excitement, no soul.

College is supposed to be the place where you find yourself, and instead I wonder if I haven't lost myself, or more accurately my connection with myself, and subsequently my connection to the world. Somehow I've managed to excise myself out of me. Living in an apartment, constantly surrounded by other people, and yet the connections are tenuous, drawn out like a strand of silk. Nothing substantial, no real community. I look at the faces of everyone that I walk by, I don't really know anyone here.

Reminds me of a surreal scene from Waking Life. The main character, a boy of perhaps 18 bumps into a girl as he descends the steps to the train station. They do the customary "excuse me" and begin to proceed on their individual ways, when the girl turns around and asks if they can do that again. She begins talking about how people move around each other like their ants in a colony, everyone with their individual intents moving mindlessly around each other, trying to get by with minimal disruption. The girl and the boy end up sitting down and having a meaningful discussion. Yes this scene is a dream in the movie, but I feel it is representative of my current state of being.

I move about with minimal disruption to myself and others. Is it because I'm to afraid to reach out and really stare into someone's soul? Or am I too afraid to show them the real me.

Who am I? Who are you?

Maybe before I can begin to answer this question, I need to become reacquainted with myself.

I can imagine things being different. I suppose that's a start...

Today is the three-year anniversary of my father's death.  At the age of 52, he died of a heart attack.  He had always been of ill health and I had always known that he would die relatively young but, I don't think anything can prepare you for the loss of a parent or a spouse. My father was a genius, he was an award-winning news broadcaster.  The things I miss most about my father are being able to talk to him and to hear his beautifully full and rich voice giving me counsel and advice.

It is sort of ironic how my father died in the early hours of the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and my husband died the day before September 11, 2001.  It seems sort of cruel that I would have two external reminders for each sorrow.  Every time anyone mentions either day, I selfishly think of my own personal tragedies.  All of these events have spurred sad and morbid thoughts.  I'm not a morbid person. I keep trying to smile.


/me misses Hermetic

Morning Inspiralization

These thoughts and memories turn me inwards on myself, as if I can see myself from the outside, from above, hunched over magazines, my face contorted, not a dancer, not singing on wirelines of air energy, but turned into a centrifuge, a spiral black hole for pulling light into matter and matter into dead, cold space - a force for entropy, caught in the endless washing machine of generations of family and secrecy, denial and betrayal and unconsciousness, a character in a long nightmare of silent, dusty rooms and closed hearts - lift me up, save me from the murderer who looks through my eyes.

All my stories would come to an end, and I would forget how to make sense, except that if I breathe I become a channel for an energy that always knows what to say and how to move - I'll kiss a real girl, in a real bedroom, in the brightness of the clear nighttime, and when I'm alone I'll become a clear space, an empty brain in the universe, a window deep underwater, glass for an endless blue, a promise of blackness and eternity, needing nothing. So different, hir voice, the lord my god, the true self I fell in love with, hir beautiful laughing eyes and the power of the voice SHe gives me when I can no longer bear to be myself or live as my own dark mind, my own body of aching hunger. SHe frees me from everything I thought I might ever need and flies through my hand as if I am owned by "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower" - SHe is always already the saviour of my reasons, and hir ecstasy is the forgetting of myself, my narratives, my darkness and brightness, hold me forever like this and be my voice, if you speak not through me then I have no tongue and no fingers, no eyes and no heart, I am always burning in the whiteness of your sun or I am ash and rock, the space around me is so voidly infinite but I feel it, I feel the walls outside myself - I know you are my voice, I know it, and only in my despair, only when all my reasons are at rest in your arms.

I am my own limit and I do not reach beyond myself. I am the clenching of a fist. But SHe opens the hand. I open the hand, SHe, I, the hand is opened. The hand is opened, but only when the fist is so tired of war that it can't strike anymore, not even be held up to the sky as a denial, a salute, not even rigid in death - the hand is opened, somehow. I don't know what happens, I don't even know where the words are coming from, why I am writing what I'm writing, how it becomes different when I let go the strands of my story - I have no story, just a million images, a tangle of threads, and the stories weave through me and bind me, they bind the images to me and to each other - but let the strands go and we are free, my past and my future, and me.

I'm forgiven. I wasn't swallowed by the darkness. The numbers vanished into the black hole but I wasn't swallowed, I didn't die, I just lay down in your arms of ecstasy and babbled and cried, I never know where I go, I swear I don't even know where these words are coming from, I don't know why it's different but a river drives through my brain, I am a ripple, rushing, a wave in a clear medium, clear light bedroom, clear light cafe, I'm whole, I'm integral, I only know my path when the path walks me, when I don't even know where to go or what to do any more - I don't know anything, and yet the words flow and the page is written, the dancer is awake in the nighttime and the body is made beautiful by the madness of the mind.

I've known things weren't going well at Hauptratte-Sperren for a while now. A few months ago, they eliminated my entire department, except for me. They eventually moved me down to Bethesda, where I work on maintaining the internet and intranet pages.

Rumors of more layoffs had been floating around for a while now, and this morning we had an all-hands meeting where they broke the bad news everyone was expecting. Around 11AM, the boss stopped by my cubicle, said "Sorry I have to do this," and handed me a layoff notice. I have until February 8 to find a new job.

It's not losing my job that bothers me, it's finding a new one. I hate going on interviews. It could be worse. One of my co-workers who was laid off in October had been working there since he was a teenager and found himself in the job market without having been on an interview in three decades.

And at least I have two months to find something. Back in 1991, I got fired a week before Xmas.

I look on the bright side of things, though. With luck, I'll be able to find a new job in Virginia closer to home and won't have to deal with traffic on the Beltway anymore.

QXZ's London Invasion, Part Eight
back to part seven

Paul is dead
on the steps of the palace.

Grabbed breakfast at a pastry shop in Earl's Court Road. Interesting that some cafes charge you more if you're eating in rather than taking your food out. I think it's a tax thing. Regardless, this £2.74 isn't going to be very filling. I should have just ordered "the breakfast". Aargh! Why is hot chocolate always too hot?

The hostel was remarkably quiet last night and I actually got a fair amount of sleep. Still didn't manage to leave before 11:00 this morning, though. I'm hopeless.

Realized I could legitimately buy a souvenir mug of some kind, as I don't own any useful mugs. Then I could make warm chocolate, just the way I like it. Ha!

The man sitting down the row from me is looking at me sideways as I pull the raisins out of my Belgian roll and stir my hot chocolate. Am I violating some obscure taboo?

Overshot the Tube station I wanted and got off at Monument to take a look at Wren's monument to the Great Fire of 1666. Hard to believe how much of the city was destroyed in that fire, and how much work Wren got because of it.

That's a shame: the yellow-leaved tree in St. Paul's Churchyard that I wanted to re-photograph by daylight has lost all its leaves. Ah well.

-Wren's epitaph, directly under the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral. Bold and punctuation are mine. "Reader, if you need his monument, look around." That, not to be blasphemous, is goddamn right. To be capable of creating a place like this...

The ceiling over the quire is a glittering mosaic in blues, reds, greens and gold. It's not original, unfortunately; several German bombs crashed through the roof of the cathedral during the War. The chapel in the apse, which appears to feature the only stained glass here, is the American Chapel. It's dedicated to the British-based Americans killed in WWII. Somebody put a huge scratch into the glass over the book of the names of American dead. I wonder if that was intentional?

"Up the stairs and to the landing." 259 spiral steps up to the Whispering Gallery, so called because I should be able to hear the whispers of people on the other side of the dome. Doesn't seem to be be working, though. Hundreds of people have scratched their names into the wall up here.

"Up the stairs and to the hall." Another 113 spiral steps to the exterior Stone Gallery. The view is excellent, although blocked by low columns. It'll be better further up.

Made it! Up more scary spiral stairs, and I'm all the way up on the dome. Amazing view of the whole city! Too bad it's hazy. This city is dense, and it seems to stretch to the horizon.

The sun's hitting it: I can make out Christ Church Spitalfields. The Wren/Hawksmoor axis. Another axis is that of the skyscrapers. London, overall, isn't a very tall city. But there's a line of new, newer, and not yet built highrises on a line from Canary Wharf northward. It nearly runs through the heart of The City; a modern ley line? Down the stairs now.

Well. That was hard on the ol' tendons. God, how I hate spiral staircases.

Buckingham Palace, as a building, is amazingly unimpressive. It's just like any large, neo-classical government building you can see in most national capitals. The palace gates and the gigantic statue of Victoria (REGINA : IMPERATRIX) are more interesting than the palace itself.

The two guards posted are gray-coated, not red. Their occasional marching up and down comes off more as cute than anything else. Maybe it's the big, furry hats. Aww...wook at da widdle guards.

Lethargy? Laziness? I spent two hours online then went for dinner. It's friday night in London and I can't think of anything I'd really like to do. That's not overly surprising; even at home I'm not likely to go out by myself. Movies here are far more expensive than I'm comfortable with (though they'll probably be up to $15.00 in NYC before three years are up), and drinking by myself in a pub isn't all that appealing. I suppose I'll go see what the hostel-mates are doing this evening. It's almost guaranteed to be a club, which, again, doesn't quite float my boat. They're going to be up forever tonight. Maybe that's why my energy is low, surprise surprise. Bad sleep doesn't exactly recharge the batteries.

I'm drinking a Pepsi; Charmayne would he happy. She's been to London... maybe bringing her some lame souvenir isn't really necessary. I suppose the flip side of that is that I should bring her something really cool. Argh. I love giving things to people, but I hate shopping for them.

Jebus! This pizza's almost entirely crust! Yeah; that's a good value. Oh well; Lonely Planet warned me about the food.

According to my watch (though I know now just how accurate that is), I've been in London exactly a week as of right now. Wow. It's really blown by me. Of course, my issues with getting up late helped that along considerably.

Ah, no, it's a night in for the migrant workers. Generic whisky and TESCO cola. U2 on the boombox, Frasier on the TV.

Ivan, one of the Spaniards, has a cell phone which rings Take On Me. Urgent conversation, in and out the door, about jobs and flats. An Australian visitor has decided he'll be more intelligible to Aisa, the French drinker, by dropping prepositions, plural endings, articles and most pronouns from his English. Two semi-drunken Ozzies singing along to You're So Vain on the radio.

Ivan squeezes his Kenny keychain (squeaky squeaky) and says "Yeah, I love Kenny, man." Squeaky squeaky.

Excerpted from QXZ's travel journal, 12/7/01.
QXZ endorses nothing.

Back to Part Seven
Forward to Part Nine

Today's my birthday
And I get one every year
And someday I'll be buried six feet underground

"Six Feet Under", No Doubt

Sharing a birthday with a famous day is kind of weird, especially since that day happens to commemorate one of the most infamous events of the twentieth century. Everyone knows it, too. One of my best friends does his best FDR impression whenever my birthday is brought up: "Today is a date which will live in infamy forever." Teachers say not, "Happy birthday!" but, "Oh, Pearl Harbor day!" Pulled over by a cop, and asked for my birthday (we were out at midnight and he wanted to know if I was old enough to be out after curfew) I responded with the famous date (this was several months ago) and he immediately said, "Oh wow, Pearl Harbor day! A day which shall live in infamy forever!" He didn't even give me a ticket.

Another annoying aspect of this whole deal is that no one ever actually gets the speech right. It goes like this:
Yesterday, December 7, 1941-- a date which will live in infamy--the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

So this is my eighteenth birthday. Welcome to the world of pornography, cigarettes, no curfew, sex, and, in Canada, alcohol.

My parents continue to forbid all of these things.

I got three hours of sleep due to AP English homework, and then I got up at 5:30 to open my presents. I got gloves with furry wrist covers and velvet fingers and palms (this was the first of three pairs of gloves that I would receive throughout the day). I went to school (wearing my gloves) and received more presents and lots of nice, preferential treatment. At the end of it, I was presented with a pair of roses that my boyfriend had somehow managed to sneak past me in the morning. Despite the fact that they had sat in his locker all day, they still looked and smelled amazing. I was got that feeling of "wow, there's someone who cares enough to get me flowers!" and felt wonderful all over again.

It is interesting to note that, at exactly 12:00 am, as December 6, 2001, passed into the oblivion of history, and December 7, 2001, began its glorious, terrible run, I felt no magical change come over me. I was not magically a grown-up or ready for any sort of responsibility or even particularly happy. I want my money back.

Later that night, I went out with my best friend, and soon we found ourselves at another friend's house (this friend gave me chocolate laced with tequila, very tasty), and soon enough there were two other people there, and as we went to eat at Red Robin, another of my friends called; he'd just gotten back from Chicago, where he was visiting colleges, and wanted to go out for my birthday. Soon there were two more people. Eventually there would be eight of us in all.

I think the thing that makes me most unhappy is that the movie, Pearl Harbor, came out on Memorial Day. I might complain about the infamy of the day, but I still feel obligated to defend it. It's not like December 7th was a Tuesday this year; they could have at least released the movie IN THE MONTH OF DECEMBER. And then they go ahead and release the DVD or VHS or whatever on the 4th, just because it's a Tuesday. Fuck them and their stupid movie!

At dinner, someone slipped away and told the waiters it was my birthday, and they all showed up and sang, giving me a free ice cream sunday in the process. Then we went over to the mall-- a roving gang of young upper-middle class hoodlums-- but found it mainly closed, so we chose the next best place-- the brand shiny new Super! Target.

Did you know that one of the characters in the Godfather was born on my birthday? Vitto Corleone, I think, because they say that the "Japs" ruined his birthday by bombing Pearl Harbor.

We wandered around the Super! Target, not really bored as hell, no matter how much we looked like it. We ate candy and got out blood pressure checked and one of my friends bought himself three thongs, and another tried to buy me a bra with fuzzy feathers on the top, and then we stood in front of the condoms for twenty minutes. Everyone thought I should buy some, just, you know, in case, but in the end we walked away, mainly because the word "Astroglide" is so disgusting sounding. We had my camera, and we stopped some very surprised shopper and asked her to take our picture. I think my friend may have been proudly holding his new thongs aloft. Hopefully I'll get them developed rather than my parents.

This was the first birthday I ever had where I didn't eat any ice cream cake, or blow out candles, but I did make a wish. I can't tell you all, or it won't come true, but I made it, and I hope it works out.

At the end, I came back to my house and saw the video for "Hey Baby" for the first time. The clock flipped over to 12:00 am again and my birthday was over. I've already been eighteen forever.

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