Reston, Virginia is what they call a planned community. If you've ever played SimCity, you'd recognize it instantly. Little clusters of multi-use areas -- residential, office, commercial -- all grouped close to each other, none dominating the others.

The city planners did this for a reason. You can get from pretty much any subdivision in Reston to the nearest, say, grocery store with just a short drive, or even a walk. But the density of the commercial and office spaces is low enough that traffic never gets that bad.

As with all general rules, though, there is one exception -- Reston Town Center. The sign boldly proclaims it to be "What Downtown Should Be." And, for the most part, it is. A ring of free garage parking surrounds about four square blocks of pleasant shops and restaurants, at the center of which lies a breathtaking fountain, topped by a winged Mercury statue, one that would look at home in any fountain of Rome.

But the best part -- the true gem -- is the ice skating rink directly across from the fountain. Roughly the shape of an oval -- 150 feet by 30 feet, with a clear canopy -- the rink resembles nothing so much as a large bandstand.

Which is what it is, during the summer. I've been to several big band concerts at the rink the past few years, which have each attracted probably hundreds of happy listeners. But, in the winter, the ice goes on and the zambonis come out. And the people come.

If life were a Hollywood movie, Reston would be called Pleasantville. The families here just have that look. And they're not all white, either, at least not so bad as in the movie. There are plenty of minorities -- mostly Asian and Hispanic -- out there on the ice, too.

But mostly, everyone is just fun to watch. During the weekend, there are dozens -- if not hundreds -- of people squeezed on the ice all day long.

There's the horde of little kids learning to skate for the first time. They use big white buckets to hold on to, some skating smoothly behind it, others, not so skilled, hanging on for dear life as their skates churn furiously on the ice.

Then there's the pee-wee hockey league players. You can tell these kids because they're wearing hockey skates, and usually the helmet and gloves, too. My favorite in the bunch was a kid -- he couldn't have been much older that 3 years old -- who I nicknamed "Dale Jr." That's because he had this bull-rushing, head-first style on the breakaway that made me think of Dale Hunter, the Washington Capital's former captain. Except on Hunter, it looked mean. On this kid, it was adorable.

There's also the usual assortment of couples holding hands, teenagers showing off, and people who -- like myself -- learned how to skate on rollerblades. You can always spot us because our primary method of stopping is to run into the wall.

But my favorite group would have to be what I call the "Suddenly Beautiful" skaters. It's a line from a Counting Crows song, and describes a dancer who becomes suddenly beautiful when doing what she loves. I like to think that everyone is suddenly beautiful at some point in their lives, and it feels like striking gold when I find it.

My wife's a good example. Now, she's a beautiful woman already, but there were lots of Beautiful People in the club where I first met her. But when my wife started telling me about donating a kidney to her mother -- something that was very meaningful and important to her -- her face just lit up and her beauty exploded in my heart forever. I was hooked.

Well, back at the rink there was this kid. About 13 or 14 years old, mildly androgynous, although I'm fairly certain he was male. A little chubby, a little awkward. He stood meekly a few paces to the outside of his friends as he duck-walked his way to the rink in his skates.

But, my goodness, was the boy something to see the second he hit the ice. No more hesitation, no more awkwardness. His graceful forward glide was just beautiful, and when he reversed to do that long, backwards arc, his skates just carved out these smooth, fluid back strokes. He even did a couple of jumps and spins for good measure.

And the whole time, this angelic smile graced his delicate features. It was enough to warm my heart on that sub-freezing day.

It feels a bit like a cop-out to make my first real node a daylog. I mean, I'd love to say that my first node was a successful one, but instead it was one deleted, so instead I turn to this to make my debut.

The thing is, I'm not a writer. I'm a musician. I wish I were a writer, and maybe that's enough, but my feelings I've never been able to express clearly (instead a high B flat sends my thrills, my longings and passions over those proverbial stars - and far over the treble clef) so I've realied heavily on those artistic leanings of others, on the words of those far more suited to the artform than I.

I do write letters though, sealed with perfume, and letters that remain unsent through years.

It is not that I want to recall whatever fuck happened to my life so far. I simply want to move on. I do not want to get buckled up by my past. I do not want to ponder upon the endless permutations and combinations of directions in which my life would have headed. Now tell me you have to learn from the mistakes, what if I tell you I have never made any mistake so far. I did a lot of things in my 32 years of 'service to humanity' which includes two suicide attempts and countless broken relationships.

When I tell you that I dont care about whatever happened to me you will retort by saying that you were a different person beforehand and your life made you what you are. I object vehemently to that argument. It was my prerogative that made me the me I am. I have screwed many people's lives, most of them in a successful manner; but those who tried screwing me not only failed miserably but also had to bear my dogged perseverance when it comes to revenge. I have this habit of chasing people down to their last breath and the sadistic pleasure that I get out of suffocating them, either physically or mentally motivages me to live further in aniticipation of more violent mental images. Today, I ran over a dog. I stopped and looked back to see it still alive. I rode back and drove my old car over it thereby killing it there. The satisfaction that I derive over it is beyond description. But I want to get over it. I write this, because I am sure that someone else will read this 'intellectually simulating' article and carry the burden of satisfaction.

I do not want to remember. I just want to be myself.

In this world the person I want most to meet is Buzz Aldrin.

And by wanting to meet him, what I mean to say is that I would want to interact with him long enough for him to get to know me, which is to say I would want Buzz to find something about me he would like.

I would like Buzz to say to me: "Joe, did you know that this thing you did was really great?"

And I would say, "Well, gee, Buzz. I'm flattered you'd say that."

And then he'd say, "Well, this other stuff really sucks, but this here made my day."

See, it wouldn't be all Walter Mitty, because there'd be some harsh criticism in there for me. But coming from Buzz, I'd just accept it. When a man who has walked on the moon gives you the time of day you welcome it, because you've become part of his life just like the moon was, which makes you as important as stepping on the surface of another world.

In some sense.

I had to give up my radio show to move back to California. My show was called, "The Whittier Street Cafe" and I produced exactly one episode for NPR. In it I interviewed Ted Scambos and riverrun and a local Juneau poet, who is kind of like an Alaskan O'Henry.

They never aired the show, as far as I know, because airing only one of a weekly series isn't satisfying for the radio audience. On the plus side, if they hate it, they're not going to have to listen to it again but if they like it, they're not going to get any more. So why risk them liking it?

I have the show on CD. I can prove I did it.

It's not often you get offered a radio show. Even less often a person without a radio show walks away from one. Though, I'm experimenting with a way of life that measures success not in exploited opportunity, but rather, in the refusal of incredible possibility. Once I turned down 2 million dollars in cash and automobiles (Ferrari 360 Spyder). It was the counter offer made to me to stay at my company and not leave and start another company.

Of course, I did the sane thing which was to turn down the offer and start my company.

Then 9/11 happened and the high tech world went into recession.

Now I work somewhere else. I drive a Jeep. I listen to other people on the radio.

When I was living in Alaska, I missed California. Mostly, I missed my children but I also missed being able to go to Fry's and buy a bare 3Ghz Pentium processor, a pair of boxer shorts, and a bag of Fritos, a 200 millimeter vibration stabilized Nikon lens, and a replacement lithium hydride battery for my VTech cordless phone - all at the same cash register.

I wonder what those Fry's check out clerks think of customer's purchase choices. I know when I was a drug store cashier I held silent judgment for every customer. For instance, a guy would buy a carton of Marlboro, a box of condoms, a Snicker's bar, a copy of Hustler, and have a prescription filled for nail fungus medication.

I would think: dude, you're out of control. But I would say: "$23.98", because threading a story between non sequitur items is called fiction and it's not fair to wrap people up in your personal mental fiction.

Sometimes I can't help it.

The older I get the better I understand the things my parents told me, and the better I understand that not understanding what older people tell you is a part of the growing process.

Older people will tell you: "it's not the destination, it's the journey," or some variant of that old chestnut. When you're younger, it's all about answers. Is it this or that? Can I have it, yes or no? Can I do it or can't I? Why is it? What is it? When is it?

And there are actually answers that can be provided, because most of the time a young person asks questions that have been asked before lots of times. They're practical questions and rarely the "nobody knows" type.

When you get older you have little left in your brain but the, "nobody knows," sorts of questions. Then your questioning has no finite terminus, except that you're brutally aware that someday you will die, and most likely, your remaining questions will go unanswered.

Inevitably, you come to the conclusion that for your existence to have much meaning there must be an inherent correctness to unanswerable questions, and that it may have been that all along your life has been about the search for unobtainable results. If you are a zen buddhist you give up searching at this point and become content to simply "be". If you do not discover zen, you become distraught, or worse, a habitual Walmart shopper.

Through your personal journey for the Holy Grail you turn lots of the "I think it's this way," into the, "I know it turned out this way for me," sort of thing. This is the essence of learning. The process of learning may be all there is.

I considered that possibility while I was in the shower this morning.

And then I forgot all about it.

Because in growing older you become comfortable living with a lot of uncertainty. Many times even if there were answers, you'd rather not know.

The truest way to head straight into writer's block is to worry yourself with the idea you have to create something worth reading.


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