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Finally, the time has come for...

Rambling and somewhat pointless noding-induced reminiscences FROM OUTER SPACE!!!!!

Have you ever been browsing the nodegel, just after being insulted by a girl, and avoiding learning a new distributed objects technology, when you come across something like this, and been reminded of another time in your life? A happier time, perhaps?

It was the summer of 2002, and I had just been evicted from the house I was living in at the time, and living rent-free with some friends, it was a good time in my life. Apart from the fact that none-of us met any women apart from those who worked in our offices, apart from the unemployed guys, who didn't meet anyone. We were working for Philips Semiconductors, IBM, and a local ISP, so you can understand the nature of the problem.

We return to our original programming

It was a crazy place, a place which was desperately trying to get out of being a solid, boring manufacturer of premium pedestrian, and safe goods with reasonably mature markets to the highest-tech subsidiary of a high-tech international megatechnology conglomerate. To this end, the company put on a coffee-and-brainstorming morning, providing me with a welcome respite from my investigations into programming with pure UML, but also the basis of this anecdote.

So, there we all were, we had taken our seats at circles of seats currently lacking tables (These rare delicacies would be provided later), listening to other members of the lab whom we had never seen before tell us things about the industry that made us realise that Phillips was in big trouble if they couldn't pull off the switch. Sadly, the only thing that I remember of these presentations is that mobile phone chipsets where going to go down to $15.

We brainstormed like we never had before. We thought outside the box, but not outside the bounds of sense and reason. We looked at what we had thought, and we saw that it was good. We wrote down our best ideas, even some of mine, on the forms that were handily provided. We knew that they would be safe in the hands of the man whose name appears on the fastext patent, the venerable keeper of the ancient and honourable suggestions box.

I'd never imagined that a nicotine patch could cause pain like this. Right now, my right arm is aching, from the shoulder where the small, clear patch is stuck, half way to my fingers.

A couple of days ago, it was my left arm suffering through this. Basically wherever the patch sits, the aching follows. It's funny - I could place a cigarette to my lips, inhale the smoke, exhale less smoke than I'd taken in, and not really realise that I was poisoning myself. The morning shower would pretty much always include coughing up some crap, often tinged with blood - whether from my raw throat, or somewhere else, I'm not sure. I don't really think I want to know. I pretended it wasn't real for so long, I don't think it's important to find the source at this point in time.

Now, after deciding that enough is enough, I'm realising the strength of the poison that I've been inhaling all this time. Each morning, for the last five days, I've woken and put a new patch on. The instructions talk about the possible side effects, including nausea, insomnia, vivid dreams, and so on. There's no mention of the position of the patch aching like this. Rebelling against the poison coursing through my body, suppressing the cravings. Well...at least to some extent.

Unfortunately, instead of experiencing weird and wonderful dreams, I've been suffering through the insomnia. I'm not sure that deciding to finally quit while in the middle of one of the busiest weeks I've spend at work - in a different city no less - was such a good idea. It's getting better now, and I've been able to have a couple of nights of reasonable sleep. I just hope that it's my body getting used to nicotine 24/7, rather than simply being so tired that nothing could keep me awake.

Then again, that's what really lies at the heart of all my reasons for not quitting up until now. The time is never just right. It's taken me a long time to realise this, after constantly finding a reason to exclude any particular point in time from my abstinence plans. Always, something would be coming up, which would have made it difficult to stick to my resolve. Always, something which I convinced myself I'd need a smoke to get through was on the horizon. Work, a big night out, life's little stresses - they were always there, looming over me. "No - now's not the time to throw away my crutch and stand by myself. I need something in my hands, something apart from air to breathe."

Not any more.

I've been away from home, and have just worked one of the busiest weeks I've experienced to date. Long days, stressed work companions, a city I barely know. Needing to train people holding one of the highest offices in the country. No, the week just gone was not a good time to quit, but it's about time I stopped making excuses for myself, bit the bullet, and simply stopped killing myself.

Right now, my right arm is aching. There is a controlled flow of nicotine flowing through that arm, designed to reduce the cravings I feel. I appear to have decided that I am being slowly poisoned, so my body is giving me warning signals, trying to prompt me into taking action to remove the source of the poisoning. It doesn't seem to understand that I'm attempting to remove the source of the poisoning that I've been inflicting upon myself for years.

Of course, the poison runs deeper than a simple chemical running through my bloodstream. Breaking long standing habits is going to be the hardest thing to deal with. Finding things to fill those moments when I'd normally be smoking. It's going to be difficult to get used to working through the day, without the small breaks I used to rely on. This was always another reason for not quitting - I need to break the day up, to get away from the desk for a short time, allow my thoughts to come together again, before getting back to things. It always worked too. If I was getting overly stressed, or I had too many things to do with no idea where to start, I'd head outside for a smoke. Those five minutes allowed me to focus, to think things through, set priorities for myself, and actually start to do something productive. I'm going to have to find a replacement for that. Right now however, away from work, the house is clean, I've vacuumed the car, bought some vegetables to plant in the garden, swept out the back, bought a new cd, put on a load of washing... If nothing else, finding time for housework isn't going to be a problem. Anything which allows me to move, to focus on, to distract me from boredom and thought - these are the things I'm seeking out.

The nice thing is, after close to a week since my last cigarette, I feel as though I have more energy. I'm getting used to taking a breath, and being surprised at the different feeling of air in my lungs. I'm not sure that a week's really enough time to make that much difference to my breathing, but it feels that way. I've got more motivation to get off my butt and do things. I've got more money to spend. I don't smell. I don't feel so dehydrated when I wake in the morning. When I do get up, it's easier to get ready because I don't have to waste time with the morning cigarette - I may even have time for breakfast now (yes, it used to be a sacrifice I'd make).

Basically, right now, I feel more alive than in a long time. And as each day goes by, and this feeling increases, I'm discovering that although the cravings are still there (they struck again, a mere two paragraphs ago), the energy I've rediscovered is best motivation I have to crush them. No reliance on goals, no need to run the advantages of not smoking through my mind like some form of mantra. All I need to do is feel.

My wish list for National Coming Out Week, 2003.

1. I would like the gay community to focus on promoting our own agenda. Our agenda must include an end to job and housing discrimination, the abolition of all remaining sodomy laws, and the right to marry. We need to stick to our guns, rather than compromising with the Democrats, voting the way they want and then being told that our issues have to take second place.

2. I would like the politicians who say they’ll support us to actually do it. Too often, politicians are only fair-weather friends. When their friendship is put to the test, they turn around and say that maybe now isn’t the time, or that they support us but on a separate-but-equal basis, or that don’t ask, don’t tell is okay, or whatever today’s lie to tell us we don’t matter is.

3. I would like everyone who says they support same-sex marriage to write a letter in support of that policy, by hand, to one of their representatives.

4. Furthermore, I would like everyone who watches girl on girl porn to write a letter to one of their representatives in support of same-sex marriage. If this happened, it would be legalized within a year.

5. I would like schools to teach about coming out as part of sex education. I had Sex Ed 6 times, in 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 11th grades. I didn’t learn anything about being gay except that it makes men more likely to get HIV. I faced coming out alone, without any information about it at all. I was never even told that it was a possibility. I had very few resources and no one to talk to. Gay youth should be respected and their existence acknowledged.

6. I would like schools to crack down on people using the word “gay” as a derogatory adjective. It’s a measure of how institutionalized homophobia is that teachers almost never do this; the most I ever heard any of them do was say something along the lines of “that’s not very nice.” None of my teachers ever freaked out the way they would have if kids used the words “black” or “Jew” in the same way.

7. I would like to never, ever again hear anyone say that Chasing Amy is a great film. The movie’s overriding message is that real love happens only between men and women. It treats lesbians as yet another class of women available for male pleasure, and the lesbian characters not involved with men or being watched by men are treated as marginal, unpleasant, and unimportant.

8. I would like to see more efforts within the gay community to expand beyond the bar scene. As a community, we have a problem with alcohol. In order to treat this problem effectively, we need alternatives to the bar scene.

9. I would like not to be hit on by any men who think that having sex with a lesbian would be exciting. In fact, I would like not to be hit on by any men at all, I would like not to be treated as either an object of fascination or a freak, and I would like not to have to educate anyone.

10. I would like the media to stop associating us with child molesters, and I would also like some real queer images in the media, rather than the demeaning and erasing images we have now.

11. While I am wishing, I would like a million dollars, for the Green Party to win all major elections, and to meet someone I could reasonably date.

(note: I do not doubt that this will get downvoted to oblivion, but I just gotta get something of my... er... uhm... chest)

So I work at a strip club. I'm a bouncer. I throw people out of the place when they misbehave (ie, touching the girls, starting fights, acting like assholes... that kinda thing). I see naked flesh all the time. It's gotten to the point to where it doesn't even faze me anymore. Tits, ass and everything in between. In all shapes and sizes, colors, forms, textures... bleh. I have never really enjoyed going to strip clubs, even before I started working at one. I haven't been laid in three years. And this is what I do to pay the rent. On the flip side, I'm there to pay attention to the men- not the women- to make sure that the boys at least try to act like presentable gentlemen (which is a sort of oxymoron, but laws are laws....).

Anyway... as numbed as I am to the sight of female flesh while working, I have found that, lately, I am more and more enamoured of looking at breasts. For the life of me, I don't know why this is, but if I so much as glimpse a fine set of hooters, I find myself all but staring, ogling... damn near drooling.

I was not breast-fed as an infant, this much is fact, as told to me by my parents. I've always been a "breast man." I gather my lack of breast feeding as a baby is the precise reason for my odd fascination for mammary glands. You'd think that, at the ripe old age of thirty, I'd have gotten a handle on this by now. Alas, no. I'm sitting here at the cafe, when I probably should be sleeping right now, and every woman that passes my field of vision is surreptitiously appraised by these old lecherous eyes, with special attention paid to sweaters, t-shirts and tank tops. My eyes travel down to the hips, the legs, back, belly, arms... but the center of focus is always the breasts.

For Pete's sake, what the hell is wrong with me? Don't I get enough of this crap at work? *sigh* Apparently not.

It'll be just my luck to, one day, wind up madly in love with a woman who is nowhere near as "blessed" in my favorite area. However, at this point, something is better than nothing.

I'd like a change of scenery, please.

Why couldn't I have turned out to be an "ass man" instead?

It has been one of those rather good days.

For those of you who've been with us so far: the monitor is gone. In its place sits one larger than my TV, all shiny and pretty and new. 17" Trinitron makes oberondarksoul a happy fox. Finally, 1280x1024 @ 75Hz is mine!

Meanwhile, a trip out was planned and a plan executed in swift succession, as myself, my girlfriend and a friend of hers went to see Finding Nemo. The verdict? Not bad, not bad at all. I was expecting a rather poor film along the lines of A Bug's Life, but was pleased to discover that Pixar only very rarely fall from grace, and even then only to show that they can bounce back to be even better. Toy Story 2 was excellent, and Finding Nemo is, too. Go. See.

Afterwards, feeling slightly tired and ready to get back to work, I flicked the almighty power switch and fired up e2. And, shock, horror - XP loss.

But no ordinary XP loss.

Some bugger's gone and voted all but 2 of my writeups down.


Dear Mary,

Today, I finally got to see the show. I've been hearing about it for 10 years, from you, from Tracy, from Meredith. But I never got to Lincoln Center, or Seattle Rep. For me, the last time I got to enter this world was fourteen years ago, in a small black box theatre just south of the Loop, when it first got up on its legs with a flurry of enthusiasm and a graduate student's budget. But now that D. and I own a house within walking distance of Berkeley Rep, where your work is considered the cat's pajamas, we finally get our chance to spend some time with you, vicariously, again.

The lights come down, and the sound of wings fills the air, and I'm frozen, suspended between now and 1989.

The lights come up on Chris, asleep, as Leonardo, and there's the falcon, and wonder of wonders, there is the set I've heard so much about. I hold my breath as the bird descends to the floor, and kisses the boy, and puts her tail in his mouth.

I'm watching the mind of Leonardo at work, played out through your terrific ensemble. I'm watching your mind at work, and marvelling at the new pieces, the new set and the costumes that have allowed your imagination to materialize, in solid form, in front of our eyes. I'm thinking about what you've added, and how it rounds out the show, and imagining, briefly, because I don't want to miss what is happening, you with your cast, trying out new movement, practicing the new rhythms over and over to get the illustration just right.

And at the same time I'm experiencing the original show, and it's 1989 again, and we're in the black box, the smell of fresh black paint and sawdust in Lookingglass's new home. Now Kyle and Doug are onstage in two chairs, repeating the movements I watched Phil and Meredith do over and over in rehearsal. Now here's the roll of newsprint, for the draughtsman's games I recall playing with Mark and Ana.

Fourteen years later, and the lines are familiar. I don't recall which ones were mine, or which ones were Michael's, or which ones were Meredith's. But I'm here, now, in 2003, listening to the words of a Renaissance master reminding me of the marvels of the world, and I'm falling in love with the universe again.

Over the years, my souvenirs from the show has slipped away: a prototype falcon headdress made from papier mache, which I don't think I ever showed you. My blocking notes, arrows and swirls superimposed over the rough diagram of the stage so dense they made no sense even at the time, relying on muscle memory to get me to where I would go next. The Xeroxed poster, which hung in my apartment, framed, for so long, with Tracy and Emilie, with strings tied to their heads to project their lines of sight-- gone now. Somewhere in my house I may have the script... or maybe not even a script, only the first compilation of passages of the Notebooks, which you had re-typed on your own typewriter, and collated for us to begin our work bringing Leonardo's work to life. (All that remains may be a faded photocopy of Justin's review in the Chicago Reader, and the black suit I wore in the show-- every actor needs a black suit).

I don't recall if I ever thanked you. For being a demanding and inspiring teacher. For inviting me to work with you, to share in the craft of realizing your unique and singular vision of theatre. My college education left me with a deep and profound appreciation of the art of dramatic storytelling... the hard work of understanding texts, of finding ways to translate the written word to the voice and the body, and the maddeningly slow and ultimately rich process of crafting metal and cloth, light and sound, movement and text into the playspace of the imagination.

On the stage Chris is resting on his cane, reciting the text of the Anaxagoras. An hour and a half has flown by. Tears well up in my eyes. Tears of joy, of memory (and yes, of nostalgia).

Heartfelt thanks for letting me step into your world, if only for ninety minutes, once more.


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