Homenode picture taken at Kollen Park in Holland, Michigan, during my exile from New York.
I wasn't here for a few months. I'll try and be here more often.
I am healthy and happy. The happiest I have ever been.
You should ask me about it the next time we see each other.
Blessed are the Day Loggers: for they shall retain those pieces of their lives for eternity.
Things to know about vandewal:
You may remember me from such nodermeets as:
Notes on a life in exile: A retrospective
November 4, 2009 -> November 14, 2009 -> November 22, 2009 ->
December 12, 2009 -> December 21, 2009 -> December 31, 2009 ->
January 12, 2010 -> January 22, 2010 -> January 29, 2010 ->
February 4, 2010 -> February 8, 2010 -> February 15, 2010 -> February 20, 2010 ->
March 1, 2010 -> March 4, 2010 -> March 10, 2010 -> March 23, 2010 ->
April 2, 2010 -> April 13, 2010 -> April 22, 2010 ->
May 3, 2010 -> May 18, 2010 -> May 30, 2010
June 9, 2010 -> June 14, 2010 -> June 17, 2010 -> June 23, 2010
Node ideas sitting on that burner back there:
feel free to steal
Utica, New York | Chicago Heights, Illinois | Barney Miller | Newport, Rhode Island | Rensselaer, New York | Carolina Panthers | Rip Van Winkle Bridge | Albany Patroons | George Pataki | Fort Crailo | Scott Speicher | Polychlorinated Biphenyl | Wildwood, New Jersey | Gandalara Cycle | Conehead Buddha | East Greenbush, New York | Albany River Rats | Decameron | Rick Nash | Troy-Bilt | Watkins Glen, New York | River Medway | Vanquish | Albany Park | MapInfo | SUNY Cortland | Warrensburg, New York | John Boyd Thacher State Park | Taconic State Parkway | Bedell Bridge | Houston Oilers | Mohawk River | Corning Tower | Albany Times-Union | Marshall "Major" Taylor | Ukiah, California | Cooperstown, New York | Samuel J. Tilden | Chemung River | Garbage Plate | Canajoharie, New York | Rockefeller Center | My Big Dick | Erastus Corning | Charlotte, North Carolina | Schwan's | Lawrence Phillips | Syracuse Nationals | Sacramento, California | Little Falls, New York | Soundtrack of Our Lives | Albany-Colonie Yankees | Daniel Patrick Moynihan | Sucrets | Montour Falls, New York | Ommegang | Naprapathy | Cider Jack | In Conquest Born | Mike Holmgren | Dutch Masters | Topol | Cervical Ribs | Thoracic Outlet Syndrome | kinesio tape | Peoria, Illinois | Northern Comfort | Painted Post, New York | Corning Incorporated | Erie, Pennsylvania | Minerva, New York | Hamilton Printing | Schodack Island State Park | Green Mountains | Kapa'a, Hawaii | Brian Bosworth | Hot Doug's | John Cabot | US Highway 9 | New York Cosmos | Rushden and Diamonds | Jeff George | Hurricane Gloria | Herkimer, New York | Atlanta Flames | Saimin | National Skyline | Olovieh | Oil's Well | Island at the Center of the World | Marshall McGearty | Metra | Schroon Lake | Catholic Familyland | Chowpatti | San Diego Chargers | Derby Owners Club | Yonkers, New York | NY Route 22 | Adirondack Beverage Company | Frango | Mitsua Supermarket | Butter Mint | Bobby Orr | Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | geofiction | Referential Integrity | Lupe Fiasco | Cape Fear River | José González | Wegmans | Rhode Island School of Design | Terrestrial Planet Finder | Arctic Archipelago | loss triangle | Beirut | Northwest Territories | Indian Lake, New York | Irving Park | Hockey Night In Canada | Grant Park | Little Nut Hut | Jason Spezza | Husqvarna | Keith Olbermann | DC United | Perry | Major League Soccer | James Fenimore Cooper | Sidney Crosby | Water Tower Place | Erie Lackawanna Railway | Breugger's | Sound Opinions | Presidential Towers | NY Route 13 | Nathan Holn | How We Fell | This Town is a Song About You | Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center | Glen Elder, Kansas | Imogen Heap | Special Bulletin | Mamonas Assassinas | Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip | Isaiah Zagar | Vladislav Tretiak | Roger Touhy | Hilo Hattie's | stick shaker | 10-Key | Dino Eggs | Grand Union | Pacific Southwest Airlines Flight 1771 | Bright World | back forty | back east | open-to-close | Adriaen Block | Alpena, Michigan | playing chicken | The Vlaie | 110 film | Norman Morrison | Thornton Quarry | Hope for the Flowers | Laura Veirs | Walter Jones | Sangue di Guida | Racine, Wisconsin | Roswell Garst | What do you hear in these sounds? | The Con | dartball | Naked City | Baths | bedstede
Here's your GTKY:
On the eastern bank of the Hudson River, just a few miles south of Albany, lies the small town of Castleton-on-Hudson. My family has been in this town ever since it was founded and, while its composition may have changed over the years, almost all of my relatives live within a few miles of there. At its height, the town held no more than four thousand, and that number has considerably decreased over the last fifty years. The town has a Stewart's, a post office, and four churches, which illustrates the priorities in the village. This is where I was raised.
My family life was strange, but it is a dicey topic of conversation that I would rather not explain here. I've written some things about aspects of my childhood, some of which I contemplate taking down from time to time. My relationship with them has improved over time, with phone conversations and occasions plane flights halfway across the continent.
I was larger than the other children my age were, so my original skill set included hitting and stealing toys. I went to the naughty chair so many times in preschool that I thought it was my assigned seat. I have no idea what this aspect of my life was about, as it is incongruent with the rest. At home, I terrorized my mother and explored the confines of the back yard in full detail. I spent an entire summer playing in the flowerbed that surrounded the large oak tree, constructing a small farming community with houses made of mud. I would spend hours running through the cornfields and woods that stretched for miles in back of the house. I drew up imaginary situations in my mind, playacting them out through he tapestry of youth. I wish I could have retained that acute level of imagination in my older years.
At this point, I would like to blame the educational system for boring me out of my mind for thirteen consecutive years. I would like to think that, without the mindlessly corruptive influence of my 'education', I would have used these years towards more constructive pursuits. I came into kindergarten reading simple books, and was then subjecting to the teaching of the alphabet again. I received the exact same class on American History in 3rd, 7th, and 11th grade. While I can look back and intellectually understand that repetition is important for some children, to me it seemed there was nothing more to learn, so I stopped paying attention to the teachers. They didn't appreciate this sentiment, and gave me less than excellent grades. I did not care.
My high school years were a mix of hormonal static and confusion, as I assume anyone's school days were like. I did a lot of stupid things because I was an inexperienced ass at the time with few social skills. I would like to think that I gained some kind of experience from these awkward and sometimes difficult situations, but this is not the case. Looking back on these years is an exercise in pain, so I will simply say that I did a lot of things wrong, and that I was starting to understand that the community I was in was not the place that I wanted to spend any extra time. I moved out of my parents house three days before graduation, and went off to college a few months afterward.
I was told at a reasonably young age that my parents would not be helping me with college. If I was going to go off to school, I should make the money to pay for it. I worked at a variety of odd jobs in high school in order to save: lawn mower, drive way shoveler, day care center janitor, greenhouse caretaker, church secretary. I managed to scrape up enough money to pay for my first year at a small SUNY school in Cortland.
Even though I didn't spend a great deal of time in Cortland, the experience greatly affected my life. I met some people while working late nights at the student newspaper that have become the most powerful influence in my life. I smoked a lot of weed and drank a lot of booze, and my repressed personality was surprised by the experience I gained by both of these taboo activities. I started to deconstruct some of my assumptions that I had acquired by growing up in Castleton. I spent days sitting in windowsills, smoking cigarettes and listening to music, delving deeper into my personal reality than I thought was humanly possible. Unfortunately, these moments had little to do with paying for my education, and I quickly ran out of money. Because I wrote venomous columns in the student newspaper about the atrocities of the administration, the financial aid was not in the mood to give me any more money. After only a year and a half, I was forced to leave me college education behind.
This is where I started living in interesting times. I moved in with a girl that I had met in Cortland. At the time, it seemed like the right decision, as I was not going to go home and I was running out of options. So I moved into her apartment in Horseheads, and tried to settle into some semblance of a normal existence. Perhaps I should have seen the writing on the wall, but I was still young at the time, so I try not to blame myself.
Next thing I knew, my ex-girlfriend was spending a lot of time at our house. It was confusing but nice but horrible but good. Words are hard to put around what happened between the three of us, and that was part of the problem. I wanted to hold onto whatever this thing was so badly that I didn't take a moment to think about how it could be better, or what I could do to take care of myself.
Most of my memories from this time remain submerged in the murky depths of my mind. Once in a while, some hideous creature will rise so the surface and try to kill me. Sometimes, someone I see on the train will remind me of someone that I knew then, and I have to fight an urge to bum rush them. Other times, I can have a flashback to where I'm huddled completely under a blanket on the futon trying not to think about what's happening on the other side of the bedroom wall. I've been getting better at defending myself lately, getting angry instead of getting sad, and then dropping it all instead of dwelling on it for too long.
I'm grateful to whatever synapse failure that keeps me from recalling the crisp details of those years. In fact, most of what I know about that time has come from friends' recollections of my life. How one of them had to drag me to a diner because I hadn't eaten more than an egg roll in the previous few days. How my little brother froze the night he stayed in the hovel because the pilot light on the furnace would refuse to stay lit. How I would call and be whisked away to the paper office whenever my relationship took another odd corkscrew. It is the only real link that I have to these days.
I think that they left me, but I distinctly remember moving out first. They were off on their new relationship that could only exist in my absence, and I was so much trash that had to go so they could get the security deposit back. I spent six months couch surfing across the Southern Tier of New York, working odd jobs and dragging my remaining belongings along with me. I lost my shit a little in this migrant worker/homeless state. The next thing that I knew, I was living in an apartment in Holland, hiding from the rest of the world. The new apartment was warm and safe, if a little bit short in the ceiling.
My routine of retail job, spaghetti and chain smoking seemed to keep me from climbing out on the roof and screaming until someone called the police. People were telling me that it wasn't my fault, that she was the one that was crazy, but there's a secret in all of that truth. I was crazy. I was so crazy that I would come home from work and stare at the wall until it was time to go to work. I couldn't relate to other people, no matter how hard I tried: coworkers would wonder what was wrong with me, people would stick around for about a week before nervously backing away. All I wanted to do was crawl out of my head and never come back.
I had an epiphany while lying on the couch in that apartment, and it is something that I will never forget. Sometime between Night Court and Law & Order I must have dosed off for a while. When waking up, I couldn't help but notice how quiet things were. For the first time in several years, I had actually relaxed. All the events of the years must have melted away during that quick doze, and I was able to look at things a bit differently that I had before. I spent that evening weeping, curled up in a blanked in a silent apartment, astounded with the wonder of it all. While I did not come to the same conclusion, I can understand why people feel they have been touched by god, or given a mission, or whatever mystical definition people attach to events they don't understand. At that point, I crossed a line that I had no idea existed until that very moment. I moved back to New York eventually, where I was reported to be very angry at the world but had was a reasonable facsimile of my former self.
But did my monumental crisis of personal structure teach me anything? No. I dove right back into the situation that had put me out in the first place. We're all idiots in our early twenties, whether or not we want to admit it to ourselves. While the temporary joy of the fleeting moment may seem like brilliant motivation, it is the emotional scars we carry that give testament to our stupidity.
Life in Syracuse was a very interesting trip. The apartment had no heat, but I never remember being abjectly cold. Our meals were an endless string of beans and rice or cream corn and rice, with a chicken breast thrown in for variety. There were small construction projects everywhere, electrical and CAT-5 sticking out of walls and over boxes. Even though I lived there for a year and a half, I never got around to fully unpacking. Life was full of conversation and similar interests with the guys I was rooming with at the time. My mall job, while dead end and low paying, was fulfilling. I pinned down what I wanted out of life, out of my environment, and out of other people. I scraped enough money together to spend three weeks sleeping on a couch in south London, taking the tube around, drinking a lot, and meditating. I had a small collection of relationships that I didn't pay enough attention to, which manifested their stability in cold shoulders and a violent churning of half-thought conversations.
I met the woman that I would marry during an errant Midwest road trip. What appeared to be a standard one-night stand took an odd, infectious turn. I couldn't get her out of my head, regardless of how I tried to write the whole thing off. We exchanged emails, and then phone calls, and then plane flights over a three-month period. Each time we spoke or saw each other, the more I felt that this was the person I wanted to be with above all others. I decided to move to Chicago to be with her around christmas, and was settled in by new year's day. We were married a few months after that, in a little restaurant with a courtyard and a skyline view.
I bucked the economy at the time and found a job in short order when I moved here, then spent a few months collecting unemployment checks before getting myself back into the workforce. I like my new job plenty good, as it appeals to my logical side. This is much better than my old job, which appealed to my lazy side. I spend my days standardizing information for large corporations, and that's about all I should really say about the inner workings. My internet use is (somewhat) closely monitored, so my days of writing on E2 at work are finished. This just happened to be the same time I hit writer's block, a nice little double-whammy. I'm lucky if I get a word out edgewise these days.
Things are nice and cozy as they stand right now. I'll fuck this up eventually.
In an effort to avoid highly subjective writeups, I keep a list of things that I would have said, was I not attempting to node for the ages. Consider this a list of idiotic social commentary from some uninformed moron, keeping in mind that, at the very least, it makes me feel better to put this together.
Re: Better Loving Through Chemistry - The writeup came out of a conversation I had during a week-long trip to NY in 2010. On one of my stops, someone commented that I tend to talk a lot about drugs and love, and why don't I shove these two ideas together already and get it over with. And thus, this idea appeared and lived in limbo on my scratchpad for a few months before it finally reached a tipping point. I'm still not sure I should have posted it, but better to have it leave the nest and crash to the earth than to die in some sickly corner somewhere.
Re: odd job - Odd jobs I've personally worked: lawn mower, driveway shoveler, greenhouse tender, mover, roofer, HTML coder, landscaper, PC technical support, van courier, house painter, data entry, swimming instructor, babysitter, illegal object acquirer, poker dealer (kinda), ditch digger (literally).
Re: Stewart's - There's a Stewart's right at the bottom of the hill in Castleton, and this is the only sign of commerce in the entire village. This little store is intricately woven into the fabric of my childhood in more ways that I can possibly remember right now. My grandfather used to have at least one bottle of Perk-Up in the door of his refrigerator. I can guarantee that, at this very moment, there is a half gallon carton of Stewart's French Vanilla Ice Cream in my parents' freezer. Back in the day, I bought a small arsenal of Bubble Yum, baseball cards and Mad Magazines from the counter of this store. Stewart's is on the large pile of things that I genuinely miss about living in New York.
Re: Dr. Love's Super Baby-Making Show - I don't even know what to make of this, but I can't wait. I desperately want to watch this show. I'm going to call my cable provider right fucking now. In an odd bit of synergy, I heard this story on NPR on my way back from scheduling my vasectomy.
Re: Brian Laudrup - There was an entire summer in my early 20's where it was nothing but me and Brian Laudrup against the entire fucking world. Let me set the scene. Place: shitty apartment in Cortland, New York. Me, sitting on the couch in nothing but boxers because it's so damn hot and we've got no air conditioning, drinking heavily because all I want to do is forget about the previous two years of my life. All I have is a fridge full of cider and my PlayStation with FIFA '99. All summer I play as Chelsea, and my offense was completely unstoppable: get the ball, pass it to Brian Laudrup, run all the way down the field, and kick the ball straight into the back of the net. Even though I heard it easily fifteen thousand times that summer, it still sends chills down my spine to hear John Motson yelling "Brian Laudrup SCORES!!" The average score after 90 minutes of play? Chelsea 21, Dumb Suckas 0.
Re: Northeaster - Not only is it a storm that will kick your puny town's ass, but "The Nor'easter" is also a bad-ass roller coaster on the boardwalk of Wildwood, New Jersey. At least it was a decade ago when I was there last. I've been on more interesting roller coasters since, but this one is still my favorite.
Re: Stellamare - My father worked at the Port of Rensselaer, and was on the dock supervising a barge when the Stellamare went over. He suddenly noticed that he was standing on the dock alone as the crew of the Rhea I. Bouchard, which had been tugging his barge, threw ropes. Then he saw the cranes on the Stellamare splash into the river. He said it was the strangest thing he had ever seen.
Re: Ripped Fuel - The one time that I was dumb enough to take this, I was working a morning shift at EB. My stupendous badass of a boss decided it would be a good idea to give me some, even though he knows I'm easily distracted by shiny objects. After about 20 minutes, I had the worst nic fit in the history of mankind. I say the worst in the history of mankind because having a cigarette did not dismiss the desire to jump on a pogo stick for the remainder of my life. I swear to ghod I was fucking hyperventilating. May I suggest not taking this crap unless you want to run around in circles for a few hours?
Re: Saratoga Race Course - I like going to the track and throwing things at Mrs. Whitney (note: you will never hit her, and even if you do, security will come and kill you, dumping your body in the pond in the middle of the track). Maybe it's because she has her own box, and I'm stuck down with the compulsive gamblers. Or maybe, just maybe, I have a dislike of people with more money than I'll ever see.
Re: Jimmy Swaggart - Jimmy is my fucking hero. I want to be Jimmy Swaggart soooo fucking bad. One day, I will start my own televangelist empire under my new pseudonym, the Reverend Jimmy Fried Fishsticks. You will all give me money because, after all, I am in direct communication with God. Then my life will be filled with hookers and blackjack. In fact, forget the televangelist empire.
Re: Van Andel Arena - The B.O.B. is one of the more popular places to head after the game/show/whatever. It's the kinda fratty three level bar, with what I remember to be a dance club in the basement(?). Just thinking about the B.O.B. makes me think of things that might have been. Also, the arena is but a few short blocks away from where my brother was nearly killed by an idiot in an Ford Excursion.
Re: Pen Pen TriIceLon - I worked as the assistant manager at the Babbage's in the Westshore Mall, Holland, Michigan for about nine months. One thing to know about Holland (if you've never been there, don't kill yourself), is that there isn't exactly a lot of youth activities going on in that small town. During Spring Break, I was pretty convinced that my store would be crammed to the gills with whining 13-year-old pokemAn youth, causing a lot of static and jamming up the demo units. As a preemptive measure, I took the liberty of placing PenPen in the Dreamcast unit, followed by Elmo's Letter Journey in the Nintendo 64, and Spawn in the PlayStation (the game so horrible, it makes you go blind!). When children ran into the store to play the games, you could watch as the happiness and joy melted off their faces. It was, by far, the most fun I have ever had while working.
Re: Albany Firebirds - The only reason that the team moved to god-forsaken Indiana was because it's a bigger market. Don't fool yourselves. Ticket sales were great when they played at the Knick, and for god's sake, they won the Arena Bowl the year before! No, our sin was that Albany is a small market for a league that was trying to go big market. They wouldn't even let us keep the franchise name and colors. Bastards. For this reason, you'll never see me at some shitty-ass afl2 Albany Conquest game. Consider me disillusioned.
Re: Sharon Springs, Kansas - I have never been within five hundred miles of this town, and honestly, I don't see a single situation in my life that would require a visit to the western extremes of Kansas. Not quite the node I set out to write, but what the hell.
Re: Empire State Plaza - I understand that a lot of people hate this place. I can see why some people consider it an eyesore, as it is definitely not in the character of the rest of the city. But I love it. I love it to little tiny pieces. From the South Mall Expressway to the reflecting pool to the Egg to the weird sculpture art, I love it. Coming over the Dunn into the city at night is my most vivid memory of my childhood.
Re: Brookings, Oregon - My wife and I drove through here on our honeymoon without any idea of the historical implications of the town. We missed everything. However, the Best Western on 101 gave us the honeymoon suite at a discount, as well as free champagne. We spent most of the night in the in--room jacuzzi, relaxing after spending the previous three days on the road. I will go back there some day and see the sword, free champagne or not.
Re: Baltimore Elite Giants - I'm not sure how my puny high school (graduating class total - 62) was able to work it out, but we were able to access the archives at the Baseball Hall of Fame for our research projects two years in a row. I went both years, and did my paper on the Elite Giants the second year that I was there. I have no idea where my notes went from that day in the archives, but when I do this writeup will receive the beefing that it so rightfully deserves.
Re: Castleton-on-Hudson, New York - My brother and I talk about home once in a while, and I'm glad that we both seemed to have the same experience. I was very glad to escape that place, but also very sad to be leaving. If things were different, maybe we wouldn't have run away screaming the first moment that we could. Maybe we would have remained, say, within a hundred miles of there. Maybe we wouldn't have panic attacks when the subject to returning home comes up. But things were never this way for us, and now we hide in the Midwest because we know it is better for us. It is all for the best. It is a crying shame.
Through the gratuitous use of other people's code, I've recreated the ekw "Overcast" theme as a Zen sub-theme. The style is slightly less overcast this time, because I am old and my eyes are degrading quickly. I am proud of several hacks in it, including throwing the nodelets ever-so-slightly off screen, so they look like floating tabs at all times. It is listed in theme nirvana as K14. Enjoy.
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