Well done, America.

I just got back from the White House. It is absolute pandemonium.

My voice is hoarse, I’m sweaty, I’m tired… somehow we hauled ass down there so quick, we were able to park a block from the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The leading edge of people that were rushing to the site. As we walked up to the lit-up house, we just heard this onrushing roar… the sounds of hundreds upon hundreds of supporters, screaming and yelling and shouting FOUR MORE YEARS! More than one person in tears. Hugs, kisses, climbing of trees, flashing of cameras, and oh the honking of horns. I’ve never seen such a spontaneous mass gathering fueled by such unbridled joy.

We walked around the White House, dodging reporters from all sorts of networks, foreign and domestic. Everywhere we turned, new throngs of ecstatic supporters rushed to the scene. After walking around the front of the House, we walk up to the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue. Every car is creeping by blasting it’s horn and waving– luxury cars, cabs, even DC ambulances. This one taxicab stops at a red light. A woman is leaning out the window and waving at everyone. She gets out, walks over, and gives me a big hug, tears in her eyes. “It’s nice to meet you,” she says, and gets back in the cab, driving off into the night.

By the time we can get back to the White House, the crowd has easily tripled in size. I climb up on top of a NPS truck that is rapidly becoming a camera platform, and just take it in. It’s a sea of people of every color, creed, gender and background. It’s positively electric, and it is pulsing through the crowd, feeding on itself. More people are still coming. The roar is oceanic, rising in tone, and as I leave it it is still growing. But we’ve seen all we needed. What a night.

More pics and videos later. This will have to do for now. Meanwhile, we have two more states that have allowed gay marriage, multiple states legalizing marijuana, our first openly gay senator… that’s progress, people. Well done indeed.

Today, we celebrate. Tomorrow, we go back to work. We have a long way to go before we rest.

 

Homelands: Lacrosse in the Seneca Nation

what we already own
there is no need
for you to give
back to us.

-Eric Gansworth, ‘Repatriating Ourselves’

We wend our way north on some state highway in Pennsylvania, approaching the New York state line. Rainclouds threaten to the northwest, putting our entire trip in jeopardy. And we are a long way from home, too far to turn back now.

“Are we lacrosse nerds for driving all the way up here?” I ask my friend Ken.

“No. We are not lacrosse nerds. You are a lacrosse nerd because this is your idea. I’m just along for the ride.”

“Yeah, but you actually came. You get some degree of nerd-ness out of this.”

“Nope. No I don’t.”

Maybe he’s right. I got up at 3:45 this morning to take my wife to the airport, and promptly turned around, grabbed my rucksack, met up with Ken and aimed the car north. Seven hours north, towards the homeland of the Tonawanda band of Seneca, in order to watch the Tonawanda Braves play the Newtown Golden Arrows. Of course, I would pick the team with the outdoor arena, with those storm clouds moving closer.

It’s been a dream of mine, a kind of bucket-list thing, to see a lacrosse game where it was born, up in Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) territory in upstate New York. Our high school coaches, way back in the 20th century, used to regale us of stories of Indian warriors playing days-long games, of hundred-member teams battling it out over miles-long valleys, playing to resolve a dispute or avoid a war or appeal to the Creator for health and healing. That’s heady and atavistic stuff for an un-athletic, aimless kid trying to find his way through an un-challenging suburban life, and it definitely helped me find mine. The best part is, this is an eminently accomplishable bucket-list goal. Just need to take a weekend to do it. So I did, and here I am, purring our way north in Ken’s Prius.

The game has given me so much, whether it’s playing or organizing or coaching, and I need to experience more of it, and give it the respect it deserves. I mean, here’s the thing. It’s not as if I’m a particular gifted or skilled lacrosse player. I play a very simple game on those very few occasions when I even get to play anymore, and get frequently embarrassed by younger players when I do. But you know what? Fuck it. I don’t have to be good at something to love it. It’s given me best friends, unforgettable experiences, confidence, fitness, and a hand up out of some dark times. Yes, I want to honor this game. As the fat raindrops pelted the windscreen, I offered up my own request to the Creator, pleading that he take favor on our journey to come up here and honor his game.

As the miles melt away, and while Ken snores away, the clouds break over the southern Adirondacks and the sun bathes the valley as we keep north. The Creator favors us after all. As Lockport disappears behind us, the farms grow further apart, roads grow rougher, traffic gets thinner. Endless spans of corn, punctuated by treelines and barns, remind me of mid-Missouri. Sure doesn’t feel like New York. Then, almost like a knife was slashed across the road, the landscape changes. If you were on Google Maps street view, you would hit a dead-end, because I checked. You’re entering terra incognito. Farmlands become wild woodland, the asphalt changes color, and I see the sign:

 Even without the translation, the message comes across crystal clear. I just crossed into another homeland. I’m the foreigner here.

We wind the tribal roads, tentatively following our spotty satellite reception to the Braves home field. We scarcely see anyone out, save for a few cars leaving the rez smoke shops. No one is at the field. The clear skies bathe the complex in brilliant sunlight. The turf is in excellent shape, ringed by white boards and chain-link fence. Beyond that, thick arboreal forests crowd the field, and we don’t hear a sound. We have five hours to kill until gametime… and already, my anticipation is taking control of me.

We kill a few hours at a bar, putting away some beers, talking over the game. Ken and I both played together in high school, and got different things out of the experience. But, much like any of my teammates or players I’ve coached, once you share a lacrosse field with someone, you share a connection. No matter what else, you’ll always have that. The very nature of lacrosse makes you connect with your teammates. I believe that unlike any other sport, it is impossible to succeed in lacrosse without the support of your teammates. Teamwork and cooperation are built into the game. Anyone selfish enough to be a ball-hog is going to find themselves ineffective at best, flattened at worst. If ego keeps you from working together on defense, your team will find themselves behind quickly. Moving the ball around the offensive side of the field requires the skill of everyone, and on everyone finding their role. The long poles require the vision of the goalie to work, and rely on each other to coordinate the defense. And midfielders do it all. Everyone needs everyone else. There’s no room for superstars.

Is it any wonder that this is the game that served as glue in Haudenosaunee culture, practiced to please the Creator and appeal for healing? Or that it’s southeastern cousins, practiced by the Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw, used their stick-and-ball games to avoid war and provide communities the outlet to resolve their disputes? It is a game where the will of a community is expressed by it’s warriors. Where the many become one, in pursuit of something greater than victory. I’ve played on a lot of losing teams, but when you can build connections with your teammates, you gain a lot more than a win or a loss. The game becomes something greater. It becomes the generator of medicine for the men who participate, which is exactly what it has provided to me throughout my life.

This is all on my mind as we return to the rez to take our seats. The parking lot, previously empty, is now full. We walk up to the woman taking attendance. “How much is it?” I ask.

“Six dollars.” She smiles, warmly. Ken and I both dig through our wallets.

“No worries man, I got it.” I wave him off. “I owe you anyway.”

“Are you Peter?” She asks me, suddenly.

“Ah,” I stammer, “Yes, I am.”

“Oh, you’re taken care of. Roger said you are our guest. Come on in!”

“Wow, ah, thanks!” I want to pay anyhow, to show my gratitude, but I’ll not refuse a gift and just buy a lot of hot dogs instead. I’m glad that I reached out to the team prior to coming, and spoke briefly to Roger Hill, the general manager. I guess it paid off.

The only sound, other than the cicadas filling the trees, is the echoing thud of errant shots crashing into the boards as the teams warm up. Otherwise, there is an almost respectful silence at the arena, pregnant with anticipation. None of the music and chatter fill the air like at any other sporting event I’ve seen. A few groups of people are in the bleachers, and a few more groups of kids are running around with their sticks. Not even the players are talking to each other. Only after the clock winds down to zero do the players come together, give their cheer, and take their positions in the box.

Box lacrosse is a whole different animal than field. All the speed, power, and finesse of field lacrosse is crammed into a much smaller space in a much shorter time. The game adapts. It’s nasty, brutish, and short.

What was a hush over the field, only the soft conversations of the couple dozen fans and the snap of mesh as passes are made and caught, becomes near total silence. Even the cicadas hold their breath as the players take the faceoff circle. They each face a sideline, crouching down to fight for the ball. The whistle blows, and the game is on. The Tonawanda midfielder makes a near-clean faceoff win, and sprints towards the Newtown goalie, immense and unmoving. With all his padding, and his traditional goalie stick, there’s not more than maybe a few square inches in any one place to bury a shot. A cross-check to the back, legal in this game, doesn’t stop the Tonawanda midfielder, but it does put his shot about an inch higher than he intended, right into the thick shoulder plate of the goaltender with a sickening crack. He shrugs off the shot, scoops it up off the crease, and fires it off for a counterattack.

The action rages back and forth, punctuated by missed shots, the ping of metal sticks denting each other, and directions shouted from the sidelines. Newtown pots the first net on a beautiful shot into the top corner. Tonawanda answers on an odd-man rush, which occur rather frequently for such a small space. Speed kills. Newtown nets another goal, and the first period concludes with them up 2-1.

We leave our seats in favor of standing at the chain link fence ringing the arena; a lot of the boys and young men are doing that, and the bleachers seem high enough to not block the view. The last thing I want to do is wear out my welcome by being the too-tall jackwagon standing in the way. As I begin my hot dog party at the concession stand, I hear someone come up behind me.

“Excuse me, are you Peter?”

I turn around to see a shorter man with long black hair pulled behind his head, under a baseball cap, extending his hand. I take it, “Yes, that’s me.”

“I’m Roger, I’m the GM of the team.”

I talk to Roger for a few minutes, and am struck by how much he unreservedly loves this game. He ‘spirits’ for the team on the field, which is only one under the Braves banner– they also field teams in eight different age groups, from age four until whenever the flesh is no longer willing. And there’s no telling when that will be, not for these guys.

“This isn’t some beer league,” he muses, turning back to the field. “We don’t stop playing. Our goalies, they are in their fifties.”

Unbelievable, but believable. At any glance, it’s clear this is no old-boys beer league. It’s not just a game here, and it involves the entire community. By now, the bleachers are full of spectators, and happy chatter fills the air. “Everything here, the referees, the scorekeepers, the concessions, the tickets… it’s all volunteer. We all pull together to make this happen.”

I’m struck dumb for a moment. As someone with an abiding love of lacrosse, and who struggled mightily to have it take root in Richmond and Washington DC, to see this kind of devotion and community is heartening. It’s more than heartening; it’s inspiring. It makes me feel that putting the game is such high esteem isn’t a mistake. Roger gets it. Everyone here does.

“This field, it’s such a fantastic venue,” I say, taking in the cool night air. “It’s in great shape!”

“It’s new!” Roger beams. “The Nation paid for it all, I think it was $1.5 million. All of it from cigarettes.”

“Cigarettes? Really?” The preponderance of smoke shops makes sense. I later learn that the Seneca are able to sell smokes at a steep discount, as they don’t have to collect New York taxes. Of course, New York is trying to horn in on that revenue, mercifully with no luck so far.

“Yep, all cigarettes. We take something bad, and we turn it into something good. Any child, if they want to play, the Nation pays for it– all the gear, stick, everything.”

I’m so happy that the Braves are able to do that for their kids, but it makes my heart hurt a little. Roger returns to the bench to coach for the second period, while I chew on that some more. I just spent a few weeks driving all around Virginia, cold-calling old teammates and friends, and asking that they do the same, to gather enough used sticks to pass on to the kids in my program in the District. I think of them when I see these young boys running around with sticks, laughing and carrying on, yet still absorbed in the game. I spent a night sawing old defense poles into attack sticks for our 3rd graders, and I know it wasn’t wasted effort. I’m just glad the Braves have that taken care of, and it’s something that I need to aspire to.

Sadly for the Braves, Newtown really puts the pedal on the floor in the second period. Blown passes become fast breaks become goals. I can get an inkling of the skills these guys have developed from a lifetime of playing lacrosse. They don’t make dumb mistakes. There’s a willingness to take a gutsy chance, and they have the skill and toughness to make it work. Occasionally make stupid decisions on coverage or offense, but I almost feel like they have an extra-normal sense of where the ball is, where their teammates are, and the motion of the action. It’s a sense that even in my best of moments, when I can see the direction the next two passes are going and anticipate, is only fleeting and impermanent. These guys have it as default-setting. That’s the kind of mastery that only a real love of the game, and thousands of hours of practice, can instill. It’s beautiful to see it in action.

What they do with it, that’s another matter. Even the highest levels of skill have to grapple with ego. An odd-man rush forms, with a Newtown attacker sprinting down the left side, cradling to the outside. One of the Braves is slowly backpedaling, stick up to the inside, with a teammate to his right.

“Let him shoot!” the first defender shouts, a taste of mirth in his voice. “Let him shoot.”

The Newtown player does, and promptly pots another goal, contested by a futilely shrugging goalie. Two more follow shortly thereafter. The Braves put in two goals on their own odd-man rushes, but a sense of impending doom has descended on the arena. That sense was accurate. The game concludes in much the same manner, with Newtown coming out on top, 19-6. As the players shake hands, I’m transported back to my own games at Herndon High, in a context as different as could be, and still, both then and now have the younger brothers and friends of the players rush the field to shoot on the nets. Laughter and thumps. We’re not so different.

I find Roger again after the game. “You know, when I got your email saying you were coming up here from DC, I said to myself, ‘These guys are full of shit.’” He laughs, as do Ken and I. “People email me all the time saying things like that. But they don’t come.”

I can tell that he appreciates my seriousness, and respect for what I’ve just seen. We talk more about our respective youth programs, and how our kids face many of the same problems, just in different flavors. He invites us up for a game, if we can make it happen. To bring my boys up here for a game would make me freak out, so I can’t imagine what it would do for them. For kids who are brand new to lacrosse, and who scarcely ever make it out of city limits, to come to the ancestral homeland of lacrosse. I must find a way to make this happen. It has the potential to be a transformative event.

For me, it already has become that. I came here not fully knowing what I would find. I’ve always felt that the white, prep-school version of lacrosse had taken primacy from the native game, and become the definition of the game in the eyes of the common man. Maybe it has for some people. I anticipated asking Roger or others about how to ‘take back’ the game, to make it theirs again. But upon seeing the community, and feeling the passion they have for the game, I realize what a wrong-headed and offensive premise that is. Lacrosse is the native game; it can never be anything but. We are all just lucky that we get to play it. They approach it with a studiousness, commitment, and utter joy that we can only aspire to possess. Whether we play in Washington or Munich or Hong Kong or Arlee, Montana, we’re at our best when we can tap into that next level.

And more than that, the best things provided by lacrosse aren’t even on the field. I saw it here in Tonawanda when I saw a whole community out in support of their boys, with whole teams of younger ones waiting in the wings to follow brothers, uncles, and fathers into a jersey. The game isn’t a cure-all for the problems facing any community, be it here or in the inner city. But it does enhance lives, and serves the important function of reinforcing identity. On the field, you remain an individual and have the means to express yourself creatively, but without the support of your teammates, you cannot succeed. You must rely on your teammates to give you the space to succeed, both literally and metaphorically. You are nothing without each other. This is exactly the kind of lesson that a lot of young people need to hear.

Lacrosse demands teamwork, discipline, resistance to pain and the value of effort. In return, it gives you a brotherhood, one that lasts forever. Wherever you go, you’ll always have that bond, even with strangers. I felt it in Tonawanda Seneca country, I felt it in Richmond, and I feel it in northeast DC. This is why I love this game. I’m in it for life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Death Valley to Mount Whitney: Get Low, Get High

A video tribute to my journey, and the friends who accompanied me, last summer to the top of Mount Whitney.  We drove from Las Vegas, passing the lowest part of North America at Badwater (-282 ft), to the Whitney Portal.  Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet, is the highest point in the continental USA.  What a rush.

Featured music: Ballpoint Pens’ “The City” and Brant Bjork’s “Magic vs. Technology;” “Cool Abdul;” “Hinda 65 (Return Flight);” “Indio.”

2011: The Year of Reading

Well, that was fun.

The best part (kinda-sorta) of the past year was the commitment I made to read as much as possible over 2011.  For years, I’ve collected books at a far faster rates than I could finish them.  I tried to to whittle down the collection this year, and if it weren’t for the Borders bankruptcy and subsequent bloodletting, I probably would have succeeded- instead, I came home with even more paper.  But as it stands, 2011 is my most readingest year on record.  I’ve read some good ones and some bad ones, but all in all, I need to make sure I carry this forward.  So!  Here’s what I read, in order:

Nexus: Ascension by Robert Boyczuk.  Super-entertaining hard sci-fi spanning hundreds of years until the last 10% or so.  The dry-heave of an ending somehow didn’t ruin the experience for me.

Ecotopia by Ernest Callender.  An interesting alternate history that serves as a possible blueprint to a post-oil society.  It got a little slow in parts, a little dated, and maybe a little too earnest, but it was an interesting bit of speculation.

Haiti Noir edited by Edwidge Danticat.  I’m a big fan of the Akashic Noir series, and the Haiti entry was excellent.  This country embodies noir like few others, and with the history of political oppression, crime, colonialism, voodoo, drugs, and the recent earthquake coloring stories, it was a riveting look into a world we’ll likely never see.

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell.  I can’t say enough good things about this book, David Mitchell, and his entire body of work.  I’ve never read anything that has so many diverse and entirely riveting and believable voices as what Mitchell does, and he does it here with nine different narrators.  The way they all link up, and how he draws the circle to a close with an incredible twist, made my jaw drop.  Highest recommendation.

Mountain Justice by Tricia Shapiro.  This is an insider’s look at the newest generation of organized grassroots resistance to mountaintop removal (MTR) mining.  I’ve always known it was bad, but Shapiro takes us inside the communities that are facing death from this mode of mining and makes it real.  It gets pretty in-depth into the activist milieu, so that may bore you, but I ate this book up.

Mythmakers and Lawbreakers by Margaret Killjoy.  A series of interview with fiction authors who have been influenced to some degree by the philosophy of anarchism.  Some real heavy hitters are here, like Ursula LeGuin and Alan Moore, but people I was not familiar with like Lewis Shiner who also provided some brilliant bits.  Michael Moorcock in particular really gave me some thoughts to ponder.

Zoo City by Lauren Beukes.  I read Beukes’ first book, Moxyland, and was greatly entertained by her fresh and modern voice.  Cyberpunk for the 21st century, with a South African twist.  This book was even better, a modern tale of noir and magic that is inextricable from its South African roots.  Truly a delight to read something so out-there.

The Brave Cowboy by Edward Abbey.  I find few writers as perceptive, honest, and revealing as Cactus Ed.  That is probably what made this novel so heartbreaking.  I often daydream of the kind of free life lived by Jack Burns, but Ed slams the door on that kind of life with finality, just as it was closed for our real lives as well.  But that doesn’t make it any less of a work of art.

Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman by Walter Miller.  Since this is a sequel (or sorts) to A Canticle for Leibowitz I don’t know what I can say about this without tons of context.  But I will say in a world of lazy post-apocalyptic stories, this was a masterpiece that focused on the REAL topic- human nature, and whether we really can escape a violent end.  ‘Canticle’ took place two hundred, five hundred, and a thousand years after our world is destroyed in nuclear fire; this tale alone is longer than the first book, and set entirely in the five-hundred-years-after time period.  It is crackling with nervous energy and political intrigue.  Loved it.  Read the first, at least.

Mesopotamia by Arthur Nersesian.  I like a good mystery as much as the next person, and even more so when it’s in an unexpected place, i.e. rural Tennessee.  Extra points for a look at the odder side of life, like, say, Elvis impersonation.  This was exactly what I needed after the herculean effort and apocalyptic scope of Saint Leibowitz.

Aurorarama by Jean-Christophe Valtat.  I usually think that steampunk is wack, just another reason to use archaic words and machines in a new context, but this book was much more than the aesthetic it borrows from.  It’s an entirely riveting and modern world, while still remaining it’s olden character.  I was very engrossed in this one, and look forward for more from Valtat.

How Few Remain by Harry Turtledove.  An entertaining romp through an alternate history wherein the Confederate States won the Civil War, and the nations butt heads again in 1881.  It strives for reality and detail, and often delivers, but often at the expense of pacing and flow.  Whatever.  I can geek out on the details.  And, it sets the stage for…

American Front by Harry Turtledove.  The next volume in the series that started with How Few Remain.  The First World War has broken out in North America and my God does it give some horrible images.  Seeing trenches, poison gas, and slaughter on this continent is indeed scary.  Has the same problems with pacing and flow, but I can get through it.

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert.  The second volume in the Dune series.  It draws in from the universal and religious aspect of the first into one of political intrigue, and does so masterfully.  Definitely read Dune, it’s kind of essential.

Zulu by Caryl Férey.  Now this is a hard-boiled mystery that pulls no punches.  Can’t remember the last time I gasped at a book, but I sure did here.  That poor bastard… anyhow, this was pretty great, and a really incisive look at South Africa.

The Lost Cosmonaut by Daniel Kalder.  I probably got into this book more than I should, because I love Kalder’s efforts to speak for antitourism- namely, seeking the places that no one else seeks, like the remote, ruined and obscure ex-Soviet republics, to see what they have to offer.  And based on his travels, he got something out of it.  I did too.

DC Noir edited by George Pelecanos.  Another entry in Akashic Noir that gave me a ton of enjoyment, perhaps because I know these places they speak of.  A lot of the stories are top-notch, some are not, but it’s definitely a great read in all.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead.  Zombies are overdone, we all know it- but Whitehead told a story of a world after the zombies that is possibly even more terrifying.  He examines what really would survive, in the world and in us, and I think that sometimes could be worse.  And then the shit got real and oh my God all that blood…

Supergods by Grant Morrison.  I’m pretty into comic books, and I appreciate Morrison’s work in explaining where comic heroes came from and how they reflect and influence the world around us.  They really are integral to the fabric of our society and should be treated as such.

Pump Six by Paolo Bacigalupi.  Awesome collection of short stories by a new master.  I have nothing to say but you need to check this out.  He runs all the gamut of sci fi, and some of his stories are too believable to not be terrifying.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.  Pump Six confirmed to me that I needed to check this one out.  Bacigalupi’s world building is top-notch, and his biopunk story is creepy and deep.  Great characters and a fast pace give this one a movie feel.

Zazen by Vanessa Veselka.  Veselka’s narrator has such a remarkable and refreshing voice that I could not help but eat it up.  Her world-building shows a reality just slightly removed from ours, and terrifying in its own believable way.  It was engrossing, rewarding, and unique- so, I’m already looking forward to her next work.

The Discontents by James Wallace Birch.  A debut work by a somewhat-mysterious author, this one definitely struck close to home as it’s set in the murky activist underground in Washington, DC.  It has a ton of heart and passion, and it’s a good book to close out the year.

If I had to pick my top three, I’d have to go with Ghostwritten, Zazen, and The Brave Cowboy.  All moved me in very different directions, but move me they did.  So there it is.  A year of reading.  There’s no way I’ll get as many books done this year, as I’m devoting my time to some pretty big ones- Stephen King’s 11/22/63, Adam Levin’s The Instructions, Philip K. Dick’s Exegesis, and Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren.  It’s going to be a mind-bending year, I think.  Here we go!

Orwell Was Right

“…a tremendous shout of hundreds of voices women’s voices had burst from a side-street a little way ahead. It was a great formidable cry of anger and despair, a deep, loud ‘Oh-o-o-o-oh!’ that went humming on like the reverberation of a bell. His heart had leapt. It’s started! he had thought. A riot! The proles are breaking loose at last! It appeared that one of the stalls had been selling tin saucepans. They were wretched, flimsy things, but cooking-pots of any kind were always difficult to get. Now the supply had unexpectedly given out. The successful women, bumped and jostled by the rest, were trying to make off with their saucepans while dozens of others clamoured round the stall, accusing the stall-keeper of favouritism and of having more saucepans somewhere in reserve. There was a fresh outburst of yells. Two bloated women, one of them with her hair coming down, had got hold of the same saucepan and were trying to tear it out of one another’s hands. For a moment they were both tugging, and then the handle came off. Winston watched them disgustedly. And yet, just for a moment, what almost frightening power had sounded in that cry from only a few hundred throats! Why was it that they could never shout like that about anything that mattered?”

-George Orwell, 1984

Declarations of the Anti-Tourist

Thanks to Daniel Kalder, who captured these tenets and wrote a book about them. I am currently enjoying this book.  I’ve scratched the surface of some of these tenets in past journeys, and am interested in applying them in the future.  I’m particularly in agreement with the sentiment about the banality of the Great Destinations.  It’s all been seen, it’s all been done… what more is there to experience?  Am I really going to go a huge amount of time and expense to wait in line to see a fossilized moment in human history, one that is managed and fossilized and irrelevant?  I’m sorry, but I’d rather go and do things, instead of see things.  This is why I don’t like to spend my time on the ‘must-see’ things of a certain place- odds are, we’ve already seen the representation and a facsimile of the object in question.  But that’s just me.  So!  Offered without further comment:

From THE SHYMKENT DECLARATIONS

(Excerpts from the resolutions passed at the first international congress of Anti- Tourists
at the Shymkent Hotel, Shymkent, Kazakhstan, October 1999)

As the world has become smaller so its wonders have diminished. There is nothing
amazing about the Great Wall of China, the Taj Mahal, or the Pyramids of Egypt. They
are as banal and familiar as the face of a Cornflakes Packet.

Consequently the true unknown frontiers lie elsewhere.

The duty of the traveller therefore is to open up new zones of experience. In our over
explored world these must of necessity be wastelands, black holes, and grim urban
blackspots: all the places which, ordinarily, people choose to avoid.

The only true voyagers, therefore, are anti- tourists. Following this logic we declare that:

The anti-tourist does not visit places that are in any way desirable.

The anti-tourist eschews comfort.

The anti-tourist embraces hunger and hallucinations and shit hotels.

The anti-tourist seeks locked doors and demolished buildings.

The anti-tourist scorns the bluster and bravado of the daredevil, who attempts to penetrate danger zones such as Afghanistan. The only thing that lies behind this is vanity and a desire to brag.

The anti-tourist travels at the wrong time of year.

The anti-tourist prefers dead things to living ones.

The anti-tourist is humble and seeks invisibility.

The anti-tourist is interested only in hidden histories, in delightful obscurities, in bad art.

The anti-tourist believes beauty is in the street.

The anti-tourist holds that whatever travel does, it rarely broadens the mind.

The anti-tourist values disorientation over enlightenment.

The anti-tourist loves truth, but he is also partial to lies. Especially his own.

Thirty Days of Music: Closing Out!

OK, so clearly summer happened and I got sidetracked.  It happens.  You have to chain me to a computer that time of year, so I’m going to finish it out here and now.  Here we go!

Day 24 – A song that you want to play at your funeral

There’s really no question here.  Let this serve as notice of my last wishes: I don’t want to be burned and sent up into more carbon into the atmosphere, and I don’t want to be pumped full of toxic chemicals and stuck in an overpriced box in a carefully manicured lawn.  I want to be wrapped up in a sheet, red if possible, and buried as-is.  Let my body break down and nourish something else.  So, my close friends that are reading, you’ll have to figure out a way to make it happen.  Toss me in the ground someplace nice, someplace in need of a little bit of fertilizer.  Pour me a PBR and be on your way back to the party.  I don’t care what else goes on that night (but I would hope for quite a bit of mayhem), but this song must feature.

Yeah it’s nine minutes, but just sit down and let it speak to you.  Keep on drinkin’.  I’m dead, indulge me this last moment to share with you something I love.

Day 25 – A song that makes you laugh

Day 26 – A song that you can play on an instrument

I might be able to swing this, but even then, I’m a little doubtful.

Day 27 – A song that you wish you could play

I just think the banjo is cool as all hell.  I wish I could play it, but have no idea where to start.

Day 28 – A song that makes you feel guilty

How could a song make me feel guilty?  What a stupid prompt.  Here’s some Phantogram instead.

Day 29 – A song from your childhood

Day 30 – Your favorite song at this time last year

There you have it, netizens.  “Thirty Days” of Music.  Clearly I can’t be expected to blog responsibly in the summer.  But hey, autumn is chasing us down, so maybe things will change.  Maybe.

Thirty Days of Music: #23

“day 23 – a song that you want to play at your wedding.”

Well, since I was married last summer (yay!), this really wouldn’t be all that speculative.  We had some great music, including an outstanding a capella performance by a good friend, and I really have no complaints.  But at the same time, it wasn’t music that really expresses me as an individual.

So for this entry into this (un)timely series, I have to pick Sæglópur by Sigur Ros.  This song to me expresses beauty and love like nothing else, video notwithstanding.  If it were a little shorter, or I could have worked it into the festivities, this would have played at my wedding.  As it were, it was definitely playing in my head as I took a step into my future, and I think I’ll always associate it with that day.