Excerpt from “Sixty Men From Ur”

Posted on June 2nd, 2014 by Sammy

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., one the United States’ great historians, is less than two lifetimes removed from a world where the United States did not exist. Through Mr. Schlesinger, you’re no more than three away yourself. That’s how short the history of our nation really is.

Not impressed? It’s only two more life spans to William Shakespeare. Two more beyond that, and the only Europeans to see America are those who sailed from Greenland. You’re ten lifetimes from the occupation of Damietta during the fifth crusade. Twenty from the founding of Great Zimbabwe and the Visigoth sack of Rome. Make it forty, and Theseus, king of Athens, is held captive on Crete by King Minos, the Olmecs are building the first cities in Mexico, and the New Kingdom collapses in Egypt.

Sixty life times ago, a man named Abram left Ur of the Chaldees and took his family into Canaan. Abram is claimed as the founder of three great religions. A few lifetimes before that, and you’ve come out the bottom of that dime. You’re that close to it.

The next time you see an obituary in the paper, go ahead and wonder at all the things that person saw in his or her lifetime, but remember that every lifetimes is filled with events just as momentous. More importantly, the next time you see people struggling with events that took place decades or centuries ago, recall that the dime is very thin.

(via Mark Sumner)


Memorial Day Weekend and Week

Posted on May 31st, 2014 by Sammy

Memorial day weekend was uneventful. I spent that Thursday, Friday, and most of the weekend continuing my slow move. Which by the way is still going! Ridiculous. I’ve determined that my actual possessions aren’t too excessive but furniture and kitchen-wise I need to calm down — there’s no reason for any apartment-dwelling dude like me to own twelve folding chairs or four tables. Or a food processor. That I moved these things to my third-floor elevator-less apartment is probably most impressive.

Monday and Tuesday were blissful. Monday night Shannon came over for dinner and we started a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle (she is amazing at puzzles, or I suck, or a little bit of both). Tuesday we went to my favorite hill, and Wednesday through Friday I was in Cabo for a work retreat.

Cabo was pretty relaxing despite being a short trip. I think my favorite was swimming with dolphins! The dolphin trainer seemed to have a real rapport with these creatures and they seemed well-treated so I wasn’t too uncomfortable about the fun interactions. That said I’m still a bigger fan of true wilds.

This was the warmest shore I’ve been on: swimming was like taking a dip in salty bath water. I was so enchanted by this southern coast — I’m already a sucker for the ocean but Cabo San Lucas was particularly welcoming. Unsurprising that Thursday morning I spent the bulk of my time between waves.

Thursday night we had a team dinner which was really nice. There was a mariachi band and ethnic dancing afterwards, and they closed out the evening with fireworks over the beach. Somewhere between the eating and entertainment I retreated down the shore for some alone time. Watched the sunset and cast a bottle into the tides.

Last night after getting home I went straight to moving again — the lease on our Boranda place is up as of today. Just need to break down some boxes and make a few trash runs now.

Kinda sad to have moved away from that place, it’s full of nice memories. That said my new place is already full of happy memories and it hasn’t even been a full month! :)

I wonder if Nathan is concerned over my dietary habits a.k.a inhaling frozen pizzas, vanquishing loaves of bread & peanut butter, “slowly savoring” (read: gobbling) bed banana bread, etc.


Billows Part II

Posted on May 29th, 2014 by Sammy

The sun doesn’t look like it’s going to set anytime soon. I’ve got our wicker basket slung across one arm and two thin blankets piled atop. You’re holding my softest sweatshirt and a bag of pretzel rolls, maybe a coffee also? It’s a little fuzzy in my head because I’m not paying closest attention to the things around us, gleaming billows have me seized, those masses of your fluttering strands mirrored by fluttering streams in my chest.

You whistle and hum in turns and I feel like some kid who’s climbed fences to sneak into these secret concerts. I’m careful not to interrupt — I don’t want you to notice yourself and stop.

Halfway up the hill I shift our basket to my other shoulder, I must free my left hand. It’s in my job description according to Vance Joy.

My fingers slip from yours reluctantly as the path narrows upward. We’re at the final steepest incline and you’re telling me a relevant glovewarming tale of mountain summiting, all the while this warmth spreads through my core and remains through the night. I’m a smoldering cord of pine; every swirling gust is pulling me upward, billowing smoke from quickening combustions.

We set two blankets down and make our legs pretzels facing the sun. You proclaim your love for the wind as the sunlight catches those lovely pale eyes. I’m melting but continue setting things for our dinner.

“Cheers,” sipping glasses of Saison de Lente we’re suddenly aware of this slow season: we are in this place where time is irrelevant and cannot be measured, only our variable breaths. We are here where stars trot across the sky without our encouragement, in this open gradient of California color. There is no friction, only warmth and things I can’t say uncoded for the same reason we don’t utter our wishes aloud.

We raise our thumbs to the sun as it drops, then make wishes over this nearest falling star. As its light retreats for the night we become Antarctic royalty beneath glimmering heavens.

Oh beauty! How magical is the world in color! How you give this colorblind beast eyes for the world, eyes for your wildernesses, vast and beautiful and endless and washed in warmest hues. I’ve barely an idea of what to do apart from my eyes.

I’ve not often known tears of joy (or longing) but as the first leg of my flight touched down in Dallas and my phone reconnected the aches overtook me. Sitting in a busy terminal I dripped from the places my eyes would have been, so sore for you.


Billows

Posted on May 25th, 2014 by Sammy

It’s Friday evening and I’m deliberating whether or not to drive somewhere far. Nathan flutters about the apartment, drink in hand, rearranging his living room things. At some point he opens the back of his guitar amp to fix a piece that had come off — we’re trying to fix an annoying buzz from my cheap projector’s audio output. He educates me on the basics of ground loops and remarks upon how terrible the engineering must have been for this device; after more thought my brilliant friend decides he will run the audio through his guitar effects pedal to filter the signal.

Beyond making Charlie Day’s voice sound funnier than it already is, the pedal doesn’t help. We have a few moments of amusement with the various guitar effects then give up to watch an episode of Sunny. Mid-episode he’s on the phone with Kimbo and I’m thinking I should head out soon if I want to escape artificial light.

At 10:30pm I tell Nathan I’m heading out to Gilroy and that he should come with, but he’s got a headache so he doesn’t want to go all the way to Gilroy. I don’t try to sell it any more than that; part of me is happy to have some alone time.

I haven’t wanted alone time for a long while now and I still don’t, it’s just the second-best thing I can have on nights like this.

The stars are comforting, reminding me that we still exist together under the same celestial canopy despite distance; at least you haven’t taken off to the moon. I begin driving toward the San Luis Reservoir (in case Gilroy isn’t far enough and I want to head toward I-5), starting the playlist from that Kishi Bashi song.

And if you fly into the sky
And if your body is a penny and dime
Ready to throw it in the fountain of my many monies

I screw up with one traffic light but it isn’t long before opportunity presents itself and I hammer a yellow. The night is full of untentative wishes.

There are more cars on the opposite side of this dark road, their headlights collectively blinding. I open the sunroof and take my eyes off the road for little stretches as if to reassure myself that the stars haven’t all fallen out of the sky ahead of schedule; I must invoke their magic tonight. It’s hard to tell from the car whether I’ve found a good place to exit so I don’t stop prematurely though it is tempting. I must be patient.

Driving this road down to paradise
Letting the sun light into my eyes
Our only plan is to improvise

Garlic aromas tell me I’m in Gilroy but glancing again at the sky I decide to skip two promising exits. “Can’t risk clouds,” I speed up, they eat my dust. Dancy new Coldplay has me driving fast.

Steady 90mph on the 152 toward I-5. Now streetlights are nowhere to be seen and traffic thins. I pass multiple cars stopped on the side of the road; they’re probably trying to see shooting stars also. Tempted to stop for the view but it’s still too low and too early, I seek higher elevations. I want to be as close to the sky as possible even if the closeness is marginal.

I’m up on the sky and the dream’s so blue
I live in the sky
You come live here too

Finally GPS tells me that I am within eight miles of the San Luis Reservoir and the night seems dark enough to satisfy. I start looking for an exit: a recreational area catches my eye. But this first attempt is foiled by parkranger-type dudes. I roll down my window to hear one of them bark at me: “This area is closed sir, turn your car around.”

I take the next exit, a road exit that leads to some desolate hilltop off the highway. This old V4 engine winds upward, shaking, struggling. When the highway is no longer in view I pull to the shoulder and turn off the engine. Minutes pass, my eyes adjust to the darkness, and I notice another vehicle parked on this strange hill. It’s a big car, an SUV. Hard to tell exactly but I think there is a family inside? I’m not sure how they are looking at the sky.

The wind howls and the Swagon shakes — I can’t see more than two feet out. Grabbing a blanket I try to go outside but the intense winds make me realize that this isn’t going to be a quiet stargazing session. My eyes lose their moisture within moments of contact with the arid currents, I feel the skin rippling on my cheeks. WHOOSHHHHHHHHHHHH. It’s so loud.

And I spent my evenings pullin’ stars out of the sky
And I’d arrange them on the lawn where I would lie
And in the wind I’d taste the dreams of distant lives

My eyes are finally adjusted and I’m peering up through the open sunroof at a shimmering sky. There are so many stars, my urban American eyes can’t believe how many stars there are. But where are the meteors? And I feel enclosed — why am I not outdoors?

Lights startle me. The other car is pulling out. I didn’t hear their engine start the wind is so loud — I watch the red taillights fade in the distance. They’re gone now, and I’m alone.

Tying a blanket around my legs, donning my drug rug and pulling up the hood to cover my ears, I hoist myself up through the sunroof. It’s windy but at least I’m not lying on the dusty rocks. I slide back and feel my weight flex the car top. “No way this would support two people, I shouldn’t even be up here.” But the sky is full like this; no angle is obscured. It is beautiful.

‘Cause in a sky, ’cause in a sky full of stars
I think I see you

Gale-force winds and intangibles flush through me as though my skin is no more than a permeable mesh. My eyes are dry and I squint, straining to keep them open despite this thirsty, fast-moving air. It takes minutes of staring for me to notice that many of the overhead specks are moving. More minutes and I notice these restless ones disappearing as well — they’re falling stars.

I’m finding it difficult to make any wishes. Maybe this is because because in the moment I’m harboring one particular longing and it’s so intense that it’s giving me tunnel vision. Maybe minutes aren’t minutes.

Long moments pass in loud silence. Eventually I ruin my night vision by checking the phone: an hour has gone by since I first climbed atop the car.

My hands are so so cold; the night is at its end. I carefully lower myself into the driver’s seat. A few last moments looking through the roof’s window and listening to the billows of my pulse, then that “grrrrrrrr,” the station wagon waking to take me home.

Glimmering, glistening, I’ll see her tomorrow night
Waiting for my traveling light


this is the warmth of holding

Posted on May 21st, 2014 by Sammy

Friday evening. My glow is only partially from having consumed two green drinks and something Kev calls a “Kamikaze.” My state of attire is also only partially from alcohol; how I dressed had way more to do with a promise. I don’t break promises. Also those two thumbs up and that playful grin, I can’t say no.

3am. Emanations of metabolized hydrocarbons are responsible for some of the warmth — piercing grey eyes in a dimly lit room are responsible for the bulk.

4am. Cold descends and I wind my clock feeling something reminiscent of sadness. Is this how my dog will feel while I’m off at work?

I wonder how dogs keep time. Clock literacy, internal sundial or infinite patience?

7am. I wake to begin moving. Moving always heats my blood, makes me sweat. But this morning my blood feels like it could be warmer. Knows — it was so much warmer a few hours ago.


Sunday evening. Dinner. The electric stove frustrates me though I’m learning to deal. I think it’s that indirect transfer of heat: heat to coil, coil to pot. I’ve always valued the directness of open flames and the aesthetic appeal is there too though secondary. Direct heat is everything, this byproduct of combustion, this desirable chaos. “No limits to our mutual irresponsibility” sounds suboptimal taken at face value but micro-chaos is necessary for macro-harmony, stirrings to catalyze the bigger processes. Zooming out.

Zooming in. The movie is playing, Nathan is typing on his laptop, the wick burns another centimeter lower on our dining table. Her fingertips line up with mine under the throw; this thin sheet of fabric is bewildering to me, how soft simple cotton allows us to share our combustions. Vibrations from her laughter agitate my molecules, dissolving more affections into me than I can precipitate. Along the length of my arm there are explosions enough to power a city.

?pm. Time lost. Not lost in the unrecoverable way; lost in the untrackable way. Hours feel all at once like microseconds and eternities. The warmth is pinned down, my legs contorted like a trained fighter, my heart begging for another song to play before this time is up.

It isn’t long before the silence comes and all I’m left with is the afterglow. It’s not unpleasant, but this morning my blood feels like it could be warmer. Knows.

I wind my clock.


Lightening

Posted on May 16th, 2014 by Sammy

Wednesday and Thursday have been fairly frenzied as a result of packing and moving logistics. I arranged for a truck and two movers to come on Saturday morning to help move the bigger items.

Something I really like about moving is how much junk I
a) Find. Like “oh I needed this A MONTH ago and now it shows up.”
b) Get rid of. Lightening is good.

It’s crazy how much stuff I have that isn’t even close to necessary. Snow pants?! I went skiing only once! My mother gave them to me before leaving for college (“Illinois is going to be so cold” and she wasn’t wrong) but I never wore them because well jeans exist and I didn’t mind mine getting soggy during romps through the snow.

Oh and I have way too much furniture, mostly acquired for free or incredibly cheap. If I move all of it the new living room might look as if it were decorated by a rich Ethiopian.

Excited to significantly reduce my possessions through this move. Also excited to be done — moving is so exhausting.


Weaving through the days

Posted on May 14th, 2014 by Sammy

A summary of the past week:

Friday: I seriously can’t remember what happened last Friday. I think maybe I hung out with the housemates and we had dinner?

Saturday: Can’t remember what I did with the morning but the day was soooo pleasant. Brunch with Shannon’s friends in Palo Alto, putzing around a bit after brunch (stopped at Palo Alto bakery and got a banana nut loaf) then the Saratoga Wine Stroll followed by Jack Rose Libation House and then my place for Chaitan’s 23rd birthday celebration. Some dude who poured wine for us summed it up well: “happy, zippy, and full of love.”

Sunday: Church, lunch with the housemates at Pho To Chau, nap, then happiest (mostly barefoot) frolicking + dinner with the house. 21:38 run with Kev, short Cuesta loop.

Monday: Work, run. 23:00 + plyos and strides. Met up with Nathan, Gabe, and Nathan’s coworker Rory in the evening — we went to Paper Planes in downtown SJ and ordered cocktails. Their bread pudding is amaze, but other than that and two items everything else has meat. So not a good dinner place, more of a dessert and cocktails place. Drove Gabe home afterwards, he lives in Campbell but it was late so I decided maybe I should just not breathe until Wednesday as planned. I really need to breathe more, it’s supposed to be healthy.

Oh I almost forgot — Demis Hassabis gave a really great talk at Google which I took an hour out to watch. I’m not sure how much I can write here other than that it was about AI but it was really fascinating.

Tuesday: Work, run, groceries with Kev (he got some cheese and crackers and random snacks because we were hungry after our run) — 26:00 easy, full Cuesta loop. I made the mistake of purchasing an entire large box of flavor blasted goldfish.

Today: Morning happinesses in “compromising positions,” then came into work to find out something I committed broke prod — now playing fixit.

If fixit were a game, it would not be that fun. Probably have to stay late today but I’m not too worried, plenty of tunes and happinesses to keep me going. Finna try to sleep earlier if possible, feeling tired lately.

The good news is I sleep best on days such as these, as if my body were begging me to fast-forward time till next we meet.


Madi Diaz – “Stay Together”

Posted on May 12th, 2014 by Sammy


Spaces

Posted on May 9th, 2014 by Sammy

The living room is warm. Muted sunlight coasts in past lazy clouds — they’re probably half-asleep it’s so early. She stands and dances from left to right opening windows, then makes a remark about the outside chill. I think her windows face west.

Finally there isn’t distance between us (this is what I prefer), and secretly I feel for her pulse. I don’t count, I just feel. Maybe this illusion of balance comes from doing things like feeling for pulses without looking for firm numbers — well-defined experiments without quantifiable goals or expectations.

Words come easily when we sit so close but even in the lulls it’s not silent; I’m listening with my whole body. It’s not yet rush hour but traffic jams my highways. “THUMP. THUMP. THUMP. THUMP.” Seems this morning we’ve got another pileup; they’re becoming more common, my streets are running reckless.

I speak from a pastiche of humid memories formed in overcast groves:

“…obviously worried I’d be struck by thunder–”

“You said it again! Struck by thunder.”

“Oops.” Facetious smile. “Well, why do they call it ‘thunderstruck’ then?”

“Hm, that’s a good point.” She’s playing along. She gives her hands a thoughtful look and turns her head.

I paw at the soft curtain obscuring her face, unsure of how many more glances I will be allowed, still just enjoying, still not counting.

I did count one thing: it’s been 40 hours.


Those humid memories take place beyond the arboretum in Holmdel Park, across Roberts Road, deep in the territory of deer hunters and cross-country runners. Many summer long runs happen there, especially solo runs on account of the desirable (interesting, endless, beautiful) terrain. Time flies by in those parts; in those parts ten miles is more privilege than chore. We call those woods “the nature trails,” though they probably have an actual name. I never cared to learn it.

Holmdel Park proper is full of pedestrians and picnickers, pickup games and park rangers. The nature trails are not so: I was once given a fright to find an armed man suspended in a tree — he sat waiting for game to encroach on his pile of dried corn. Only half the surprise was situational (open season on deer) — it was mostly amazing to see another human.

One midsummer day I found myself miles in the wilderness, utterly alone as the sky took on hues from a palette you love, smoke and charcoal clouds against a pale blue sky. This wasn’t the first or only time I’d been in such a situation, it’s just one that stuck like those four sticky lines of lyrics in a song that is all pretty good. As the drizzle came down on my bare skin I entered a clearing, then flashes, a pause, and “BOOOOOM.” (Booom…boom…the echoes of might.)

We learned in elementary school to count after the first flash. “One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Missis…BOOOOM.” That would be how far away the storm was. A little less than four miles. I counted this distance and realized I should head back toward shelter, but I was still in a thicket of trees when the light and sound became one. Then I was no longer trying to outrun the storm, I was letting every thunderclap turn me inside out.

Maybe I don’t say “struck by lightning” because it’s never happened to me.

I have however been struck by thunder, struck by the insignificant size of my existence in the face of vast wilds — I could not roar loader than the sky. In those moments I had no desire to be bigger than I was; never did I feel so wakefully mortal. A sockless pair of shoes, running shorts, nothing else. Holding and wearing nothing I felt just one thing.

It’s tempting to count the time between flash and thunder but this far in the woods it’s better to feel every pleasant, terrifying rumble. Better to be awed and baptized in the warm rain.


Whirling Dervishes

Posted on May 7th, 2014 by Sammy

Days have been flying by too quickly, I have to stop and record at least a little.

I don’t even know where to begin. I guess I’ll just enumerate a few things from recent days starting with the weekend:

Friday evening we had a lovely dinner somewhere in Marin and I finally met the elusive Tsavo (Shannon’s great dane). He’s such a big needy lovable buddy! Ahhh and his ear-kisses are elation-inducing. So excited to find my own canine partner — I’ll start looking in earnest after settling into the new place.

Saturday I woke up pretty early which resulted in a long nap at noon. Around 4:30pm we wandered over to Santa Cruz without much of a plan: rode around with the sunroof down, our shaka signs overhead, a Beach Boys cassette popped in for the perfect ambiance. Oh, I want to remember everything about Saturday. We walked along the beach, pausing to touch that cold salt water, and climbed out onto rocks for wicked views. Always in pursuit of a more complete outlook, my trusty navigator guided me north of the main beach where we broke out our longboards and hopped a fence for vistas mejores. Devoured foxy strawberries on our way downtown and sported 70′s sunglasses to Verve Roasters, where we drank Kenyan coffee and snacked on banana bread.

My favorite from the evening: walking along one busy street we encountered two small children dancing to a three-piece street musician act.

The little boy wore a shirt that exclaimed “NO LIMITS” and he moved like he meant it. A lollipop was not enough to distract this boy for more than a few moments — he just had to dance. The little girl was similarly animated; she fell a few times mimicking his spirited dance moves and after a while falling became part of the dancing for them both. She wouldn’t keep her shoes on despite respectable efforts from her guardians.

Pizza for dinner, a candy store for added sweetness, and Bob Marley on the way home.

Sunday was relaxing also. Slept late the night before so I was a little tired but made the late service: the music was all by an Australian electro-rock band and the sermon was truthy and well-conveyed. Random chores, went with Nathan to set up our new place’s internet, then saw the band in concert at night. And then we idled with easy tunes, one of my favorites.

Monday and Tuesday: work has been manageable and I got out on runs both days with Kev. Kev’s remark when after finishing both runs feeling crummy was “THIS IS WHY WE DON’T STOP.” (Neither of us have been running much since Coachella. I think I went once alone. Pleh.) It feels bad to be off the wagon but we’ll get back on soon enough.

Yesterday we did strides and plyos on the track after the run — “Five-Minute Yoga” was a little painful this morning. My hip flexors might not exist right now and still I’m feeling unstoppable.

“NO LIMITS.”

Tomorrow’s “bike to work” day and I have an important 10am so that means waking up. Definitely not going to be as easy as it was this morning.


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