On Language, Democracy, and the Cloud

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In an empty mug is nostalgia. I pour in coffee to remove it. It is morning time, and I am to teach a lesson on language, democracy, and technology at 9:00. First period. 

The clock is a runway operator now; it reads 7:05. Wooly thoughts brew in my head like the French-pressed coffee I just made. It is snowing. The windows feel cold  even as I sit 10 feet from them. 

Lessons close today. The snow reminds me of the year closing, too. They will work on their portfolios for the remaining week. 35 pages of their work, from revisions to final products. 12 days remain.

It’s now 7:40. I know the lessons I teach today will empower them. I am the last one to stand in front of them as a teacher. I will say something relevant. I will say something important. That’ll last. Perhaps impact them, significantly. 

Out loud, I say to the clock, “Let’s blow some minds.”

When I enter the classroom, Billy is seated in the back. Blank is the whiteboard. I wear Jack’s sweater. 

I begin, “So today is the final lesson I’ll be teaching this semester. It is also the final lesson of this course. It’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart, so I may be lecturing for a bit. But that’s only because I care tremendously about our futures. And you need to know this.”

They all know what I’m saying has weight so they sit up straight. 

"Unit 4 has covered technology versus nature. And while I’m going to try to connect this lesson to the enduring understanding of this curriculum, I might go about it in a very cursory, tangential sort of way. You will learn about navigating space, like you’ve done in the mountains you see behind you."

Some look out the window, glancing over the snow to the peaks that reach for the heavens.

"Today’s class is going to cover three basic things: **language**, **democracy**, and **the cloud**" I say, drawing representations of each word — the ABCs, a bunch of talking heads, and a cumulonimbus cloud, respectively. 

"Now you may be wondering, how does all of this connect? Why is it important to understand language and democracy and the cloud?"

Smiling, I remind them, “This is English class. We sit here analyzing words and phrases, poems and essays, because the human spirit wishes to exist outside of itself. This is language.”

I write a sentence on the board: I am Eriks.

"If I was to walk away, this sentence would remain, you all would read it, and perhaps think that a person named Eriks *exists*." 

There is some general apathy and sleepiness, so I pause.

"Stand up and say your name!"

When everyone does, I know they exist.

My head rewinds back to a memory when I emailed a professor of mine, post college, in extremis. The email, dated 10/25/11, says this:

"Hey Professor Morton,

I’ve thought about my visit [to Durham, NC] for a little over a week now, and I guess I’m still trying to articulate the feeling of “being” back. (Not “back,” but “being” back.) I think you mentioned it once in your Faust classes (and, unfortunately, I can’t remember in what context): the importance of “to be.” Perhaps it was one of your philosophic tangents? 

I know it definitely wasn’t Descartes. 

Anyways, I’ve been questioning the importance of “to be” lately. This world is becoming more and more of a strange place as I try to find my role within it. And remembering the simple power that the phrase “to be” gave me, I’m trying to turn it into everything I do and believe (capitalism, democracy, education, creativity, love, etc). While “is” is the most passive form of granting something existence, “to be” is putting it into existence with purpose, right? “Becoming,” I have yet to full grasp, though I know I will “become” something, as long as I remain “to be.” Cause and effect.

I mention this because I fear that the “is” might be dominating the “to be.” More specifically—and the crux of my rambling—I was wondering if you noticed anything about the “deadness” of my generation? How everything just is? A colloquialism: Oh, that’s just how it is. 

Maybe it is just me reacting to some of the things I see. Notably, the Occupy Duke posters that plague the bulletin boards or the Occupy Wall Street Movement at large. Or even the enigmatic definition of the “postmodern” artist. Has the “is” (or mediocrity) seeped into some of our top universities and, more importantly, our education system? Our creative selves? I don’t know how else to define the passivity that I see in this “real” world, and I’m wondering how a fellow philosopher manages a similar or different conclusion. “Quick now, here now, always—”?

Writing and reading have become a serious undertaking for understanding — a Faustian howl, you could say. 

Some of my closest friends are fearing the inevitability of joblessness (It can’t yet be described as purposelessness, can it?). I want to let them know it’s not exactly what it seems, yet I don’t want to tell them how different the green looks on this side, either. Grass is relative. But they, too, in large part could be the source of this anxiety.

So I return to the importance of “being.” 

I was back at Duke, relishing in the bittersweetness of memories and looking forward to creating new ones, even within a four day period. It just wasn’t the same; I’ve realized that the only thing I can always do is “be.” I’m trying to see how best to express this and transfer that energy of existence into my friends/coworkers/students/peers/family, but I’m losing the momentum myself. California, without close friends or family, is draining me, yet I’m feeling the rhythm that conspicuously occurs here. A part of it, I know, is in Silicon Valley — the place is bumping with energy, literal and figurative. But, now, I think more than anything I want real energy — just honest human expression, shared.” 

A student’s question ejects the tape, causing me to smirk at my older, younger self.

"How do words let us know we exist?"

I let the question linger in the air. Its faintest echo hitting the nowhere space. 

"It truly starts with evolution, for we became social creatures by gaining the ability to speak. Then we became conscious creatures for we wanted to transcribe our experiences down so that others would benefit. But I’ll say simply: Because words move us." 

I go, “Writers like Norman Maclean, Sherman Alexie, Jon Krakauer, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Saul Williams, Tupac. They write words down. Their feelings. Their affects. Their emotions. They are nothing but still designs on a page. But they’re still moving.”

A figment of T.S. Eliot appears beside Billy in the back; he nods his head.

Their eyes squint. Maybe they can’t see?

I say, “How do you move to music? I just mentioned Tupac. What about Kendrick Lamar?”

(They are obsessed with good kid m.A.A.d city.)

"Dancing!" someone responds.

"Precisely. And language allows us this dance."

T.S. Eliot begins to dance like the tin man from the Wizard of Oz. Billy doesn’t notice this.

Standing, still, I speak about language as a means for dancing. How if we allow everyone to speak for themselves. Announce themselves into being. Then those that hear their stories can dance, too. 

Then I underline **democracy**. (Wondering if anyone has ever thought about it as dance-ocracy. Bud-um-pshh…) And give the cartoon talking heads on the board word bubbles that suggest a chorus of yawps.

"How do we connect this to what has already been said?" I ask.

"A true democracy is where everyone has a say."

Someone else says “It’s the majority.”

Again, “So we can all dance to the same tune?”

Someone new suggests “The cloud?”

T.S. Eliot leaves and Paulo Friere walks in. 

I write on the board that since the French and American Revolution, democracy has spread like wildfire. Then I stutter because I can’t remember how many democratic nations are established between 1776 and the turn of the 20th century.

"It comes out to be over half" I go.

(Which, as I look up later, is less correct than I hoped. 147 electoral democracies existed in 2007. 40 existed in 1970). 

"Crazy" I say anyway, knowing my point can still works without data.

Then I draw a timeline. 

1900————————————————————————————2012

I circle 1900 and ask them what they think is significant about this date. 

"Industrialism!"

"The automobile!"

"The assembly line"

"Kitty hawk!"

I clap my hands, thanking them for their responses, writing them down, too. Then I go “Think about how all of these inventions, these ideas. How have changed the way we understand space?”

Mouths are open like typical starfish out of water. 

I go “Not like outer space but real space.”

A girl asks me, distracted, “Is that why you have a NASA sticker on your computer?”

I laugh and say yes. “I’m obsessed with space because we occupy a lot more space than any of us ever realize. And we use language in those spaces more often than we give ourselves credit, as well.”

I type “hello” into a Google holding up my computer. “What space am I occupying currently?”

"The internet?" someone suggests.

Maybe.

"A server in Virginia?"

Closer.

"Cyberspace."

Perhaps, perhaps.

"I point this out because between 1900 and present-day our world has shrunk to the size of blueberry. It once existed as a crazy place with alien figures off in distant lands. A flat land, mind you. Some folks describe other folks as having one-eye on the middle of the forehead. Did you know this? This actually happened…" I say.

I think to myself, Go read the tales of Columbus!

I then go “Y’all live in a day and age where space almost doesn’t exist as an obstacle for movement, for dancing. You can sit in a comfy chair and experience new worlds, new cultures, new languages, and dance to tunes others before you have never had the chance to dream of.”

A student interrupts “Why does this matter, dude?”

"It matters, dude, because when you’re sitting in front of your computer, everyone is on an equal playing field. It’s open. You can search for information. Get information. Use information. Give information. You can connect and make yourself exist somewhere else. You probably already have done this, no? It’s different from standing on the ground in some country and having to live there. You can experience new virtual realities that still empower you to live.

"Who has a Facebook?" I ask.

Every being raises their hand, except Paulo in the back.

"The potential of the internet exists not on the web itself, for there is no entity driving it. It is you all that drives it. You live in a period where technology has changed the face of world so much that it’s unfathomable."

I point back to the timeline. 

"Do you know how many people connect on the internet nowadays?"

I wait for the rhetoric to seep in.

"2 fucking billion."

Billy looks up. Paulo understands.

"2 billion people can now exist somewhere outside of their respective realities. This means that 2 billion people are somehow — if not fully registering it themselves — voicing their existences onto a new sphere. Saying what they want. Learning what they want. They are not bound by their circumstance. Living in Africa doesn’t mean you can’t learn C++. Living in the U.S. doesn’t mean you can’t understand cultures of other living people."

My computer sits on the table. I pick him up. The NASA sticker is something outside of itself now.

"This is not a toy" I say.

I sound stupid out loud. My eyes get big like an owl.

They laugh. 

"No, you don’t get it. The computer you all sit behind may be the single, most powerful tool a person can use. You don’t realize the connectivity that this giant blueberry now possesses. The implications of being in multiple places at once is beyond comprehension, almost. To understand this is necessary to your future. You live in the digital age. You all have access to the globe. It’s just disguised as screen."

I continue “We’ve experienced the backcountry this semester to understand what it feels like to live self-sufficiently. With the packs on our back. We cook our own food. We build our homes each evening. We get ourselves from one place to the other on our own two feet. While this is pertinent to experiencing a balanced life. Many of you will not have the chance to do this again. You will live in a world of buttons and cars and televisions and keyboards. You must know the importance of the tool you use daily, just like the way you understand the importance of a stove before you head on a ten-day expedition.”

Then I connect the dongle to the projector and display Google’s page about recent events in Dubai. 

"The International Telecommunications Union, formed by the United Nations, is meeting with nations to come to terms on regulation and censorship of the web. Asking questions like, what is appropriate connectivity."

We read the points aloud, reaffirming the importance of an open internet as a democratic demonstration of the people on Earth. On the small blueberry.

"If we lose a public, free internet, we lose a democratic space for 2 billion people. 

"That’s a fuck ton of folks."

I think they understand for some of them laugh when I say “fuck.” And when the 90-minutes is over. They say thank you, that was awesome. I’m either crying, or brains are in my eyes. Success is dependent on neither. 

I am joyful that I understand.

I teach this in three classes. It sounds different each time. The content, though, is the same.

The clock covers his crotch with one hand, the other to its side. It’s 5:30. The day is done. 

Snow is still on the ground. Dancing begins.

Billy and I on first expedition - somewhere on the Colorado Trail

Billy and I on first expedition - somewhere on the Colorado Trail

Nov 26

Reflecting on Boulders Blind so I Use My Hands and Feet

I get chances to employ words every so often here. Finding time to put down emotion-filled paragraphs and thoughtful sentences is difficult, especially when living life is often time better than writing life. And when you travel back half-way, cross-country from the “beginning and end” land of San Francisco to the now, “real now” Colorado hilltops, looking out the window without a pen and paper engenders a sweet disposition.

The other day, I flew to SF, to the left, after a ten-day expedition in the canyons of southern Utah. Grand Gulch, specifically.

The last thing I wrote for the eastword had much to do about being an adult…I think. Often the lines I write require readers to blankly look at the white space, mouths open like star fish, instead of actually reading the word strings (called sentences). Might be better for them, and for me.

Getting back to civilization last Friday felt pretty good, though. Certain anticipations and expectations loomed over my head while I roamed the canyon washes. And when you’re in the canyons, your distraction is a wall, which looks—well—like a wall. 

The serendipitous fairie reminded me, however, of a literary foreshadowing of upcoming events; the skyscraper’s I’d be introduced to in NYC posed as larger structures, more artificial, and perhaps colder than the red rocks I was experiencing in Utah.

But I don’t know the outcome of these things yet. Who am I? Until the shadows are cast on the wall, I’ll prepare for the velocity.

So landed in SF, Jack and I took the BART back to his place in Hayes Valley, ate food (multiple sandwiches), and met up with Marianne and Cesar. Two friends who’ve inspired.

Coffee, tight pants, and a plaid shirt later, Jack, Cesar, and I hit up a bunch of gin cocktails that delightfully cultured our conversation.

Dialogues like these always retrospectively find ways onto the 8mm camera strapped to my head.

Bar’s too cramped; Jack trips an introduction to a girl; Cesar and I discuss the culture train, hashtags, and how motivation and ambition is the key to something we didn’t quite define; we drink gin; we drink gin again.

“You think I could got into Duke because I was smart?” I ask.

A pause.

I presume, “Nay, sir. I found intelligence cuz I had coaches who required a work ethic of steel, and I felt like I had something to prove off the field because I wasn’t doing anything on it. (And I knew my mom would be proud, too.)”

Jack chimed in about his experience coming down from Nelson, BC at the age of 18 to hustle the start-up streets of the bay, and I thought of Larry Bird’s Drive

I remember long ago last fall, a coworker of mine and I came up with a heroic euphemism, “Makin’ moves.” It was simple enough, an alliteration. But our ambitions took on more of a educational whimsy than any kind of dancing style.

I remember vividly sitting down with Jack (for perhaps the second time), Cesar (for the first time or so), and Matt (definitely for the first time) pitching some UI feature that I didn’t even know would be considered a UI feature until I began listening to the language of these new friends.

And then I started to get it.

So return to the bar. Cesar, Jack, and I scrunched, listening to the banter of SF behind us, my journey laid itself out like a book.

When I graduated college, things were different. I didn’t know what was going on, other than something changing this way come (to quote Bradbury, kind of).

And it came. It rained. It poured, pounding the beginnings and ends of my umbrella.

Yet I met the life that was next—the left. The Bay. Mountain View. Lloyd. Kirsten. Sarah. Dino. Moose. Los Altos. Nick. Ana. Sal. The Ghost. San Francisco. Internships. Lydia. Kiip. Jack. Cesar. Marianne. Matt. Annemarie. Eva. Computers. Dzejnieks. The Eastword. Tumblr. Poetry. Spilled Ink.

So I moved again, still looking. And situated in the Rocky Mountains teaching backpacking and English at an amazing institution, I’m auspiciously blessed. Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert are my backyard. I spent close two months in the backcountry this year, looking inwardly, seeing Eriks again, meditating to the coyotes in my sleeping bag as all of the energy rushed out of my face from the opening in my hood. I had dreams like I’ve never known in those mountains and in those canyons. In a weird way, I wish there was a technicolor dream coat to put on. (Bible reference).

I broke the conversation with Cesar and Jack, and I discussed with myself the input/output differential that I experienced in Colorado. And what I’m about to get myself into when I visit NYC.

Hipster’s need for input/output changes as they grow older, right? (Funny, I almost began the preceding sentence with “Artist.” Ha, the fuck!)

Suffice it to say, I’m thinking a lot about NYC. Close to home. The folks.

English class lesson plan

English class lesson plan

Exped Dos! - Worms at the Bottom of Everything

Where to begin, oh, where to begin? Techno mama wants me to describe to ya’ll my sins—the rich kind, the decadent wine, that’d make Bacchus proud, laughing his adam apple into fine, intoxicating cider. So I’ll say my sin comes from within, and leave it at that—where fat cats take naps (at the lazy)—where identity fruits grow because of dirty roots, muddy and stuck at the bottom of everything, with dozens of cans filled with worms. 

The story I’ve been told is that god dropped them there so long ago after picking them up at a packie store in Mansfield. God lied to his dad, said he was “gone fishin,” but instead let the worms loose at the river bank so that they could crawl down, down, down. When god came back, he was drunk with a bunch of older men he found looking over the bridge. They were swearing and discussing politics—which are the same thing.

Thankfully though I was one of those worms, removed from the political sphere, digging into a giant blueberry. And I found myself in the mud, comfortably eating dirt because that’s my role—to continue the soil—until the end of time, when that special star, the sun, changes attitudes and decides a supernova would be a cool change of scenery, making everything hot, hot, hot. And we become not, not, not.

So as a worm, now, I make what I take, and that’s very little, for time passes through me like the air I breathe and the farts I leave behind, and it’s all stinking vapor. Some of it sweet, some of it sour. But all my other droogy worms remind me that feces makes flowers. 

Before you memorize anything about my philosophy of stars, however, techno mama sings out again, “GNAR!” A word released from the belly of the mechanical beast, the garden of vipers and sheiks so you can see the blueberry planet as what it iz, are, and oz. 

——-

Quick now, before we leave, I’m here now, ready to hike yet again. A ten day trip is in store for us, with new adventures surely ahead: trail work with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, a 50-some odd hike in 6 days, and a book I’ve been anticipating to read for a long, long time.

Love you all. See you in the future!

some shots from the first expedition - Hancock to Poncho Springs

i broke a biscuit
into two pieces
transubstantiated
the love of my family,
then my teeth machinated
the body, which gave
way to my mind machine
churning about the moon
and its crescent, the stars
and their lightning gas
a kajillion fathoms in the 
deep of the sea.

i am seeing the mountaintop
in the blue ocean—
a way up there day
Felling/Falling/Filling in the Woods

Felling/Falling/Filling in the Woods

I got soul, I got that soul
And I feel it running through them bones
Cuz I know, 
Ooo I know 
that marrow's hallowed,
the pearly gates of snow
sends the cold through the door.

To where I'm not quite sure...

Maybe
Blue, blue
vermillion blue
looks no different than the stars and the moon.

Or
Red, red
cerulean red
wishes it could have my mama's bed.

The devil just wants my soul.

Mr. Keating and Tearing out the Definition of Poetry

Mr. Keating once asked me to rip the front page out of my English textbook. It was a page on the definition of poetry. And I, as Todd Anderson, sat there dumbfounded, wondering why the hell a teacher would ask me to tear out the page of a perfectly good book, toss it in the trash, and call the author of the introduction a buffoon. Near and closing in, (rest assured, I could hear them) the threat of punishment was on the cuffs of my sleeves urging me to not do it:

Please! Please! Read the definition of poetry and leave it be. Let the author sound silly and mighty and lofty with ideas and ideals. Let the old man with a closed-mind, a closed-sense, worry about it. He’s figured it out for you! He’s a professor. You just read it, regurgitate it, and move on. Don’t you dare think about it for yourself.

Oh, such a conflict! But why? Why did I care for poetry? Why did it make sense for me to tear the definition limb from limb? Paper is made from trees.

I worried that any moment another teacher would come in and charge me and the rest of the class with not just destruction of school property, but heresy, blasphemy, sacrilegious conspiracy! So I sat, nervous eyes bulging.

Thy Kingdom Come!  

And even worse, the person I was supposed to trust and respect, who was to exhibit truth in lectures and snip its on chalkboards, my teacher—Mr. Keating—he was perched on his desk with one leg more off than the other, supporting his weight with a casual tilt, telling me to disregard the definition, disregard the lousy fool that tries so hard to pinpoint the exactness of what is so ephemeral and so constantly shifting with the bland lexicon of specificity. 

Then Mr. Keating asked of it again, but I was no longer in his classroom. I was seated on the carpet of the loft upstairs where the old tv used to be in my house, where my brothers and I used to sprawl blankets out, order Chinese food, and have family night, watching movies till it was time for bed. Yet I didn’t move. Mr. Keating was still in charge. I sat there attentive, completely drawn in, like an enrolled schoolboy in this fictional class, and he kept saying it, “Tear it out!” 

The quiet hum of the VHS rolled steadily onward. 

And in spite of the future bruises that were ready to appear on my arms when I defiled the book, I ripped the page out anyway. In fact, I ripped the whole chapter out. I sat on the carpet in my house watching Dead Poet’s Society, grabbing and yanking every single page out of my mental book. I wanted to find out for myself, I decided. I wanted to write that chapter of poetry instead. I had never felt so empowered. So liberated from the shackles of an intellectual elitism that I hardly knew existed, but could feel everywhere. No old white dude with big words was going to hold me down and tell me where the magic happened. It made sense somewhere that someone was trying to hold me down, too—keep me from the knowledge of how the world worked, and why things operated so, and why explaining those operations in mysterious and rhythmic ways were necessary for consciousness, sanity, and liberty. 

I didn’t actually think of this then, I suppose; it’s just that my twenty-three year old self finds it to be rather true, in the sense that I was then (have always been) a rebel without a cause. A kid who looked through a face mask on Saturdays and Sundays, while every other day of the week he tried to tell folks his name. But it just always sounded like a palindrome when he did. 

So fast forward ahead eleven years later, like in the cut scene of an Indiana Jones movie, to where I find myself picking up a hat on the top of Mt. Massive in Colorado, preparing to teach English at an outdoor school to talented eleventh graders at a semester school. 

The hat’s slightly small for my dome-ish head. In some ways, the hat makes me look silly, goofy: a grinning stork. But, at the same time, too, the round-brimmed, blue hat with tattered insides makes me feel like a sweaty toothed madman that admits to liking poetry, especially without a definition.

Aug 13

I'd draw the map if I knew how. Therefore, I'm going to outline my team's route:

-start at Cooper Hill (north of Leadville)
-head northwest to Homestead Peak
-head southwest toward Wildcat Mountain
-drop off instructing staff along Frying Pan (I think...)
-keep moving south, this time towards Twin Peaks and Mt. Massive
-finish with Mt. Elbert (highest peak in the Rockies)
-get picked up at Twin Peaks

The adventure should last ten days. More days could mean a variety of things, but I'll leave that up to everyone's imagination.

Peace out!
I'd draw the map if I knew how. Therefore, I'm going to outline my team's route:

-start at Cooper Hill (north of Leadville)
-head northwest to Homestead Peak
-head southwest toward Wildcat Mountain
-drop off instructing staff along Frying Pan (I think...)
-keep moving south, this time towards Twin Peaks and Mt. Massive
-finish with Mt. Elbert (highest peak in the Rockies)
-get picked up at Twin Peaks

The adventure should last ten days. More days could mean a variety of things, but I'll leave that up to everyone's imagination.

Peace out!

I do what now?

Greetings! I am at 10,000 footsteps above the sea in the town of Leadville. You might have never heard of it. But you should. I’ll play Trebek for a sec, and tell you way back in the day—say, 19th century—Leadville was once competing with Denver for Colorado’s state capital. 

Cray cray crayola: these mountains are fucking majestic and I can do nothing but bow down. 

Sorry.

Billy, my teaching buddy/advisor, recommended that I read a book about the history of the town/area. So when I do, I’ll holler my newfound facts your way. In brief though, from what I’ve gathered, this town was once a thriving mining spot. Now it’s a hotspot for climbers, hikers, and ultra marathon runners. The Leadville 100, a one-hundred mile race over and up the Rockies, will take place August 18th and 19th. All of that, however, has nothing to do with the reasons why I’m here. Maybe the hiking. Yet that’s very indirect.

I’m the English apprentice at a place called High Mountain Institute. Perfect name, right? The apprentice, I mean. It’s a semester school for talented juniors who want a wilderness experience incorporated into a “normal” curriculum even though the curriculum isn’t quite normal since we’re teaching classes outside in the backcountry. 

So I’ll be here for the next six-or-so months figuring out what role I actually want to play in this American education “system,” while I also gain valuable experience teaching books like Into the Wild, “Walking”(by Thoreau), and A River Runs Through It. It’s a completely out-of-the-ordinary environment, I know. Which is outstanding. It’s completely out of my element, too, I admit. Even though I think I’m pretty competent at—at least—looking the part of a Kerouacian lumberjack. But all that aside, I’ll be acting as a teacher’s aid, camp counselor, and outdoor bodhissatva. The latter will definitely take some time. But that is the goal of my continuous flow. 

I’m going to try to keep everything up to date as possible and throw in whatever quirky things I do in the classroom, both indoors and out. A sneak peak: I’m thinking of using Mister Ampersand, Captain Quody Quest, and X-Lamentation as some type of cartoon, teaching English characters. I haven’t run it by Billy yet, but when bouncing the idea off of the other apprentices, they seemed interested, so I think I’m on to something. 

Also, does my voice sound like Batman’s? Some here are saying the similarity is uncanny. 

Ha, the uncanny Batman. Talk about a title for a Freudian essay, huh?

We leave for a twelve day expedition just west of Leadville down the continental divide all the way to Mt. Massive. I’ll try and post a picture of the route we’ll kind of be taking. Much of our hike is through backcountry, so there is really no trail, per se. That’s why we have tools called compasses.

Techno-Mama Tangent and a Supwise

Techno-mama always says, “Each time you return, you receive.”

To which you always reply, “Ugh. That makes no sense, techno-mama.” Annoyance appearing on your face like teenage pepperoni blotches of anxiety.

And she always responds back, kindly, “How about I give you a few dimes for your mind?” 

To which you always say nothing. Instead, silently to yourself, you admit that change is coming, and you’re about to be a penny richer. Except it seems monetarily valueless and philosophically burdensome. ”Ugh,” you moan a groan, “Mama, I’m home. I want to relax.”

Then she says, “Think about returning and receiving like this: you’ve just entered information into a form for a new application you want to download on your fancy hand-held machine. You’ve really wanted this app ever since its release date, yet for some reason you just never managed to get around to filling out the required information. But now you’re ready. You’re excited, watching everyone else join in a talking frenzy. But they don’t say what the app does. There’s just a lot of hype about this hush-hush app on the DL. You’ve got the form filled out for your app, and you’re ready to hit return. And, yet, when you look closely, you realize the required information is only your name and an extremely dark personal secret. It’s calibrated to test the truthiness of your secret, too. And you become unsure about whether or not you pass. So you type:

NAME: BOY NAMED VELOCITY

DEEP SECRET: AFRAID OF CLOSENESS (aka CLAUSTROPHOBIA)

Not getting the metaphor, you blurt out, “What’s the app called?”

She laughs a har, “The app is called: GNAR.”

"What does it do?"

"Nothing. Other than listen to you."

"Nothing? That’s whack, techno-mama! I need it to do things for me."

"But you just revealed one of your deepest, darkest secrets to a blind, indifferent machine?"

"That means nothing! And, plus, I haven’t hit send yet remember!"

"Ah, no matter. Even if you don’t hit send, you admitted the secret of your bones, that you’re alone, you’re scared, feeling the big bad wolf is no longer in his lair. And the world is caving in."

"Techno-mama, you’re scaring me. How did you know that?" 

"Return, baby boy. The grace of god is in the leaves and the leaving. Get out of the cave and into the trees. The gnarly mother earth is here to receive you."

Then you do hit return. The boulder slides off your shoulders. 

And techno-mama gives you a hug.

———

Not sure where that came from, but it makes sense somewhere, for someone. For the Dorothys over the rainbow perhaps. For my mother back home. Maybe I’m already suffering from the effects of altitude sickness. The air is certainly cooler and thinner here. As if angels are more abundant and greedy, inhaling like cats stealing breathes from baby’s mouths. And I find when I breathe I’m focusing in on how little I’m taking in. 

It seems that how high I am will affect the stories I tell. 

Oh, well.

———

To the point! My most recent adventure:

Lloyd Christmas might be my all-time favorite movie character. And each time I get a chance to quote him, I do. So when I arrived in Raleigh after an unexpected change of plans this past week, exchanging my original flight to Denver for a fourteen-hour train ride south, I could not wait to shout, “I thought the Rocky Mountains would be a lot rockier than this! That John Denver’s full of shit, man.”

Few people may get the joke at all, or if they do, maybe less of them think it’s funny. Yet I’ve learned to mind less about the mindless. That is, I don’t care much about what people think at all nowadays. For I am, myself. 

Granted there are times when I need to care—when serious business occurs. But, overall, when observing the general scheme of thingy-ma-jiggys, those who mind don’t really matter, and those who matter don’t mind. I think some wise, wizard-like doctor said that in a book, after his line caught one fish, two fish, blue fish, red fish. 

Anywho, the reason I changed my plans was simple. One who matters—Brett Huffman the freshest—was about to shit his pants at a surprise birthday party, and I, among others, was invited to see it. His little boo Lauren, who’s name doesn’t rhyme with awesome but should, put the whole thing together, calculating who should be where when, who should be eating what with whom, and who should be my pants partner. I mean, dance partner. 

I arrived Friday night from the train, ate Chinese food in the living room with the three Massolin amigos (hola papi), greeted Brandon King in his dapper shoes and awoke on Saturday to chores and errands that needed running. The King and I’s main task was to assemble MaxFire 9212. Like it was some sort of Transformer that only needed a “friend.” We did well actually. And the food from it turned out pretty well, too—corn on the cob, veggies from the Raleigh Farmer’s Market, and pineapples for extra flavah. 

From there, folks started arriving: Huff’s friends from back home, Lauren’s pretty friend from Colorado, Banksboy and his baby Caitlin. We, along with the new arrivals, stationed ourselves outback, ready, set to shout, “SUPWISE!!!!”

Eli and Radloff had taken Huff on a fishing trip to Bofurt for Friday evening and much of Saturday, which allowed us to prepare all of the foodstuffs and party gear (WWE banner and piñata included). I wish my filming of the surprise was a bit better. I blame it on the iPhone.

I’ll upload the video soon.

Unfortunately, he didn’t shit his pants. Although later on, during after-hours activities at the Mirage, he totally might have. The club was a moving stage for a birthday celebration, and boy am I glad we went to dance and sing. Best part was Lauren telling random black dudes to “fuck off” as they circled us in a carnal, jungle ring, and King’s refusal of wooing a giant. All the while, too, the most stellar sight, Huff’s eyes were rolling in the back of his head like they should on your birthday. 

Then night came, closing eyes, sleepy heads, and a house that managed to turn into a fridge.

The next morning was…thankfully, a new day. With stomachs full of Bojangles and eyes fascinated by Olympics (e.g. an Asian bonobo lifting 300 pounds over her heads) we relaxed for much of it. Even though Balou tried eating my “Pete & Pete slippers.” 

Then I prepared for the next leg of the trip ahead. I jammed out to The Dirty Projectors downstairs, while setting up my Instagram (hipster status: complete), and thought about the relationships I had built this past year, the memories I had made, and the brain cells I changed for the better and worse. I thought about how I want to keep those relationships forever. 10:39 for a lifetime. Like listening to Bob Dylan’s “Times They Are A’Changing” and the song just goes on forever and ever. I thought about how I, donned in a funny, red flannel shirt way back when, met Huff and King for the first time on my official visit in 2007—my true introduction to Duke. I thought about how we asked the concierge assistant for condoms at the WA Duke, and he gave us a terrified look. Probably thinking: Two white boys, drunk, one in a flannel shirt sweating, the other with a finely groomed chin-strap? Why would they need condoms?

Safety. Duh.

Thankfully, though, there were none. Instead, what followed the next morning was the most excruciating headache I can remember and a series of cookie tossing episodes while a dean was explaining the academic rigor of the university in the team meeting room. True story. My parents were furious.

As for the eastword, I’m in Colorado. In the wilds of Leadville. Ready, set to hike. I’ll keep y’all posted by the by as the sun rises. Also, follow erikzrekz on Twitter for photos of this upcoming trip. Not sure how available I’ll be but I’m a tryer so bear with the bear.