Big-Sky Special

A few years ago I was working in a quiet cafe full of retirees sipping coffee, and students quietly studying; when a man walked in who looked entirely out of place. He was clearly homeless. He had no shirt, no shoes. He was very dirty and smelled terrible. Everyone stared as he walked up to the counter. But his face had a look of enthusiasm like I had never seen. He was so stoked to be here at Starbucks. “I’ll have the big-sky special,” he said. I had no idea what he meant so I asked him to explain and he said it was an extra-large blended mocha with two extra shots and chocolate and caramel on top. Apparently it was very popular in Montana where he had just come from. I made him his drink and he enthusiastically ate all the whipped cream off the top and quickly downed the drink before heading back out the door. Everyone finally let their gaze drop back to what they were doing. 

I often think of him when I see someone who looks like they have an interesting story to tell, and I couldn’t tell you how many times I see his face with that look of sheer, uninhibited excitement for a double blended mocha, his “Big-Sky Special.”

Change

I’m sitting under old flourescent lights in a lobby that smells of decades of clorox and fresh paint. The hum of the hvac gently rattles the vents high above while soft couches meet hard, sterile tile. There’s something eerie and noir about the moments just before sunrise, especially in places like this.

The cold concrete walls support generic art permanently affixed there to deter would-be thieves. Above is the new, false-ceiling, concealing even newer additions to the aged building. Here and there a conduit slinks down from the ceiling to produce new electrical sockets and a network of security cameras. Things these walls never considered when they were built. But the world grows and changes, in spite of the old building. My computer draws power from a conduit that disappears into the ceiling. As it goes, it criss crosses other conduits. A fire alarm here, a switch panel there.

As the hvac shuts off, the old building groans at the stress. It’s tired and eager to give way to new growth and development. But its silent voice warns not to fear the slinking conduits and added changes that will come with time. Those are just life’s way of reminding us how far we’ve come through things we never expected. And they will come as surely as the sun.

You’ll Be Washing My Windshield Someday

In highschol, when bullied, everyone said “I don’t care what you say or do, you’ll be washing my windshield someday.” Well here I am working in the busiest cafe in the state, helping homeless people who I went to middleschool and highschool with, and I find myself emotionally moved to tears when a random person makes a rude offhand comment about some homeless drug addict who they know nothing about that really is doing the best they can. It’s so hard to be either of the people in that conflict. I watch and cry and cant get over how much it sucks to see the conflict between people who really don’t need to have a conflict, over things neither of them planned. What’s the point of it? Who’s right? The homeless druggy who’s my favorite person I see and talk to, all day; or the asshole who just got off work and judged them on their appearance and decided to be rude for no reason and ruin my day by insulting a perfectly pleasant homeless drug addict who’s probably doing the best they can.

This was ridiculous and inarticulate and I’m drunk but I hope someone somewhere can derive some understanding of its intent and open their eyes to a person who’s trying.

Transcendental Frustration

In life there are moments when the course of an entire interpersonal relationship takes place in just a few seconds and yet it’s so poignant that you remember it for years. Appreciating a glance, a laugh, a smile from a perfect stranger is a big part of life. Knowing that you’ll walk away and never see that person again makes it all the more vivid a memory. Trust me when I say you can choose to build your life around these moments and nothing more.

Then there are other relationships which transcend the moments. Those three or four people you keep in touch with over the years and go to with your problems and frustrations.
I’m 22. I’ve lived in a lot of places and met a lot of people. I look back with a fond nostalgia on a true plethora of moments. Soooo much has happened, and I carry so little of it with me. But those three or four people who I do carry with me affect me on a level I can’t really explain. I miss them so much that I sometimes ask myself if I should pick up and go find them. But they’re all in different places and in the end they’ve all grown since I knew them and it probably wouldn’t be the same. But I can’t help but miss those best few friends who’ve become forever a part of me.

August

My fondest memory is of something that didn’t actually happen.

It was a dream I once had in a cold, desperate winter of my life. In the dream, I awoke to find myself embraced by the tall grass of a hillside. It was very warm. It seemed to be August. I was in Ashland again. In truth it has been probably half a decade since I’ve been in Ashland, but in this dream I was a child.
In the dream, I sat up and rubbed my eyes. I gazed out at the picturesque landscape I knew so well. The hills that gently surrounded the valley seemed to be walls through which nothing could intrude. I felt safe. Safer than I could remember feeling in a long time. I knew it was a dream, but I knew that as long as I was here, everything was going to be alright. I laid back in the tall grass and breathed in the warm zephyr as it danced over me. A smile crossed my face and I knew contentedness, if only for a moment.

Analogs

When you are inside a digital world, the bounds are set, every edge is a polygon with a picture overlaid on it. It’s digital. It’s a list of facts that make it the same every time.

But what if inside the digital was an analog system. What if the only thing that’s set is what you’ve already observed. What if everything is generated as you encounter it, with maybe a loose structure planned out, and it would just build the world as you encountered it. If the kernel was modulated by inputs, and the outputs were fuzzy-logic based on the inputs. Every time you played, it would be different, unpredictable. What if that idea extended to other media like characters, stories, web pages, music, or even video. What if inside the digital, there can be analog. It would be so much more like the real world.
It would be almost real.

Mobbing

This actually all really happened last night, though I may be guilty of adding metaphor. :]

I’m sitting in an old car. My arm reaches out the window, feeling the cool night breeze rush through my fingers.

Next to me and behind are my friends; laughing and smiling like we haven’t in a while as music blasts on the speakers and we talk about all the things that have been going on in our lives lately. Empty energy drinks and food are scattered over the floor, testaments to the fact that we’ve already put hundreds of miles on the odometer tonight. Life goes by so fast you hardly notice.

We watch as the dark, enigmatic mountain road curves and sprawls out before us; we love the rush of driving a little too fast into the unknown. We can never quite see what’s waiting around the next corner, what’s coming up next. But we’ve all lived and lost too much to worry about letting caution ruin the truth of the moment. We live for moments like these. Stepping outside of the bounds means anything can happen. The adrenaline gives way to a sort of comfort that only comes with a degree of anxiousness.

Nothing gambled means nothing gained, right? We’re never really afraid. We’ve all done this a million times before, but no matter how many times you peek over the edge into what you don’t know, it always feels like the first time.

Hours later we find ourselves at a boat launch. After the prerequisite donuts in the parking lot, we get out and walk to the end of the docks. Jutting precariously out into the water over the ice-cold, murky depths below, we imagine what it would be like to float away into the unknown. What adventures might we find if we left what we know behind us? We imagine leaving our problems behind and sailing across the horizon to something new, refusing to consider that new problems would come with new situations. This isn’t the time for practicality, dreams are what we live for.

We speed away and pick up another friend before heading back into the mountains. On top of table mountain we stop at a grave yard and get out to walk around. It’s a full moon. The eerie sound of the wind rattling chain link fences and rustling through the trees permeates the bright, silent midnight air. We see a grave marked “Unknown.” Next to it an elegant marble headstone engraved with a name none of us have heard. I see that she died a hundred years ago.”How different are these two graves,” I wonder, “That’s going to be all of us one day. Eventually no one will even remember we existed.”

What really matters then, I ask myself.

As we drive away, we pass a trailer park. One of my friends tells us he grew up there. He hated it, and he wanted more. Years later; he has a job, a new truck, a house in the city, and goes mobbing with his friends.

Maybe it doesn’t matter if anyone remembers us a hundred years from now. Maybe what matters is how we spend our passing moments like these with the people we love. Maybe it’s about what mark we all leave on each other. And whether we make the world around us a better place or a worse place, or worse yet; whether we don’t leave a worthwhile mark anywhere at all.

Perhaps the most important thing is how honest we are with ourselves and others, how hard we pursue happiness and truth in our lives, and whether we have perfect love and perfect trust and good relationships in our lives, or if instead we just sit and dream about finding it.

Kindred

Life happens so fast.

Each of us is has a world behind our eyes, infinitely complex and enigmatic; full of hopes and dreams and fears and regrets. It’s so amazing being able to peer into someone else’s world. It makes it all worth it when our paths cross and we find perfect moments together where all the problems and fears and monsters in our worlds don’t matter.

Those perfect moments are always so fleeting. They come and go in an instant, but that instant is like a world all in its own.

You spend years thinking about moments, contemplating what you could have done differently to make the moment last a little longer. But in the end all we have is our memory of the moments when nothing mattered but the joy of a smile or the feel of a hand in yours. The heart that tried its hardest for that one last beat, or the gentle kiss on the back of your neck.

They all had to end, and there was sorrow and remorse and there were tears and the writhing, insatiable agony of regret. But you looked up because more moments always came.

Eventually all you can remember is the photobook in your mind of the blurry pictures of the moments you treasure most. You wish you could go back. You know if you could just reach it, you could stretch the lost moments out and fix everything that ever went wrong.

But you can’t.

And eventually you learn to put them neatly in your photobook and wipe the tears and struggle to find the will to take the next breath, hoping it will lead you to another moment worth crying for.

Unity

Somewhere in the forest a rabbit is born. Poofy and cuddly, it snuggles up to its mother for warmth in the cold night. A family began today. They know the passion and emotion of companionship. They grow and learn and taste the green plants and cool streams of the wild.

Somewhere in the forest, a bear is born. It struggles and writhes and opens its eyes and sees the world around it. It feels the soft dirt of the ground and the cold stone of the cave, it smells the scent of the wild and the taste of hunger.

As I watch, the bear goes out into the world looking for food. It spots something it has never seen before; a family of rabbits.

Carnage ensues; the family of rabbits becomes dinner for the bear cub and his family. The rabbits meet the needs of the bears’ bodies. The tissues and proteins and molecules become part of the bears. The life taken from the rabbits adds to theirs.

Years pass, and the bear dies of old age. As his body decays, grass grows; plants consume him. The life he lost is added to theirs. A new family of rabbits consumes the fresh, green grass and its life becomes theirs.

The same thing happens on a different scale all over the planet. Death and life cycle and chase one another. When I die, my body will decay and my molecules will be given up to the new life being born around me. The Greeks called this Gaia, the mother earth. We are all born of the same parts and when we die those parts will rearrange into new people and plants and animals. We are quite literally all the same, and all life is precious.

The measure of our life is how we affect those around us. The only true sin is hurting others.

Love and truth are the only worthwhile endeavors.