Friday, December 30, 2016

Jared's Best Man Speech

In honor of my friend Jared getting married today, I wanted to say a few words on his behalf. The below is a transcript of what I will say at his reception: 

Thank you all for coming today. My name is Stuart, the Best Man, and I wanted to take some time to talk about Jared for a moment.

Some of you might know Jared through Julie, or know him as a friend, co-worker, son, or colleague. I know Jared as a friend. We lived together in college for about a year and I had no idea that I would still know him almost ten years later. I have many stories about Jared, but one of them stands out. I had just moved in with him and was still feeling out my roommates for their quirks and oddities. Jared was the guy that came home late with other women, not to sleep with them mind you, but to do far less raucous things like cuddle and play boardgames. But I sat Jared down and talked to him explaining that what we did at the apartment, which was a complex in Isla Vista leased to exclusively members of Campus Crusade, was sacred. We were out on display for the world to see and I wanted to hold him accountable. To my incredible surprise, Jared listened. He heard me out. And we built on that moment a mutual, sacred trust that has sharped us together, perhaps like iron on iron, or something like that…

We are all told that we are special. That we can do anything. I don’t really believe that now that I’m older, but Jared is one of those people to watch because he is destined for great things. His career as a writer and teacher are already in their infancy and he has distinguished himself as top of his class, par excellence, with his colleagues and fellow members of the Academy. Why? Because Jared is a magnate for discussion, someone that people naturally gather to because they see in him something wonderful and special. He challenges us by his example to question our beliefs and follow in the footsteps of Socratic liberal education, that we may think critically about the information that vies for our affections in a world of increasing ambiguity and obfuscation. And incredibly, as much as Jared challenges us and helps to mold us, the teacher that he is, there is Julie that has drawn Jared to herself. You see, if you knew Jared, you would know his aloof spirit as well as me. “Bear-bear” is always on the run, unmoored by his years of growing up across the oceans in the jungles of Indonesia and urban China. But he has finally, at long last, found someone to tie him down in the boudoir and write a new story about a man and a woman finding each other, seemingly from opposite ends of the world, and starting another generation of rootin-tooting, suspiciously hairy, crawdad catching, Whites.     


Friday, December 23, 2016

Four Letter Words

I read lots of posts from various outlets where writers disdain over the chance encounters they have with their family members during the holidays. Usually there’s some mention of a hometown acquaintance, some remnant of pre-adult life that reminds us of the inner-kid (not the good kind that reminds us of innocence and purity but from the harrowing experiences of LIFE). For me it’s the reminder that my family has yet to understand what I do for a living.

I write books and try to understand the nuances of my craft. I try to read books that have things written in them, usually good things, smart things. Who knows? One thing that my mom seems to take issue with is the use of pejorative language, or what she coins as pejorative. (After all language is first experienced by someone, then uttered with some implicit use. (The meaning coming after the experience.) Language evolves and changes. I remember the arguments I had when I was 7 years old about how saying something “sucked” was accurate, that the use of the adjective was justified in whatever prepubescent connotation. Now it seems moot to discuss the worthy use of the four letter words like “fuck” or “shit,” which draw their ire from both social associations and linguistic characteristics that typify them as “harsh” and “dissonant.” (Maybe I’m just writing an angry blog about being slighted? That could also be just as valid.) Anyways, the fact that we are so distracted by language’s oblique usage is frustrating. It illustrates just how chained we are to old paradigms of language and how narrow our views of history are.

My struggle is coming home to encounter another world, one that is disparate from my own. My parents grew up in the midst of great cultural movements of enlightenment. The free-love movement was in full swing, the civil rights movement was being established and validated after decades of disenfranchisement. And yet despite all this, my progenitors have succumbed to the malaise of the 80s and 90s, eschewing the zeitgeist of progressivism for complacency and comfort.

I have the benefit of being born after their confusing and trying upbringing, but I am likely blinded by my own trials prominent in the digital age of misinformation and alt-truth. The adage that we must reference historical setbacks, lest we be doomed to repeat it, is true and valid. I pray and hope that I carry the torch forward with the required bravery to ensure that future generations are spared. Then again that could be wishful thinking. We are possessed by a condition of sinfulness that transcends human history. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Mass Turquoise the Size of the Sea

It's been a very long time since I've done this: write something set to music. I have trouble concentrating without some kind of white noise in the background. This morning while I was writing my book I decided to give it another shot. The following was inspired by Nick Johnson's Latest Album Remarkably Human. Please go and support it. Buy it. Its a phenomenal piece of  progressive instrumental work that has a thematic flow to it. See below for the title track from the album.

In the sea there is a vibrating stone.

I'd seen it as a child, at the beach where my parents were born. In the early morning, when the sand is a pale grey, I would walk out and see it. It would haunt and hover over the waters like a solitary spirit. The hide was leathery like a sea tortoise, ribbed with smooth stone-like mounds the size of seashells. There are no eyes, mouth, anything distinctly denoting an animal or otherwise. But there was a sentience burdening the creature.
I told my therapist a year or two ago that when I saw the creature I never fully convinced myself that it was from another world, that it was some creature come from distant worlds to make contact with another race. It was from Earth, from the waters. I knew it. Standing by the water, I saw that it would try to speak to me on the winds. Whispers and sighs hanging on the air like the flapping wings of a seagull.
Now that I’m older, I’ve come back to the shore hoping to see the creature again. It’s been 40 years since I last saw it. But I’ve lost hope. That’s what happens when we grow older. The wonders of the world diminish and what impressed and amazed slowly becomes rote and familiar, like waves eroding at the proud cliffs above the beachhead. It all comes crashing down as year after year disappointment and reality sets in. My faith in the creature, whatever it was, has waned too much. And it won’t come back for me, take me away from this place that I loathe, that I desire to escape. Take me to the depths, underneath the waves to the center of the earth!
I remember the time when I was 8 years old. I was running on the beach. Once, it was early in the morning. I had gotten up to see the stone that hung in the air. It was floating close to the waves, sprayed with white foam. Birds of the air had gathered on it. Pecking its hide for parasites and other food. I approached, wading in the frigid waters up to my waist. The stinging cold hardly dissuaded me, soaking me to the bone through my pajamas. I reached up and touched it, the stone. A fire burned in it, a warmth that I cannot, to this day, describe rightly. A primal passion of the world, of life in all its wide spectrum, for all history. I wanted to be with it, to love it, to never let go. The creature vibrated at different frequencies attempting to communicate to me something deeper than any philosopher had ever spoken, but it was all lost on me. The creature lifted higher, beyond my reach, and flew away. I wept in the water. I didn’t want it to go. It left and I never saw it again.
I take my family to the same beach now that I’m older. There’s a campsite above it and a trail that runs down to the waters. Sandstone, so brittle and fragile, makes it easy to descend. Easy enough for a child. My son is old enough now to understand the beyond things, and I wonder if the creature has appeared to him yet. But now I can see it in his eyes: the unsettling realization of otherness. One year I resolved to stay up the entire night to watch him. I hid waiting in the darkness sipping coffee, watching my breath steam in the cold night. My son got up once, about 3 AM. I followed him down to the beach, and watched him wait, looking disappointed.
I realized, grasping part of the railing leading down to the beach, that in my selfishness I had deprived my own son of another moment of magic. So I turned around and walked back. It wasn’t until I was back to my tent when I heard my son speaking on the winds. I closed my eyes and began to sob quietly. That night I got little sleep.
It's so clear in my mind, the massive shape of turquoise like a wall of sound, a ward against suffering and discomfort and confusion. As I reflect on it, I grow less certain if I ever knew what it was: the consequence of age, really. Memory is so unreliable. “It must represent some trauma from your youth,” my therapist told me in a session recently. Frankly, she doesn’t understand why I keep bringing it up. She looks at me like I’m crazy sometimes. She doesn’t understand.
I asked for my inheritance early from my father so I could buy a house on the beach last month. Construction on the plot of land begins in two months. I think my wife suspects something but she remains quiet.
As I grow older I’ve considered that the blue-grey mass represents death. The impregnable vale of the unknown. The creature accepted me once, and thoughts of suicide made me consider that I could see it again. Not even the love of my son can hold me back. I must know! I must know…
It’s okay, it’s okay.
Everything will be okay.
The mass is waiting for me, and it will take me away from all of this.
It will vibrate me away, back into the sea, subsumed into the turquoise.

 Everything will be okay, again.