Archive for November 2008
November 27, 2008
I imagine my past bound inside a metal cocoon, ensconced in the outstretched arms of space. A host of photographs of a skinny, ridiculous teenager, sidled next to yearbooks with photographs of other ridiculous teens, are intimate traveling companions for 50,000 years, and waiting for that moment when they will emerge as the butterfly of memories too distant to inflict the pain of ownership. The idea of this cathartic metamorphosis seems sound and optimistic, until I realize that I’m looking at it from the wrong angle.
What if all those pieces that make up the mementos of my past are parts of me? What I’m really considering is placing pieces of myself in a bullet and firing it into the lonely dark vastness of space. As if being a teenager wasn’t solitary and uncertain enough, I am fully prepared to sentence these moments of my past to live separate from my present and future, doomed to permanent adolescence. In 50,000 years the people of the future would come to know my past, but never know me. Like an unfinished painting, that only gives us a portion of the whole picture. Or a Mr Potatohead with only a nose and a silly hat. What would the people of the future think of the black holes that should house my ears, shoes and eyes?
But these questions are moot. After a week of waiting, I have received no reply from KEO.org. I can only assume that they did not take my request seriously. Because of this, I find myself turning to other alternatives for coping with my past.
Ad Placed on Craigslist
Need time travel device to share wisdom of present with past self and prevent foibles of teenage years. Will rent or borrow if an option. Serious, working time machines only. No theories or prototypes plz. Also, advice on safely altering time continuum welcome.
November 16, 2008
Sunday Afternoon: After months of urging from my parents, I find myself digging through the last remaining items at home that fall under the title of “mine.” Some of these tokens of my past will find a new residence with my wife, Shannon, and me; the rest will be thrown away or donated to a second-hand thrift store. All in all, I feel acutely as if I have been pink-slipped from my family, and am now cleaning out my desk. But there is no desk, just two clear, plastic storage bins with red lids, and a mini set of plastic drawers. As I burrow through these containers I find my early life flashing before my eyes. An old, leather-bound journal, with the imprint of a quill on the front, contains scarcely more than eight entries and reminds me of the transience of time. It starts in October of 1990, before I could write proficiently; most of the entries are doodles of something I did that day. Playing Frisbee or Nintendo with my best friend Jake, or reading. They are all captured in the scrawling of crude caveman-like stick figures. 1991 passes on a single page with a visit to Canada and a trampoline. To my disappointment, my journal jumps from the trampoline to 1999. The ridiculous writing style is painful to read. It conjures up memories of bad haircut choices, clothing too big for my skinny frame, debilitating acne, teen angst and a delicate sense of insecurity. My journal is further rendered in all its bright, mockably-adolescent clown colors as Shannon begins reading from it out loud. “It was really sad,” she reads in a mocking tone. “OK, that’s enough,” I say and wrestle the journal from her hands. When her attention turns elsewhere I slide the journal under the bottom of the “keep” pile, and move on to another container.
The rest of this journey through time is more or less the same. I find early pictures with some of my family: of my younger brother and sister and I playing in the front yard in Tennessee. My brother in his karate outfit, trapped through photography as a yellow belt for all eternity. My sister once again the cute little girl that I sometimes still associate her as, even though she’s a senior in high school. Me in my over-sized cap, the brim casting a dark shadow over my eyes like a raccoon.
My wife goes through my drawing pads and says that she doesn’t think they are mine. I, however, shudder with instant recognition of the dragons, and monsters, and elves, and warriors, all in glorious mis-proportion, parading around the pages.
When all is done, and the piles of yearbooks, CDs, souvenirs and other tokens of my childhood and adolescence have been separated, I do not feel better. I do not feel as if the weight of the past has been lifted, or that it has been cast in a new light. Instead, I feel as if the gaunt skeletons of my past have been mobbing around me for the last hour or so, and putting me in a humiliating headlock, all the while kicking me repeatedly in the stomach and kidneys with their bony heels. I grimace in pain as I throw piles of worthless knickknacks in the garbage. I grimace as I stack old clothing, and books in a donation pile. I grimace as I pick up the box of books, photographs and souvenirs that I will keep, and load it into the backseat of my car. And the disappointment that even after so many years, I am still painfully sensitive of the past, is a hard notion to accept. I wonder that, for whatever reason, some ghosts may never stop haunting me.
November 17, 2008
Monday Afternoon: While on the internet, I stumble upon information about a time capsule called KEO. And so I begin pondering a way to rid myself of the past. The KEO, you see, is a time capsule that will be fired out into the cold reaches of space with certain items and messages from people around the planet, to return 50,000 years later to a much different Earth. What if, I ask myself, I could place the box from home into that time capsule? Would the people of Earth in 52,000 AD understand me better? Would those memories be far enough away from me, for me to move on? I realize that what I find more tantalizing than a benevolent Earth civilization filled with people I will never know going through my belongings, is the possibility that the time capsule could be obliterated mid-transit by an asteroid, or lose in a nasty entanglement with a space probe or satellite. After all, a lot can happen in 50,000 years. And even if it does somehow make it back to Earth, by then the language and civilization will have changed so much that no one would know what to do with it anyway. These future Earth people would be stronger than me; they would throw everything away.
November 19, 2008
Subject: Wanting to contribute to KEO
Hello and greetings,
You don’t know me but my name is Jeff. I live in America and have become fascinated with your time capsule and would like to inquire about some of its capabilities. For instance, how much stuff can it carry? Is there a maximum weight or volume limit to it? If, for instance, I wanted to place some objects that the future might find interesting, how much would it be able to carry?
The only reason I bring this up is because I happen to have 16 lbs (7 kg) worth of high school yearbooks, journals, drawings, cheap souvenirs, and embarrassing photographs from my childhood. If space is an issue they can be made to fit into a 10″x14″x7″ container. I have no qualms against donating these to a good cause, in particular your KEO project. My only stipulation is that you don’t look through my yearbooks, photographs or read my journal before you place it in the time capsule. I fear you will find them drab and uninteresting. I can assure you that the citizens of future Earth will find them exciting, especially the part where a certain person cross-dresses for a certain Shakespeare play.
The box is ready to ship at a moments notice. If money is a factor, I have included the $4.37 that I had in my wallet to cover any unease you may have about this mutually beneficial proceeding.
I only await your word.
November 7, 2008
Sometime around 3:30 PM: I grunt and my lips form disjointed syllables, as I feel frustrated enough to swear, but realize that my mouth has never really learned how to form those words. I have spent the last hour or so repairing my rear bike tire tube with what should have been great success. The hardest part has been long over: the actually repair of the puncture. Now, I find that my struggle to get my bike pump to fill the tire with air has become an unseemly Sisyphean crucible. Each time I try to get the pump to create a seal, I find that it will not. And as if the very notion, that a device specifically called a “tire pump” refuses to pump a bike tire, isn’t bad enough, I realize with disgust that the plastic mouth of the pump has cracked and broken and now will never function as it was intended.
My rage is unbridled. My fury has reached its incredible hulk-like pinnacle. Like an infuriated Samson with the jawbone of an ass, I take the pump in my hand and cock back my throwing arm. The pump clatters across the asphalt a few feet away, the thought that if I am to return the pump to Target, it should probably not appear to have been thrown across a parking lot, restraining me like a Delilah with scissors.
That is when I find myself in the position mentioned above, attempting to curse, but not knowing where to start. And for all my angry guttural sounds the only words that I can manage to get out are, “awwwww, poop.”
At 25, I should probably feel sheepish at saying the word, “poop”, especially when most people under extreme duress gravitate to other much harsher words of the English language. And that is my confession. That at 25, I still say the word “poop” when frustrated. And sometimes I say it, even when I’m not frustrated. Several months ago, someone asked me for a topic of conversation, and the first word I thought of was “poop.” It was also the next word out of my mouth. Needless to say, people don’t come to me for conversational topics anymore.
Actually, I just remembered that my real topic for confession is that, for all my bike-riding bravado, I haven’t ridden my bike in over two weeks. But at this point I’ve already written too much. So I’ll lay these “I Have a Bicycle” entries to rest here.
November 6, 2008
12:10 PM: I step out into the nippy air to go to my Marketing class, and traverse across the walkway from my front door to the sidewalk. Out on the street, a teenager on a skateboard is trying to harness the moves made famous by Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist and others. He tries to jump in the air and spin his skateboard and land on it. I should point out that I see skateboarders young and old try this move all the time, and I have yet to see one land it successfully. The teenager flails his arms in the air and kicks his legs. He bobs his head and spins his torso. He tries jumping from different stances, he tries it from a stationary position, he tries it rolling. Each attempt ends the same way. The skateboard hops, spins, lands crooked and sends the teenager stumbling. As I continue to walk away, I look back and see him trying a different skateboard trick. Jumping over a piece of roller luggage. His next moments look both embarrassing and painful.
The teenager doesn’t look like a pro-skater, he looks like a boisterous child doing jumping jacks on a piece of plywood. I can’t help but think of a fish flopping around out of water, and gasping. So much of me wants to take his skateboard away, set his two feet firmly to the ground and say, “This is where you belong. This is your home.” Then I would pat him on the head, and maybe we would embrace, and remember stories of learning to walk.
This experience teaches me that not all things on wheels are created equal. While this skateboarder resembles a rolling seizure, perhaps if he were to ride a bicycle he would evoke a different image. A French countryside dotted with bicycles being ridden by classy, old men with mustaches, for instance. I bring this up, because as I ride my bicycle, this is how I feel. Even though I have no mustache.
I have decided that this is how all bicyclists must imagine themselves.
1 1/2 – 2 months previous to NOW:
I have joined an exclusive club. One without expensive dues, long lines, bouncers, or techno music. OK, scratch that. Sometimes it has techno, but only if that’s what comes up on my iPod.
I have become a bicycle rider. A traverser of the bike lanes. And like I said, I’ve joined an exclusive club. I’m into saving the earth, reducing CO2 emissions, helping the environment, getting healthier, etc.
When I said I ride a bicycle, what I should have said is, “I ride a mountain bike.” It is rugged and powerful. And while I may not have to actually ride up a mountain or anything, Provo has some tough environments with plenty of debris. Just the other day, there was a big stick lying menacingly on the side of the road, and I said “no problem!” and rode the devil and his angels over that thing.
But riding a bike isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s not all mud and beautiful vistas either. I have to tackle a difficult moral issue: Am I a vehicle or a pedestrian? My solution has been to become both. In this way I’ve managed to harness the benefits of both the privileged pedestrian, and the speed and vitality of the vehicle. I use crosswalks, push buttons at lights, and try to avoid red lights as much as possible by cutting across sidewalks and parking lots. But I also use car lanes, turn lights and speed.
You may be asking, “What prompted this situation?”, “Jeff, why are you doing this?!”, or “I wonder what else I could be doing with my time, instead of reading this?”
Since becoming a bike rider, I have received many such questions, and have prepared a list of Frequently Asked Questions for your convenience.
Question: “Jeff, what has caused this transformation from car-person to bike-person? Isn’t that like taking a step back in history?”
Answer: “The simple answer is ‘yes.’ I felt like I needed a change in my life. Just as a caterpillar must live within the confines of a cocoon for several weeks to become a butterfly, I feel I must embrace the bike in order to achieve my best self.”
Answer: “Actually, the honest answer is a lot simpler. My wife has a job up in Orem and needs the car. My job isn’t within easy walking distance, so I need the bike to get to work.”
Question: “How far is it to work?”
Answer: “Almost 3 miles.”
Question: “How fast can you go?”
Answer: “Ummm… kind of fast, but not really fast. But I’m not really slow either.”
Question: “Can you do this?”
Answer: “I don’t think so. I can’t see what you’re doing, so I’m not even sure.”
Question: “You’re kind of a loser, huh?”
Answer: “Wait! Is that really your question?”
Question: “Yes. You know, you just type on your computer all the time. And you only talk about yourself. It’s kind of boring. And selfish.”
Question: “Fine. Next question-”
Answer: “Yeah, great. That’s fine. I think that’s about it for today. Tune in next time for more Frequently Asked Questions with Jeff!”
I wake up and am bald. My morning routine is the same as normal, but when I walk into the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror, my hair is thin enough that I can see my scalp, almost like my hair is translucent. With a sigh, I say to myself, “So this is how it goes.” Then I shrug and carry on the rest of the morning as a newly born bald person.
When I really wake up, and walk into the bathroom, I am surprised when the mirror tells me that I have hair.
This is why I’m worried after I go to the barber that my hair won’t come back.
This is why it’s always months between haircuts.