Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pounding Pavement

There is absolutely no reason to be writing this post, but I'm going to anyhow. Earlier on this Sunday, the day before Memorial Day, my daughter just wanted to show me something on the web. We ended up watching the entire "Last Lecture" from Carnegie Mellon U. They'd wanted to give it to me as a gift at the surprise party - shock and awe party would be more like it - for my departure from my current job. Instead, there were extravagant bookstore gift cards, already devoured, and I found the lecture could be viewed for free on the Internet.

For those who've seen it, there is something remarkable about it for sure. I sensed the man's resolve to deliver this address well and completely, without tripping, and without much caring how or if the props worked well. The audience was a little bit more nervous - I guess they were his friends colleagues and students - and so he was deprived of any accurate feedback, almost until the very end. It must have helped that he is a professor, practiced in the art of holding folks' attention. It surely helped even more that he is engaging and entirely pleased with the life he's led.

I'd heard about the lecture. Given by a man sure to die within a couple of months of its delivery. Wanting still to live life to its very fullest, vowing to have "fun" right up until the end. Making no apologies, except implicit for those he knew would miss him. The one who wanted to give it to me said it got her through the summer of her mother's death.

I dropped my daughter off to her job and then, since it was such a nice day, started walking. I took a phone call from my sister along the way - all the absurd ways in which we live these days - giving her frank feedback on the ins and outs of visiting Mom and Dad this summer. Sitting in a schoolyard, I found I'd gotten over much if not quite all of my anger for her sticking by her "man" and seeming to abandon the daughter that he'd raped. He's in jail now and I truly do wish him a full rehabilitation, although I don't know how that's done. My sister said she's not even worried about her daughter, so strong is she. I echoed the remark about her strength, and had to admit that perhaps my sister has none left for herself.

I kept walking. It was only when I reached the water's edge, some many miles from where I live (well, maybe 4), that I realized the soles of my feet were solid blisters. Needless to say, the return trip was much slower and very painful. It's been a while since I've walked so far.

I walked past a lot of entertainment venues, many restaurants, the fancy women's club where I'd gotten married, night clubs cranking up the techno beat with bartenders getting loose, and finally to the water right across from the dock where I used to keep my boat. Miss Buffalo was loading with beautiful people who wanted to be thought of naked; the hot dog stand and clam bar loaded with people who never wanted to be thought of that way.

I don't quite get the waxy look, eyebrows, skin and hair maybe signalling that you'll do anything for someone's pleasure it they'd like. I had to sit down at the pizza joint which serves the nightclubs, since I was parched and hungry and my feet were burning. It was getting ready for the evening throngs this holiday eve.

All along the walk alone, no other walkers really, as cars would smoothly travel by, loaded with men and women all dressed to the nines, heading somewhere I would likely walk past. Travelling bubbles of laughter, screaming, some demure and more sophisticated. The sidewalk between the districts entirely deserted but for me. The only time I felt challenged was when I was staring over long at some guy's beautiful car, and he, shined up well himself, wanted to know what the fuck I was looking at.

I tried to sense some direction for this edgy little rustbelt city. The architecture, at least on foot, kind of goes now. There's more complexity than I'd thought, in line and complementarity; antiquity and new. It wasn't so hard to see the vacant storefronts all refilled, and the sidewalks bustling again. 

The cars, though, were a travesty, interspersed with motorcyclists revving up and down and seeming to wonder what to do. I'd replace them with horses, maybe, and trolley cars and ways to watch from dress where people were headed, instead of being left to judge by what beat dopplers by; what kind of makeup the woman driver wears. What kind of sunglasses. What kind of car.

That "final lecture guy" was into virtual reality. He wasn't horrified by Disneyland as I am. He truly did believe in scientific and technological progress. I liked his kind of students, all geeky and not at all like the clubbers I walked by, who just looked sort of predatory, or at least on some kind of full time make. I especially liked the female techies, who had a kind of earnest hot they weren't even close to being self-conscious of. 

I guess I'll have to give a pass to my doubts about virtual reality. Maybe it really is and still can be moreso useful for teaching and training and trying things out. But I don't really want to walk without having to deal with blisters. I liked the real sounds and smells and faces and even the tribal beat. I liked the water and the boats heading out for the evening, and didn't even miss being on them all that much myself. I liked the variety of people, some beautiful, some not, and some not even allowed to pause along their way for fear of disturbing commerce. Shuffled away from paying customers' seats. Cadging smokes.  Begging change.

So, it's time for me to launch. One more week of wasted time at work and then I'll have just a short while to make something of my writing. It won't look much like this place, I don't think. But then again it might. My words will meander along with my thoughts, looking for some shape to what is going on. I wonder if Epsom salts get sold anymore?

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