Bright Lights and Cityscapes

May 30, 2012 at 10:00 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s a Saturday. I’m standing in a small alcove in the back of Ross, flanked by fitting rooms on either side of me. There is a 15 foot tall face of a woman on the wall behind me–it’s creepy, and new—and I am slightly hung over from having a couple more drinks than I usually do with friends the night before. The silver lining is that while working the fitting room is by far the most dull assignment, it is also the easiest to do hung over. I’m 10 feet away from the drinking fountain, and 60% of my time is spent standing in one place. I also enjoy it because I have time to think. No one expects me to be busy the whole time, and from my vantage I can see more or less the entire store. This is fortunate, because people watching is an activity I take some pleasure in.

The best times are when the store is decently full, but not so much so that the fitting room is swamped with people trying on dresses (always with young-ish females, anywhere from 15-30). An attractive female, about my age, hands me 5 dresses to count before she heads in to try them on. She smiles at me, and for an instant I am debonair and charming; she is sweet, kind, and musical. We fall in love and live happily forever. I hand her back the dresses and a small white piece of plastic with the number 5 on it. I am a slightly hung over Ross employee who probably should have shaved this morning. My stomach grumbles.

I am leaning on the metal T-stand that serves as the barrier between the back of the alcove where I arrange clothes to be later put away. My break inches closer. 20 feet away a 30ish married couple looks at lingerie teddies while toting about one of the most adorable children I’ve ever seen. I contemplate the possibility of being alone forever, but that’s just the hangover talking. I always wonder about the differences between people, in how they think and feel about simple (even asinine) things. For instance, based on the camo shorts, sleeveless shirt, and trucker hat on the father, coupled with the stereotypical country fashion the mother was wearing I just assumed that they were more conservative people. But there they are, discussing the merits of bright pink vs. black with little red hearts on lingerie outfits I have a hard time imagining anyone fitting into. Which is something my socially liberal family would probably never do–we’re all for the most part conservative when it comes to our personal behavior. I don’t have a problem with lingerie, I just don’t see myself talking about it with a toddler in one hand in a crowded store. Maybe one day I will, but at the moment my observations are interrupted by a woman handing back several pairs of pants that either didn’t fit or looked bad.

When someone hands me their unwanted garments, I hang them up on a kind of clothing purgatory before I determine their respective fates. For the most part it’s easy enough to tell what goes where, but when you’re not sure (and even when you are, just in case Ross has decided to be tricky) the tag spells it out clearly. Jr vs Ladies dresses, Young Men vs Men’s shirts, etc. My favorite label has to be the women’s athletic shorts and pants, though. They’re all labeled “MS Active Bottom” and I always imagine this B-list rapper or hip hop artist with that name. Then I feel all awkward when I’m holding a pair of yoga pants and grinning like an idiot and notice someone waiting for me to count their clothes and hand them a little piece of plastic with a number on it.

Approximately half the people who come to the back of Ross just need to use the restroom. It’s slightly confusing because the fitting rooms are on either side of the alcove, but just in front of the entrance to the Men’s fitting room there is a door labeled “RESTROOMS–No Merchandise Allowed.” On this door, there is a keypad lock. To get in one must either type in the code, or someone on the opposite side of the alcove needs to press a small red button that overrides the lock. For whatever reason, it never is as simple as you would imagine it to be. Sometimes people just start walking into a fitting room, even though they are clearly labeled “FITTING ROOM.” I’m always slightly annoyed by these people, not because they decided that reading signs is overrated but because they always deliberately ignore me as they rush in. As if I were going to tell them that they couldn’t use the bathroom, but with their speediness it would be too late for me and they’d be home free. As much as I would love to ignore them back, I can’t go about letting them shit in a dressing room. I have to say something.

“Excuse me, are you looking for the restroom?”

The customer inevitably glares at me for being so forward as to talk to them.

“The restrooms are just right through that door there,” I say with my best customer service smile. I hold down the little red button. There is a slight click as it unlocks.

My favorite part of this interaction is the incredulity. Always the disbelief. Sometimes it’s accompanied by them pointing at the “FITTING ROOM” sign, sometimes a slight huff, always the look that tells me in no uncertain terms that I am an imbecile. On occasion, the person isn’t rude, and I feel bad for their honest mistake. Most of the time, though, my customer service smile becomes a real smile, though, as I point to the door with the keypad lock.

“It’s right through there, ma’am. It’s the one labeled “RESTROOMS.”


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Ruminating on Robert Frost

May 25, 2012 at 12:09 am (Uncategorized)

I think that it is in my nature to enjoy beginnings, and dislike endings. I would  venture that a lot of people out there feel the same way I do on this matter. Not everyone…sometimes people are afraid of new things, and others can’t wait to wait to throw things away just to be done–though that necessitates a beginning, doesn’t it? It’s all a construction of the mind, then, beginnings and endings. Sometimes we feel as though we’ve turned the page to a new chapter in our personal novels, but it’s a false reality. Your novel, your reality, is just a footnote in the large tissue paper bible or dictionary that is everything. It doesn’t make what you are or have any less beautiful, but it does require that you, or I, or any individual are not the center of everything else. In the moment we rarely are looking at big picture, though. I know of some people who would be bothered by this notion, as if being infinitesimal somehow diminishes your existence. The spectacular part of life is this phenomenon of interdependent co-arising; that nothing can happen without you, and you cannot happen without everything else. We’re all tied together in a giant web of existence. It’s not a philosophy (though choosing to think and act upon that reality might have repercussions in how you see the world), it’s just how things are. In the larger sense, anyway. As I mentioned, though, this isn’t the picture we usually choose to see. It isn’t the picture I tend to choose to dwell on, even though I acknowledge that it’s there.

What I’m trying to get at is that there aren’t really beginnings or endings. That they do not doesn’t mean that we don’t choose to perceive them, though. And man, I love beginnings. They’re so raw, so exciting, so pregnant with possibilities. I have my head in the clouds at times, and at the beginning of something (a new job, a new location, a new relationship) I feel as though I can see all the possibilities ahead, the exciting peaks of joy I will soon be experiencing. Firsts are beautiful things in their ways, because I think we tend to stay in the moment for them. We aren’t living in something else, because we’re too busy just doing it. With my recent breakup and with this new job working on some of the legislative campaigns up here I feel as though I might be on the verge of having all those wonderful beginning feelings again.

The flip side of that is that you need endings before you can have beginnings. I’ve mentioned it before but breaking up kind of sucks, especially when it wasn’t the outcome you were hoping for. I don’t really want someone new, but eventually I’m sure I’ll find someone else and it will be wonderful. Or it won’t. But being an optimistic I have a hard time convincing myself of the latter possibility. With this new job I’m excited to be working in the political field and actually be getting paid for it while making more money than I was in retail. I also worry about money at times, and whether I should be more frugal or make different money choices, or whatever the case may be. It’s natural to worry, but I’m just ending what I’ve known for a while now to pursue something different and there is a little part of me that fears change. It is overwhelmed most of the time by the side of me that is exhilarated by the fresh and the new, but that voice of fear is a persistent little bugger.

I think one of the things I’m trying to get better at, and the thing I have seen many of my peers struggle with is that fear. Of beginnings, of change, but especially of failure. It can paralyze you. Going out on a limb, being creative, striving to do something different—those are all virtues we pay lip service to, but when it comes time for the rubber to meet the road often we take the safe way out. I know I’ve done it many times. I would rather do something unspectacular than take a chance on something special and make a mistake. You’ll never hit a home run if you never swing for the fences.

I’m not exactly sure how I was indoctrinated into this culture of fear. It’s just always been there. I can remember, in first grade, how we were talking about the Galapagos Islands. And I loved animals. LOVED them. I would read books about them and incessantly watch the discovery channel (this was before they branched off into reality TV) and obsess about dinosaurs and things that lived in the rainforests. We did a unit on butterflies, where we had caterpillars in our class in a terrarium and they ate leaves and then built cocoons, and then one day in the spring they started climbing out and turning into butterflies….it was the coolest thing. We also, right before I moved to Camas, went out into the San Juan Islands as a field trip on this whale watching trip, and the orcas swam up close to the boat and it was spectacular. Anyway, we were talking about the Galapagos. Which I happened to be well informed on as a precocious albeit slightly arrogant 8 year old. So my teacher starts talking about sea tortoises and I feel the need to raise my hand and explain that there is no such thing as a sea tortoise, that there are sea turtles and tortoises are land animals (yes, I was that kid). My teacher turned to me and told me that I was wrong, that there were sea tortoises, and to sit down and be quiet. I was mortified! I couldn’t believe that I had been so sure. So at some point before that the fear of being wrong had been instilled in me, because it embarrassed me to such a point that whenever I thought to correct someone in a position of authority for the duration of my academic career I thought about that moment. I still think about it. Never mind the fact that I probably caused my teacher some level of embarrassment in correcting her as an 1st grader who I have no doubt in her mind shouldn’t be correcting someone with a college degree (though I have friends who are Ed majors, I know what you’ve done!).

I do take some small solace in the fact that etymologically speaking I was right. How do you like them apples, Ms. Ratske? 


Let me finish with one of my favorite quotes of all time:

“You’re searching, Joe, for things that don’t exist; I mean beginnings. Ends and beginnings — there are no such things. There are only middles.” -Robert Frost


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May 24, 2012 at 8:09 pm (Uncategorized)

Woke up somewhat under the weather again today, so I decided to spend much of it with Nyquil and napping rather than packing up and reading/blogging like I was planning to do. Trying to get all these precinct lists made and sent out to the candidates is my #1 priority at the moment. They don’t need them right now, but they will soon enough and it’s tedious enough that I find it’s best just to get it over with. So there’s that.


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May 23, 2012 at 1:37 pm (Uncategorized)

There was an eastern philosopher, whose name escapes me, who once had a vivid dream about being a butterfly. It was so real, he had to ask himself if he was merely dreaming about being a butterfly, or if he was indeed a butterfly and his existence at the moment was the dream. I feel that way sometimes…not in any specific sense, but sometimes my dreams feel so very real. At times reality takes on a bit of a dreamlike quality. I think this phenomenon tends to manifest itself when I find myself wishing for a different outcome than what is going on in my life right now. It tends to pass, but it is an interesting idea, how this life may or may not be the realest bit of your existence. I occasionally find comfort in the fact that many physicists are sure that we are not simply living in the universe but rather a multiverse–which means that there are an infinite number of yous and all of your differing selves are living out every possibly path that you could have chosen. Essentially, if the multiverse is infinite, much like the monkeys typing out Shakespeare, eventually all probabilities are reached. Each time you make a decision, alternate you makes the other one, or alternate you makes pretty much all the same decisions but with a few major/minor changes. So whenever things work out, you can be more or less mathematically sure that for you, somewhere else in another time and space things are working out for them. Which is you!

I tend to subscribe to the notion that happiness is relative to one’s perspective, at least in the sense that if you look for the bright side, the silver lining, you’ll find it. That doesn’t mean that things aren’t awful sometimes, but whether or not things happen for a reason, things happen. And that’s pretty cool. Maybe we’re just a mess of chemical reactions and electrical impulses that manifest itself as consciousness, or maybe we have an eternal soul and there is a God, or maybe we’re a shining luminescent diamond in a shimmering blanket of diamonds, a drop in the cosmic ocean of oneness. I don’t claim to know…if anything, I tend to be a committed agnostic. As far as I can tell, though, life has a lot of beauty to it if you just slow down and see it, hear it, taste it. While it’s far easier said than done, I think that just living and doing your best to exist with love can lead to very enjoyable moments.

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An Idea.

May 23, 2012 at 11:33 am (Uncategorized)

Bad News: I woke up this morning feeling like I’m getting sick with a very scratchy throat.

Good News: This is the one day this week I’m scheduled to work in the afternoon, so I got to sleep in.

I pre-ordered Sara Bareilles’ new EP and I really have enjoyed listening to it the last couple days. She went in an interesting direction with it, and her style tends to fit with my taste anyway, so it was a good match for me.


In general, I feel like writing, but I don’t know that I know exactly what to write about. I mean, there isn’t anything wrong with stream of consciousness writing, which is what I tend to do, but at the same time I think it might be an interesting experiment to maybe write not essays exactly, but sort of essays. About books or subjects or what have you. Give my postings a bit more specificity for one, and for another I find that being prompted will probably be helpful in my overall creativity and motivation to write. Which gives me an idea!

More on it tomorrow.

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A Radical Reactionary Blog Post

May 20, 2012 at 11:00 am (Uncategorized)

So something I’ve been thinking about today is the political divide today and where I think people are coming from. Essentially, if one were to make a rough sketch of ideological beliefs (and wouldn’t you know it, I did in the post below this one! So considerate) you might find that four points you could look at are radicalism, progressive, conservatism, and reactionary. Radicalism is generally associated with leftism, but I think today we find that isn’t always the case. More on that momentarily.

I think much of the ideological issues we have today come from the conflict between progressives (democrats, mostly) and reactionaries on the right. The difference between conservatism and a reactionary worldview is that while conservatives seek to stifle change, reactionaries believe that we should go backwards to a better, simpler time. When one chalks this up to nostalgia that seems harmless, but when a group of people want to reverse a raft a societal and social changes for the better that have been made, it presents a dangerous threat to our country’s stability and ability to operate in the modern world. On issues like women’s rights and freedom of religion, many reactionaries would like to head back to 1912 as opposed to 2012. This also comes up in the idea of limited government. There is, I think, a marked difference between fiscal responsibility and the drastic (and possibly devastating) effects that are the stated goal of some of the libertarian and tea party individuals in this country.In some ways, I would characterize their behavior as having more in line with radicalism, and the reimagining of the way in which America operates in the fiscal sense. The fact that fiscal conservatives and radicals have aligned themselves with religious conservatives and reactionaries makes for interesting bedfellows, as I am not quite convinced that they always have much in common. In any case, I feel that the Republican party’s shift to the right signals some kind of change in our two party system, because our generation is not going to stand for this kind of polarization in the long term.

I believe that there is a reasonable debate to be had about the size of government in this country and what our priorities in terms of spending should be. However, the unwillingness of many members of our legislative branch and beyond is occasionally very disheartening. Young people need to get involved in politics, need to elect moderates (on both sides of the isle), and we need to figure out that many of the problems facing this country today are serious but are essentially fixable. It isn’t a matter of always throwing money at a problem, or cutting a program completely, but rather looking at the data and finding creative, nonpartisan solutions to these problems. I find that while in my head something akin to socialism seems to be the philosophical ideal I look up to, when trying to solve problems of governance it is not the answer in the U.S. It’s not going to work all the time, but can we at least have some modicum of respect for one another?

For whatever reason, my mind has jumped to healthcare. I am certainly a progressive, but it’s an issue that if people were willing to compromise on I think could have a viable solution. Clearly a single payer system is more efficient in many ways, but I can understand the right’s reluctance in the name of stifled innovation and investment. Why can’t we have a panel of smart, dedicated people sit down and craft something that allows the government to control costs (and unfortunately for the libertarian crowd, still probably has some form of mandate–it just won’t work without it) while still providing room for innovation and potentially creating a minimal safety net for everyone while allowing people to pay more for health insurance if they want a better plan. The thing I think people fail to take into account is that you’re still paying for all of these uninsured people through higher premiums. The more people are in the pool, the less you have to pay for health care. There are answers to this problem. I think what’s more frustrating than anything is the leadership vacuum from conservatives in terms of giving alternative plans so that there’s something substantive to the debate instead of the reform vs “go fuck yourselves” argument that seems to be playing out at the moment.

It’s easy for young people to think that they don’t have a voice, but we have a strong one. It just needs to be activated. We can start the respectful dialogue our parents’ generation apparently felt like leaving at the door. It starts with involvement in primaries and contacting your officials, and opening up conversations with people we disagree with and instead of saying hateful things trying to come to understandings and being respectful of our differences and cultivating the essential American values we all share. It also comes with understanding that someone’s politics are not their whole person, and being able to separate the two. If we can do that, we might just find we have more common ground than we think.


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MS Paint Ideology spectrum

May 20, 2012 at 10:30 am (Uncategorized)

MS Paint Ideology spectrum

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May 19, 2012 at 11:41 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s 11:35 in the evening, I’m intoxicated for the nth evening in a row, and I’m realizing that breakups suck. I mean, rationally I realize that everything is going to be fine eventually. I’m not worried about being alone forever or getting tied up in my own neuroses or what have you. It’s just that in the present moment, being alone isn’t much fun, and I just realize how much I miss that person. I kind of always thought that by the time I was a little ways out of college I would have found someone that I wanted to settle down with and things would be moving in that general direction. I found that person, but they didn’t necessarily feel the same way about their own life and settling down with me. Which is fine, and I certainly commend them for honesty, but it’s something I have to deal with. I think part of it is seeing that my parents were married right out of college, and just assuming that would be the template for my own life. Your parents set the standard for what you might do with your life, and whether or not you end up following in their footsteps, that is kind of what you assume to be “normal” in terms of what a marriage and a life with someone else looks like. I wouldn’t say my parents are perfect, but I’ve seen a lot of good from them, and I think that as I was growing up I saw the kind of marriage that I aspire to have one day. I also just admire my parents in the sense that they are both kind, reasonable, and rational people. I find more and more that those attributes aren’t the sort of thing that one can take for granted.

Eventually the right thing will come along, and this brief post will seem like an angst-ridden bump in the road. Until then, I’ll just have to try to roll with what life gives me.

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May 18th

May 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s May 18th, the weather is gorgeous, I don’t have to work, and therefore I am sitting inside Sudzees trying to finalize the last of a mountain of laundry I’ve spent the past 3 days chipping away at with the rickety washer and dryer located on the bottom floor of my apartment complex. It’s also Rolo’s birthday. He would have been 11. I can always remember it because it’s the same day as the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption. I still miss him. It certainly doesn’t help that Knut, my parent’s new dog, is the devil in a small white fluffy package.

The Buddha says that when your anger consumes you, you’ve already closed yourself off to truth. I’ve been upset the last week or so, just in an emotionally painful place, and I think that has led me to just let myself be angry rather than seeing the reality of my situation and of life in general. I think it’s time to take a step back and be a better person. I would encourage everyone else to take a moment and do the same thing.

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May 16, 2012 at 10:49 am (Uncategorized)

Summer is finally here! Hopefully. It could totally snow tomorrow, and I wouldn’t be particularly surprised. I’m trying to stay optimistic though.

Life is pretty interesting at the moment. Didn’t get the job in Indiana, though many people know that already. It’s a bummer, but I trust their judgement in picking the right person for the job. Something about doors and windows comes to mind. In any case, I’ve accepted a job doing some campaign managing here in Moscow, so I’ll be sticking around through November. I’m really looking forward to working hard and having my first real political job. Still working at Ross for a while longer, though I’ve given them a notice that I won’t be staying there indefinitely. I think it’s just going to be nice to have some extra flexibility in my schedule outside of the campaigning, and I’ll be able to travel and hike a little more. The other issue is that Ross isn’t particularly able to let me set my own hours, and if I need to be somewhere for a campaign event, I would prefer to be there. I’ll probably end up doing some odd jobs here and there to help supplement, though the extra money I’m making at Ross, while not negligible, isn’t much money.

Kristin and I broke up, which sucks. It wasn’t a bad breakup or anything, we just had different expectations about what we wanted out of this relationship and out of our lives in general. Unfortunate, but we’ll still be friends. I don’t expect it to be acrimonious. It’s just an adjustment I’m going to have to make.

Bullet point thoughts

  • I’m very happy President Obama came out for gay marriage. Equality isn’t something that should be an issue. I love the bible, it is a fantastic piece of literature (and potentially is divinely inspired), but at the end of the day the constitution is the arbiter of how we do things in America. If you can honestly tell me that you don’t eat shellfish and have never touched a menstruating female (or sat in a chair she’s sat in) then I’ll give you props for being at least intellectually consistent in your bigotry. Otherwise you’re just giving in to your own unexamined prejudices. Churches don’t have to marry homosexual couples, but marriage is also a civil institution. Life goes on.
  • Jason Mraz’s new album, Love is a Four Letter Word, is quite good.
  • Avengers-Also very good. Saw it twice.
  • I might not do any more theatre for a while, which is kind of sad to think about. Who knows what opportunities will present themselves, but at the moment the odds seem low. On a happier note, I couldn’t have been any more blessed to finish up (if this is indeed what is happening) with “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and our 4th Annual Pantless Fantasia. So much fun, and such wonderful audiences and collaborators.

That’s it for now…maybe with summer here I’ll post more often.

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