All Posts By Owen Sader

Leaving

Posted on 1 min read 1 views

Despite my best efforts, the anxiety is still real every time I leave Germany.

The morning starts like normal: my daughter waking me up and watching Curious George on the laptop while I drift in and out of sleep for 45 minutes. And then we play and eat breakfast, and there’s nothing at that point. But as the day continues, the ache in my chest telling me there’s something wrong (even when there’s nothing wrong), slowly starts to creep in. It grows despite my best efforts to ignore it, starve it to death, so that by the time I’m dropping off my daughter at her mother’s, I’m manic and I can barely see straight. This state of disbelief usually lasts me long enough to propel me to the outskirts of Amsterdam without caffeine.

Evolution of Place

Posted on 2 min read 2 views

I like to think that the evolution of Germany for me over the past three years, is like a microcosm of my human experience. What started as an antagonistic place that I tolerated (at best) in order to be with my daughter, has become a place of recovery. It’s a strange place to get clean, but that’s what it’s become for me: I eat well, work out regularly, write, and meditate. And that’s only the time that I don’t spend with my daughter.

When I first started coming here, I would leave as a husk of a person. I was mentally and physically demolished, and it took weeks to readjust when I got home. Now, I leave feeling better than when I arrived. There are some tangible differences in the present: buying a place instead of staying in hotels, joining a gym, and reliable Wi-Fi. And then there’s an element of necessary adaptation from my side.

It doesn’t change the fact that the people are still high-strung. I’m barely able to operate on a daily basis without being told what I’m doing wrong (as if to drive this point home, within an hour of getting to Germany yesterday, my brother and I were being lectured for not properly using the plastic dividers in the supermarket checkout line). Despite the locals best attempts at making it stressful, it’s become more funny than draining.

I don’t know what Muenster will be to me in the coming years. If you total up the sprints, I’ll spend a meaningful amount of my life there. And I’m starting to see how that’s not a terrible thing.

Travel

Posted on 1 min read 89 views

You get tangled up with all the travel. You see a clock and you don’t trust it. It should be light outside and it’s not. Today I’m staying on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation outside Phoenix (which resembles Phoenix in being one large construction site in the desert), tomorrow I’ll be in Memphis. Last week Aruba. Alien places. But it’s -28 in Minneapolis at the exact moment that I’m writing this, so whatever. 

I can’t decide if time moves fast or slow while traveling. The days are more distinct. At home, they can pass without me looking up from my desk. And yet, when traveling, a week somehow gets lost in airports and Ubers and the general friction of impermanent living. 

The only thing that seems definite is sleep. Whether home or a hotel, if I can sleep, that rising tide lifts all boats. However, it’s a challenge no matter where I am: the temperature, the light, the expanding and contracting of REM cycles. It should be easier in a familiar place like my home, but somehow it’s always unpredictable. 

Sociopathic Tendencies

Posted on 1 min read 108 views

Most of my life, many of my closest friends have been sociopaths. 

No. That’s too harsh: a large amount of my good friends have had sociopathic tendencies. They weren’t bad people, emotions just didn’t manifest naturally to the same degree that it does for others. Which is probably why they found someone that is often overwhelmed by their emotions interesting. You’re both off, and even though that doesn’t translate to empathy, you can relate to the confusion of not being able to trust yourself.

It also teaches you that emotions are not morality. From a distance, you would have been hard pressed to say who was who. My feelings and emotions often making me more unpredictable and noxious then my friends. 

At this point in my life, my closeness with people develops around the ability to understand and be understood. It seems the people that understand you best are the ones that are the most similar or the most different, and all the rest get lost in the static of normalcy.

And so I have to ask myself, where am I failing people when they need to be understood?

Flawed Characters

Posted on 1 min read 155 views

Everybody wants to like a seriously flawed character. But only as long as they are seriously flawed in a way that appeals to their emotions and personal beliefs. Today this is the cliché unbounded hard living renegade anti-hero.

Without their own personal beliefs (which inevitably exist within a larger societal context), you’re just the villain. Mix up these personal beliefs and see how quickly the constructs change. 

Human

Posted on 3 min read 57 views

On the way to Amsterdam I watch a movie called My Generation. It’s a movie that I simultaneously love, and that twists me into mental knots, because of the narrator: Michael Caine.  

On the way to Amsterdam I watch a movie called My Generation. It’s a movie that I simultaneously love, and that twists me into mental knots, because of the narrator: Michael Caine.  

In the absence of flesh and blood role models growing up, he was one of the replacements. I used to watch and analyze his movie scenes: how he would move through a room, where his eyes would go, and the words he would use. It probably didn’t build good life long habits.

Because that’s the nature of behavior. They’re products of their place and time. Long before the recent reckoning of male chauvinism, watching Alfie would make me cringe (which Michael tries to acknowledge by apologizing for calling women ‘birds’). 

But that’s also why Alfie is a good movie. Because it doesn’t give a shit about the cultural perception you have when watching it. And as repulsive as you might find it, something will resonate. And then you’ll have to reconcile what you’re drawn to in a personality that is in such direct conflict with your sensibilities.

I struggle to keep pace with the cultural changes. The parameters of guilt are determined at the time of judgement, not action. As a result, if I’m not guilty today, I will almost certainly be tomorrow. 

That’s the risk and the fear in working on a book for over a decade. It becomes a time piece, when you really just want it to be human. 

In the absence of flesh and blood role models growing up, he was one of the replacements. I used to watch and analyze his movie scenes: how he would move through a room, where his eyes would go, and the words he would use. It probably didn’t build good life long habits.

Because that’s the nature of behavior. They’re products of their place and time. Even before the recent reckoning of 90’s and 00’s male chauvinism, watching Alfie would make me cringe (which Michael acknowledges by apologizing for calling women ‘birds’). 

But that’s also why Alfie is a good movie. Because it doesn’t give a shit about the cultural perception you have when watching it. And as repulsive as you mind find it, something will resonate. And then you’ll have to reconcile what you’re drawn to in a personality that is in such direct conflict with your sensibilities.

I struggle to keep pace with the cultural changes. The parameters of guilt are determined at the time of judgement, not action. If I’m not guilty today, I will almost certainly be tomorrow. 

That’s the risk and the fear in working on a book for over a decade. It becomes a time piece, when you really just want it to be human. 

Gravity Fails

Posted on 1 min read 155 views

I’m at a coffee shop in RiNo. Looking up from my notebook I notice half the room is taking a picture. The room loses gravity.

I’m slipping through the air. They’re not even here, these people who are more concerned with how they look than what they’re doing. It’s like some sick Instagram satire that I’m unwillingly a part of. I look left and right for the cameras.

Come to Denver, take pictures, and then leave. Beyond the picture, it’s not clear why they wanted to be here in the first place. They don’t seem to realize that someday the servers will go down and whatever permanence it seems to provide will also disappear.

It took being gone for a couple of months to realize how much less grounded the atmosphere is here. Everyone is more beautiful than I remember. Certainly less flannel. Feels like LA without the beach. Are these the people that couldn’t cut it in SF and New York?

They can still be a big fish in a small pond here.

Modern Protestantism

Posted on 1 min read 81 views

I thought the culture I was raised in was a five-hundred-year-old version of Protestant restraint and silence, which at the best of times can be described as deeply personal. For all the baggage I drag around, I did often like it, as it was decidedly non-formulaic. But now I wonder how much of that culture is actually a modern version of Nietzche in which we are constantly trying to overcome ourselves (and when it gets ugly, a bastardized version in which we try to overcome others). I thought the Catholics were supposed to be the ones wrestling with guilt?

Southern Plains

Posted on 1 min read 99 views

I’ve always had a fascination with windmills. Including the modern ones. I don’t find them eye sores or obtrusive. They seem gorgeous and eerie to me, solemn signs of human progress. When you enter Minnesota on I-90 there is a massive swath of them. Two hundred or more. The pattern isn’t apparent, but there must be one. Perhaps from the air I could see it.

Pine Ridge

Posted on 3 min read 77 views

There are two parts to the Badlands. A North and a South. The North is full of trails and has the infrastructure of a typical national park. The south is in the Pine Ridge Reservation, and there are no trails. The last Ghost Dance took place in a basin there, and you’re free to cut your way to it. There is a road called Sheep Mt. Rd. that ascends to the top of a bluff, which you can use to hike down into the Southern part of the Badlands.

I spend a long part of the afternoon on top of Sheep Mt. I write a little, and there are tall grasses growing and I run my hands through them as I walk along the edge of the cliffs. I was told there are fossils visible, giant tortoise shells, if you know where to look. And that they dissolve in the weather, like the rest of the rock, because they are now rock. But I don’t know how to look, and I don’t find them.

After I leave Sheep Mt. I head south, deeper into the Reservation. The change is immediate. There’s no cattle, and it’s either fallow grassland, or what looks like small scale hemp production. The land is hilly, remnants of the Badlands tracing it south, and then becoming lush.

The buildings are few and far between. When I do see one it is either a small church, an abandoned church, or a double wide with 15-20 cars parked out front. I pass through several small villages before entering Wounded Knee.

The experience of Wounded Knee isn’t the Massacre site, but everything that surrounds it. There’s no exaggeration in saying it’s a surrealist nightmare. It looks like the tragedy just happened. The town of Wounded Knee is easily one of the most impoverished places I have ever been in my life (the only thing coming close are the new Amazonian cities in Peru). To then have to reconcile it’s existence inside the geographical United States is nearly impossible.

The town is devoid of infrastructure outside of churches and a US Post Office with a large American Flag flying outside. The houses themselves are crumbling and the paint has peeled off. From what I can tell there are no stores: not a gas station or grocery store or restaurant. It’s not clear why it exists. There’s a level of discomfort that is so palatable that I keep moving despite wanting to examine it further.

The spot of the Massacre is nondescript, lying in a large grassy plain. There’s a sign that explains what happened, and a small cemetery at the mass grave site on top of a neighboring hill. Two boarded up churches are near the grave site.

I buy overpriced sage from children who walk with me through the graveyard.

“What are you going to do when you grow up?” I ask.

“The army,” they both say.

The visitors center is a looted burnt-out husk of a building sitting below the graveyard. I walk down to it and peer inside. I can sense people behind me and back away from the entrance. I go back to my car, feeling alive and present, and not able to articulate why.

Driving North-East through the Reservation things improve slightly. I pass the Oglala Lakota College and there are schools and some new building frames visible. I stop by Kyle to eat dinner at what I’ve been told is the only restaurant in the north of the county. Agriculture here seems more consistent, with large bails drying in the fields. It’s getting dark by the time I leave the reservation, and the distinctions as I enter Interior are not as pronounced as they were before.

That night I tell someone I went into the reservation.

They look shocked. “You drove that car into the reservation?” they ask.

When I get to my room I look up the Pine Ridge Reservation: it is the poorest place in the US, the life expectancy is the lowest in the Western Hemisphere, unemployment is 80%, alcoholism is 80%, there is almost no industry. And then I look up the town of Wounded Knee and see that the average income of Wounded Knee is half that of the Pine Ridge Reservation.

These are facts beyond my comprehension.