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SF, Again

Posted on 2 min read 73 views

It’s been a while since my last business trip. As result my tolerance is high for getting up early, fighting the road warriors for an outlet at the airport, and waking up on the plane with neck pain. It feels good to be back in SF. How a Best Western in San Mateo can cost $500 a night still baffles me. But I accept it, because everything here looks unassuming and costs a fortune. It feels like a slight victory that most consumer goods are roughly the same price as their Denver counterparts. Yes, I paid $1.50 for a bottle of water!

Writing about SF is like writing about New York: why bother? It seems like it’s been done to death, and I can’t imagine that I’m going to reveal anything that wasn’t said earlier and better by Mark Twain. Instead, I focus on what it means to me. Why does it feel good? If you’re negative, you would say it’s damp. But after living in a high plains desert for half of my adult-life, I find it reinvigorating. Everything is lush and green, and even a sad-sack area like San Mateo seems beautiful when looking you’re looking at it through panoramic window lined conference rooms.

It also has an elusive “character”. In a two-block walk through the Tenderloin I saw two people shooting up, one person shatter a window to steal luggage, and three people being arrested. What decade is this? I’m not young enough to say that this is a good thing, but after two decades of gentrification, it’s at the very least baffling to someone who who’s only been to New York post it’s transformation into an adult Disneyland.

It also feels good because it feels far away. As much as I enjoy it, I know it will end in the very near future. And that helps to provide me with the distance to truly enjoy the place without judgment. It doesn’t resonate at a deep enough level that I would consider disrupting my life for this place. But I appreciate it, and bit by bit, I uncover what vibrates with me.

White Noise

Posted on 1 min read 84 views

I’m having nightmares again. But not the predictive nightmares of murder and terror. These are of the type where almost nothing happens. They’re regular interactions and they make my heart ache.

I have a dream where my grandmother, who died last year, is showing a quilt that she made to my daughter. She explains that she made the quilt out of feed sacks, which I remember her telling me they used to do on the farm. A piece of the truth interlaced into the dream. And then long stretches of déjà vu. Nothing true, but things I know so well.

They’re nightmares of foreboding. And I realize that it’s probably the cocktail of being back in Germany, and the book I’m reading, White Noise. I’m not able to place the book. It’s all dread and low grade constant panic adding up to something I can’t predict. And yet it hangs in the air, like it’s in the room with me. That’s how the dreams are. That’s how Germany is.

Not the First to Think This

Posted on 2 min read 80 views

Memory is a strange thing. It was such an insignificant part of my life for a long time, ten years at least. When I was in my early twenties, I intentionally kept them amorphous, refusing to take pictures because I had little desire to remember things the exact way that they were, and instead hoped they would live on as something more private and meaningful. I only started writing a blog (which I insisted wasn’t a blog) because a friend of mine, during my second stay in Prague, asked me to contribute to his site. Now, I have no idea what happened to that site, or even what the name of it was.

As I got older, memories did return to me, but they were clear and understandable. Catalyzed from moments of familiarity and laced with sentimentality, which is it’s own perverse pleasure.

That’s no longer the case. Memories return to me, but they return disassociated from the rest of my life. They’re memories in the ether. With seemingly no catalyst, they come back to me without reason, and leave me stupefied to piece together their meaning. The context of before or after is nearly impossible to remember, and I’m lucky if I can give any specifics about when or who.

One of these memories has come back to me today and hasn’t left. It’s of sitting in a business like cafeteria at lunch reading Gogol, and someone who worked in the cafeteria coming up to me and making a comment about the book. We then had a brief exchange on his thoughts about the book, and Russian literature in general, and it was over.

However, my inability to conjure up specifics frustrates me- did he really work in the cafeteria, or was he there repairing something? When did I read Gogol? If it was in Chicago, I was probably working at the bank, but I don’t remember reading Gogol back then. Could it have been later, when I was in town for some reason? And if so, what was I doing in a business cafeteria?

In this memory, and all memories, the lack of specifics frustrates me. I consciously avoided permanence when I was younger, because I wanted memories to settle the way that they would, I thought there was something beautiful in that, but I hadn’t considered that they wouldn’t settle at all. If you didn’t care about the details when they were happening, then even false details won’t come to you later. And so I keep mapping out these island memories, hoping that each leads me towards something more complete, a meaning made clear.

Detroit (Briefly)

Posted on 1 min read 79 views

Landing in Detroit is oddly beautiful. The farms are small and divided in weird angles, and it looks more like Germany, than the perfectly efficient and boring farms I grew up around. The land itself is green and blue and lush, and bears no resemblance to the city itself. From up here it’s all hauntingly idyllic.

Even the power plant in the background, with two Simpson’s style giant smoke stacks, come off as symbol of progress, instead of the reality of what it actually is. I wonder if that’s what people used to see when they flew here: a city as a manifestation of progress. And then I think, maybe I like Detroit? I’ve never taken a step outside the airport, but the stories vs. the landscape battle it out for my opinion.

Not Enough

Posted on 1 min read 76 views

I cry on most of the flight home and I don’t know why. Not weeping, just eyes watering, falling on the pages of the book I’m trying to read, or caught subtly in my sleeve.

I can’t say for certain why it’s so hard for me.

This isn’t a new trip for me. But this time it feels different. There are realizations that come to me now. Facts and realities that I didn’t know existed, and that I don’t know how to confront.

I’ve felt frustrated for a long time. But now in seeing her, it goes beyond my own frustration, and verges into pain… and with pain naturally comes empathy. She’s older now, and in her I see so many things that reminded me of myself when I was young. Or am I projecting?

Yes, it could all be a mental creation, a manifestation of fear. But what if I’m right? I want more than anything to help that little girl, but we can’t even communicate. I quietly meltdown as I listen to her have conversations with strangers that have more depth than anything she can say to me. Her English will one day improve, and my German slowly accumulates, but it’s not enough when she needs me now.

Where We Come From

Posted on 1 min read 71 views

My hotel, the Schloss Wilkenhedge, is a “water castle”, which is a small castle surrounded by a moat in the countryside. After dinner, usually around 9 or 10, while the sunset is still intense, I go for a walk through the forest near the hotel. The trees in the forest are tall and thin, stretching a hundred feet in the air, and remind me of the trees in the parks that surround Portland. There’s a road through the forest that’s heavily trafficked, and as I walk the road I imagine if a car were to jump the curve (which isn’t a curve, but a painted line) and were to punch my ticket, how in many ways it would be a more natural way to go then if the same thing happened back home.

Until a hundred years ago, everyone in my family lived and died in a place like this. Not in this exact place, but not far from this place. Probably a little colder, more continental, but something close to this. In a very literal sense I was built for here, and this place will be what my daughter thinks of as home. And so how strange would it be for this to be home for me? As culturally far away as I feel, I can also recognize the many innate things that draw me in.