Archive for March, 2009

Not Nearly Lost Enough

When the bear market began in 2007, I thought it would bottom soon. I bet on a rebound that never came. My pulse raced at the news, the win so tangible, the loss unthinkable. They say that hope has strength, but I can tell you, it does not have effect. Every day, I watched another one of my options (bets) expire worthless. My positions turned to dust.

I don’t remember the moment I stopped caring. About a month ago? I became as fascinated with losing it all as I had ever been with winning big. It seemed nobler than trying to salvage some pathetic remnant. All-or-nothing, I doubled down. Over the past couple of days, it turns out that I bet all wrong. I would have to live for hundreds of years to earn it back. The impossibility of this is liberating.

Getting fired sure did clear up my schedule. So I dug out my flute. The old case really did have dust on it, and I sounded worse than when I quit at 23. But the notes were still there, and the endless loops in my mind were silent. I remembered a Bach partita, and played it full of mistakes. I have never been more pleased.

A year ago I barely made time to speak with friends. Always in brief phone calls, often from a cab. Yesterday I just sat on a stoop with my friend (I’m not sure I have any others left) and all we did was bounce a ball. Really, I don’t think we even talked. We downed a forty. It was perfect.

The world is ninety-nine percent poor only if we judge it a certain way. I’m not out to glamourize poverty, but are you sure we’ve got those criteria right? Sure, we want to be free of the tyranny of need. We want to optimize our markets, fund our dreams, extend our knowledge and our powers. But why construct a game where the only way to win is to concentrate capital? Why not reward its conversion into other forms: society, art, liberation?

Think of all the things you have accumulated without happiness. Do you own your positions and privileges, or do they own you? What you would be happy to lose if everyone else would lose it, too? Let’s stay up late and throw it all away. And when this mess is over, let’s dance. We’ll dance like the light playing on the rubble of a ruined city we can rebuild better.

Found Poetry

As Timothy Green puts it, “Poetry is everywhere… It happens by accident all the time.”

The idea behind his Found Poetry Project is to see what happens when you look for those accidents. Maybe a note on your power bill sounds like a haiku, or a message your drunk friend left sounds like free association. See what happens when you write them out like poems!

I found something and emailed it in. It’s called Public Retraction, and the original source should still come up if you google it.

I’ll leave you with a couple of links:

I enjoyed doing this. It didn’t take effort or inspiration or angst. It made me notice how odd and beautiful and seductive the ordinary language around me is, things I might never have thought about twice. The project is up and running, and absolutely anyone is allowed to try. I’d love to hear about the poems you find. If you like, then leave them as comments or leave links to them.

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A Bag of Dried Mangoes

I don’t have a plan in the world. I have the wide open sky and a bag of dried mangoes. My last girlfriend called them slices of sunshine.

I have kept the phrases my friends and I made up. A teenager is “a case of ginger ale”, empty praise from the human resources director is “a licorice reward”, and the rocks that reach out into the bay of the small town where I grew up is “where the dragon fell asleep a thousand years ago”. There are others I can tell you if we meet. These phrases are the best things I am keeping. The things I left behind were difficult to part with. Otherwise there would be no virtue in giving them up. There was a Spanish helmet everyone thought preposterous, but that I loved. There was my guitar that, miraculously, stayed in tune for three straight years. There was my best friend.

Is it crazy to take a bus this far? The route follows secondary roads where towns have had time to grow, places you cannot reach any other way. The curves, the stops, the boredom. I only wish it could take longer. I wanted this so badly. I could have flown, but that would ruin it—too clean, too impersonal.

When I arrive I will step straight down onto the broken asphalt of the parking lot. I will part my lips to breathe and let the dry air dry me, Austin. I will be in the thick of your scent, your dust. Any change worth making has to come up from the ground with the heat, has to press against the soles of the feet.

I don’t know who you will be; I have rinsed my expectations clean. But I want to feel that rush of nerves, to laugh with you without knowing where laughter leads, to kiss you without knowing how a kiss can thrill. And you will give me a new phrase.