Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Non-Financial Currencies

I looked up the definition of investment and it is far too literal IMO. It should be more like:
-Any demonstration, be it physical or otherwise (a relationship, idea, work, physical object) that is worthy of time/effort/money/sacrifice because in the future your effort will be returned to you in a greater fuller sense than what you gave.
-An earned opportunity for growth.

I've been feeling more and more like I owe the world a year of service: a period of putting educating/donating/building for people ahead of making money and my own shortish term goals. It's not like I'm about to get ballinoutofcontrol with my current job anyway.
I hope (and please hold me to this) a year from now I can point to the above paragraph and realize this feeling was a spark for something big. The only thing really holding me back from that is money, the idea of money.
Money should be a tool that makes your life work. Any tool shouldn't be an end goal. If you're building a shed, you wouldn't spend 90% of your time/energy planning which saw and hammer to use. If you do- you will lose focus on the shed itself will be a rushed or ignored mess.
If you can spend your time doing something that makes you happy and fulfilled, money can maybe figure itself out. Other currencies- time, energy, space, your body- are at least as important as money but don't get nearly the attention.

A few people have scoffed at my idea to take some time off. ZOMG it will be a step back in your career! That's ok by me. It's natural but not necessary for things to go in a line. It keeps people moving:

Good high school grades->College Admission->Good College Grades->"Cool" unpaid internship->Less cool paid intership->Crappy Job->Renting an apartment->Slightly Better Job->Buy A Car->Promotion->Leverage Job to Get a Better Job->Buy a house->Get job that really pays->Get married->Another promotion->Start a family->Work/vacation (repeat this step a few times)->Get old

Linearity is fine but shouldn't rule out exploration/passion/trial+error/stepping back in the line multiple times. I write this as a total hypocrite, but I'm working (or at least day dreaming) really hard on that.

Edit from last blog: I don't like Linking Park, this is what I was referencing. 

Happy Chanukah Friends,

CFBE (not sure the number):
She's looking at me looking at her looking at me and I'm thinking about her thinking about me and this back and forth keeps getting stuck. The day goes by.

Last thing: I just read on FB that two friends of mine suffered a second recent heartbreak. I don't have your cell phones, but if you need to bounce thoughts off someone let me know. I will be thinking of you. If you're reading this and it isn't you- be grateful for your family.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

11/28 Word Dump (Thanksgiving, a Weekend)

I complemented a friend for letting me in on his (or her, for the sake of anonymity) thought process. Wanted to do the same, even if it's all over the place.
Good luck on Powerball everybody!

Get out of my inbox you manipulative Cyber Monday sales emails. I understand you want my money but no one needs a clever t-shirt. Quit trying to take advantage of my gaping insecurities (of course I want to look nerd chique but I will never wear that "Link In Park" shirt.)

Sunday 8-ish-AM after overhearing something I wasn't supposed to
There's a side to everything that we're not supposed to see. The hidden side is probably closer to reveal the "truth" then the staged version we get to experience. The choices we make when no one is looking reveals who we are. It's sad that they don't paint the bottoms of furniture.
Our feelings and views are shaped by the projection of previous experiences. This game theoretical approach to the world probably isn't best, but it's ok.

If the world gets random enough it will start to make sense.
I read about motivations of conspiracy theorists. The easy assumption is that they are paranoid and think the world is out to get them. In truth- they just want to make sense out of the world and what they see doesn't make sense to them.
Meeting new people isn't random- a new person's perspective can be a blessing or a lesson, hopefully both.

(Laughs at self for getting upset about car dying again.) You really can't expect a physical "thing" to hold it's value. We (we=not poor people) probably derive too much self-value from buying things and too little from more important ideas of self.
-How hard would I fight for my friends?
-What would I sacrifice to take a crazy high-risk shot at being happy?
Along these lines, see Monday.

Reasons I am thankful this Thanksgiving:
-I got to do some really cool things this year. Boston Marathon? Sky diving? Going to Israel? Routinely going to play a ridiculous game that I love and can (sometimes) make money at? And I'm planning a 2013 that's even more full of bucketlisting? Life is looking up.
-My family is safe and healthy. My friends are starting to find their way through the mess that is being 20-something and getting everything they want.
-My mind is more open than it has ever been.
-2012 was a trying year work-wise but I will come out of it with a more informed perspective on professional life.
-Most importantly: my thoughts are on the other side of the world this Thanksgiving. Everyone in the US should be thankful for their comfortable lifestyle. Imagine waking up to bombs going off? We take pride in our home cities based on sports teams? Imagine having to sacrifice something for your home- that's the reality my friends in Israel face every day. I admire all of them for it.

Last Week
Background: I was having a halfmind/fullhearted conversation with a friend who was stressing over her "what is this" relationship with a guy. They flirt and have fun together, but are part of the same group of friends.

Specific relationships house layers/subtexts/components built from each individual's and the shared experiences/memories of the two.  The general term "relationship" survives in a human connection between a person and another person or object. Our relationship lives in the space between you and I whenever we interact (actually, it's still in the space between us even if we don't interact very often.)
A relationship (and I mean ANY relationship) is gray. At some level there is an unclear boundary between different possible categorizations of feelings. The simplest boundaries, that I discussed with my friend, would be between A: Platonic, B: Fantastical(WhatIf), and C: Romantic feelings.

I can't see how any relationship could ever be completely in one category. Even a relationship with a celebrity who you have never met wouldn't be 100% B- there has to be some component of either A or C or both.
Two platonic same gender friends wouldn't be 100% platonic. That's impossible. Those heterosexual friends might have a relationship that's 75% platonic, 20% fantastical, 5% romantic. Two gender-opposite friends might be more like 60%, 30%, 10%.
If you're in a relationship, the fantastical portion of you relationships (other than your sig other) might be higher but the romantic part might be smaller.
I tend to flirt (shocker I know) so even in my platonic relationships the fantastical and romantic percentages are inflated.

The relationship my friend described to me sounded about 30/40/30 which is an unfinished book, a blank canvas. My friend (hi by the way) should be thankful that every door towards a happy coexistence with someone he/she cares about remains wide open.


PS- George Carlin is probably the G.O.A.T. "Always do whatever's next."

Friday, October 19, 2012

(Unlimited) Juice (This Party Is Gonna Be Off The Hook!)

Hey There Internet,

Certain lessons are very easy to learn the first time. Others you sometimes ignore and then they "peekaboo" in front of you on a Tuesday morning and you find yourself falling into some pattern that reveal a part of you that you're still trying working on. Monday I was driving when I figured something out and in this vividly clear moment that left me feeling energized. By the time I got home and out of my car I had completely forgotten what I was even thinking about. We're all weird sometimes, but that is not something to ever apologize for. Yes- I realize how vague this paragraph was.

I'm five days into a juice cleanse that will wrap up in about 10 minutes. It's an experiment- I have always been intrigued to try one (and as I often do, encourage everyone to try things that intrigue them.) A few things:
-I have a new found respect for how much fruit/vegetables it takes to fill a cup/bottle with juice. Naked costing $3.50 a bottle isn't a rip-off.
-My kitchen was a warzone. Juicing things makes a mess (smells funky, looks worse, kale pulp is gooey)
-I haven't been hungry at all. That's been a surprise. I've wanted to eat more out of boredom than out of hunger- it is apparent to me now how often I eat for the sake of eating.
-The only meal I have eaten this week was breakfast on Tuesday and it was about being social and not a n"ohmergawhd bacon" impulse. Food is a great excuse to turn off your iphones/tvs and come together and catch up with people. I'm happy to have a few reoccurring random food projects (Shoutout to Mo$ and Cali-bound Alisha*) that keep me in touch with awesome people that aren't in my immediate group of friends.
-The same food over and over, even if it's nutritious, is boring. Food isn't just about satiation, it's a chance to be expressive enjoy physical sensations: taste/texture/heat/smell.

*I'm officially a regular at Bob's muffins in Weymouth. I can walk in and say "hey, the usual" and it means something. So much awesome in that.

Moving on:
Youtube started streaming important events (debates, sky dives space jumps) making it easier for people to hypothetically live without TV. If Youtube could buy rights to stream all the biggies (Political Coverage, Sports Championships, Award Shows) it would mean really good things for Hulu/Netflix.
Until then we have this wonderful thing:

If you didn't dig that, here's a blog saver:

WOOF #doublecharity
I'm at Whole Foods and the lady at the next registers card is declined. She's short on cash, clearly embarrassed. I'm wandering by and her kid (grandkid?) is nagging at her about some little kid stuff. The amount she's short is under $20 so I offer on covering it. She politely declines. I slip the $ to her grandkid so he can cover it.
She asks for my address and I told her to just donate whatever she's comfortable with to a local charity.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Election

I just saw a "NObama" bumper sticker and now feel compelled to post two things that make me sad. .

First, the elections, and the politicians fudging up my work life ('bama, Rombomb, EW, and hot Scott) are creating way to much negativity. Good life lesson: don't be anti-anything.
Instead of being anti-winter, be pro-beach season.
Instead of being anti-Beiber, be hyper excited about Nirvana.
Instead of being anti-dance clubs, be pro-bowling alleys.

There's been hoopla over the conventions and debates and percentages (some that came up last week include47, 98, 1, 100, 50, 22.)
People like to talk without anything to say. This is particularly depressing when it involves who you think should run the country. While I'm paraphrasing but I actually heard this conversation on a bus:
Guy #1 is a 40-something vet, dressed poorly and overweight but handsome. Guy #2 is older, maybe 60,  and seems wealthy. The two seem to recognize each other but don't seem particularly close. Guy 1 gestures towards a "Romney 2012" sign.

#1: Do you think he has a chance?
#2: Maybe. Obama didn't do anything he said he would.
#1: Well I'm republican, so I have to vote Romney.
#2 Nods head to agree. Plus the war.
#1 Mhmm. (nodding to agree) Wait, which war?

I'm pro the "vote4stuff" movement, but isn't that lost when people take action without researching or knowing what they're talking about? People seem to want to take a stand before they know what they stand for.

Can I vote for Ron Swanson?
I could write in R.S. and maybe I will, but in practice I'm going to vote (for myself!) to be the more in the driver seat my life and start having control over my own decisions. I came across this quote the other day that was something like "freedom is doing what you like, happiness is liking what you do" and we should vote for both.
Back in real life I'm voting Obama, if anyone cares.

Enjoy your Chris C day. Go explore something.

Woof #1-
Saw on FB that my friend Erin has bronchitis. Brought her soup and OJ. Turns out it was the wrong person (same last name.) Epic fail. This was also as the sun was setting for the Yom Kippur fast. I had to look at that OJ during all my car rides during the fast.
Woof #2-
Instead of laughing at Trisha for posting so much on FB about Red Bull, I brought her a case of Red Bull when I was near WW.

"It would be twisted to tell you I miss you when you just fell through my grasp and now you're right here." She says, running her fingers through cinnamon hair.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Yom Kipper (Friendships, Forgiveness, #Shantytown)

Interweb Friends,
It is midway through the Yom Kippur fast and instead of taking lunch, I have a blog break.

When you ask someone what matters most, he is likely to talk about relationships: his friends and family and mentors.  That persons unfocused life however is probably full of worry over money and obsession over materials (how nice is my car/house/how much do I get paid/how much do I weigh?) The cost of worrying about quantifiable values is that we miss out on moments that we could enjoy and even when we are hit over the head by them we fail to appreciate.

This weekend (Plymouth2012) was a reminder how crazy blessed I am to have so many friends that its difficult for us to squeeze into a house. #Shantytown
To my friends and my family: I think the world of you. If I've been frustrated or annoying or I've hurt you or let you down this year, forgive me. I wore myself out this Spring/Summer, and anything I do has been based on what I thought was best. All you can do is what feels right, especially on Yom Kippur.

Forgiveness is acceptance. To forgive another is to accept a difference: you do and say things that I don't and this can create friction but that's actually productive, not bad. At Yom Kippur you have to forgive yourself as well. We all come up short- if something's important you keep trying and find a new way to make it work.
Starting (looks down at watch) now I'm going to do one selfless act per week for you. That will be my mitzvah to earn your friendship. I'll post them in this blog as woof's (weekly offering of friendliness) to hold myself accountable.
This year will be a year of learning/exploration and I am honored that I have such great people to share that with. Speaking of which, if anyone has a charity they support or are fundraising for, now would be an excellent time to text me. I am going to make a few kharmic donations this afternoon. My $ goes to Taylor Morris if I don't hear from anyone (with a "Keep Calm, Chive On!" note, obviously)

(Audible Sigh) I'm super hungry. If you're drinking a coffee, savor the next sip for me. Think about where that coffee was grown and how it was brewed. Taste how delicious it is. Is it sundown yet?

Make the new year everything you want,

PS- How good a name would Tom Kipper be for a male stripper? Not that good? Ok nevermind.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fall Preview/Rosh Hashanah (and the return of CFBE)

Oh hey there edge of sanity,
Fancy meeting you on a Wednesday night (as I'm writing this, not sure when it will post.) Shall we see what you're made of?
This is a list post.

5 Things I'm Looking Forward to this Fall:

5a/b) Movies!
-James Bond fanhood is timeless. I was a James Bond fan when I was 10 and if I'm ever 100 I will still think Bond is great. Regardless of how nonsensical the plots get, I will always give the next Bond film a shot. Daniel Craig hasn't gotten much love as Bond and that's bonkers. The Bond character started as an over-idealized personification of the idea of man, rather than a man. Craig presents this ironically.
Cloud Atlas
(Catching Breath)...(Scratching Head)...Wow?

4) NE Patriots
-Fuhtziball is back and them Pats are going to be pretty good (like winning the lottery would be pretty ok) #nepride!

3)Foxwoods World Poker Finals
-I'm going to play in something but haven't decided how ambitious I'm going to be.
$1,100 Deepstack Bounty? Probably too intense, anybody want a piece? Bueller?

2) Walking Dead
-Remember that time HBO passed on Mad Men? Silly HBO. It's been 5 years and that let someone put together a better lineup of original programming.
There are some shows that I enjoy watching but only four shows that I make sure I see. Three of them are on AMC (Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Walking Dead) and the other is Archer (see #5 for my man crush on James Bond types.)
-Am I psyched for more Walking Dead? Heck yes. Am I mad I know how the graphic novel ends? Not really, it's hardly a shock.

1) A tie between spiked apple cider and hoodies
-Although my favorite hoodie is missing (see what I did there?)

What'd I omit? Who else is excited for Fall?

5 (not particularly religous) themes of reflection for Rosh Hashanah

If you want it in person, remind me to tell you my thoughts on hanging out with Rabbis in Montreal. Sparknotes- it was wonderful.
Rosh Hashanah- the new year- starts Sunday. It's a time to look back at last year and be grateful while looking for things you can do better. It's a chance to hit the reset button.

5) Creation: It is the "new year" which implies that it's a celebration of the existence of people. Celebrate for celebrations sake. All the time.
4) Connection: Are you in touch with your favorite people? Are you doing the things that make you happy?
3) Self improvement (and helping people): What will you do better at this year? What can you do that matters?
2) Discipline: The answers are usually easy, following through is harder.
1) Repentance/Gratitude: The shofar sounds. You repent. It's a new slate.

Next year (and I'm prodding myself here too) do what makes you happy and let the rest take care of itself. Don't work until midnight if you could be dancing instead.

"Just don't give up on trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiratio​n, I don't think you can go wrong."– Ella Fitzgerald

CFBE #9 (I think I might cap this at 20, so if I ever finish the book you would have read it all already):

“Anything really?” Sam shrugs.
“Old, older, newer stuff?”
“Be careful what you answer,” Tiffany chimes in “He’ll recommend you 10 bands you’ve never heard of and quiz you on it during dinner. He’s just showing off.”
“Thanks for your concern dear.” Winters walks downstairs and puts on a record.
“Who’s this?” He asked Winters when he came back up to the studio.
"What's this? Something tragically hip that might change your life."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Existentialism and 79 word stories

Dear Internet,
Sorry I neglected posting on you for a little while. Between busyness and a bit of a funk- I didn't want to burden you with carrying the nonsensical half-posts I have been writing and deleting. As you know by the weird collection of "meaning of life" gifs I've been pulling from websites, I haven't been quite myself this past week or two but I'm trying to replace stress with gratitude and looking forward I can see miles of awesome.

Allegedly- our lives become a manifestation of what goes on in our heads. I think the opposite has to be true as well: what goes on in your life manifests in your head. Either way- my shit has been too scattered so I'm working on flexing a some self awareness that might just be an ability to see patterns in my own behavior.
This is less easy than it sound and I can't get too much thought here in your internetland, but if you somehow get out of the computers and meet me in person I'd be happy to divulge all about what I see happening over the next 2,10,50 months. To be vague: I'm only going to be at my job for so long. There will be many more jobs. My body will only work the way that it currently does for a short period of time. We want what we want, and maybe this whole existential struggle of being young is as simple as realizing that the only thing you can do is what feels right:
Be who you are+ Do what you love= End up where you're supposed to be

Or as someone who got paid to think put it:
"If we listened to our intellect, we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go into business, because we'd be cynical. Well that's nonsense. You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down."- Ray Bradbury

The pen in hand forecast for this Fall is a big increase in word count.
You were warned,

Speaking of word count: here are a few stabs at the Esquire 79 word short story contest I teased a few weeks ago. It's f'n hard, but I want to submit something (just for fun) so let me know if you like any of these (and feel free to copy/paste/email suggestions or do your own HERE

1) Mitch returned from Panama uselessly bi-lingual. His body language had developed a stutter- it was damn near impossible to tell if he was holding back or pushing himself forward. This resistance wasn't there during the days Mitch and Tara spent lying outside the abbey, filling themselves with mulled wine. He clearly articulated "For what it's worth," before mumbling something about the promised land. Huh? She challenged, still only loving him at the moments when she knew he couldn't budge.
2) My steady diet of espresso and nicotine left me trembling as I pull your oversized note from the mailbox. It scrapes across the open tin door and then plops into the anonymity of a basket on a street. From a small mountain of bills and happy birthday’s and Amazon boxes you're here staring out your doe-eyed flap. Why? You found me here covering my lust with a suit of half-truth. Hush now. A car approaches. We must go inside.
3) The scar across her nose had scabbed over, tanned, and blended in with the rest of her caramel skin. She fights a war every morning- adjusted her glasses just so. According to Amanda's Facebook profile she's been dating someone named Thomas Isaac and they have been to 8 professional sporting events, 2 concerts, and to a Hawaiian resort. She looked more handsome before she lost all that weight. Her happiest smile lived in the deep wrinkles of her cheek.

4) The tree line promises that everything's about to change on this August evening that's marked not by ghosts or sirens but by the uncertainty with which we all wondered when Trip would join us. As long we don't know exactly where he is, he will be anywhere we imagine. Trip fell in love with an America where everyone would sleep naked under stars on the beach, but he would never find it buried under this spot where we wait.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On Change: Adios Monsieur Bobo

Steak (fittingly is very close to the st-ache 'breeve' that I just came up with for stomache ache)

Last night we had our last 50R roommate dinner before Jon goes to live with his wife girlfriend. There will be a sad open space in a room where there has been a Brenton.

Change is a necessary challenge, a chance to take stock of what you need. Change is a catalyst for more change. People and relationships change (If something hasn't changed in a long time, take a closer look at it.)

When stuck in your head- it's easy to stress over the anticipation of change. Is this the right decision? How will I feel when I move? Will this job be what I think it is (and what do I think it is anyway?)

I tend to get nostalgic- thinking about experiences from changes ago. It's important to see how you've grown, and what you miss.

From a real writer:
“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”  -Eric Roth (Benjamin Button)
Monsiuer Jon-
We're all wishing you an easy move, and hoping downtown brings you everything that you want.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Still Learning (lessons from the first half of 2012)

July has been full of good conversations.
Thanks for the feedback on the Israel blog.

Still Learning: First half of 2012 edition:
I've never really considered going to grad school. The hypothetical idea of more education floats around and it's great in theory (much like going to Vegas for the summer, starting to do ju-jitsu or learning Spanish) but I've never gotten close to acting on it. In the past year I've arrived at a place where I want to learn- more than at any point during my "education: as a student. With a student's mentalty, I've picked up on a few ideas recently:

Nerviousness has become a state of yes or no. Are we a generation of knee-shakers and table tappers? We're so anxious. It seems common for 20-somethings to feel lonely despite being surrounded by friends. Our lives are super-connected but as individuals we've been sacrificing depth in our communication and we're facing our livings more alone than we need to. We add Facebook friends by the dozen, but we don't introduce ourselves to our neighbors when we get a new apartment. We're so worried about missing out on an email or a fun video that we miss smiles and sunsets and invitations that are right in front of us.
What are we scared of? People have a HUGE tendancy to spend time on things they're good at and ignore anything that is hard. Some people want the easiest path possible, and that's great for them (as long as it's what they want and not what they're resigned to.) Other people want to be tested and be made uncomfortable and grow. At least some difficulty should be acceptable.
I've learned- and this isn't a radical obervation- that small choices quickly accumulate. The easy choices are a losing idea. Without failure we don't grow. If you're too comfortable as a 20-something, you won't learn anything about yourself. Unless you know exactly how you want your life to turn out, and that describes maybe one or two people that I know of any age, we should always be learning as much as possible. We should look back on choices and thoughts we had a few years ago and think we were idiots. If you look back two years ago ("you-2") and see the same person you are right now, make sure that's who you ultimately want to be. You can extend this same idea in the other direction: if you-2 isn't really you now, who will you+20 be? How accurate can you be in guessing what you+20 will want? We should look at our decisions based on the quality of the decision itself, not the expected results. Our medium-term future has too many possibilities for us to anticipate, but we can focus on the immediate decisions and try to make them as if someone we admire is judging that choice from an outside perspective. 
In case you're thinking "Jesse your blogs got wayyyy too serious" and you're getting a headache/whatever, here are some funny pictures:

Did those bring you back? This post might be quickly getting away from me. I have a habbit of jamming my thoughts down other peoples throats. I know this can be obnoxious, yet when I don't do it people too often make incorrect assumptions about who where I am. I might think you can use hearing something from (my) outside perspective. I probably think you're more beautiful/handsome than you think you are (wink, I'm probably right.) I might be able to notice that you're scared of something that everyone but you can see. I'm still learning when you should tell a friend what you think of their decisions. I wish people would speak up at me more often (Kev did this recently, and I owe him a thank you for it.)

I've learned that I really miss New York, and I'm proud that my NY people are a part of me. When I start a point with "there's something to be said for____" which I stole from Paul, or when I stare a moment too long at people rolling by on longboards, or when I feel out of place reading Frank O'Hara in Boston, I can smile at good memories. 

Last week poker might have exposed some hypocracy in me. It is a game of mini-truth, full of microcosms of how you react under stress and how creative a person is when his back is against the wall. I think to get better at poker, I have to get better at a few big things (self control and focus included) and just let poker come along with a better life balance.
Semi-aside: I work with a lot of sales people at work, and I think being in any type of money-centric persuit takes a big toll on a person's life outlook. When money is the goal of something, whether it's an idea or a game, it's very easy to lose oneself and be disconnected with everything except for dollars.
The average person struggles with the ability to be completely honest with oneself. Most persons probably think's they're in the 80th human percentile, this is an impossible average. Where are the losers?

Maybe the biggest thing I've learned is that there's usually a different way of doing ______ than the way that you know.
This blog was all over the place, I hope there was at a nugget buried in it that one person could snack on. 

A very happy almost birthday to the Brentons! 

Context Free Book Exerpt #8:

“Thanks but you don’t have to do that.” He spoke sharply but to no one in particular, trailing off into the stale hallway air. 
“If you need to be alone I understand, but I want to come with you. Is that ok?” He nods, biting his lip. “Come to my room with me, I only need a minute.” In zombielike silence he follows her back up two flights of stairs into her room where she helps him onto the bed. She puts on a sweater and grabs a jacket. She starts to ask him to look away before she changes into jeans but he is staring towards the floor. He is looking at something that no one else could see, his neck stiff, his body rigid. 

Next post, in place of the CFBE, I want to test out some "short short fiction" which I want to submit to the Esquire 79'th contest. Should be fun.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mayanot 443 Trip Report: on seeing the world with new friends

I really need a vacation, and now I'm on one (fist pump in the air as I write this on the train) I want to hug the middle aged couple on seat across from me and tell them how beautiful a day it is sure to be. This train will take me to New York, where I meet my group and we fly to Israel. My mind is open. My expectations are delebritely vague, but they exist.
We know from the getgo that our group, Mayanot 443, is a winner. Everyone is kind and interesting. I make a few first-impressions that will turn out to be both straight-on accurate and completely unwarranted.
(In Hindsight) Today never happened. Between the 4 hours on the train, the 5 hours at JFK, a 9 hour flight, a short layover, a 3 hour flight and a time-zone shift it is already the day after tomorrow. At points during the flights we're excited and I feel like myself but mostly I'm mush and it's all we can do to stay patient as we try to speed up the time between now and when we land, board the bus, and cruise to our hotel in Tiberias. When we eventually arrive it's dark out. We don't notice that we're right next to the Sea of Galille or that we're at the foot of a mountain. Shalom Yisrael. 

Breakfast isn't much different than what we eat in the US, but it's our first meal of the trip that's not schnitzel. We hop on the bus and then hike Mount Arbel. The mountain is lush: the top is hot and sunny but in the canyon there's a stream and crooked trees cover us in shade. The two guys I'm rooming with-twins from Phoenix named Daniel and David- are like monkies hanging from trees over the water. The group had seemed to form clicks right away everyone was worried about not having friends- but today out in the sun they have already un-clicked. We're all in this, whatever this trip is going to be, together. 
Back on the bus we head to an old spiritual city called Tzfat. We meet an artist- Avraham - who tells us about his spiritual journey that started in Detroit and brought him here. He talks about how amazing it is that it was prophesized 2000 years ago that Jews would return to Israel as one united spiritual people. Avraham talks about how people find spirituality in an active (reading, asking questions) or passive (going through something heartbreaking) way. People struggle to try to wrap their heads around the idea that they will someday leave the body and turn into infinite goodness. He thinks this is amazing (and read that "amahyzziing" because he pitches up certain words and lets the last syllable carry for an extra second.)
We eat lunch and then Aaron- our resident Rabbi- takes a handful of us to a holy spring where we disrobe and take a cleansing, naked dip called a Mikvah. Aaron stuns us with his ability to be both a rabbi and a normal young dude. 
After a quick tour of Tzvat we are on the road back to race back for the first Shabbat as a group. 

Shabbat is the antithesis, or the answer to, our stress-addled city attitude. Shabbat is the recognition that there should be time to rest and connect on a person to person level rather than over emails and Facebook. Don't go anywhere. Don't do anything that is required during the week. Rest and reflect and and tell stories. Our first group shabbat falls on Adam's birthday and includes bottles of celebratory vodka in the warm Tiberias night.

We have a group chat about being Jews locally and how that fits into the global responsibility that we carry. Aaron says the entire world is neutral and we assign what is a good and bad onto objects and events. Rain and traffic and flight delays all can be good. We discuss what we can and can't change about ourselves. We can ignore or deny certain things, but if those things are what make us into individuals then it's impossible to pretend they were never there.
The Rabbi talks about how Jews are lamp-holders. Only 1 out of every 512 people is Jewish. 1 out of every 4 Nobel Prize winners is Jewish. Jews overachieve. Later, the Rabs and I will have further conversations about the soul*

Anyway, it's Shabbat so we hang around the hotel. We lunch then play "get to know you" icebreaker games and make skits. We hang out in the sun and took an evening stroll to hear about Tiberias before Havdalah: the closing of Shabbat. 
We take the bus downtown and eat a quick family-style dinner. A group of us slam a bottle of vodka outside on a sidewalk table (I miss you Paris and your acceptance of public drinking) then go to club on the waterfront where we find another Birthright group from Israel Outdoors. They will cross our paths several times over the next week.
For a bunch of white jews, we dance pretty hard. No, I'm not a good dancer, but everyone should dance more often, especially us bad awkward-footers. We stay up most of the night smoking hookah and talking. We dub the hotel bar "club ramone" in honor of the creepy bartender who sneaks into rooms and takes pictures of girls sunbathing. He overcharges us for bottles, Birthright must be real good for Ramone's business.

We wake up early and meet a group of soldiers that will be accompanying us for the next four days. One by one they get on the bus. We cheer and holler and they reply with a blush drenched in shy happiness.
Our swelling group goes rafting. Our boat (Mike, Jason, Daniel, Erica, myself) lazily floats and takes in the beautiful trees and tropical-esque flowers. We lose a paddle and proceed slowly. The other rafts are steamed that they had to wait on the bus for us. There's a lot of complaining the first few days of the trip considering we're here pretty much for free and are having a life changing experience. The complaints are endearing, not nagging. Everyone is mostly kidding...I think.
In some ways, it's quicker to get close to Israeli soldiers than with the Americans. You can't assume anything about people you don't understand. You need to ask grandiose questions and you usually get very simple answers. 
Our afternoon border stop is a big hit. We hear from a crazy guy (anyone remember his name?) He's a retired farmer on a kibbutz. He talks about leaving Ohio for Israel and how to have a meaningful life. I sincerely defend my use of the word crazy but he's an uberintelligent hardened badass expat. He makes extremest statements but backs them up with clearly-studied (albeit onesided) information and solid enough logic. According to this guy, we were born jews and only live in the USA by accident. Our birth and death aren't events where we have any choice or say. The broader idea he gives us is this: we owe our family/friends respect and love, but our lives are our own. We should do what we want instead of what is expected of us.
Back at the hotel we change the room arrangments to accomodate our soldiers. I will be bunking (and by bunking I mean lining up three beds to form a superbed) with Mike and Moshe. Downstairs, we watch the Euro Cup final and then I hang out on the roof with Erica. She's beautiful and kind and warm. We have the kind of talk that reminds me of the Lugz and makes me itch for more conversations where people listen rather than waiting for a turn to talk. She reminds me of the everything I like about New York.
Later in the room Mike, Moeshe, and I talk about culture and manhood. One of us references big breasts as "bombs" and then we realize this might not translate to a soldier who isn't a native English speaker. We talk about how much quicker Israeli men grow up than Americans, but Moshe doesn't hold it against us. We talk about girls and about what we want out of our lives. Mike is an extraordinarily smart and fun guy. He's our jcd (jewish common denominator.) Everyone on the trip already loves him. I go to sleep reflecting on growing up in a suburban dreamland with a loving family. I was/am privleged. If I had a harder childhood, what new version of myself would I have turned into?
Hiking Gilabun, we encounter scenic views and huge rock formations. Along with the 7 soliders (six men, one woman) we have an Israeli student on the trip for the next 4 days. Note: I'll call her Z for the remainder of this blog, but that's not her name. Z's studying psychology and we click instantly. She has a gift for being very light and very serious at the same time. She's warm and beams a Megan Draper smile. 
Our two hour climb brings us to a waterfall where we swim and relax and take pictures. Later, we might realize this was a turning point for the trip. We've now experienced something in Israel that none of us have ever felt in America.
Elli- our irreplacable Israeli guide- takes us to a mountain on the Serian border where he finished his military training. He rushes to get us to Tel Aviv, where the luxury of our second hotel trounces the one in Tiberias. I shower and send a few emails from the deck. I'm a Jew on the Mediterranean- and the shadow I cast in the waining afternoon sunlight is long. 
We go out in Tel Aviv but the group can't agree on where. We're walking along the boardwalk and I'm talking to Z. I tell her- in hebrew- that she's beautiful (this sounds something like atie-afie-aphet.) The group fragments and we end up at a very loud club. We dance and have a few drinks but don't want to spend our 2-hour time allowance in a place that consists of us, another birthright group, and maybe 5 Israelis. We all reconvene at an outdoor bar with a live band. Very few people are grooving. Adam and I try to tear it up, but the locals are reserved. Some guys from our group- the 3 J's- have run up a $4k sheckel bar tab. They are rediculous, but also very generous: they want everyone to party and have a good time. They are arguing with the bartender about how much they should have to pay, the rest of us are killing time until curfiew in 20 minutes. I'm talking to Keith- a Cali stoner- and Z. She says it's lame that no one is dancing. The group conversation drags. A minute later she mentions dancing again, I pull my head out of my ass and don't miss it again. She shows me how to salsa. I make up a weird two piece line dance. We get closer, our breath mixes with the summer humidity in the inches between us. It doesn't cross my casually American mind that she's an orthodox jew and even holding my hand is something of a deal. We flirt- it feels incoherently good. We miss curfiew to dance another song, but everyone else misses it too. Adam drunkenly knocks over a motorcycle moped on the way back to the bus.
Z and I hang out on the hotel's back deck. It's a full(ish) moon. Israel has clear skies but very few stars. We talk about where we're from and it feels good (good= justifies everything that's happened in my life to get me to this exact place at this exact time) to sit with my arm around her. 443ers are poolside below us. They keep dropping by so we go looking for a roofdeck (which our hotel doesn't have) and get locked out on the fire escape. We hang out for another hour before wandering to find our way back inside. Talking to Z is different than American girls. Her life is so far different than mine that I have trouble filling in any blanks between what she tells me. I need to ask lots of questions. Her answers are interesting: everything she says makes 10 new thoughts pop into my head. I tell her that I want to fill in all the blanks. I want to know everything about her. 
Jenni is crashing with Mike, Moshe and I. The mood is festive and we joke and laugh and tell stories of escalating humor. Everyone goes to bed smiling.

We tour Jaffa (awesome lowkey city) and then head to a beach outside Tel Aviv. Darasa and Mike go bare-handed jelly fish hunting. The water is bath-warm, the sand is furnace-hot. During our free time, Z and I wander through an open air market. Whichever side of me she walks on is my good side. We grab lunch and talk to local artists. By the way she smiles at me while speaking hebrew, I can tell that she's making fun of me. I need to learn Hebrew. In a hipster-antique store full of canvas movie posters it's like we're trying to pass something through the skin of our hands to each other. I decide to extend my trip so I can see her for another day. I leave messages at work, I am confident in the decision. 
At Independence hall I start thinking that decisions and coincidences and how being this fuller-version of myself is more "real" than sitting at work in the US. I realize how wholly good today in Israel felt,  doesn't seem normal. People don't feel this good or get this happy- it must be a set up. I almost hyperventilate, but thank yoga for my ability to catch my breath.
That night at the Bedoin Tents out in the desert (which deserves a different word in American English. Desert makes you think of a flat ugly wasteland right? The Israeli desert is mountainous and calming, lovely.) Leiah tells us her story about moving to Israel. She talks about bold decisions and living a life you can feel proud of. 
Z and I are hanging out by the fire and Naom- one of our soldiers- pulls her aside. When Z comes back she's not the same. She sits several feet away and hardly looks at me. It rips me up. 
I have a good talk with Byron and Jared late at night, but my brains trying to figure out what Naom could possibly have said to Z.
On a painfully insufficient 3 hours sleep we rise for breakfast in the Bedoin village. We ride camels. They are slow and smelly and fun like alien horses. I think of the desert scenes in Star Wars.
We hike up Massada where a group of Jews decided to kill their families and themselves rather than become slaves of the Romans. On a day where my friends at home are celebrating independence and a lifestyle where it's easy to buy Bud Light, we talk about how the Jewish nation continues its daily fight for a home. We take cable cars down to the Dead Sea. I'm not a huge fan (it bothers my eyes) but it was interesting to float so high.
The bus takes us to Jerusalem which is glowing as we approach it from the highway. We stop for photos of the Arab side of the city then get dinner at another amazing hotel.
We hear a speaker: Michael from The David Project in Boston #smallworld about the current state of the Middle East. Everyone, starting with this guy (points thumbs to self) needs to be more educated. That might be the "least you can do for us" Birthright reciprocation: learn more about the Middle East and make everyone care. Start meaningful conversations. Think deeply.
After dinner the group has drinks and smokes hookah. Z and I go for a walk outside and park on a bench for some clarification about the peaks and lows of the past 24 hours. For two people in different worlds, we're very similar. In a lot of ways the two of us very quickly had become something, but I couldn't guess guess what. The simple obvious guesses are all wrong. I'm excited to have an Israeli penpal- someone who can help me figure out where I stand on Jewish spirituality. Maybe Israeli girls are succeptible to my can't help it combination of honesty and flattery. I am smitten and full of happiness #lifeissogoodsometimes. I want to learn Hebrew. I want to communicate better with everyone. Who knows, it's a long wonderfully scattered life.
Back in the room, Mike has some profound thoughts on introversion. We have similar feelings about the appropriate amount of risk exposure (see a few blogs ago) for young people. He lives it and I pontificate. Give me another year, I'll get more interesting. 
Random note: The soldiers can get ready (shower, dressed, out the door) in a few minutes. People waste a lot of time doing nothing.

The group's game of assassin has slowed. I will unsuccessfully try to get Aaron to say "carpet" today and am mostly playing defense. He will tell me later that he never knew I was trying to "bang bang you're dead" him, he was just too tired to lose. 
We take an AM torah study class at the Mayanot Yeshiva. The guys/ladies of the trip are segregated for the first time. Us fellas arrive in old-town Jerusalem and read a prayer to thank g-d for our safe travels to Israel. The moment we finish, quiet rabbinical students burst out into song and dance that soaks us in celebration like a blind happy drug. After the song, we greet the students and share our elevator-speed life stories. Pressed for time, we jump into a discussion with Rabbi Kaplan about how the Torah deals with relationships. Some highlights:
1) You can fix yourself but not anyone else. Too often we ignore our own faults and focus on what others should do better. We look at ourselves as the center of everything and ignore the effects that our choices have on other people. 
2) A real relationship is when two people independently accept that they want to make the other person happy. Anytime there isn't balance, the relationship changes. Having friends so that you can get food together and be entertained means you're using the other person as an object. That's not a relationship.
2a) Look outward, don't treat other people as mirrors to look upon yourself.

The formal teaching is followed by an informal talk. The Rabbi Kaplan is a totally normal guy outside of being a spiritual leader. I tell hiim I'm from Boston and he more or less tells me the Bruins can go f*** themselves (he's from Vancouver)
I had told Z that the first girl I had a crush on (holler Emily from summer camp!) had bought me a necklace when I was 11 and I loved it intensely until it broke. We walk around old-town Jerusalem and Z picks out a new one for me. I leave her my favorite hoodie. I hope it makes her think of me.

We go on a claustrophobia inducing walk through the streams that run underground in King David's city. After lunch we go to the wailing wall. Jason and Bryan, who is easily the funniest guy on the trip, have a quick Bar Mitzvah ceremony. A pile of orthodox Jews join our circle to celebrate and dance. 
We each individually take to the wall in thought/prayer/meditation. Results are mixed. As we head back to the girl's group outside the plaza we get hit with the sludehammer of saying goodbye to the soldiers and Z. Those who have something to say have an opportunity to do so.
I tell the soldiers that I see a lot of myself and my American friends in them and that we're all just different versions of a person. A few soldiers get emotional when they speak to us and say goodbye.
I hold it together for the first few partings, telling Oz and Oron that they are great young men and to be safe and that it was a treat to have met them. My eyes fill with tears when I hug Moshe and call him my brother. I mostly have breathed them away while I wait in line to see Noam. I'll reserve what I told her, but we both cry a little. I tell Nimrod that he's really just a more handsome version of me that got to be born in Israel. He probably thinks I'm a huge pussy (and might be right?) but I'm decently sure he likes me. Z takes my hand and I try to kiss her cheek but she doesn't let me. The wall covers us in its shade. Back on the bus we will have the moment of goodbye that we made peace with last night. I tell her that I think I have to marry a jewish girl, that I adore everything about her. They all get off the bus. 
10% sad, 50% grateful to have felt this intensely, 40% just so f'n happy to be me at that moment in time, I cry some more. 
Back at the hotel we get our Avraham t-shirts and Birttnay overcomes a fear and sings to us. Huge props- Brittnay you have an awesome voice.
After an emotional evening, the group as a whole rests better tonight than we have all week. This morning, as if the 8 newly empty seats on our bus don't make us serious enough, we go to Yad Vashem. We already know most of the information we hear, but it's different to hear it in Israel. 
Jews must be crafty, Jews must look out for one another. We talk about how genocide is still happening and people are capturing Youtube videos of Syria but no one really cares. People worry about sports scores and which Kardashian will create her own STD first, but genocide is far too serious for anyone to follow. It's backwards.
Our guide says that the 6 million jews that died couldn't have avoided it and that historians think the Warsaw uprising was a mistake. I disagree: while we will all die, we can control what we do until then and make sure our lives have some sort of effect on others.  
We go to the Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. It is crowded with jews perparing for Shabbat. At the Mt Herzel military cemetary I saw the grave of a guy who was born the day before I was. It makes me think what kind of soldier I would be and about the finality of death and decisions and inaction. Moments pass and get lost, opportunities don't.
I don't think people get creeped out at graveyards because of zombies or rotting bodies. It's more that most people don't like to think about what happens after we die, and being in a place that forces those conversations makes them uncomfortable.
Shabbat at the wall consists of lots of dancing with bearded men. We sing prayers without understanding them. The celebration juxtoposes the fact that we said goodbye to our new friends here yesterday. It's confusing. The guys on the group have gotten very close.
It's passover so we share a two hour walk home which is spent talking to a fellow NYUer (hi Maya) and strengthing friendships into not-just-birthright levels.

After breakfast we have a second Shabbat "ask your resident Rabbi" hour but I've used up all my good questions during the week. Aaron says that he'll have us all up to Montreal for a weekend this fall, I earnestly hope he does. 
The group spends the afternoon sprawled out by the pool relaxing. We form a circle where we talked about our favorite moment of the trip. Havdallah closes Shabbat then we all get on the bus and go out on Ben Gurion St in Jerusalem. I buy some presents and then meet everyone at a bar and then a club.

Back at the hotel we order late night pizza and have drinks and dance. We (Erica, Jason, Rabbi, Jared) walk out to look over Jerusalem and talk about religion and ourselves and the trip. It's 3AM and we're leaving at 4 for the airport. Twenty something hours later I'm in NY waiting for the train back to Boston...Things happen the way that they happen, but what am I doing back here? 
Why didn't I stay? What does any of this mean? What do we do now? Perhaps I'm caught up in the ambition of the moment but here's what I want out of the next few years:

-I want to get un-corporate and find a job where I can help people.
-I want to travel the world and play poker in the most beautiful casinos of Europe and China. I want to go for runs in the most peaceful mountains of South America. I want to do yoga in India and sleep under the stars.
-I want to fall in love several times and eventually settle down when I've gathered enough emotional intelligence to care about someone in the all-consuming way that you don't see often. 
-I want to be a good friend. I'm doing ok but I should be a friend that makes people say "f***, I'm so glad Jesse's in my life" I want my friends to have everything they've ever wanted, I want you to cry from overwhelming happiness.
-I want to be a more complete, better informed Jew. I want to read about spirituality and find people to talk to about it. I want to visit Israel again.
-I want to write more. I want to finish my book and have 1 stranger tell me that they liked reading it. 
-I want to thank you if you're still reading this. It's been a long one so no CFBE this week.
Thinking of Bet-Shemesh,

*A quick explanation of my post-trip thought on the soul. Homo-spiritual connections have been on my mind since Christopher died. Over the course of the trip I developed my own semi-jewish understanding that the soul has two parts: We're born with part of our soul settled. This part of my soul has always been connected to all other souls (and closer with Jewish souls (and even closer still with certain types of Jewish people's souls)) and there's nothing I can change about it. The other part of my soul is completely in my control. I can give it to people and add to it with intense experiences.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's rael

Thanks to anyone who gave me positive feedback this week. The calls/emails/mentions that you got something one of my blogs was validating. There are things that buddies have said that stuck out in my mind as indications that they figured something important out. Especially as our friendships have started to adjust to youngadulthood and it seems like people are wandering in and out of our lives, so I'm happy if I'm able to make any meaningful mark I can. I'm not sure if this blog adds depth or takes it away from my relationships. Probabaly neither, maybe both. As long as we're sharing something offline this can only add.

Last week's positive re-inforcement meant a lot because I too often feel like I'm jamming my business down peoples throats. Still that seems like the better alternative to calling people up and saying (Insert incoherent rant that ends "Why doing you love me!" and contains unwarranted verbal abuse here)
I'll try to keep those projections more positive. For starters- I think some of the people in my life are the best kind of crazy- the awe inspiring hugworthy kind of funk.

I'm happily writing this post on my first morning of vacation. In an hour I grab a train to New York then I'm meet my Birthright group at JFK. Despite trying to keep this trip expectation free (other than NOT joining the Israeli military) I've been very much looking forward to it. I want to get inspired but I'm not sure in what way. Maybe that starts by trying to do things as differently as possible (except perhaps for July 4th- if somebody offers me a cheesburger I will eat it. America!) Is inspiration too much to ask for? Do other people look for that? If you look everywhere and take in what the world offers you, you'll find whatever you need. We're so young and so lucky yet we stare at adulthood and put an ostentatious pressure on ourselves rather than trying to be youthful and curious. They should open SA for people addicted to stressing themselves out. Or maybe just more yoga studios and hookah bars- yeah, lets go with this option.

So if you need me this next week: I'll be hiking a mountain or riding a camel or trying to tap into something spiritual. I will take pictures and will be safe (yes dad, I'll wear sunscreen) and I'll try to email you back if you send me something.

Thank you for reading- keep doing that and I'll keep writing.
With much love,

Context Free Book Preview #7:
This brick building used to be be home to his favorite bar, now he walks by is a bohemian coffee shop. Fucking gentrification he would mutter if he understood the concept, instead he wonders where all the scumbags and their scumbagginess had gone to hide. Where would he score some grass? Around the corner out  South 8th street was a sleazy dive bar where, before he went away, he used to try to trick women into thinking he was successful or at least that he had a job. Walking in to see brand new barstools and a shiny tile floor where there used to be wood chips over cracked cement, Mick felt like the city was playing some sick practical joke on him.