"Last Great American Whale"

I’ve been toying around with the blog and adding things with my more-basic-than-rudimentary HTML skills. I’m clueless as to what I should do today. I have everything, I’m nearly completely packed, and I feel ready. I’ve just been sitting around and reading and listening to music and thinking about the people that introduced me to the songs and bands which I now like. I was thinking about the bands I’ve been crazy about over the last ten years or so: as can be expected, my first influences were my parents, then Mark M. who I met at camp, then ranging from my sister to Mark J. to Cory and Eric S. I’ve been listening to the CD’s and songs that they’ve gone out of their way to say, “Check this out.” It just shows that really people are simply made up of the influences around them, with a little bit of individuality thrown in there for spice.

One thing that I have been appreciating these past few weeks is the food I’m conjuring up at home. The other week I had a mini-feast of grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup (with Ritz crackers), a dill pickle and some apple cider. That had to be one of my favorite meals in quite some time.

This evening came close though. Dad cooked up a large pot of chili and when it was done I went to work, trying to attain the perfect bowl. To me, the perfect bowl of chili on these cold evenings seems to be right at my fingertips, and yet at the same time, maddeningly just out of reach. Like I said, tonight neared perfection. I found some mozzarella cheese, some Ritz crackers and some hot sauce. I thought about adding some cayenne pepper or some crushed red pepper, but dad told me the chili was already pretty spicy. I took his word and only added the hot sauce to spice it.

Another strange thing about me is how I like the consistency of my chili. Liquids in my chili must be kept to a minimum, hence the Ritz crackers (in a pinch, saltines will do) to soak up most of the fluid. I like chili almost completely devoid of liquid (despite the fact that it is categorized as a soup) with strands of melted cheese throughout like a spider web.

I found some garlic power and whipped up some garlic bread to go alongside my bowl and glass of milk and, like I said, the meal was almost perfect. There’s always just something that’s not quite there. Something that I can’t really put my finger on.

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll cook a box or macaroni and cheese and spice it up with some red pepper… I sure will miss these bacheloresque meals. I’ll have to find some new equivalents at my destination, 12 time zones away.

The strangely mellow accent of the singer Nico is playing as I write this. Earlier this evening we watched It’s a Wonderful Life and, like I do every year, I shed a few tears at the end of it. An odd phenomena: every year I watch that movie (I nearly have it memorized) and every year I know what’s coming ahead in the plot. Yet every year some tears sneak out of my eyes, despite the guard of my eyelids.

I decided to upgrade to a larger suitcase now that I’m here at home and it is an option. Also, I decided that there are more books I’d like to have along. But this same question that I encountered over a month ago is pushing me again and I have no idea how to properly answer it: How do you pack for three years? What bits of your life can you simply pick up and throw into a suitcase? That leads my mind down the track of: What is life really? It might seem like the eternal question when you first hear it, but I think a simple answer is to say that life, in its essence, is more than the sum of its parts. What is my life? Is it the fact that I breathe? Is it the fact that I am conscious? Sentient? Or is it the fact that I am able to navigate this life which is full of other people who are basically experiencing what I am? So, getting back to the original question, how do I throw my life into three bags and take it to the airport on Wednesday? Where can I put the scent of hay that has been stored in the barn or the smell of the woodsmoke drifting out of the chimney on a clear, subzero winter night? Where can I stuff my friends and the places where we used to hang out? Will those fit in the outside compartment? Ah well, there’s a lot I’m leaving here and there will be a lot that I miss, but I’m very excited to get to the airport soon. As Jack Kerouac wrote, “The road is life.”

I’m back in my old room with a half-packed suitcase on the floor and one wall devoted entirely to the flags and maps of southeast Asia. It’s an absolutely perfectly dreary day out, but not too cold actually; it nicely sums up the majority of the fall days here in Ohio. The leaves are all gone too which makes forests look black at a distance.

This little hiccup in my travel plans is having the slight effect of beginning to make me second-guess myself and what I signed up for. I was ready. In Akron, PA I was mentally prepared to get on the plane headed across the ocean. My goodbyes had been said. My bags were packed. I was ready. Now I’m back here and really clicking with people and thinking that I might be giving up some very good ideas and times. However, I keep saying that I’m the selfish one. I’m the one who wants this experience. But will that someday actually make me a better person or just make me a pretentious person? I don’t know. I keep telling myself I’m doing the right thing, but every once in a while a moment with a certain person or persons makes me veer off my usual course and think that in gaining good things I may also be discarding good things. Then again, isn’t that really what life is all about? choices? Now I’m just sounding corny again…

I just haven’t been feeling well over the past few days and I have no idea how to explain it all. I’m blaming it on something I ate, but really I have no idea. I hope I’m not coming down with the flu after I said many snide things about the flu shot issue this year. Anyhow, I’m walking around in the cold in my sandals and hoping that things go as planned and I can get on that airplane in about a week and-a-half.

To those people marching at the SOA today, I am with you in spirit.

My visa/flight has been further delayed and now I’m back in Ohio until the 1st of December. It’s a bit of a letdown and a bit disappointing at the same time. I noticed the other day that the fields of Ohio seem to have been or are being stripped of lifeless vegetation by large machines painted green and red (Christmas colors). Therein lies the disappointment. I was scheduled to be surrounded by the verdant fields and trees of Vietnam. I was supposed to be sweating in a t-shirt right now, listening to the beep of motorcycle horns and smelling the rubbish building up in the streets. Now I leave from Columbus, two weeks from today.

The visa didn’t go through. I’m back in Ohio after a train ride and hopfully leaving the US a week from today.

I’m trying to process the stuff that we went through in orientation during the previous weeks as well as accept the fact that the people that I met there are now all over the world and I may or may not see them again. It’s things like this that keep me awake at night and drifting off into daydreams during daylight hours. Is it fate or destiny? Or are those simply excuses to justify something that we cannot understand? Perhaps the thing that we need is a mind that doesn’t record memories so that sentimetality can’t strike back when we least expect it. That may be the solution. Now I’m hoping that everything works out and I can get on with the life that I’ve chosen, 12 time zones away.