Thursday, July 29, 2004

Open Letter to John Kerry

Senator Kerry,

Great speech tonight. I thought the line about "saying 'Mission Accomplished' doesn't make it so" was pretty good. You seemed to sweat alot, though.

I have a confession to make: I've never voted. Not once. 12 years ago, when I was first legally capable of voting, I didn't. I didn't vote 4 years later when the best the GOP could come up with was Bob Dole. As liberal as I am, I like Bob Dole as a guy; all veterans have my utmost respect, but old guys who peddle Viagra must really be self-assured. Although I still think Elizabeth should have played a larger part in the ads.

Back to not voting. I've had many, many chances. In Kentucky they held elections, like, every other month. Four years ago I was working in a warehouse for and felt compelled to stay at work instead of leaving to perform my civic duty. I wasn't told I couldn't go vote, of course, but the email and phone calls and inventory emergencies all just seemed more important at the time. Amazon was fucked up that way.

I think I also didn't vote because of the pretentious,  flawed, and cynical belief that abstaining from voting is a valid form of protest. You know, "lesser of two evils is still evil" and all that crap.
I've since learned that skepticism is good for, if not integral to, democracy. Cynicism, on the other hand, is one of the key ingredients to self-loathing. The difference is hope: skepticism requires it; cynicism requires its absence. Intellectually and emotionally it's easier to be cynical because there's no need to address what can't be changed. Skeptics see the problem but allow for a solution.

So I didn't vote because I thought my vote didn't matter. It occurs to me that I was being remarkably selfish.

Men and women didn't die on some godforsaken rock with guns in their hands so that I could watch the states turn red or blue on a pretty map and crack wise about which idiot would be our next president. It's a sentimental argument, and perhaps maudlin if not macabre. I feel strongly, though, that citizens don't owe it to themselves or even to their country to vote, they owe it to dead people.

Anyway, Senator, right now on CNN some political analysts are debating how well you delivered your speech. No shit. How well you delivered your speech, not what issues you addressed. As much faith as I have in true statesmen, Democrat or Republican, who want to improve our nation, I still think most political analysts are complete fucking morons. For those who smell hypocrisy, I'd argue that's not a cynical assertion, that's just insight.

So you have my vote, Senator. I'm not even going to watch the Republican National Convention. At this point they really can't convince me that Dubya will do a better job over the next four years. He may be a good guy at heart, but I just can't vote for him even though there for about two months this spring I felt like a Republican (listening to my dad talk about taxes and debt will do that to a guy). I think mostly I'm just a liberal who believes in personal and fiscal accountability more strongly than most other liberals.

So tonight I'm fully behind the Democrats, where I belong. If your typical middle-class Republican doesn't see that Dubya is fucking them over economically, so be it. If people don't think that we really shouldn't have gone into Iraq in the manner we did (if at all), that's their opinion and they're entitled to it... but I'm done trying to convince them otherwise. I think most people who are willing to talk politics aren't willing to change their minds anyway. So mostly they just want to argue for the sake of argument, which strikes me as pointless if not childish.

Anyway, Senator, I've rambled enough. I may or may not donate money to your campaign; as well as I budgeted out my college education over the next two years, money is remarkably tight. I've never been more motivated or eager to vote, though. My prediction: you win by 15% of the popular vote.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Debaters Suck Ass

The University of Wyoming hosts "camps" every summer, during which large groups of people, usually high schoolers, use the university's sports and educational facilities and stay in the residence halls. The majority of the kids are from small Wyoming towns, but since we're close to the Colorado border we also get a fair number from the Colorado front range. They usually stay for a few days; we put up with sweaty football players or screaming volleyball players for no more than 3 or 4 days at a time. Even the cheerleading camps, who practice their team drills in the cafeteria during lunch or outside my dorm window at 7 in the morning, aren't here long enough to truly annoy anyone.

Then there was the Debate camp. I think technically it was called "Forensics" or something, but no matter what you call it, three facts remain: they were the most obnoxious little assholes of any camp I've seen, they were here for two weeks, and they were lodged on my floor.

In fairness, debaters are precisely the kind of kid I want to have in my class when I teach. They have brains. They're funny. They have no qualms saying what they think. As individuals, they're really great people. As a group staying on the 7th floor of Orr Hall at the University of Wyoming, they were an unholy terror.

I tried not to get too crabby when they blasted rap and played grab-ass at midnight, even on those nights when I had a Spanish exam the next morning. When I did have to bust people, I tried to be civil about it. Overall, I think I confronted debate campers a total of three times.

Even so, the kids on this floor knew exactly who I was and where I lived. My name is on my door, and towards the end of camp they started calling me by name when I'd walk off the elevator... but they said my name like you would on a playground.

Debater: Hey, Paul, how ya doing, Paul.
Paul: Uh. Fine. How are you?
Debater: I'm great, Paul.

Then there was the lobby. Each floor has its own small lobby area by the elevators, and Debate camp used 7th lobby as its meeting place and general staging area. Each lobby contains one or two spartan sofas and a coffeetable or two. Generally, trash gets placed, correctly, in the large trash cans not 20 feet from the sofas.

Debate checked out yesterday morning. 7th lobby now contains the following:

6 spartan sofas
3 coffeetables
2 chairs
1 large trash can, overflowing
4 pizza boxes, on floor
1 bag of apples, mushed and on floor
4 (at least) shattered CD's, on floor
several hundred tiny pieces of trash
several crumpled pieces of paper
cookie (or something) crumbs
silly string remnants
1 cracked fire escape map
5 empty water bottles, on floor

What's worse; what impales my heart with tiny spears, is that the little fuckers also stole some South Park and Grateful Dead stickers from my door. They weren't expensive or anything, and it's a good lesson: don't put anything on your dormroom door you don't want stolen, defaced, or vandalized.

Tonight I'm writing in peace. 7th floor is empty except for me and some custodial folks getting a jump on tomorrow's cleanup.

Thank Christ those little brats are gone.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Bored at work

Part of my job requires sitting behind desks at the University of Wyoming. Today I'm sitting behind a desk in the basement of the cafeteria; tomorrow I'll be sitting behind a desk in the lobby of my dormitory.
We have an outpost here, in the basement, because Washakie Center is essentially the Grand Central Station of UW. There are many offices here in the basement, and a large common area with sofas and a big-screen TV. Additionally, tunnels lead to each dorm (with the exception of those too old or too far to be connected to Washakie). In theory, Washakie basement is a high-traffic area, and, being new to the university, I'd imagine it is... during the school year. During the summer, it's almost completely deserted.
My shift today lasts 6 hours.
True, a few people pass by the information desk. One person even sought my help two hours ago. I brought homework, and even started reading a novel from my Scottish Literature class that starts in August.
I surf the web: CNN, REI, Boatertalk, Google, Yahoo games, Hotmail, etc. I read. I stare into space. I look over my Wyoming Atlas & Gazetteer to facilitate dreams of hiking, camping, and cross-country skiing. I check out websites from towns in Wyoming in which I think I'd like to teach. I dream of being the prototypical small-town teacher who seemingly doesn't belong in a small town; the type that inspires students to such heights that they make a movie about him.
I check out websites of car companies, doing research on my new car (or perhaps truck?) two years in advance of actually buying a car (or perhaps truck?).
I check out satellite maps of Wyoming. I go to Ebay looking for camping stuff I don't need.
Mostly, though, I dream about getting back to my room, where I'll still be bored.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Taming of the Room

As a 32 year old living in a dorm room, I've been assuming that the vague feelings of regression I've experienced thus far all summer were due solely to living in a 6 by 8 cinderblock. I've been leading the ultimate undergrad life, replete with a corkboard with what appear to be bullet holes and crosses carved into it, a tile floor, and venetian blinds from the Eisenhower administration.

What was needed here was some civility.

A quick road trip to Albertson's, and that situation was fixed like a mean spaniel at a drunk vet's office. Tonight I'm eating a decent gouda on pepper crackers and sipping a mid-range California merlot.

Oh yeah. I also ordered a laptop... my desktop recently went from making weird noises to making very bad noises. I'm keeping it around to see if anyone on my floor will be able to fix it.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Look at me! Look at me!

Many years ago I started telling an anecdote to a group of friends when one of them said, "Oh God, this isn't yet another 'Look at Paul' story, is it?"

It was. Ever since then I've tried to be careful about saying or doing things which only serve to bring attention to myself, unless asked.

Then tonight I noticed that when it comes to music, I unabashedly show off. Usually this manifests as playing stuff loud in my truck or, as is the case right now, in my dorm room. On the way home from a rare dinner out tonight, I blasted the Beastie Boys' "Hey Ladies."

The funny thing is that I generally despise other people's taste in what they choose to share with the world. Nothing irritates exactly like Snoop Dogg or Limp Bizkit or Kenney Chesney blasting from someone's car at the stoplight. But the Beastie Boys? Entirely appropriate.

They say you can't fix stupid. I'd add you can't argue taste.

Especially mine.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Back in the saddle.

Well, here we go again. I've blogged before but I think my account probably died a slow, painful death due to my blithe neglect. Sorry 'bout that.

Ask me why I'm writing again. Go ahead.

I'm writing again because the next two years might be two of the most interesting of my life. This is for three reasons: first, having finally realized that I should follow my calling instead of stock options, I'm back in school pursuing a degree in Secondary Education. Second, I've taken up whitewater kayaking, an activity which will certainly bring some excitement, if not injury, to my life. Third, something very strange happened last night.

Some history about the strange thing:

My exgirlfriend M-A once told me that I had an emotional wall through which no one could pass. This wall, she said, was so integral to my personality that she didn't think I even knew it was there. She said this during one of our breakups, and I've since noticed that one tends to go for one's lover's jugular when things turn shitty, so maybe she didn't mean it entirely.

Still, the phrase has stuck with me. I haven't dated anyone seriously since M-A, so I've had many opportunities to think it over. This "thinking it over" business usually happens at night, in bed. Alone.

Last night I was in bed, alone. I started thinking about the various romantic interests going on in my life right now. I'm single, let's be clear about that. But there are a few women I'd like to get to know better, one of whom flashed me an amazing smile the other night. So I was thinking about this woman, whose name is K-, and conjuring up our lives together. Soon I started drifting and thinking about several things at once as you do before sleep really hits.

A voice said, "I'm ready to be accepted."

What the fuck?

It jarred me awake with the clarity and immediacy of an alarm clock. Laying there in the dark, I realized I'd said it aloud and not just in dream-talk, that weird telepathy that can interpret noises like "booshaboosha" as messages from the divine. I'd said the words, and I meant them: I hadn't been ready to be accepted for the first 32 years of my life, but something changed last night. It changed for the better, and permanently.

It seemed like a substantial and important moment, ripe with new opportunities, but the profound usually curdles in daylight. Stay tuned.