Make your bed every day

Went to see Sonia Sanchez read at a small bookstore on 13th street. You have to be disciplined, she said, you have to make your bed every morning before you can excel at poetry.

I write haiku every morning, she told us, and stepped away from the microphone to rummage through a bag and produce a little notebook—a birthday gift from someone who knew her habits—and read a few “New York” poems straight from the journal.

“Kisses are wasted on the young,” she read.

So, inspired by Ms. Sanchez:

5 Haiku For Winter In Philadelphia:


Salt and ice on side
Walks tread commuting feet, we
Stroll again in May.


I find that I obsess
Over plans and eye contact
More than usual.


Concrete city canyons
Echo with footfalls after dark
Hemmed in by stars.


A book in my hand
And a song in my ear
As I wait for you.


The cold bores me, but
Spring is months away and my
Heart refuses to bloom.


To do list for the remainder of 2009

1. Go grocery shopping today (coffee, kale, eggs, broth, something for lunch the next two days before Xmas break).

2. Buy the Yankee gift I’ve put off getting until now that it’s 5 days to Xmas.

3. Finish A Short History of Tractors In Ukranian.

4. Start and finish three other books selected for brevity in order to accomplish last New Year’s resolution of reading 12 books in ’09.

5. Continue to lose weight while on vacation and drinking beer (I don’t understand it, neither do I question.)

6. Make sure to go to the gym a few times (see #5).

7. Dig out last year’s resolutions and face the hard facts.

8. Celebrate! But not like in ’07-’08. Let’s not do that again.

This is Halloween.

PEX halloween party Saturday night = 1 Fishtown warehouse of swings, alcohol, colored lights, mattresses, a stripper pole, house music, and people running around in crazy costumes. Also a few topless chicks.

True story: I got bored and went home early.

Favorite costume: dude dressed as a Pantone swatch book.

Hello, old friend.

Was on my college campus today for the first time in 3 years. But only to drop off papers with the oncologist and to eat lunch at the Panera Bread.

And a $10 charge for paperwork, geez.


I admire my mom’s attitude toward cancer.

Popping the last horse pill of antibiotics the night before the morning’s home enema before the surgery. She laughs and says “Well, in 12 hours it’ll be over and I’ll be awake again going, boy that hurts.”

For some reason I have chosen this moment.

I’m comparing myself to adulthood. I have no dependents and own nothing of great value; no house, no car, no children, no spouse.

I look into the next five years: I don’t see a house or a car, a marriage or a family.  But abstractly, in the future there are medical bills and tuitions, deaths, births?, plane tickets and U-haul trucks—all floating out there as un-nows but maybe-somedays AND THEY WILL COST ME SOMETHING.

And I’ve chosen this moment to worry that I won’t be ready.  12:09 on a Tuesday.  And, productive or unproductive, all I can think about is the number of margaritas I can consume in a single weekend and wonder what the dollar value of those drinks would be—plus interest—in 2014.

Currently reading

I was inpsired by the men at the pier to attempt a hymn to the intelligence, peculiarity, beauty and horror of the modern work place and, not least, its extraordinary claim to be able to provide us, alongside love, with the principal source of life’s meaning.

-Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

This dude tends to find me when I need him. Like The Art of Travel, which found me in a bookstore in Seoul when I was feeling purposeless and adrift in the world.

Then on Thursday, I wandered over the “inspirational” table at the Borders on Chestnut street; I had a 25% off coupon and was thinking about the future. There he was again. I put back the other book I was carrying and took the subway instead of walking, just so I could start reading right away.

Once, he explains, the term “calling” meant a calling from god. Now, most of us pursue a secularized version of this idea, through which we expect to find the same meaning as service to god from working at a desk.  Ambitious!

It reminds me of Mike Rowe’s (host of Dirty Jobs) column in Forbes:

In the long history of inspirational pabulum, “follow your passion” has got to be the worst. … What a crock.

Why do we do this? Why do we tell our kids–and ourselves–that following some form of desire is the key to job satisfaction? If I’ve learned anything from this show, it’s the folly of looking for a job that completely satisfies a “true purpose.” In fact, the happiest people I’ve met over the last few years have not followed their passion at all–they have instead brought it with them.

It’s a dirty job, and I love it!

Man, I love that show.


I gave in to the temptation to drink the first cup of coffee to drip through the machine.  Now the rest of the pot will be weak, but every cup after is always chases the pleasure of that first sip anyway.

Trying to quit coffee after 2:30 because I read in Glamour magazine that it will help you sleep more regularly. A great source for life goals. Further, just by sleeping 7.5 hours every night, according to the cited study, one could lose as much as 6 pounds without doing anything else!  Tempting!

Was talking to Justin—principle negative influence behind my failing in this goal most days—about how there is a singe 4 month period in all of my adult or pre-adult life in which I was out in the world by 8 every weekday and 9 on every weekend.  And it was the four months that I was in India.

There was too much going on to sleep through it; also, Bushpo-di would have been offended if I didn’t eat her breakfast.

It’s a little dispiriting to think that I had never before, and have not since, had the motivation to get out of bed in the morning, and that I can no longer operate in the world without at least 48 ounces of brew.

Something to work on.

The cavalry was out

To make sure no uncouth youth organized over MySpace to terrorize South Street again this weekend, on Saturday night, the street was completely shut down.

Buses, paddy wagons, mounted police and officers chillin’ at every intersection. The officer Melissa approached would only be vague about the “juveniles” and their underage drinking.

While I do support a proactive attitude toward crime, it’s hard in the city of Philadelphia to not feel like such a single-minded dedication of resources to the Center City bar district might be a little pennywise, pound foolish.

But what do I know.

Mother’s day.

My mom was hard to reach.

After trying the house phone, her cell, and my dad’s cell—for the second time—I thought maybe I wouldn’t bother. What a manufactured occasion anyway, and my mom hates the obligations of holidays.

Then I thought about how three years ago I was worried she’d die of cancer while I was living abroad.

So I called again and caught her. She’d had to work. Had gotten margaritas with Dad after. “We do what we can,” she said, and we talked for a half hour about my sister’s impending graduation, house plants and the rugs she can get cheap from work, if we need more rugs.  She has an olive green one in mind for me.  And probably half the actual time of our conversation is—as is customary—the silences between topics until we can think of something else to say.

I’ve been delegated the responsibility of making reservations for lunch on graduation day.  Let’s not forget.

On Twitter and literature

I had to stop working because it’s less than 12 hours until I have to be at work again.  No good.  

Neither was the text that I was editing.  

Just kidding.

Jenne and I talked on the trolley last night about how hard it is to find time to be independently creative around the hours we keep for work.  I think I’ve realized that I can’t do this job and succeed in any ambitions to be a writer.

And when I decide to be depressed about work, that’s usually one of the things I let get me down.

In our senior seminar, Michael Byers said “There’s no writing but writing.”

Or something to that effect, which just means that it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are in your head if you never put your ideas to paper.

So I am now exploring the (potential) corollary that *all* writing is writing, including Tweets.

What literary ambitions can be realized in 140 characters or less?  Remains to be seen.

As Melissa pointed out, Twitter is all about narcissism.  Well, so is being a writer.  You have to be more than a little self-absorbed to embark on a career that assumes *your* particular take on life—or the facts of your life itself—will sell books.

And for myself, I did the most writing at a time in my life when I was most fascinated by the details of my surroundings. In all honesty, I am hoping to find something valuable, though so far my tweets have crossed subjects from dirty underwear to cherry blossoms and I posted a picture of my breakfast.

It’s only day 2.

Whatever comes of it, I’m pretty stoked that I can now follow the former host of Reading Rainbow.

Sad news

I am sitting at my computer, not really watching the television, which is on in the background.  Putzing on the internet and drinking SoCo and lime.  It was a warm day.  I have a lot to do at work.  I’m feeling lower today than usual about work, but finally it is still light out at 6 when I am still there, which makes it feel easier.

I get an e-mail.  Subject: “Sad news from India.”

I hope everyone is doing well in their respective lives. I writing to inform you guys of some sad news. Mummom passed away a few weeks ago in her sleep. They think it was a brain aneurysm. I just thought everyone should know. We had some amazing times together at her house. I am grateful to have been there with all of you.

The day that we met, she asked us to call her mom.  I’d e-mailed my real mother saying that I had a “new mother,” which I think she took the wrong way, but it was just that I instantly felt so taken care of.

The day that we left, we gave her a toaster as a parting gift, because she’d always talked about getting one.  She unwrapped the box, stared at, and started to cry.  I’m an in-the-closet sentimental and I cried, too.  The last things she ever asked me to do was call.  But then I never did.  And that was three years ago.

I can’t come up with a non-cliche to respond with in reply-all.  We’re all richer for having known her.  She will be missed. May she rest in peace.

I think about the ghats, where bereaved men shave their heads and women wash their hair in the Ganga.  

The “octo-mom” is on the news because she just got a new mansion, the weather will be colder tomorrow, and in the Lake District of Kolkata, a city of 7.8 million, Mukta Sengupta is no longer there.

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” -Rabindranath Tagore

“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.” -Rabindranath Tagore

two things

1. On the Boston red line, a homeless man tried to give his bible to the woman sitting across from him. It’s one of those things—you try not to pay attention to the people who are sort of yelling across the subway car in a confrontational manner, but when I did look over, she was crying, clutching his arm, and saying that she didn’t want to go to hell.

I didn’t dwell in it, but I felt a moment of empathy. Imagine feeling so rock-bottom shitty in your life that a man with a frog’s voice in a dirty trucker hat and sweatshirt, who by his own admission can’t read the bible in his hand, is the person who is providing you moral comfort.

Consider that in our world, no one better dressed on that train would.

2. And, then I went to a bar with $4 in my wallet.

How much is a shot of Jameson, I asked.

$5.50, the bartender said.

I’ll have a PBR, I said.

The man standing next to me turned, held out his hand to shake: I’m Luke, and that’s the best order that I’ve ever heard, he said.

Recipe for a Saturday

  1. 1 hr of roll over and don’t get out of bed.
  2. 1 dash cat sleeping on backs of knees
  3. 10 cups coffee
  4. 1 part relief to have no obligations, 1 part nagging sense that you should be making more of your life, 1 part “it’s early and there are so many possibilities for this day.”
  5. 5 news related websites
  6. 2 podcasts
  7. 1 messy house
  8. 1 sewing machine
  9. 1 sewing project
  10. Irish whiskey, to taste.
  11. 1 tbsp vinegar


Combine ingredients, let set.  Reserve one portion of #4; add vinegar at bedtime; possibilities for the day sour into possibilities unrealized;  fold into sleep.


In other news, one of my clients was on the plane that crashed in Denver.

Did you twitter from your blackberry, I asked?

Didn’t have one at the time, he said, but have an iPhone as a result.

And we’re 24 hours until the working class of Philadelphia don their blush and sequins. I can’t wait for Mummers.


Philadelphia NBC news just spent 45 seconds of airtime talking about the 4 Israelis killed by Hamas bombing and featured an Israeli scholar of some kind saying, and I paraphrase, “we cannot say Israel and Palestine are equally blamed, because they are not. There is one side that is targeting civilians and hiding behind civilians, and that is Hamas, and they are to blame.”

345. Three hundred and forty five Palestinians have died. The cognitive dissonance is deafening.

The anchors mention pro-Palestinian protesters who gathered on Market Street. But only to say that they are there.

@ the car lot, yeah

I just spent half my day trying to retrieve a rental car from Philadelphia’s impound lot #1. They were supposed to open at 2, then they amended it to 4, and then the cashier was an hour late to work.

It was farcical. Thousands of dollars stood in line, unable to retrieve our cars because the one person able to accept money wasn’t there.

Like, if the rest of y’all don’t know how to use the cash register we’re across the parking lot from Ikea. Really, this shouldn’t be the problem.

And I got really angry. It wasn’t even my car, I came along for moral support and just sat on the box of Cristen’s new space heater.

But the bitch cashier came an hour late to work and answered her cell phone while someone was trying to pay $200 to get her car back.

And why would you accuse a woman of trying to pass fake money last night after you made very clear that you never spoke to her and knew nothing about her being there the night before and being told she wouldn’t be charged for an extra day because the people who were there couldn’t take her money—two $100 bills—why do that?

I can’t swear I’m not making this up, but they treated everyone like people who’d done something wrong, not people who misstepped trying to navigate the world of inconsistently applied human rules. And I mean, in Philly, parking rules are inconsistently applied.

Once we finally had the damn car—with a tow sticker on the window that wouldn’t come off—we drove down Oregon Ave past cars parked up on the concrete median, and I thought, “That’s free money for the city, so why don’t they tow them?”

The fact that they don’t, and the death toll in Gaza confirm that there’s no justice in the world.

A golden November day

As for President-elect Obama . . . have them write up a presidential order for Jan. 20 saying that America will not employ torture, and maybe issue a blanket presidential pardon for your predecessor and his vice, and then set about the business of disappointing your followers and astonishing your enemies and doing what is right for our country.

Garrison Keillor


My horoscope in the CSU student paper: Calm down or you won’t finish what you need to get done.  Be motivated and don’t let unimprotant things eat away at you.  The sweetest revenge is your own success.

Day 4.

For all of my personal insecurities, I have never actually been the worst at anything.  This fact has helped me through life on occasion.  However badly I may have done, at least someone else was always at the bottom.  Until now. 

By the numbers I am literally the worst campus organizer in the state of Colorado.  Sigh. 
and last night may have been the worst of my life.  

Which is being melodramatic, but when hyperventalating outside in the cold and dark at 11:30 pm and planning for the next, impossible seeming day still to do, it didn’t feel like an unreasonable statement.  I am not a person who doesn’t eat, but I have been so full of anxiety that there has not been room for food.  Today is the first day since I arrived that I have made a place for three instances of food consumption in my day.  My numbers didn’t improve, but my mood has.  Slightly.  I thought nothing could phase me anymore, but this is the most stressful thing I have ever done, by far.

Moving on

Let me tell you about the last 12 hours.  At 11pm last night I was informed that after returning my rental car to Philadelphia, I would be traveling to Richmond, VA for a training to replace the now defunct training in Denver that the organization paid $400 to fly me to in September.  Plans change.  We expected to leave York around 6pm, get to VA by midnight.

At 7:45 am this morning we were informed we should close our office here by 3 o’clock and head out to Philly, arriving in VA much earlier.  During the 5 minutes that I was in the bathroom around 8:30 am, we got another call and I was told to check my e-mail.  My e-mail tells me that I have a plane ticket to Denver for 6:45 am Tuesday morning.

This means that in all likelihood I will be in either CO or NM for the next month.  So either I will need the winter acoutrements that I am going to throw in my bag tonight, or I won’t at all.  The upshot is that I will get to spend tonight in my house.

I had a very homesick afternoon last week.  I was canvassing and someone yelled at me for asking him multiple times if he was registered to vote at his current address.  He was an angry young man sitting around on a weekday morning in a neighborhood where drugs are reportedly traded, so I shouldn’t take it personally, but I wanted very intensely in that moment to pack up my bags and say goodbye to the whole project.  I keep telling myself that I’m no quitter.

the life of a canvass director

I wish I had both the time and a computer to blog on more regularly.  I am staying in the home of two Quakers in York, Pennsylvania while assistant directing in a voter registration canvass office.  We are only being paid to register black people, so I have become a strange kind of racial profiler.  Anytime I see a black person, on reflex I think “I wonder if they’re registered.”  York Pennsylvania has it’s share, but is not exactly swimming in diversity.  This makes our job a challenge, especially with Wal*Mart’s strict no soliciting policy. Our canvassers literally hide behind cars in the parking lot to not be caught.

This morning, one of our staff who couldn’t come in for the longest time because his dog had bitten his face had to call out because yesterday he was RUN OVER BY A CAR.  I saw him riding in the car with his fiancee just this afternoon, and he is in full leg casts.  Yet is still bizarrely cheerful and talkative.  I would not be cheerful if I had multiple children I had hoped to support on a canvasser’s salary only to be mowed down in an alley by fat people.

He specifically mentioned this fact on the phone, that it was a small car driven by fat people, with therefore little ground clearance, leading to additional injury.

People call me “baby” more often than I would like when I am canvassing, and yesterday a crazy man outside the Turkey Hill who first showed me an envelope with a note on it saying he had $200 of someone else’s money that he would return by X date tried to kiss my hand.

The woman that we’re staying with was this afternoon part of a two person protest at the corner of George and Market against an invasion of Iran.

I am so glad that the registration deadline is Monday, however no one has told me where I am going next.  I have to return a rental car in Philly, but then, who knows?  We may not even be working in Pennsylvania on our voter contact project.  Seems like the state is getting pretty blue.