Bonus story time this week! Why? Because I'm not going to jail, which is as good a reason as any to celebrate (really this is me just putting off retroblogging for another day). Read on.

So its the day before I'm due to fly to South Africa for the first time. Its a warm Saturday in August, and I say goodbye to the folks and drive off with my brother Jonny on our way to San Francisco. I was flying out of SFO for a variety of reasons, the primary one being that Peter, Jonny, and I were headed to the Rock The Bells concert at McCovey Cove to see Rage Against the Machine back together for one of their 4 reunion shows. Which, of course, was one of the best nights of my life. But this story isn't about that night, its about what happened the afternoon before that night.

Jonny and I stopped to shop for a suit for him on our way down to Peter's place outside of SF. Its weird for me, knowing as much as I do about those suits, being able to tell where the fabric came from and what country the factory that put it together was in, and the name and phone number of the rep at RL who sold it to Macy's, and the crusty old buyer who was responsible for getting it to that store, at that price point, on that day. Etc. etc. etc.. So there I was musing through all of that while Jonny paid for the suit we picked out, when my phone rings.

Its dad. He says the mail came, and there's something for me in it. He says its from New Orleans and it looks official, and he asks if I want him to open it. He opens it and says the first two words that were printed in large block across the top of the page:


Something about not having appeared for a court date that I knew I had never gotten notice about. Apparently I'm a wanted man in New Orleans, LA, and I'm supposed to get on a plane leaving the states for a few months the next morning. Whoops. Cue a few frantic phone calls.

Here's the funny thing, though. That letter arrived one year to-the-day that I had first flown down to NOLA with the youth group for our first missions trip there - gutting houses in the horribly wet and hot and oppressive August air there. Whilst there, we had been out to dinner one evening in the French Quarter. After dinner I went to get the van I was driving to pick up my crew. I pull up to one of the one-way cross streets and the guy on the cross street flashses his lights, and sits there. He has the right of way but I figure he's telling me to go ahead, cause he's not moving. So I go, and about halfway through the intersection is when I hear the sickening thud of his bumper into the side of my rental van.

That was not a pleasant evening. The cop chick who wrote up the incident was very sympathetic to the fact that I was livid about being the victim of blatant insurance fraud, but there was nothing she could do.

The church we were working with down there, however, had a guy who was in charge of our work who said that he knew a judge and would get it "taken care of." Since I never saw anything in the mail, and nobody ever returned my follow-up calls, I assumed it had been taken care of. The legal system down there still appeared to be in relative shambles, anyway - we had one run-in with Military Police in a humvee rather than normal cops, at one point (another story for another time).

So yeah. There I am a year later on my way down to SF trying to get a hold of the youth leaders, who, providentially, were headed down to NOLA again for our second trip down there, one year later, to-the-day. I didn't get a hold of them, but my voicemails must have gotten through, because Russ, one of the other youth leaders, who happens to be a lawyer, went to court and got me sorted out. Apparently Dave had to go with him, because later that day when Dave got back to the work site, he wasn't wearing his boots and he stepped on a nail and had to go to the hospital. Dave still blames me, indirectly, for that nail incident, which is guilt I can live with if it gets me out of jail.

So anyway there was some back and forth with paperwork and emails in the months since I've left the states, and then the other day dad emails me a scan of a fax they got at home, which isn't very clear, but is clear enough to see that I got a dismissal from a court case of some sort in NOLA. So, assuming I'm not wanted for something else down there, I think I'm in the clear.

So that means I'm still a wanted man only in Virginia, and perhaps Florida, to my knowledge. And those are stories for another time, as well.


OK. Not going to have the time for the retroblog today so that's still on hold. It'll be the long one to write so I am of course putting it off. The easy one, since its already written, would be story time, but I'm not letting myself off the hook. So instead, its reading update time. This one will be short.

What is the What (Eggers) is one of the best written books I've ever read. If you haven't read it, your life is less complete than mine. That is my review of that book. Also, right before I last left NYC, Mo and I went to hear a reading by Eggers and another author writing about tragedies in Africa (specifically Nigeria) at the 92nd Street Y. My opinion on most great writers is that they're not as smooth in person as you would expect them to be based on their journalistic expertise. Eggers was no different, but it was still cool to get my book signed.

Continuing with the crisis in Sudan theme, one of the next books I read was Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End the Genocide in Darfur and Beyond (Pendergast / Cheadle). The book was good but not a lot of news to me. I've been involved for a while now, this was more focused on people who aren't aware of the problems. The information has been out there for years, though, for those who cared to inform themselves. And that's not to in any way claim that I got to the party when I should have, I was shamefully late myself.

I needed something a little less heavy after that so now I'm about halfway through A Prayer for Owen Meany, which is also great.

I lost my copy of Of Mice and Men, I completely quit studying the Afrikaans for myriad reasons, the most prevalent being a lack of time. I started Lewis' A Grief Observed (again) but then put that down for a while too. Since I lost my short Steinbeck read, I started Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (again) - don't ask me why my brain works like that, but it seemed fitting enough. I think I'm just avoiding starting my next, longer Steinbeck read, Grapes of Wrath. Its not that I don't want to read it, its that for some reason I don't like being in the middle of two thick books at the same time, and Owen Meany's thick.

I've decided my wish-list of books I want to get is way too long at the moment, plus I have a number on my desk to churn through that I can't even remember all the titles of, so instead, here's a few random ones I expect to read soon:

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Keller) - by my pastor in NYC, a nice relief from Dawson's The God Delusion, et. al. the other atheism / agnosticism books of late.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Dillard)

Blink (Gladwell) - in my continuing endeavor to not read popular books at the zenith of their market appeal.

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game (Lewis, not the one I read as regularly, though)

Healing the Children of War (Kilbourn) - one of my colleagues on this project who's familiar with my pipe dreams got this for me, and I plan to get it from her when I'm in LA. If Uganda works out, this will be read before I get there.


A clarification on pictures.

I like to post at least one visual to accompany most of my posts here, as you may have noticed. It recently came to light that some people might be uncertain as to the author of these photos, so, for clarity's sake: most of the pictures I use with my posts are not my own. The majority of the time, I like to look for a picture related to the theme or topic that I'm writing about. Sometimes these are a little more obscure, kind of gives you a game to guess at how I made the connection in my mind. Sometimes there is no legitimate connection - sometimes its just a cool picture I've stumbled across recently that I wanted to put on my blog. Like this one, for instance.

Where I am posting my own pictures, lately, is on my retro-blogging posts - pictures I've taken on my photo-essaic journey through life lately. I may have posted a few of my own pictures here-and-there outside of said posts, but that's probably more the exception than the rule. If you're ever in doubt, there's always the comments field, to inquire. I certainly don't want to be seen as taking credit for work that isn't mine. And, lastly, as this is a personal blog, not for profit, etc., I haven't seen any issue with tossing up anything that I come across that is freely available on the web. If I'm using a picture of yours, and you'd like it taken down, I of course will gladly comply, but hopefully most people simply take it as a compliment that I'm a fan of their work.


It looks as if the Mozambique trip kicked my writing momentum in the teeth, just a little bit. I'd like to say I'm going to settle down and get back to normal, but here's my travel schedule for the next month or so:

Now til March 3: RSA
March 3-8: Zambia
March 9-12: RSA
March 13-14: San Francisco (via London, ugh)
March 15: Sacramento
March 16-22: Los Angeles
March 23-28: RSA / Namibia / Botswana / possibly Swaziland (my mini-southern-Africa-tour)
March 29-April 5: Mauritius (I've decided this is the answer to the where-should-I-go-on-vacation-game we played a while back)
April 6-19: RSA

There's still the possibility that the Uganda thing will sort out for late March. And then come 4/19 I've got a flight back to SF, but life after that is pretty much up in the air. Theoretically I'll be getting an apartment with Dave in Manhattan come May, but who knows where I'll be working at that point. I'm trying to stay under the radar in the states and am juggling a few other options elsewhere.

Mauritius should be some good down-time to catch up on all the reading / writing / etc. I haven't had time for of late, but no promises between now and then. This week, however, I'm shooting for:

- Retro-blogging the first trip to Kruger and the first trip to Zambia (I should really get to that before I'm there again, already)

- Story time: the best worst day of my life (in college, surprise)

- Reading update / book wish-list update

- Bonus-post-that-is-unlikely-to-actually-happen: links of late (haven't done one of these in ages)


Have you ever seen The Sandlot(question mark)

(I cant do question marks, or apostrophes, or lots of other useful stuff with this stupid Portuguese keyboard.)

Theres this part in the movie where the one kid, I think his name was Smalls, well, theyre all at the pool admiring the life guard that Smalls lusts after, and finally smalls just flips his lid.


Thats how I feel right now.

We call him Traveler (a word, incidentally, that Ive always wanted to spell with two Ls). Ive tried as hard as I can not to blog about this but the camels back just broke tonight. People have told me that I dont complain very much, and Ive always attributed it to my thats-just-the-way-it-is attitude, and have been tempted to pride myself on said attribute, but tonight I am taking a brief reprieve from that.

Traveler has been the consultant on this project, and my roommate for the past few months. Let me say this - as far as Ive seen hes done top-notch work. Now let me say some other things.

We call him Traveler because thats his code name. Ever seen those secret service movies(question mark) I think the one I have in mind is In The Line of Fire, but Im not sure. Anyway, in all of them, the SS has a code name that they use for the president on their radio calls, and in one of those movies the name is Traveler. Well, I started out calling the cons The President, but then I realized it might be a little obvious, so I went with Traveler. It kind of stuck. We dont really call him that to his face.

President started because hes got that same everything-should-fall-in-my-lap attitude that Ive noticed about a lot of the younger people in the company - its a big Gen Y thing that I wont get into right now, but suffice to say Ive been simply amazed to meet so many people that are so completely ignorant of the world around them, and so self actualized in the midst of said world they dont see.

Today it was when we landed here in Quelemane and we all had to squeeze into a pickup truck (the two guys picking us up, and the 3 of us). It had been a long hot sweaty day of travel to get up here and it wasnt over yet, and here we were dealing with the classic situation where someone was going to have to ride (quotation marks)beach(quotation marks) as we called it in college, except it was a slightly different spelling that some of you might find a bit more uncouth. It means riding crammed in the middle of the back seat.

Well, as we pile in, thats where I find myself. Theres kind of an unspoken rule that people on the sides, the lucky 2 next to the windows, should know well enough to give the beach as much room as possible. The beach should never, under any circumstances, have to point out that they need said extra room, its implicit in the seat position that they have.

Apparently Traveler never got that memo. I had to ask for more room, which of course was there to ask for, but thats not the point. The point is I never should have had to ask.

This is the sum total of my complaint. Theres a long list of stupid stuff over the past few months that I could go into, but I like to pride myself on not complaining about stuff, remember(question mark)


First blog from Mozambique. I think this makes country #8 or something like that over here.


Like 31c, and there's more H2O in the air than there is O. Seriously, the humidity here puts Miami to shame.

Saw the Indian Ocean for my first time this morning on my morning run. So, technically, I've seen them all now. It looked wet, and right now the plan is to see it for a week straight come early April, when I'm hoping to head to Mauritius. Also, I was the only white person I saw during my entire morning run, which was interesting. Not as interesting as the truck full of cops in riot gear with AK's, but interesting in its own right.

Maputo's the capital city and its incredibly run-down, the better neighborhoods feel border-line ghetto, at best. The lesser, well - there's nothing in the first world to really compare those to, but that's not particularly new to me. I had higher expectations, but then I didn't do a lot of research on Moz like I had on other countries, for a number of reasons.

Worked in the WV offices here today but the work day ends mad early here. Off to have world-reknown seafood for dinner, then tomorrow we're flying north to a town called Quelimane, where we'll be with field ops for 3 days. Back here for Fri-Sat, back to ZA Sat night.

Also, think I might have pink eye. I almost went in for another Malaria test Sunday morning b/c I've been feeling like crap since Thursday night, but decided to power through it with lots of fluids, so I'm feeling a bit better, but my freaking eye is killing me. Anyone know if its bad to let PE go untreated a few days? Cause I ain't got a lot of options here. I think I'll go try to look that up.



Didn't get around to more than a couple of things this week, and next week will likely be the same story. Leave for Mozambique for work all week there tomorrow night. They've been getting a ton of flooding so its my first exposure to emergency relief field work, which I'm really looking forward to.

No idea what connectivity will be like there but its safe to expect less blogging next week. Back in ZA next Saturday night if all goes according to plan.


Some of the songs that the mp3 player pulled up yesterday, in its usual witty and sarcastic fashion:

Here I Go Again on My Own - White Snake (first song of the day. no joke.)

Love is a Losing Game - Amy Winehouse

Forever Blue - Chris Isaak

Decembers of Love - Imogen Heap

Lose You - Pete Yorn

Nothing Lasts Forever - Maroon 5

By Myself - Linkin Park

Yours and Mine - Fountains of Wayne

California Love - Tu Pac feat. Dr. Dre

Go Your Own Way - The Cranberries (cover)

You Still Love Me - Mindy Smith

Where'd You Go - Fort Miner

Let's Get It On - Marvin Gaye

Somebody's Baby - Phantom Planet (cover)

And of course...

Yellow Ledbetter - Pearl Jam (God might sometimes have a mean sense of humor, but He's always good.)


girls. digital cameras. ginger ale. rain when i'm running in the morning. 5 siblings. cheese. puppies. camoflague cargo shorts. fresh-cut grass. swimming pools on hot days. martial arts. providence rather than coincidence. skydiving. gravity. that i knew all of my grandparents and they all lived long lives. snow. skiing. working with high schoolers. the internet. so very much the internet. gmail. im. flickr. del.icio.us. my biblical namesake. well-read books. low cut backs on dresses. a clean house. the smell of soap on your skin. hot salsa. falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing. falling asleep on a wrap-around couch. falling asleep with your head on someone's lap. falling asleep. a well-timed foul word, where no other word would quite do the trick. sarcasm. movie quotes. egg rolls. enchiladas. guacamole. well-worn jeans. being a guy. the differences between the sexes. clean, neat architecture. bar tricks. ghetto slang. clever friends. adrenaline. quiet saturday afternoons. blogs. bacon cheeseburgers. wakeboarding. sailing. ivy-covered trellises. fishing. classic movies. my guitar. being in joburg the night that south africa won the rugby world cup. spirituality replacing religion. joy instead of happiness. the feeling you get in your stomach when you realize you're talking to a really cute girl. a well cut pin-stripe italian suit. steinbeck. wind-chill. really loud thunderstorms. rules. breaking rules. organic strawberry yogurt. new business ideas. helping someone when you know no one will ever find out about it. settling arguments between other people. not ever having to worry about money. photo-journalism. spurgeon, calvin, edwards, mlk jr, and lewis (not necessarily in that order). flirting. working up a good sweat. horses. the nfl. mountains. yosemite. sushi. a belt that perfectly matches the shoes. the inability of science to prove the existence of time. meteor showers. constellations. gentle kisses. hard kisses. kissing. fast cars. speeding, with the classical station blaring. classical hymns, preferably with a choral accompaniment. unconditional love. jack daniels. woodwork. secrets. swing dancing. cell phones. physical therapy. air conditioning. summer dresses. sunsets. being alone. being together. old ball caps. amazing grace. random facts. thin, white flowing curtains in the summer breeze. frequent flier miles. trains. surfing. beach volleyball. bonfires on the beach. anything on the beach. letting somebody else go first. skype. german shepherds. nyc. massages. texas hold-em. learning a new language. palm trees. ticklish sisters, also, wrestling with my brothers. theology. social networking. hip hop, rock, country, big band, techno, blues and most other types of music. running shoes. the way a girl's hair smells. being commended on a job well-done. letting go of grudges. forgiving people who never knew they wronged you. forgiveness. trader joe's, also, whole foods. the fact that the holidays only comprise a season, which has an end. founding fathers. flip flops. wet suits. surfboards. bikinis. tan lines. dostoyevsky. espn. somebody you can count on to be there for you. netflix. metafilter. power tools. a well-done shoe shine. people who honestly, earnestly want to do a good job, even if its just shining shoes. moleskines. non-greasy hand cream. my hearing disorder. electric toothbrushes. tacos. greece. shorts, and toned legs. and...


(this was based on a comment i put on another blog back at thanksgiving, last year, about things i'm thankful for, and i meant to post it here at some point. then it was christmas, and i still failed to get around to it. so, now its a list of things i love. and am thankful for.

on a holiday that has always been somewhat sublimely fashionable to hate - and being someone who's always been somewhat sublimely fashionable, i thought it might be a nice twist on things.

also, pitchers and catchers reported today. joy.)

Story time! Back to college.

So its the same year that I was still in the suite with Dave and Steve, the pimp pad. This, however, is not a story about the pimp pad. This is a story about how the passion palace came to be, and how that almost derailed a train. Literally.

So room draw comes along that year (drawing for my room for senior year) and I draw the 19th pick out of the entire senior class.

This was the same year the Pans lost their charter. The Pans were the rich-frat boy fraternity on campus, and they had all the best rooms in the best dorm, Alumni - the same one I was in for the Year of the Snake. I had actually been friends with some of them, so I had hung out in their rooms and whatnot, which made me uniquely privvy to their best kept secret:

The Pans' president's room.

For years untold (well, since the last time they lost their charter, at any rate), the Pans' had always had this block of rooms, and the diamond of the bunch always went to the frat prez. It was basically 2 double rooms, with a hallway and a bathroom in between them, and a small study room off the back end of the bigger double room.

BUT, the smaller double room was like an inch too small to be called a double by state regulations or something, and due to some other kind of regulation it couldn't be considered a single while it was attached to the other room via the small hallway between the two.

So basically 2 guys got 4 rooms to themselves.

The idea was to shove the all the beds, desks, and dressers into the smaller room, and then you had the massive other room for a huge lounge. The Pan's president and his lucky roommate had been successfully implementing this strategy for as long as they had been in possession of their charter. Which, conveniently, they no longer were.

Forced to pick room numbers with the rest of us independent plebs, they were all desperate to get that room with their highest pick. I like to imagine their emergency meeting before the room-draw, with the president raving about the room, spewing the fate that they would suffer if he didn't have his palace returned to him. Etc. Anyway, they were desperate, the 30 or so of them, to come away with just one high pick, one saving grace to get that room back. And so they picked with us, and then gathered outside the auditorium in a circle to determine their highest possible pick. Which was 60-something.

God was clearly frowning on them, along with the administration.

Of course they had carefully surveyed who had grabbed the top picks to see if any one of them might be a threat to their obtaining this room. At some point in the next couple of days, they must have logically worked through the first 18 guys with the assurance that none of them knew the secret of that room. The secret, you see, was that it was drawn on the map like a normal double-room. Nobody knew this. It was their holy grail.

So they figure all of those guys who got picks #1-thru-18 are going to go for rooms like "the palace," (yes there was actually a room by that name, which inspired me to name my room "the passion palace," for while it was infinitely better and more passionate, it was also a secret known to the privileged few). Singles, too, usually went pretty high in the room picking.

But then they get down to me, #19 on the list, and they know that I know.

And so they began to come, bearing gifts. Groveling.

The first offer was so insulting it immediately made my ultimate decision for me - they could end up offering me the moon, they weren't getting that little slip of paper with the 19 on it out of my grubby paws. But then of course the offers got better and better.

At one point it got up to 600 some dollars and they'd do all my chapel cards for me, and they'd give me their highest collective pick for #19. There might have been something else, even, I don't remember.

I do, however, remember politely declining it to my closest Pan buddy, on a quiet evening in the rows of computers in the Technological Learning Center (TLC). The look on his face was one of sheer desperation. He was their last emissary, and he had been denied his plea. We looked at each other and we both knew, then and there, that I had lost any friendship I may have had with any among their brotherhood.

It was a sad moment, but two minutes later I was over it. The previous year I had made the mistake of dating a sorority girl. But I learned from my mistake - I learned how you can instantly make 30 friends, plus all their boyfriends, and then instantly lose them as well. So this came as no surprise.

So that same evening, I caught up with a one Bo Bucklen, the chillest kid to ever go to my college. Chill was pretty much my number one qualification for a roommate to share the passion palace with me.

"Bo," I said..."I have a proposition for you." (In my best Frank Fagan impersonation, although Bo never knew him.)

Bo was a freshman at the time, and the prospect of living in the biggest double-room on campus with a senior in the year to come was obviously appealing. Under advisement that we would be under withering hatred from the Pans, and would have to watch our backs for the first month or two there til they got over it, Bo accepted.

One of the best things about that room was its location. Pop open the window, and you could hop out onto the roof, walk over across the building, jump out of the bushes and you were in the senior parking lot (the building was built into the side of a hill, essentially). This was convenient for getting to class in a hurry, but even more so for importing contraband into your room.

Which is when we decided that I needed to obtain a duffle bag that could conceal a case of beer.

Bo had a car, I had a license proving my legal age, it was a match made in heaven.
I quickly learned I studied best with a couple Icehouses and tuna fish sandwiches. I probably ate dinner in the cafeteria all of 10 times my senior year.

Bo came with a trio of friends - James, Brett, and sometimes Bob. Mostly James and Brett. It was a regular occurrence for me to show up on a Thursday or Friday afternoon (but sometimes a Monday or Tuesday...) and find the three of them standing around trying to look like they weren't waiting to ask me to take them to the beer distributor.

This is really the best part but its so horrible.

I was bitter, around that time, had just been dumped in a pretty odd fashion. So I was in a phase. A phase, with a phrase. It was a phrase from one of Dr. Dre's soliloquy - suffice to say it was a phrase that characterized my distrust of the fairer sex at that point in my life. The guys would ask me to get them beer, and I would force them to tell me what was the single most important lesson they would take away from our institution of learning.

After all, I was only repeating the wisdom of Dr. Dre.

So they would repeat the phrase, and then I'd pretend like I hadn't heard them clearly.

"Say it like you believe it. Say it like you want beer."

So they would and then off we'd go to the beer distributor. Sometimes they'd head off to a party, sometimes they'd stay in, and occasionally I'd celebrate the fact that we had beer along with them.

Well, one of those nights, we decided for a change of scenery from the room, but no one was in any state to drive anywhere. So we load the case up into the duffle bag and head down for the railroad tracks across the road from the school soccer fields. There was this old flatbed sitting there next to the main line, and it had a bunch of lumber on it. I remember it was my idea to go hang out down there and drink, but I don't remember why.

So there we are, sitting on the flatbed, sipping Yeungs, when all of a sudden the guys decide to start piling all of the lumber on the flatbed onto the main tracks, right next to the stationary car we were sitting on.

Its like 1 in the morning or something.

They're having a grand old time talking about how cool it will be to see the train plow through this, and I'm standing on the flatbed trying to determine just how bad of an idea this is (whilst opening another beer).

See, these were big thick boards of lumber. 2x4's and some even bigger. Like, posts. And there were a lot of them.

And that's about when my bionic right ear heard something in the distance.


They drop to the ground thinking its the cops pulling up.

Quiet...do you guys hear that?

The train whistle sounds again in the distance, and just then, way off where the tracks curved into the woods, I could see the light starting to shine on the trees.
Oh sh....

I start screaming at them to get the wood off the tracks before they derail the train and we all go to jail. Bo and James snap into instant sobriety and start ripping the lumber off the tracks like wild men. I jump down and start helping them and am promptly knocked in the head by a flying board.

The train has rounded the corner now and we can see his light, but he hasn't seen us yet, cause he's too far off. Roughly half the lumber is still on the tracks by the time I shake off the knock on the head and start helping again, and then I realize Brett isn't with us. WHERE'S BRETT I scream but nobody's listening.

I jump back up on the flatbed, run to the other side, and sure enough, there's Brett, crouching next to the case of beer, drinking and giggling. So I drag him back over to the pile and he starts helping us.

And that's about when the train sees us, and he lays on his horns and his brakes simultaneously, but by now he's bearing down on us and there's no way he's going to stop before he reaches where we're standing.

More screaming, more frantic removal of wood.

In the end we finished with maybe 10 seconds to spare, and then we had a very brief fight about what side of the tracks we should be on. Brett, James and I were on the flatbed side of the tracks, where we would be cut off from school once the train passed. Bo was on the school side. I was trying to get everyone to the school side so we could run and hide, but there was still beer left in the case, so Bo jumps over to the beer side and that was pretty much that.

The train goes flying by, still on his breaks and horn, we scramble over the flatbed, grab our beer, and start running up-tracks, opposite direction that the train was heading.

At some point it reached a stop, and we crawled through between the cars, and off into the forest and fields back towards campus, staying off the main roads.
that took a long time, but we made it back to the back side of the school parking lots, where we finished the beers and then walked back to my room.

We were worried for about a week that they'd finger-print the wood and come find us. There was a lot of research into how well finger-prints could be lifted off of untreated wood. Then someone pointed out that there were beer bottles there. That was a long Thursday.

But nothing ever came of it. And a month or two later, we had a new favorite drinking spot. The end.


I just had one of the best customer service experiences of my life.

Background: I've been a subscriber to Netflix since about the time I graduated from college (that's more than a couple years now, for those doing the math). I joined when they were just getting started, and opted for the 4-DVDs-out-at-a-time plan. I figured, knowing how horrible I am at returning movies on time, I was netting a savings with them, not having any late fees, at the end of the day. In fact, I even took pause to do the math at one point.

Netflix changed their pricing scheme (read: UP) in 2001 when things started getting lucrative, but all their old members got grandfathered in at their original prices, so ever since then I've been getting the 4-out (unlimited) plan at the same price that people now pay for the 3-out plan. Its been great. Considering all the traveling I've done in the last few years, I've probably saved hundreds in late fees I otherwise would have had to have paid to see as many movies so conveniently.

But then I leave for Africa. Netflix don't deliver here yet. Doh! No worries. I'll just put my account on vacation hold. Vacation hold has a max of 3 months. Doh!

So I figure I'll try to put it on hold again when the first one runs out, if they allow that. But, when my hold ran out a couple months ago, there was another problem - I had changed credit cards, and the one they had no longer would automatically work. Doh! So they started sending me emails on that. When I got my final warning today, I decided to finally call them and see if they'd help me sort this all out.

Well, I got Ryan on the phone. Ryan spoke flawless english, like a customer service phone rep for a company doing business primarily in the US should, naturally. After giving Ryan my particulars, I told him I had a unique problem, and then proceeded to explain the nature of a) my long-term travel to Africa, b) my years-long-loyalty to Netflix, c) my need to change my credit card information, d) my desire to extend my vacation hold until mid-April, and e) my desperate concern not to lose my coveted status as a 4-out member at the 3-out price.

Ryan took this all in stride. Reviewing my account history, he was amazed, and told me he's never seen any customer that's been with them this long. I beamed a little, not sure that I should be happy about that but I was all the same. Anyway, Ryan first got my new credit card sorted out. Then he told me he'd gladly put the account on hold until May, and I could open it any time before then that worked for me.

Then he gave me a full credit for the charge on my account for payment info being delinquent. THEN he gave me 2 months credit back on my account to thank me for my loyalty. He said he would have given me more but that was the max he could give me without cancelling my account, which would have lost my 4-out status.

He asked if he could do anything else and I told him I'd like to talk with his supervisor about my experience.

Just...wow. Lesson in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) from a professional in the field, folks - this is how you keep your customers, which as anyone in the field knows is a heck of a lot more profitable than getting new ones.


In the works this week:

- Retro- blogging my first Kruger Park trip as well as my work trip to Zambia.

- More story-time. Haven't decided what yet, but probably something from college. Probably the time we almost derailed the train my senior year.

- Possible but not probable: a story of a rather singularly impactful memory from my childhood. Not really story-time material here, but I've been working on it and trying to figure out how to make it of value in posting.

- A Valentine's day special. For a change.

- What's currently on my reading wish-list.

Today, however, its time to play a game.

This one is called "Where will we send me on an awesome vacation?"

I'll start. I have 2 weeks of vaykay time that, for various reasons, I need to take sometime around end-of-March, beginning-of-April. I was going to climb Kilimanjaro but its too close to the rainy season to risk it, so that's out (sorry Bo, et. al.). Although now I've done all my research for that, so if I stick around ZA long enough, that's still going to happen. Anyway...

I have some rather unique considerations:

- I can go pretty much anywhere on the planet. I'll be starting out in LA and need to end up back in Johannesburg. So, wheter I go east or west from LA, I have pretty much everywhere as options.

- I don't want to spend much money. Not only am I on this pro-bono program for a little while longer, but experiences of late are leading me towards living a significantly less selfish lifestyle once my salary bumps back up anyway. I neither need nor want a multi-thousand-dollar vacation.

- I've never done a real beach / ocean vacation except for the surfing trips in Baja, which kind of don't count. I'm thinking through a few options here: Zanzibar, Morocco, Fiji, and Rio De Janeiro being the front runners right now.

- Climbing in New Zealand is also another front runner.

- There's a chance that some of you non-losers might still come to SA and we can do the Namibia, Botswana, ZA, Swaziland, Mozambique, and maybe Madagascar thing. As you can probably guess from the nature of this post, I'm not banking on that option.

- There's also a chance that none of this will happen because I might end up spending the whole time volunteering with relief work up in Uganda, which is what I'm really hoping pans out.

Your turn. Ready, go.


Get the drawing up. Check.
Concussion story. Check.
Thoughts on questions. Check.
Retro-blog Nairobi and Masai. Check. Check.
Update on future plans.

4 out of 5 is not bad. That's a passing grade right there.

I'm pretty sure this is the most I've been writing in like...years, which is kinda scary. And I'm drawing. And playing stupid amounts of guitar. Its amazing what you can get done when you stop sleeping. I'm even almost back on track with work.

No big plans this weekend. Out in Joburg with some of the peeps last night, was pretty tired but it was worth heading out.

Today I banged out about a 10mi run and then dropped traveler at the office (traveler's my nick-name for the consultant-roommate who will be on the project through the end of the month), and I've spent the rest of the day outside a restaurant / coffee shop near our place, ganking their wireless broadband. I almost never see anyone here doing the same - its almost like its not worth it for them to have it if I'm the only person using it all week.

Anyway, tomorrow morning after church (might try another new one) I think I'm gonna head out to this lion park near Joburg and play with the cubs, then maybe find somewhere to knock off a few chapters of my latest book. Other than that I hope to get the desk all organized and back the laptop up and then defrag the frag out of it, but none of that is actually going to happen. Most likely.

I should have gone to Durbs for the weekend, that's what I should have done. There's a surf comp there and I'm missing it. Guess I'll just have to do that when I get back from Mozambique.

I'm tired and kinda numb and I guess so is my writing at this point.

And there is no update on future plans because I'm still pretty much right where I was a couple of weeks ago.


Retro- blogging. Kenya. Here we go.

Kenya was right around the end of September because I flew straight to Nairobi after my time in London. We had Kemi, the consultant that ended up leaving the project, in tow, and once we met up at the airport (different flights), we had a cab to the hotel, a change of clothes, and were off to WV's offices in a part of town called the Westlands. Nairobi was my first exposure to what I can only call darkest Africa. The thing with ZA is that its developed - its still got many 3rd world elements, but they're contained (for the most part) to certain cellular areas now. The places I spend most of my time here feel closer to a European setting, just with a major crime problem.

Back to Nairobi. Worked a couple of days out of the WV offices there, which are actually the regional offices for Africa, as well as the national offices for Kenya, Somalia, and Southern Sudan (the last two can't operate safely in their own countries). Mainly with technical staff so I didn't meet a lot of the functional people I've run into since. Thursday night we all headed out to Carnivore, a kind of novelty restaurant that you apparently have to go to if you're in Nairobi. Its this huge bbq pit basically and they're serving up all kinds of meats on skewers that were more like swords - the dudes carry the stuff around and then slice it off onto your plate for you. I had a lot, but the only exotic stuff they had that night was ostrich, crocodile, and something else I can't remember. Lots of other stuff though too.

Also, I had a first. I was the project lead and I made the executive decision to whip out the AmEx and treat everyone to dinner. Now, I've charged in plenty of dinners before, but all after getting the nod from some SE who I knew would back me on getting the few-hundred-to-few-thousand $ charged in. Except for that one project where we were out all the time but that doesn't really count. Anyway, this was the first time I went ahead and picked up the tab knowing I was the guy who I needed to ask about it. So I asked me, and I said yes, and I did it. Go me.

On Friday I caught a mini-bus type safari deal thing with a number of strangers / new friends off to Masai Mara. There was an Irish guy and gal who were both down on a volunteer work project, as well as an American gal volunteering at an orphanage outside of Nairobi, an older French dude who was in town as a lecturer, a Polish couple on vacation, and an Asian guy about my age from San Jose, of all places. And there was our guide, who I think was Nathanael, but that's scratched out on one of my shabby folded pieces of note-ery that I still have to find in my growing pile of them, when I find some time to clean the desk, hopefully this weekend.

The drive there was pretty interesting. It was long and the roads were not very good, where they did exist. In some places, you weren't really sure if they did. We stopped for a lunch of goat stew and a corn/bean mash mix thing. After leaving Nairobi it was pretty clear that we were striking well out into the real 3rd world at that point. We started passing small Masai villages and came across the occasional small town, and probably 6-7 hours outside of Nairobi, we arrived at the edge of the national park, where our camp was. We got there in time to do a quick evening drive, but didn't see a ton, although I saw my first ostrich (in Africa, that is).

That night at the camp, our camp security - local Masai teens that were there to keep out animals that might come in and eat us - did some local dance type stuff for us which was pretty cool. Then one of them showed me a lion's tooth on a necklace. From a lion he killed, with his spear and sword. Yes, I most certainly would like to buy that, thank you very much. Carolien broke it when I showed it to her a week or two later, and I still need to get it back from her. Its as long as my index finger, and the coolest thing I've acquired whilst here.

The next day we did a full-day drive, which included getting over into Tanzania, as well as seeing my first Hippo, and finally my first Cheetah. Also saw the post-migration - not the actual migration itself but rather where they had migrated to and were now hanging out. Pretty cool to see Gnu and Buffalo in such massive numbers. Also, we stopped at a lodge in the middle of the park for drinks / shopping, but I stayed close to the van because there were suspicious looking monkeys around and I didn't want my stuff messed with. Let's be honest - what monkeys aren't suspicious looking? In fact, forget the looking part - monkeys are just plain suspicious. My suspicions were quickly confirmed.

Next thing I know, I'm the lone defender of our stuff in the van, doing battle with endless hordes of hungry shrieking demon beasts, with their little claws and fangs. And beady little eyes filled with human-hate. Coming in the van through the windows, sunroof, the door, it was seriously like something out of a Steven King novel. Soon they had driven me from the van, but not without my gear. I fought as long as I could, but I just couldn't get all the bags out. There came a point when I had to save myself. Some of the food in the Polish couple's bag had to be sacrificed. Such were the gruesome costs of war with the spawn of Satan.

When we got back to the camp that evening I went and toured the Masai village across the road from our camp - it was pretty cool to see how they live, build their homes, make their fires, herd their animals, etc..

Next day was a morning drive, highlighted with my first big male lion sighting. He was sitting about 10m from the butt-end of a zebra. That was all that was left there, nothing from that end up. No bones, no head, nothing. Just the butt.

Saw a lot more lion, and a lot of elephant. Then I got on a plane back to Nairobi, not envying my new friends their long drive back. Here's how bad the roads are - that 6-7 hour drive out took exactly 30 minutes to fly. On a prop plane no less.

Had some time to blog at the lounge at the Nairobi airport, which was one of the first blogs I wrote from Africa, way back in September, which is kinda when I about started retro-blogging anyway, so that means I'm starting to get a bit repetitive and there won't be many more of these types of posts, because pretty soon I'll be all caught-up and actually real blogging instead, for a change. Theoretically.



Late last year I had been doing some informal research on asking good questions, with a very little bit of the very little free time I had. For some reason, I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to be a better question asker - I want to be more like my friends who are good at getting other people to talk about themselves. I think it probably had something to do with the whole introvert's manifesto I wrote. Anyway.

Here's a few I've come up with. They range from the theoretical, to the comical, to the deep, but I've found all of them to work well in one situation or another, at some point. (I've included my personal answers to the questions below each, in parens - now that I've shared mine, I expect to be recompensed accordingly.)

Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible?
This question is a personality thing, and I can usually guess with 75%+ accuracy what a person is going to say before I ask it. (Flying would be pretty awesome, but I'm still going with invisible on this one.)

The two things: What are the two things about X?
This one is situational. You can use it about someone's line of work, for instance - what are the two things about advertising? 1. Get their attention. 2. Overwhelm them with charm. You can apply it to whatever the topic of conversation at hand is, really. Its like a game. (The two things about me: 1) Where am I going? 2) Why am I in this hand-basket?)

Similarly: What's the best and worst thing about X?
I learned this one from a friend who asked me what the best and worst part of my day had been. Situational, like the last one. (The best thing about my work is the client. The worst part is trying to get time with them.)

How much would you sell a kidney for? Assume you will not be told what it will be used for, if anything.
Pretty self explanatory. ($750k, but that's my minimum, I'd start out asking twice that)

The "or's":
Cats or dogs?
Creamy or crunchy?
Mac or PC?
Sugar or salt?
Superman or Batman?
White or wheat?
Paper or plastic?
Tent or hotel?
Pirates or ninjas?

Simple enough here. The last one is kind of an important one, clearly. The nice thing here is that you can elaborate any of them into more extended discussion. (dogs, creamy, PC - but only cause I'm a poor working man, salt, Batman, wheat, paper, tent, and...wouldn't you like to know.)

Related: Ok, so bird flu or SARS or whatever wipes out the human population (like gone) leaving practically the entire rest of the ecosystem intact. Bears and primates battle for dominion over dry land. Who wins?
I can't take credit for this one but I still love it. Rules include: 1) No peaceful solution. 2) No write-in candidates. 3) We left all our toys behind. (Bears.)

What are you reading right now?
This one works better with people who read. Unlike the first one, above, I usually can't predict with great certainty what the answer will be, which is fun. I can, however, usually determine who will be able to answer this one well. (A Prayer for Owen Meany, Blink, and The Problem of Pain.)

Where were you on 9/11?
I would never bring this one up but its an interesting one if the subject is already on the table. (Trying to get out of a frenetic downtown Pittsburgh while the 3rd plane flew over us.)

What are you passionate about?
Good one, but not for a lead in. Comes out later. (War relief work in Africa. Social theory & the Tech generation. Also, writing.)

What scares you?
This is one of my very favorite if you can get people to be honest with the answer(s). (2 things: Being sedentary and out of shape. Not making a positive difference for the world before I die. That's really it, I have a healthy fear of pretty much nothing else.)

Do you think we're alone in the cosmos?
Can only use this one on the especially bright, otherwise it sounds like a joke. (No - but I don't think we'll ever get the real answer in this life.)

What would you hope your tombstone would say?
Can be sentimental but is often interesting. ("Died gallantly.")

What do you think happens to you when you die?
This is my favorite one to use with people with whom I'm unfamiliar on their spiritual leanings. Has started some really great conversations. (You go to heaven, or hell. Forever.)

Would you rather be fabulously rich and of average intelligence or vice versa?
I like this one because then I get to speculate how honest the person really was about going with fabulous intelligence. (Intelligence.)

Related: Do you think your above average (in any category, and if so, which ones)? (Yes. At being accident-prone.)

What's your favorite color and list three adjectives why. Remember adjectives are descriptive words, not nouns or phrases.
I like this one because its a bit of a trick. Once they answer it you explain to them that the adjectives are really things they think about themselves. Not to be used everywhere, better in crowds where you're comfortable. (Blue. Relaxed. Flexible. Incredibly sexy.)

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
Another one I get surprisingly wide responses to. (Start my own business, run for office, write the next great American novel, and go talk to that rather incredible girl across the bar.)

There's quite a few more I've come up with, but for brevity's sake I won't go into too much detail:
Who would you spend a day with if they could spend one with anyone? (My sister Margy, right now - this one changes from time to time though.)
What one thing would you want with you if you were stuck on a desert island? (A satellite phone.)
What's your favorite type of art, and why? (Late American Painters. Because.)
How would you choose to die, if you could? (Blaze of glory.)
What could you not live without? (Internet, running shoes, and avocados.)
What are your pet peeves? (Lines, also traffic. Lazy grammar. Ignorance.)
What do you think you're best at? (Driving. Doing nothing.)

But here's one of my favorite new ones I came up with:

You die. You show up in heaven, and St. Pete tells you that "the way things work up here is this: you get to pick one day from your life and re-live it, over and over again." What day do you pick? (Still trying to decide on this one.)


It is now time to talk about the concussion.

That's not an entirely accurate way to put it. There have actually been a lot of concussions. More than is healthy for one person to have, but that's just one of those it-is-what-it-is situations, not much I can do about it now, except maybe try not to have many more (I've done real good, haven't had any in a couple years now! Knock on wood! Just not with my head, that is...).

But this is a discussion about one concussion in particular. This was one of the worse ones. Technically I think the worst ones were the ones where I blacked out - I'm no neuro doc but it seems to me that smashing your skull hard enough to make consciousness depart your mortal carcass for a few minutes is probably on the worse end. This concussion, however, did not (to my limited memory of it) involve a loss of consciousness.

That's the funny thing about this concussion, however - I can't remember it very well, because the physical affectation in this case was a loss of short term memory, rather than a loss of consciousness.

If you've never lost your memory, don't bother. Its decidedly something one should not want to lose. Actually, the experience of doing so made me a great deal more sympathetic to the issue at large (from the pithy - movies like Memento, et. al., to the more serious - Alzheimer's, et. al.). Losing your memory is, if nothing else, quite a frightening prospect. Its rather hard to define why, but the best way to attempt it would be to say that losing your memory is tantamount to losing your identity, in a sense. If you lose the ability to recall at will the basic summation of life experiences that comprise who you are - what you do for a living, where it is that you live, who your friends and family are, etc. - well, you've lost who you are. You've lost yourself.

Thankfully, I only lost a little bit of mine, but even that was enough of a glimpse of the precipice to keep me from wandering too close to it again in the future, by choice. Well, for the most part, at least - I still struggle with the temptation to jump off of things, almost daily. Yes, I realize this is probably some kind of disease in its own right. No, I do not want to be cured of it. So, back to my memory loss. Enough with the prelude and tell the actual story already...

I was skiing. I looked around and I could tell that I was on the side of a mountain,
standing on snow, and I still had a ski on my left foot. It was cold, but sunny, and although there were no chairlifts in sight to confirm it, I was certainly skiing on ski resort territory, as opposed to backcountry. I could tell that from the wide swath cut in the trees and the mounds of snow uphill from me that had to have been constructed by snow cats.

So, I must be in the terrain park. That's where I am. I am in the terrain park. I must have just eaten a landing, but it wasn't that big of a hit - how did I miss stomping it? Doesn't seem like a jump big enough to make me...

That's when I saw the kid. He was standing there, now just off to the side of the landing zone for the hit I was standing at the bottom of. He was looking at me with wide eyes but not saying anything.

Missing the kid was the first (and, pretty much, the last) memory that came back to me. I had been lining up to throw a 540 fakie landing (spin 1.5 times and land backwards), and as I was just about to lift off, I see the kid come flying out of the trees on the side of the run, headed directly across the landing zone that my trajectory would be depositing me in exactly 2 seconds later. I had just enough time to re-correct the torque I was throwing my body into for the spin before I left the ramp, so for the most part I was able to keep my body aimed at the landing while in the air. But the sudden change of plans had thrown my weight back on my skis and no amount of rolling down the windows was going to get me on top of my feet for the landing - all I could do was try to make sure one of my skis didn't hit the kid first and cut him cleanly into 2 smaller kids, each with less limbs. I had heard stories of dudes who had done this, horrible bloody stories of red snow everywhere for days after. Manslaughter trials. No joke. I was in mid air and I was freaking out.

I landed hard on the back of the kid's skis. Had he been a foot further under me he would have been crushed, I had my skis out of the way but my body hitting him like that probably would have collapsed most of his torso. I bounced hard and then rolled, and came up rather quickly onto my feet with the one ski still on my left foot.

And the first thing that came to my mind, as I stood there shaking it off, was that I had absolutely no idea where the heck I was. I did not know where on the planet I was standing, or how I had gotten there, or what I was doing there, or who I was doing it with. Every ounce of context had vanished. So I stood there, dumb, until I saw the kid, which brings us back to real time, in the story.

Rage consumed me rather instantly. I stomped on my left binding with my free right foot and then I started straight at the kid, telling myself I would not hurt him but I was going to drag him rather forcefully to ski patrol and have his ticket yanked and have him remanded to day care for the rest of the day where he could pose no further threat to anyone on the mountain. I was pissed, and the kid saw it, and started trying to pole away, but I was already on top of him, and had him by the back of his coat.

Right about when I grabbed him, however, was when I started to realize just what a haze I was really in at the moment. I distinctly remember having the realization that I had bigger problems than corralling this idiot kid at the moment, and I just kind of let him go and stood there. I guess maybe he slid off at that point, but I don't remember very clearly. I think I just stood there for a while trying to decide what to do. I'm not sure if anyone talked to me or not, but at some point I had my gear back on and was skiing down the mountain, having made the rather clouded decision that I should probably go find ski patrol and tell them that I wasn't sure where I was or how I got there.

The next thing I remember I was outside the door of ski patrol. I must have been having some kind of mental problem with kicking my gear off and storing it, because I remember a ski patroller grabbing my skis, and then grabbing me by the shoulders, steadying me, and helping me walk into triage, or whatever you call it on a mountain.

The doc lady took one look at my eyes and said "Whoa," which must have meant I was as about as dilated as a boy can be. I remember she smelled nice and I must have been a bit more uninhibited than usual, so I told her so. Then they laid me down and did a once over for other injuries, but I kept telling them it was just my memory, and nothing hurt. So she starts asking me questions, beginning with the requisite "How many fingers am I holding up, and then moving on to the more interesting probing of my now non-existent memory.

What's your name?

David. David Knowles. I live and work in the New York City area. I don't know how I got here.

Where are we?

We're at a ski resort. But I don't know where. We're in America. You're American. (Bright, I know.)

Do you know what day it is today?


Do you know what month it is?

(deliberating pause) No. Its sometime in winter. (Continuing with the bright theme. She was kind of cute too, so I was trying to impress her maybe, I think.)

Do you know what year it is?

Its 2004! (Yay, go me! It had been a memorable New Years, and it suddenly occured to me that New Years was the first thing I could clearly remember.)

Are you here with anybody today?

I don't know. Probably? I still don't know where here is. Where am I?

You're in Vermont. You're at a ski resort in Vermont, you've had a fall and a pretty serious concussion. What's the last thing you remember about this trip, or before it?

("New Years," I thought but didn't say. I thought about it, hard, for a minute. It hurt to concentrate that hard.) I remember I was at work the other day. It was a Thursday, I think, and I left work early. I...I can't really remember anything after that.

Good, that's good. (She wasn't very convincing.)

Wait, so what day is it then?

Its Saturday. Try to remember if you came here alone or with people, can you remember how you got here?

(Its SATURDAY? Where the heck did Friday go??? - this would be a question that I would never really be able to answer, although my friends told me about it, later. I wasn't sure how much of what they told me I believed, though.)

Can you remember who you came here with? She interrupted my pondering and positioned herself between me and the wall I was staring at and tried to get me to focus on her. I think this was when the pain started kicking in, so I was fading.

(I came back around for a few seconds...) No. Not really.

Try. Did you talk to anyone recently? Do you have a phone?

(A cell phone! That's a good idea. Wait. Mine's not in my pants. I took it out. I always take it out when I ski, ever since I shattered that one in the half pipe in Breckenridge. I wonder where I put it. I wish I had my cell phone.) No. No. I don't have my phone. I don't know where it is.

OK. You need to stay here for a while. Why don't you lay down?

I think I kind of started to drift off but I distinctly remember them making sure that I stayed awake, which was incredibly annoying, because I can't really remember ever wanting to sleep so bad in my life.

The rest of the day was still kind of hazy. At some point started using one of their cell phones to call whatever numbers I could remember. I started with Grace, Grace would be in the city, tied to her desk at KPMG, which she basically never left. Grace might know where I went, but Grace didn't answer her cell phone. I may have remembered a couple other numbers, but didn't reach anyone, and was down to my last option: call home and tell them what happened.

I couldn't bring myself to do it. Mom would freak before I could get the explanation out, and I was in no state to sort things out after that. I asked pretty doctor lady to talk to her for me. I think she did, and eventually I was talking to a relatively calm mom, telling her who I could think of to try and call who might know who I had come to Vermont with, so that the ski resort could try and find them. Somehow (I have no idea how), we eventually figured out I had come up with Fal and Marcy. I must have left them at some point to go hit up the terrain park, and that's when I had my run-in with the ground.

Marcy and Fal found me at the end of the day, still in a daze. Marcy is a physical therapist or something similar so after talking with pretty doctor lady she returned and declared to Fal and I that our trip was over and they were taking me home.

I still, to this day, can not remember any of that Saturday before hitting that jump, or anything from the Friday that came before that Saturday, or the Thursday night before that. I remember work, and leaving it, but I don't remember meeting up with them, driving up, what we did on Friday or Friday night, who we stayed with, where we ate, nothing. We did it all, I'm quite sure, but I have a blank spot where those memories should be. The next real thing in my mind is that freaking kid.

So, yeah. I wasn't wearing a helmet. It was a jump that I would never need a helmet for unless something freaky like that happened, but something freaky like that happened, that time. I've worn a helmet for the most part when I've been riding in the parks ever since, but I've never since needed it, which is annoying. I don't like wearing the cumbersome thing, and the more I ride, the more laid-back (and less helmet-needing) I get, except for when I'm bombing runs, when I should probably be wearing one anyway.

That's the story, about as clearly as I can remember it. In retrospect, if I had been a little more on the ball, I would have dragged that kid to ski patrol, and I probably would have done a better job of hitting on the doctor.


A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is built for. - William Shedd

Here's the thing.

I don't write anything too vital on here. Never have, except maybe (at points few and far between) in my weaker moments. Most times, however, I'm strong enough to remain aloof. Or maybe strong isn't the right word. I'm not really sure.

It was one of the first things I ever blogged about, actually - I realized very early on that if I started writing things out there on the internet, people would read them. And some of these people might actually be people I know. Worse yet, some of these people might actually be people who know me.

Knowing a person is a funny thing. At the end of the day, we all want to be known. Its the spiritual longing that has been placed inside of us and none of us can claim to be any bigger than such things, as much as we might like to. We all have it, and most of us in the same ways. We are inherently designed to be known, and to know. But in a cosmic irony of sorts, we're cursed with a self-defeating drive to not let ourselves be known. We run from that - truth and honesty and all the horrid vulnerability that sneaks in behind when you open up the door for such things. Community has become not a place where you can go to be really known, but a place where you can go to enjoy being around a lot of other people who all have the same struggle of wanting something they aren't about to risk letting themselves have.

And yet, sometimes (I have absolutely no idea if "often" would be an accurate substitute here), when real opening up does happen in the context of a community (or a person, I suppose) that is cognizant to the gravity of the revelation, there's a certain something that clicks. Its the mutual realization - experience, really - of the what I'll call the "Me too!" effect. People see the vulnerability and it touches that place in them that is yearning but so carefully restrained. And sometimes they even respond, in kind.

Of course, this isn't always the case. Take me, for instance. I could pour out my struggles and all the secret shames I carry around with me (just like anyone else reading this sentence does their own). No, really, I could. I know this because at least some of those are blog posts in draft form that I have already written. And as poignant and striking as some of these cobbled thoughts may be, most of them will likely never be seen by eyes other than my own. Because that is what keeps things safe. That is what will not rock the boat.

I suppose this is why psychology is an industry that remains constant. We all run around trying to pretend like we have it all together and we can handle everything the world is throwing at us. And sooner or later most of us reach the point where we can't even pull that off anymore, and the next thing you know you find yourself pouring it all out to some (relative) stranger that you're actually paying to act as if they could be the accepting form of community/person that you actually really need. I am certainly making a sweeping generalization of a field that has many noted merits, but the point remains. And, of course, counseling isn't the only alternative people turn to when they lose the ability to hold onto all the ropes at once.

I had a girlfriend who once told me that I'm a hard person to know. I remember not really liking the fact of the matter, but I liked the statement for the simple fact that I knew it was deadly accurate, even if I didn't want it to be. And, that sucks, because I'm like everyone else - I was supposed to be known, too. But we don't all get to have that, at least not in this life. A lot of people do, and sometimes it even works out for them, which is great. But not everybody. I do not understand why this is such a hard concept for people to accept.

I'm trying to accept it myself, but in different ways, now. I think maybe I'm a lot closer than I used to be, but every time I think that, I eventually find myself looking back and recalling in a way I couldn't have grasped then just how far I still was from it. Another irony lies herein - letting go is sometimes a hell of a lot harder than hanging on.

This year I'd like to get some more brutally honest posts up. I have no idea if I will, but at least this is a start.

After all, last year I said I'd like to go work in Africa.

And that's what I drew yesterday. I'll call it "alone" - I like how it was a place for people but there weren't any there. Its from the deck of the lodge I was at this weekend with the rent's at Kruger park. There was (and is, in the picture) a giraffe in the distance. This one was done as a gift too, for Hine, our guide while we were there, who showed us a great time and made some nice compliments on the sketches I was doing in my moleskine whilst there. I drew most of this in about 2 hours yesterday, which is still blowing my mind.
Disappeared for a bit there. Rents got back from Cape Town on Wednesday night, and after picking them at the airport (they leave the "up" out of "picking up" here), we had dinner in Pta and then the next morning we were off for Kruger bright and early.

I had my regular run in with the local fuzz and did the normal "Oh the police station is really far and I might be able to help you out some other way"-type-bribe thing and we were back on our merry way. Got to Kruger and had INCREDIBLE sightings on the way in - all the normal stuff (Zeb, Gir, Gnu, Kudu, Impala, Buff, even a Hippo) but the real star of the drive in was A BABY LION CUB ALL BY HIS LONESOME. Pictures are all on my parents cam so you'll just haveta wait for those. Serious awesomeness.

Had an evening drive Thurs, morning and long afternoon / evening drive Fri (where we saw something I've NEVER seen which I will save for the retro-blog when I get to it), and a super-early morning drive on Saturday before we showered up and left for JNB, where they caught their flight home. Good times.

Today was the normal. Whatever that is. Tried a new church on a whim. Didn't really work out. Oh and I blew my own mind with what I was able to draw in 2 dedicated hours or so.

Drawing always tells me something about where I'm at. Its usually "I have no idea where I am at." Which is pretty much spot on at the moment.

Up this week:

- today's drawing, once I finish shadowing it and get it scanned
- story-time: the memory-loss concussion
- thoughts on questions (it'll make more sense when I write it)
- retro-blogging: Nairobi and Masai Mara
- an update on future plans and how I have no idea where things are going (maybe)
- who knows, I'll be impressed if I even get to 3 of the last 5