Thursday, May 31, 2007

Reporters on the Job

The Jpost condensed all my Tales stories into a single place, in their blog column. They put it under the "Reporters on the Job" blog. http://blogcentral.jpost.com/

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Through the eyes of Ansel

Mountains don't seem nearly as majestic, nor streams as crystal and meandering, as through the eyes and lens of Ansel Addams. Through his lens, clouds hang weightless yet deliver heavy shadows onto the vast landscape. Snow blankets with a barren warmth (if that isn't a paradox...). Leaves leave depth in profundity.

Meanwhile in the gardens of the Eastman House, blue flowers hang like grape vines above the purple flowers and oriental poppies. The wind shimmers the white-flowered bushes, as trees of contrasting hue rustle a soft chime on the breeze. I sit in the clutches of the gnarled palm of a secluded tree, above a the pit-like acorn shells. The crunch of the acorns bring nostalgia of the peach pit gardens of a cherry farm near the Eastern Cape of South Africa, while the words of Hesse run through my head. "Solitude is independence", sayeth the Steppenwolf.

Negative cells of a camera phone save fractal images as the Muse feeds me ideas of Ansel imitation. I am reminded that I need few things, save sunlight, shade and breeze. Stone solitude and simple beauties that take me far away in a delicate day dream.

The Toledo Scale of Justice

I'm up in Rochester for my sister's graduation from college. She is graduating from Rochester Institute of Technology, with a degree in crafts (ie jewelry making and metal working). I thought I was going to get to see Bill Clinton speak for her graduation, but he apparently spoke on Friday before we arrived. Meanwhile, my brother and I came within a few moments of missing my sister walk. She went early for her graduation, and her boyfriend Drew was supposed to take us a little later. He slept through the alarm, and both Harry and I were fast asleep. We managed to arrive to campus, hop on a golf cart with an Indian family and enter the reception just as they were announcing "Parker"- about three names just in time.

Meanwhile, the story of the weekend was about these two RIT students, Matt and Chris, who got arrested and made the nightly news for trespassing at an abandoned building. Like something out of a ghost story, there is an old abandoned photo paper factory on the outskirts of town. Matt and Chris are art students who decided to go to the old factory to find some artifacts. Apparently students come and go from the place every so often to take photos of the place, or snag objects for their art projects. The story gets a little bizarre because the city took over the site a decade ago, and never boarded up this apparently biohazard zone. Matt and Chris had been at the site for about fifteen minutes, they found a big Toledo scale and were moving the scale to their truck. A toledo scale is one of those big weighing scales that you might find at a packing store or something along those lines. As they were getting ready to leave, they found a security guard blocking the exit with his vehicle. Then a k-9 cop unit appeared, followed by three more cop cars, who said a hazmat unit was on the way. Then two fire trucks, another cop, three ambulances and the hazmat unit.

The police accused them of breaking and entering and running over the downed gate with their truck, even though there was no trespassing signs and gate was already down. Apparently the site was a biohazard zone that the city had taken over years ago but not boarded up. Since the guys had been inside, the police decided to hose them down. Matt and Chris were forced to strip and hosed down with the fire hose like it was Chicago '68. Meanwhile, since the toledo scale was in their truck, the firemen took the hose to their truck- flooding the engine and destroying the inside cabin.

The cops were still freaked out by the prospect of Matt and Chris glowing with toxins, so they were taken to the hospital to be decontaminated. After further decontamination, they were taken down to the station- in paper scrubs, and interrogated and charged with felony burglary and grand larceny. They spent the night in jail, still in paper scrubs. Since they came in too late to be arraigned the next morning, they spent the next day as well in jail. The threat of being contaminated augured well for these two skinny, pierced white kids who are not so imposing compared to everyone else in jail. Nobody messes with someone who is possibly a walking toxic waste dump.

Meanwhile, they were all over the news and newspaper. The nightly news had them as the number three story, behind President Clinton speaking and RIT graduation. So Matt was supposed to go to Australia in two weeks, but now must wait for a hearing in six weeks. There is a good chance they will get the charges dropped because there were no signs of private property, hazardous site or even city property. If the place was so toxic, the city needed to take a little better care of the place. A final note on the story, ironically in the middle of the reception hall for post-graduation snacks, there happened to be a toledo scale.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Picture of Dorian Rockower

My tenure at Magnificent Publications ended yesterday, due to a slow patch with a lack of work for me. No bother, as I am working as a research assistant for my old professor Moshe Ma'oz. I had him as a visiting professor at Brandeis. He is now at Harvard as a visiting professor there. I am working as his research assistant on a project called "The Children of Abraham," dealing with commonalities between Jews, Muslims and Christians. My line of research deals with Pakistan, its tacit relations with Israel, perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and views on Jews. So, now I am working at Hahvahd.

I was down at the Library of Congress to do some research on a grey Friday. I arrived to the Jefferson building, but was told I need a registration card. I had a registration card dating back to some research I did for a Decisive Battles class my senior year of high school. I was writing a paper on the Battle of Thermopylae, ie the new movie "The 300." I spent a lot of time down at the LOC that spring, around this time some nine years ago. When I went to renew my registration, I was given the option to use the same picture. I did, and the id card that popped out was an image of the past. It was me, only nine years previous.

Staring out at the present me was a younger version of me, a baby face with a big mop of curls and a youthful glint in his eyes. I compared it to my current drivers license and laughed. Same lips-pursed smile. Nine years ago. The picture looking at me hadn't even been accepted to Brandeis yet. My lord, these nine years have been good to me. Roughly three years studying at Brandeis; roughly three years studying and wandering abroad; roughly three years working for the Israeli Foreign Ministry down in Texas. This portrait is for you, Oscar Wilde. An image frozen in history, crystallized and left on the shelves of time in the Library of Congress.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Nobama campaign

The Press office of the Barack Obama campaign finally called me back! But...my little brother Harry was asleep when they called, and has no idea who it was who on the other end. He got the number right for the message, but can't remember who called me. He vaguely remembered someone named "Lisa." I called the Obama Press office back, and they have no one named Lisa working for them, and had no idea who called me. Aaargh, so close... With a little luck, maybe I can track down whoever called me. If not, it looks like I am moving to Argentina. Or gee, maybe they will just call again...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Regarding my question of writing a book

As stated by James Michener: "In America, a writer can make a fortune...but not a living."

Monday, May 07, 2007

The commute

I have come to love the commute. It remains the best part of my day. I love sitting on the metro, surrounded by the ethereal silence, and filled with the enjoyment of Naguib Mafouz's Sugar Street. Even though the train is full, there isn't a sound except for the train rushing from station to station. Near-perfect silence amid so many people, only a heavyset black man in front of me gently snoring as his head dozes. Doors closing.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A return to writing

After my trip ended, I thought I would try to let the muse slumber. I figured I would take a break from the writing for a while. But sitting in my parents' garden, sipping a shiner bock and reading "My name is Red," by Orhan Pamuk, I felt her wake from her torpid rest. As the sun shone down and warmed my face, and I sat listening to the spring breeze gently rustle the leaves and white and purple (news to me) azaleas. All the while, the subtle sunlight cast shadows over the lawn, as black shadows painted spots on the freshly-mowed green grass, as subtle clouds filled the soft blue sky. I felt maybe it was time to return to my cathartic relief from the plague of ideas.

Life back in America is different, to say the least. It lacks the passion and difficulties I grew so used to. No dodging frantic cabs or frantic hustlers. It is so quiet here. I find myself dealing with mind-numbing mediocrity of existence here. Call it American Angst. I am also finding it hard to come up with any good ideas for what I should or could do here. My quest to find a job with the Obama campaign has not yet borne fruits. Even with great contacts, I still haven't been able to find the door to get my foot in.

It's a hard transition from meeting new people and trying new foods and things every day, to a somewhat stagnant existence. Can it be that I am only really happy when I am in motion?

I keep hearing over and over again from many different people that I should write a book, but I find the task daunting. What separates my meanderings from all the other travelogues that fill Barnes and Nobles? Does the literary world really need another copy of self-discovery-filled pages that happens across a multitude of miles? Meanwhile, I only lackadaisically pursued media outlets to discuss my adventures. I didn't really care enough to push my story upon the local news editors.

But it is nice getting to digest the adventure. I still get so animated when I begin to discuss my tales. A welcome back to the blog for me. Now back to sublime pleasures of good literature and drink on a lazy Sunday.