Not quite writer’s block…

Actually, I suppose the phrase “writer’s block” implies that I haven’t been writing when, in fact, I’ve turned out a fair amount of copy in the last few days… Just nothing that I would think of as blog-worthy. Predominantly, it has been for class or for work, but I have found a few moments to do some writing purely for my own purposes and have found it as satisfying as ever. Some days I think I may have missed my calling and should have made a career of thinking on a topic, reading a little, writing, and then repeating the process until I have a new idea worked out. As I understand it, though, that job description is a little hard to come by and the pay scale sucks. One thing I have found is that a business degree has very little resemblance to actual academics and it’s nice to get back to thinking about issues of history and politics, even if no one but me will ever read the end results.

The rule of three…

You always hear the old saying that bad things come in threes… here are mine so far for this week:

#1 Jeep overheating… probably needs a new radiator. OK, I can deal with that.

#2 No hot water pressure in my shower… annoying, but the plumbers were here all afternoon and everything seems to be working again.

#3 Home security system on the fritz… Called alarm company… They are out of business.

This is the point in the week where my blood pressure probably recorded a new personal best and I should consider spending the next few days sitting in the dark watching trashy television, eating chips, and drinking ever so tasty rum drinks.

Ever have one of those days when you’re convinced the world is conspiring against you?

“Ambivalent” should be a 4-letter word…

I was always under the impression that taking a vacation was suppose to leave you refreshed and ready to take on the world again. At the moment, though, all I am feeling is pure, unadulterated ambivalence. I can’t get back into the routine… and worse yet, I really don’t give a shit. Forgive me… this is kind of a new experience for me. Usually, I want to run a hundred miles an hour with my hair on fire, but lately all I really want to do is sit in my big comfy chair and watch Buffy on DVD.

I’m not going to lie to you people… I’ve been doing the bare minimum to scrape by at work and really not even doing that for my class. And I find the whole experience a little disturbing. I want to be the guy who has lots of fire in his belly. I want to get back to knowing the all the answers before anyone gets around to asking the questions. I’ve got to get my head back in the game. Balance has never been my forte and once the stress level cranks back up a few notches, I think things will sort themselves out.

Note to self…

It’s good to be reminded from time to time that at some level, I’m basically a hermit. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing… Just one of those little personality quirks I’ve come to actually appreciate in time. Every time I start to think that maybe I’m missing something, life throws a gentle nudge to put things back in the proper perspective. Nice work life. Nice work, indeed.

Appropriate areas of federal responsibility… or not so much.

Beginning this year, the evacuation of pets during declared emergencies will be a national priority for the United States government. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, Fluffy, Fido, and Aunt Gurtie’s pet python Stretch will be evacuated right along with Ma and Pa Dipshit who were too stubborn to get out of the way of the next hurricane.

Evacuating people, of course, I’ll buy off on that as a legitimate responsibility of government. Preservation of life is precisely one of the major tenants of the social contract that makes government legitimate. And while I know Fluffy, Fido, and Stretch are “like members of the family,” a quick review of your high school biology (that’s right, the good old kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species definitions), you’ll quickly be able to determine that they are not, in fact, a member of your family. They are pets and some of them are even downright loveable, but getting them out of harm’s ways is not a legitimate responsibility of the federal government (i.e. your fellow citizens). Ensuring the safety of your family (and your pets) is by in large a personal responsibility. I’m not entirely sure where we lost the thread of individualism in this country, but those of you sitting back, waiting for big daddy government to drive with a horse trailer and travel kennels to do what you should have done are appalling… and downright un-American.

A question for the masses…

This is probably one of those things that’s “too soon” to rant about, but I’m looking for some guidance from you good and wise people here on the internet. I want to know what the hell goes through someone’s head when they wake up one morning and decide that it’s a good day to go on a shooting rampage at their local college, high school, box social, cafeteria, or other public place. I have a vague recollection of being in high school, and sure, it has its moments of pure suck. I did the college thing and for the most part had a fantastic time although it too had its moments. I also grew up with guns in the house, watching violent movies, and playing early versions of the now-infamous “first person shooter” video games. Somehow, I and everyone I know managed to survive this experience without shooting up 50+ of our friends, acquaintances, and associates. Come to think of it, we didn’t shoot anyone. The worst thing that ever happened was the occasional fist-fight. Brutal? Yes, of course. Deadly? No, not so much.

I’m too damned young to start telling stories that start off “well, when I was in school…” But still, I want someone to fill me in on what the hell has changed in the last 8-10 years, so if you’ve got the answers, now would be the time.

No rest for the wicked…

OK gang, just adding a footnote that I’m back on the road for a few days this week. I never seem to end up exactly where Uncle wants me, so I’m heading back to Maryland tomorrow afternoon and will be in Frederick until well before the crack of dawn Thursday morning. Don’t get me wrong, life out of a suitcase can be just fine once you’ve gotten enough practice and a big enough suitcase, but sometimes you just want to sit your ass at home.

Talk to y’all when I get set up back in the PRM.

Seven Hills…

Note: This post is based on notes I made on Wednesday, April 4. 2007 in Rome.

What we had was more an assault on the Eternal City than a tour… a nine hour mad dash across the city that took us from the Vatican Museums to the Sistine Chapel and Mass in St. Peter’s Square, and to the Coliseum, Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps. There is so much history here… Where republican values were institutionalized in the West as well as where those ideals were lost for a millennium. Where empire was born out of civil war and the words of Cicero moved the world. Into the Forum Romanum, where victorious commanders were awarded their triumph down the Sacred Way into the Forum to the Capitoline. 2500 years of human history have passed this single spot.

The feeling one gets standing at the steps of the Curia, the old Senate house, or under the Arch of Titus looking down over the Forum are simply indescribable. Perhaps it’s simply my abject love of all things old, but it’s something like standing on a beach at night looking out at the dark sky bleeding into the even darker water and seeing the stars. You realize your own smallness against the backdrop of the universe. It’s an overwhelming feeling of awe and mixed with profound sadness at standing on the ruined remains of the ancient world’s sole superpower. It’s a striking reminder that all things pass in their time. Still, there is something overwhelmingly grand about Rome. Eternal City just about covers it.

Portrait of Pompeii…

Note: This post is based on notes I made on April 2, 2007 in Pompeii and Naples.

Pompeii is one of those places that by right really shouldn’t exist. The city was lost to the Romans in 79 BC and forgotten by the world until the mid-18th century. Covered in yards of ash, the city lay completely preserved until the advent of modern archeology. We know more about life in the empire because of Pompeii than any other place that has been excavated to date. Today’s Pompeii adjoins the modern city of Naples, which itself stands in the shadow of Vesuvius. The city itself is remarkable… homes, businesses, and temples all still stand and aside from the roofs which burned off or collapsed in the ash fall look as though ready for their owners, patrons, and priests to return.

We clean up after natural disasters; rebuild after hurricanes and clear away the rubble from earthquakes. New Orleans, one of America’s great port cities, was decimated by a hurricane. Whole sections of the city were lost. Pompeii, on the other hand, would be more akin to the storm surge sweeping ashore and the water never receding back into the Gulf. There are physical reminders of the people of Pompeii; plaster casts made from the void left where they fell on the street in a futile effort to flee. More poignant are those who knew their fate and cowered in a corner to await the inevitable.

The site of Pompeii is huge and two hours is hardly enough time to really take in the magnitude of the city. At every intersection streets stretch away as far as the eye can see and in the distance there is always the clouded shadow of the mountain. Waking up every morning the people of Naples must look up and wonder “is today the day?”

City on a Hill…

Note: This post is based on notes I made on Sunday, April 1, 2007 in Cortona and Assisi.

Sunday, Day 5. One thing I have found is that in traveling, often the side trips are just as good, if not better than the place you were actually planning to see. One of the distinguishing features of the Tuscan landscape is the hill towns that cropped up in the most defensive portions of the countryside. Cortona is actually the town you’ll see in the film Under the Tuscan Sun.” Hill towns are terribly pretty to look at, but they are all hell to walk through. When someone tells me a story about how hard it was to walk to school uphill both ways in the snow, I’ll just smile to myself and think, fuck that man… I’ve walked Cortona.

Assisi is another hill town, but obviously famous for a different reason. The Basically of St. Francis is one of those places you just sort of stand in front of in amazement. It wasn’t the biggest cathedral of the tour. It certainly wasn’t the most decorative or detailed, but there was a quiet majesty to the place. Something I can’t quite place. Construction was underway by the late 12th century and its frescos show some of the first use of perspective in large scale art in European history. St Francis, of course, was the original rebel of the church and paved the way for those who followed such as Dante and Luther. Other than being considered malcontents for much of their history, the Franciscans tenants are a little tough to live by…Poverty, chastity, and obedience… Not so much my strong suit.