Caveat: Continuation

Well, I rather dropped the ball on blogging the rest of my road trip.

Quick summary:  on Saturday, I went into Manhattan.  Walked around a lot, it was beautiful day, not as humid as east coast summer days can be.  I went up to the Guggenheim museum (Central Park East at 89th) where I'd never actually been before – I try to go to a museum I've never been before to every time I visit New York, and suspect I'll never run out, as there are so many, and I don't go there often enough.  Then I took the subway out to Coney Island, but the crowds were intense and overwhelming – there was a Gay Pride event going on.  The people-watching was riveting, however, as it can be during Gay Pride events.

Late Saturday I began my drive back to Minnesota, and by Sunday evening I was at Bob and Sarah's in Whitewater, Wisconsin, after some horrible smoggy traffic on the far southside of Chicago.  I crashed on their couch and then finished my drive on Monday, and was back at home by 3pm.  Bernie was glad to see me.

I've been rejected for the Public School teaching job at Gangwon province in Korea, but I always viewed the public teaching job with its more stringent requirements as a long shot.  I will continue pursuing private teaching positions.

Meanwhile, I've been, as usual, gradually sorting out old things and trying to lower my "stuff" quotient – without touching the book collection of course.  I made the bold move of realizing that I was never likely to own a cassette tape player ever again, and that my 150 or so cassette tapes were essentially obsolete.  I went through and wrote down the name of any recording for which I don't already own a CD or have MP3, and then threw the entire lot away.  Some of those cassettes have been in my possession for almost 30 years (e.g. Simon & Garfunkel or Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, which I remember making from the LP using Arthur's stereo set-up in about 1977).

Fortunately books, with their amazing low-tech user-interface, won't ever be obsolete in quite the way those cassettes were.

More, and more philosophical (?), to come.

Caveat: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Few pleasures for me exceed that of reading or writing while on a train.  And everyone knows my peculiar and immoderate love of all forms of public transportation.  For this reason, rather than drive into downtown Philadelphia today, I parked at a suburban station northeast of the city and took the train in.  From Bristol, in lower Bucks County to downtown is about 45 minutes.  But the ride closely recapitulates the daily commute I made for a year from Yardley (directly across the Delaware from Trenton) during my second year of grad school.  Those daily meditative rides were the highlight of an otherwise beastly year.

The frequent flashing of Amtrak express trains zooming past on the center rails.  The dilapidated strata of rowhouses like a cretaceous hillside after an earthquake, in tones of sepia and burgundy and dull tin, with organic splashes of graffiti on most smooth surfaces, like crushed dinosaurs.  And rampant green summer vegetation poking and thrusting in every conceivable place, tropically exuberant but temporary, my seasonal knowledge reassures me.

And people and cars, yelling and thumping their urban rhythms respectively, on each corner, lounging and strolling and gazing and chatting.  The city as universe.

I got off at 30th Street station.  I'd deliberately not studied at map of the area – I'd been absent for 10 years – I'd find my way. 

Kinesthetic memory is strange, miraculous thing.  Well, I'm not sure that what happened was, technically speaking, kinesthetic memory, but, it was something programmed at a seemingly subconscious level.  Without thought I wended through the station, down from the commuter platform, through the congested Amtrak lounge, out onto Market Street.  To the left, squatting between the highrises just beyond the unseen Skookle River (OK, that's Schuylkill to you purists, but I so love the way it's pronounced), is the City Hall.  But I turn right, down Market.  On autopilot, I find my way two blocks west to 32nd, cut diagonally across the Drexel University campus, cross Walnut at 34th and angle in front of the prison-esque Van Pelt library of the U of Penn, and then up the tree shrouded Locust walk through the heart of the campus, to emerge at the western end at 40th looking for that coffee shop where I did, probably, 70% of the actual work for my Master's degree.  It's gone.

But this subconscious movement had placed me there unerringly:  40th and Locust – though I hadn't recalled the address or even it's exact relation to campus.  That's what 2 years of pedestrian navigation of a fairly stable space can do for your body's memories, I guess.  But coffee was out of the question – some Mexican upscale restaurant inhabits the corner now.  I was very sad. 

So I kept west on Locust and then zigzagged down to 43rd.  Where I lived, that first year in Philly, before Michelle joined me here.  At first, walking westward from campus, I worried the whole area had gentrified beyond recognition over the last decade, but, abruptly at 42nd, the ghetto kicked in, just as I remembered it.  43rd at Baltimore is still that wonderful edgy space between student slum and REAL slum.  And there, on the northwest corner, the cheesesteak and pizza joint I used to go to.

How could I resist?  I went inside – I don't think the menu has even changed.   I mean, not in content, not even physically – aged red plastic above the counter, yellow letters.  The place doesn't seem to be run by the same family though – I have vague recollections that before it was run by a Caribbean or East Indian family.  Now it appears to be run by a very large and diverse African American family, every single one of whom were squeezed behind the counter.  They couldn't move around back there, so they just passed boxes of pizza over each other's heads and argued among themselves from where each stood.

I ordered a cheesesteak with sweet and hot peppers, just like I used to, and got some iced tea.  I watched some horrible movie on the TV with some men who had quart bottles of Budweiser and looked tired.  The TV was a flat screen, now, I noticed.  I guess some things change.  The trolleys clanged and whirred past on Baltimore Ave. outside the window.

I finished and walked out to the little park on the southwest side of the intersection.  I remembered bring Bernie here, as a kitten, on a leash – she'd actually done pretty well on a leash as a kitten.  But then I made the mistake of taking her while on a leash to see the vet at the U of Penn veterinary clinics – at around Spruce and 40th.  From then on, she behave around the leash about the way one would expect a normal cat to do.  It was at the U of Penn vet that Bernie lost touch with her feminine side.

So I walked back to campus, and found a different coffee shop on the north side, and contemplated my visit with the past.  And, incidentally, wrapped up an essay for the application for the Korean teaching job I'm pursuing, and emailed that off.

Caveat: Memory Function

I got into Philly area last night and stayed at a motel just off the turnpike.  Then this morning, being in the neighborhood more or less, I decided to first drive around the central Montgomery County area where Michelle and I used to live – for the last year I was out here, anyway.

Much to my amazement, I couldn't find my way around!  I have always had such a great geographical memory.  This was very disconcerting.  It took me about 30 minutes of zigzagging and spiraling about Upper Gwynedd / Lansdale to realize we'd lived just off Sumneytown Pike.  I subsequently began to recognize some things – the McDonalds at Valley Forge Rd, the huge Merck campus where Michelle worked, downtown Lansdale. 

But I've been reflecting on the eerie dearth of clear, coherent memories from this period.   I suppose the conventional explanation is that I've "blocked out" this period of my life.  And there's possibly some truth to that.  I have much clearer memories of the year in Philadelphia (95-96, in the apt on 43rd St) I spent alone, while Michelle was finishing her degree in Minnesota.  But what happened, here, in the following two years, with Michelle?  Am I able, or ready, to answer that question?

One thing that I know I've had a very hard time admitting to myself:  when I dropped out of grad school, after that disasterous fall semester in which I barely passed my Master's exams and received much criticism on the quality of my work from my professors – I nursed, from the very start, the idea that my inability to cope with the pressures of school were "because of" my relationship with Michelle.  I felt I'd been forced to make a choice:  Michelle, or grad school, but not both.  In fact, it was Professor Salessi (whom I respected profoundly) who said, "no puedes tener una vida personal y a la vez lograr en un programa como este. [you can't have a personal life and at the same time succeed in a program such as this one.]"

But what happened that I have only just now realized (not quite as an epiphany, but, well, on reflection, I guess) is that that was the seed of the dissolution of our relationship, because from then on I resented the choice – I felt I'd compromised beyond my will to do so.   I'd been un-willed – in a Nietzschean sense.  And however much it was the case that the choice was a true choice or was instead one that I'd manufactured to accommodate my own shortcomings and disappointments, regardless, I lost control of my life at that moment.

OK, that's heavy stuff.  And more:  from that day, I somehow decided that the only way to survive was to be (or to try to become) whatever it was Michelle wanted me to be.  And that was impossible – both for her own inconsistencies and for my own limitations.   In that ill-fated conversation several weeks before her suicide when she'd asked me if there was any way I'd ever consider getting back together again, and I said to her no, I added, "I've recaptured my destiny.  I cannot."

She therefore died in part of a broken heart, and I was the one (or one of the ones) who broke it.  But I know better than to blame myself (or not, exclusively, anyhow) – there were all kinds of scars and damage that "caused" her to depart for somewhere else ("to a world where I belong" – her words, in that same time period).  Nevertheless, these rolling, amazingly verdant hills of suburban Montgomery and Bucks Counties are crawling with ghosts, and I'll not call this part of my trip a pleasure visit, but rather a moment of remembrance.

I'll move on to remembering the happier times of the east coast, and go into the city today, visit the Penn campus, and then go make my pilgrimage to Manhattan.

Caveat: Road Trip

What can I say?  Not currently having a regular job, I have free time.  And what occurs to me, when I have free time?  Travel, of course.

About 11:15 AM yesterday morning I decided it was time to take a road trip.  So I put out lots of food and left the faucet dripping (for water) for Bernie (she does well with this), and by 1 PM I was on the road.  I woke up this morning to the echoes of the interstate somewhere east of Indianapolis – I've decided that since my plan is to leave the country in August, and since I already have a last hurrah planned for late July / early August for the west coast one more time, I needed to pay my respects to the east coast.  So I'm headed for Philadelphia (to revisit old haunts) and New York (inevitable).

I do this sort of thing with bizarre regularity – I drove to Fargo, ND a few weeks back, for no particular reason – but what's new is that I've decided to blog my behavior.  So… more to come.

Caveat: Migration

I have finally decided to go forward attempting to build a website dedicated to the issue of free migration – see my post dated 2006.05.06.  It’s only a first draft, but it’s functional, at least.  After much time spent searching on the web, I have found nothing that coherently presents the issue as I see it, despite the overwhelming amount of content dedicated to immigration issues in general.
Now comes the process of identifying and placing appropriate content – there’s a book called “International Migration” by Jonathon Moses that advocates free human migration quite cogently, despite it’s nondescript title, which I may use as a sort of outline for the sort of content to put on the website.
The website’s “first draft” can be found at, however, I’ve purchased the domain name and will be linking this domain into that website soon. [UPDATE: all this information is obsolete]
The recent failed immigration bill in congress (but endorsed by Bush) falls far short of the ideals for truly free human migration – yet I feel that, just like the abolition or sufferage movements, progress on this issue must be sought incrementally – for this reason I would hope that, in at least this one small area of policy, Bush will eventually get his way (this is very painful to admit, as, in most areas, the Bush presidency seems to have resulted in the greatest blow to global human rights in general in over a generation).

Caveat: Domesticity

Never sweep a floor laden with dust and cat hair while wearing a clean, black, linen shirt.

In other news, about two weeks ago, when I got back from my visit with Bob, Sarah and Henry in southern Wisconsin, I had with me most of a loaf of very heavy, dark rye bread that we'd bought at the co-op in Milwaukee.  This is the classic bread known among many as Bob bread – as it's his characteristic dietary staple.  I like it too.  I was trying to think of a way to use it, and thought to myself:  pea soup.  I haven't really done much cooking in the last decade or so – living alone is like that.  But I had this bag of dried split peas, and some nice fresh apricots, and I got creative in the kitchen – generally, this is something that goes well for me. 

I ran to the store and bought some leeks and carrots, and put together a pea-apricot soup (more like stew) with leeks and carrots.   Added some cayenne, tumeric, cumin … you know.  So I cooked up a giant batch, and ate some with the dark bread, and put the rest in little containers in the freezer.  I went back and had some more the other day, and man, that stuff is awesome.  And I'm so dumbfounded that I followed no recipie, just kind of a weird instinct, and that it came out so good – better than the (admittedly quite good) gourmet stuff to be had from the Lunds grocery across the street.

Well, so anyway – such episodes of domesticity are awfully rare.

Caveat: Ranting on behalf of a cat

I'm thinking that posting a myspace profile for Bernie, as part of an effort to get her adopted, has been a mistake.  Part of her having a myspace profile means giving her a blog of her own, and I had decided to include appropriate cat-behaviors such as eating, playing and sleeping in this blog.

However, I just posted a "rant" there, in response to the frankly bizarre reception my cat's myspace profile has gotten from the myspace "community" – whatever that may be.  I'll not repeat that rant here – you can look at Bernie's blog at

Mientras tanto, la vida sigue sin novedades.

Caveat: cat seeks home

Once again, it's been a long time.

On my run/walk around Lake Calhoun this morning, it was very windy, and there were swells of several feet on the tiny (1 mi. long) lake.  The sky was a wonderful cobalt overcast, but there was this hole that caused the morning sun to shine down like a searchlight from a police helicopter onto the lake.  The highlights on the frothy grey-turquoise water moved rapidly across the lake, quickly scanned the sailboats at the northeast end, and disappeared among the condos and trees of Uptown along Lake Street.

I've decided I'm leaving the country in August, to work or travel or whatever I can put together.  This year in Minneapolis has been good for me in some ways, but in others it has only underscored my yearning to travel again – not just tourist travel but *real* travel – i.e. "go to a country and live there for a year or two" travel.  I've applied for a job in Korea that would start in late August, and it seems fairly certain, but I've decided that even if that doesn't pan out, I'll be going *somewhere* by late August – I've given notice to my landlord, and rented a larger storage unit for all my books!

There is only one dilemma around bringing this plan to fruition – I need to find a home for my cat, Bernie.  I've created a myspace profile for her, with a little autobiographical info:

Maybe I'll get around to posting more regularly, now that I've quit my position with HealthSmart of Long Beach (effective back in late March).  Not a good record, so far, but we'll see.

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