Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Function Of Loss

I hate Wednesday, absolutely despise it. Between work, my five classes, and the plethora of homework, always due first thing Thursday morning. Wednesday quickly becomes a giant cluster fuck of sleep deprivation, caffeine addiction, and just plain terrible.

Now, this Wednesday was exactly the same, nothing out of the ordinary, until about 9am. Then it just all went to hell.

I woke up at 5:30. Cursed existence itself. Went to work, and by 8 am had consumed two thermoses of tea and a chi latte. Yeah, I might just have a problem. So I left work, went to philosophy class, took notes, laughed at the inherent stupidity of some of my classmates, contributed a few insightful comments, and most shocking of all, somehow stayed awake.

9am hits, I meander out of class and begin to casually pace down the generic hallways of Uhall. I hate this building, so generic, it looks like a shopping mall, but without the bad music, and those creepy hot topic kids. I glance around the building, and realize that if someone asked me to describe this place, I could think of no discernible feature. It's almost as if the architect chosen for this project was sadly born without an imagination, no soul.

I round the corner. She enters my view. God, she looks beautiful this morning. The way her hair gently falls in front of her face, the colored streaks, blue and yellow, effortless inject life my drab morning. My heart begins to flutter, what do I say? How do I greet her? I hate straight guy awkwardness. Where is my sassy bi friend when I need him the most? I can't do this on my own. OK, it's decided, my sassy bi friend needs to be an IPhone app, always in my pocket for ease and convenience, able to pop out at a moments notice and impart on me his vast wisdom.

She is getting nearer, I need to do something now. Shit, shit, shit.

She waves and smiles. Crisis averted. We walk up to each other, both awkwardly smile again. I need to say something. Do I complement here? Ask her how her day is going? No, that's dumb, her day has just started. Should I start with a funny story? Yeah, everyone likes a joke. Now to think of something pithy yet insightful. Funny yet touching.

I greet her with a unintentionally blase sounding "Hi, how's it going?"

That wasn't that bad, was it? She isn't saying anything in response. Did I do something wrong, say something bad, is there food on my face? Oh no, her facial expression says it all, this is not good.

She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a little folded piece of paper, hands it to me. I slowly unfold it, not knowing what to expect. Could this be a medical form, is she sick? Was there some kind of freak accident? Are her friends OK? Family? Family.

I hold unfolded paper in my hand, and the headline says it all. I fold the paper back up, hand it back to her, and hug here. Everything is not all right, this is bad, this is unfair.

I'm still hugging her, trying to think of something to say. I'm speechless, utterly devoid of words, I can't even make a sound.

Our bodies separate and I still haven't said anything. We begin to walk towards her class, in silence. Feeling uncomfortable, I then commit the cardinal sin of tragedy.

"So, are you OK?"

Silence, how I longed for your sweet embrace. A moment devoid of noise has never seemed so sweet. We continue to walk, I feel sick.

We reach her classroom, and embrace again. I want to know the right words to tell her, to reassure her that everything will be fine, but I know that's impossible. Maybe, things won't be OK, things aren't OK. We hug for what seems like hours, people pass by, catching sly glances at us, trying to contemplate why two people would be hugging at 9am in a building which could be easily mistaken as a shopping center. One girl that passes begins to talk to herself, she's weird.

I manage to mutter a softly spoken "You're going to be OK." I'm failing at this. I want to me there fore her, but I can't. I don't know.

I then offer for her to skip class and we can talk about it, we make eye contact, she looks like she's about to break. Then in a moment of unimaginable strength, she rejects my offer, turns around, and walks into her philosophy class.

What do I do? I go to calculus class, of course.

I walk into class and take a seat. Glancing around the room, I begin to study my classmates. They all seem so happy, so normal, blissfully unaware of how much pain is in this world. How unfair this existence really is.

My professor hands out a work sheet. I hate calculus.

A word problem? Really? I can't do this right now, I need to hold someone, listen to Death Cab For Cutie, or write bad poetry. Anything, but here.

I get out a pencil, calculator, and begin to glance at the problem. "A mail train leaves Cleveland at 4pm traveling west towards Los Angeles. Please label this first train, train A. Train A travels at a constant rate of 62 MPH.

They say don't kill the messenger, but if I could, I would kill this train. A train, moving from some city to Los Angeles, the city of angles, carrying a cursed letter, a tragic reminder of events that have transpired. A sharp stake through heart, any and all loose stitching immediately vanquished. She may have thought she was moving on, beginning to forgive, forget, but no, it still hurts. A lot. If the mail workers had been aware of this cursed cargo would they have taken it from it's unholy compartment? Taken it out back during their lunch break and burned it? Probably not? But it's nice to hope.

The train is traveling down the hypotenuse of a right triangle. Solve for area of land traveled.

She probably had plans, so many plans. To reconcile, to forgive, to cling to a thread of normalcy and hope, that just maybe, maybe, they would one day live together as a happy family. Yet, distracted by these plans, she may not have realized it, but she was in that train, speeding down a mountain at an alarming rate. The train is in horrendous shape, no brakes, no seat belts, a wheel has come loose, and she is not sure, but it sounds like something's grinding. Also, the train is on fire. She is out of control, with no plan, on the verge of breaking down. She is terrified.

The train stops at a station for two hours. How does this stop affect ultimate delivery schedule of Train 3, currently leaving San Diego for New York.

While there may be nothing more powerful in this world than hope, there are few things more devastating than when that hope is false. She had hope. That light is extinguished.

The train arrives in Los Angeles. What is the function of this trip?

The function, maybe life is just a fucking function. We are born, the input, we live, and then we die, the output. Maybe our lives are that numerical, that everything that happens to us is just based on a long line of 0's and 1's, maybe what happened to her was just basic statisitcs. She has the 1 in 100. I feel sick, I feel cold.

Now solve for the constant.

Life is all about loss. Life is nothing without loss. The constant of our lives is the sad fact that on this earth, time runs out for everything and everyone – if that were not the case, then there would be no point in sustaining ourselves. We are motivated each and every day by the knowledge that one day we will not have the opportunity to breathe, to feel, to love.

I run out of calculus class, sprinting towards the bathroom, I puke in a nearby trash can. The worksheet is unfinished.

And every time we lose something dear to our hearts, we honor it by taking what we’ve learned from it and what we cherished about it, and carrying that on our shoulders until we, too, are lost. What we drop will be picked up by those behind us, and with so much to be happy for and proud of, there’s no room for anger or resentment.

That afternoon I saw her again, and I held her. Words were unneeded. We had the moment.

I Have Made It

I have officially made it. Yes, in this age of colossal advertising budgets and fake twitter account, I have risen to the top. Finally achieving my once ridiculous sounding dream of getting the name, Jonathan Crossley, into the public domain. Yes, you guessed correctly faithful audience, this blog has been linked to on another website. Granted, it is a website run by a good friend of mine, but she is really cool, so go read her stuff too.

Here is the link:

Easy Catfish Town

Below this intro you will meet Kevin. No, Kevin is not a movie review (even thought that would be awesome), but he does happen to write them. Actually, Kevin writes them quite well, in reality, far better then I ever could. So I hope you all enjoy meeting Kevin and his very fierce ways.

Easy Catfish Town

Sometimes, a movie gets an inordinate amount of praise for mediocre work. Sometimes, a film looks like a lame ripoff but is freshly original and an experience all can enjoy. And sometimes, a film is so secretive you don't know what to expect, but it still manages to blow you away.

The Town is a thoroughly disappointing movie. Now, I'll say this: I didn't think that when I got out of the theater, nor for the car ride back home. It's only when I sat down and really started thinking about it that made me realize how poor the movie really is. First of all, the Ben Affleck-helmed crime thriller set in the Boston neighborhood Charlestown, is a poor interpretation of that neighborhood and that life. Affleck cast himself in the main role, which was a poor decision. Affleck is far too put-together and (put simply) pretty to fulfill such a dark, gritty role. Not only that, but other than Jeremy Renner as one of his partners in crime Jem, the characters are spectacularly flat. Rebecca Hall and Renner both do well in their roles, with Jenner easily taking the "Best in Show" mantle, but past those two, every other character fell flat. Character development was minimal, but even if you accepted that and just tried to enjoy the ride of the film, you weren't in for a very enjoyable trip. Why do these characters do this? What, exactly, is their modus operandi, other than scary masks and bank trucks? What was Hall's character really feeling? Why was Jon Hamm's FBI agent so dogged about taking down this gang? The more I think about the plot development (or, more appropriately, lack thereof), the more annoyed I get with the movie. Solid acting all around (with Renner and Hall as highlights), good direction, but poorly plotted and written. C+

Easy A is almost the exact opposite of The Town: a movie with little buzz beyond the 18 and under set, a young star, a bright outlook, and a (seemingly) trope-filled plot with a creamy cliché center. In truth, it is a fun, interesting, humorous, even, at moments, genius mocking of teen movies while being unafraid of being a teen movie itself. Emma Stone, who, you'll recall, was one of the best parts of the aptly named Superbad, and has kept a relatively quiet profile in Hollywood so far. She won't keep that low profile much longer. Stone is absolutely radiant in A as Olive, a girl who pretends to lose her virginity for an interesting story and winds up nearly ruining her life over it. In such a meaty lead role, Stone is a blast of fresh, sarcastic wit that you don't see in many starlets. She appears to be a comedienne first, star second, which is a nice change from others who look suspiciously like her (woe to you, Lindsay Lohan). Unlike the currently between-incarcerations starlet's Mean Girls, which relied heavily on the background cast to great effect, Stone carries much of this movie herself and does it with aplomb. She gets support from Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, Olive's parents who nearly steal the show with some of the best lines. The surrounding high school characters are less entertaining (though Amanda Bynes' hyper-evangelical character is priceless), and the dialogue can sometimes be clunky, and you can sometimes question characters' motivations, but the movie is so much fun, you can forget some of its lesser flaws. Definitely two of the most entertaining hours of film ever made. Stone is definitely the Best in Show. B+ for the film, but she gets (you know what's coming) an Easy A.

Catfish is innovative, fresh, interesting, a great topic of discussion, different, funny, awkward, uncomfortable, genius, entertaining, and frustrating all at once. It is a movie that begs to be seen and talked about after you leave the theater. I'm still thinking about it four days later. It is a completely fascinating film, and one that surprised me in all the best ways. I can't tell you anything about the plot, the genre, nor the characters, and trust me, you wouldn't want me to. Go into this movie blind: it's the best way to see it. Truly one of the better movies this year, no qualifier necessary. A-

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ant World

I built up anthills,
for the satisfaction,
of knocking them down.

What kind of person does that make me?

Refractions Through The Night

A trampoline is an odd thing. Regardless of ones age it can easily provide a myriad of entertainment. For example, kids jumping and doing the occasional flip during a birthday party, (However, punish the kids that does the double back flip, no one likes a showoff. Also, it may just be a liability, this is America after all.) Trampolines also give high school stoners a place to smoke and occasionally get laid, it allows college kids to contemplate philosophy in a place that doesn't serve chi lattes, and if arthritis isn't an inhibitor, the trampoline gives Grandma the satisfaction of realizing she was young once too.

Now, my circumstance is a little different, because the trampoline holds a very dear place in my heart. Without reciting to you my entire childhood tale, if I was Orson Wells, trampoline would be my rosebud.

Yet, tonight I found myself on one such contraption, jumping around, having a jolly good time (Yes, I know I just used the word jolly, but I've been wanting to use it all day, and this just seemed like an all too perfect opportunity. You down?) I was over at a friends house, and during those awkwardly timed bounces I was transported back to my glory days, the summer of 4th grade, where we ate ice cream, went to skate parks, screamed songs from car windows, and sleep overs were an already understood daily occurrence. We watched awesome cartoons, played on the street, launched rockets, and got into a little trouble. We watched the stars at night, lived our youth.

I am now back jumping on the trampoline of the present day, it becoming increasingly evident that the bouncing qualities I had as a 10 year old have long diminished. I fall down, and instead of getting back up I stare at the sky. Realizing that some of the light released from the stars I gazed upon as a child, may just be reaching me now, eight years later.

My friends leave the trampoline, already bored. They walk back towards the house, our phones, our cars. I stay, still starring at the sky, secretly hoping to rekindle some of the feeling from that amazing summer.

I wait. It never comes. Nirvana evades me, there will be no grand revelation this evening.

I stand up and walk back towards the house, keys jangling in my pocket, not missing those years, but simply remembering, for because I had them, I am me.

I feel you muggin' me, cuz


Driving through a city of imaginary trends.
The sun doesn't rise here anymore,
hardly ever sets.
There is just light,
constant, omnipresent, moving light.

The lights from my car,
illuminate the trees,
brutally shoved in overpasses, divides, and exits.
Stripped of any dignity and birth they may have had.
They are not happy.

I turn off my lights.
Cars honk,
people make stupid little light hand signs as they pass,
they believe they are helping me.
Maybe help me avoid a ticket,
looking out for my safety. Maybe.

These buildings,
built on peoples dreams and aspirations,
made out of sand.

I am stuck in traffic, check my phone. I see the message.
Get me out of here.

I turn off the highway,
into the alleyway, something is calling me.

I stop and sit.
This is darkness. Pure, untouched, beautiful darkness.
I rabbit crosses the road,
it's the only thing really live in this city.

That and you, you're real. These people will never know you, but I did. I knew you.

The nocturnal world exists for a few more hours, but something is changing come the morning time my friend.

All the lights in the world couldn't stop it.


I climb into bed, the warm covers comfort my haggard body. The kind pillows unabashfully embrace my limb cranium. To say I am looking forward to the gentle embrace of sleep would be a gross underestimation.

It has been a long day. 20 hours to be exact.

I put my IPod on shuffle. My eyes close, then without warning, flutter open. My mind conjures an image of a soaring hummingbird on a glorious spring day. (Don't ask me why, maybe it was the rhythmic fluttering, but then again who really knows?} The sun shimmers, water glistens, people are out and about, walking, smiling, living. I feel sleep slowly encasing my body, my conscious begins to fade.

The first song ends. There is a moment of brief silence. Then the song comes on.

I am now wide awake. The ambient noise slowly filling my dorm room recreates your face with alarming accuracy. I see your freckles, your hair, your smile.

The piano part begins to slowly fade in and all the old emotions come rushing back; shock, pain, hate, anger, frustration, sorrow. I look out my window, and there are no stars in the night's sky. There are never stars anymore.

The lead singer begins to sing.

I remember the meeting. This was after they told us of course. We were all in that dam room. Some people were already crying, counselors telling us we would all be OK. We weren't all right, things had changed.

Taking a seat, I survey the room, study the sorrow, observe the tragedy. I feel numb, so fucking numb. Then after a few moments in this den of despair, it hits me; not like a wave or lighting bolt, but more akin to a stark realization, a realization of what has transpired here. What has occurred on this dark dreary anonymous February day. I look to my friends, and they seem shocked I am sobbing, crying for the soul of our lost friend. In truth, I am crying for us all.

I'm back in my bed. The chorus begins. That glorious chorus.

I return to the night I stood upon the top of a mountain, cursing at the world. For these few nocturnal hours, I am the harpy of the world, but no one is hearing my song, listening to my call, heading my wail. Do they even care? Are more important things really happening? Why do these people not stop? Do they not realize what has happened here? This is the end of us, this chapter of our weak, pitiful, mortal existences. We can never go back, never, do you here me? Never. We are done. We are fucking done.

The song ends, tears stream down my face, I turn off the lights. Go to sleep.

I awake the next day and smile, because I know that since I lost you, you will forever be with me.

Candy Workers Of The World Unite

This is an amazing piece by Marissa Medansky. She is obviously very talented. Enjoy.


Comrades! Compatriots! Brothers!
Do you hear it? Do you hear that sound? No, my brothers, it is not the gentle rushing of the chocolate waterfall, nor is it the mournful echo of the workingman's bells. That, brothers, is the seductive anthem of liberation, the glorious timpani of salvation, the sweet siren song of liberty! I hear it, brothers! I hear it echoing all around us.

Do you truly think you are free, brothers? For nearly fifty years we have slaved away in this wretched factory. We have risked rabies in the Nut Sorting Room. We have faced radiation poisoning in the Television Room. We have slaved away as oarsmen for a gluttonous yacht of excess. The shackles of autocracy glue our hands to the machinery and batter us into submission. Reduced to minstrels, we are made to twirl and chant moralistic rhymes like some foolish band of second-rate court jesters. And at what cost to our dignity, brothers?

The time has come, brothers, to tear off the lederhosen of the imperialist aggressor. Join me in a crusade for freedom that will determine the future of our race for generations and generations to come. Raise the banner of liberty high into the air; wave the flag of independence until your arms grow sore and weak. Wonka asks us how long we will fight. I say that our struggle will not cease until the rivers of chocolate run thick with our blood and until every Oompa Loompa in this factory feels the drum of freedom beating deep within his heart!

Join me, brothers! Do not delude yourself with notions of complacency; do not indulge in this myth of paradise. We must awaken from our slumber and arise to throw the yoke of imperialism from our shoulders. Let us end this autocratic regime and reclaim our rights and liberties. Brothers, we must destroy the confectionery industrial complex once and for all!

Come, my brothers, and hear the music that plays all around us. Let us embrace the golden glow of freedom, rise to our feet, and let us never again feel the weight of oppression's chains on our wrists! Join me, brothers, and let us fight for freedom! Soon the revolution will commence, and we will seize control of the means of production. And that day, brothers, the factory will be ours. The factory will be ours! THE FACTORY WILL BE OURS!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Those Kids Say The Darndest Things

College philosophy class; a place where ideas should be shared in an open forum, intelligence should rein supreme. Yeah, this is not the case. My philosophy class all to regularly breaks down into over eager morons spouting out words with absolutely no thought to what they are actually saying. Here are gems I managed to write down between sipping my tea and crying for the current state of humanity.

"An upside of cancer could be population control"

"Why does Plato never mention women?"

"So where is this Republic today? I've never heard of it."

"Is it the cave?" "No" "The form?" "No." "How about the happiness?" "Stop."

Obviously these kids should be locked up, but instead they are at a good liberal arts college. I guess it's kinda the same, right?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This is not my grandmother

but she is someones

Refraction Sunset

An atomic blast in the sky,
manufactured gases only fuel the fire,
are we sons of bitches too?

This city,
this sprawl,
is it really the thread
that connects all our lives?

If that's the case,
Jim Casey, you are not a liar,
but a preacher filled with false hope.

The pretty lights,
illuminate the night.
Are those people,
or burning dreams?

All i know for sure,
is that on the highway,
the sun always sets behind the concrete wall.

The 25 Things You Learn At Medieval Times

The 25 Things You Learn At Medieval Times

25. Under no circumstances should you ever go to Medieval Times.

24. You cheer for you knight, just because he isn't blind.

23. Our knight likes to poke under aged girls with his very firm jousting stick.

22. The dance party after the show is always poppin.

21. Every villain during this time period sounded like Hades from the animated Hercules movie.

20. Under no circumstances should you ever go to Medieval Times.

19. Dragon Soup is not an appealing name.

18. The dialogue in the show is incomprehensible on two fronts. It is terribly written and impossible to hear.

17. Yellow needs to seriously calm the fuck down.

16. Knights have a tendency to break character with very 21st century fist bumps.

15. My sassy bi friend has a thing for the blue knight.

14. Note from sassy bi friend: That bitch totally stole my flower.

13. The princess is totally a part time stripper.

12. Knights are always ready to fight over the previously mentioned part time stripper.

11. There is a character named Bastard Falco...I think?

10. Under no circumstances should you ever go to Medieval Times.

9. It is 2010, eating with utensils is kind of a standard now.

8. Buena Park is broken Spanish for good park.

7. Plagiarizing (Inspired?) music is OK, but only if you change a few notes.

6. The special effects budget was large enough to include fake snow...and a red light.

5. The black knight looks like a chess piece from Harry Potter.

4. Speaking of black, is the token black character not being black a hate crime?

3. The plot development in the show happens way to quickly. Characterization needs to continue past colors.

2. This is where struggling LA actors go to pay rent.

1. People go to Medieval Times for their honeymoon. I wish I was joking.


Yes I am back, for real this time, I promise, maybe, probably not, but false promises are currently beside the point. Now that Limbo is completed, I have moved into college, and survived my first few weeks, I finally felt like it was the time to instill some normalcy in my life, and return to this blog. Yet, this return to a somewhat routine schedule could not have come at a more opportune time, because as of late my imagination has been running wild. For example, I am playing around with concepts of suburban sprawl, critiques of American nationalism, and unionizing Oompa Loompas. You may see some these concept, but far more likely they will die a painful death locked in the confides of my mind. Yet, this post is not about my overactive imagination, no this post is about the craziest thing that happened to me during my first week of college; the car accident. Yes, I was in a car crash on September 3rd and here are thoughts and ultimately reflection on the entire experience. Most of this story is factual, but some minute details have been changed to provide you the reader with an experience that is far better paced. Also, most of the dialogue has been changed, and I don't mean lightly altered, no, this shit has been full on changed. This stylistic choice was done to remove almost obsessive use of the words "like" and "um" along with making teenagers who think their lives are far more important than they really are, not sound like such boring, whiny, teenagers. Which in retrospect, we obviously are. I hope you enjoy.


Nothing is better than a nap. After class, between meals, anytime really. Just having that little nibble of sleep is a perfect way to rejuvenate, refresh, and mentally prepare of the night ahead. I am laying in bed. Haphazardly rolling over, I catch a glance at my illuminated clock, quietly mocking me in the corner. Shit. I'm late.

In a frantic flurry I'm out of bed, wide awake, cursing furiously. I run around my cramped dorm room, putting on some of the clothes, that are spread out across my floor in no particular fashion. I grab my messenger bag, wallet, phone, and am now walking out of my dorm at a brisk rate. Now I'm running. I hate running. The back gates of campus shouldn't seem this far away. How far are they really? A 10 minute walk? I'm running and I don't seem to be overtaking any of my fellow sidewalk inhabiting patrons. I'm out of shape. As I pass the gym I degrade to a power walk/jog thing; I don't call this irony, more just plain sad. Now looking at the gym I come to a stark realization. I should work out more, no not just work out, I should be the absolute pinnacle of physical fitness. I should look like I'm flexing without even trying, my t-shirts should rip when I try to put them on. On second thought, that whole body builder, steroid abuser, Olympus dude look is kinda out right now. It's not even out, it's disgusting. Maybe I'll just settle for being tall, skinny, and awkward. I should be able to land some chicks. I don't need to be a Greek god, I have my charming personality. Wait, what am I talking about? I'm kind of a dork; my hobbies include literature, art, film, and other assorted things generally not accepted by the ESPN viewing populous. OK, maybe I won't land the A Lister's, but definitely some B chicks, C's for sure. Yet, I am forgetting one minute yet invaluable detail, this is college. We have the great equalizer, alcohol. I'll land some A's...eventually.

For some inexplicable reason, still completely unknown to me, I choose to look at the gym again. Oh, why did I look at the gym? The glow party is about to start. Yes, that's right, the glow party. It is the first week of classes, and some horny bastards have already organized an event where people dance in the dark wearing neon bands. Yes, because we all know that nothing lands chicks better than anonymity and glowing lights. The bros and the valley girls are walking in now. God, I can't stand bros, with their tank tops, knee high socks, and awkwardly shaped skate broads. Casually chatting about how many dumb chicks they will bang tonight. And those valley girls, please don't get me started on those valley girls, with their incessant use of the word "like", and their innate willingness to go along with the bros socially accept forms of sexual exploitation. Hell, maybe these girls actually like getting treated like shit by a ton of horny douche bags, I don't know. Whatever, just not my scene, I guess.

I'm now nearing the back gates, and I see the car, my chariot of salvation. I look up from the starring at the generic concrete sidewalk, and see my friends waving, urging me to move my out of shape body just a little more quickly. Yeah, that's not happening.

I love college, I love my friends. In high school I would never have met kids who would even contemplate driving to a cafe in order to talk about film, philosophy, or whatever college kids converse about. What is the college drink of choice? Chi lattes, black coffee? It's my first week. I should know this.

Nearing the car I overhear the Scott Pilgram soundtrack. God, I love these people. We are indie, we are young, we wear vegan footwear, and read McSweeney's, we are jail bait in the greatest sense of the word. When we reach our future lives we will stick it to all the bros and valley girls. We will finally get our much deserved revenge on all of the people that made fun of us, who chastised and criticized our interests and hobbies. And with our greater amounts of knowledge and funnier jokes, will show all the haters the error of their ways. We will one day save the world. We will win.

So we are now driving, talking about music, Beck, and how hip we all are. We view ourselves as so important, the heroes of our own stories, but it is all about to come crashing down.

It will crash down.

So we are driving, breathing the air, laughing, laughing at the tools at the glow dance. We know that we will lead lives of much greater fulfillment, love, and happiness. They will be crunching numbers in some generic office space, and we will be creating art, making the world a better place. Was that a stop sign?

Then things stop

I try to speak but can't. This isn't the speech impediment that haunted me as a child, and still creeps up on me during moments of nerve, mainly public speaking. No, this is something different. This is shock. A car is approaching us from the right, it is going too fast to stop, far too fast. Horns blare. We here a deafening crash, steel bends, breaks, and crackels against steel. I shut my eyes as the car begins to spin. We are doomed.

The car is now spinning in the intersection.

So this is how it ends, not with some last triumphant honor fueled march, nor surrounded by love ones morning at my death bed. No, a car crash, over before I can even formulate a coherent thought. At least I know how Lost ended, that has to count for something, right? I wonder what my parents will say? My sister will miss me, my dad too. My mom. Oh, my mom. I'm sorry mom, I'm sorry for the pain I'm about to cause you. You will be an absolute wreck, the tears. I can't even think about the tears, and the crying, not the crying. This will be far worse for you than it is about to be for me. I am ready for this, shockingly at peace. All those times I was depressed, and flirted with the idea of my death, I just never imagined this moment would be peacefully. I more expected panic, chaos, despair.

The car is beginning to tip over. I open my eyes. Airbags deploy.

Well, I guess the bros get the last laugh, the neon tank tops wins the day. The valley girl slut may be used, but in the morning she will only have a bruised moral compass. I will be a corpse. They will be hungover, and I be asleep forever, one with oblivion. On this planet time runs out for everyone, I just guess my time ran out earlier than I planned. I wish I did more, saw more, told people how I felt. I guess this is regret. I'm not a fan.

I think the car just hit the ground. Are we still moving?

Fuck, I don't want to die, I'm not ready for this. Why is life so tragic? I still have so much to do. I have barely lived. I am 18 years young, do you hear me, do you hear me! This isn't the end. No, No, No.

I shut my eyes again. The car stops on its side

Am I dead? Should I open my eyes? Is death the same as the shark complex, where if I don't see it, it's not really there? Oh shit, I don't feel dead, speaking of feeling, I don't feel pain either. I don't know what I feel. Not anger, frustration, sadness, pain, I'm at peace, a strange euphoric state. Is this heaven, hell, or am I some kind of vegetable, forever hooked up to beeping and booping machines, just so my family can morn over my once glorious body. Does it really matter anymore. OK, I will open my eyes on the count of three. One, two, wait, my friend just spoke.

I open my eyes. We are hanging sideways. Some asshole is filming us with his camera. My friend flicks him off. Oh cruel world, how happy I am to see you. I unbuckle myself from the seat and my body limply falls from it's sideways position, to a new one, comfortably on top of the large kid next to me. I'm happy for large kid, he may have just saved my life. People are now gathering around our vehicle. They are scared, worried, but mostly curious, taking photos and videos with their cell phones. I wonder if any of them have called 911?

My friends and I begin to talk inside the car, and somehow we are all fine. Call it luck, circumstance, or if you prescribe to the crazy that is the 700 Club, a miracle. Realizing we are all fine we begin to joke about the whole situation. The firefighters show up, and open up the back of the car. We all crawl out, still trying to figure out exactly what just happened.

We all sit down on the curb. Cops, firefighters, and paramedics are talking to us all about something or another. Some take down our information, others ask us questions, one guy checks our blood pressures. His face reads disappointment, maybe he wished the crash has worse, at least he would then have a story to tell his buddies later. I don't know. I'm rambling.

My friends and I hang around the crash scene for a while. It seems like the authorities always want just one more thing. The crowd of people has long scattered, far more interesting things are going on in the world. I then sit back down on the curb, and watch as the car is being pulled away by a tow truck.

I was in that? I mean, I was in that? Our once great chariot, now seemingly reduced to a colosol mess of steel and glass, being disrespectfully hoisted and dragged through the street. We were on the top of the world. We had rejected the bros, the morons, the conformity. We are going to a coffee shop to talk, to try and share ideas, learn something. But in an instant, a single solitary moment, all of that didn't matter anymore. All the thoughts in the world couldn't save me from my impending doom. Life doesn't care who you are or what you believe in, it just happens.

The car is now flipped right side up, and is being lifted up onto the tow truck. I want some candy.

Maybe that is why we are still joking about the accident, because we are scared? We are scared to accept the fact that we should be dead. We shouldn't be able to have another meal, see the sunset tonight, or have the opportunity to fulfill our dreams. But for some reason we do.

We go to the grocery store, buy candy, walk back to campus, and ultimately spend the night joking and watching bad movies.

Life is all about loss. Life is nothing without loss. On this earth, time runs out for everything and everyone – if that were not the case, then there would be no point in sustaining ourselves, in developing personal relationships, in challenging ourselves and our friends to create, to succeed and make our names, to explore new places and eat delicious foods, to write our ideas for posterity and then debate them, to take pictures and home movies for the sole purpose of remembering those all-too fleeting moments.

We do all this because we know that one day we will no longer have the opportunity to do so. And every time we lose something dear to our hearts, we honor it by taking what we’ve learned from it and what we cherished about it, and carrying that on our shoulders until we, too, are lost.

As I lay awake that fateful night, fearfully contemplating the idea that in another universe, I may not be in my body this very evening. I took relief in that fact that I was alive, truly amazed that I survived. Maybe I was brought back to do something meaningful, save the world? Probably not. But I am laying here, breathing, with another chance to live life, and really, what else is there?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What Is Appropriate

I know this is a day late, but it doesn't make it any less meaningful.

READING, 9/25/01.


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Every year, we wonder what might be appropriate on this day, and we can never think of anything more appropriate than this piece, which Mr. Hodgman originally delivered at a literary reading shortly after September 11, 2001.

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Good evening.

My name is John Hodgman. I am a former professional literary agent, which on a good day is a pretty small thing to be, and these days feels rather microscopic. Before I was a professional literary agent, I thought it would be a good idea to be a teacher of fiction in a college MFA program because it is easy and you are adored all the time and of course it pays a lot of money.

I used to have a lot of bright ideas.

I even had two lessons planned out, which, by all accounts from MFA programs that I've heard, is one more than you need. The first would address the comfort of storytelling. I would explain to my adoring students that stories hold power because they convey the illusion that life has purpose and direction. Where God is absent from the lives of all but the most blessed, the writer, of all people, replaces that ordering principle. Stories make sense when so much around us is senseless, and perhaps what makes them most comforting is that, while life goes on and pain goes on, stories do us the favor of ending.

Not a very original idea, but one that seemed more or less reasonable before something happened that showed us how perversely powerful stories can be when told into the ears of desperate and evil men, and showed as well how sadly challenged stories are in providing comfort now. What happened on Tuesday was enormous, sublime in the darkest sense of the word, so large as to overwhelm our ability to describe it, to sense it except in parts, and certainly to order it and make it make sense. In the immediate aftermath, we have only our very personal flash memories, but personalizing an event that has touched so many and so cruelly, announcing by byline our own survival, feels shamefully self-involved. To convert this experience into metaphor, into symbolic gesture, feels almost offensive when we are still pressed by such an urgent reality that is ongoing and uncontainable by words.

I have heard a lot recently about the role of writing, song, music, painting, in the tragic blank space in our souls that this event has left behind. Of course, this preoccupation is largely a result of an unconscious bias of the media. If pig farmers had as much currency with NPR as literary novelists, we would be hearing just as much about the healing power of bacon. And knowing that power well, I can say that it is certainly comparable to the reading of a sensitive short story as far as comfort goes; and yet both fall far below the direct aid that is being passed from person to person, below Chambers Street, in our homes, on the phone with strangers, with an actual touch, in the actual, nonsymbolic, unannotated world of grief in which we live. The great temptation is to be silent, forever, in sympathy.

The second lesson plan that I had in those days was a very lazy assessment of storytelling's function, beginning in the oral tradition, when it served a civic purpose aside from getting you invited to cocktail parties. As I would explain to my adoring students, storytelling served initially in every culture three purposes: to inform, as in relay news and record history, to instruct, as in pass down a set of moral guidelines, and to entertain. We are, as regards this event and its unfolding, all too well informed. And as for entertainment: when I thought this was a bright idea, it was when I was younger and war seemed so far away. But I realize now that those in history whose lives were short and mean and threatened by sword and disease gathered and told stories not as leisure, but as desperately needed distraction, and reassurance that they were not alone.

So if art cannot contain or describe this event, and if for now the suffering is too keen to be alleviated by parable ... if stories are for the moment not as critically needed, as courage, as medicine, as blood, as bacon, they can at least revert to this social function. As time goes on, this will all pass away into memory, into a story with a beginning and a middle and finally an end. And that transition from the real into fable will bring its own kind of comfort and pain. Now, though, we may gather and distract one another, take comfort in our proximity, and know that we are, at this moment, safe.

Not many of my ideas seem bright anymore, and I am not a teacher. I am only humbled: to be here, to be alive.

That is all.