Tag Archives: Life

Politics: Do People Really Listen?

I can't hear you!

I was at the park today, doing some homework, when a pint-sized bulldog waddled its way to our picnic bench. He held a brownish-yellow tennis ball in his mouth. He snorted and tried to coax me into grabbing the ball from him. My girlfriend, distracted from her studies, wondered whether it was French or British.
The dog’s owner meandered over to us. He was a plump, smiling man with a white handlebar mustache.
“What are you studying?” He said.
Japanese, I told him, I want to live there. He told me I’d at least be safe there, since there aren’t a whole lot of Muslims in Tokyo.
My girlfriend later told me she’d drawn a red flag right then, but I didn’t see it. After all, plenty of people say plenty of ignorant things, and you can’t argue with all of them. Besides, starting an argument with a smiling gentleman on a sunny summer day is just about last on my list.
Now personally, I’m a big fan of Bernie Sanders, and eventually, I came out with it. I did it casually, with a chuckle that was genuine and conversational. My girl put her head down against the table. Her social senses were more on cue than mine: I found myself in the middle of a political debate, with no idea how I’d gotten there. He really started to talk.
His points about Greece’s failed economy were interesting. I also liked his thoughts on how even if we raised taxes on the super-wealthy, they’d find a way to cheat the system. I wanted to discuss that. But unfortunately, the discussion wasn’t open. He made several errors in his discourse, and whenever I started to answer some of his misinformation with a correction, he talked over me.
Finally, he walked away, saying, “I used to be an idealist, and that’s nice, but I haven’t heard one fact from you.” Of course not. You haven’t tried to listen.
And I think that’s a fundamental assumption in talking politics. We’re all so fortunate to have been blessed with a perfect and infallible set of political views, aren’t we? Why should we listen to anyone else’s points, and keep an open mind? It would seem that we’re all set in our ways. But how will anything get done without compromise and listening?
In kindergarten, I got into a fight with one of my classmates over the triangle blocks. You remember those. He needed them for his roof. But I wanted the last two for the garnishing outside my brand new block house. When he insisted on having them I pushed him on the floor. The teacher came over and asked us to share. After a minute I apologized for pushing, the kid said sorry to me. And I gave him the triangle blocks. They weren’t so important after all, and he needed them more. How else would he keep the rain out? I cared more about being right than the actual blocks.
And you know what? It’s not so different. I would have made mistakes in my argument, too, had I been given the chance. But that’s the beauty of constructive conversation: we fill in the gaps, inform, illuminate each other with new ideas and possibilities. So I challenge you, reader, to question your views in your next debate. If you’re still right, stick by your guns. But listen to the other side. As long as you and I keep that in mind, we will always continue to grow.


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The Heart Lock Hustle

2013-12-22 11.27.40
I saw the sunset on the Brooklyn Bridge, yesterday, the winter solstice. I ended the shortest day of the year watching the sun go down behind the Statue of Liberty. It was 52 degrees out; I was comfortable in a t-shirt and my grungy yellow corduroy jacket. Tourists were everywhere, and some genius had come up with the idea of selling them “heart locks,” which are little locks you click onto the bridge, symbolizing, well, whatever you want to symbolize. My friend pointed out that if those locks are as popular as it seemed, there must have been someone coming by, on a regular basis, to cut them off, making room for more. Now that I think about it, they probably just unlocked and re-sold them.
Up at the apex of the bridge, we figured we would grab a pork bun when we got to Chinatown. I’d never had one. They’re supposed to be bread with pork baked into them, the same way some other breads are baked with cheese. Best around, I was told, and I agreed to try one, thinking of how disgusting it must be.
Helicopters were taking off, one after the next, off of a platform in front of the Statue of Liberty. My friend and I decided to go to a pier that was close-by. It would be a good spot to pour vodka into our drinks.
The breeze at the pier was refreshing. The sun had gone down, and the waves reflected all the lights. I made my screwdriver. We caught a buzz, went home, drank again, and passed out. I never tried the pork bun, but I didn’t really want to anyway.
On my way home, this morning, I couldn’t find my damn sunset picture, so I took a snapshot while I was driving. I thought the light and dark contrast on the roof of the tunnel was cool, but my windsheild was dirty, and that kind of messed it up: but, there it is, up at the top of this post.

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The Horrors of Being Horrorless

Picture taken through a clean window

Picture taken through a clean window

It’s Friday afternoon, and I’m in a small town in Rockland County, New York. It’s about 45 minutes from the city, and somehow, the city is eons away. So, here I am, not in NYC but instead watching a brilliant, premature sunset through the stained window pane of a fast food restaurant. It’s not stained like stained glass—it’s stained like someone was flicking ice cream on a spoon at the window. That’s the only way I can imagine those dried-up, white drippy globs ever climbed so high.
The sun’s vanilla on the snow and it looks cold. It penetrates the leaves of a nearby bush. The leaves tremble at the mercy of a wind.
There’s an Hispanic kid eating ice cream and smiling through sparkling eyes; he’s telling his dad what’s what about fire-breathing serpents.
“Fire-breathing serpents aren’t real, anyway” he informs. He speaks between ecstatic bites off a plastic spoon. “Did you know that?” Dad is nodding and chewing on a burger.
I get to thinking that I miss being afraid of ghosts. When did that stop being real? There’s something heartbreaking about a life without belief.
Thing is, we can believe anything we want to…we do have that kind of power. Galaxies emerge from our minds; and those of us who don’t believe in ourselves may find it easy to disprove, to quote Douglas Adams, “god, the universe and everything.” edit: I think I got the quote wrong…:/ Of course I don’t mean god. I was just talking about ghosts. But belief impacts our experience—and I’ll never limit my experience to a sun going down over a bunch of snowy trees in December. It’s a fire-breathing serpent, and he’s going to hibernate before the night gets cold. It’s a giant ball of ice cream. It’s the fucking Egyptian God of the Sun, Ra, for all I care. But don’t bore me with cold facts, kid, okay?
~Ezekiel S.

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Back in New York

My cat in a warm house.

My cat in a warm house.

I’m back in New York. I drove here, from Texas, in two days. The time alone with my kitten was exactly what we needed.

I’m excited to be back: I haven’t been to the Museum of Natural History in years, even though I was only gone for two months. Before I drove to Texas, that didn’t bother me—I was okay with not doing anything too crazy. Now that I’m back, though, it would be unforgivable to take advantage of my living situation again.

My kitten misses playing outside. A true wild child, she craves adventure. There was this one time, one of my neighbors was outside, playing with a remote control helicopter. She mauled it like a pro. The weather’s too cold for her here. Google calls it 29 degrees, and in Magnolia, it’s 39. I took her outside, yesterday, and in ten minutes, her furry little hide was shivering. I found her across the street in a neighbor’s yard, sipping water out of the cracks in his driveway.
I bought her a remote control car. I’m going to tie a string and a ball to its bumper, and see if she gives chase. Right now, though, the car still scares her. It may have something to do with the fact that the car’s as big as she is.

It’s so easy to be unhappy. It’s so easy to just not care that you live 45 minutes away from one of the most famous and interesting cities in the world, and then drive to Texas. Have you ever wanted to visit a city in a foreign country? I figure, why not do it in your hometown? Why not sightsee in your backyard? I think there’s this idea, the kind a lot of us have, that suggests we are happiest when we are far away from home.

Is that true?

The Buddhists have a saying: wherever you go, there you are.

New Orleans was nice. On my way back, I stopped in to visit an old friend. They’ve got these trees, there, these tremendous trees with looming, thick trunks and branches that look so heavy and exhausted from the thick Louisiana moisture that they just want to sort of sag there, draped on the palpable air, exhausted from just existing.



New Orleans Trees~Audubon Park

New Orleans Trees~Audubon Park

I bought a couple of pre-packaged long island ice teas and margaritas at the gas station. That was cool.

So, my inner compass is spinning, now, back and forth, not seeming to have any direction. That’s not true, of course…you’re always going somewhere; but I think it’s time to go and discover where I want this needle to be pointing. As soon as I get the chance, I’m gonna try and explore the city a bit…but I think I might need a little money for that.

They got five minute chess out there, blitz chess, and I lose every time.
I think I just need to get out there and wander around.

~Ezekiel S.

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Dust, Thoughts, Dusty Thoughts

                There’s dust, here in Texas.

                It’s unfortunate, that I often miss the beauty in dust, that I can station behind the wheel of my Honda and see the world, and the whole time, never see anything at all.

                It’s amazing how I can trek an entire day without remembering a single detail.

Does responsibility do this to me? Responsibility: the ticking of a clock, the need to put gas in my car, or make educated purchases, or hoard enough weekly quarters for laundry? Maybe…I don’t like being forced to do things, and when I’m unhappy, or in a rush, I drop out of the world. The tug of duty, it’s heavy, and can tether me to ‘the grind.’ But that’s not the answer; how many couch potatoes do you know who are actually content? What if sat and did nothing each day? At the end of my life, would I have even lived at all?

                My thinking: the happier I am, the more I can pay attention. The mind tends to reject the unpalatable. And, rejection: if you reject an event, did it truly happen? Did you experience that event, or did you experience yourself wishing that the event was over already? It’s the tree, too, falling down in the forest with no one to hear it.

                It was freezing this morning in my tent. The zipper broke a couple of days ago, and I bought a big yin-yang drape to cover the empty space. And I sleep on the floor, to boot: I have an air mattress, but I just never want to sit there and blow the damn thing up by mouth. I always have more important things to do—like indulging in my favorite video games, for example, or picking my nose. But I’m veering off topic.

                It’s freezing, and even though I’m on the floor, my open sleeping bag (the zipper of which is also broken) is under me, a second blanket is wrapped around my feet, and a thick one is on top of me. I’m wearing my fluffy bathrobe and Long Johns, and it’s really warm as long as I stay under the covers.

                My kitten is in there with me, and my laptop is at my side, so we watch some Japanese Anime— but, eventually, I have to break the cocoon—which is when my toes go cold and numb. So, miserable but determined, I decide to exercise, stretch, and go for a run.

                Halfway through the run, the heavy metal rumbling into my ears and propelling my legs, I’m hot enough to drop the jacket. The rolling up of sleeves follows. I’m breathing, and the breath feels good. Oxygen, I love me some oxygen. It’s how I stopped smoking cigarettes. Air tastes so much better. It’s like drinking Fiji water versus drinking mud. I get into a rhythm, in and out, left foot right foot; I notice a little hop I have on my left side. Have I been sleeping funny, or is my body a little unbalanced? Is my energy funny this week? I can feel my toes, and the sun is warm, now, too, and I’m happy.

                Then I start getting texts.  

                It happens slowly.

                This phone, this machine in my hand, the thing I’m using for music, the thing I’m using to move my blood and experience the world, it’s taking my happiness, my world from me. It would be easy to say ‘don’t respond, it’s that simple;’ it’s hard, though, to use moderation, when the thing I want and the thing I don’t want are both a part of the same device. I like the people who are texting me…what is it, then?

I don’t know how to be alone, I think. I’m always connected—and, is it a real connection, or is it a pseudo kind of understanding, a sharing of ideas and words and thoughts, without any actual human interaction?

                I’d rather look you in the face and tell you something. I’d rather watch your reaction and see the color of your eyes, or notice that disgusting pimple under your left nostril, the one that’s ready to pop, and tell you so, and probably make fun of you a little. Texting is okay, I guess. But tell me: what happens when someone relies too heavily on a crutch? What happens when someone buys a Rascal, say, or a Scooter and then they use it so much that they stop exercising and, in the end, getting up just to go to the kitchen?

                Why walk when you can be carried?

                Actually, I’m writing this in a restaurant, right now, and the janitor is talking to me, mopping. What am I doing with this keyboard when I could be connecting with a human being? It’s killing me, right now, as I write this. He took a look at my computer and told me he can’t use ‘one of those things’…wants to, but doesn’t know how. Can’t read, matter of fact, he shares, his left eye twinkling, the sun hitting it at just the right angle from its low place through the window in the parking lot. His eyes are blue.

                “It’s gonna be cold tonight,” he says, “and I gotta come back to work on my bike.” I tell him about my tent, about my blankets, and get to thinking it’s funny how life takes care of you and gives you what you need—like a conversation with a janitor that completely sums up what you’ve been writing about for the last page and a half—and, I come to a conclusion—it helps to be in the world to hear it.  


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