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Jack Kerouac is accused of writing about people going nowhere…but they were always going to Denver, and that is a definite destination indeed. -As quoted in the Denver Post, December 29, 1974

Back on New Year’s Eve 2008, as the year turned to 2009, I remember being struck with an overwhelming feeling that it was going to be a good year. It felt definite and unavoidable. There were things throughout the year that quite actively worked against this but nothing could change the fate of 2009. It was, when all was said and done, a good year.

I know people who would fall on both sides of this argument, those who firmly disagree with me and didn’t bat a eye or shed a tear as the calendar turned from 2009 to 2010 and those who, upon meeting the new year, said,”You got some big shoes to fill, 20-10.” While I am admittedly someone who admits failure much more readily than I do success and will therefore avoid putting any sort of superlative next to 2009 (e.g. “greatest year ever,” “most important year ever,” “year that I ate the absolute most”), I will say that as a year it felt important/good/new enough that I couldn’t help but look at that big old full moon that 2009 left as a housewarming present for 2010 on New Year’s Eve and, like anyone who played after Otis Redding at the Monterey Pop Festival, say, “That’s a hard act to follow.”

Taken during a friendly game of hide and seek at the Denver Contemporary Art Museum with Kyle and Aileen. Aileen was trying to be completely camoflauged.

So, you ask, what made last year so great? What made it so good that I find myself addressing calendar years as they were human? Was it that I started the year in New Orleans, spent half of it on a Greek Island and have ended up in Colorful Colorado- three of my favorite places? Well, that surely helps. Surely it has something to do with all the new people you met and strong connections you made, right? Right, thats important. What about when the Nuggets made the Western Conference Finals? Yeah, that really helped. Was it all the new places you visited and new experiences you had, from camping in Mississippi to having the best birthday you’ve maybe ever had to skinny dipping in the Aegan sea and learning how to play chess? Of course, those were all important, just like my students succeeding and all the good music and books and food that helped to make it a good year. However, there were things that didn’t help it as a great year- things I won’t go into here- but suffice it to say that every year, even the really good ones, have their ups and downs. This is why I won’t say that the aforementioned things were the essence of why this was a good year, though it bares repeating that I am thankful for all of these things and know that I wouldn’t be where I am without each and every one of those things.

Interlude for a photographic essay entitled, "Things that happen in Colorado around the holidays." First up, making apple pie.

Arguing about who gets to ask the question in Trivial Pursuit and then getting in a fist fight with your dad because he won't let you read it.

Congratulating families on their new arrivals.

Alliances.

Solo musical performances.

Musical duos that involve profoundly unattractive facial hair.

Get to the point, right? Here is why:

A route differs from a road not only because it is solely intended for vehicles, but also because it is merely a line that connects one point with another. A route has no meaning in itself; its meaning derives entirely from the points that it connects. A road is a tribute to space. Every stretch of road has meaning in itself and invites us to stop. A route is the triumphant devaluation of space, which thanks to it has been rereduced to a mer obstacle to human movement and a waste of time. -Milan Kundera, “Immortality”

I feel like 2009 was a year that thrust me forward into new places with new faces, and it was the decision to make the year a road instead of a route that made the difference for me. I wanted every stretch of road to have meaning in itself and accept its invitations when it asks me to stop.

I spent so much of my time in Greece attempting to be present in a moment, to worry not about what was coming next or what came before but what was happening then. The funny thing is I realized, when all was said and done, I failed at this. I was unable to simply be present, and, to be quite honest, I’ve never been happier to admit I failed at anything in my life. One misses so much when they are simply present or in only one moment. Being present is important but I think I realized I already knew how to do that. What I really needed to learn was that life is indeed moving forward, or at least around, and the challenge is knowing when you’ve been invited to stop and value the space you’re in along this road. When I said I wanted to be present in my life, I think I actually wanted to make sure I wasn’t on a route with my actions, experiences, and movement purely defined by the point I started and where I would end up. And, you know what, it isn’t.

More than anything, I know I was much more than present because I’m in a different place than I’ve ever been before. 2009 as a road took me from one place and I’ve ended up somewhere completely new with stops on a Greek beach to play backgammon with Mike and Sarah, in John and Zalina’s house talking and laughing, in the Rude Shipyard in Sheffield, in a London warehouse flat as the blue morning light flooded the room, in Eunice, Louisiana to listen to Cajun music, and on my porch on Mardi Gras day. I will admit, the reason 2010 is going to be different than 2009 is that I’ve started it just trying to make sense of the new space I’m in. The new place to which I’ve been brought. But I’m not worried. I’m really not. As long as I step forward meaningfully on this road, this new year, and make as many stops as possible a long the way, I know everything will be fine.

Sigur Ros- Heysatan

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Music to start and beautiful video to boot. “Heima” means home or to be at home in Icelandic. Guess how I know this. Either, a) I know Icelandic, or b) Sigur Ros told me on a documentary. Choose wisely. Whatever the case, its a beautiful video and knowing that its fall in New Orleans, snowing in Colorado, and I am readying to leave Greece makes it feel somehow fitting.

This blog and I have a strange relationship. It’s like a friend that you see in passing all the time and you say, “Wow. It’s really good to see you. We should really catch up sometime. Call me and we’ll figure something out.” Predictably, and I’m not breaking any new ground or providing any new insight into human interactions, neither person calls the other and no actual catching up ever occurs. However, on the occasion that both take some initiative and some hanging out (h-ing the o as it shall now be known) does go on, both parties have an incredible time and you are reminded of how much you truly care about the other person. At the end of h-ing the o, there is a lot of “I had a really great time,” and “It was so good to see you,” and, most importantly, “We should do this again soon.” Then, of course, it takes quite a while for any o to be h-ed for quite some time.

No problems in this. No new ground. But this sums up my relationship with this blog. I say, “I will blog soon,” or “I’ll figure something out. I’ll get it done today.” And then I don’t for a really long time, but when I finally do, I really enjoy it and it feels great and I promise I won’t wait that long again. Sometimes I even promise I will blog twice in a week (!!). You can guess how its ends. That’s okay, though.

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It's also hard to blog when you have things like this to see.

All that being said, here I am. It’s hard to believe that I have less than three weeks left in Greece. While not yet in the period that CJ called “The Beauty of the Last” (which I have mentioned before), I am attempting to make the most of what time I have left in this beautiful place.

The island is changing every day. Every day, more people have left the island and those shops that haven’t completely closed yet (which a majority of them have) are closing earlier and earlier. The weather is markedly different- a topic I will talk about later. Meanwhile, I just continue to do my thing. The shop opens (no later than ten and hopefully earlier) and closes (about midnight) at the same times it has since I got here. People continue to come and go, leaving their mark on the bookshop and on my life.

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Unfortunately, Sylvie is now addicted to the internet, which is totally my fault. Fortuantely, she still only has paws which helps to keep the addiction at bay.

This isn’t to say that this chapter of my time in Greece is in any way the same as anything that came before. It just doesn’t work like that. There are currently four other people at the shop, all of which love and care for the bookshop in ways that I really appreciate. Also, each of them are very creative people. In fact, all four work in the arts in some respect or another. Between being surrounded by these creative forces and great talks with John about music, creating and poetry, I am feeling inspired as of late. It’s a good feeling to make things I would have never thought of before, let alone have time to complete.

In addition to feeling artistically creative, we are also getting creative in our adventures. So creative, in fact, that we have posted a “Whimsical To-Do List” on the wall which features or has featured such things as make a super-8 short film, pool skimming, southern food feast, Atlantis Books Olympics, and beatnik night.

Here is a new section of my blog. It’s officially called “James takes a picture of a picture,” but for all intents and purposes, we will call it “POP.” All original pictures, are taken by Ali Jamalzadeh, who I am currently living with. If you have the time, I strongly recommend checking out his website. He has some great stuff.

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POP! When I put out an album, this is in the lead for album cover.

Along all the creative, whimsical lines, though much more spontaneous, Debbie and Ali got everyone to create “life flow-charts” on napkins. I have included mine below because I feel like mine is pretty accurate to how I thing life will ideally flow.

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As with any practical person, I like to store my important ideas on something that can also wipe my mouth.

I feel as if most important things in life could be fit somewhere in these categories, but the most important part is the interconnectedness. I have been making a concerted effort to balance all of these aspects, something I strove to do while I was in New Orleans as well.

I must admit, my time recently has been a bit heavy in the categories of experience, celebration, and enrichment, but I suppose that is the nature of a journey such as this one. Recently, I went to some friends’ housewarming party which involved a nice collection of eclectic music, beautiful Greek food, wonderful people from all over the world, and some of the best homemade wine I have ever had in my entire life. A few days later, I went to a panigiri for Santorini, which is a celebration of a name saint. This was a celebration that would have made New Orleans proud, complete with excessive meat consumption (of which I did not partake), free wine (of which I did partake), and local music which included a stand out performance by a man playing a bagpipe like instrument made from an inflated pig hide (of which I would have partook in if he would have let me play his beloved animal horn). This is not even to mention the dancing (of which I did partake) and the pool skimming that followed (of which I DEFINITELY partook). This all begs the question, what is more beneficial, a celebratory cultural experience or innocent breaking and entering under a beautiful night sky?

guitar on the terrace

Music? Yes, please.

Meanwhile, back at the shop, everyone at the shop has discovered our main common interest: beautiful, delicious food. Each night is a surprise with people taking turns making dinner with two goals: do something original and/or delicious with the limited ingredients we have AND do it as cheaply as possible. Some stand out performances have been last night’s pizza night, burrito night, saganaki, chili, baked vegetables, and dakos.

This is a good time to clarify that I am not huge on cooking. I don’t mind cooking, and in some cases I enjoy it, but generally, I find it kind of stressful. That being said, I took on heading up the Southern feast. We intentionally ate cheaper all week in order to save money and then still pitched in more to make it really count. Now, understand, this is a lot of pressure, but, if I do say so myself, I not only handled the pressure but relished in it. I made baked macaroni and cheese, red beans and rice, and an apple pie filling, while Desirina, originially from North Carolina, make mashed sweet potatoes, steamed spinach, and took care of the crust. We emerged victorious and everyone emerged excessively and gluttonously full. Highlights:

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Duck.

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Duck.

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Goose.

The weather is changing quickly and we have had almost a storm a day for the last four days or so, including one that actually would give most of the storms I saw in New Orleans a good run for its money in terms of pure intensity. It should be noted that I was driving in the midst of this storm trying to get to a local concert, listening to the band Explosions in the Sky (which added to the drama), only to decide, after literally fording rivers across the road which were lined with moving rocks and asking for directions after walking through water that came half way up my calf at points, maybe we should turn around. So, me and Tatyana found our way back to a small Greek restaurant to wait out the rest of the storm while we enjoyed fava, tomato fritters, fried cheese, and french fries

The mornings after these storms are calm, hazy, and beautiful. Because we all invested in renting a car for a few days, we drove each morning to some adventure before opening the shop. One morning, while visiting a beach that I had previously visited with Aileen, Lizn, and Tash, the grey skies brought out colors in the water that I have never seen one morning and I remember being moved by the beauty of the moment that I felt physically weak. The next day, we got up again and hiked part of the mountain only to get swallowed up by the fog around us.

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POP!

Though, on the days where its not storming, its still warm enough to swim. This song is in honor of that and for this last summer.

Loudon Wainwright III- The Swimming Song (download by clicking)

http://sites.google.com/site/bootsofspanishleathersite/Home/01TheSwimmingSong.mp3?attredirects=0&d=1

In other news, basketball season has started. The Nuggets won their first game and tonight they play Portland, which always manages to add a healthy competitiveness to my relationships with Sophie and Joel (both of which have great blogs you should check out). Carmelo Anthony is awesome. Witness.

loving bball with joel

This is what Joel and I look like from inside the TV when we watch basketball. Though, this picture was unable to capture our screaming and Joel's tendenacy to pour olive oil all over himself when someone dunks. Also, don't let my shirt fool you. This was not a game against the Nuggets, so it was okay to cheer for the Trail Blazers

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So, things are good. Life is good, and I can’t help but feel that I am achieving some sort of balance in the vein of a life flowchart on a napkin. But, I’m realizing, balance is a funny thing. I’ve spent so much of the last years of my life, mainly much of my time here and the last two years in New Orleans, looking for a balance in my life- wanting to feel like a balanced, healthy person. Of course, this is a battle that is incredibly important and one that, due to my propensity for getting lost in work and take on too much at any given time, I imagine I will be fighting for the rest of my life. However, I’m learning this is only half the battle. Anyone can achieve a balance in their life in some form or another, though its admittedly harder for some than others, and I can say fairly confidently that I have found a pseudo-healthy to healthy life balance at many points in the last three years of my life. The harder part is knowing what to do when your life gets unbalanced, which inevitably happens, particularly when you are living passionately and meaningfully.

The idea that a good portion of the quality of my life depends less on the times I am striving or achieving a balance and more on the way I handle the times I am noticeably out of balance is a huge mind set shift for me. I strive so much to be in control of my life that when I fail to do so it feels somewhat like failing, though maybe, just maybe due to the inevitability of it all and the strength it takes to pull it all back together, its less like failing and more like some form of forward movement. This is something I hope to remember.

Final song. I’ve been trying to get this song on here for quite a while, but the file size is too large for my host. So, here it is on youtube. I will continue to try to get it so you can download it.

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