Wild

Geoff, sanding on a rock at Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park.

Spoiler Alert: Into the Wild

I recently watched Into the Wild, based on the true story of a 23-year-old Chris McCandless. In hopes of connecting with the world, it’s beauty, and the explorers spirit—as well as wrestling with some pretty significant emotional hangups— he sets out on a solo journey across the continent. His adventure lands him in Alaska in the spring, where he survives on small game and what provisions he has left. He dies, painfully, after eating poisonous berries he took for edible.

My relationship with this story is one fraught with fascination and conflict. The story of McCandless is one that was well tread in the circles I grew up in—the modern day beatnik who shot the bird to society and did his best to live free of all chains. If not for a tragic mistake, he may have really discovered some universal truth of humanity or some such thing.

I grew up in a very conservative environment. I learned always to be careful with resources and risk. We were never very adventurous. Everything we did was well within the well-tread, paved roads of what was safe and convenient. Anything that may prove to be moderately uncomfortable we avoided. I mean, why even put yourself through that? What’s the point?

When I left for college, my eyes were opened to just how big, beautiful, exciting the world could be. Since then, I’ve felt like I needed to catch-up, to experience the world fully like all those I had read about—all those I’d met—to find out what I’d missed.

A year or so after college, I had a breakdown. It was as if one day I woke up and the world was fixed again. I had blown by the time when it was acceptable to be free and wild. I had allowed that conservative tendency to wrap me up. I was trapped in this prescriptive world of ‘adulthood.’ I was horrified at the thought that this might just be how the world worked. My world, anyway.

On walks near my apartment, I would stand at the tracks and wait for trains to pass, gripping my backpack, calculating how fast I would have to run to jump on. I carried my passport, some tools, cash–anything I felt would allow me to one day just jump off the map before I got home.

Truly, I didn’t know much about Chris McCandless except that his story was usually told with either an air of longing, or a roll of the eyes. One either thinks he’s a martyred hero, or some dumb, naive kid.

For me he’s usually one or the other depending on the day. My cynicism says he was a rich, white boy feeling trapped in his privilege and unable to see that even in this adventure he was coddled and provided for. Only when he’s truly met with indiscriminate peril does he see who he really is. My bohemian spirit fancies him a poetic Dharma Bum, seeking the pleasures of life outside conventional commercial society, capturing something of the human spirit within that pushes us into unknown and untested experiences and opens us to true beauty.

But really, he’s both.

He was a real, flawed human being with nuance and complexity. His portrayal embodies a person who is both damaged and also whole. A person both foolhardy and brave, naive and wise. His story is both a cautionary tale and a testament to the desire of the human spirit to wonder.

In all of us there is a conservative and a wild spirit. We need both to survive. We need both to really live. The journey of life and survival is walking the line between.

Also, the soundtrack by Eddie Vedder is really good.

commute

I took this photo on the way to work one morning. Quite in contrast to the last entry, this photo isn’t a demonstration of the hope and opportunity that we claim to afford. 

I can only speculate the circumstances that left these two here, exhausted on a bus stop bench downtown in front of a pawn shop on a Wednesday morning. There’s a palliative relief in the sadness. A melancholy reminder to expand one’s perspective. 

I hope they found some rest.

american pride

My Special Lady works at a center for refugees and immigrants here in Louisville. It’s a place that was founded to help them participate in community, find proper healthcare and housing, and develop skills needed to work and thrive in their new home. Participants hail from all over the world–101 countries currently. The most visible part of the center is the youth programs.

The youth summer program is wrapping up and today they held a talent show. I stopped in for a few acts. As a rule, hanging out with them is generally a great idea.

There was lots of dancing. Numerous groups of pre-adolescent girls doing dance routines (often to the same song). A young boy timidly rapping into a microphone as big as his arm; girls doing gymnastics; a boy showing off his basketball skills (with a little help from two older guys trying their best to making him look good). All the while the whole crowd of kids were shouting along with every song and cheering on their friends.

It was a far more entertaining talent show than I’ve ever been a part of. Far more interesting than hearing that awkward Taylor Swift cover 7 times in 90 minutes (your kid does it beautifully, btw). It was so spirited, so warm. But, mostly, it was just different than my experience.

There is a process any young person has to go through when they begin to explore the world. When I first traveled abroad, I looked back at America as a boring, bland place where nothing exciting ever happened. In other worlds I saw cultures that lived differently and more vibrantly and it excited me. I grew cynical about my own world and envied another wherever I went.

As I’ve grown older and traveled farther I’ve learned that I was correct about all of the problems–problems that are often most visible with distance and perspective. But what I have found more recently is the excitement and promise that really is here. It’s a cliché and it shouldn’t be overstated to drown out the struggle of those in need, but opportunity is here. We are great, too. We have a rich, colorful culture to share with the world . And culture is always better when it’s melted into another.

I’m thankful for the experiences that have been shared with me, abroad and at home. I’m thankful for love in the world, and how breathtakingly beautiful human beings can be.

Today, I was so proud to be American. And I’m so happy to share what I can with these people, just as they are aching to share with me.

There Were No Bears

It was cold out, but it wasn’t raining, so Clare and I decided to take a walk up to Frankfort avenue. I had only had one cup of coffee and she was interested in buying some greeting cards and such things at the bookstore. We watched The Revenant last night, so we were feeling the itch to be a bit more rugged, choosing to make the walk of roughly a mile on foot. It was blustery, but not brutal. And we definitely hadn’t been mauled by a bear (recently).

After hemming and hawing about next steps after books and coffee we decided to be impulsive and jump on the bus for NULU. We stopped in a few shops, bought a few odds and ends, and ended up at a beer store for a warm-up drink. Instead of standing inside, we decided to take our chances outside in the beer garden, which just so happened to contain a number of open air rooms. They were dirty and exposed; the kind of atmosphere you’d expect drinking in an old barn with a few tables and a dim overhead light. It was wonderful, but lonely – no one else chose to brave the cold.

Geoff sipping a delicious beer in a cold biergarten.

We eventually finished our drinks, bussed home, and braved the mile walk back from the bus stop. When we got back inside, we thawed out and feeling returned to our toes.

The whole day was spent in the cold. Not avoiding it, but embracing it – living in it. Instead of hiding from the weather we chose to enjoy it. While it was hardly much of an adventure, it was surely satisfying. Being in the world, feeling cold air in your lungs and the thrill of new, interesting things is much less boring than sitting on the couch watching 30 Rock and eating frozen pizza.

That’s for when you get home.

So it begins.

I’ve wanted to start a project like this for a long time. Blue Vesper is my foray into the world of web publishing.

Okay, so really it’s one more in a long line of abortive attempts to make myself a space online.

I’ve had a personal site for a long time. An aggregate of social media stuffs, a resume, a portfolio, all that good stuff. But I’ve wanted there to be a place for a while that, in short, is my home on the web. My hope is to post prolifically here–an open window into my life on the web (and as much as I can manage off the web as well).

There will be a number of bumps. I’m trying to be as DIY as my abilities will allow, and I’m not perfect. But hopefully it won’t break too often.

I’m not sure what I’ll write here. It’ll run the gamut, surely. But my hope is that nothing–no topic nor agenda–will limit nor constrain what I publish here.

Here we go.

Geoff wrapped in a blanket with headphones, looking overwhelmed.

pre-pre-election anxiety

It’s weird how political climates shift from year to year. During major election cycles, I find myself extremely anxious–paranoid about everything. So many assclowns turn out for national office that even the fact of their existence in this stage makes my heart heavy and my whiskey glass full.

I’m reading Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 right now. Excluding his more hard journalism undercover Hell’s Angels, Campaign Trail ’72 is widely considered his best work. He was writing for the Rolling Stone in a time when youth and edge weren’t widely accepted as “Good Journalism” and was reporting with a perspective of brutal honesty and subjectivism–things he seemed to value greatly.

Thompson is known for his Gonzo journalism, which often had him on hallucinogen filled benders in exotic places. Two Mescaline, a drop of acid, and a pint glass of Wild Turkey, rolling down the highway in a giant, Made in USA convertible with a hippy lawyer tripping balls flying right seat. But his political journalism is where he puts his voice to use for something he truly cares about. He talks very lucidly about the candidates–their demeanor, persona, personality, platform, motivation–and does so with a transparently biased, fair voice. His candid tone implies that he’s being honest through his bias.

While I read Thompson, I’m actually trying my damnedest not to watch or read or consume anything related to national politics whatsoever. But it’s impossible to stay out. If you live in the world, and don’t have the heart to be a dick to someone who wants to use politics as a launchpad for small talk, or if you want to jump on to social media at all, you have to just suck it up and like the article that decries the rise of Kim Davis-Bates, The Donald, Bernie, Hillary, Huckabee, Another Bush, and any other fool getting more than two minutes of attention from a melodrama hungry public.

It occurs to me that this person–the candid yet depressingly honest, journalist–is what I’m lacking. I need to see who is looking to write the truth of the situation. How did Bernie Sanders stand after he was rolled off stage when he was accosted by BLM protestors? Did The Donald look at his advisor before he commented on the passion of the assault in Boston? What’s the feeling on the campaign trail. What are the other journalists saying to each other? How did that drunken fool who stole your press pass totally expose a candidate on a train?

These are the questions, America

It’s too early to really know some of that. These folks aren’t really on the trail yet. It’s far too early to say how any of this will shake out, and if ’72 is any indication, things change pretty quickly. And when the time comes, all of my sources for media coverage are web-based. Which means that instead of the asshats at Fox News or CNN feeling me slanted bullshit, clickbait from tiny, niche media companies is feeding me slanted bullshit.

And that’s why we need another Hunter. Not a guy who can drink a gallon of whiskey and write about the effects of adrenochrome. Someone who can read people when they’ve practiced, above all else, Image. Stoicism.

Meanwhile, I’m just going to keep drinking and writing to see where it lands me come February.