Thursday, July 30, 2009

C'est la vie

At what point do I surrender my goals and turn back in the direction I came? When should I look around myself and say, "Damn, I've made a mess of this place"? There are so many forks in so many roads that the wisest of elders couldn't say, "Go that way" with absolute certainty. When I was 20, I crisscrossed North America, and I did so by sticking my thumb in the air. It was free and unpredictable, and I was gone most of the year. When I returned to Texas, I started hatching a plan to do the same in Europe. I never went. My dad sat me down for one of our only father/son chats and told me to think about what I was doing. He said he had taken my "path" and was just now meeting me on it upon his return. I smiled condescendingly and declared, "I'm not you." I'll be god damned if the man wasn't right, but I'll also be damned if he wasn't wrong. He didn't know what he was talking about, and I don't really know what I'm talking about now. What I do know is that I'll never know enough to tell another human being this is the way. Take it. My father knew that too which is why he never explicitly said, "You're going the wrong direction." He only suggested it and then put his hands up in defensive ignorance when I pushed back.
I still haven't been to Europe, but I will one day.  Probably not as a hitchhiker though. That's the exchange, I suppose. I got my GED and went to college instead. Formal schooling was an education not unlike traveling. I found enlightenment there, and by dividing my youth into reckless abandon and rigid discipline, I experienced the best of all possible worlds in the prime of my young life. You may roll your eyes and and say, "You're only 29.5, handsome Carlos," but the implications of your rolling peepers would be wrong. A thirty-year-old man can't sleep on the roadside or in a hostel full of beautiful twenty-year-olds. At thirty, he's no longer a wild youth with stars in his eyes. He's a drifter, and no one wants to pick up, share a room with, or make sweet love to a drifter. At thirty, he can take freshmen classes in college, but the blazing class discussions, led by children discovering how loud their voices can carry, are uninteresting because he's made peace with so many of their injustices and is ready to evolve. I learned a lot from my year of traveling and four of college, but I've twisted and turned down so many directions that not one person can offer guidance that wouldn't require my returning to that initial fork where I met my old man a decade ago.
I don't think my father ever truly found his way who has? But he's all the wiser for his bullshit mistakes, as am I, as are you, and at the end of our lives, I hope we, who bumble for sense in this senseless place, can each reflect not on how many times we had to return the way we came, but on all the things we gained in realizing this isn't the best direction.
I'll be blogging less. I'm trying to focus on my various larger projects, but I'll end this one with a favorite poem by Theodore Roethke. I won't qualify it with anything more than what I've already written, so enjoy it for whatever you find in it's reading.

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pulitzers, Comics, and Westerns

I'm reading two books right now: American Pastoral by Phillip Roth and Zot! the Complete Black and White Collection by Scott McCloud. One's a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the other's a 575 page comic book. I've read two books at a time before. I've read four books at a time before, but never have I been torn between books so equally. When I'm reading American Pastoral I'm thinking about Zot! and when I'm reading Zot!, you guessed it, I'm thinking about American Pastoral. What's a boy to do? Watch Once Upon a Time in the West. That's what. Last weekend, I went on an impulsive spending spree and bought A Fist Full of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and borrowed Once Upon a Time in the West, all of which are directed by Sergio Leone, father of the spaghetti western and champion of my heart. Only on perception-bending drugs have I ever been so immediately invested into scenes as I am with The Good and Once Upon a Time. And what's happening in these scenes that so fully commits their audience? Nothing. To the untrained eye, that is. To my gorgeous green set, timing, music, music, music, and shots collaborate to express, loudly and clearly, the tension between a trio of gunslingers who are simply looking at each other. For fourth whole minutes! I timed it. But I can't remember a more exciting four minutes of film.

***Spoiler Alert: Claudia Cardinale never gets naked in Once Upon a Time, but she's so distractingly hot that you'll still tent-pole your Saturday jammies and never resent Leone for not making nudity a casting requirement. I love her.***

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I shouldn't read two books at once. If one doesn't dominate my attention, they both cancel each other out and I switch media. Also, watch The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West if you haven't already seen them. I politely insist.

Your best friend,
Carlos "Clint 'The Good' Eastwood" Alderete

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Obama and Buttromping in one sweet blog

Before I attack, I'd first like to say that Obama is pretty much a swell guy. I voted for him and forced my aloof girlfriend to vote for him too. My friend (whom I won't name so he won't have a fifteenth "tag" on my blog. Burn, Roger...D'OH!) and I went to his inauguration.* We weren't in fancy evening gowns or long white gloves, although Roger's "White Diamonds" perfume and pendulum earrings were enchanting. We borrowed a car and drove day and night to get there. We stayed in a stranger's home (thank you, craiglist. Hi, Geeta!), and we really only had money for gasoline. That was excessive, I'd say, but that being said, am I just as crazy as this person? Click for a close up.
I hope not. This is someone trying to show their support but fucking it up.** It's bandwagon mentality gone awry. It's Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman's smug fanaticism. It's Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Rush Limbaugh making love in a Georgia roadside motel.***
I don't know why morons irritate me so. The person driving this car is obviously in relative agreement with my political beliefs, but I'd rather not have him on my side. To be fair, I did speed to 75mph, cautiously changed "shooting modes" on my camera, and greedily snapped several pictures with the intention of making fun of the owner on this blog, for you. But that was for you, and if you have an Obama vehicle alteration, tattoo, haircut, or if you now say "look" each time you're about to make a long-winded point, you're an asshole, but you're reading my blog, so you're my asshole, and I love you dearly.

*Click here if you care to read the inauguration postings or see how unfortunate Roger's face is.

**I apologize for the word configuration but "but fucking" is not butt fucking, so grow up.

***Butt fucking.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial

Folks, I had a rough weekend. Not the fun kind of rough weekend either. It was emotional and draining, and I spent it utterly alone so that I wouldn't have to fake a smile for anyone. That being said, I chose a picture that best fits my current disposition. The mockingbird is Texas' state bird, and I've wanted to snap a photo of a living one for quite some time; however, since they're as elusive as a goddamned Yeti, I can't ever get my camera out fast enough. So here's a putrid juvenile. Click for a close up.
Oh yeah, and they're called mockingbirds because they imitate sounds of insects and other birds.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Public Speaking and Boobies. I am what I am.

Ah, silence. The tutoring center at ACC is undergoing renovation, and the course subjects have been divided into two rooms until completion: English and math. In my room, all is without disruption. The soft air conditioning, once a static peripheral, made aware only by frozen fingertips and tightly folded arms, now rages in the quiet like a never ending exhalation. The office phone shatters my silence, and I answer it, speak, and hang up again. I try to write more but the sound has splintered my concentration, and I hear its alarm echo in my mind, long after the air conditioning has reclaimed the stillness. I should be reading, and two books sit before me: Cormac McCarthy's masterpiece Blood Meridian Or the Evening Redness in the West and Pass Key to the LSAT. But I don't want to.
It's the beginning of the second half of summer, and the clock ticks closer and closer to my having to visit and speak to classrooms full of students about the tutoring center. I hate it. Public speaking, that is. Every semester, I visit 1, 2, 3, 4...10 classes, tremble for about two minutes and scurry out in flutter of papers. I don't want to be there; the students don't give two shits for my being there; and, the professor jealously regards me as an interrupting student-stealer, which I am. On the plus side, I enjoy the upward, cow-eyed stare of so many freshmen beauties and hope that I'll have the pleasure of sitting side-by-side with each of them, overwhelmed by their perfume, overwhelmed by their young bodies.
Pig! you may cry out. But, I am what I am, a man, I am. Am I? I am. I am just a man, a synonym for pig, so I guess you'd be right. I make no apologies.
It's still quiet in my half of the now divided center. A math tutor enters, and I perk with the opportunity for human interaction. She puts both hands over a chair and wheels it out of my room. Students have bottlenecked into the math side of the center's collective brain, and there aren't any more places to sit. The door opens from down the hall, and a momentary bubble of chaotic conversation swells and dies with its closing. I sigh like an uninvited geek and breathe hotly on my freezing fingertips. The inhospitable cold reminds me that flesh tingles and stiffens, and now would be a grand time to tutor a scantily clad Barbie. Pig! But they must know I'm here, and for that, I must insert myself at the front of their classes and look like a big pussy first.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial

If you want dinosaur bones, piss off. You won’t find ‘em here (much), but Austin’s pretty geologically interesting if you ask me. The limestone that the city sits on is porous enough to create caves and aquifers, but it’s there because the whole area was underwater for a long time and not diverse enough to have sustained anything more than these crappy snails and oysters, at least at the fossil-record stratum that I poke around at. I still enjoy looking though. I’ve been fossil hunting since I was a wee bastard. Click on the pics for a pretty awesome close-up.

Please note my shitty car.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The End Is Nigh

I haven't written anything negative for a while, so I thought I'd try and ruin everyone's day with some facts. I don't have a lot of students to tutor in the summer, so I spent today studying for the LSAT and finally grappling with the enormity of the universe. If you've ever attempted the LSAT, you'll understand why it drives a creative mind to existentialism. Anyway, knowing just a little about the earth and universe should be enough to disrupt or derail your hopes and dreams, and as stated in #10 of my 2008 discoveries, I enjoy the virtue of being a pure motherfucker. I recently found out about the ruins of a civilization in present-day Bolivia that date back 17,000 years ago. At a time when humanity was still finger painting mastodons in European caves (and not even supposed to be in North or South America), these people were using a phenomenally advanced technology to quarry and cut 100 ton blocks of stone into interlocking structures...with tools that couldn't have been stone or copper. These are facts, people, and they contradict what we think we know about our own history. It'd be like finding a gel pen at Stratford-upon-Avon or a defibrillator at Golgotha. The technology at Puma Punka wasn't developed overnight either, so what was the history of the history of those people? My point is that in 17,000 years, everything a successful civilization had complied upon to master was absolutely and irrevocably lost. The earth is roughly 4.6 billion years old. Whole continents have submerged, collided, or split apart in its time. Ancient and unknown oceans have dried up. Mountain ranges, higher than the Himalayas, have weathered to nubs and have risen and weathered again. 4.6 billion years is such an unfathomable amount of time and the life expectancy of Earth, being just as difficult to comprehend, makes me soberly realize that humankind is only a single and inaudible blip on God's ephemeral radar. He could miss us altogether if he got up to take a piss or blink for that matter.
Expand this sobriety to the universe, 13.5 billion years old. I'll unscientifically average all the galaxies in this observable place to 200 billion (I've seen more and less). Now, if each galaxy holds a very conservative 100 billion solar systems, then I've just profoundly shit my pants with the insignificance of my existence...and yours. We'll all be dead soon, and nothing and no one you know will be around to testify for the things we've done, but even if we manage to extend our lives indefinitely (which we will one day (that's for another blog)), this tiny speck of earth will eventually rotate directly into the center of our solar system, the sun; the tiny speck of sun will rotate the solar system directly into the center of the galaxy, a black hole; and the tiny speck of black hole will likely rotate our galaxy into an inhospitable and radioactive region of space, killing what ever was resilient enough to survive its concentric doom, before conceivably rotating into its tethered base, whatever the hell that may be. And there's absolutely nothing humankind can dream of or create to stop this massive inevitability. Bottom line? Nothing matters. Goddamned LSAT. Happy Friday. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We All Have Our Talents

I’ve always considered myself a decent artist. When I was a kid, I could draw pictures of family members, superheroes, or just about anything I stared at long enough, and I’d flex my artistic ability by making Christmas portraits for grandmas or pet drawings for teachers. All was well until I hit puberty and decided to use my talent for degenerate purposes. 

You see, I was in love with a supermodel named Kathy. Only, Ms. Ireland did not love me back. I know this because to my knowledge, she never posed nude for anything but my imaginative day dreams, despite all the stars I wished upon. Solution? Draw her likeness, sans bikini. So I did. It was lovely and quite realistic with the exception of the massive 70s bush I thought all women packed in their bloomers. Upon completion, I called a meeting of neighborhood boys, and like birds in arrow formation, rode our bikes to the corner video store to mass produce my masterpiece via copy machine. One of the boys’ older brothers was a clerk there, and after feeding several dimes into the copier, I ceremoniously presented the older boy with a warm duplicate. But instead of approving of my gift, he tensed and regarded the reproduction nervously, and through tight lips, he mumbled, “Yule effed thor engine alumass.” I leaned closer and turned my head to hear him. “You left the original, dumbass!” I turned desperately to the machine, not ten feet away, and already a woman was closing its hood and holding Kathy’s portrait before her raised eyebrows. She looked at me and delicately extended the paper as though it were a real piece of art, and she didn’t want it creased. “Here you go,” she said kindly. “I don’t need one.” For the first time in my life, my entire body heated with the most tragic of self-inflicted humiliation, and when I reach out, my chubby and hairless arms were painted red. The woman’s tiny daughter peeped around from behind her mother’s huge purse as I shamefully claimed the filthy illustration. My throat involuntarily gulped to relieve its dry condition, and I thanked her with a timid and prepubescent grunt.

I wasn’t in trouble, of course. She wasn’t my mother, but she was an adult, and she was a she. I had clumsily revealed a dark and deeply rooted male motivation to a female outsider. She saw my secrets on that paper as clearly as if she’d seen me step out of a shower, naked and shriveled. Had a man found the picture, I’d like to think he’d have patted me knowingly on the shoulder and said, “Son, be more careful next time.” Instead, I got a woman who was visibly disoriented, alarmed, and sobered in one expression. It was a significant moment in my young life, and I never drew a naked celebrity again.*


*Unless you count the Disney porn flip-book of ’94, in which Goofy smears peanut butter on his perineum, sets up an 8mm, and whistles for Pluto.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Austin, a Pictorial

Behold! The cicada. While these little monsters are not unique to Austin, they hold a special place in my heart, for every summer, their deafening buzz reminds me that Texas' heat is a hell fit for biblical plague. I remember in the summer of '87, there were so many of them that casual outdoor conversation was impossible, and all fun was taken out of nightly cops-beat-down-the-robbers games as our toy guns were drowned out by the insects.
This empty husk is what cicadas look like about the first decade of their lives. They emerge from your front lawn, crap out, or molt, when the devil requires pestilence, then apparently turn into pure sound because they're not seen very often (hence no picture, but imagine a mutant horsefly, hulked out by gamma radiation).

These fore claws are as sharp as they appear, and since the slits on their backs are a natural fit for boys' fingers, they are nature's weapon against irritating sisters. That and pica beans. I'll describe those one day too.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Be Nice to Dogs. They Have Powers.

I'm not so superstitous that I fret over karma for all the wicked things I've done, but I've got one here that I can only explain as a benign bolt of Zeus lighting.

I've been watching my sister's dog, Capone, for nearly two weeks while she's off meeting celebrities on a blitzkrieg honeymoon across Europe. This is him:

Isn't he adorable? He's sweet and well behaved, and he celebrates my return from work every day as if I were the second coming of Jesus or Michael Jackson (too soon?). I appreciate his gushing affection because I like dogs, but the only thing dogs tend to like about me is the chewability of my delicious skin. Anyway, Capone's an indoor dog. He never craps in the house and he only barks when he want to come back inside after powdering his nose in the backyard. Even then, the bark is a single, notifying "Ready!" and he'll even allow you a few minutes to open the door before shouting, "Ready!" again.
The other night, I invited Capone to sleep on Gilda's side of the bed while she's in Mexico, and he gladly curled up next to me and stayed until morning. I thought we were advancing our relationship to the next level, but the following night, he chose to sleep in his favorite closet instead of with me. I took his absence as a sign of rejection and eventually convinced myself that I really didn't want a mangy beast soiling the sheets with its filth anyway. All through the night, I heard what sounded like someone shouting, "Ready!" from somewhere outside the walls of my sister's home, and though it was a familiar voice, I assured myself it was someone I didn't know. In the morning, I bumbled around the dark living room until I found a lamp. The turn of the switch brought illumination, realization, and Capone's single outside bark (whose meaning had changed from "Ready!" to "What the @#$%?!"). He ignored my apologies when I let him back in the house and immediately trotted to his "Best Dog in the World" water bowl and lapped it clean. I believe it was in the 80s that night.
The next day, I arrived home, emptied the contents of my pockets, stripped off my shirt, kicked off my shoes, and sighed contently for the end of another long day. Capone and I wrestled for a few minutes before I carried a garbage bag outside and locked myself out of the house. I stood staring at the front door like a shirtless moron in disbelief. How dare Capone and the house conspire revenge! In the backyard, I eased into a patio chair and rested my chin on my fist to reflect on the condition of my condition. Capone appeared at the back door and perched like a tail-wagging sphinx from inside the house, turning his head questioningly each time I slapped mosquitos from my sweaty face. Holy, holy hallelujah for the phone call I was expecting from Gilda. I had grabbed my cell phone before I'd left the house and used its remaining minutes of life to hear my other sister's sneering laughter. She came with a spare key, and I cooled down with a large glass of water.

Karma? I'd say so, sir.
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