Scene 1: Landing in the Hot Zone.
Date: May 25, 2005
Time: Early Afternoon
Location(s): Raleigh-Durham International Airport
A cell-phone rings but goes unanswered in an aging pickup truck. The windows are down, the air conditioning broken, but there is music, sweet music, wafting out of the still-functioning speakers. A perky song, "Wishbone" by Architecture in Helsinki, speeds America's Young Theologian toward the rendevous point - Raleigh-Durham International Airport. The phone rings again, but again it's voice fails to rise above the tween-pop din.
Captain Inertia arrived early and was looking a little travel worn when an unexpected vehicle lunged toward the curb on which he was waiting. He noticed it had a Texas plate on the front and a North Carolina plate on the back. The front bumper like a hockey player's nose was not as staight as it once was. First glancing right, the left, Captain Inertia's gaze centered on the open passanger's window which framed a familiar figure. The truck door swung open and closed, greetings and grins as the truck gallops into the hot, high North Carolina sun.
Scene 2: Heavy Machinery.
Date: May 25, 2005.
Time: 16:00 - 17:30.
Location(s): Penske Truck Rental.
Every mission begins with supplies and Captain Inertia and America's Young Theologian set off to meet AYT's contact. This mission will require some heavy machinery. The contact, disguised as an uninterested and not to be bothered Penske rental agent, was occupied with customers when the door swung open and a small bell anounced the enterance of our two main characters. Once the room had cleared the banter began. In typical form, America's Young Theologian plays it cool and allows his words to place the contact at ease. Sometimes, however, business should remain buisness, and contacts should remain contacts and nothing more. Unfortunately, his banter quickly has them talking like old friends. She, a gum-chewing single mother, quickly announces that in addition to their required supplies, she's procured a babysitter and is "going out tonight." The volume and intensity with which this was proclaimed sent Captain Inertia looking for some non-verbal reassurance that AYT's contact was indeed trustworthy. After money was agreed upon and exchanged, the contact said with a rather large smile, "I think you'll like what I have for you...It's bumpin'." She returned driving a vision in yellow, spewing a hip-hop beat. This will do, in fact, this is just what they'll need...speakers and wheels.
...to be continued...
Scene 3: A Loaded Question.
Date: May 25-27, 2005.
Location(s): Casa de Morehead.
"So, do you want to start loading," America's Young Theologian asked the most obliging Captain Inertia (and as a parenthetic note, when it comes to packing, Captain Inertia lives up to his name..."the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest or of a body in motion to stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force"). Thus it began - the hours Wednesday night, the marathon Thursday punctuated only by the need for food. AYT packed boxes with the care and intensity of a delicate chemistry experiment, while Captain Inertia was largely saddled with the role of beast of burden. Did I mention that Thursday was hot? Gum-on-the-sidewalk-melting hot. Thursday passed to the sound of Weezer B-sides, a tape-gun rolling over cardboard boxes, and conversation. Lest you think that all work and no play makes this a dull post, Captain Inertia and America's Young Theologian had a lovely visit with Stanley Hauerwas in the morning and met a diverse group of friends (19-32 yrs olds and everything from a moral theologian to a Moldovan restaurant busboy) for dinner/drinks, and Captain Inertia tried his first cigarette which he likened to "brushing his teeth with dirt"...but back to our story...
One can only carry a millstone for so long before one collapses under its weight and by midnight, AYT and Captain Inertia were already stumbling under the weight of the day. By the time the little hand pointed to the 1, while its longer relative pointed toward the sunless sky, it was time to take one's burdens down to the waterside. What does one do with a millstone around one's neck? Find water, and take a Kierkegaardian plunge. This may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes that which seems to beckon certain death is one's liberation. Sometimes the water exposes the millstone's solubility. AYT doesn't have a pool but happily uses the one in the adjoining apartment complex. Fast forward 5 minutes and each character are up to their knees in water seemingly impervious to the day's heat. It's late and shrieks are muffled to whimpers in the remarkably cold water. The lonely pool - which closes at 9pm - was happy to welcome AYT and Captain Inertia. They appreciated the hospitality, but failed to show it, quickly darting towards towels after 15 seconds. In that brief time span the millstones disappeared, the daring duo found themselves rejuvenated and ready to sleep towards a new day...
...to be continued...
Scene 4: On the Road.
Date: May 27-28, 2005.
Location(s): The Belly of a Yellow Whale.
The morning breaks, or rather is broken, in the same manner as the previous one, namely, with the musical stylings of KC & the Sunshine Band's "Walking on Sunshine" applying the necessary force to change Captain Inertia from rest to movement. Apparently, Captain Inertia's superpowers don't wake until 10am. The meticulously laid plans would also today be roused, but there were the final preparations. With these completed and the truck packed, Captain Inertia and America's Young Theologian made sure no traces were left. Everything unnecessary to the mission ahead was scrapped. Then an obscure liturgy was enacted: short prayer, breaking of lightbulb, "Mazeltov!", saddle, ride. One last stop on the way out of Durham: Cookout.
Destination: Dayton, Ohio.
Distance: Miles: 580
Truck full, tank full, bellies full, the road beckons. How does one measure time? Miles traveled, the earth's revolution, songs played, towns passed, activities engaged, conversation had? All seem suitable, so here's a traveling miscellany.
America's Young Theologian and Captain Inertia's List of Favorites:
Favorite Town Not Stopped In:
Nitro, West Virginia - sounded like a small town trying to compensate for something or a NASCAR hotbed.
America's Young Theologian's, no Captain Inertia's, no... - AYT's iPod weights in at 19 full days of music, but it has some dreadful stuff on it 'cause it includes all music listened to since high school, think - Third Eye Blind, Hootie, Bryan Adams, Enya. Further, half of AYT's interesting music is due to a certain Duke friend, so it seems somewhat unfair to include these on the judgment scales. However, AYT (perhaps unsurprisingly) has theology lectures on his iPod. Captain Inertia has a guilty pleasure or two that need not be divulged (cough, Del Amitri), but generally possesses a smaller but leaner collection, more inflected toward classic rock and the influence it exerts on indie rock today. (AYT has a preference for indie pop.)
America's Young Theologian and Captain Inertia passed an hour or two listening to lectures on the manner in which class is determinative both within American society and the church.
AYT and Captain Inertia also happened to get into a heated argument through the aforementioned iPod's. The scene: Captain Inertia's iPod is pontificating on the yellow truck radio. On comes Joe Strummer, lead singer of The Clash, and Johnny Cash singing a cover of Bob Marley & the Wailers' "Redemption Song." AYT snidely comments, "What does Johnny Cash have to be redeemed from?" Captain Inertia pulls a I-appreciate-the-creative-reinterpretation flag from his pocket and starts to waive it vigorously. AYT being overly attracted to flag waiving - something unrelated to being a Taurus, you can be assured - pulled his own creativity-is-good-but-so-is-a-peaceful-politic-where-we-allow-someone-to-tell-their-own-story-without-needing-to-speak-ourselves flag, displaying it with a certain impassioned vehemence. The long and short of all this flag waiving is that America's Young Theologian and Captain Inertia went ten miles beyond a rather important exit off the highway. Sometimes when iPod's fight, no one wins. Moral of the day.
Favorite Way to Almost Die:
Driving 70 mph down two lane back roads through somewhat hilly and extremely rural Ohio in a truck the size of Kansas toward oncoming traffic also going 70 mph and about 7 inches off the driver's side mirror...oh yeah, at night.
Favorite Place to End the Day:
America's Young Theologian and Captain Inertia, after numerous phone calls explaining a much later than expected arrival, pull up to the house of their quite patient, quite accommodating, and quite wonderful contact, who will here go by Ms.K.L. (not to be confused, M.L.K.). Arriving a little before 1am, Captain Inertia and America's Young Theologian slide from their steed and contribute wine to the cheese and fruit waiting in the hands of a lovely friend. Captain Inertia's electrostatically charged battery forces him to plug himself into bed. America's Young Theologian - powered by normal human means - says goodnight to the 2005 Hostess of the Year award winner, and sleeps.
...to be continued...
DJ Shadow - Endtroducing... -- (Recently remastered.)
Led Zeppelin - I
Paul Simon - Graceland
Nirvana - In Utero
Paul Simon - The Rhythm Of The Saints
Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes
Miles Davis - In a Silent Way
Tori Amos - Under the Pink
Jay-Z - The Black Album
A special thanks to Captain Inertia.
The end of the school year occasioned another round of goodbyes. Having moved three times in one year [Duke to Princeton; Princeton back to Duke (though a very different Duke than I had left); and now on the verge of Duke to Chicago], I've had these emotions before, especially the sadness that occasions questioning of choices made. I had the same feelings when I was leaving Princeton and the people I had grown to love there.
(From L to R: Lucy, Abby, Dave, Emily; Reno)
Feelings ranging from, "What the hell am I doing (leaving a place and people I love)?" to "How's it going to be?" to a simple "I'll miss you." I've done this enough that I've had the conversations before. The conversations that say goodbye, the conversations about staying in touch, the conversations that highlight the fact that sadness in leaving speaks plenty of one's affections and the blessings one has received. As I've commented to friends, Durham feels like a bathtub of a town from which my friends are draining, so I expect that when it comes time to leave, only memory and familiarity of place will beckon me to stay.
Yet not all are old and at least two emotions seem new. First, a feeling of sadness for not having more time to get to know certain people better. Second, a sense of amusement, wonder, and delight for the diversity of the social scene I'm leaving.
The first emotion is occasioned by a couple friends who I've found both wonderful but difficult to get to know. This experience has made me wonder about how transparent I am and about the relative difficulty that is involved with getting to know me. The more I've thought about it the more I've concluded that I'm fairly opaque. Generally, I'll answer with candor personal questions (if posed) , but am not altogether forthcoming. This puts the burden of discovery on others without sharing in the responsibility of disclosure. Note to self: Work on this...since how I act influences how others relate to me, how much they know and trust me, and as a result how much they share of themselves.
I was recently having a conversation with a friend about blogging and many of the pitfalls we see in it. There is the self-agrandizing "look how entertaining i am," the issue-based blog which generally read like collected ignorance, the utter boredom of "I'm going to tell you about the minutiae of my life," and those that suffer from being either performative but lacking vulnerability, or exhibitionist lacking propriety. These are what I'm trying to avoid. So, my blog is more or less for family and friends (people with whom I share bonds of affection), and hopefully I can work on being transparent (by sharing my thoughts, emotions, and experiences) and vulnerable (so it doesn't turn into a performative mess). My friend noted:
"i think that basically - being introverted has it's downfalls - the major one being that every time you go and act extroverted you are acting against your nature - i.e. performing - which makes you feel you're doing something false when really you're doing the same things everyone else does - you're just second guessing them...unless you actually are performing in a false way - which is my fear. if you're truly introverted, then you [are going to have to struggle to put yourself out there] but ideally - you would still say the things you really thought and felt and not try to be someone you aren't."
So, there's the challenge for America's Young Theologian.
I've been so wonderfully blessed by the people in my life and I'm profoundly thankful for the wonderful blooms flowering around me in Durham over the last few months (and years). This love, this joy, makes the goodbyes bitter, but bittersweet.Stay tuned as America's Young Theologian and Captain Inertia take to highways and byways...
to a water rock and landed, by error, on the back
of an eider duck; lightly it fluttered off, amused.
The duck, too, was not provoked, but, you might say, was
This afternoon a gull sailing over
our house was casually scratching
its stomach of white feathers with one
pink foot as it flew.
Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift to us, if we
only look, and see.
--Mary Oliver, "Why I Wake Early" (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004), 26.
"Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift to us, if we
only look, and see."
There is something here, but also something lacking. There has been a significant swing away from idealism in recent philosophical history (and a greater attending to particularity), but more significantly the wall between idealism and realism (and for that matter between subject and object) falters in the philosophical landscape after Wittgenstein. So here we are provided with precisely that which Mary Oliver's poem "Look and See" fails to explicitly provide. What is lacking in the call to look and see is the notion that looking/seeing can only be accomplished through linguistic constructs. Words allow us to see. Word care, thus, is a significant task because it forms us to see the world in particular ways. This is why poets, writers, storytellers, and rhetoricians are so vital to any community. Mary Oliver beckons us to look and see, but fails to mention that one needs to be linguistically formed in order to see. Of course, what is not made explicit in the poem is accomplished by the poem itself. Her practice as a wordsmith helps us to see, such that we can echo "Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift to us" with her.
My name appeared in the graduation materials, goodbyes were said, boxes start to fill. The plans: Move all worldly belongings from North Carolina to Chicago storing them at the not-so-climate-controlled Morehead Family Garage; a week in Chicago; fly to Freiburg, Germany; learn Deutsch -- June/July; back in the States -- August.
Follow and the road will lead...
Spoon - Gimme Fiction (along with the 4 song bonus disc that could have been better).
The Polyphonic Spree - Together We're Heavy
Architecture in Helsinki - In Case We Die
Various Artists - Verve Remixed 3 -- Classic Verve Records artists remixed by todays top DJ's.
...and the following single:
"I Haven't Got Anything Better to Do"
Dee Dee Warwick
Album: I Want to Be With You - The Mercury/Blue Rock Sessions
As one of my friends wrote in an email: "Blogs are evil. America's young theologian...should work on...interpersonal communication...[to]...relay a message of relevance, not just come up with good sounding one-liners for an electronic audience. As you are an important young theologian, I thought you should know my opinion."
This was written in a playful email and bloggers need not provide a defense, but electronic media often leads to a distancing from the real. Communio (and therefore communication) -- which involves eye contact, physical presence, intonation, etc. -- involves a connection to the real which is often made difficult by such electronic forms. In my opinion, there can be no such thing as mass communication, only mass transfer of information, for communion requires presence which can only become diffuse in any mass transfer of information.
So why are you blogging?, you may ask. Well, there's a certain sadness in it, for I blog because I'm on the move and grieve the loss of the presence of those I love. Hopefully, this blog (even more impersonal than email because it lacks a specific audience) will both give you a window onto the road which my feet trod and remind you--through its sterility, lack of texture, and lack of presence--that eye contact matters. So, if you must read this (and I can think of better uses of one's time), do so for what it lacks not what it presents...and hope that we might be present to one another soon.