Sunday, December 8, 2013

A 50 Post Fence

I sincerely apologize to my loyal fan base for the recent lack of digital output on my part.  I am sure both of you are terribly disappointed.  The primary purpose of this blog has moved significantly further from creating items of literary merit than originally intended and instead I have focused on cathartic writing, really just working things out for myself.  I believe I am one of a large population for whom there is a much greater need to talk things out, if you will, over negative events and circumstances than positive ones.  The end result is that I have instilled in some the idea that most of my time in the last year has been spent in a spiritually and emotionally desolate place.  As true as that may or may not be, since the last few months have been quite wonderful I have had horribly little to write about.

The other source of hesitation on my part was due to the fact that this would be Polymathophilia's 50 post and that felt eerily similar to a substantial milestone and I did not want to squander it.  Unfortunately here I am, squandering away.

Half of Polymathophilia's general readership begged the question, "what has become of Stephen Pottersworth?".  And as a full quorum of the readership has presented the question, they deserve an answer.


For those of you who are interested in my more Makeresque pursuits I am about 50% completed with the shell for my glorious swag construct.  Unfortunately about a month ago the tensioning screw on the bobbin case was forever lost, hence rendering my magnificent sewing machine's tensioning capabilities moribund.  This tragedy bound together with my near paralysis to venture into unknown parts of the city to attempt to find what I am looking for has lead to an hiatus of sorts in the production capacity of myself.  "Bobbin case tensioning screw hai?"

Positive news is that after my marathon debacle a few months ago I have the initial steps towards physical health.  A few guys and I have been meeting biweekly to spend time running, exerting ourselves, and encouraging each other towards godly masculinity and prayer.   The near term benefit is that I am nearing tantalizingly close to physical and spiritual health.  Not only do I have a means for health but now a motive as a company of men has invited me to a HimALayan expedition in June.  Of course this does mean that I will have to go through process of acquiring lightweight and warm gear that will  enable me to be safe and comfortable on said expedition.  I am hoping to make or procure a silnylon tarp shelter and a lightweight quilt.

I have some options for an inexpensive pyramid structure tarp tent which I might silicone myself but I will see what is available to find in the nylon and insulation departments.  The fortunate side is that with the trip in June I will be in the US in May, providing the opportunity to purchase gear that I cannot manufacture in the intervening months.

Hopefully I will again be writing more regularly as a friend is working on a book and I have some free time now that I have concluded my entire re-read of the Wheel of Time Series, which did occupy most, if not all, of my free time over the past few months.

I leave you with El Borracho.  Which is not only one of the best sounding Spanish words I've ever heard but also has a wonderful little man to litter your dreams associated with it

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Pursuit of Swag

In 4 days I am going camping with some friends.  We had 2 months to make bedrolls and I thought it would be a walk in the park.  Now we have 4 days, little more intense.  I am going to attempt to make swags that are a shameless knock off of the Wynnchester swags.  We are going on a motorcycle trip and as our local is not hammock friendly one of these behemoths might be just the ticket.  Plus they feel and look very cool which is always worth something.
The gloriful swag

With the help of several friends I have been attempting to break the DIY chains of India and make some stuff.  It has not been easy.  After attempting for months to source things online it was time to just head out into the city.  The first stop was a bazaar which rumor had it held Canvas.  The market was abustle with activity when we arrived and practically packed when we left.  The energy of the place was contagious and I think just going out and doing something refilled my chutzpah quotient.  No one we could find carried canvas or knew where in the bazaar we could buy it.  Fortunately I now have another trustworthy lead if I need canvas in the future.

While at this market we found ourselves on a street of Ayurvedic supplies I thought we should ask about Beeswax.  Low and Behold almost everyplace had it.  Some wanted me to sign away my first child for the stuff but I walked away with 2 kg's for Rs 900.  I know that that is still way more than we could probably negotiate for but I was happy to just get it.  I'm hoping to write another blog on the purification process of the beeswax, which I found to be delightful.  I've said it once and I'll say it again, I was born to keep bees.

So on our long list of needs for the trip we had 1 of them.  We did get a lead from this trip and so a week later we were in Charminar looking for canvas.  We did find a light weight variety that was too expensive but we jumped on it as it was the first canvas like fabric we had found in our search.  Hopefully the other Bazaar will be the land of milk and honey that I am expecting it to be.   Now if anyone wants to someday follow our textile pilgrimage through Hyderabad and is frustrated that I am not documenting the names of the places we went, it is simply because I don't remember what anything was called.  While picking up the canvas we were told by the almost friendly shopkeeper where to buy zippers.  Bulk coil zipper was the one thing that I figured would bring this whole operation to its knees so we figured we would chase down this lead while we  were in the area.  This brought us further from our car, which will carry weight later in the story.

Down the street we go, down a narrow alley that I would never have gone down myself, and we find ourself in as close to a gear maker's paradise as I think Hyderabad holds.  This shop sold supplies for making luggage and I was surrounded by rivets, thread, webbing, buckles, many things that I have wanted in the past.  I wanted to just buy 10 of everything but this project is already getting expensive and "maybe for later" purchases always seem to just collect dust.  There is a solid 10% chance I could find this place again if I had to.

So we bought a nice big spool of polyester thread, 40 meters of zipper and 15 of the "higher quality" zippers.  I would have loved the zippers to have pulls on either side but at this point I was going to grab the goods while they were hot.  While we were paying sprinkles began to drop outside.  By the time we walked out the door the rainfall was, in a word, torrential.  So we sat for 20 to 30 minutes waiting for it to let up.  Mother Nature in all of her wiles relented for at least 5 minutes for us to get back out to the main street.  Withing 14 and a half seconds we were well soaked.  The long walk back to the car gave the rain ample opportunity to find any dry spots on our persons and soak them.  Luckily I was wearing my Chucks so the water that was several inches deep at the shallowest path we could find found a comfortable home soaking my socks.

These delays and the weather helped to ensure that the 40 minute drive to get to Charminar turned into a 3 hour drive to get back.  There were a few places we thought of looking for Linseed oil  (as this is a key ingredient in our waterproofing scheme) but the weather and traffic were so bad, plus us being soaked and freezing in the car, we just skipped the trip.  The good news is that armed with some banner material we have everything we now need to make the swag shell.  I still have dreams of a mosquito net, mattress, and waterproofing but we will have to see what the new day brings.

A sewing machine was supposed to arrive at my door 5 hours ago.  Hopefully it will come tonight and the late night sew-a-thon can commence.  Almost there but not quite.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Last week was the marathon

Love this t-shirt
Some of you know that last week was a half marathon that about 2 months ago I publicly broadcasted that I was going to run.  I did okay doing some training the first week.  Week 2 I was very ill with a stomach deal that lasted, to one degree or another, for the next 3 weeks.  This stomach deal, which I'm 90% sure was worms related, could not have come at a more convenient time.  I lost some of the weight I had picked up during my last visit to the US, my appetite shrunk dramatically (which I have been able to maintain), and I was thrown off my training program in the fetal stage.  One the one hand I was not going to run the half marathon, running a marathon (like fixing up a classic car or motorcycle from the ground up) is on my "Some day I oughta" list.  This list also includes falconing, living in a hobbit hole, working on a ship, and being a shepherd. I thought I would actually run a half and maybe that would not only leverage itself towards being in shape physically, it would be a huge win in a time that I could really use a huge win.

The reason I'm writing at this exact moment is I was perusing the Art of Manliness blog and read this article.  Up until the last week I have really been struggling with my place here in India, my desire to go home and camp whenever I want to, and just the promising career path that is spiraling ahead of me.  One I'm not sure I want to continue on.  I saw this cartoon last week and it resonated more loudly than it should have, which means I'm not really where I should be. There are a lot of things that have contributed to my current state of the doldrums.  I have whined about them enough on other articles.  Today I want to whine about my perceived inability to finish things I start.  I come from a family that has, in many ways, turned starting things into a fine art.  I feel like I have even further magnified this trait.  I'm a dreamer, I get exited about something new on a weekly or daily basis.  I will obsess about planning something up until 5 minutes into the practical application step and then fizzle out.  The marathon, my camping supply company, my motorcycle/cafe shoppe, making bedrolls for the upcoming camping trip, my writing, my music: these are simply the current projects in this nebulous state.  The historical list is stunningly long.  When talking about writing with a friend a few weeks ago she asked if I was afraid of success.  I have no idea what that means.

I have always been afraid of good old fashion failure and it has been my MO in the past to attempt to flee when the opportunity for failure presents itself.  The stronger my hope of success the more quickly and distant I run from the possibility of calamity.  Somehow I scored a super hot wife and wonderful children during the past 10 years, of which I am supremely grateful, but my fear of failure and my flee survival instinct are still very strong when it comes to personal achievements.  Let me spell out a more humiliating example.  I always enjoyed the idea of math.  I was bored by math because it came easily for me, but I really wanted to learn the crazy complex stuff.  Then came 7th grade.  I had a C in math because I never did my homework.  I still tested well but I felt then, and still do to some degree, that homework is for the people that don't understand the concept yet.  So along came our algebra readiness test.  I scored either 2nd highest in my Team (which was a subdivision of teachers for a block of students) or 2nd highest in the school, I don't recall which.  My math teacher, however, would not allow me to move onto algebra because I had a C.  Of course I was afraid of almost everything so I didn't say anything to her but my imaginary conversation went something along the lines of, "Of course I have a C.  Your course is boring, the homework ridiculous, and I don't need to do it."  Being that it was 7th grade there was more colorful language and several profound observations about her ability to teach as well as completely assumed facts about her age and personal life, but that is not necessary for the narrative.  Here I was a science and math junky, planning on going to medical school, and I wrote off mathematics and just assumed I was a history/literature guy.

For the rest of my academic career I was a year behind in math in relation to almost all of my friends. I never worked on math homework outside of class time again, and skated by with C's until I was no longer required to take math.  This prevented me from taking advanced biology, AP physics, Calculus, and all sorts of other classes I would have really enjoyed, because I wasn't a math guy.  Maybe this doesn't resonate with anyone out there but I threw away hours of learning something I would have really enjoyed because one woman made a decision that I was unwilling to contest.  I felt like something was stolen from me and I never fought to get it back.  I don't know what has haunted me the most over the years: the fact that I was academically and personally lazy all those years and I could have achieved so much more (and could continue to achieve much more) if I only changed that; or the fact that it was another addition to the long list of things I wish I had fought for but didn't.  A lot of the things I gave up on probably were for the best.  Had I bounced back with enthusiasm from my knee injury in high school I may have been an even more arrogant bastard than I was already.  Had I actually learned math and aced my SATs I probably would have lived a completely different life than I do now.  Had I not been so afraid of girls and actually dated in High School I may have never ended up with my beautiful wife of almost 10 years, which would not have in any way been worth the ego boost at the time.  But all of these defeats I have allowed to define who I am.

In the AOM article referenced above it talks about people with external and internal locus of control.  I think in a lot of departments of my life I have that internal locus.  I have been driven and successful in the workplace and I have done and seen good things happen in my life.  One of my major weaknesses, however, is that when something becomes important to me I don't complete it.  Not because I lack the ability or personal gumption to see it through (which is usually my excuse de'jour).  Often I do not complete what I put my hands to because I become so emotionally tied to its success that it is easier to walk away and imagine the what ifs than to stay the course and risk the possibility of failure.

I had put the marathon to the back of my mind up until last week and I began to hear about my various friends who had participated in and completed the race.  My usual response is self-abasing sarcasm which unfortunately has been disarmed from me in my current cultural context.  So what does a man do when he is faced with his failure to stick with it, cowboy up, and do something big and yet can't make fun of himself and make a public spectacle of his failure?  I don't know.  All week I haven't known.

In about a month a group of us are going to ride our motorcycles and go on a 1 night camping trip.  Some of us have camped a lot, some not at all, and the weight of everyone's enjoyment and happiness had weighed heavily on my shoulders.  A lot of us need this trip.  Several of us use the outdoors to re-center ourselves and we have been stripped of that by our particular geographical position.  Many of us are here professionally and have very little quality social interaction with other men.  And like I said before, I need a win.  Tents are ridiculously expensive here and as a few of the guys strike me as at least aspiring to be rough-and-tumble, I'm going to try and design and manufacture (or have manufactured) sleeping rolls for the trip.  I need something masculine liked sleeping under the stars in waxed canvas next to a smoldering fire after days of sitting in a cubicle unable to even do the work that I am required to do.  I have spent some significant time obsession over the fine details of the project and now that I am on the verge to proceed with the creation of them, to manifest the dream; every fiber of my being is screaming to just give up and get some blue tarps for the guys.

I have had too many urges to quit the last few months.  I have really struggled to get back in the grove here in Asia after my US trip.  I haven't wanted to write, and what I have written has reinforced my perceptions.  After the Stephen Pottersworth Part II post's dismal reception I almost just shut the blog down, or at least wrote it off as something I'd get back to later.  For better or for worse failure is not currently an option.  I just can't take it emotionally or psychologically.  I'm tired of just calling myself a dreamer because I'm too afraid to risk people hating what I make.  I am writing this blog because I am going to at least attempt to continue even though I don't want to.  And maybe next week I'll even go for a run.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Spaceeba Bolshoei

Noticed that I get more page views from Russia than the US.  So a big thanks to all of moy malchiki i moya dyavutchka ruski.  I hope you can read it because we all know I suck at posting pictures.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Remarkable Life of Stephen Pottersworth Pt. II

If you are anything like me you have always wanted to be in a secret society but are still looking for a decent secret.

Hogmany Spigglesmith, Something Spectacular in a Dusk of Mediocrity: The Life of Hogmany Spigglesmith

No matter how many action movies one has seen it never really prepares oneself for the actual act of being shot.  It is unfortunately unromantic, horribly painful, and downright debilitating.  I myself was once hit in the ear by a maliciously loosed BB in retaliation for filling a shrub with low velocity metal shot which I assumed housed a loose rabbit but which, in fact, was concealing my bosom friend, Horatio.  Penny Pelatozi, in contrast, had just been bowled over by a concussion to the left shoulder caused by a .45 caliber slug fired in an even more malicious manner than Horatio's lone BB.  Where I thought I had lost an appendage useful for the assisting of gathering sound waves; Penny Pelatozi had a piece of lead similar in size to her namesake tearing through muscle and smashing bone in such a violent manner that she feared for losing a much more utilitarian appendage and possibly her very life.  It was a valid concern, particularly considering the next slug that bisected the two hemispheres of her frantically active brain and did that very thing.

I think most people into 2 categories and said category can be analyzed with the first thought that enters one's mind when one hears the word, “laboratory”.   The first category of individual is one who hears the word laboratory and thinks of the modern pharmaceutical machine and its attached images of super clean labs made of shiny glass and calming creame colored polymers.  A laboratory is a place where the future is paved with pipettes, latex gloves, and lab coats.  This type of individual usually pronounces the word /LAB-re-tory/ in a way that is reminiscent of a loyal and friendly Labrador.  If you are in this brainwashed and comforted populated I applaud the comfort that you can maintain in this na├»ve fantasy.  

The second group of people pronounces the word /la-BOR-a-tory/.  The mental image may be heavily influenced by the Victorians and the associated early scientists of that era: bubbling colanders, brass piping, and specimen jars.  The image may instead by the 1950s sea-green tile workshop with slightly dirty grout and a table laid out with complex and frightening stainless steel tools, and of course specimen jars.  If this is what enters your mind when you read the word “laboratory” then you know what goes on there, and you would be correct.

A blaze, a cough, a gasp.  In the moment that nothing can exist all exists.  The light crept out into his eyes and his soul.  A spectre of validation and loss tied up in a moment of scream inducing pain.  Everything and nothing, someone and no one.  A shadow falling across his face, a feeling of empty apathy mixed with abject horror.  The pain and the serenity mix into a cloud of confused methodology.  The cold feel of something metallic, chemical burn, thermal burn.  Run, get free, escape.  Peace, be still, relax.  My consciousness slipping into horrifying serenity, you must hold, you must stay here.  I am here, this is real.  They cannot make me lose my grasp.  Forget.  Peace.  Calm.  When I was 8 years old I was lost at Funland.  The fear and the panic made my heart race just like it is now, but then she was there.  We sat in the wildflowers, she held me close and ran her hands through my hair.  I’m safe now, so relaxed. Flash of bright lighting like burning magnesium sinking to the bottom of a fetid pool.  This pain is real, this fear is real.  There are no constraints but I am trapped.  Why is it is hard to breath?  Every pulse racing through my mind beating like a drum stretched from my own skin, beaten as I watch.  I remember them pealing the skin back like Thanksgiving turkey.  I remember.  The cool sand under my toes.  The cool breeze against my sunburned face.  The smell of salt, the smell of her.  I feel her hair tickling my nose but I don’t want to let her loose.  The moonlight is our companion now, the waves and the sand.  I know her from no where and yet she is my constant companion.  She reaches out to me, she touches my face.  Burning bright light and the too coolooth to, to smuch on my cheek.  A shadow moves.  How can shadows exist in this cosmic brightness?  Murmurs of voices on the edge of my hearing, murmurs of memories on the edge of my mind.  What is, what was, nothing seems to stand fixed in my washing sea of emotions and thoughts.  I remember that once memories stood as monolithic in my mind, strong cornerstones of thought but they mix and mingle now like cream and coffee.  Soon they will all be one and I will be nothing.  Cold nothing, safe nothing, to be free of the prodding and touching.  No touch could ever feel clean again, no contact could ever feel right.   Blessed I have been blessed.  I have seen the light.  Light in the darkness that cleanses frees us from what was once us.  Cursed we were and blessed we now stand.  I feel like vomit and bile are squeezing between the creases of my brain.  Putrid, oily filth that separates and congeals.  Toxic phantoms cross my consciousness as I loose hope, as I loose what is real.  What is right.  His eyes were fastened open against the blinding light.  Frantically searching back and forth for a peace.  His mouth dry around the frame that held it open for the inserted forms that were forced down gagging and coughing with no release, no way to reject what was being forced upon him.  His mind gave one final shudder and his eyes rolled back into the same darkness where his thoughts hid.

Nothing like it.  Sitting in the sun on a picnic bench, drinking a fine artisan brew; smelling the steaks, flowers, and sunscreen; hearing the voice of so many little ones keeping cadence with their bare feet on the concrete as they giggle through the dense crowd of parents, aunts, uncles, and friends.  The redglow coming through my eyelids: warming the eyes, warming the soul.  It was hard to imagine any troubles or difficulties on a day like this.
“Penny, want another beer?”  
“No thanks Jon, still milking this one.”
“Alright, but if you don’t pick up the pace all that’s going to be left is Bush Lite and other variations of drinkable piss.”
“Always the gentleman Jon.”
“See?  Haven’t changed much.”
And there it was.  It always came back to the Society.  He might joke and kid but Jon was not who he was when he joined that damned fraternity and the change in dad has taken place even faster. Such a nice day, now I'm pissed.  We can’t just have a nice day not talking about the secrets, the lies, the altering of our family.  Just for once I was hoping to sit here and pretend that everything was the way it used to be.  That everything had not changed.  That my brother was still and good man, and my father was someone I wanted to be like when I grew up, hell, someone I wanted to marry.  But like that cloud moving towards the setting sun that illusion is hidden from view.  

As a physician one of my favorite activities is to ask the patient where on the pain spectrum he or she is.  Whenever I receive in response a 9 or 10 I inwardly chuckle to myself.  Of course in the interest of clinical courtesy one may not outwardly laugh at or mock the troubled invalid, though the mind does go where it will.  The pain level of 7 and above is considered excruciating pain and one cannot perform the activities associated with daily living and yet here the patient is, sitting on my examination table, talking to me about how much pain he or she is in and they have no chaperon that could have escorted him or her to this emergency appointment.  Obviously navigating traffic should be considered one of the more complex activities of daily living and hence it is impossible, or at least highly improbably, that they are in fact suffering from stage 9 pain when they have transported themselves to the clinic personally.  If they were in level 9 pain and had operated a heavy machine or other implement of technological transport than they had selfishly endangered the general populace with their actions.  If they are indeed not in level 9 pain than they have taken me for an illiterate fool, a pop culture psychiatrist who will be sympathetic towards their scientifically unfounded claims.  In either case the temptation exists to punish them for their social negligence or to instruct them of the meaning of level 9 pain.  A gouged eye-ball or extroverted internal organs go a long way to instruct and correct the foolish actions or claims of these supercilious patients, so called if only because they try mine so.  Of course in accordance with the Hippocratic oath I would never carry out such an activity so frowned upon by general society.  Of course I would be doing that very same society a great favor but it could be argued that I had, in executing this judgement, committed an act that did harm to an individual, however he or she may have deserved it.  However, in faith to my oath I would never do such a thing to anyone who had come to my clinic voluntarily.

During the days of paranoia that accompanied the Cold War Era the American psyche looked outwardly to see a terrifying world of evil doers and vicitimizers.  Fresh on the collective memory was the horrors of authoritarianism and genocide.  The all too present danger of the Socialist Soviet Republic hung a pall across the major cities of the united states.  An invading land force, nuclear holocaust, and abduction by foreign agents posing as your friends and neighbors haunted the mind and poisoned the population’s interactions.  Whether it was the communists, the Nazis, or Imperial Japan the fear of being attacked seemed to manifest itself in a focus on Extra-Terrestrials and their visits to our planet.  Conspiracies sprang forth from the suspicious mind of a populace that was taught to find secret agents and spies in every pantry corner.  A population had seen first hand the government’s failings in Korea, Vietnam, and the Bay of Pigs and the suspicious that had been sown in their mind turned towards their own overbearing protectors.  A government that was so shrouded in mystery could be capable of hiding anything, even attacks against our own citizens from other-worldly sources.

With the new millennium cam new fears.  Like the start of the 20th century humanity has advanced and we are ushering in a new age.  The totalitarian governments of the past have crumbled and with technology and a change in cultural morality we are stepping into a new, unadulterated future.  But just as surely as 1913 became 1914 there is a tangible tension in 2013, waiting to hear the report of Gavrilo Princip’s pistol round that will awaken us from the illusion that we have knowingly painted as a mask for reality.  We have had long enough to realize that the 3rd Reich was made up of Nazis and many of those Nazis were uncomfortably similar to you and I.  Many of the creature comforts enjoyed by the masses are fueling a planet-wide demise that that seems to lear ever more menacingly from the mountain of empty gas cans and disposable cutlery.  The Alien has been replaced by the Zombie.  In an age of limited personal accountability to their own personal health as well as the health of the planet the threat is recognizable as being dangerously internal.  A culture that is very quick to see the impending collapse but unwilling to publicly own any of that blame.  The cultural subconscious, however, knows and fears that it is itself responsible.

No longer is the culture afraid of being victimized by an outside source, kidnapped and suffering Mengele scientific experimentation by small gray men who can easily be recognized as “Thems.” The Fear now is that the individual will be victimized and changed outside of one’s control.  One no longer must fear from they psychological damage of the crisis but more a psychic excommunication where one’s body is no longer associated with one’s mind.  When crisis strikes will the victim descend into predatory herd behavior casting off the bindings of modern, technological sensibilities?  The lingering spectre of primal, aggressive humanity that is so opposed to our cultured still haunts or histories and threatens to return to our future.  When crisis strikes will the individual stand and save the community?  Will the individual be the hero of the story?  what is the consequence of a herd of Nietzhsche’s Superman?  Will Kal-El rise up and battle back the horde that has rejected social convention?  Will someone save the culture in the face of individuals rejecting it?  What aspects of the culture are worth saving?  Finally will those of us uninfected turn on each other to survive?  Is it the virus that turns the human into an animal or the animal in the human?

Alien abduction fear casts an interesting double-sided doubt on the victim.  Was I special in some way that attracted the attention of the unworldly hosts or was I so workaday that the unseen observers knew I would not be missed if their experimentation went awry.  Xenophobia manifests one’s self worth as the source of the crisis.  Kinemortophobia analyzes one’s self image as what is distilled from the individual as a result of the crisis.  In an Internet age where everyone may pose as anyone, very few westerners have any idea about who and what they really are.  We subconsciously are craving to be given an opportunity for definition, even at the cost of humanity as a whole.  Will you be the sheep or the shepherd?  Or will you be victimized by an unconquerable force and become the wolf?

Of course “Case Z” has not and will most likely never happen.  Zombiesm is merely a metaphor for the current age, just as Dracula and witches were the metaphors for the cultural fears of the Victorian and Medieval eras.  This cultural shift of fear, however, does not in anyway argue the impossibility of you being a victim of extra-terrestrial abduction activities.  It merely encourages a cultural atmosphere where no one will believe you if you are.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Haddo's Delight

One of the wonderful tobacco blends I brought from the states was Haddo's delight by G.L. Pease.  According to the website:
This is a stout blend consisting of several grades of Virginia tobaccos with a generous measure of long-cut perique. Unflavored Green River black Cavendish and a little air-cured white burley ribbon provide fullness, body, and a bit of extra strength. Finally, an exclusive process darkens and marries the mixture, and gives the blend a subtle tin aroma of cocoa and dried fruit. The flavor is full on the palate, earthy, slightly sweet and intriguingly piquant, with overtones of figs and raisins. A wonderful and unprecedented blend for the true perique lover!
Haddo's, more than any other blend in the range, has developed an almost cult-like following. It has inspired music, written and recorded by Apalachian dulcimer performer Chris Carlisle, and even poetry!
Softer, fuller and more voluptuous than a Boticelli.
Flavor and finesse surpassing a '29 Lafite
Complexity that would shame a Mozart sonata.
Haddo's, before thy diaphanous cloud, I fall prostrate!!
-Bear Graves
If you haven't, yet, and love perique, give it a try. But, be careful, as you, too, might fall victim to its charms and begin composing sonnetts.

As you can infer from the above I had heard great things about this blend and decided it was time for me to branch out.  I had attempted a few VaPer blends early on (Virginia/Perique) but they didn't sing for me.  I've been a pretty committed English/Balkan fan.  The more Latakia the better.  As a reference one of my favorite tobaccos is Da Vinci by Cornell & Diehl which is 75% Latakia.  

I decided to step away from that narrow view of pipe tobacco and attempt some new varieties.  This is the 2nd in that endeavor.  The first was a Navy Flake by C&D.  I really enjoyed it and it was a good blend for newbies.  This is an entirely different thing.  It was complex, delicious, and the way the flavor profiles shifted through the bowl made it very difficult to identify what it tasted like.  It delights in being smoked slowly and carefully.  She deserves your attention and care as she can get nasty if things get too hot.  

I would become a card carrying member of the Haddo's Delight fan club except for one small issue.  I have read a few people get throat irritation from smoking Perique.  I never concerned myself with it, until now.  Unfortunately if I do not frequently imbibe a palette cleansing beverage of some kind the back of my throat gets tense  and if I allow things to continue 5 to 10 minutes I actually begin to dry heave.  Somewhat less dignified than smoking a briar with a delicious Islay wearing my imagined cravat by a likewise figmentary hearth.  So although I extort all who have not to give this tobacco a chance, I will not give it a second.  I also have another Perique blend to try in the coming months, which hopefully does not cause the same reaction.  I will finish the tin and remember it fondly but alas my Latakia and Oriental blends are whispering their comforting and less abrasive call.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Lost Art of Communication or Another Blog with no Pictures

Something that has been troubling me the last few months is my inability to communicate.  I only take partial responsibility for this inadequacy, for when I look around I seem to be surrounded by a culture that has lost the ability to communicate ideas.  I live in India and speak neither Telugu nor Hindi.  I often struggle with communication here.  But that is a wholly separate frustration and not at all related to what I am attempting to say.  I have just returned from a little over a month in the US and as I look back over that trip I feel an empty sensation that very little worth saying was said.  I believe it was Elijah who was described as “none of his words fell to the ground.”  Since the first time I read that I fell in love with this expression as a golden standard and was simultaneously deflated to realize it was something that would never be attributed to me.  Most people who know me consider my conversations frivolous, garrulous, and oft times irreverent.  I think a vast majority of my words fall directly to the ground.  Very little of what I say and the conversations that I pursue are the self examining and edifying conversations that I thirst for.  

I do not think I am so alone in this.  After my Ham Sandwich post I was told by several of my friends that they were surprised I felt such loneliness here in India as they felt like we were friends.  Hopefully I did not alienate people by saying that I don’t have relationships here, I do.  I think the problem is that in the last year I have lost my ability to have good, meaningful conversation and in concert with several other changes in my life, that has left a great emptiness in my spirit.  

As I’m writing this I realize that my posts and internal thoughts have become much more negative in tone than they once were.  I think living long term in a foreign culture and dealing with some of the attached issues has brought certain things to light.  It would be foolish and irresponsible to attempt to ignore feelings that one has in this time as they give the clues to changing one’s situation as well as improving one’s person.  And as my person requires much improving I am working through these things in this oddly public forum.  I’m not quite as self-promoting as I may come across in this blog but writing helps me to think things out and I feel like filling up a blog is a goal that will drive such thinking where journaling and the like I never actually get around to.  Hopefully, my dear reader, you will find my mutterings helpful, or in the very least sympathetic to your own situation.  If you examine the empty feelings in your life due to something I write, then my purpose would be fulfilled.

One of the long list of things I've always wanted to do more is write and receive letters.  Primarily of the postal and not electronic variety.  I love pens that don’t have a ball on the point and missives sealed in wax.  I love to hold interesting paper in my hand and scratch away as I write.  On the rare occasions where I have received a letter it has universally been dear to me.  I do not do this as writing takes time, I feel like I would need something to say, and stamps are a hassle; but I desire it nonetheless.  One of the advantages of letter writing that has been lost to our digital age is that it better fosters relationship than all of the various modes of over stimulating “communication” that exist in our arsenal today.  To me, at least, it feels counter intuitive that to write something alone that is to be read alone would build relationship better than a video call.  When you write something you think about what your are writing as you don’t want to scratch it out or throw out the sheet if you think better of it later.  This is in stark contrast to the mental, grammatical, and emotional vomit that springs forth in e-mails and chat settings.  When you read something that someone has written with their hands it is more precious.  One spends time to understand it and read it through.  One does not hit reply halfway through the letter in defensive self-preservation but finishes the thought and must, in turn, think through one’s own response.  One is forced to hear the whole story from the author and is more likely to hear the author’s perspective.  Will this post ignite a letter writing revolution that will save the US Postal Service from certain doom?  I doubt it.  Will we think about attempting to communicate more intentionally, I hope so.  I Skype my family on a monthly basis as opposed to a daily one.  We chat about what has been going on in our lives.  I very rarely communicate with anyone else back home in any more depth than clicking “Like” on Facebook.  I no longer know my friend’s passions, dreams, and fears.  I rarely know what are their doubts and aspirations.  Those conversations have not happened and in the midst of that, in the relational silence of TV and other pursuits, I have not spoken these things about myself either and I know myself less deeply than I once did.  I think it would be possible in our over publicized age to have these conversations and to only speak, and not listen; to broadcast and not receive.  That, of course, is not what I am suggesting.  Conversation is at the very least two sided.  But it is interesting that in failing to know one another we can very quickly not know ourselves.  

Part of me argues that this is part of growing up.  That dreams die with age and life becomes more monotonous and mediocre.  Sheldon calls it “work a day” for a reason.  The dreamer in me will not accept that.  The idealist rejects that notion wholeheartedly.  Age and responsibility should not spell the death of dreams but a vibrancy of vision; knowing what all is possible in this world, or at least what could be possible.  Our dreams should grow with the wisdom that helps them come to fruition, not wither and die with realistic expectations.  It is interesting to see the upswing in fantasy and sci-fi in popular media.  Maybe we are starting to get bored with realism.  Reality TV has shown us shallow drama and nitpicking the little, inconsequential things.  And as we have watched them pull the lice out of each other’s hair maybe we are becoming tired of reality.  Maybe reality TV sucks because our realities suck.  Maybe we are thirsting for myth and heroism once again.  Maybe we think that big, idealistic things can happen.  Maybe Causes are worth living for once again.

I have always loved pictures from Scandinavian lands.  I am captivated by imposing fjords and unending primeval forests.  I am fascinated by a land where a people group rides reindeer and dresses like Christmas elfs.  There is something about the roughness of Northern life and landscapes that calls to my shrinking soul.  I would love, hypothetically, to live in Alaska or Denmark.  Part of my ancestry is Clan McLeod and descend from Vikings who landed in the harsh islands of Scotland and thought it would be a pleasant place to raise a family.  That being said, I was reading the in-flight magazine on my flight home and saw an article about Iceland.  These few pages further fed my clandestine obsession for northern climes but one of the things that stuck with me was mention of the Icelander’s love for story.  Whether it be a bar tale or an ancient Norse myth, Icelanders love tales long or short.  I apologize for not having the will or literary integrity to look up the source and quote the above correctly but it was put out by Delta and I’m sure if you are really interested you could find it.  This story-philic culture enticed me as I love myth but outside of a few nerdy friends it seems like there aren't a whole lot of people who do.

The plot of movies and TV should be intriguing and entertaining but it doesn't have to mean anything. In the midst of some of the benefits of moral relativism we have lost the ability to think that there are some things worth encouraging each other to be.  People don't aspire to be heroes.  People aspire to be entertained by heroes that they watch on their huge entertainment systems.  I was reading an article on SteamPunkWorkshop about how we used to be musicians but that we as a culture have lost that.  People used to sing and play instruments at home but these days if you don’t have a platinum album you are not a musician.  The sadness of this state is compounded by the fact that many of the people with Platinum albums don’t deserve the title of musician but I digress.

I think in the same way we as a culture are no longer storytellers.  Stories are not told at bedtime when the tablet or TV can keep the child quite at the appropriate time.  Very few people excel at or even attempt to tell good stories amongst their friends.  As we become a storyless society, as our mythology and fairy tales die, then we strive less and less to be the heroes in those stories and a bit of ourselves die with it.  “Clap Peter!”.  I don’t think telling the stories of Hercules, Manawydan, and Siva will save our culture, though it might help.  But I think we can have a modern mythology that pushes us to greater things.  Unfortunately, if we are not having real discussions we probably are not telling any stories along the way.

Maybe it is just me but the more I am “connected” digitally and “socially” the more and more remote I feel towards my fellow human beings.  I know more of what is happening in people’s lives, I see more pictures, but I know the individual less.  Social networking poses the threat of destroying community.  I think it is possible to still know people, to still be connected in an age of social media, but I believe that it has provided a cheap imitation of relationship that, if we are not careful, will swallow our up our communities and replace  relational intimacy with mere digital nearness.

It is very similar to living in a city.  If one is not careful in urban environments one is surrounded by many people but in that crowdedness many people I have known have expressed feelings of loneliness.   People in small towns tend to have less people around them but due to various social and cultural variables tend to be more relationally connected to that smaller population.  The aether has created a digital urbanization that could, if we are not intentional, drown out our relational communities.  From the death of the epistle to the accepted norm of texting/facebooking in the company of real human beings we see the symptoms of this disease around us daily.  The antidote is not, I am sure, a rejection of modern technologies and social media; they serve a good and powerful purpose and it would be naive at best to assume that they could be rejected by a population.  What I think the cure is, however, is to learn to reconnect with human beings at a deeper level in all of its awkwardness and pain.  I have learned in India that I had stopped looking people in the eye, as is the norm here.  I had lost the art of question asking which is something I had forced myself to learn in college.  My tools for community and relationship had been dulled over the past few years and now I have to take the inconvenient and time intensive steps to sharpen them and the relationships that they foster.  I hope you, dear reader, may take the same steps as well.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The King is Dead...Long Live the King

Originally this blog was going to be a forum for a communal conversation amongst the Contributors and our beloved readers.  Both of you who have been reading the blog will know that this never really materialized.  The other Contributors have also moved on to another enterprise and though I wish them well I hope they will continue to make contributions to Polymathophelia.

That being said after a period of deflated sails from such news I have rowed myself out of the doldrums and will hopefully continue posting.  I really do enjoy contributing to the aether and am gradually overcoming my fear of failure to post more content.  The next installment of The Extraordinary Life of Stephen Pottersworth is currently being worked on as well as more exiting posts of DIY anti-climax and self-focused musings.  Thank you dear readers, I hope both of you are doing well and am optimistic that you will continue to read even though there is even less chance of you reading something actually interesting from our other contributors.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Industrious vacation

I thought I would get a lot of writing done since I had some time off.  I didn't.  Hopefully some new fluff will be out shortly.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Extraordinary Life of Stephen Pottersworth: Part I

The life of Stephen Pottersworth started in as ordinary a way in which one's life could begin. There was no great hoopla in the streets. No visitation of celestial beings. His birth was not so easy as to incite comment and yet not too difficult as to begin his story. In fact no one would begin the story of Stephen Potterworth with his birth except for a feature of it which no one at the time took notice and no one in the future would remember. In the corner of the room there was a small pad of paper. On the topmost leaf of paper was a dot, a red dot.

The story of Stephen Pottersworth continued in much a similar vein as it began. He made friends, some were closer than others. He was not often lonely nor did he often need to escape from their presence. His grades were adequate, yet unremarkable as were his talents. His heart was broken yet not shattered and through his adolescence he excelled at little but failed at less. No one thought to investigate whether he had been born under an auspicious star as his life was ordinary in every way.

All of that began to change on his 18th birthday. Stephen Pottersworth finished in the 51st percentile of a class of average size, in a town much like most the others. He had exactly the same combination of fear and excitement as did the rest of his peers on attending a solid state school far enough from his home as to not receive inconveniently frequent family visits but close enough where the homesick could return to the familiar hearth.

As young Stephen Pottersworth was preparing to go to his stereotypical place of college employ he saw upon his desk a pad of paper. On the topmost leaf of paper was a dot, a red dot. Stephen Potterworth had no memory of drawing such a dot upon the piece of paper and no one had been in the room, to his knowledge, since he had last used the selfsame tablet. The effect of this dot on the mind of the remarkably stable and unremarkable Stephen Pottersworth was noteworthy, if only for the fact that it was in no way ordinary. As Stephen Pottersworth looked closer at the vermilion illustration he saw the pattern of lines that he knew would be there. This was no simple dot on closer inspection but was, in fact, a complex series of lines so intricate and delicate in nature that it would be easy to assume, with the flash curiosity of the age, that this was ONLY a dot. The mark was made with a brilliant shade of red very similar to the stamps seen on Chinese artwork but with such remarkable detail that Stephen Pottersworth could not imagine a woodcut or rubber stamp being able to produce such an image. What had such a powerful effect on Stephen Pottersworth completely ordinary mind was not the intricacy of the symbol in any aesthetic sense. What struck Stephen Pottersworth was that the intricacy of the symbol was completely memorized in his mind's eye. The pattern was woven on his very unremarkable soul. The explanation for this burning of his psyche was a completely commonplace one. The reason was that he had seen this dot everyday of his life and that, Stephen Pottersworth realized on his 18th birthday, was not ordinary in the least.

The light in the 2nd bathroom flickered on in absolute unity with the doorbell that rang at this exact moment and awoke Stephen Pottersworth from his flash of almost hysterical realization. He wandered to the door as someone in shell shock. Not of the pop-psych understanding of the term but in the Verdun battlefield veteran variety, with staggering steps and incoherent utterances. Stephen Pottersworth was for once truly and completely shaken. Stephen Pottersworth felt the growing feeling of singularity, rising and burning like the bile which was generously lavishing the inside of his throat.

Outside the All Hallows Eve of '98 Stephen Pottersworth has never had occasion to not answer the door. In fact Stephen Pottersworth usually approaches the rung door with a very normal speed and with a similar level of vigilance. The fact that this ring had been able to rise the sweat from his palms and the hairs on his neck was something altogether particular. Stephen Pottersworth had been exposed to a smattering of the horror genera through his life, and this felt similar, if not exactly the same, as the moments of highest suspense in said articles of entertainment. Each pulse of his average sized ventricle seemed to create a drumbeat of most unusual proportions in his perfectly normal shaped eardrum. Every breath was more labored than the last and every step of the foot more wooden his partner afore him. What could cause such abnormality? Such singular emotion and passion in our erstwhile unshakable hero? A dot and a realization concerning the aforementioned dot. There is nothing more startling to the human condition than discovering something ordinary. Nothing turns that startle to a scare faster than realizing that this ordinary thing, once discovered is seen to be in no way ordinary or even passing strange. Stephen Potterworth's discovery of the red dot, his realization of its filial relationship with the daily existence of his life; this was unheard of. Stephen Pottersworth had literally never heard of anyone discovering a symbol, archaic or otherwise, which littered their day to day affairs. To have such a spot in ones life quickly created a McBethian abhorrence towards the thing and it was this feeling of detestation that drove Mr. Pottersworth away from the dot and towards the horrible door.

With steadfast determination, which goes much beyond the expectation of such a man in such a case, Stephen Pottersworth plodded in inkblot fashion towards the vestibule at the fore of his abode. To confront, come what may, the fate of his immortal soul.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

1000 page views!

None of us contributors really contribute.  No one really reads the blogs but today, we reached the historic moment, where we have had 1000 page views. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Ham Sandwich

I have lived in a land foreign to that of my birth for 2 weeks short of a year. A land that has the highest burnout rate of western expats and I have asked for more. I take some pride in that fact, a healthy dose of humility, and an equal measure of thanksgiving. The last year has taken its tole. There have been casualties and lessons learned. I am a bit more weary, scarred, and suspicious then when I set foot in this land. I can appreciate color and vibrancy in a way I never thought possible. I have re-affirmed that my spirit withers when it is too long kept from the piney woods. I will even go so far to say that though I abused it as not a proper substitute for the Sierra Nevadas of my youth; I authentically miss the ability to camp and out of doors oneself that I had in Ohio, which is really saying something.

I have learned nothing I expected to learn about another culture and a library worth of information I never desired to know about myself. I have a strong tendency to be a workaholic. I like my family better than anyone else. I have trouble trusting other people to do things if my name is on them and have a higher capacity for stress than I would have initially suspected. I have learned what happens to me physically and emotionally when I surpass that capacity. I have broader shoulders than I imagined. I can take the blame and not throw my colleagues under the bus. I can hold my temper, but only so long. I am abhorrently lazy at studying another language. I love tons of sugar with enough cardamom added. I detest chocolate that has tons of sugar. I know less about India then when I arrived. I have never felt the constant presence of humanity that exists here, even after living in downtown Chicago. I have never felt so lonely as I do now.

Friendship is a funny subject with me. I consider myself, at least in an American context, as someone who is very willing to throw myself into relationships and be honest and transparent with those around me. That is very likely not actually true. I have been continually and repeatedly blessed with deep and fulfilling friendships. Some who love the same things that I do. Some who are allergic to grease and pine needles. At the end of the day I have loved and have been loved. I am a self-avowed horrid long distance friend but am perfectly willing to pick up where we left off when I see you again. I probably won't call but will not be bothered if you don't either. I will, however, be bothered if you avoid me because I didn't call.

I often am evangelical in my relationships. It will not be long after we begin socializing that you will sample a few of my many manias. Pipe smoking, artisan beer, motorcycles, or camping will come up in conversations and we would have discussions while reducing a Latakia flake to its lowest denomination, sipping a fine porter, getting our hands dirty or at least talking about getting our hands dirty. I am quick to get in a debate but quicker to laugh. I would not be surprised if I offended you but will be surprised when I learned that I have.

I now live in a land without briar, with 5 brands of beer, 100cc motorcycles, and the act of camping requires an indomitable will and significantly more time and money then I posses. I do love the motorcycles but have no time to tinker. I have been cloistered by my work schedule and ostracized by a culture I do not understand. Not since I met my savior have I been encountered loneliness but my childhood companion has returned with crushing enthusiasm.

The pathetically ironic truth is that I am surrounded by excessively lonely people. Some have their party face on, some sit alone on the weekends but they all feel exactly the way that I do. Unfortunately once you get used to not being connected it is extraordinarily difficult to be so. Conversations about truth and justice, passion and fire seem difficult and exhausting. The couch has an insatiable appetite for time and television, leaving us empty eyed and empty hearted for all our efforts. Truth is the answer is a simple one. Truth is if the answer was so simple we'd all be doing it.

Some of the same arguments from my encyclopedia days begin to ring in my empty skull. I'm strong enough on my own. Friends hurt and disappoint.

But the arguments carry even less weight then they did then. I have known what it is like to walk amongst brothers. I have known the refreshing terror of bearing my soul for public inspection and I miss it. I miss being vulnerable and seeing other people's vulnerability. I miss being refreshed by a congregation of souls. I have had such a surplus of wholesome friendships that I thought all I really needed was my family. But now I stand in the somewhat awkward position that there is something lacking. To be surrounded by the ugliness of urbanity and its filth and to bear with it isolation has been intolerable. It is not the restful cleansing isolation of some mountain hermitage. It is a lonesomeness as dirty as the urine splattered walls around me and half as comforting. I feel the city and the air that has been breathed by a million other lonely people before it enters my lungs. The pollution seeps into my soul as it seeps into my pores and I have let it. I have allowed myself be a victim of circumstance and lethargic acculturation. I have surrendered before the battle began, not showing my struggles but given into my ever-present weaknesses. And maybe that is what I have learned most about myself, how far I have yet to go.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


I think I'm not alone that when I hear the word "craft" I think of, well,  disgusting yellow squares marketed as cheese.  But when I read the word "craft" my mind fills with hot glue guns, pipe cleaners, Elmer's glue rolled up as black maggots all over my hands, and those brightly colored puffy balls.  Punching holes in paper plates and an incident of my giving a hot iron a high five when I was 6 also make strong appearances.  Not that I dislike craftiness, I honestly love it.  Even the less prepubescent manifestations of craftiness I am downright enthusiastic about.  I have taught myself knitting & crochet.  I have tried my hand at calligraphy and embroidery, and window shop on Etsy quite frequently.  In my mind craft has always been  hand making something  with an attempt at it being aesthetically appealing.  I have come to realize that I still completely agree with that definition but the subtle sway and emotional reaction to that definition has become entirely altered.

For a few weeks now I have been jonesing for a hobby.  I have come down with a severe case of RHS (restless hands syndrome).  Which is surprising because growing up I always assumed I would be the soft handed, intellectual variety of man.  The one who has memorized lengths of poetry, fumigates  a pipe, and sits by a warm fire in a smoking jacket sitting in an overstuffed leather chair.  I can very quickly memorize things and in an even more time efficient manner forget them.  I have become an avid pipe enthusiast but shockingly have enjoyed making them as much or more than smoking them.  Deep within my fleshy, university  designed exterior is a rough handed man.  I think many children growing up are romantic about the ability to create.  Kids draw and paint, color and mold much more intentionally than most adults do.  They are still willing to risk failure to generate something that they have created and it is only after years of other people not caring about what one has produced that many of us have stopped creating.  We as a culture have lost the ability to craft.  I have two Grandfathers that I always considered two sides of the masculine continuum but as I am realizing now were really just different personalities creating idiomatically.  My Maternal Grandfather (MG) was an engineer with Lockheed.  Worked in a top secret facility and was a very intellectual man (though on meeting him not of the poetry/smoking variety).  As a side note he did share 1 poem with me that he had written while he was alive and I did discover a pack of old cigarette papers in his workshop but he did not have a fireplace in his house whatsoever so the stereotype quickly falls apart.  But this workshop in which I found said cigarette papers after his passing was always, to me, a magical place. It was not pixie filled and I don't think I ever saw the slightest hint of glitter but it had a very alchemical feel.  Everything had a place.  There was a wall with his paintbrushes meticulously hung by the door.  1/2 of the garage was filled with piles of junk and boxes.  Always like a buried treasure that I was too afraid to  dig through.  The other half was where this engineer crafted.  A 6' cast iron metal lathe and standing drill press dominated the space with many other tool boxes to compliment the limited available space.  As a child I always pictured my MG in his office with his mechanical sketches and slide-rule.  I did not really associate his inside personality with the magical workshop out back.  Only once did he use those tools with me and we turned a bit of something on his metal lathe.  I think I actually made something of wood, I don't remember, but the memory of us actually using the delicate instruments of his secret laboratory together in one of the few powerful childhood memories I hold onto.

One of the strongest childhood memories of my Paternal Grandfather (PG) is also based around a lathe.  This time a wood lathe.  I remember horribly creating something chewed up and dismal looking but I remember making something with a power tool.  Holding the gauge in my hand and the terrifying exhileration of that moment.  The metal lathe and the wood lathe are interesting metaphors into the personalities of these two great men, which I will not bore you with, but the fact that they were both craftsmen was totally lost on me growing up.  My PG was much more of what struck me as a craftsperson.  He tended his garden, caught and skinned skunks who invaded it, made things out of wood, and had a laundry room filled with stuffed water fowl.  He had the rough hands of a craftsman and one can still vividly see the series of lines that mark the back of his neck after years working and living outside in the sun.  I would stare at those neck creases as a child and still I want to someday be a man with those copper lines marking me.  He tattooed himself and sewed up his own split lip. It was easy for me as a corpulent bibliophilic youngster to see myself growing into my MG, sitting on the couch with his lap blanket watching a dodgers game.  But a part deep in my soul always stirred in me to somehow metamorph into the utilitarian outdoorsman that I saw my PG as.

Growing up, however, I had a mother who had a full room of craft supplies but my father was much more of the computer wiz.  I would watch him on our greenscreen computer as he showed me the miracles of the BBS forums, which eventually became the internet.  He and I would put the innards of computers together and I loved those times.  I loved doing something with my dad, I loved the fact that it was nerdy, but I really enjoyed having the screwdriver in my hand, the satisfying click of electrical connectors going together, properly seating the data ribbon.  I don't want to downplay my dad's other gifts, he is a great computer guy.  He is loving and compassionate.  He is quick to laugh, and laugh loudly.  My dad invigorates me when I am around him I feel like he is one of those people that takes a deeper draft of life than I do.  In spite of those things he is not a mechanical thinker.  Growing up I would hear the same "Point the flashlight where I'm working" spout out in frustration over the oily complexities of the family's mode de jour of transport but my dad didn't have the knack.  I just assumed that I also didn't have the knack and so settled myself firmly in the intellectual artistic camp.   I operated under that assumption all of my developing years.  The one change was when I took Intro to Woodworking in 7th grade.  I loved it.  The smell of the wood shop   The shavings on the floor, the feel of the sharp plane cutting ribbons of wood to make the napkin holder.  Again I felt that same thrill as I did with the lathes growing up and the computer building experiences.  I was starting to suspect that these hands were made to hold tools.

But like many flashes of personal discovery during those development years, I rightfully suppressed it to conform to the status quo that I had somehow assigned to myself. The big change happened when I started making pipes in college.  I acquired more tools and made some pens as well.  With only a lathe and a band saw  and a plethora of hand tools and various other bits I was able to create things that I felt were somewhat beautiful that that people could use.  A bit of confession here.  Though I always aspired to be a great pianist author/sketcher, in reality I was not.  I have the less than exiting ability to be above average at most things and excellent at very few.  I think the highest compliment I received in my artistic pursuits was that I was the greatest waste of natural talent my piano teacher had ever encountered.  So although I was not very capable in the most traditional forms of high art I started to see myself as a bit of an artisan, something I now would call a craftsman (I apologize for the implied, but unintended, sexism. Although I am a person I am also a man and feel like I can use this term without guilt).   So I woodworked away for about a year until the major revolution happened in my life.  I'm not sure if the XS850 came first or the reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but they were about the same time period of my life and when their forces combined I was a changed man.  Now before any fans get upset I understand that ZATAOMM is not primarily about motorcycle maintenance but the description of the systems of the motorcycle and his love of maintaining it through the dialogue help me to see the art of mechanics.  His discussions on quality and the art of building a BBQ opened my eyes to something that I had, to a degree, always felt:  That I had a passion for fixing things and that to fix things well was art.

Why did I give this lengthy biographical sketch you may ask?  Recently, in the midst of my desire to have some free time to use towards my various interests, I unintentionally stumbled across a BBC series called MasterCrafts.  It is basically survivor for Makers toned down for British audiences.  I loved it.  They take interested people and have them learn the basics of Crafts like woodworking, stone masonry, and weaving to compete for a spot as an apprentice in the craft.  It was great to watch people's almost spiritual connection with the act of creating something with their hands.  It has been very interesting to watch people from our modern age learn the joy of creating, becoming connected with the process of something, to be forced into the discipline of learning basic skill sets.  All things that are somewhat foreign in our western cultures.  And it reminded me of that soulful spark that I had the first time I touched a gouge to wood.  The first time my motorcycle piston ignited, the first time I put the final buff on one of my briar pipes.  It reminded me that what I was really missing was not just something to do, I have almost no free time as it is.  The reason I am going through hobby withdrawal is there is a piece of me that needs to create, to art if you will.  I read a quote that says we do not go into the wilderness to rough it, we go to smooth ourselves.  I craft not because I want to create something but because I am someone who creates things.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I Know You

   I've crossed the Atlantic Ocean, explored a Mexican border city, loaded my entire life into a truck and dragged it across the country.  I've made the best friends a person could have, fought for those I love, and done things I didn't believe I was capable of so many times over that they are blase.  And I've done 99% of it alone.  Today though, I discovered that Henry Rollins knows me.  I've never really been a huge fan of his music, but I didn't know that he did spoken word stuff.