Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why The Whirlwind Weeps

It is raining hard in his city. He is the first to feel the tears that fall from heaven. He stands on the edge of the tallest building, looking down at the street below. He can see everything and everyone, but no one can see him. Shrouded in shadows, he is hidden from the world. No one knows who he is, not even himself. Never will he be adored or idolized. He is their salvation, but they will never thank him.

As he stands there, deep in thought, he can hear the screams of innocents in distress. But there are so does he choose who to save? How does he weigh the importance of one life against another? To save one life is to condemn another to its end. Torn as he is, he chooses quickly. A life saved, he returns to his lookout. Nothing has changed. The screams he has ceased have already been replaced by several more. He allows himself a moment to despair, and another moment to collect himself. He knows that those moments have cost someone their life, and he falls deeper into despair. But he continues on anyway. Futile as it may be, he is destined to this existence of cyclical life and death.

Those that he has saved fear him. They whisper amongst themselves about him. He is different than them and they do not understand him. They call him a freak and they hate him for being better than them. They brand him an outlaw, a vigilante that must be brought to justice. They question his intentions and think he seeks fame, because no one man is capable of such selflessness. But they are wrong.

He hears their whisperings, and he resents them for it. But he continues to save them. He stands there, shrouded in shadows. It is hard to make out, but if anyone cared to look, they could see his tears as they mingled with those from above. But he must hide his emotions, lest they call him weak. He fights for the day that he will gain these people's love, but it is still so far away.

Next time he saves you, be grateful. Embrace him with open arms and do your best to repay him, even though you will never be able to. Do not shun him. At the very least, allow him his weaknesses. He is better than you, yet you criticize him for his every flaw.

Let him weep.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

First Impressions

 "The first tiiiiiime ever I saw your face / I thought you were a huge douchebag"

by Brendan Cavanagh

Human beings are innately superficial creatures.  Admittedly, I myself can be one of the most shallow strangers upon initial interaction, though not visibly because I try not to allow myself to let my first impressions of others negatively affect the way I treat them.  However, I seem to consistently judge a person's character simply by the way they look or act when I meet or see them for the first time.

For instance, over spring break I revisited my high school in order to shadow a young English teacher, my observations of which will soon form the basis of a presentation I have to give in my Education class here at school.  After a full seven hours of shadowing the teacher around school, asking questions and observing her students, I decided to pay an old teacher- a lasting friend- a visit and have a chat with him before heading home and taking a much-needed nap.  While he and I sat down in his classroom for what was intended to be an intimate discussion about college, movies and each other's educational philosophies, two sophomores sat down and worked on homework, punctuating our conversation with their oft-irrelevant opinions, which became increasingly frequent as the conversation progressed.  Due to my annoyance at being regularly interrupted while I attempted to enjoy an all-too-brief conversation with a teacher I rarely see these days, I found one of the sophomores, whom I did not know while I still attended the school, to be rather pretentious and too young to truly have experienced and understood all of the surprisingly valid references he made to various movies and books.  Because of his age, I assumed that he was not as cultured as he purported and I refused to bestow upon him the credit which he deserved, and which I would have liked to receive when I was his age.

At the end of the week, I was on my way to meet a couple of friends for dinner, and I was forced to stop at a red light on a busy intersection.  In celebration of the arrival of much-welcome warm weather, I had the windows of the car rolled down and the stereo turned up.  As I anxiously looked about to ensure that my music was not disturbing the cars halted in my vicinity, as I am prone to doing every time I meet a red light, I saw someone two lanes over looking at me and trying to get my attention.  At first I could not adequately make out who it was, but upon further inspection I realized it was the sophomore that I had inwardly despised at the high school a few days before.  Unfortunately, I cannot recall exactly which words we exchanged, but for the minute or so we were simultaneously waiting for a green light, we had a brief, albeit meaningful conversation during which we exchanged names and pleasantries.  Once the traffic light became green, he and I gently accelerated, and as I turned left, he headed forward, ultimately shouting over the cacophony of car engines with a wide smile,

"Good luck being a teacher!"

At the utterance of those words, my heart broke.  How could I have been so cruel as to immediately discredit his claims when we conversed at the school?  I believe it was an amalgamation of two feelings: First, that I was upset that I was unable to speak privately with my former teacher that day, and second, that I was jealous that he was so cinematically and textually informed for his age.  Clearly I failed to look past my misconceptions of his character and actively get to know him better.

As is most often the case, I fail to see the inherent goodness in most people.  College, for example, is the perfect sociological testing ground, at which I have had the chance to meet more people in the shortest amount of time than I ever have before.  In my numerous encounters with meeting strangers, I think I have too frequently employed a subconscious and entirely irrational defense mechanism that causes me to think everyone is, for lack of a better term, a douchebag.  One can vaguely understand why I do so: Since I am overwhelmingly unfamiliar with the culture of cities and states beyond Springfield, Illinois, I am not used to seeing people dress routinely in outfits that consist of, say, madras or khakis or Sperrys.  While initially judging these characters as "preppy," I soon came to realize upon meeting them that not all of them exemplify the characteristics I so erroneously assigned them.  Some of them do, though.  But at least I discovered as much after I had conversations with them.

Consider the dating scene.  Do not most people initially decide who they want to pursue romantically based off the most visceral, carnal feelings that arise when they see a person's body?  And I do not necessarily mean that every guy sees an attractive girl and thinks (or exclaims), "Damn, look at those titties.  I want to tap that shit."  But do you find that the people towards whom you gravitate and for whom you perhaps develop feelings are those who fit the qualifications of your "type?"  I am of the conviction that it is acceptable to do so, provided that an attempt to get to know the person better is taken.  Once I found myself taken by a very pretty girl.  Primarily motivated by physical interest, I took her out now and then to get to know her better.  I soon realized that our personalities did not particularly mesh, and when she told me,

"I've only seen The Happening, but M. Night Shyamalan is a terrible director,"

I extricated myself from that relationship.  It took a little while, though.

Anyway, it is important to not always let our initial reactions affect the way we treat others.  A person's most defining qualities are not always those that appear on the surface, and they are certainly not physically manifested.  If they were, then one of my best friends here at college would be correct in assuming that I am gay because I wore neon colored ankle socks on the first day we met.  Though judging by the latest change made to my short description on the sidebar of Classic Brian's home page, clearly he is not the only one who has at some point doubted by heterosexuality.  Maybe the culprit has not hung out with me enough to accurately assess my character.  WINK WINK READ MY BLAWG WINK

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Classic is driving. The iTrip is disappointing and staticky as usual, but we still get ruffled sound from my iPod (and not his), this passenger door is howling because of the air passing through it; apparently the repair from the car accident Brian and I got in over summer didn't patch up the door completely. This car is like, four-out-of-ten crappy, but it has nothing on my brother's '93 Buick that we drove (successfully) 12 hours to and from Green Bay, Wisconsin, so we should be good.

I like the highway. There's a bunch of cornfields and far away farm buildings, but other than that, it's just super speedy cars and changing scenic skies. Also, if you're lucky, you have a good friend or two to enjoy the ride with. Right now, we are trying to pass a car that we're like, 70% sure is a cop, but he's being a dick about it and driving all fast and stuff.

Today Classic and I venture to Missouri, the University of. This makes two other-college visits for me, and two for Classic. Last time was Bradley. What a piece of shit waste of time that was. Anyway, we are going to visit Sunday Robert and we have about three hours of driving ahead of us. I hope to make a bunch of road trips over the summer, some of which will probably be to see Robert as he dickishly elected to spend his summer in Missouri for the sake of in-state tuition. Broke bastard.

College, the beast we have made it out to be, has smeared my pile of friends, that used to be concentrated in one town, all over the face of the US. It was worse last semester, but everyone lives elsewhere now. If I visit you, it means I give a shit about you. Spending time with friends used to be a de facto aspect of life, now I have to work for it. Maybe I'm supposed to focus on myself for a while now, or maybe I'm supposed to dump my friends and find new ones. Either way, I'm not havin' it. Here's to clinging to the past.

Being in Springfield again, as usual, is weird. I guess I'm still not used to not living in a different place. I'll grow up one day. It's different this time though, because it's warm outside. It feels like summer again. But it's not summer 2010 again. It never will be.

Spring Break and I have had our quarrels over the years. It's not long enough, and merely serves as a preview of what you will be able to do after you go through two of the hardest months of school you'll have throughout the year. But this one is shaping up pretty well. Brian and I have thus far survived our trip to Missouri and are looking to have a couple chillaxing days in Columbia, which we are hoping isn't another shit town (we drove through forty on the way here). The scenery changes from just cornfields to hills, cornfields and crappy towns pretty much as soon as you hit the MO/IL border. It's quite amazing, really.

I hope to do a lot of adventuring this summer. I realize that all the traveling I ever did until I was like 16 was done with my parents. Now I have the ability to go anywhere I want with my friends over the summer. And that sounds pretty awesome. Except the part where gas costs a shit ton. Last summer Sunday Robert had this stupid plan to walk to Champaign and back over the span of a couple days. I was kind of down, but at the same time very aware of how dead I would be.

Last summer I wanted to hang out in Springfield at the same places with the same people every night. This summer I want to camp, road trip, make money, and play Final Fantasy. It's no longer a time for goodbyes and bittersweetness, but a time to make something of myself and do a little growing up. 

--Eliot Sill  

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mada is on spring break, so I appear as guest poster.

Notes from an Island

That evening, after the screaming next door, I walked through the faint sound of distant steel drums to that cafe, the one in the basement at 7th and Olive. The waitress saw me sit and brought a rum, neat, rocks on the side. I'd only been there twice before.  Over beneath the back stairs sat a rich Cuban woman and her step-daughter with the scarf. Just east of the steel post under that bicycle statue with the LED lights was a Spanish ascetic wearing a Kiss t-shirt that he was given by a 19 year old American student when she studied a semester in Haiti. Before him was a glass of water and an onion, his supper. He glanced up and then stared at the Cuban woman as if knowing everything about her. She looked at him and blushed hotly. Closing her eyes, beginning to weep, she kissed her stepdaughter and rushed into the breeze and steel drums and the street. I left my rum and walked to my room.

The screaming is at sunset. I knocked on that door once. A Hawaiian woman with a broad face calmly opened the door and looked at me. Knowing why I had come she took my hand and led me to the balcony. There sat an old man, bearded and bearing a long scar on his thigh. He held a book to his chest and watched the sun sink into the water, keening and screaming, clutching his book. I looked at the woman. She raised her eyebrows. The Eyebrows asked "Do you see? Do you see now why he screams? Do you see that it is the greatest kindness to leave him alone to scream at the sea who betrayed him so?" I nodded to her eyebrows and we said nothing to one another. I let myself out and went in search of the sound of the distant steel drums and, after that, I did not listen to his screaming at sunset.

When you walk down Seaside Boulevard, Amber is usually there in front of Sailor Boy's in a sequined gown. She's the star of the midnight drag show, but the rest of the time she is out front hustling customers. "Come on in" she says. "You know you want to try it. No one can see, it's night on the island. There is no sun at night. Come and look at us. It is why we live." She tugs at your  arm when she says this. No one ever admits to going in. But now, with your eyes glistening and your pulse raised, it is easy for the girl in shorts and a white polo at the club next door, also named Amber, to smile in that way that makes your right leg twist around left on its forward swing. You have to turn to keep from tripping and take another step to keep from falling. This takes you in through the front door. Amber is already smiling at the next person on the street and you walk up the creaking stairs to the bar on the roof of the third floor. There is music and the steel drums are much louder and there is a girl crying Lo Evoe! while tearing open her new lavender blouse.

On the crowded street where tourists go, there is a booth that says Tourist Information on a big sign across the top. The same young woman sits there every night, listening to the sound of steel drums and waiting for someone to come over and ask about tourists. "Where do tourists get those clothes?" you could ask her. Or "Why are all the male gay couples smiling while all the lesbian couples in their ergonomic shoes walking around holding hands scowling as if they're being forced to babysit their dotty aunt?" I've never asked her anything. She sits very straight and very still with her khaki clad buttocks hovering just a fraction of an inch above her plain wooden stool, watching the street. She must know a lot about tourists by now.

A boat is docked on the west side of the island that is the size of Jacksonville. I think that I will walk to it but then I see that the tiny structure at the very top is a three story slide into an Olympic sized pool. I can barely make it out. The ship must be a very long way away. So instead I go to a bar where a famous writer once spent a lot of time. I come here often, sitting in a different seat every time I do. I want to make sure that, someday, I will sit on the same seat that the famous writer once sat on. I look around for Jimmy Buffet, but he never comes here. I buy a rum, neat, rocks on the side, and close my eyes and listen very hard to the distant sound of steel drums.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Nick - Obsession

"We can't win against obsession. They care, we don't. They win."
- Ford Prefect, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

If I wanted to be the greatest baseball player in the world, I could work all of my life with that goal in mind and still never get there. Because someone out there was working harder than I work, at a younger age. That person is taking unsafe dosages of steroids, just to get that little bit more muscle that might make the difference. That person is sacrificing a social life to practice pitching. That person has given up everything for this one goal.

We have a tendency to measure everything in terms of "bests." The best baseball player, the best journalist, the best musician. But our biggest asset as humans is that we don't have to be good at just one thing.

There are kids who can play YYZ on guitar before they turn eight. There are kids who are writing software for their home-built computer, and I don't even know what C+ means.

If we measured everything in terms of bests, the only people who would count for anything would be the people who threw themselves at something early, with animalistic determination.

We can change the world without being the "best" at anything.

You can't be the best, so be unique.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Robert - Tommy

One day there was a boy named Tommy. Tommy was a regular boy, just like everyone else. He liked to jump and play on the playground at recess. He liked to hang out with his friends and laugh. He especially liked telling jokes, going on car rides, and playing board games. Tommy liked having fun.

But there was one thing Tommy wasn’t good at. He didn’t like to run very much. He just didn’t care much for it. Oftentimes, he and his friends would play tag at recess, where he was supposed to run. But Tommy didn’t like to, so he would always get tagged, and then his team would always lose. 

Tommy’s friends resented this, but they didn’t say anything. They would sometimes grumble to themselves about his laziness, but they would forget about it soon after the game was over. And then they would all tell jokes and play games and have fun together again. 

But every day they would play tag. And every day, Tommy’s friends resented him a little bit more. They would grumble to each other a little bit longer every day. Pretty soon, Tommy’s bad tag-playing became all his friends would think about when he was with them and all they would talk about when he wasn’t. They stopped listening to his jokes or playing any games with him. 

Then they started telling other people about Tommy’s bad tag-playing. The other kids couldn’t believe what a bad tag-player Tommy was. How could someone be that bad at tag? Soon, all of the boys and girls that Tommy knew started grumbling to themselves. They would eye him from across the room and say, “Look at what a terrible tag-player he is…what is wrong with him?” 

People stopped talking to Tommy altogether. Whenever he would enter the room, his friends would all have somewhere they had to go. Whenever he got hungry, everybody lost their appetites. When he wanted to go to the park, everybody got too tired.

Tommy had no one to play with anymore. He started playing games with himself and talking to himself to keep himself company. He would play his favorite game, Monopoly, all by himself, controlling all four sides of the board. He would come up with new jokes and tell them to himself to test their funniness. 

Tommy’s friends started to notice Tommy’s new behavior. They would eye him from across the room and say, “Look how crazy Tommy is…he’s talking to himself…what is wrong with him?” They decided he was a loser, because he played alone. But no one invited him to play with them. 

Eventually Tommy was forgotten. At school he would play his games alone in the corner of the room. His friends would occasionally peer over and see him and remember what a bad tag-player he was. After school, he would go home and stay inside until the next day. Tommy was just a regular boy who no longer had any friends. No one ever thought to tell him what a bad tag-player he was.

And soon after, Tommy's friends started winning all their games of tag.

What Brendan Said

Also, Mada told me not to