Travelogue - Home

Date: May 13th 2003
Subject: emotional exhaustion

Mars is heavily aspected right now; the moon, waxing full in two days will be eclipsed at midnight on the 15/16th; this combination of factors is causing sens-itive(-ible) astrologers to advise everyone to duck and cover...  Strangely in tune with this, monday I dropped not-subtle hints to mom that we should go shopping; minutes later (though unrelated), consulting Omar's horescopes in the Charlotte Observer, my intuition was validated and he offered the same advice.  Who would have thought that an active mars (god of war/will) would lead to shopping? 

North-vectored along the Catawba river, I presume.  Bound for Brooklyn. At Penn Station I transfer to the "L" line, step down in Williamsburg, and reenter hipster culture.  (Its okay, I have the right outfit).  I'm returning to normal life now, emerging from Charlotte, the south, my family relations.  My sister married and in Disney World, my thought laterally sliding between structural paradigms, my intent at once to compel, to inform, to relate, yet to explore the inner landscape and the passing refinery.  The factory on my right out the Amtrak window slides behind me, due to my static frame of reference, while the world know's otherwise; likewise, my thoughts slide from the intellectual and conceptual to the worldly from the Male to the Female.  Having firmly placed my feet on the path of renunciation I am now equal parts both participating no longer as an observer, no longer the anthopologist now this vessel/self is at once outside and inside the frame of reference.  I am the factory sliding behind and the window and seated observer within the static frame.  There is no longer separation of signifier to signified. No longer the active and the passive.  Thus, my father skims this section, wishing I would get back to the narrative, out of the philosophical ramblings of a discomfortably distended min(e)d.

For the first time in my travel career my luggage is a rolling, oversized, bloated suitcase.  Yet this suitcase contains the backpack that was crammed under seats on Indian trains, lashed to the rooftops of moving busses, thence to become a seat;  this pack now has been swallowed by the SUV of luggage; the very component of travel that I have mocked for years; in truth, it is a moving truck for Hudson the backpacker, enroute to Japan; basecamp relocating from Berkeley to the other side of the pond.  This biological being a migratory creature; returning as if on perpetual pilgrimage to my birthing grounds, always measuring the distance I've traversed from that reference-frame. 

This time Charlotte seems almost permissible.  Though not for me, I see that to my sister, to my family, to that special breed of people, that race, if not species known as Southerners, Charlotte is a turning point in civil-ity/-ization.  I pass through the old south as I write this, the barbershops, the main streets aligned along the railroad tracks, these tracks passing through town from a time when they were emblematic of the nascent 'New South'.   The same New that destroyed my family's fortunes; my grandmother with her first car at 13 and the stables out back.  The old money gentility of my Aunt; old enough to recognize what her fifties post-depression life was losing.  The generation of my father; the older sister of one era, the younger sister of another, more modern.  My father, at the death of his father, led the charge which I now follow, fleeing the south, fleeing his heritage, fleeing the falling aristocracy, birthright and entitlement no longer available.  What was once could never be again lest we become a 'historical renenactment' of our once-wealthy forefathers. 

The distance I have travelled is never more poignant than when I see my Aunt.  She looks at me as one looks at a ghost.  Not so much though me, as at the surface of me, trying to resolve a fading/floating/ephermeral presence.  I am her dead father of whom she has never spoken to me.  A family past cloaked is Southern decency where one does not speak of the loss, the absence, the pain of displacement.  We moved forward, all of us, with more resignation than reluctance from Old South Salsbury to New South Charlotte.  A distance belied by the fifty-mile gap; a fifty mile gap as absolute in opposition as past and future.  My family a testimony to the loss, myself, the heir to the family name, the last heir to the Slave-holders of my past.  My landed aristocratic family now dead.  My 29 year old, renunciate self, the last Male heir to the family legacy; the karmic retribution to my fathers, a buddhist, moving to Japan, to teach, to instruct another culture in the exocism of ghosts. 

There is little difference in my mind between Southern Culture and Japanese Culture.  The trappings of language and martial laws cloak two cultures otherwise identical.  Perhaps I am the only one to see this.  I old enough to know better than to try to defend this thesis; let it stand as the cornerstone for the house I will build in Japan.  The new House of Kreß (Kress, Cress) from Nurnburg, Bavaria to Kyoto, Kansai via Salsbury, Mecklenburg.  Redraw the political boundaries along lines of the Family as Hegel would instruct.  You will see nations arise and fall and in time immemorial no stone will remain atop another of the structures we build, but the genetic lineage speaks of an absolute-ly/ist Marxist determinism.  Structures of power are family structures; regions are determined by family structures, and in the infinity of time, all families will fall into one another.  The Kyoto Cress legacy will be as problematic as the Basque; a language insoluable to those around it yet seemingly from the same Indian Gautamist roots. 

The head is full, the heart overflowed when Julie came for the wedding.  I proposed to her, she agreed on the condition that a Japanese-midget-Elvis-impersonator officiate.  I gave her a ring.  She took it off as it was causing her pain.  We played russian roulette with our hearts on the kitchen floor of a mini-mansion in Southeast Charlotte; a plantation-nouveau.  An intentional community.  An oak floor separated by eleven feet from the ceiling.  Plastic doors and Moulding Real wood panelling on the fridge.  Charles Town, Charlotte, Mecklenburg, Carolina.  Julie, a resident of Charleston, in the Southern Carolina.  Employed by Thai and Cambodian immigrants, Herself an expatriate of expatriates.  Herself, my mother.  My mother from a parallel universe; the universe I live in exiled from my past.  My mother if you extract from my mother every single environmentally determined characteristic.  My mother if you subtract her Swedish heritage, her Pennsylvania upbringing, her Law Degree, her New York youth, the diabolically frigid Erie winters, the brutal phallocentric climate of Fordham Law School in the Sixties, and the trundra of New York emotions.   If you subtract from my mother a maternal rolemodel who did not cook, occasionally worked, who kept within herself nearly everything until the day when she realized that her life was boring; unsuccessful at drinking herself to death, fallen, hip broken, wheelchair-ridden, nursing home purgatory she looks to her grandson with more sadness than he can possibly comprehend and says "I'm not going to tell you to behave yourself anymore.  Just have a good time."   And he looks back and cannot tell her how she is now and will forever be his greatest and most profound, most horrific rolemodel. 

Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta : P : </rant>

There is something so Beautiful about the South, so exotic, so foreign.  There is something so ugly about Japan, the racism, the prejudice.  There is something very banal about Japanese culture, something so vibrant in Charlotte.  There is more darkness and evil in the recent history of both people that the Karma will be unfolding for generations to come, generations do distended from their roots of their respective societies. And the history that bound will be cut loose, and the empire will be dislodged from its foundation, and fall.  Sun sun also rises and sets and returns to from whence it came.  And there is no pro-fit/phet under the sun.

Shit.

Okay this is getting a bit heavy.  I haven't slept a full night sleep in ages. I haven't been caught up on sleep since I began this most recent vision quest.  I did not initially concieve it as such, but I plotted against myself.  This has been one long saying-goodby.  Something very big awaits in the land of the setting sun.  I've related this elseware as a child, my mother would sing to me.  "With someone like you/A pal so good and true/I'd like to leave it all behind and go and find/Some place that's known/to God alone/just a spot to call our own/ we'll build a sweet little nest /Somewhere out in the west/and let the rest of the world go by."  I'll leave it to you to deconstruct this text.  Themes: 'the Mother'-'the child's mind/blank slate'-... shit.  can't escape.  This will recur elseware, so let me add one piece.  I was raised in a nursing home.  My life began where my grandmother's is ending.  Infancy was my wheelchair, my nurse was named Evelyn.  I was speaking German before English.  Though I retain none of it now, and have little proficiency for languages (la langue, oui; les langues, non).  An alien caregiver, a mother who shows up at night, a father who travels, and then this canonization of the west. In my infantile blank-state, in my half-asleep semi-consciousness, a voice more familiar than time allows, a voice normally filled with stoic acceptance of a role, a duty, laden with New York/Erie/Malmo (Sweden); three cultural layers of emotional distance and posture, then this.  Somewhere out in the west there is a place known to God, and not of god but God alone; a divinity not separate-from-self, a God unpercieved.  Not known to the inhabitants, but god alone, a god of no-self (anatta) a selfless existence wherein there is "no god" properly speaking as at that time God is unpercieved.  The nest, an image of migratory existence; a bird lives in a nest; but only settles for a time in the nest.  The nest is an emblem of consumation.  It is where the female places the eggs.  The male leaves and returns with sustanence for the Family while the female incubates the world/the egg/ the internal developmental state of the un-born, dependent-self of the chick.  I could take this Freudian/Oedipal, but I don't recall ever thinking that my mom was my pal who I'd run away with.  Rather, as a child, from the distance within myself, I really had very little concept of separation of Self and Other.  Other was all other, self was my self.  The Self-as-other concept didn't really occur to me in a meaningful way till puberty.  When I was suddenly awoken to the crisis of the lack, the absense, a something which I was missing, an emptiness-to-be-filled (not a Void but a vessel).  But wouldn't that be a vagina?  Puberty was the breaking of my hymen; the opening of my womb?  Where inside myself there was now the possibility of another life?  I don't remember a time where sex was really a mystery;  The girl-next-door Misty and I and others would play with my six year old erection like a toy.  I was always vaguely aware that it was utilized to produce babies, and the notion of the sex act; but it was foriegn to me.  I did not associate it as my own.  I was external to my body.  Puberty was when I was brought within.  

Maybe...

...And let the rest of the world go by.

Amtrak, Twelve hours from now (10:44 am) we are scheduled for arrival in NYC.  Sheila will be meeting me at one of the busiest places on earth.   I suggested she let me make my way to Brooklyn on my own, but she may meet me nonetheless.  Truly, I fear for a woman alone in NYC.  But I am not my sister's keeper...  It is hard for me to trust in other people's ability to take care of themselves.  I mean, really to trust, which is quite different than distancing myself from culpability.  I think of everyone I know, perhaps Josh Klein is the only one I judge capable of really taking care of himself as I take care of myself; which is to say, existentially, financially, pragmatically, and... shit... what's the word for "setting a goal and making moment to moment decisions which ultimately lead to the goal."  I would say Josh and Beth both, but beth swallowed "novelty" as a paradigm in college and rescinded most control to the random-factor;  I would say of the three of us Beth is the Female, Josh is the male, and I am the syncratic androgeny. 

It occurs to me that when we were heading the opposite direction on these tracks I had just visited with Karl. Karl is a special case in my writing in that he actually reads everything I write.  Bearing that in mind...  Fate determined that we should both be in D.C. the one day I was there on a layover.   He was there on business, and his roomate for the trip was not yet in town; thus, I he had a real place for me to crash; a free hotel room and my own bed.  It was surreal to say the least to hang you with him (you).  We realized we've now known each other for 20 years.  19 1/2 years ago we would stay at eachother's houses, spend the night, we would go on Boy Scout camping trips and share a tent, we were ostrasized from the cool kids together, and ostrasized in turn our own subset of geeks who had even less social skills than us.  We were a universe two.  We backpacked at Philmont together in New Mexico on what was my second trip out west.  We climbed mountain Baldy together.  We tromped through muck in Florida swamps and (miraculously) were never eaten by Aligators together.  We learned to waterski, sail, kneeboard, together behind his father's boat.  We performed really cruel experiments on bugs and lizards together, built clubhouses, and never ever discussed girls together.  Together we discussed politics, possibilities of surviving Nuclear war, the best place to seek shelter in a post-apocalyptic world, politics, philosophy, literature, music.  His father had a switchblade, and that was super cool.  We were always knife fetishists.  We argued incessantly about whether a flush beat a straight of vice versa; we were morally offended at his parents smoking and drinking together (oh irony).   Now, 20 years later, we were going to sleep near each the other, we reminisced over times of past, felt the nausea of age together.  We contemplated the separation of years together.  Our directionlessness in life together.  Together we looked at our selves and thought about where we were then and where we were now.  From Winter Haven, FL to Fairfax, Virginia.   We stand in the crucible of time; we look out the window on the future;  the appeture is noticibly narrower than when we were 10.   Whether the shutters in this analogy represent the onset of 'reality' or 'death' is academic. 

My sister and I have taken dramatically different tangents from the common continuum of our upbringing.  Hers led to lawschool, marriage, home, and career; mine... well, mine has led like a carrot dangling from a stick first here and then there.  The Reaper holds the stick, and I am always aware of his presence.  Maybe Suzanne is too, and our conclusions are just radically different.  Death does strange things to people.  The wedding brought together just about all of my clan.  I am haunted by the eyes.  My aunts and uncles all in a circle, looking at eachother and wondering how they all got so old  I see the world-weariness.  I see the suffering.  I try to tell myself its simply the filter through which I have chosen to view the world for now and therefore it is not 'Real', or from a different perspective its not 'absolute'.  But in any case, there is such a deep sadness; especially in Aunt Laurie's eyes.  Aunt Peggy; I see bitterness.  A rightful entitlement deprived.  A distaste.  I realize these two women, my father's two sisters one older one younger, contain a flood.  An enmity toward life, a pent-up rage unreleased.  A skeloton of a dream picked clean, vivisected, never realized, dead, hanging from their necks, adorned with pearls of great radiance.  I see no joy.  I look for the same now in my father's eyes.  Its as if the three have a secret cabal which they have not shared even with their spouses.  My mother, Uncle Ralph, Uncle David (my mother is an only child).  Its hard to draw connections.  But uncle David and I share a joi de vivre; uncle Ralph and I, an appreciation of design.  A certain sophistication in that regard.  But The three Cresses.  I saw something between them that will haunt me for years.

The cousins; Jennifer didn't want to make it.   Aunt Laurie, like my father, ran away from the south/from the past.  Built a new life as a midwestern school teacher in Illinois.   Her daughter, escaped from that to New Jersey, and is absolutely not a southerner.  All seeking across the generations something "else," something outside, external to the life given by birthright.  I turn the same analysis upon myself...  I see only life driven by suffering.  Perhaps the exegetical problematic is in the tense structure or adverbial modifiers.  Life is driven by suffering.  Pleasure is sorta a stopping point, but suffering is what inspires change.  On the other hand...

Thank god, the guy in the seat beside me lost his signal... damn.  He got it back.  I listen to the minutea of other people's lives and it drives me mad.  What makes me thinks my shit smells any sweeter?  Pharmacies, medicine, lukemia, one pharmacy was out of the pills, so he (michael) suggested they call another... Chemotherapy, stem cell transplants.  Jesus.  Now I see why people hate cellphones...  It doesn't help that he has that fat-southerner-middle-class drawl.  Where the jowls resonate; combined with the tone of self-satisfied knowing better than others. 

I have to stop writing.  I think I've unloaded most of my baggage at this point.    I think I've made enough room now to take in New York.  Remind me to tell you about the wedding sometime.  That was, after all, the whole point of this trip...


Oh my.  Every Amtrak ride is an adventure.  After an emotional morning, sitting next to a really annoying old pussywhipped fat man I am now upgraded to Business Class.  I had escaped from him to chase an amazingly hot girl named Kelly Brown.  Turns out she was a military brat and cross-country runner.  So hot.  I noticed her as soon as she was boarding the train, wearing a bright red halter top with a strap around the neck, no bra, black slacks, tight EVERYTHING, and a white cowboy hat.  Game on.  I saw her walk down to the snack car, grabbed my book and coffee mug and plotted an intercept course.  Miraculously, she sat down in the car as soon as I arrived; I played it cool.  Gave her the chance to notice me and preemptively blow me off.  She did not.  So I moved in.   When she said she was heading to Seattle, I moved in for the kill...

Okay, so really, she was nineteen and looking to follow in her father's footseteps...

oooh.  This is a FAST train; an Acela [ah SELL a]!  That's why, though we're three hours late here, we're theoretically only two hours late on arrival.  Nice.  I coulda been there at eleven, but had to go the a mad free-for-all luggage reclamation process getting off the bus.  More on that in a minnit.

So Kelly.  She wasn't really THAT hot.  Nineteen and with a West Point boyfriend, she's ROTC and at NC State for Political Science.   Her dream in life is to join the infantry.  Obvious problems aside, she is apparently willing to lay down EVERYTHING for her country.  This summer she's planning on climbing Rainier once or twice.  We chatted for a while, but since she'd only gotten an hour and a half sleep, she eventually retired to her seat for a nap.  After a few more pages of Glas, and four and a half hours sleep myself, I did the same.   That was when the train stopped. 

A freight train derailed outside of Fredricksburg, VA; after the next train on the tracks returned, we moved forward to Richmond, deboarded, were herded on to busses, our checked luggage loaded onto a separate bus, and then sent directly to D.C.  Fine.  Well, until we hit D.C. at rush hour... and there was an accident which shut down the highway.  After twenty minutues dead in the water, we were routed off the interstate. We wove our way through downtown Alexandria (...a really pretty city.  Bars, Cafes coffee shops on a long mainstreet, old old townhouses, traditional New England town planning, George Washington Masonic Monument...)  and finally made it in to D.C.  The guy on the train beside me tried to convert me back to Christianity.  Boy did I set him straight.  Went straight for the balls when he started quoting scripture.  Briefly, I converted back to Christianity, attacking the lynch pin "Only through Christ" argument.  Then proceeded with a stock, "God can only be one, undivided" argument and a long harping on the "Jesus is only the gateway to the father, and the Father is the point of Christianity, not chist; therefore why bother with Jesus if god is already within each of us."  He came back with a "by faith alone" argument which I parried by presenting a buddhist explanation of the same, substituting "Jesus" for "the Buddha" and then at the end, after he agreed with it all, switching the terms back; proceeded with a "different methods for different people" followed by a "my approach is the scholastic approach" and a "I never left the church; I took communion Saturday."  He interjected a thoughtful "some means are better than others, yours is dissipated and diluted, and when you follow a single faith wholeheartedly you will find results" which clearly I cannot counter simply.  I responded with an improvised a Derridian "But I would never encourage conversion, the surest religion is the natural religion [language]; the best religion is the one you are borne into, it is best to listen to your mother; at which point the somewhat senile woman across the aisle chimed in with a  nod and a "das right."  He choked on that one and it came out then that he was from Ghana, was raised in Islam, and retorted with a "I know people who worship trees and rocks; therefore there are wrong modes."  I backed off, realizing the theoretical underpinnings of my statement were way too deep to defend, and said "true true, I am speaking lightly..."  At about that point he dropped the subject.  But since I was on a role, I launched into a critique of Islam, Hinduism, Catholicism, Sufism, Faith-based Buddhisms, and for an encore attacked Baal worship, defending the actions of Mohammed via the teachings of Moses.  He asked if I'd tried Pentacostal, knowing (rightly) he'd have me cornered.  Then I let him off the hook, shifted the subject to his specialty of Sub-saharan African economics, privatization of infrastructural improvements, debt finance and the current political climate of the Gold Coast.    Turns out Benin is doing okay these days, democratically speaking, Togo is a 26 year old dictatorship, Senegal and Guinea are reasonable for travel if you speak French, there are "Politico {sp?}" separatists operating out of Western Sahara and Mauritania, and there's a country called Guinea Bissau I've never noticed before.  Oh, and he thinks Zambia and Angola have supposedly pulled their troops out of Congo these days. 

I was really trying to be nice.  When traffic stopped he had like zero chance of making his flight to Paris at 10:00; certainly not final check-in at 8:30.  He kept staring at his watch, getting progressively more anxious and even bowed his head in prayer at one point.  I felt sorry for his anxious soul and was trying to provide him with some performative Buddhism, by offering a hindu "if you miss the flight this time, you can always catch it next lifetime..." 

Anyway, we made it to Union Station by 7:50. I realized I could jump the next train at 8:00 if I were to abandon my bag.  and get it the following morning at Penn Station.  I decided to eat the hour and a half extra delay (and some real food) and spare myself the second trip to Penn station the following morning.  Besides,  I inadvertently checked my toothbrush...

So a burrito later, the adventure continues on the new express train to NYC.  Sheila still is insisting on meeting me at the station, I still am insisting on meeting her in Brooklyn.  Its a battle of the pig-headed at this point.   She doesn't work tomorrow, so well, I guess its no big deal.  I know to take any train to 14th, transfer to the L, step down at... Graham Ave and get a beer at the Pour house, but still she wants to meet me in the city... so be it. 

Amtrak.  Its always an adventure.

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