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Like Stoic Mountains
Friday. 3.16.07 3:17 pm
My affinity for mountains began when I read the Dharma Bums. I can’t remember how old I was, but I think fifteen. I remember Jaffy, the outdoorsy logger and eastern language scholar, would climb mountains toting his rucksack full of necessities. He emanated peace and calm as he roamed the cliffs.
I was not a student of Buddhism at the time and knew very little about it, but the foreign terms, and the tranquility of the philosophy drew me in. Religion has never interested me. I have always thought human kind would be better off without it. I still harbor that opinion, but I wanted calm. I wanted the peace that is attainable only through ignorance or enlightenment. As I aged a couple of years, I realized I didn’t need someone else’s philosophy to guide me.
I would be like the mountains, stoic, gentle, and patient. Life would erode my exterior, would leave scars and abrasions. And like the weathered mountains, I would persevere.
Mountains have a lot to teach us. They communicate tremendous messages of tolerance, and reason. They say it’s all right to be still, it’s all right to be old, and it’s all right to be weathered. They say nothing is consistent despite appearances, and that rain and mist are just as beautiful as a sunrise.
When I am old I will scale cliffs with a rucksack, and sip water from streams. I’ll sit and look at the rain, mist, and sunshine. When I am old I will die on a mountain.

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The House of Meat
Friday. 3.16.07 1:58 am
An Arab gentleman with a gray mustache runs the House of Meat. He sells many imported grocery items; tea, oil, coffee, shisha, and date-filled pastries, in addition to his freezer full of animal parts. Al-Jazira is always on the T.V. perched on a shelf. The Arabic on all of the product tins and boxes is so graceful, so aesthetically pleasing. The whole place smells like a different country.
As I entered I smiled and waved in greeting. The gentleman waved back. We puttered around the store for a bit while another customer ordered a pound or two of chicken.
A serpentine hookah was wrapped up on a shelf. I recall a hookah bar a group of friends and I used to visit during the summer. That was the summer that we would pay regular visits to the House of Meat to stock up on steaks, and we would grill in a sun-drenched park or field somewhere, under the shade of a tree.
Our plans were simple, we would grill the steaks and have a nice dinner, and I would neglect doing my vignettes for English class. After the gentleman had finished going at the T-bone with his circular saw (Oh, the piercing whine of sawed bone) I approached the counter to pay.
“T-bone is six dollars a pound, for you, five. That is you’re price only, okay?” he said, and with a furtive smile he took my money. Once he threw in a box of baklava with a steak purchase, “Halal-approved,” he assured me. I always thank him profusely. We left the shop laden with steak and goat ribs, and drove home.
The temperature had already begun to drop. I rolled my window down, savoring the last of the warm evening. I put on King Crimson, In the Court of the Crimson King, an album perfectly suited for warm spring evenings in the car with the breeze lapping against my arm.
The steaks were juicy, and I made a pot of coffee afterwards. Everyone left after the coffee, and I did the dishes feeling very full and very well.

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Nights
Wednesday. 3.14.07 2:35 am
Even if all I can do is twiddle my thumbs in my exhaustion, I will not go to sleep willingly. Suburban nights are so quiet, if there is one redeeming quality about suburbia, it is quiet.
I have grown to appreciate quiet. Silence allows for contemplation and meditation. If one's environment is quiet, it is much easier to quiet the mind. When the mind is quiet, the body is free of stress, and the mind is creative and free. I am most creative at night in the silence.
A free mind is a mind that wakes up peacefully. I rarely wake up peacefully. It is always a struggle, always a sinking feeling in my stomach. So i twiddle my thumbs and wait and wait until I finally must sleep. I read a lot at night, in my creative state. Sometimes I flip through the channels on television, but this particular night I layed in bed awake, in the silence, and tried not to fall asleep. The window was cracked to let in air, and I searched for the breeze in the stale room.
Staring up at the ceiling like that, the world outside melted away. There was no strife or suffering, just my own battle against the sleep and the dark quiet. Finally I slept, troubled dreams sometimes, and awoke disgruntled. I have already mentioned the importance of waking up well, quietly, and in solitude. This night was particularly vexing, although I remembered none of my dreams. They lingered on though, long after the alarm, my shower, and the school day. They lingered on the drive home, and while I read the paper. They clung to me like insects, injecting venom, venom that disrupts well being, that disrupts sleep and dreams.
Yet I sleep well sometimes, just not this particular night. And so the bad night stands out among the many mundane nights. The quiet nights where I lay reading, or watching, or listening, quietly and free.

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Turandot
Wednesday. 3.14.07 2:32 am
We had been looking forward to the opera for weeks. When I picked her up that Sunday afternoon it was cold and sunny. It flurried a little that afternoon too. Laura loves the snow.
On the way to Mccarter Theater in Princeton, we listened to Bob Dylan. It was a recording of a live concert in the sixties, and Joan Baez made a guest appearance. “Silver Dagger” makes my eyes mist a little every time I hear it.
When we arrived we walked around Princeton for a while, perusing the shops and the menus posted outside the restaurants. The time passed quickly as it does when one laughs a lot. The euphoric sensation derived from laughter makes the walk seem very short. I offer my arm to her, she locks hers with mine, and we stroll to the theater.
The town is magnificent. The architecture is something to marvel at, it all seems austere and formal, high class and elitist. But it’s pretty, especially swathed in the snow flurries.
We took our seats in the balcony. She let her hair down, which had been tied in a ponytail, and she looked like the princess Turandot herself. She wore a beautiful necklace, now exposed from underneath her coat, borrowed from her mother for the occasion. It dangled around her delicate neck. The light from the chandelier glinted off of the small diamonds, and reflected in her green-gray eyes. Her blonde hair fell softly around her shoulders. We spoke until the curtains rose, about nothing in particular.
The performance was extraordinary. I knew Laura would love and laugh at Ping, Pang, and Pong. Comically they flitted their fans about and guffawed at Calaf the hero, yet they were saddened by all the suffering inflicted upon the characters, who mostly hurt themselves.
I took Laura’s hand in mine during the third act. It is a delicate, vulnerable thing to be close to somebody, but there is nothing like a simple gesture of intimacy to revitalize my faith in humanity. I was still holding her hand when Lui, the slave girl, thrust a dagger into her stomach out of love for Calaf, who was only captivated by Turandot.
When the curtain came down the audience roared and clapped for what seemed an eternity. The director, conductor, and all the actors smiled wide and bowed.
We ate in a dark cozy restaurant by the college. I had the duckling, she had chicken, and we shared some dessert. She likes a lot of milk in her coffee, and I poked fun at her for it.
On the drive home we listened to Elliot Smith, another pick of mine. We sat in her driveway, enjoying the remnants of warmth in the car, and laughing.
I read an article that stated scientific research has determined that laughter is “an instinctual survival tool used by social animals, not an intellectual response to wit.”
We laugh to communicate that we are getting along with one another, that we may feel a little nervous and a little vulnerable. We laugh because it produces euphoria. We laugh because it passes the time.

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Mornings
Wednesday. 3.14.07 1:29 am
Spring comes on like an anesthetic, like some mild sedative rendering everything hazy and insubstantial. I felt lost, like I had just awoken from a long sleep and I couldn’t rub the blurriness from my eyes. There must be some biological explanation for my emotional state this time of year. I bet it is allergies.

I slept with the window open last night, and the cold air woke me up at three AM. It is important that I wake up several times before I actually need to get out of bed. It is empowering to abuse my snooze button, I feel like I’m cheating time.
Time is like an ancient snake, it winds and twists, and it is difficult to perceive. The passage of time is not a passage, but instantaneous. It doesn’t flow, it just is. It hardly is at all sometimes, especially in the morning when I’m woken up by cool spring air.

I hope and pray every morning that the shower is hot. This morning it was warm, but it was more like old water left out in the sun, and it didn’t expel the chill from my body. I mopped the water from my face with a towel, and stared at the wall for a few moments. I tried to slow time down, but I felt the clock probing me from the other room, urging me to step out of the tub. But it was cold in the bathroom, and the tile felt like ice, so I stood staring at the wall for another minute.

Finally I dressed, and dashed madly about the kitchen looking for my keys and something to read. I started my car and panicked, it was 7:15. I couldn’t be late again. I rushed out of the driveway and forgot my white car, and NPR on the radio, and forgot myself, and sped to school. I left it all behind me in a hazy streak, in a blur that only the half-asleep can hope to understand as they rush out the door.

The solitude of the morning routine is essential. Everyone should be afforded the privilege of waking up alone. There is nothing more disconcerting than being in the company of others before one has had ample time to mull over dreams. Dreams don’t necessarily tell us anything about ourselves, but they are natural escapism. That is why we hate our alarms. It’s like a drunken brawl at a mellow get together, or an obnoxious patron in a theater. The shrill, electronic beep disturbs the calm peace of a waking dreamer.

When I parked in space 84, the clock said 7:23. I had made it on time. NPR said it would be warm that afternoon, and it was.

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Acceptance Letters, and the Great Scheme (American Dream)
Sunday. 3.11.07 10:06 pm
I recieved my acceptance letter to SUNY Binghamton. As I look back on the college application process, and the extensive forms detailing my activities and achievements that i spent my weekends filling out, I am disgusted.
I'd like to send my letter of acceptance back, a big "FUCK YOU" in purple sharpie scratched across the front. It's not because the school has wronged me, in fact they have been nothing but cooperative and prompt. It's merely that they recognized my achievement, and by doing so, they have implicated me in something bigger than myself, something i want no part of.

It's hard to say what that something is. It's old, I know that much. I'm going to call it a scheme for now. It's a great scheme, the scheme of competition, of selfishness, jealousy, and egocentrism. It is a counterproductive system, it's alienating, and it is not in the best interest of the individual or society.

It's a race we all run, stepping over each other, ridiculing each other on the way up, and cursing everyone on the way down. It's a race that wears us out on the way to an ominous finish line.

Let's all just be kind now, and forget about the finish line for a spell. Let's nurse aching calf muscles, drink plenty of fluids, and pace ourselves.

It ain't a race after all.

So now I had this acceptance letter in my hands, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Would it turn out to be the rewarding intellectual environment I had been hoping for? More importantly, would it be anything like high school? (Hopefully, no)

I took a college course at OCC, and if higher education is anything like that class, I will fit right in. I enjoy text and ideas. I like written exams, and pouring over books full of concepts, theories, and practical application of material. I am patient, and I have a long attention span. I like lectures, and discussion. I like mature, kind people.

Is that too much to ask of an institution?

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