This moment (and later, this picture) made me want to change everything.
This summer Jacob spent two weeks at the summer camp I used to go to as a child. The first week was an overnight camp, which he approached with a positive attitude and only a little trepidation. At the end of the week he was tick-free and playing it cool, though his counselors tipped me off that he’d been a little homesick.
This week, he’s attending a day camp, which is a little more his speed. He seems happy to be there and the weather so far has been beautiful.The staff has been so kind and generous and Jacob has nothing but pleasant things to say about them.
Pulling into the camp driveway this summer (which is about 1/2 mile long, through a brief lovely stretch of Pine Barrens), I felt the same jolt of excitement I had as a child. The smells of the camp – the pine trees, the sugar sand, the cedar lakes – still trigger for me feelings of pleasure and excitement, but also of coming home. A couple years ago I walked the camps during the spring and was surprised by how well I remembered them, despite the more than 10 years that had passed. So much was new and exciting, but so much was the same, in a way that was comforting.
I think that’s still true now; when I drive up to the dining hall, the front porch looks different and The Bowl (the small amphitheater in front of the hall) has been changed – but they are still there, still the same in many ways.
On Monday, I picked Jake up from his first day of day camp. On my way to check him out I ran into the camp director, Brent. Many years ago, Brent and I were in the Rangers program together. We did two canoe trips together as part of the program – one to the Delaware Water Gap and the other to the Shenandoah River (that same trip is where I met Jon the Artist) – and it was a blast. It seems fitting to me that Brent is now the camp director – even at 14 or 15 years old, he had a love for the camp that most people didn’t. When I saw him Monday, he was walking out of the dining hall, holding his daughter, an adorable girl with a chocolate-smeared mouth, and a steady gaze. And what do you say to someone after 15 or so years? There are so many things I wanted to say to him: what it means to me that my son is at this camp (and enjoying it); that everything looks beautiful; that he, Brent, looks happy; that his face is the same in the best possible way; what a comfort for me it is to return there and find this familiar face I remember so fondly. But of course, I was running late for pick up, and Brent was probably off to something work- or family-related, so we chatted for a brief second, mostly just “How are you?” “We’re good.”
And then we said goodbye.
Today I heard (for the first time – where have I been?!) that the act Obama signed into law, the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, will ban flavored cigarettes. This law gives the FDA power to regulate tobacco products, and one of the measures in the regulation process is to ban fruit-, candy- and spice-flavored cigarettes. This, of course, includes clove cigarettes. The ban takes effect today.
Although I have conflicted feelings about the ban, I am primarily a little sad. I smoked steadily from age 14 until about 27. Since then, I have had occasional periods of backsliding, but I have never smoked as consistently as I did when I was, say, in my early 20s.
But cloves – ahhh. Cloves were always something of a special treat for me. Even now, they’re the very rare exception to Donna’s personal ban on my smoking – she has said, on more than one occasion, that smoking is a dealbreaker for her, although she allows the very occasional clove during a camping trip.
I have always said they taste like Christmas: the spice sticks to my lips, and I can taste it for awhile after extinguishing. The crackle of the paper as they burn is appealing, too.
I’m not even sure who told me about cloves. Was it Eric Goedkoop, my first boyfriend who had his own apartment? Maybe. Or was it Teddy Hines, who I dated briefly one summer? Or was it one of my girlfriends – I can remember smoking cloves with Krissy and Annie, but I don’t know how we found them.
Ah, well. All good things come to an end. So long, my old friends:
This morning on the commute to work, my favorite “alternative rock” radio station played REM’s “The One I Love.” I turned it up and was singing aloud when a memory hit me:
December 1995 or January 1996, big snowstorm. Dom, his friend MJ, myself and my boyfriend at the time (who shall remain nameless, as I’ve finally learned my lesson about naming people in blogs or poetry) drove to Bethlehem, PA, an 84 mile trip one way, to see Bush in concert. As the encore, they played a cover of “The One I Love,” during which time my boyfriend wrapped his arms around me from behind and sang into my ear. Even at 16, I knew the song wasn’t a love song. He didn’t. I should have dumped him on the spot.
I’ve learned to now choose only people who understand subtext in lyrics and literature.
It’s here, everyone! It’s finally, really here! Today is the day we wave goodbye to Bush and welcome Obama!
To kick off the day, I’m joining in with Lisa at My Ecdysis and virtually throwing my shoe at President Bush as he leaves office. It’s about time I got rid of these, anyway:
(if only the bowling ball came with the shoes…)
This morning on the way in to work, I cried when I realized that this is it, the end of a really crappy eight years. I am hopeful and optimistic that Obama will be a better man, a better leader. I am hopeful that today is a turning point, and we are turning in the right direction.
Sweet Jesus, I am so excited.
Not too long ago, Donna and I were talking about the hows and whys of maintaining relationships and friendships: how do we choose who is most important to us, who shapes us in positive or negative ways? Why do we place such special significance on some relationships, despite obstacles of time, distance, personal differences? And why do we let other relationships (that are potentially more convenient to maintain) falter?
Shortly after that discussion, I sent an email to Jon the Artist trying to detail some of these answers for him about how I think about him in my life. Considering the following facts:
- We met at 14. At the time, we lived about an hour and a half apart with no real solid means of maintaining the relationship.
- We lost touch for the better part of 14 years.
- Last August, Jon found me on MySpace, and initiated a correspondence through a slightly cryptic email.
- Jon currently lives 2,893 miles away from me.
- We are in different time zones, living hugely different lives.
And yet, there is this small piece of my heart that belongs entirely to him. Last year, I visited him while on vacation at Christmas, which I wrote about here. After the trip, I tried really hard to write about the experience, and I failed miserably. I’m still unable to say the things I want to say. I tried to articulate things for him in the email, and I’m not sure I got it quite right, though this was close:
you showed me – quite possibly without even realizing it – that people don’t always want to use and manipulate others
Of course, we were 14 when he showed me this and I didn’t realize that was the lesson I’d come away with 15 years later. But reflecting on the people I’ve chosen for my life over the past 15 years, I realize that it’s true: I have allowed myself to be used and manipulated (and, in the interest of full disclosure, have done my fair share of manipulation) by scores of people, and I’ve become more than a little jaded about it. But when I think about the summer of 1993 and my young, brief relationship with Jon (that mainly existed via long-distance phone calls), I realize: there was nothing complicated or ugly about it. It was, simply, two kids who wanted to spend time together because they liked each other.
Now in 2008, with 15 years of experience behind us, we are different people, in many ways: we are different than the people we were at 14, and we are different from each other. But while I look at most of my previous failed relationships and friendships to discern what I will no longer accept for myself, I realize now that a lot of what I look for in friends and partners is reminiscent of what Jon brought to my life.
So I think this is partly why it seems important to me to maintain the friendship now that it’s been found again. I’m not sure it answers all the questions I have about how and who and why we choose what we do, but I’m pretty confident in the choices I’m making now. And despite the time apart and the divergent lives, I think there’s enough in common beyond the summer of 1993 to make the friendship worthwhile.
Let’s just hope that super-obvious dorkiness is no longer one of the things we have in common.
Growing up, I spent a fair amount of time with my grandparents (my dad’s parents). I think they were probably in their late 50s and early 60s when I was in grade school, because I believe my grandfather was about 70 when he passed away, and I was about 19 or 20. I think now about people I know who are in their late 50s – they don’t seem old to me at all, although my grandparents seemed ancient.
So, today is a sort of Choose Your Own Adventure blog entry.
Do you want to read an incredibly infuriating story about a woman who was forced to perform oral sex in a college dorm room, after which her rapist had the gall to join a Facebook group created in organization against sexual violence on campus? If so, click here to head over to the Curvature and read Cara’s spot on take on another instance of rape apology.
Or do you want to read about how our violence-hungry President told the Secretary of State, during a tour of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, that we should have bombed Auschwitz to stop the killing? If that’s your cup of tea this morning, then you might want to check out this story.
Honestly, I’m not sure what to think here. I’ve made the decision to take on a Women’s and Gender Studies major at Rutgers University, knowing that I’ll be learning about and discussing things like sexual assault, violence based on gender and sexuality, and the concept of apologetics. But I will readily admit to being totally unprepared for how often I would encounter instances of these things. The Curvature is just one example of a blog documenting cases of violence, assault and misogyny – take a look at the blogroll on the side of Cara’s page, which is full of feminist blogs. The sheer volume of entries appearing at The Curvature (and the appalling content of each entry) makes me hesitant to click on anyone else’s links – how much emotional capacity exists in my body to take on these things? Can I really confront these realities for the rest of my life?
Of course I can. I just need a stronger cup of coffee first.
And Bush – well. I understand the intent behind his comment, and I also understand that bombing Auschwitz was a viable option during WW2. But that option was dismissed in favor of refocusing efforts and resources elsewhere. Yes, there’s the “for the good of the whole” argument – perhaps if the camp had been bombed early in the US involvement in the war, say 1941 or 1942, it would have closed down one of the most efficient killing camps the Nazis had going.
But consider: the US viewed reports of the occurrences at Auschwitz to be greatly exaggerated until about 1944. By this time, Auschwitz had already been open and “processing” for nearly four years. The camp was liberated in January 1945 – eight months after the US decided to listen to a couple of escaped prisoners. A large portion of the killing had already been completed prior to the time period when the US started taking people seriously about what was happening there. Bombing the camps would not necessarily have prevented any great number of people from dying – and in fact would have killed quite a few inmates in and of itself.
I suppose, most of all though, I just don’t understand how a person can stand in a memorial built for victims of incredible violence – and suggest further violence as a solution. I find it distasteful and disrespectful, no matter the intent.
I recently had a drunken phone conversation with an old friend. He was kind enough to indulge me for quite a while (I wince at the thought of the cost of that bill, as he lives in California, and if my call log is correct, he listened to me ramble for the better part of two hours), and later was even kinder in his assessment that it was “a good way to spend a Thursday night.” Ah, artists and their tolerance for incoherence.
I’m fascinated lately by the resurgence of this friendship, actually. J was someone I knew fairly well at the ripe old age of 14, when we were young, angry, angst-ridden and full of the inky blackness in our souls which was the wellspring of incredibly maudlin poetry. Of course, at 14, we weren’t exactly experienced in the things that created anger, angst and inky blackness – but as all 14-year-olds do, we pretended to be experts, and spent hours on the phone, racking up our parents’ phone bills and sighing at each other about whatever we sighed about.
The past 14 (or 15) years took us on very different paths, and not surprisingly, we completely lost touch nearly ten years ago. So it’s a little weird now to be back in contact with him. I don’t know who he is now – what’s important to him, how it meshes with what’s important to me, where his political allegiances fall, how he feels about the Atlanta Braves, what he might say to PJ Harvey, if he even thinks about any of these things.
I’ve been fairly careful about evaluating my friendships over the past few years (having learned a lot from the demise of my friendship with another J, among others), and I’m a bit nervous, actually, about how this is going to play out. A few old friends from high school have attempted to get in touch again, and because I couldn’t determine what would pique their interest after 10 years, I let those sparks fizzle out quickly. And while I don’t understand entirely why J would choose now, after nearly 15 years, to reconnect (though it has something to do with the Smashing Pumpkins and a box of letters), I understand my reasons for hoping the connection is more than a one-off (and they have something to do with the New Orleans Saints and A Midsummer Night’s Dream).
I have this philosophy about life – which sounds rather pretentious. Anyway, people are always talking about how they don’t want to get hurt again, how they’ll protect themselves and be tough and cold and hard if that’s what it takes to make sure they don’t hurt anymore. But they end up getting hurt anyway, or losing out on wonderful opportunities with other people in this life. And I can’t see how it helps to protect yourself from being hurt when it’s inevitable. So I’m a little fearful here of several things – and one of those things is that perhaps I’m assuming too much.
But I’m not afraid of being hurt. At the very least, I could get a poem out of it.
Ah, poets and their penchant for exploiting even the simplest of human experiences.