Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Human C.V.

I've finally decided, after about four or five years of having one—and after watching it grow from one to four pages—to post my c.v. online: my curriculum vitae.

But to do so is painful. That's because I know that some people read a c.v. as if it is the person. "It says everything that you need to know about Gregory."

No... it does not. Not. Even. Close.

self-portrait (c. 1995)

A friend recently asked me in casual conversation: what is a c.v.? And what a question! But do I have a good answer? At first blush, I responded that it was like a resume, simply longer. The resume is traditionally one page, but the c.v. is as long as it can be or wants to be. Once you get really old, your c.v. might be fifty pages long, and that is okay. That's what we mean by "curriculum vitae": the course of one's life.

I kind of think it is impressive that I can now fill up four pages of my c.v. with stuff about me, but it is also sad, because if you would let me I would fill up four hundred pages to tell my story. So the question "what is a c.v.?" is not so much a question of how long it should be, but really: what does/should it say? What part of my four-hundred-page story becomes the condensed four-page mini-narrative? And how could anyone get away with thinking that those measly four pages represent me?

So while I am right that a c.v. can be as long as you want it to be, you cannot simply put anything on it. You do not include a list of all your romantic relationships, which ones reached different milestones such as sex or marriage, and then little filler information between certain relationships to explain why you were, say, single between 2003 and 2005—because people are really going to want to know that about you! No. I repeat: this information does not go into your c.v.

You do not list all the different pets that you have had over time: their names, their ages at time of death, et cetera. Nope, no pets.

You do not record when you first stood upright and you walked on two feet. You do not record when you said your first word and what that word was. You likewise do not record the funerals you have attended, the people close to you who have died, and what your relationship with them was.

In fact, almost anyone and everyone important in your life will never get onto the pages of your c.v. It's as if they never existed, and you were never impacted by their lives.

So what do you list on a c.v.? Well, you list 1) texts that you have published (and sometimes you can sneak in a few that you have written even if they are not published, but they must be eminently publishable); you list 2) public presentations that you have given; you list 3) the schools and programs you have received degrees from; you may list 4) organizations that you are a member of (but only if they are professional organizations similar to the professions held by the people reading your c.v.!).

Now you might think to yourself: the only person who is going to be able to fill up multiple pages of a c.v. with that kind of stuff is some kind of detached, soulless intellectual, am I right?!

Yes, you are right.

In fact, most people on Earth—wonderful, beautiful, creative, loving people—don't have c.v.s, and in the realm of c.v.-dom they just don't count.

Now, take a breath, and look away from the screen for a second. There are a select group of people on this Earth fretting and worrying about the format and placement of one thing or another on this piece (or pieces) of paper that only matter to a small group of other yet similar people. Meanwhile, good people—the best on Earth—are living their lives, helping others, doing amazing things, and none of it is chiseled into stone on a c.v.

So, to return to the question, "what is a c.v.?" Perhaps the best answer is that it is some kind of language or code that a small, select group of people use to judge and evaluate each other. Kind of like how an Olympic judge gives a seemingly random numeral grade for a floor routine in the field of gymnastics: the only people who really understand the nature of that grading system are the judges and the gymnasts. Right? I mean, how would I, for example, know what is a 9.1 performance versus a 9.9?

Anyone, with some work, can learn the code. Frankly, anyone can master it. There are people who actually get paid to listen to you talk about your life so that they can write up a c.v. for you. It's like, "tell me the 'course of your life' and I will turn that mundane English phrase into a Latin one!" :)

I'm not saying that the c.v. is all bad. Perhaps it serves an important purpose, although I do think that we who use and evaluate c.v.s are generally too competitive with each other and we think way too much about one-upmanship, about how one person's c.v. ranks against another's. But stop for a moment and think about how utterly stupid that is. You are taking one person's "course of their life" and then ranking it against someone else's. When and why did we ever start thinking that somehow human lives are comparable and rankable in this way? And what does it say about us that we so habitually do this to ourselves and to each other?

Of course, I do not mean just to criticize. The question now becomes: what can we do differently?

I believe there are three possible solutions to the problem of the c.v. One is to ban all c.v.s. Let's ban resumes, too. Or not ban them, but in all hiring situations we should simply ask people to send in whatever they want about themselves in whatever format they want. They can send in a written narrative, a resume or c.v., an audiotape or video recording, a portfolio of creative works or products, a basket of scented or tasty goodies, an envelope stuffed with cash. Really. Let people send in whatever they want.

I know what I would send in. I would write a super-duper-long cover letter, because I always want to write really long cover letters. I want to explain where I've come from and where I think I'm going, and how I believe this job/position fits into the trajectory of my life's adventure—my 'life's course' (aka curriculum vitae!). But I might also send in a few photographs of myself: pictures of me smiling and interacting with other people, to show that I am a personable guy and that I love working with others. (Indeed, one of the best jobs that I ever had was won—at least partly—by me sharing unsolicited photographs like the ones I just described! I am telling you: send in those smiling pictures!)

The second possible solution is: let's force everyone to have a c.v. Not just writers and thinkers and academics. But farmers, astronauts, nurses, politicians, plumbers, freelancers, breakdancers. Everyone should have a c.v. This way we would have to inevitably break down the artificial taxonomy of what goes in and what stays out of a c.v. The breakdancer would list all of their accomplishments as a dancer. The plumber list the skills s/he has acquired and the various jobs s/he has successfully completed. The academic will list their published books and articles. To everything there is a season; for everyone there is a c.v.

And how would that change my c.v.? Well, if you listed your experiences dancing, I'd probably list mine, too. (I performed with my college's modern dance company for one year in 2002-2003, but that's not on my current c.v. Too bad!). I have no experience as a plumber or an astronaut, but I have worked a bit on an organic vegetable farm. That's not on my c.v. But really, why not?

Finally, there is a third way—a middle path: the human c.v.

What do I mean by "human c.v."? Well, it's kind of like what I am describing above under option two. If you ever performed in a dance company, list it! If you ever walked one hundred miles across the desert without stop, and you slept on the side of the road, list it! If you fell deeply in love, had your heart broken, and wrote a poem about it, list it! If you had a child, or you lost a grandparent, list it!

Now don't go listing everything. Because who is going to read a four-hundred-page c.v. I'll read your four-hundred-page autobiography if you write it, but not a c.v. Sure, the human c.v. can be a little hybrid of the two: you can tell some narratives rather than just listing everything. I mean, whose "course of life" unfolded like a bunch of lists? Not mine. My life is more like a bunch of snaking stories that wind in and out of each other's ways, sometimes getting tangled up. Once in a while a story-snake just crokes, or gets chopped into two, and usually they simply splinter up into multiple new snakes like a many-headed hydra.

Tell your story. That's what the "human c.v." is all about. And who are you telling it to? Well... the world! Tell it. Not because you need to, or because you want people to judge or evaluate you—that's what the boring old normal c.v. is for. Tell your story because you are proud of it, and because when people ask you "who are you?" you can confidently point to your "human c.v." and say: that's me. (Of course it isn't. The only thing that is you is you. But being able to express yourself in words or images—to tell your story the way you want to tell it—may be an important and liberating adventure. It's worth a try!)

All I know is that my c.v. is not me and I am not my c.v. (It's like the Buddhist monk who once ripped up all his cards—his driver's license, his social security card, his credit cards—and with each rip said: "this card is not me. I am not this card.") The c.v. is, in the end, just some kind of fantastic and twisted mirror of one's self. It reflects a sort of "way of being" that I can perform, but it hardly reflects a "course of life" that I have lived and am still living. I think that this is the key difference between a c.v. and a "human c.v." The former is a tool for attaining a goal; the latter is a story that gives meaning to our lives.

I have never made a "human c.v." before, but I am working on one here. (And now I've got to go add that modern dance company line to it!). Please let me know what you think about this idea and project. And if you have a "human c.v." to share, I would love to see it! (No judgement. No evaluation. Just loving-kindness, respect, and appreciation for one's willingness to share their 'life course.')

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Goodbye, California

California Research Adventure: Days 64-69

Hey, this is my 100th blog post! [Three cheers!]

Berkeley Fire Trail at dawn

Can you believe that I have "research-adventured" for seventy days in the Golden State? That's well over two months. But as I said in an earlier post, I have spent about four months away from home in 2013. I'm a traveling man. And in 2014 it won't be very much different. I don't plan to "research-adventure" anymore—that is, visit archives—but I am planning to spend time in Harlem, maybe D.C., Kansas in February, back to S.F. in March, Atlanta in April, and who knows what happens from there!

So how did I spend my last few days in Berkeley? Well, on Saturday morning I decided to wake up very early and start walking uphill—through town—through campus—up into Strawberry Canyon. There I hooked up with the fire trail(s), a set of footpaths through the hills above UC-Berkeley. I ended up hiking at least seven miles, and moving nonstop for about 3-4 hours. It felt great!

 Looking all the way to Oakland from the fire trail

View of Berkeley (and even the Golden Gate) from the fire trail
After a lovely hike, I then hiked myself all the way back down the hill to campus where I hooked up with the Berkeley Art Museum. The museum happens to have almost exclusively Asian art on display at the moment, which is fine by me. But I found this kind of interesting and I wonder if it is part of the mission of the museum or whether I just happened to find them in this fleeting vogue. 
Check out this museum floor plan! As you walk through, you get no real sense of being on the "first floor" or the "second floor." Rather each room is its own floor—its own space floating within a bigger space. Very strange and kind of beautiful. 
Berkeley Art Museum, built c. 1970[?]
I enjoyed the museum, then made my way back to the Y to rest my feet and read and relax in the glowing sunlight pouring in through my window.

The next day—Sunday—I woke to this:

The Berkeley Half Marathon, as seen (and heard) through my window at 8 AM!

If I knew this was going to happen, I would have sold tickets for spectators to come up to my YMCA room for the view. :)

Berkeley Half Marathoners running past my window
Watching all these runners motivated me to throw on my clothes and run outside, too. I ran as far as the sidewalk, at which point I discovered that all the marathoners were long gone on their journey to the finish line. My run became a walk and I moseyed down to the local coffeehouse to sip coffee and read a book. Take that, Exercise. (But, as you know, I have been faithfully attending 7 AM yoga on most days on most weeks this past month. I am definitely more fit than I have been for the past two to three years.)

After a lovely weekend, on both Monday and Tuesday I visited the library for the last time(s). I have finished my dissertation research. Yes, I can say that now. :)

Tonight I am meeting up with an old friend (it's been six years) for dinner. Tomorrow morning meeting an old friend (it's been five years). Then getting on a plane to New York City. I will arrive in the cold, rainy, messy city around midnight on Thanksgiving morning. Then I've got to take a bus upstate. Should be at my childhood home by 11 AM on Thanksgiving... also first day of Hanukkah. 

Happy holidays! and Happy travels!

Friday, November 22, 2013

California Research Adventure: Days 59-63

Still life

I have really been cherishing my weekends here in Berkeley. Besides roadtripping to Point Reyes and to Monterey on two Saturdays, I have also spent two really calm and beautiful Sundays in Berkeley doing absolutely nothing. It is one of my new goals: to restore the sabbath—the week-end. See, when you are writing a doctoral dissertation, everyday is a work day and everyday and every hour bleeds into the next one. But that is no way to live. God said take one day out of every seven to rest. Working-class activists in this country later turned that one day into two, which is a good thing. This is not to say that every American has the luxury of taking two days off every week, but that is a goal and ideal that I think we commonly share. And my goal now, in late 2013, is to restore that sabbath-ness to the week-end. And the way I will do it is by doing absolutely nothing all weekend every weekend, except rest and play.

So far, it feels great. I end up laying in bed on sunlit afternoons, like the one pictured above, listening to jazz on my new AM/FM radio and just watching the shadows make slowly-moving patterns across the wall. Who ever said in this race towards "success" that I shouldn't take the time every week-end to to just lay around and do nothing?

The sun in my room

 Sun rays that stretch to infinity

Of course, cherishing the weekends means working that much harder from Monday to Friday. And that's okay. I still make my own schedule. I still have time for 7am yoga. I still have time to listen to some jazz on the radio, to do some recreational reading at sunup and at sundown. There is no justification for complaints about this wonderful, magical life. If it doesn't feel right, it is only because I am not awake to its magnificence. 

Thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of campus workers went on strike on Wednesday all across the University of California system to protest harassment and intimidation that they have faced from management. They strike for dignity, the most important thing that all of us deserve.

I watched campus workers go out on strike on Wednesday. And I was reminded that the kind of life they want for themselves and their families is the same one that I want for myself, and that you want for yourself. We want time to be able to roadtrip to Monterey, to be able to watch the moonrise and to watch the sunset. We want time to spend with our loved ones. We want time to read a novel. We want time to go to a museum, to a park, to have a nice meal. We want time to develop hobbies and passions outside of our work, and we want our work to be fun and fulfilling, too. Time and dignity. Which are really the same thing. Because to be treated with dignity is to be treated human, and all humans have a right to "sabbath"—to rest and play on the week-end. Unfortunately millions of workers in the United States do not have that kind of time, because they get paid too little and must work multiple jobs or overtime. I am so proud to be an active member of my union, to be part of this epic, ongoing battle against capital, because it is ultimately our dignity—our very humanness—that is at stake.
 Striking campus workers in the cold rain

There is a tower in the middle of campus at Berkeley. It is over 300 feet tall and contains a huge clock that chimes once every hour. Also, a musician performs music on the carillon bells up in the tower a couple times each day. It is always a pleasure at noon, each day when I am in the archive, to just stop what I am doing and listen to the carillon music.

Sather Tower, UC-Berkeley, in the glow of sunset
The view in the other direction. Black trees, fog over the bay, and endless horizons of clouds folding upwards into darkness.

I finally decided that I had to go up to the top of the tower. There you can see all the carillon bells big and small.
The view from 300 feet up, looking west towards San Francisco

The view from 300 feet up, looking south towards Oakland

 The view from 300 feet up, looking east towards the Berkeley Hills

I have one more weekend left in California. Then this and all research adventures are over until I get that diploma in hand and can call myself "Doctor." :)

I plan to go east young man into those Berkeley Hills to do some hiking. Maybe watch the stars come out in the evening. Who knows?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Romance in Monterey

California Research Adventure: Day 58

 I fell in love with Monterey.

Mission San Carlos Borromeo del rio Carmelo in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Or, for short, the Carmel Mission. Founded in the 1770s by Spanish missionaries to Alta California's indigenous peoples. This chapel dates to the early 1790s.

 Interior of the 1790s Carmel Mission chapel

It was not just the eighteenth-century Spanish mission in Carmel-by-the Sea. (Can I just say "Carmel"? This reminds me of upstate New York towns like Croton-on-Hudson. Do we really need to know that it is "by the Sea" or "on [the] Hudson"? If it is a cool enough place, it would not have to so blatantly advertise its riparian/seaside qualities.)

I did not spend anytime in Carmel-by-the-Sea except to visit the eighteenth-century mission. But I have visited a number of Spanish missions by now—four by my count (so, about one mission every fifteen days for this research adventure!). The Carmel Mission was nice enough, but certainly the best interpretive experience I have had at any mission this year was at Mission San Juan Capistrano.

Inside the Carmel Mission chapel

Inside the Carmel Mission chapel

Apparently the first library in all of California, c. 1840s, in the Carmel Mission complex. Just like in Hawaiʻi, we have Christian missionaries to thank for the palapala (the written word).

I left Berkeley at 8am in a rental car. On the way out passed a young person on the side of the road with a cardboard sign reading "Modesto." I was not heading anywhere near Modesto, so there was little I could offer.

It was a little after 10am when I reached Carmel-by-the-Sea. The town itself is crap. What exists of "downtown" is just a conglomeration of trendy faux-old shops and lots of speed bumps and khaki pants. At least that is how it appeared to me when I, starving for something to eat for breakfast, drove around looking for "cheap eats"—which I only found further out of town at a diner at a shopping mall.

 A Monterey Cypress tree in the courtyard of the Carmel Mission

My guidebook describes Monterey as "working class" compared to Carmel's "feel of a country club." That's about right. So it was great to leave the mission and leave Carmel behind by the sea and head north up the Monterey peninsula to its namesake, Monterey.

If Carmel was all about the eighteenth century, Monterey is all about the nineteenth century. Carmel was about Spanish empire in Alta California. Monterey is about the Mexican republic and the very early period of American rule. So, 1830s and 1840s are really our game here. Which is, to be true, part of what makes Monterey so romantic.

Monterey State Historic Park headquarters, in the 1840s-era Pacific House Museum

My walking tour began here, at the headquarters of the Monterey State Historic Park. I parked my rental car and went on foot. Apparently either Monterey or the State of California bought up a whole lot of Mexican-era properties in the city in the late twentieth century and then eventually turned them over and into this State Historic Park. It was a great idea. The downtown is just littered with these properties: more adobe buildings than you will probably find anywhere else this side of the border (discounting other former parts of Mexico, where perhaps even greater adobes reign). The headquarters is an 1840s-era two-story building right on the main plaza. Inside are exhibits on (mostly) the Mexican era in Monterey history, so about 1821 to 1848. Why such a focus on Mexico (besides the great wealth of architectural history from that period)? Perhaps because Monterey was the capital of Mexican California. All ships coming in and out of California during this period had to visit Monterey. It was the only sanctioned port for foreign commerce, immigration, et cetera, although of course ships visited many other California ports illegally during this time.

Inside the Pacific House Museum, a copy of The Polynesian, a Honolulu-based newspaper that happened to be the only newspaper worth reading in Mexican Alta California until the late 1840s. Evidence again of the influential Mexican-Hawaiian connection.

Inside the Pacific House Museum, upstairs is a museum dedicated to Native American history. Confusingly, exhibits such as this one on costumes lack identifying labels. Many a visitor might think this is how California Indians once dressed. They did not. These are Great Plains Indians artifacts. Very confusing!

Inside the Pacific House Museum, the always necessary exhibit on sea otters. Just as at Fort Ross, the "lure of fur" explains much of everything that happened on the Pacific Coast of North America in the early nineteenth century.

Next it was off to the Customs House museum. Remember, Monterey was the capital of Mexican California, so all ships in and out of the territory had to pass through customs in this building.

Old Monterey Customs House, built in stages from the 1820s to the 1840s

 Inside the Customs House museum we can imagine what it was like when imports and exports piled up and clerks kept track of everything in big fat books. A Mexican flag hangs on the wall. 

The Monterey State Historic Park has developed a self-guided walking tour that includes all the other properties within the park system. So off it was on this walking tour, which took me about two to three hours, since I, of course, had to read every single sign and listen to every single stop on the cellphone audio tour!

A monument to settler colonialism: the first brick house in California, c. 1847. Why brick? Because the builders of this house were overland migrants from Missouri and Missourians don't like adobe. Haha. No clearer sign of the transition from Mexican to American rule than this: this old brick home so out of place among Monterey's adobes.

The old whaling station, also circa 1840s. Built as a residence, I believe, but then it became associated with the whaling industry in the 1850s. The white "stones" in the sidewalk are actually whalebone, or so they say.

The oldest theater in all of California. American actors performing English-language plays, I believe. Again, a monument to settler colonialism. So interesting: in this one day I saw the oldest library, the oldest brick house, and the oldest theater in all of California, as if the people that came before—Mexican creoles and indigenous peoples—had no culture worth memorializing (although the library was Spanish...).

An American-run store from the Mexican era. You know, this walking tour seems to be less about Mexican California and more about American settlers in Mexican California! Perhaps this is the romance of Monterey: not that it has so much beautiful Mexican heritage, but that it has so much heritage of Euro-American outsiders enjoying themselves in an "exotic" Spanish-tinged land. That seems to be the romance of Monterey. (And once we read these guys' writings from this period, all about dark-haired, dark-eyed Mexican beauties, then you know for sure that Monterey's romance is all about the exoticization of the "other," something that Americans are historically pretty good at!)

A romantic courtyard behind the 1840s-era Pacific House Museum

A romantic alleyway in downtown Monterey
An early American jail from the 1850s. Even the jail is romantic!

 The mayor's office, in an 1840s-era adobe home, of course!

Colton Hall, site of the drafting of California's first constitution as an American territory

Inside Colton Hall. Feels like Independence Hall in Philadelphia, except here the independence was won by just a small rabble of American settlers unhappy with Mexican republican rule. Of course they were helped by the American army then at war with Mexico (1846-48). Another monument to settler colonialism and the long arm of American empire.

All right. What else?
How about this 1830s-era double-storied adobe built by Thomas Larkin, first and only U.S. Consul in Mexican California?

How about this little bunker occupied by William Sherman (of U.S. Civil War fame) during or right after the Mexican-American War?
How about these old wooden carriage houses / barns?

 How about this old adobe with bright blue trim! And how about that pomegranate tree?
How about this boarding house where writer Robert Louis Stevenson lived—maybe—for a few months—in the 1870s. He found Monterey romantic. He wrote about its old Mexican era while here. That was before he went to live and die in Samoa.

 And how about this 1790s-era chapel? You think Monterey has enough pre-U.S. heritage yet?!

The whole enterprise of walking around Monterey's historic streets was simply overwhelmingly. Like I said, it took me many hours. Adobe after adobe after adobe. I want to romantically live in one of these Mexican adobes, and yet there are warning signs on the front doors of each one saying, "in the event of seismic activity this structure may collapse," or something to that effect. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware.

But as romantic as Mexican-era Monterey is, something is also missing. And that's the ocean. Because when people really think about Monterey, they think of the sea. They think of the wharfs and the fishing boats and the old canneries. They think of John Steinbeck, not Robert Louis Stevenson. So where's the ocean in all this?

Well, it is just a few blocks downhill from Monterey's preserved Mexican past. But, caveat emptor...again, because while there are romantic coasts in Monterey, there are also decidedly not romantic ones. Of course I just had to see the latter, and so I was off to Cannery Row. The history perhaps is romantic—if you are into tough times for immigrant workers—but the outer shell of this area today is disgustingly unromantic. Think Times Square on the Pacific.

 Steinbeck Plaza. Yes, this is how Steinbeck wanted to be remembered. Johnny Rockets, Billiards, a glass elevator, and lots of touristy-looking tourists.

Well here we go: a historic cannery building. I can dig that. But look closer. Starbucks? Dippin Dots? No!!

Oh, here we are: a museum. Wait? A John Steinbeck-themed Wax Museum? What the...? "As Seen on TV"? I'm so confused!

To be fair, Steinbeck's legacy has not totally been annihilated by this hulking mass of crass consumerism (that hopefully the next earthquake will send drifting off into the ocean).

 There is still a beach here, oh just beside the Fish Hopper! The beach reminds us that it is the ocean that once mattered here: fishermen fished, and that fish came ashore and was canned in these old cannery buildings. But now the ocean doesn't matter at all. Sure, you can go to Bubba Gump's (yes, they've got that here, too), but I'm pretty sure that the jumbo shrimp you will eat there is not from Monterey Bay.

And finally, something real: a few old immigrant workers' shacks. Interpretive panels describe the ethnic diversity of the immigrants who came to Monterey to work in the canneries and in the fishery. 

I guess the early twentieth-century history of Steinbeck's world—the fisheries, the canneries, and the working class—is pretty much lost here. It doesn't possess the same romance as that of one century earlier: the Mexican republican period.

It was now about 5pm. I had hoped to find a good seafood restaurant along the bay, but the likes of Fish Hopper and Bubba Gump's scared me away. So I headed back inland a few blocks and found a Hawaiian-themed tiki bar. Well, why not? I am studying Hawaiʻi, right?

It was happy hour and I ordered a rum-infused drink and a big bowl of ahi poke. It was served with rice, black beans, and lettuce, so kind of a mix of Mexi-Cali and Hawaiian cuisines? Strange, but tasty. And the drink was killer. I mean, perhaps it was because I had not eaten very much all day at that time, but the drink sent me spinning. When I turned my head from side to side, my eyes struggled to keep up with my head. You know the feeling. It is a sure sign that you are drunk. But I only had one drink.

This is where the romance of Monterey entered its final phase. My plan had been to hit the road around sunset, to be back in Berkeley by no later than 8pm. I had not planned to get drunk on one drink. But now I was stuck here until I sobered up. So what was my plan? Well, I found a movie theater, and in my romantic state I decided to see a very, very sad love story, the award-winning Blue is the Warmest Color. But the next screening was in three hours, so what would I do in the meantime? How about wander along the shore, gazing longingly at the full moon? A romantic pastime!

The moon rising at dusk over Monterey Bay

As I wandered, it became completely dark. When I had to urinate, I found a portable toilet, which, after locking myself inside I realized it is completely pitch black inside a portable toilet at night. Thankfully it worked out okay and I was able to get free!

Moon over Monterey

It was cold. Maybe in the 50s. I could not just wander for three straight hours, although I wanted to. So I wandered myself to a cafe and got a mocha latte and a small piece of carrot cake and sat outside on the sidewalk. Romance! Sitting on the sidewalk drinking coffee and eating cake while watching people walk by. That's romantic.  

Moon over Monterey

But that only lasted for so long. I finished my coffee and I got really cold again. So then I wandered to another cafe and I got a hot cider. Then I sat for another hour sipping my cider and just thinking, and sitting, and waiting... 

Moon over Monterey

And then, finally, it was 8:30pm and time for my movie. I didn't realize however that the film is three hours long! haha... Well, it was a great film. I won't review it here, but I highly recommend it. I cried. It was tremendously depressing, which is a sort of romance in its own way, I think. And then I left the theater. It was nearly midnight, and I was still in Monterey, over one hundred miles from my bed at the YMCA!

But, my drunkenness was now long gone. I was pumped up with caffeine. I had just sat through a depressing three-hour movie. I had watched the moon rise over Monterey Bay. It was just about the most romantic evening I have spent in a very long time. 

At midnight the city of Monterey was eerie, still, quiet, serene. I walked softly so as not to make a sound. I tried to remember where my rental car was parked. The moon was now directly overhead. It reminded me of home in Schenectady, New York, where in my younger days I would sometimes go out for walks at midnight and look at the moon overhead and there was not a sound to be heard. The night really does sound beautiful—the sound of silence. It is a beautiful kind of music. Something that is totally absent in Manhattan and in my life there.

Then the challenge was, of course, to drive back to Berkeley from 12am to 2am. But I did it. I listened to jazz and let the cold wind blow into my face along the highway. When I got off at the exit for Berkeley, that same kid that had wanted a ride to Modesto was still sitting along the street. I gave this person ten dollars to get something to eat or drink at the nearby gas station. It was so cold out. And being awake at 2am made homelessness seem really real to me... and it made me wonder whether the romance of my wasteful spree in Monterey was all worth it. What if I had just given this kid a ride to Modesto and called it a day? 

I don't know. I do think that there is a role for romance in our lives. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money, and it doesn't need to entail traveling to some "exotic" place like Monterey. I think it is just an attitude—a way of life. Spontaneous and carefree and attentive: slowly enjoying a warm drink; watching the moon rise up above the clouds; indulging in a long film; driving on a dark highway at midnight.