"I don't need to understand, I just need to know..."
-Buffy the Vampire Slayer
I'm in a very different place than one year ago and even further away from where I was a mere two months ago. Before my trip to Japan my sister gave me some advice. She told me to bring along plenty of Kleenex because many of the public restrooms didn't provide paper towels or toilet paper and many restaurants didn't have napkins. This proved to be accurate information. What she didn't mention, or didn't run across during her visits to the country was that every time a new business opens or has a sale, they have young women on the streets handing out packets of tissues with the names of the stores and products on the packaging to entice visitors into their establishments. So I ended up coming home with even more tissues than when I left. There has to be a lesson somewhere in that experience something about anticipating and preparing but in reality all it means is that I have an abundance of tissues. Life's lessons are only as hard or as simple as you wanna make it. Thankfully these are the types of things you can discuss with friends over a whiskey water (or two).
It was more of a grand social experiment than a happy hour to gather people from all periods and walks of my life together to see how they would mix. I was surprised but pleased that most everyone invited showed up. Only one person was actually missing and only one person was actually missing the missing. What was strange was the people assembled all knew me from different periods and different versions of my life and the person they sat with was in part both more whole than they knew and actually less himself than they had ever seen. Favorite moment? I asked the newcomer her sign. She told me it was a "stop." When I got home I had a revelation about how I never imagined I would reach the age the same number as revolutions a LP spins in a minute. In the grand scheme of things thirty three years ain't a very long time. It doesn't even qualify as a drop in the bucket. But try living that long and there are some moments it has felt like an eternity. I think it was about this age in life when my brother began to have some physical problems- with his back, with his shoulder and with his foot. I've been nothing if not lucky, my knees occasionally ache a bit but my ailments have been more the internal kind.
What is thirty three? When I was a kid one of the things I just assumed was that as I got older life would get easier. I thought the more experience and knowledge I gathered the more things would make sense. Actually the exact opposite is true. I'm more confused than I've ever been and I understand less than I know. Some of life's events make you age rapidly others pass by so quickly you have to wonder if they actually happened. You would think as you get older that at the very least the demons you've always struggled with would become more identifiable and thus avoidable. I have seen it is much easier not to learn from past mistakes than it is to actually make the necessary changes to avoid having to go through the same things twice.
They say the first thing you lose is your hair. It's open to interpretation whether or not that happened to me this past year. I do think that somewhere along the line I either went through a second puberty where my voice changed again or worse I may have lost my voice altogether. Growing up my day would not be complete until I got home and was able to write about it. It was my way of figuring out some kind of meaning to the day's confusing events. I stopped doing that ten years ago and just resumed two or three years ago. But now it is more an exercise in discipline rather than getting any tangible reward for my daily effort. It took a trip half way around the world to discover the reason for that. We were told that when the Japanese use English to name their businesses, it isn't so much the meaning of the words as it is the sound. Thus we saw names like OD Box for a sporting goods store and Nude for a beverage. I've gotten back to my roots in my writing because it isn't so much what the words convey anymore it is how they sound that I care about.
Life does fly by and I've been around just long enough to reach the point where little actually seems new, rather everything I come across feels recycled or filtered through past experience. And the dreams I have are less and less based on what might come to be but rather just a juxtaposition, a colored twist or bend of the already existing elements of my life shaped in a way that gets me thinking about things in a different way. The first mystery of my life was before I learned to read I could pick out any requested song from my collection of Burl Ives' and other kiddie 45s. I played those things constantly and I knew them by their touch and being so familiar that the slabs of black vinyl seemed like intimate friends. If I had to grade my life on the Cheapo vinyl scale of fine, good, fair, and green tag, I fear that my condition would be closer to the fifty cent assessment than $3.60. Grooves a bit worn, just a little too scratched but not actually moldy. Yet some of those hisses and pops add color to the next listen and though each play takes a little more away the enjoyment can often be worth the price.