Archive | June 2007

A little dirt under the feet

I can see the attraction to the “running in the woods” thing.

Just outside the doors to our apartment tower is Greenbelt National Park. I mean, right outside. Like 20 feet, you’re in the woods.

It’s remarkable because, for someone who is used to metropolitan areas, in the midst of the nation’s capital and its proximal urban neighbor—Baltimore, finding an alcove of green in the gray is quite a thing. I never would have imagined that after traveling through the better part of the South, on my way from Texas to Washington, D.C., I’d land a spot that could give me unrestricted access to creation.

Moreover, with trails, streams and paths abound, it’s a wonderful way to sweat out the miles on my trek to fitness.

I put on my Army physical fitness uniform—a gray shirt with black “Army” lettering and black shorts, and take the elevator down to my start point. My roommate ribs me a bit about the uniform and says I should get regular workout clothes. I do feel a little out of place when I meander past the people in the lobby.

After a few minutes of warming up, I start. I’ve not run often on trails. I did ride my bicycle all over the base I grew up on in southern Maryland. So I was used to taking less-traveled roads and paths and watching the leaves and birdsong pass by.

The mild acrobatics of trail running is altogether different. I haven’t started mapping out the distances covered just yet. I will need to in order to pass my Army fitness tests, but for the moment I’m content with learning to leap, jump and navigate this this sort of dance with the trails.

“You’ll twist your ankle fast out there,” my roommate warned.

He was right. The roots, gravel, and dips and twists of the paths could easily wretch feet the wrong way.

But with a little caution, the pad-pad-pad sounds from careful stepping soon blends into this sort of rhythm; and the smells and breathing of the forest breeze melts away the normal dread of “having to run.”


Situated…sort of

So I’m in the new apartment building, living with the roommate in his one-bedroom place. I with a space on the floor until we get the go-ahead for the larger place.

Work involves some meetings, handshakes and scheduling. There’s not much to do until August, when I’m slated to begin my instructor certification. The time from now until then will fill with “shadowing” classes (aka sitting in).

It is definitely a welcome change from my times at Hood, half drowning in the myriad of small tasks and random edicts from the dudes down the hall.

There’s an air of malcontent at the school. A lot of people complain about a lot of things. Mostly it’s about things like pulling duty now and then or an odd comma placement in presentations. I guess if I’m here long enough, I’ll appreciate the gravity of a comma dispute, but for now I think I’ll spare myself the stress of worrying about it.

I’m just happy to be here. I’m happy that I’ll have interaction with students. I look forward to the challenges of teaching and hope the office politics won’t leak in too much. There’s too much to do and too few overhanging serious causes for stress (i.e. deployment or field time) to actually dampen spirits.

Tomorrow we get the news on when the roommate and I can move into the larger apartment. Hopefully it’s sooner rather than something like “September.”

Still, again, I’m glad to be here! D.C. is a great town, for those not used to the capital city. We’re just a mile or so from the subway, which makes riding into town super easy.

More later, friends, I’m still unpacking and tucking boxes away during this midpoint in the move.


It’s too loud; I’m too old

Last Tuesday I had the chance to enjoy one of the advantages to living in a metropolitan area—attending a “hey, let’s go see these guys” concert.

The band was “Great Northern,” one of my newer favs. And, sure enough, they were playing in a small venue just off of a Metro stop. Luckier still, the tickets were only $8.

I convinced my new roommate and his lady friend to come along (I’ll introduce them in a bit, need photos and some facts like social security numbers to post). And we headed out after grabbing some dinner. The show started at nine—a little late, but not too bad. We’d have until around midnight before we had to bail to hit the last train home.

We made our way down the couple of blocks from the station to the bar/venue itself. The Black Cat is a strange spot—nice enough and a good bit of space, but no chairs or seats to speak of. It’s like you’re supposed to just stand around, six deep, in front of the bar.

“The Backstage” (there are others in the building, I hear), was where the band would play. Again, a good space, and the lack of seats made sense here. This wasn’t a jazz club, so the standing-while-listening approach was fine.

Well, unbeknownst to me, there were two other bands scheduled to play that night. And, of course, they played before “Northern.”

Now, I’m not one for knocking music. And I’m definitely not one for knocking people who have the gumption to take a stand and produce/perform music in public; but damn it kids—more volume does not necessarily mean more “rock.”

The first two groups blasted the hell out of my ears. I couldn’t hear any bass, I couldn’t make out any treble; it was just a garbled mass of produced beats and some vocals.

The second guy played some produced tracks from his computer. And they were fine enough, though I could have done with a couple of fewer songs, because by the time “Northern” actually took the stage, it was 11:40, and we had time to hear just a couple of songs before we had to scoot.

“Northern” was almost as loud, and they even made the comment to the sound guy a couple of times if they could get more vocals, as the instruments overwhelmed everything like the prior two bands. Still, though, I could at least hear some of the tracks that I liked, and, by that time, my hearing had been reduced to the point where it muffled the intense volume.

Not every concert needs to be ear-bleeding loud. At least that’s my take, but I am in my late 20s, after all, and my influence over what is good and proper is quickly fading, if not already spent.

So, cheers to “Northern,” for what it was. Either I’ll have to bring ear plugs and up my dork factor, or I’ll just stick to hearing my artists on CD. I can’t take the heat, as the saying goes, so I should probably just watch TV.


Just in passing

When the Angel of Death passes by a place, people die. When dignitaries or kings pass by, people stop and bow/salute/whatever. When regular people go by a place, not much happens.

It’s something that I think needs remembering—that the world does not revolve around any one person. That while the very passing of powerful people of things might be quite a thing, for most, the world would hardly shrug.

I thought about this a lot when I was driving this past week. Towns would enter and leave my view. As far as I was concerned, they were born and died as soon as I noticed and left them coming and going. In my world, in my life, these little hamlets could or could not continue in their lives after I had left. It didn’t matter to me either way.

There’s a disconnect there, I think, that so much of the landscape was just eye candy for me as I sped along. I let my mind wander—helped pass the time at least, through the creeks, woods, fields and hills. I wondered how many had worked those fields, what the landscape looked like before the whites came, how many had stood on that very spot…I tried to imagine all the summers that creek had seen, how many fishing lines had dipped in the stream through the centuries.

In every shadowy hollow, shaded brook, sun-dappled path, there was the hint of some millions’ childhoods. People lived here, died here, laughed—all that, in these houses, fields and hills that I roared past. Some exits from the freeway had names of towns some were probably proud of. Others probably with people just as proud to leave.

Still, it was too bad my journey began and ended with my car. It was like I had entered some sort of coma and woke up in a new world, far from Texas, now near D.C. What of the in between? Seems just a bit unnatural to miss all of the middle, I suppose. World being what it is, a man can’t rightly expect to take in all the adventure of a land traveled more thoroughly.

One day, though, I’ll probably have a go or two at it—not necessarily any one spot, but in general, letting life happen, instead of cruising by on some bypass, a mile a minute. Can’t appreciate distance like that. Can’t appreciate life like that.


Wagons East!

I’m free from Fort Hood, blessed be the day! I’ll be on the road for the next few days, heading to my new assignment. No guarantees on hotel rooms with Internet. I’m only an enlisted man, we don’t make enough bank to stay at the fancy places.


That’s 1337! Er, “leet.” Er, elite. Er, that’s good

I have a hard time with English here and there. Homonyms, synonyms, adverbial endings, antecedent agreements—there’s a lot to track. And even when afforded correction tools like spell checks (now built into browsers to flag words as you type…yikes!) and grammar scans, English can still be a bit of a beast.

Still, generally, most people do well. You could say we’re (in America) down to an eighth grade reading level (newspapers) and falling (Who reads newspapers anyway?), but, still, sentences generally flow and follow the general rules.

That said, I see and hear a lot from online users, kids and grammatical behavior in things like video games. One of the seeming modern rules of adaptive grammar is “if it’s used long enough, it becomes correct.” I say “seeming” because there are always the conservative linguists that claw and hold on to every scrap of proper language and the progressive linguists who just go with forward popular usage.

Famous cases of begrudgingly adopted words like “ain’t” are laughed off. “Oh yes! I remember that, ha ha ha! So silly.” And more benign trends of eschewing “archaic” (as progressives would say) spelling conventions like -ough for “u” sounds are commonplace—Drive “Thru” is one. Another is replacing -ight with “ite” as in: Late “Nite” and “Lite” Yogurt.

We see these so much, they don’t even phase us. Heck, at one time, contractions were regarded with similar resistances from conservatives and shrugs from progressives, and many use those liberally (although not in professional or academic writings).

American English seems to follow this sort of “if it’s how I speak, it’s how I write” trend. Moreover, “if it’s how I spell, it’s just the way it is.”

I was playing an online game—one involving thousands of people all running around doing their thing. I play two, primarily, one has a large American population and one does not. Not only do I enjoy the games themselves, but I find the study of those who play significantly fascinating. The European game is host to Germans, French, British, Slovakian, Russian, men from Cyprus, older, younger, soldiers, students—a host of interesting people with interesting views on life, language, politics…Anyway, the American-based one has scores fewer mature players—be it player age or general demeanor of Americans, I can’t say. Chat is always full of “You suck!” and “You’re gay!” lines, and, well the reason for the post.

In this one particular example, someone broadcasted to sell something in the game. Invariably, someone screamed out the equivalent of “That thing sucks! What a rip off!” and the kid responded with “Die! im youre worst night mare.”

As someone who sees a thousand grammatical massacres a day, I didn’t really flinch. What was interesting was a couple of other chaps started giving him sh*t for it, laughing at the “youre” and “night mare” bits. The kid/guy/whomever became defensive and started in about how “The internet doesn’t have any spell checks so who cares?” and “i can spell how i want.”

What’s interesting to me and the reason I’m scribbling all this down, is that he’s exactly right.

Any of you chat? I mean, with those little IM phones or devices? “Ur gr8!”, “I luv u.”, “Zomg! BFF! BRB, cya!” There’s a whole other language out there. And I’m not getting into one of those “Kids these days!” rants, I’m just pointing it out to those who don’t bother with that “kids stuff.” Well, friends, those kids are going to become tomorrows young adults and so on. These linguistic trends are going to continue.

Tangent: Salmons’ view of generational maturation

When a generation matures, it’s not so much that they give up all of the popular social cultural bits that had them labeled as “silly” by the older generation, it’s just that the even younger generation comes up with different and therefore “silly” popular social cultural bits that the newly mature generation pins on them. Thus, there are no concrete “older” or “younger” ways of thinking, as in you grow “in to” or “out of” a mindset, there’s just the ideas and environments that a certain group grows up in and, thus, shapes its thought processes and demeanors. The children of the ’60s are no less children of the ’60s because they are “older.” They still attack the world with most of the same ideas and processes, influenced by their time.

It might be said that as a group grows older, they become more “conservative” when family, houses, mortgages, etc., creep into the picture. And that’s partially true, giving rise to the notion that you get “old” while the “young” people stay “silly.” But this isn’t the case when history comes into play.

Look at the American political left and right from the past—say, 50 years. The “liberals” of the 1950, in their general regard for economic, social, political and nationalist agendas, would be staunch conservatives by today’s political standards. I’m not saying one is right or one is wrong. I’m just pointing out that “older” and “younger” is relative to the accusing generation’s immediate progeny or predecessors. Regardless of age or disposition, there is an external social momentum that carries things on, beyond how crazy the “kids” are.

/end tangent

Regardless of how we rail and rage against the states of things, certain aspects of our culture will grow and evolve. Thus, my realization that American English is going to continue its trend.

So, since there is a river before us, and it is flowing in a particular way, where will it lead?

We’ve already traversed the simple stuff—Nite, Lite, double negatives. Now let’s get in to real grammatical deconstruction.

The Future of American English

Someone commented on a Youtube video about a ferret flipping out after eating a pepper:

lol that not nice expecially becaust you tryed to feed it to it again and that ferret must have been thursty lol

On someone’s myspace page:

i MiGhT bE a [[Gg]] BuT i LoVe HoLLiStEr….YeAh Im DaT cHiCk DaT lUvZ HoLlisTEr&&*mY hOlLiStEr Iz So SoFt..lOl!*

After you are killed in a video game:

im s0 1337 taht i pwn ur @ss n00b!

On someone’s page after being laughed at:

Ya MeAn JuS plAyIn DatZ wAs FuNnI tHoOo..

The stage has been set. Small recent linguistic concessions, coupled with the general impotence of Postmodernism is allowing communication to change at a record pace. Sure, employers might require a certain level of communicative prowess, just like many still wear ties. Still, “proper” language and speech will unfortunately be regarded as one of those things Mom or “the boss” insists on, rather than a point of pride for an individual in the modern world. Too bad, really. Just as things were getting interesting. It would have been nice to know what the &^%$ people are saying.


A man without stuff

The moving gents came this morning to cart off my stuff, in preparation for the impending move to D.C. next week.

I knew I didn’t have much to start with, so it would go quickly. Sure enough, the guys were here and gone in an hour. Now the apartment is very empty, instead of just slightly full, as per usual.

A couple of weeks prior, standing in line at the transportation office (where you schedule things involving movers), I was privy to hear the material wealth of the people in front of me as they told the clerk how much stuff they had.

“9,000 pounds?”

“Yeah, about two floors worth.”



“Big screen TV?”



“Just two shotguns and a pistol.”

As the clerk marked off estimated space and time requirements, I heard about floors, rooms, all manner of things to pack and move. Some people have law books, plasma screen TVs, boats, playground equipment, tools, racks of clothes, doll collections, antiques…on and on.

…Then it was my turn.

“Did you mean 10,000 pounds on this sheet, dear?” a practiced and polite lady asked at the counter, with that ‘Here’s another uniformed idiot’ tone of voice.

“No, I meant 1,000, if that, even.”

“You have to have more than that.”

“No, not really. I mean I have a desk…one of those cheap four-seat tables from WalMart, a bookshelf, a dresser and my mattress. That’s about it.”

“As an E6?” she looked me up and down. “Well, we don’t like saying you have less than you really do. The movers have to know how long it might take to move your stuff.”

“They told me last time I had 600 pounds. I’ve bought the small table since then, so I’ve given myself some leeway.”

“Well, alright,” the clerk finished in disbelief.

One thousand pounds was still too high. The movers just shrugged and carted everything out in record time. The whole experience made me wonder, “Do I not have enough stuff?” I mean, to be considered a man or something. Seriously, what’s with all the disbelief and skepticism?

Not to prattle on about America and riches and all that; but am I missing a milestone that I’m expected to have achieved? Some sort of capitalist marker or brand that’s not visible? Does it make me less attractive, less substantive? When people see the space and make comments like “Wow…very, um, Japanese” with a smirk, is that some sort of social condemnation?

I guess the whole thing leaves me half-cocked. Yes, I have no TV, I’m a freak, my apologies.


On the move

There are a thousand things to do. Maybe a hundred. Who knows for sure? Numbers aren’t terribly important. All that is relevant is their nefarious purpose—to damage my calm.

I’m not a nomadic sort. I prefer stabilization—perhaps to a fault. I’m a cluttered guy. I have piles. I know bills and a general period of recent purchases are in said area yonder, while statements and reports are in this conglomeration. Every so often I sort and file; but with life happening, who wants to stare at numbers? I mean, most of these things are paid for already, with the statements and bills for record purposes only. So they sit, keeping their data for me just as well on my table as in my filing cabinet.

So that, coupled with my general preference for staying put, means moving time is a grate on the nerves. I downright dislike it, in all honesty. Hard to “hate” moving—such an overused word, “hate”; but I definitely would like to wake up and be in my new locale already.

Thus, all of these preparations, appointments and clearing procedures for me to exit my current post is a drag. My normally table-bound piles are now accosting my remaining floorspace, already at a premium due to my ongoing inventory of Army equipment I’m required to turn in. Straps and tents and body armor and sleeping bags, bills, books, and yesterday’s WalMart non-perishables make for a hop skip to the bathroom, rather than the normal stroll.

Thursday come the movers and I’ll be left with naught but a couple of cushions and cleaning stuffs for the weekend. I’ll have the laptop—my only conveyance to entertainment for the coming few weeks, apart from the normal load of books and introspection.

Moving tends to be a necessary evil in our time, with all the comings and goings of young professionals, global careers and general ambition. Still, I suppose I prefer a contrast to my younger years of periodic moves during my tenure as a Navy brat and hope for a season of general kinetic calm, so far as my possessions and piles of crap are concerned.


Southern summer evenings

I stood outside my door, leaning on the metal railing, overlooking the parking lot. The neighboring buildings stood like overweight proximal moviegoers, but I am always able to squeeze a look past them into the approaching sky.

Summer evenings in the south are often breathtaking. Any place that packs extra water into the air and lets the thermostat drift hot is like a charged capacitor for weather. I usually see the flicker of lightning through my blinds at the start of things. Soon there’s the rumbling—my queue to get off anything electronic; and have a look.

Every storm has its own clouds, sort of like a fingerprint. The present or absent haze can accent the towering pillars of precipitation. Sometimes the formations are so large I can hardly stretch my neck to see it all before the buildings press in. Thousands of feet of cloud swirls, columns and shooting bands of sun light approaching and bearing down on us like some mammoth aircraft, breaking apart and plummeting.

Then there’s the rain smell—before, during and after. Fresh water, evaporating off of pavement, reminds me of younger summers when we had naught but swimming pools and pleas for “five more minutes” before begrudgingly attending supper.

The first shimmers of rain start in and fill in the dry spots. Our cars sit like faithful pets out in the elements, facing our doors, wondering if they can come in, maybe? Sorry Hundai, you’ll just have to bare it out.

The torrents ease in and arrive in under two or three minutes. I’m joined outside by a neighbor, taking a smoke. We have a few quick words about the storm and are both glad the roof holds. Others in the world not being so fortunate.

By now the fading evening sun has been pushed to the lowest band along the distant horizon. Our hovering clouds providing their own light in flecks and flickers. The storm clears its throat and announces itself every so often. The excitement seems a bit farther south.

Still, this one’s worth watching for a while too. Seems only polite after all those elemental forces went to the trouble to get here that the storm has at least one in the audience.


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