Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Salta Snowfall

The following is a true story. It has not been hyperbolized or edited. In fact, it is taken WORD for WORD out of my hand-written journal mere days after the events occurred in January, 2004. This is the closest that I have ever come to death. This is a long story of my adventure over Abra Acay, but, in my humble opinion, definitely worth the read. My parents have only heard the abridged version of what happened, and with reason too, they would have pulled me home from Argentina if they only knew... at the risk of death by the hands of my mother, indulge.

The day began later than we had expected, but earlier than our exhausted bodies could get out of bed. Our only goal wasnt to shower but rather to make it to a rent-a-car agency and try to begin a three day rental so we could explore the postcard shots of Salta and Jujuy at our own pace and exposure. Little were we to know what exposure we would have. Like any summer day in northwest Argentina, it was hot.

Think we should wear shoes? Ben asked, looking at our sandaled feet.

Yeah, youre right, I said, We just might have to walk a bit.

After calculating the prices, it was apparent that wed be saving money, while listening to music and being more comfortable at the same time in a rent-a-car. So, with no particular place to go, we headed towards the town center and by great luck found ourselves surrounded by rental car agencies with no less than three choices. Sudamerics and their friendly services struck Ben and within thirty minutes, we had ourselves a small silver Fiat, who we later called Arla. We filled Arla up and hit route 51 rolling, listening to music, with the windows down and basically just having a grandeur time.

I proclaimed; Im shocked that Fiat hasnt used the slogan, Just fiat that youll have an awesome time in a Fiat, meaning, hey look at the fun we were having, twisting around turns in a full tank of gas, its pretty much given that Arla will supply us with our fun. We smiled as we continued on. The first photo-op came when the pavement turned into a dirt road hugging the walls of a green mountain valley and Arla, at that point just our trusty Fiat, drove through a trickling stream. There, we took a picture of Ben behind the wheel rocking it in his Punta del Este t-shirt and Billabong board shorts. Clearly this road was everything a sunny day in California could throw at us.

Although as we traveled through the valley, the sun began to disappear behind the clouds, we were still supplied with awesome views of the, what seemed to be, painted canyon.

Zig zagging over the river Toro, the weather grew disappointingly cooler.

I followed along on the map both our route and our elevation. Arla had successfully managed to climb from 1,200 meter to 3,800 meters above sea level as we pulled into San Antonio de los Cobres, our destination.

It was roughly 3:30 and we hadnt eaten since the jamon crucido that morning. Ben drove around looking for somewhere to eat in this ghostly old mining town. If there was anyone else around, they were hidden from us. But that only seemed easy in this barren valley by the rows of identical homes constructed by the old mining company. Aged signs pointed us in the direction of El Rancho, a small corner building facing the dirt road we came in on above. It appeared closed as everything else, but out of starvation I knocked and a child popped out of the room in back and came to the door waiting for his mother to open it.

Are you serving food? Katie asked knowing from these valleys that it was all too possible that they werent.

Yes. Come in. They were excited to have guests and told us the two items on the verbal menu. Two of their six children, Milton and Ronaldo, thrived on our attention. They got tourists around every once in a while, but never American tourists. Where did we come from? Where were we going? We really should stay in San Antonio de los Cobres for the night; they could lodge us for much cheaper than the $3.50 we were paying for a night in Salta, it would be safer too. Were we going to the famous viaduct? Yes, we were. Wed enjoy it, and their food, they said. And after we were given the tour of their place, and the llama wool merchandise, the food came out. It was enjoyable; they had been true to their word, in more than one way. We ate our empanadas and our milanesa with salad, Katie did not have more than one e mpanada and coca tea because she had filled up on cookies. We humored their attention with digital photos and purchasing llama woven hats and scarves.

Sure, I thought Ill buy a stupid cap, theyre only five bucks. I grabbed one and would later stuff it into the glove compartment. As the flan was brought out Milton asked his father if he could show us the way to the viaduct and without hesitation his father conceded to his sons wishes and sent his two sons with complete strangers. With the two in the back seat with Katie, he headed towards the viaduct and laughed and talked about their isolation and otherwise enjoyed each others company.

An hour round trip ended as we drove through pools of water and mud and bragged about how much our friends back home would love the fact that we were roughing it and splashing in this fiat.

We returned Milton and Ronaldo safe and sound back to their home and we promised to send our photos to the address they gave us. It was growing late so we had to press on. Doubling back on our route into town is where the slowly growing climatic music would begin.

Go right here, right I told Ben to split off from our route home and to head towards the mountain pass that led to Cachi. We nearly missed the turn off because the road melted into the dirt fields on either side. Ben soon grew tired of swerving around the rocks in the middle of the road and asked to switch drivers. I volunteered seeing as how I wanted to have my third manual driving experience in the altiplanos of northwest Argentina. With the clouds growing darker and the road ahead growing higher I thought for the final time to myself to ask if this were a good idea or not. After taking photos of the sheep on the side of the road running towards their adobe pueblo I decided that it was a good idea, what better way was there to experience the valleys of Salta.

You do know how to change a flat tire, right? Ben asked me.

Ummm no. I laughed and shifted the car into gear and headed right for the grey hills. At first, a little scared of the poor conditions and the steep drop off without a railing, I took it slowly. Honking around every turn, its safe, I thought, but out loud I stated, Whats the point? We havent seen another car on this road. We probably wont even run across another either.

I took a sharp right and swerved from a rock. We entered the pass which was filled with empty wine bottles. I guess this was the place to get drunk, it was also the point in the melodramatic plot that the camera would scan out from the winding car and with the menacing clouds pushing down on the hill and the screen would grow dark. I stalled the car shifting gears down, and I got stuck in a rut. Ben took the wheel again and rolled back down and then back up the hill we went.

Hey, take some pictures of the snow, Ben said as Katie leaned forward to get a picture of the accumulating flurries ahead through the windshield.

Damn its cold, I said, and the snow only got stronger.

Yeah, and great, all we need is inclimate weather now, Ben sarcastically replied and we wound further up the road. It was when we couldnt see the mountains surrounding us that we were supposed to have the most amazing view crossing Abra Acay, the highest pass in the area* at just under 5,000 meters.

Arla pulled to the side of the road and we jumped out into the snow to take pictures to remember the cold and the height, shivering in our t-shirts and Katies sandals we didnt realize that we wouldnt need any help remembering these two elements later.

We were 45 km from San Antonio de los Cobres, 45 km from the next town, La Poma, where hopefully we would eat, and we were 5 km up in the sky.

As quickly as we could, we jumped into the car from outside, turned up the heat and began our decent. As Ben drove through the snow that now covered the entire road, he said, Good thing we switched drivers.

Yeah, I thought to myself or else wed probably now be stranded in the rain down before the pass. It became where we couldnt see the turns ahead, Damn wed better go down quickly, back to where we can see the road. I wanted Ben to hurry, but I wanted Ben to slow down too.

Around one downward angle we turned in the blizzard and Arla slid along the snow. Dave Matthews was singing to us from our speakers and I leaned forward trying to get some heat from the vents, and then we hit it. It wasnt a large rock, but the thump was felt as the back right side of Arla lifted, the car stalled and Ben slammed on his break around the sharp U turn ahead. We coasted and he stopped. Three times he attempted to restart Arla, three times she told him no. It was silent, really silent. A wind blew the dropping snow against our car, Katie began to freak out and then I followed along after the car wouldnt move again. It was not possible to believe this. We didnt know what happened, the engine was not dead as the wipers were still working, but they remained the only sound as we just stared ahead into white, and then down at Arla, mouths open, wondering what she did to us.

No way. No way! Ben said and we got out of the dead car. Alright, lets push it and try to start up the engine. Katie, in her sandals, was on one side of the car and I was on the other. A blue fluid leaked onto the snow. The engine made the worst sound we could hear at this point: nothing

I think its leaking gas, Katie screamed while looking at brown spots on the snow and as the car stopped on the side of the road.

No way Ben and I said in unison, looking at the snow, still in complete awe. I dont know much about cars. In fact, I know pretty much only that you need a key to start it, but I was sure that we were not leaking fuel. The snow collected on my hair and we stared at Arlas misdeed, none of us with a clue of what to do. Realizing there must be something useful in the trunk we opened it and pulled out a bag of items. It was getting way too cold and we jumped into the car. That is when I saw the flat tire. The tire wasnt just flat, it was squished, squished like or fates. This upsetting information made wiping the snow from our heads and feet in the car more enjoyable, we shivered and began to look through our goodie bag.

In times like these I recall its just as important to remain calm and optimistic and that I did. Inside, I was as scared as a little white boy in a t-shirt caught in a blizzard a marathon away from civilization and angry at myself for being completely naive, but outside I tried to remain as cool as it was outside of the car.

How much water do we have? was Bens first question making us realize we might actually have a larger problem than we had expected.

We all have a little Katie said and suddenly I felt embarrassed that I ate the last of the cookies, we had no food, and I saw the empty bag down by my numb feet. It was 7:25pm and the already darkened clouds grew opaque. Whilst contemplating aloud what to do, I took the first step by putting together the reflecting triangles. So that any car from either direction could see them we placed them on top of the car and in the middle of the road. But good luck, our best chance was to wait for someone to drive by and to take us to whatever the next town was. I remained very optimistic, but the truth remained, no one would be as stupid as us and drive up into a blizzard as the sun was setting. It stayed unsaid but we were all expecting very little. It was fear that kept us utterly silent and the harsh cold that had kept us from not moving. Katie suggested that we all move to the back seat and keep warm. After Ben tried to start the car one more time, we hopelessly relented and moved to the back and huddled. That hardly kept us warm. To remind myself of my llama hat in the glove compartment at that point would have been to be too smart. We shivered. We prayed. As I looked down at my watch I realized the first hour had passed quickly, and dark, but the rest would go by real slow. I promised myself to not look at my watch until morning.

While there was still just a little bit of light, Ben and Katie read aloud the latest psalms Ben had been reading, 9-16. This gave me a relief in a way it shouldnt have. Reading the Bible did not strike me with warmth of Gods salvation, the frigid air was still there leaking through the windows we cracked down to breathe. No, reading the Bible told me that God was with other people at that moment. But I realized that there were indeed others around the world that night in far worse positions than me. There were those who had to deal with this starvation every night, there were those who might be throwing up as Ben was, not because of extreme mountain sickness, but because their diseases were fatal and there were others in the world praying to God at that same moment we were. I prayed for them that night, I wanted God to be somewhere else, for others sakes

When I found my hat, it gave me a little chance for a smile. But with Ben having trouble breathing from the elevation and Katie taking my socks for her feet, there was little else to smile about.

How you doing, Ben? Katie asked.

He replied with both a blunt and pointed, Not good at all.

Neither am I, said Katie followed by a; Chris?

Im fine, I said and I rolled my cap over my eyes and tried to fall asleep. But it was way too hard, heavy breathing, snow falling and disappearing light led my mind in a hundred and six different directions. What are we going to do tomorrow? What are we going to do tonight? Are no cars passing? When will the snow stop? What if it doesnt stop? Should we go back where we came from? Should we head to a city weve never seen? Why cant I feel my lower back? And we all were thinking, how did we get so stupid? I wondered if Ben needed medical attention, if Katie needed to go to the bathroom in only socks. Of course we couldnt rest and as long as our eyes remained open we could see the snow piling up; maybe it was time to pray to God for myself.

Although we slept on and off, no one could sleep for more than minutes at a time, if we werent huddled it was too cold, if we huddled we were in such uncomfortable positions. But we didnt care, elbows jabbing each other, chins pressed on backs, body parts going numb, faces in bosoms, none of us had brushed our teeth.

My head throbbed with pain. If I wanted to breathe, I had to roll down the window. We all went through the same crazy and continuous dreams that night, they were the kinds that although interrupted, continued and felt so real even when you woke up. Ben kept seeing and hearing cars pass, Katie bought a coke from some guy and then realized that she forgot to ask him to help us out. Apparently for me there was a village down the road and they were real nice people, they didnt have a phone but they did have a tire shop. So we had that going for us.

The sun rose at 7:15, almost a full half day later, and it peaked out from some clouds. The good news was that it had stopped snowing during the night, I dont know if I dreamed that or if I saw it during the night, but the skies had cleared and we could see outside. Unfortunately there were no tire tracks along side of out car, only body liquids. There was about to be more as I had held myself in since the previous afternoon. The closest town was about 27 miles away I kept reminding myself, we were in shorts and there was snow outside and inside. Do we wait it out and risk no one coming by? No, I could not let that happen, we could not stay another night, with no food and only snow for water, it could not be, and then wed have to make the same decision the next day, only weaker. Unfortunately, Ben was too sick to move, let alone do a 9 hour walk. I dont even know if I would be fit to do that in top shape. And then what happens?

Our car is in the mountain, its 6pm and were in a town we know nothing about? We were a 5 hour drive from Salta and the car dealership. Needless to say we sat around for a bit to think it out. At 8am, we braved it out and went outside to change the tire.

Forget how cold it was, we were weak. Ben couldnt unscrew the bolts so we just kicked the hubcap off, then we finally got the tire off, it had a gash the size of a half dollar. There was no way to repair it. But when we finally got the spare on and tried the engine, it didnt work, again. So again we sat, helpless and afraid.

Instead of walking down 45 km we decided to put the car in neutral and roll it as far as we could.

That worked for about one fourth of a kilometer, and then we stopped. It was beautiful around us; I guess we could have picked an uglier place to get stranded. Huge glistening mountains reflected from the suns morning glows, rolling white fields and vicunas eating in a herd.

At least from pushing the car we warmed up a bit. Ben decided to collect snow in his nalgene for water and I did too. Then, with enough strength we managed to get the car up the slope and get it rolling. After a kilometer we were out of the snow, what out luck, we could have been there the night before. Arla rolled another four kilometer before we finally reached an uphill battle we couldnt win.

Although we had managed to push Arla into warmer weather and through streams and over rocks, we had to call it quits still forty kilometers from La Poma. We stopped outside of the adobe pueblo from my dream. They didnt have a phone, a car or even a horse for that matter and unfortunately they didnt have a tire repair shop either. With Arla dead on the side of the road all we could do was walk. So, towards La Poma we went. We didnt get yet two kilometers and I saw others!

There walking down the road, although I didnt know it at the time was a miracle, divine intervention, Ben's father's prayer for the safety of his son earlier that morning coming to life. Walking along the road were two tourists from Spain and seven locals walking down the road, clearing rocks, their vehicles parked behind them. We stopped to talk and found out that the Spaniards had taken the same route we had the previous night and had had to sleep farther down, because of the rain, there were rivers that couldnt be crossed. They recommended us to turn around. No way. No way! Not up hill I thought, not up another 1,000meters. Not only is that three sears towers but its an added 2 hour walk. But, when they said something of coming with them, my ears perked. The lo cals had room in their trunk. We jumped at the idea. I was incredibly grateful and walked ahead and helped move rocks. We hopped into their truck until we got back to our own car. They wanted to look and see what was wrong.

The car wouldnt start for them. They looked at the engine with confused looks. I heard one say, This is different, and they fiddled with.

One looked under the car and said that indeed we had bumped something; he wanted a closer look, so all the guys lifted the car onto two rocks and our local pal slid underneath on a tarp and pulled out the tools. While he was working diligently we sat and watched and talked. Minutes later he yanked off a broken cover and said we broke the fuel filter and had indeed been leaking fuel.

We had lost the hose and the tank was no longer connected. Just great, we wondered how much this would cost us. He continued to work, pulled out a few more things, put some others in, and sent his coworker up to the pueblo to get something. He frowned his face once or twice went to back of his truck, got masking tape and unbelievably to everyone pulled out a hard plastic straw, cut it and taped it to something under the car. We all cracked up, but when he told Ben to turn on the car and on the second try it started, we werent laughing anymore. In complete shock we hoped the car back off the rocks and although we only had about a quarter tank or less left we coasted back to San Antonio de los Cobres.

We drove past where we had stayed the night, it was bright and most of the snow had melted. We worked our little engine that could up to the top of the pass where we found out that the empty wine bottles wer e to pledge the mother earth to guarantee a safe journey, for Pancha Mamas protection. It was ironic that we passed right by them on our way up and made sure to double our pleas on the way down.

After gas and dinner in town we head towards Salta by way of the original route with the Spaniard couple following us back to make sure nothing went wrong.

We got in at about six at night, thanked the couple, bought soccer tickets, trashed the broken parts from our car and returned to our hostel where they didnt know we were gone. The whole way home we cussed Arla out, saying how much she sucked but not saying it loud enough for her to hear and crap out again. We didnt play music, we didnt speed, we just went home and as Ben and I pulled into the rent-a-car lot, a day early because we had enough of renting cars, I proclaimed; Just fiat youll have a shitty time in a Fiat. We paid $195 pesos for a new tire, cap and realignment. We didnt tell them about the tape and the straw and wire holding together the bottom of their car. But we did eat at McDonalds that night.

Maybe we could sled down the hill.- Katie in absolute sincerity.

I brought my dad home a stuffed armadillo from Ecuador because for some reason I thought my dad like armadillos. But he doesnt.- Katie.
*Abra Acay, I would later find out, is the HIGHEST PASS IN THE WORLD. At over 5,000 meters high, it is the world's highest point over a National Route.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bad Weather?

If anyone in Chicagoland is complaining about the weather, Lord knows I am, realize that you could be in North Dakota where it is currently -44º F , the coldest it's been there in fifty years (and to to make it worse... it's also still North Dakota in North Dakota!).

If anyone in North Dakota is complaining about the weather... realize that you could be in Perth, WA, Australia, where temperatures are a rather uncomfortable 96º F.

I also like to look at our temperature under a lens of relativity. Because everything is relative -think- 'Hey, we're enjoying toasty 252° Kelvin!'

Now, if this type or reasoning doesn't work, just humo(u)r yourself in picturing my dilemma this last weekend: I went to try to start my car on Saturday evening, when I realized it wouldn't budge from its spot. Apparently, the snow from the above tree had melted and frozen around my car's tires creating a 6 cubic foot block of ice under my car (3'x4'x6"). The lack of friction on my tires made my wheels spin, my frustration grow and my evening's plans crumble. To get my car out of the spot finally required the help of my business school friend, Bocheng, a random Canadian man off the street, two shovels, a hammer, a baseball bat, a flathead screw driver and ninety minutes of hard labor.

Well, at least I'm not in North Dakota.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Cholera in Zimbabwe

A current Cholera pandemic sweeps through Zimbabwe and, in the shadow of the impressive and prodigious media attention placed on the violence in Gaza, Russian gas blockage and Bernard Madoff's bail, the grave crisis remains largely unnoticed by the rest of the world.

For your own awareness, here's a quick update.

As of 29 December 2008, a total of 30,938 suspected cases and 1,551 deaths (WSJ claims 1,937 deaths) had been reported to the World Health Organization (WHO). The vast majority of the infections have occurred only since October, 2008. The numbers are only worsening: statistics from Monday, January 12 show that 1,472 new cases and 117 new deaths from Cholera were added to the totals in one day, alone.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention,

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but sometimes it can be severe. Approximately one in 20 infected persons has severe disease characterized by profuse watery diarrhea, vomiting, and leg cramps. In these persons, rapid loss of body fluids leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

In short, Cholera is not fun. Aside from the increasing amount of deaths in Zimbabwe, one of the most saddening things is that this disease can be easily prevented. There has not been a large outbreak of Cholera in the United States, for example, since 1911. The prevention of the disease solely requires proper sanitation and water treatment. Once contracted, the disease can be treated, too. The CDC claims,

"Cholera can be simply and successfully treated by immediate replacement of the fluid and salts lost through diarrhea. ...With prompt rehydration, fewer than 1% of cholera patients die. "

The numbers coming out of Zimbabwe are sickening. Too many people are suffering and dying, and too few are acting on this crisis. Barack Obama must follow through on his promises to assist in mobilizing international pressure for a just government in Zimbabwe, to provide sustainable debt relief, and to strengthen the African Growth and Opportunity Act** to increase private investment in African nations. In the meantime, help your citizens Mugabe.

** Yes, I know the AGOA has its own problems, but it's a start.

Monday, January 12, 2009

One Needs No Hyphens To Boogie

This month, I will set my sails upon course to solve an enigmatic mystery that has endlessly perplexed many. I will engage in a thorough examination of the phrase: "One needs no hyphens to boogie". The origins and etymology of this common yet occult phrase are widely unknown. In fact, it has been theorized that the phrase, today, is spoken and understood antithetically of what it used to mean thousands of years ago. The questions surrounding this popular phrase are many; the answers are sparse. I will toil hard to try and sort out some of the fact from the fiction. I will engage in a careful and complex examination of the aura surrounding this very intriguing maxim. Hopefully, we will find and answer without losing any of our phrase's romanticism.*

Breaking it down:

My first step was to examine the most important words in this aphorism. Hyphens are written English conventions to connect or separate compound words, names and syllables. The origin of the word "hyphen" comes from the late Latin word: Huphen, defining the sign added to compound words. Yet, it was not used in the English language until the turn of the 17th century when it was used for the purpose of describing the placement of two words together. From the etymological analysis we can infer that our phrase manifested itself only after that because there was no antecedent to the word. Furthermore, "Hyphen" originally indicated how two or more words were to be sung together as one. Could this help unlock our phrase's meaning? For better answers I turned to examine the word "Boogie".

Boogie, as a verb, means to dance energetically, especially to rock music. This type of movement, or dance, originated from the 1920's style of rhythmic flow. It was similar to the free flowing movements of the Charleston dance, however, with fewer leg kicks. We can see that our phrase, (or at the very least, the evolved form) came into being in the 20th century. In its archaic form (WWI era), "boogie" may have been easily antedated with "foxtrot". However, there are no documented publications that claim that the foxtrot requires no hyphens. Even before the Great World War, colloquial spoken forms of our phrase may have used "cavort" in place of boogie, but again, there is no documentation of its use. Finally, theories that claim "cut a rug" was used interchangeably with "boogie" have been proven false by the innate truth that hyphens are indeed necessary to cut rugs.


Because the etymological research did not yield very concrete answers to our questions, I took to experimentation. I chose "One requires hyphens to boogie" as my null hypothesis and "One requires no hyphens to boogie" as my alternative hypothesis. Yet, I faced a giant problem. I had my hypothesis test all set up. I had gone to the fabric and supplies store and purchased all essential tools for my research. I had beakers, test tubes, baking soda, food coloring, papier-mâché**, buttons of various size and color, a box half-full of brown, green and yellow crayons, I even had gotten permission from my mother to use the stove-top lighter I found in the kitchen drawer. Yet, with all this preparation, I still faced a looming woe. Palm to forehead, upset with myself, I sighed in realization that I HAD NO HYPHENS. To prove my null hypothesis incorrect, I was scientifically required to have truckload of hyphens. So I went to work. For days, using the drawing paper and scissors, crayons and lighter, wax paper and cups and cups of coffee I created an epic pile of hyphens. To be absolutely sure of my scientific methods, the only corners I cut we those of the hyphens themselves.

Now I had all the hyphens I needed, but I had no idea how to use them. I decided to ask Jeeves. During my search, I was shocked to find two horrors. 1. Jeeves is no longer available to answer my questions (I hope he was able to retire early to a seaside hammock where he wouldn't have to answer another question in his life***) and 2. There is no information on the use of hyphens in dance; only in grammar. Pushing my woes of horror 1 aside to another day when I had less on my plate, I contemplated horror #2. I supposed that I would have to put all my hyphens to good use. I pinched my nose, clenched my teeth, shut my eyes, and jumped into the proverbial fire ahead. For the next sixteen hours I tried every possible use of hyphenation I could think of. I danced upon hyphens taped to the ground. I wore hyphens on my clothes. I even consumed hyphens while boogieing. Moreover, I played music which had hyphens in its title, in its lyrics, in its harmony. I boogied upon hyphens, within hyphens, around hyphens, about hyphens; I tried hyphens with every single preposition available. I shouted hyphenated words aloud whilst boogieing. That seemed to help my boogieing the most, but by no means did any of my experiments seem to prove that hyphens were essential to boogieing. After test and trial, I finally concluded that my alternative hypothesis was true. One requires no hyphens to boogie. In hindsight, I should have simply tested the alternative hypothesis first. All I had to do was to turn on some Avril Lavigne and boogie. Because I tested my null hypothesis first, I broke a small box of beakers, spilled some vinegar and accidentally ate seven crayons. Eh.

Philosophical approach:

Finally believing that our phrase, in every form of its literal sense, was true, I decided that the final step was to philosophically examine its deeper meaning. "What could it mean?", I asked myself while straining my eyes for deeper reflection in the mirror, "what does it mean to be able to boogie without need for hyphen?" I knew that the answers would not come easily. Do hyphens complicate or simplify dance? Do individual freedoms require nothing more than the individual herself? Do songs without hyphens make for more exciting dance? Could it simply be that if one takes days to craft countless hyphens that the fun is taken out of the following dance? Did someone learn this in the 1920's and give his knowledge as a helpful hint to a friend? I had initially thought that this phrase meant that swift hip and knee movements were constricted by hyphens. But now, after hours of experimentation, the phrase meant so much more to me, but I wasn't sure exactly how to qualify the feeling.

In the end I realized the true meaning of the phrase was exactly the antithesis of what I had had done. One needs no hyphens to boogie means that it is completely unnecessary to examine, exhaust over and exact answer from things of this nature. We are able to move independently of the supposed rules and restrictions that govern. In fact, the only laws that govern aren't the ones that Jeeves will help us with or ones that beakers and Bunsen burners will yield, no, the restrictions placed upon us are merely those of our own accord and imagination. We must move with our greatest flexibility, with our greatest creativity to find our own answers.

* Or mine.
** Papier-mâché requires hyphen.
*** Other than, "Would you like a lime with that, sir?"

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Don't worry about what's missing, enjoy what's present.

Loss very often propagates regret or remorse. We fail to truly notice the impact of something until it is gone. Then we sulk in its absence. Yes, we recollect and we reminisce, but we can not fill the entire void with these memories. Something remains incomplete. No matter how hard is tried, we cannot revive that which is missing. Sometimes people will vehemently cry; "Oh! If I could have just one more day with...". This is in attempt to quench some thirst for penitence or rather to simply enjoy old comforts. Sometimes all that is needed is the opportunity to say a final word or two someone who is gone, say something, and really mean it.

I write today, not having lost anything. In fact, I have gained something. To recognize the importance and magnitude of one's own gifts while truly appreciating them before they're gone is to assign them even more value. Take for example extrinsic possessions: I own a car which breaks down before I have appreciated the comforts it provided me. I am quite literally stuck without it. Forced to rely on others, walk more or begrudgingly take public transportation, I can now better assess my car's actual value. Now, take for example intrinsic possessions: I lose my sight, I delete the information on my hard drive, I lose a loved one. Aren't these things seemingly much more valuable to me now that they're gone? Seemingly, yes. But they are much more useful when they are present. This is exactly why I feel the need to make this point. To all things present we must show appreciation. We must take advantage of the abilities to have at least 'one more day with' things from that we must eventually part.

Each day provides us with a finite number of moments, and each moment can be utilized or squandered. It will assign life more virtue to cherish it's true value consistently.

*note: I wrote this a while back, and humorously stumbled upon it just hours after I was forced to tow my car away for a new starter. I smiled.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Troubadour's Bane

Leo the Provençal Troubadour took great pride in his lyrical ballads.

Leo's village, Les Baux, took great pride in his lyrical ballads.

Minstrels around and jongleurs abound would imitate his style and plagiarize his words. In fact, there wasn't a line of nobility in Provence that hadn't folded under the sonorous beauty of Leo the Troubadour's notes. Once, Danish King Valdemar had commissioned a poem from Leo for his glorious Queen. To Leo, there was nothing more venerable than the high art of his compositions. To Les Baux, nothing was more august than the airy music that floated through its streets. His music gave life to the quiet village, and Leo affirmed that his quiet village gave life to all of his music. By all measures, Leo the Troubadour was a paragon.

Then, the Lyte Funky Ones came into town. Called "LFO" by the youth in the village, this new band posed giant threat to Leo the Troubadour's success. Aided by their hit song, "Summer Girls", Medieval LFO gained increasing popularity throughout the region. Enthusiasts in southern Occitania could simply not get enough of their newfound objets d'amour. These fans, 'bon vivants', began to request LFO mix tapes from minstrels in the area. They danced to LFO songs at their estampidas. Leo was outraged at the speed and slope of LFO's ascension and his own declension in the townsfolk's favor and upon the Les Baux charts.

With the heavy weight of LFO's success on his shoulders, Leo the Troubadour went back to his proverbial drawing board to write a gab. Leo toiled for months in recluse to find the perfect words to challenge LFO and to reclaim his deserved success. The challenge fueled his writing.

Meanwhile, LFO rewrote the history books with catchy and inspiring lyrics like:

Cherry pez, coke, crush rock, stud boogie
Used to hate school, so I had to play hookie
Always been hip to the b-boy style
Known to act wild and make a girl smile

And smile the girls did. Countless smiles could be seen on any street on which Medieval LFO played. LFO relished in the spotlight shone by their flawlessly crafted songs and lyrics. Because of all the fame and commissions, members of the band would commonly tell fans that their names were: Rich. Despite being so... Rich... public favor turned momentarily against the band when they collectively stole one young vassal's honey like they stole her bike.

Leo the Troubadour took advantage of this bad press. It was soon after the stolen honey incident that he released his new ballad entitled "The vexatious countenance of LFO behind the comely mask". Critics immediately reproached the single for reasons "including but not limited to: It's long title".

Leo skulked out of the Les Baux spotlight, as he famously put it; "to rue for rue's sake." Little did he know that that line, if written into a poem, would have quickly brought him fame again. Instead, he set to write an enueg about his fans. While later considered a technical masterpiece, the album, "I hate my votaries", bombed forthwith. Leo the Troubadour stated shortly thereafter; "Mine own votaries hath bequest me to fall, whereupon I shall fall; and, as such, with great weight." All commissioners dropped his services and Leo the Provençal Troubador was forced to live from the dirt.

LFO went on to write a tepid song entitled, "Girl on TV." Their follow up performance was lackluster at best due to the fact that no one really understood what a TV was. No one heard from Leo the Troubadour or from the Lyte Funky Ones again.