CategoryHolly Gramazio

The Great Brendan Hunt

Link to the big picture of my route.

So, when I got the aforementioned iPad at a delicious Moroccan dinner with Kara’s family, I thought I had had a lovely thirtieth birthday and now all that nonsense was over with. She and I had planned to go get lunch and see Meek’s Cutoff with our friend Arlie yesterday, and I thought that would be a neat Saturday. When we parked near the theater downtown, though, she kept insisting we had to go meet Arlie at Pioneer Square a few blocks away. Okay, I thought, whatever.

Except when we got there, I saw someone else I recognized. Hey neat, I thought, Kellie’s here too! And so are a lot of our other friends! Wow, this is a weird coincidence. Why are they holding signs and shouting at me?

Kara had been planning a giant pervasive game involving everyone we know–even utilizing international design services–for a month behind my back. I was completely unaware of this until well after she started explaining the rules. It was basically a version of Journey to the End of the Night, except during the day, and also the only person being chased was me. I had to run around, getting the signatures of people stationed at five different checkpoints on the “happy” side of my birthday card. Each checkpoint had a small safe zone around it, but outside those, everyone else would be chasing me down; if they tagged me they got to sign the “unhappy” side of the card, and the person who did so most often got a prize. (Spoilers: no he didn’t.)

Herein follows the narrative of my desperate attempt to evade my relentless, sadistic friends. You can follow along on the big map I drew. It’s color-coded by time: my route to the first checkpoint is in blue, then red, then green, then orange.

We started in Pioneer Square, where I took off in an attempt to get a head start before I had completely finished reading the handout. THIS WOULD BE IMPORTANT LATER. I circled around down off the bottom border of the map and made my way up along Naito Parkway to the first checkpoint, the fountain at Saturday Market. I got into the safe zone just ahead of Kellie, in plenty of time to get my card signed by Tony and Mandy, then successfully lost any pursuers in the crowd.

Unfortunately, in doing so, I also dropped the card and couldn’t find it even after repeatedly retracing my steps. I ended up paying three bucks at the Market for a little card with an engraving of a cat holding a fish on it just so I could continue the game. I headed up to a good place to take the measure of the second checkpoint, the Chinese Gardens, and even from blocks away I could see a cluster of chasers just waiting for me.

“Aha!” I thought, as the stealthy Matthew Schuler walked right up and tagged me from behind. “I have clearly tricked these poor saps into thinking I will hit each checkpoint in order, which is not required by these rules that I have not read all the way through! I’ll just skip up to checkpoint 4 now and double back after they get bored and wander off. Good thing I have limitless endurance and it is not hailing!”

I was wrong about many of these things.

I actually used the hail as cover to get into the fourth checkpoint, the Blue Room at Powell’s Books, cleverly evading the nonexistent people I was convinced were waiting at THAT entrance. I then wandered around the Blue Room for ten minutes, wondering where the hell my signatory was, before Susan finally deigned to arrive and inform me that the window for her checkpoint had yet to open.

“Window?” I said.

“Did you read the rules?” she said.

I had already missed my chance to hit checkpoint 2, by dint of sheer idiocy, but I had maybe enough time to still make it to checkpoint 3 if I really hustled. This is why the red segment on the map is the longest one! I did hustle, and made it to the ticketing counter at Portland Union Station with a minute to spare, though my desperate, wheezing jog meant that I had no time for stealth and got ambushed by a whole group of fuckers in the driveway.

I threw off most of them by sneaking out a side entrance and hiding behind a bus, but just as I was thinking I’d sneak up the stairs to the Broadway Bridge and take that back down into the Pearl, I saw Matt Nolan tripping eagerly down them. I was still very annoyed at having my tag-count increased fivefold at the entrance, and I decided right there that Matt was NOT going to get me. No way! ALL I HAD TO DO WAS RUN INFINITELY FAR.

You will note that after the point labelled “MATT ATTACK” on the map, the green line travels around to the far side of the bridge entrance ramp, then up it, across traffic, to the top, back down, and into the Post Office. I only got that far because Matt was lugging a giant bag and a belly full of Indian food, and because I hid in the passport office with my gut sucked in and the lady at the postal counter heeded my desperate finger-to-lips silence gesture. I probably should have gotten arrested.

Anyway I left the post office, now running late for my RETURN VISIT to checkpoint 4, and immediately got tagged by Arlie, plus Matt finally caught up just outside the door to Powell’s. So much for all that. Despite my pulling moves which might humbly be described as “Bourneian” within the confines of Powell’s, I got tagged repeatedly in there too before I finally got Susan to sign my stupid card, and Grace (whom I hadn’t even met before!) pursued me doggedly through Whole Foods and in front of more speeding cars. It was only then that it occurred to me that Kara really should have gotten everyone to sign a waiver.

I limped up across the overpass, got ambushed, and lost the card AGAIN, though this time when I backtracked I actually did find it. That didn’t keep me from getting tagged like a brick wall on a street named after a civil rights activist, particularly by Jonathan (whom I’d faked out earlier) and Matt, who were out for blood. Not even sneaking through a parking garage under a building could throw them off. I finally staggered up to the fifth checkpoint outside the stadium with minutes to spare, and everybody got Oreo cupcakes and went back to a bar for beers and war stories.

I measured that route against the scale on Google Maps and, by that rough math, I ran about fifty-six thousand kilometers altogether. I was tired and the leg I pulled last week was throbbing. I had also lost the game by every measure possible. It was awesome! Thanks to Laura, Amy, Arlie, Jonathan, Matt, Matthew, Matthew, Harry, Harry, Grace, John, Casey, Kim, Greg, Susan, Marie, Mandy, Tony, Jeremy, Holly, Kevan, anybody else I forgot, and especially Kara for pulling off the most ridiculous tailored birthday stunt I can imagine.

We Return You Now to Masterpiece Chatlog

Holly and I were discussing the inevitable self-recrimination that comes of owning a computer with anything one has ever written on it.

Brendan: I am not sure if there is a way to mature that does not involve violent, sickened hatred toward all one’s own past incarnations, but–hang on, I think I just reinvented Buddhism.
Holly: But Buddhism was invented by someone who didn’t have computer logs of half the things he’d ever said or written.
Brendan: Well, he WAS a lot cleverer than you or me, Holly.
Holly: And ha, yes, teachings “transmitted orally” for ages, says wikipedia, so maybe that is indeed the solution.
Holly: I bet he invented the computer and then saw what self-recriminations and nausea it would scatter on the path to enlightenment and self-improvement, and hid it at the bottom of a pond or something.
Holly: (This is the plot of the next Dan Brown novel.)

This is why it is awesome to have awesome friends

I am unforgivably late in posting this, but Kevan sent along a photo of a one of those “morphing” lenticular Halloween images in which, as he points out, life imitates Anacrusis. (He asked whether it was a common image in the US or just a ludicrous coincidence; it’s been a few years, but I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.)

In other Battersea wonderment, I can’t tell you the secret reason why she discovered this, but Holly has alerted me that the Pharaoh of Exodus might have been (but probably wasn’t) named Dudimose.

Dudimose.

His son was named Dudimose II.

Puddlejump

Kara and I are going to Europe! Like, now! We’ll land in London tomorrow morning to visit Kevan and Holly et al, then fly to Denmark on the 9th to see her high-school exchange sister Britta get married, then hop down to France on the 16th for a Romantic Weekend in Paris.

I got to see very little of the continent while I lived over there, so this is very exciting. We are going to be broke kids with backpacks! I can’t wait to get peed on by a French hobo.

See you on the 21st, Internet!

In which I pick on a universally-beloved mute cancer survivor

This essay presents me with problems, because I agree with its hypothesis, but not its premises or its conclusion, so, er.

I’ve said before that snarky writing is weak writing, after which a conversation with Holly led me to reduce my stance to “snarky writing is comorbid with weak writing.” Ebert and I concur on this. He goes on to state that blogs devoted to pure snark are dumb, and that gasping about the “gayest Oscars ever” because Hugh Jackman sat in Frank Langella’s lap is equally dumb; this is also true.

Then he defends Joaquin Phoenix’s current performance art spectacle as an “accomplishment,” and as “committing himself as an actor.” Sorry, Roger, but acting isn’t art in and of itself, and acting like a bewildered person with nothing to say, without letting other people in on the joke, is no achievement at all. (I have similar problems with Andy Kaufman, but at least he brought a Duchamp-like duplicity to the exercise.)

More essential to his argument is his assertion that the snarkers should leave! Oscar! Alone! Sorry again, but a critic of all people should understand that you don’t get to just declare that it’s not for you. Joaquin Phoenix and the self-righteous pomp of the Oscars deserve no better than snark, because they’re functioning on the same level. Scrape away the ornamentation, and there’s nothing worthwhile underneath.

But that doesn’t mean that snarkery is a noble satirical endeavor. Sumana (via John Hodgman) provides a better argument than Ebert: snark is just “meh” without the benefit of brevity.

Today’s story is a perfect reason why you should be reading Minor Delays.

Three things make a roundup

Selfism

Sumana has managed to combine almost all the reasons I read her blog–inspiration, clarity, critical appraisal of systems and examination of self–into one spectacular post. You should read it.

There’s a quote from Count Zero about being taken up from a low place, rotated through “invisible stresses,” and emerging changed. It’s actually kind of negative in context so I’m not going to reproduce it here. But at some point I have to write about how my interaction with propelled and propulsive people has changed me: how my internship at Dixon Design, followed by meeting Leonard and Sumana, followed by living with Kevan and Holly, reshaped me into someone who no longer fits anywhere outside the self-determined life.

I would have to actually achieve that life first, so I’m not writing it yet. But Sumana’s post brings up another connected point: work that matters for its own sake is superior to work that matters by fiat, which is to say that academic work is worthless in the short or long term, which is to say that I think the lecture-test educational system used in the United States (and, in my understanding, most of the rest of the world) is a sham, a wreck and a hindrance. I graduated with awards and honors from a large public high school and an elite private college, and I still say the system failed me. The intersection of what I learned in classes and my work, play and continuing interests is almost nonexistent; meanwhile, I’m still dealing with the fear and shame endemic to those institutions, and the ways they damaged me.

Under all that I continue to grow more absorbed with the idea of having children someday. I’m starting to consider my life choices in terms of where they’ll grow up, how I’ll support them and how they will learn. (How I’ll actually go about having them is almost secondary.) Could I in good conscience send them down the path less traveled, without having checked it for perils myself? Could I ever prepare them enough for the perils of the path I did take? Sumana again: isn’t it possible to sidestep the bad parts, with enough planning? Well, no, Brendan. Don’t deny the imaginary kids their own invisible stresses.

But if I start seriously working on my own propulsion, maybe my example can reshape someone else.

I always thought Rowling gave arithmancy short shrift

Stories I have written that revolve around invented or reinterpreted methods of divination: Stella, Jaboullei, Rob, Shekel and Jewel. I was kind of surprised it was this few–I feel like it’s one of the structures to which I keep returning. There’s another one coming Monday, if you hadn’t guessed.

I think the reason I keep coming back to this is a variation on the existential dread I feel when considering the persistence of objects (eg the lives of sapient dishes): the amount of potential information in the world, and how quickly our ability to capture and interpret it is growing, and how insignificant that capability will always be–in an obscure way, these things terrify me. They also thrill me. Look at what we can discover! If time and distance are the universe’s crypto, divination is the original side channel attack.

I also live in constant fear of side channel attacks, by the way, to the point where I have resigned myself to much-more-likely primary channel attacks. I kind of never want to be even mildly famous, as that would destroy what flimsy comfort I take in anonymity.

Anyway, you’ll know I’ve gutted the shark on this theme when I write the one about logymancy. Meanwhile I want to do more of these little collect-and-explain entries; I think they’d be a better point of entry to Anacrusis for new or hesitant readers than just the sheer blank mass of the archives. When one of my best friends refers to my writing corpus as “a stupid amount” and my own mother is too intimidated to read them, I am pretty much failing to sell my product.

“Categories: okay seriously korea”

Hillary has pretty much the best title ever for her personal journal, but today I’m plugging her food blog, Kimchi for Beginners. It meets the GramazioRichardson test of always making me hungry, except it doesn’t have recipes. Not that I make the recipes in Leonard’s or Holly’s blogs nearly as often as I want to.

What Hillary’s blog does have is the clever thing where it sneaks in glances at Korean culture from a unique perspective. I wish I’d been anywhere near as responsible a documentarian on my two international trips. Maybe I should try living in Canada? I understand they do startling things with ketchup and mayonnaise.

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