- Aug 28, 2008
Of course when you're young enough, you tend to take everything which happens for granted, because you haven't learned a baseline yet. Ok, so the nice lady gives you some candy, and you are supposed to say "thank you" and this is considered a normal social transaction.
So, when the administrative staff of your elementary school calls your family a couple weeks before Christmas and says that someone donated a really nice bicycle along with all the other toy donations and they want you to have it rather than putting it in the first-come-first serve toy bin that the whole school will have access to... you don't really question that either. That was only 1 of 3 bikes I was given by teachers at that school.
In high school I always assumed it was because I was so obviously poor.
I got a steady supply of free meals when I sat looking forlorn while everyone else ate (there is a fine line where it becomes obvious you are doing it on purpose. I always blatantly crossed that line. Never seemed to matter)
The free clothes from relative strangers was because of how I dressed. They assumed I couldn't afford decent clothes, and didn't want to embarrass me by asking, so I would just get random gifts. So I thought.
It may well be that this is the motivator still, since I couldn't care less about clothes and I work and play hard and they tend to disintegrate off of me before I get around to the rather tedious chore of finding replacements.
It can't explain all of it though.
Maybe the very idea of capitalism, Ann Rands virtue of selfishness, it is all rhetoric, and Burning Man's culture of gifting (not bartering, gifting - major distinction) is actually a universal standard. Maybe I just never noticed. Actually, I suspect this is it. I don't see anything so particularly special about me, (beyond the requisite "everyone is special" kind of way)
The web domain I wrote about recently. The waived inspection fee for no apparent reason. My need to compensate for overly generous tips (very rarely has anyone ever questioned the number I come up with, maybe 3 times in 2 years. I calculate in my head and just give them the total.)
What inspired this entry was the shopping trip this morning (I promised Fushi that I would buy cat food before I had breakfast)
Kim and Nina own the shop, have maybe 2 employees (relatives?)
I took a cooking class with a friend of theirs, and as a result I always get a discount (10-15% off depending how much I spend, and frequently rounded down to a round number on top of that!)
We speak only as much as you can while in a checkout line, but they are both quite observant. My wife and I lived here before the separation, so they noticed when she stopped showing up and asked me about it. They were both very supportive, and also optimistic about our chances. Once Nina could tell just from my grocery choices, "You're making dinner for her tonight?", which of course I was.
All of this is totally irrelevant. I just want to share House of Produce with you all, and this seems the best chance to do it.
Kim almost always gives me fruit on my way out the door. At first I assumed it was stuff he had too much of, or was getting towards the end of its shelf life. Today it was white nectarines. When I smiled and waved him away, he pointed out that they were organic in case that was why. It wasn't, I just have so much at home already (since I keep being given free, organic, delicious food, wherever I go!).
It took a bit of convincing and explaining, but we compromised by him putting only 3 (instead of 6) in my bag without my explicit consent.
As I left I saw a bin of organic white nectarines, none looking overripe, not an excessive amount of them, no clear reason he should want to clear them out quickly.
It is quite possible that all of the regulars get this treatment. I have never seen it for any other customer who happens to be there while I am shopping though.
Of course altruism is as natural as sex and feeding, but I feel like it is suppressed in our society. On the one hand its admired, but at the same time viewed in a certain patronizing way, as though it were naive and cute, something to be chuckled at at best, or taken advantage of at worst.
As natural as it seems, Burning Man's take on economy does feel a little revolutionary in a way. In the moment, you can almost find yourself feeling like anarchy would be feasible (I really will get to that blog, I promise - I know, I know, I have been promising it for months now... the divorce was a major event in my life, as well it should be, but now that it is finally behind me, I am getting back to my writing and I haven't forgotten my past topics despite being distracted by all these new ones)
I feel like I have been far too cynical.
I tend to think badly of "people" in general, on the large scale. I still feel that history justifies this.
I have always given actual specific individuals the benefit of the doubt and forgive minor transgressions.
Even so, I feel I have not had high enough expectations of the various people out around me.
They are hard to find.
But they are there just the same.
Meeting new people, talking to acquaintances more in depth, reading CL personal ads, it is very easy to see why I had become so cynical (jaded?) in the first place, why I had lowered my expectations so much.
And yet, the two I have been talking to...
(yes, two. You both have the link to this blog, so that's out now and over with. I understand - intellectually - that this is totally normal and expected. As likely as not you have one or two others as well, or at least have at some point in time. At the same time, I can't help feeling it is inappropriate, like its something a "player" does. Yes, I have been saying such enthusiastic and positive things to you each, and yes, I have absolutely meant it sincerely in each case.)
It was just so easy.
I meant the search as purely academic. Lets see what's out there, what its like. I have time to kill and nothing to do, and why not?
And at first it only fed my cynicism. Of every 50 headlines maybe 2 looked worth even opening. Out of every dozen opened was one which I finished. Oh dear god how I don't look forward to dating. I remember looking through these long long ago. Now I remembered why I hadn't since. In the end, just because I wanted to try this experiment of "dating" and start a new stage of life, I picked the least annoying, disturbing, stupid sounding posts, and what the hell, worst that can happen is rejection, I wrote something to a couple.
Yet that old compulsive craigslist browsing habit had grabbed hold of me, and I kept reading.
And came across just a couple which I actually found myself wanting to respond to, instead of forcing myself to.
By the end of the night I had a response.
By the morning was another.
These women are intelligent!
They have similar morals and outlooks on life as myself!
These are people I could really get to like.
These are people I want to be friends with.
And these are people who seem as interested in me as I am in them.
And reading things they have written I am reminded why I went to CL instead of a bar.
Something feels pathetic about reading, writing, responding to personal ads. Desperate, geeky, sad.
It was one thing when we were in school. There is not the same steady supply of people my age, like-minded, (and single), wandering about just to one side.
In the traditional spots, the dance club, the bar, the supermarket, the only thing I know is what she looks like.
Here, I get to know who she is first. This is what is important to me. I actually prefer not to see a picture until after establishing interest or lack there of. I can eliminate a lot of potentially wasted time learning who she is from the comfort of home over a few hours. (I suppose as long as I had a good time on a date it wouldn't be "wasted", but I'd rather spend that time with someone fun and fully engaging)
Since then I have gotten 2 responses which I suspect to be commercial ploys (no doubt one of the earlier, vague, posts I responded to, deliberately written to have mass appeal) and a new Gchat buddy.
Of the responses I responded to, I have a confirmed up coming date and maybe another, both with people which make me feel my low expectations and disillusionment with this whole process has been entirely premature and unjustified.
And this is all coming from a few hours of CL! (Thank you Craig, you are a God among men)
Imagine if I were more diligent? How many wonderful people could I be (feeling guilty about) dating at once?
Afterall, I'm almost middle aged, perhaps I should be making up for lost time (ok, not "lost" - if I had it to do over, I'd have still married Aileen. I don't regret a moment of the time I spent with her. I don't feel I could have learned nearly as much about life, about relationships, and about myself, any other way. Besides, there was more positive than negative overall, at least for me. Unlike a great many people I meet, I harbor no resentment or spite toward my ex.)
This is only a fantasy of course. But its fun just to know how easily within reach it is. And that when both of these new relationships (that isn't the right word for someone I haven't technically met) establish themselves as solid platonic friendships (because, come on, I should be so lucky?) it will be just as easy to go back and seek out new potential romantic partners.
Discovering how amazing some people are lets me know that it won't be such an impossible task to find a healthy, happy, mutually fulfilling partnership someday, and that makes it much easier to wait patiently to find it. The key all along was perhaps just knowing where to look.
The first half and second half of this entry really are the same thing.
At the same time, I have been finding deeper connection in my friendships and re-connection with friendships past.
It is all about this renewed feeling of optimism for humanity, and the changes losing someone important to me have forced through inside me. Facing AD with total honesty has allowed me to begin to experience what I suspect the rest of the world gets to take for granted.
This general optimism has been pervasive (though certainly not consistent) in my writing but only now am I feeling it as strongly emotionally as I do (at times) intellectually.
It certainly isn't universal. I'm under no neurotic delusions. I have met new people and been immediately put-off. As much as I like my new friends, with one I can easily find things I feel are less than ideal (not that I would ever expect, or even want, "perfection") and in the other I don't feel I know enough to say.
I am aware that at least a piece of my optimism stems from qualities that have always been in me that today I label as attachment disorder. I am all too conscious of all the implications that follow. It is a hard balance, tempering enthusiasm while still enjoying the pleasant giddiness of excitement.
I am well past the things I originally intended to write about, delving into my mind as I write, making this unnecessarily long, as I tend to do. I think I will skate to work instead of cycling.
***I choose to believe this is due to the heat, the constant headwind, and perhaps the cumulative sleep deficit, but that was the hardest 10miles in at least a year. I got in a half hour late!***