[the palaverist]

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I have a lot of free time at work, and what with the upcoming move and the general stress of pulling my life apart, I haven't been able to devote myself to one of my productive intellectual projects — studying Korean, reading East Asian history, attempting to write a novel, etc. Instead, other than trolling for jobs, I have been filling my days with video games.

I don't consider myself a gamer — the only console system I ever owned was a Nintendo Entertainment System — but I have in fact devoted significant chunks of my life to video games, most prominent among them the Ultima series. I feel a certain amount of shame around my gaming, maybe because it feels uncomfortably compulsive, and also because it's really not what one is supposed to be doing at work (although, to be fair to myself, I do work hard on everything I'm expected to, and have gone well above and beyond expectations generally).

Nevertheless, with a gaping afternoon of empty hours and a head full of emotional disaster, I have gratefully turned to Jay is Games, an excellent blog and website devoted to "casual gameplay" and the wonderful world of Flash-based gaming.

I've discovered that I'm partial to the point-and-click subgenre, whose games are forgiving of sudden pauses for work, don't call upon too much hand-eye coordination, and give a sense of progress and completion. Favorites include the Hapland, Submachine and especially Samorost series, but I was particularly struck by the intriguing beauty of the Chinese game Choice. It won't take you long, and it really is quite lovely. It helps me get through my day. Maybe it'll help you get through yours.

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Sunset over Pushkar, India.

I am at an ending, and also a beginning.

On Saturday, I will move out of the apartment I have shared with my wife, Jenny, for the last two years, and move into a new apartment on my own. There are all kinds of reasons to feel sad about this transition, and I do, but for the moment I don't need to rehearse those reasons one more time.

On Monday night, feeling overwhelmed by all that lay ahead of me, I had a flash of insight. I was feeling grim about yet another company that decided, after several interviews, to turn me down for a job, and I was contemplating what, in an ideal world, I would do for a living. What I came up with was no surprise to me, and it's probably no surprise to you: my ideal job would be quite similar to the one I have now, providing me the opportunity to hang around with diplomats and contemplate international affairs and foreign cultures on a leisurely schedule, but it would also put me in exotic locales and give me excuses to get involved with the local people so that I could write about the whole thing, much as I did in Korea. That job, as I have known for quite some time, is Foreign Service Officer.

Now, I'm not about to go running off to the Foreign Service just yet. "No big changes in the first year" is a recovery slogan, and outside of getting a divorce, a new apartment and a new job, I plan to stick to it. I need to piece my life back together before I go off to serve my country in uncomfortable and disorienting places.

But it helps to know that whatever is coming next, it's temporary. My thought at the moment — subject to radical revision, of course, particularly considering the circumstances under which I'm writing this — is that I will devote the next two years to recovery and personal growth and apply for the Foreign Service by my 35th birthday, two years from next Saturday. Between now and then, I will need to learn how to live alone, how to survive without relying on some other person to sustain me and give my life meaning. I will need to clear away the wreckage and stand confidently on my own two feet. And I can do those things: I have help and I have faith.

And now I have a goal towards which to work, a dream for my life that resonates. That's something to be grateful for.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

[yesterday's news]

Today the first of my purchases from Thriftbooks arrived: the 1996 edition of the Lonely Planet India, complete with a business card for Ashoka Arts of Udaipur1 (which I have visited) and someone else's notes on when to go see the Taj Mahal.

Now, why would anyone want an outdated travel guide? Simple: to reconstruct a journey taken in the past. The 1996 edition differs considerably from later versions, and it's the one I hauled around with me during my baffling, overwhelming, life-changing slog across the subcontinent back in 1997-98.

Ever since that trip, I've wanted to write about India in one way or another. I have taken a number of disappointing stabs at an India novel, but I think that the processes I'm going through in my life right now — the hard struggle to face my fears and my shame squarely, to take a rigorously honest look at myself and my life — may open the door to better, truer writing.

India will almost certainly be a part of that. It has to be, I think, considering its importance in my life. And so will Judaism. I remember Björg, my Faroese traveling companion through Rajasthan, telling me she'd never heard anyone talk so much about being Jewish. Why was it that after four years of going to college three thousand miles from my parents and sleeping with exotically Scandinavian-named women, I still felt it necessary to go on a Grand Tour of a country that celebrates exactly the kind of idol worship Abraham found objectionable? And why, once I was there (and in the company of another Scandinavian), could I not stop talking about what it meant to me to be a Jew?

These are questions I wouldn't even have been able to pose until quite recently. The whole Jewish thing, wrapped up as it is with all my parental angst and fundamental sense of dislocation and alienation, was simply too frightening even to look at. That may sound silly, but there it is.

And so I've decided to get myself copies of the Lonely Planets that guided me through that journey: not just the India guide, but also the one for Nepal, and for trekking in the Nepal Himalaya. If nothing else, this new-old Lonely Planet has confirmed for me the existence of the Peacock Hotel in Pushkar2, along with its location — issues that remained vague for me even though I stayed there, no doubt because of the bhang lassis I consumed each night during my visit to that pleasant little town.

1. And I quote, all sic:
Mfrs. & Exporters of : Painting on Silk, Wood, Paper and Marble
96, Patwa Street Near Jagdish Temple
UDAIPUR-313 001 (India)
We Accept All Credit Cards & Foregin Currency

Ashoka Arts A Mile Stone in the Field of Paintings.
  • See How Artist Make Paintings with Natural Colours.
  • A Co-operative Orgnised by the Artists.
  • A Reflection of Indian Culture & Historic Background.
  • Most Economical & Best Quality Painting on Marble, Silk, Paper on wood.
Ashoka Arts
Best Miniature Paintings,

2. "On the outskirts of town is the Peacock Hotel, a good choice despite being rather far from the lake. The rooms surround a large, shady courtyard, and the swimming pool and jacuzzi are a big drawcard. Singles/doubles cost Rs 50/80 with common bath, Rs 120 for a double with bath attached, and there are more upmarket rooms at Rs 300/450." I remember neither pool nor jacuzzi, but then, it was seriously cold during my visit.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

[creative visualization]

Now that I'm preparing to move into a new apartment, I am of course obsessing over which furniture goes where and what needs to be purchased from Ikea or elsewhere. This whole process is additionally complex because I'm not simply taking all of the furniture with me, and because Jenny isn't sure what to keep because she isn't sure whether she'll be living in our old apartment or in the apartment upstairs (currently shared by Robert and Lydia), and she also isn't sure which furniture, if any, Robert might leave behind if he moves either downstairs (into what is currently our apartment) or somewhere else.

Have I mentioned that my life is kind of complicated these days?

Fortunately, Lifehacker has linked to an excellent tool for visualizing an architectural space, complete with furniture: Floorplanner, which lets you put in walls, windows, flooring and furniture, change the colors, and get an overhead sense of how the room will add up.

Now, of course, I'll have to get back into the new apartment and obsessively measure every distance — not to mention every item of our furniture &mdash but I'd actually love to get a realistic recreation of the apartment onto Floorplanner.


Monday, August 06, 2007

[moving on]

So it looks like I have a new apartment: tonight I go to sign the paperwork on a pleasant, spacious one-bedroom at 7502 Ridge Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

On the one hand, I'm glad to have this particular chore done, and glad it's an apartment I can feel good about: in a nice neighborhood, close to the subway, close to shopping and a dry cleaner, with laundry in the basement. On the other hand, taking the actual step of paying for a new place gives the whole divorce process a depressing feeling of finality. I never wanted things to come to this, and I still don't. I'm doing this because I have to, not because I want to, and I am very sad.

I'm also scared. I'm scared of the financial risks of moving before I have a job that will allow me to afford the new apartment, though I appreciate Jenny's generosity in helping me in the meantime. I'm also scared of living alone, something I've never really done.

The move will presumably happen over the weekend of September 1. A week later, I'll have my birthday on September 8, when I will turn 33. That day will also mark six months of sobriety. This may well be the hardest birthday I've ever had. If you're a friend of mine and reading this, I hope you'll give me a call and maybe come keep me company on my birthday.

Let's hope things are looking up by the time I turn 34.

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Previous Posts

[things i'd like to write about but haven't]
[drop the red lantern]
[how not to apply for a job]
[pop is the new alternative]
[what does it all mean?]
[national fears]
[lies, damn lies, and sound effects]
[our pakistan moment?]
[how to fail like an olympian]
[cold winters]


July 2006
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