Friday, December 30, 2005

You want to see a happy guy...? a happy guy.

Want to know why? why.

3 Volumes. Nearly a thousand pages. All Calvin and Hobbes. For those of you who are either not familiar with one of the greatest cartoons of all time, or perhaps scoff at a 24 year old nearly crying at receiving the entire run of the comic...well, the pity I feel for you is genuine. I wish you well and doubt seriously that our paths will cross soon. Needless to say, my parents are wise in the ways of gift giving.

Hannukah. Great holiday. I've eaten dozens of latkes (potato pancakes for the uninitiated among you) sang songs and dropped burning candles on my feet. Truly a great holiday. This is not to diminish Christmas of course, which I celebrated in style by not merely ordering a Hunan Triple Crown, but by complementing it with a soup, that if one listened closely, could be heard sizzling. Perhaps there was some sort of rice involved, I was preoccupied with a spring roll at the time.

Before I get on to travel matters, there are somethings that need sharing, namely, my uncontrollably cute siblings. My camera has been getting quite a work out capturing the various antics and quirks of these strange people to whom I am supposedly related, and I would be remiss to not include a few of the more choice shots within this space.

Without further ado:

Cutest. Girl. Ever

Look out! A head squishing monster!

wow....the floor must be REALLY comfortable

On to matters of travel.

I have now spent what I would consider a significant portion of my time in a wondrous wonderland of wonderful...ummm...wonderments. It is known as Midwest Mountaineering, and should any of the employees or the proprietor need a reference, perhaps a reference as to their character or their knowledge of even the most arcane bits of outdoor-sy type information, I would be more than happy to draft such a statement and sign it...with a flourish. In fact, I think that I'll keep one on file. I have needed to buy sleeping accoutrements, rain paraphenalia and a garment that covers the legs, I believe some of you refer to them as pants.

Anyway, as some people would say, "I got the hookup." Rest assured, I am not one of those people.

More simply; I'm all set.

Having now spent quite a bit of time in the nether regions of my house, emerging into the light only to hunt down, kill, and then microwave snacks, I am beginning to realize how difficult it is to not be around people that one knows who are not of direct familial relations. What I am saying is that I miss my friends. In a sense, it is good to get used to this feeling, as I will not be with people I know for very long stretches of time in the fairly near future, so this could amount to a type of training if you chose to see it that way. However I mostly feel just a little bit left out of the action of everything going on on the near constant stream of e-mails that I still receive from various amusing listservs. I can hear you all out there, saying "shut up Norm, you did this to yourself," and while I don't disagree, it does not make it much easier to know that.

And also...shut up.

Due to some things working out in my favor, I will now be taking the 12 day tour from Windhoek, Namibia, through the okavango delta, up to Livingstone in Zambia, which is apparently just a hop, skip, and a 4x4 ride to Victoria's falls. This should kick truck loads of butt and I only hope that my roommates previous experience with lions is not replicated. Or if it is replicated, that it happens the exact same that the lion ended up leaving him unscathed. I feel that being eaten by a lion, though a worthy and interesting death, may, from the diers somewhat unpleasant.

Also, I have recently heard from a distant voice in my past, one who is seldom heard from, but always welcome. His name is unimportant for these ramblings (though if you were to agree with someone twice quickly in succession and he were nearby, he may well pay you some attention) and so let me say to you all what he told me, that has me nearly a-twitter with excitement.

I was supposed to meet him in India where he is teaching. He has now informed me that as soon as I arrive, he will be quitting this teaching and we are going to do a little trekking in the Himalayas.

The Patagonia's in '05, the Himalaya's in '06. That seems reasonable to me.

My excitement is savory and delicious.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Despite my best efforts...

I find myself unemployed, homeless and have moved back in with my parents. Considering that as of three days ago I had a home, a job and was living in Washington D.C., this would seem to be quite the drastic change in fortunes.

I have decided to fully embrace my "bum-ness" for the two weeks that I am home, and as such, I have already created a complete and utter mess in my "bedroom", the kitchen our basement etc. I have been told that this is not appreciated, however I have come across a stock response which seems to befit the slacker lifestyle which I am (however briefly) embracing.


So today being that merry day when Jesus hung ten and did other things of note, I've decided to get into the spirit a little bit. And when I say get into the spirit, I mean that this morning I woke up and thought to myself "gee, how nice that it is christmas, and how sad that I have no presents and a tree" then promptly cried myself back to sleep. When I awoke and remembered that presents were forthcoming in the evening, per my own, Jewish tradition, I rejoiced briefly, then again fell asleep. Remember, I'm a bum now. I can do stuff like that.

There are certain advantages to being home aside from the familial and monetary. Such as friendliness. If you've never been to Minnesota, I cannot recommend it enough should you find yourself in need of people who you can speak with at length for no particular reason. It is, as they say, soothing to the soul. I am not sure who "they" are, but rest assured that they have your best interests at heart.

I have now received my digital camera, and I have played with it enough to broadcast the following sequence of photos. I warn you, they may not be for the faint of heart...or for those who are unprepared to ROCK.

This is my brother Ari, hair gelled just so, with my disembodied hand of a sister to the left showing Ari the proper procedure for "rocking out." He is doing well

Training wheels are off, the driving instructor is no where in sight...and we can see the little guy rocking out all on his own! Yeah!

My brother is the king of awesome. Here he is rocking at a 7th grade level and he's only in kindergarten!!! Amazing!

For those about to rock...we salute you.

"Throw a hand in the air...if you'se a true playa"

Needless to say, my first 24 hours home have been a success.

It should additionally be noted that A) I have a cat and B) My other brother Noah is a lazy sack of sh*t. A handsome sack of sh*t, but one nonetheless. Since I have been home we have
watched, I believe, 8 movies. So I suppose that if we are to be keeping accurate estimates of laziness and numbers of sh*t in sacks...the number we should be counting now is 2. It is a category that I can tie directly to my "bumming" state without fear of repercussion.

As far as travel musings go in this space for today, I will only write that I am wishing each and every one of you the best and fondest of holiday thoughts, and that wherever you may be venturing to today or tomorrow, or even on Thursday, that you do so with care and grace and that all of the obstacles which may line your way may simply dissapear like so many snowflakes on my rather warm hands.

There are worse things in this world than having snow fall on your head, it is the things that are better than that event which are few in number.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

If you clicked a link and found yourself here but don't know why

Well I'm going to tell you.

This will be a written and (hopefully) visual diary of the next 7 months of my life. My guess is that nothing in my life past the next 7 months will be of particular interest to those who don't know me very well.

However, here is why this site may be of some amusement to you, person-who-clicked-on-a-link; For the next 7-8 months, I will be traveling through London, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, India, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Japan. That's reason number 1.

Reason 2: I look funny in pictures, and I plan on taking many. Chances are that they will be pictures a) with wildlife in them b) with wildlife in the form of drunk Australians c) of me doing something stupid/dangerious. All pictures of this nature should be entertaining. At least for you.

Reason 3: I tend to talk a lot. I also tend to write a lot. I will probably be posting far to long, overly verbose and descriptive narrations of places I've gone and things I've seen. Feel free to use these to kill time while you are a) checking on your fantasy sports team b) supposed to be working but are bored out of your mind c) alternative to illegally downloading music. See, I write because I care.

If you care to, please read the posts below. They are sappy and sentimental and were largely written without any sense of irony, which is unfortunate. From here on out, all introspection or deep thought will be prefaced with *CAUTION! DEEP THOUGHT AHEAD*. Anything else will be light drivel and pointless banter.

So bookmark the site or close it down. Either way I'll be somewhere where I can't find out which you did for a while, so you can skip a ride on the guilty train. I leave on the 12th of January, so expect something worthwhile in this space in the time following that date.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Resignedly resigning

Today, the 19th of December, I have finally put in my official notice of resignation at my job. This is a somewhat bittersweet moment, in that the chocolate that I was chewing on while gleefully handing in said letter was of the bittersweet variety. Additionally, it was delicious.

This site will mostly be devoted to travel and the variegated happenings associated with it, however as this travel doesn't begin for several weeks, a few lines of pre-travel thought to hold myself over seem appropriate.

If all else fails, I am now set up to stay with a friend in London for a week to start. When I say that this person is of the kindest and most generous of dispositions, I am certainly understating her merits. Isabel and I have actually been in the same geographical vicinity as each other on exactly two occasions. However, the wonders of technology and my ironclad grasp on the concepts of time zone differentials has allowed us to be in touch. She has graciously offered me a space in her "flat", and I have accepted, under the condition that I be pleasant. I hope that I can fulfill this charge.

I have been repeatedly, and with some intensity questioned about the purpose of my travel, and the truth is that this is not a trip in which I expect to find myself. I'm pretty sure that I know where "myself" resides and if I ever lose track I can surely check the label on my underwear as I believe that it should provide that information...apparently I can be found in Malaysia and I should be machine washed on warm. That seems like not-terrible advice. Instead this is a trip both to run to, and to run from.

I run to knowledge and I run to history and I run to strangeness and I run to friendship. I run to see and smell things that I have not seen nor smelt. I run to experience that which others are afraid to, and that in honesty, I am afraid of myself.

However the running to is only half of it, as I also run away. I run away from a life I've always known and a city that is the one of two places that I've ever called home. I run from friends and ex-friends and a job and obligations. I run from stagnation and the idea that a path is something that does not ever diverge, but instead follows a gently winding, but ultimately straight path, that terminates in a downgrade that leads into leafy shadows. As the title of this website alludes, there are always paths that will be "just as fair" and should you venture upon them, what black leaves you will trample and what light, however dim, you will carry into a darkness.

I see myself both as cowardly and brave, largely because I know that embarking on a trip like this is as much a flight from as a flight to. But now I am repeating myself but replacing certain key words. Surely this is as tiring to you as it is to me.

On a note which I found bittersweet without the benefit of confection, today was my last day to participate in the "reading buddies" program at an elementary school in downtown D.C. I have been working with this program for a year or so now, and my "buddy" as it were, is named Herberth Aguilar. I have many other "buddies" however, as pretty much anyone in the class is welcome to use my gangliness as a kind of living jungle gym, albeit one that topples more easily than those we see outside of schools, as my feet are not usually encased in cement. Since I do enjoy teaching and see it as one of the highest and noblest pursuits, I have offered up this website to the class as a tool to refer to throughout the coming months so that others can experience some of what I am experiencing. I sincerely hope that I do not fail in this regard. I also sincerely hope that my standards of appropriateness and decency remain at a level high enough to avoid excessive censorship. I am not exactly known for my ability to keep certain...forbidden words in check. My efforts need redoubling.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

'Tis the season

In this season of making lists and then, if lucky and provided enough time, the checking thereof, I have compiled a list that is keeping me somewhat occupied. Here is an excerpt:

-Get visa's for Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos
-Make sure that the people who we are renting the apartment to are not serial killers
-Find a place to store a queen sized mattress for 8 months without paying lots of money
-Tracking down blackmarket supplies of anti-rabies drugs so that I don't have to pay 700 dollars for them...

Things like that. While these activites may not be on the lists of most folks holiday chores, they are foremost on mine.

The visa situation has been fairly well remedied I believe, and should some person, perhaps one with some knowledge of world travel try to convince you that getting a Visa for the wondrous country of India is difficult, please direct them to me. It is not difficult and they are liars, exacting their nefarious nature on you, the unsuspecting traveler. Getting to the embassy is another matter entirely and one about which Lonely Planet should devote some pagination, however the machinations involved are rudimentary and the experience far from unpleasant.

As my iminent departure looms large, an ever thickening shadow growing larger (and my mirror informs me, closer than it appears), I'm beginning to think about the manner in which I wish to leave this city. Washington D.C. has been my home for nearly 5 years and despite my many complaints about its inhabitants I will be experiencing memories in the near future that could easily be described as fond. It seems that I have two alternatives to consider in leaving; I can choose to leave quietly, saying goodbye on an individual basis to those closest and dearest, perhaps spending highly charged moments with those people, full of deep introspective words like "life" and "passion" and "chocolate cake." This type of exit would ensure that, though many people would be left out of the process, those who were involved would be better attended to. The other option is to arrange some sort of festivity, an event at which many different people could congregate at the same time to, I don't know, wish me well or something like that. This event would inevitably need to include alcoholic beverages and maybe loud music, period music perhaps. The 80's were a period! In either case there is the opportunity for great, and also terrible outcomes, the consequences of which could last for a very long time.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Initial Thoughts

Ultimately, my reasons for going to law school become more and more clear the more I dwell on them. As I believe I’ve expressed to you in prior conversations, the logic and the rules of law appeal to me. I also feel that through the practice of law, specifically in the role of a litigator, I could have the most impact on issues that are important to me. I realize that most law students go into the profession with grand ideals and aspirations and come out slightly jaded and working in a role that they didn’t envision, and I would not presume to say that this is beyond the realm of possibility for me. However, part of what is driving my decision to pursue this path, and part of what fuels my intellectual and moral curiosity are issues closely tied to those of law. Civil rights. Social justice and moral standards (not the “I hate video games, nudity and howard stern” standards, more like “I hate racial intolerance, political and corporate corruption and ignorance” standards). It may sound a bit cliché, but the 2004 election, and all of the world events subsequent to it have added fuel to my belief that there is an awful lot that is fundamentally wrong with many aspects of people and institutions in this country (and elsewhere) and that, misguided or not, I could potentially do something to remedy a little bit of that. Being in Israel during the pull out, seeing pictures and reading a Kristof report about Darfur, tsunami’s, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc etc etc. ad infinitum. All of these issues eventually end back up in questions of law, be it a legal precedent, a territorial dispute or a violation of some code of military conduct. By being afforded the opportunity to approach these problems in a methodical, logical manner, and by utilizing your own capacities for reasoning, an individual can have a chance of making some sort of difference.