Monday, August 19, 2002

Okay, so the last time I started doing this I experienced one of those horrible computer-crashing-out-of-nowhere things and lost it all (again!), but I'm trying my luck now because I wore a summery dress today in order to make the sun come out from behind ugly grey clouds out and it worked, so I figure I'm magic today and magic people don't have computer crashes (do they?).

It's been roughly a week and a half since I returned to San Jose and I'm oh so happy to be back! I realized I missed ALL of it...all of the lovely, as well as the yucky (including, but not limited to: endless passing of cars all night right outside my window, many of them with thumping bass, pigeons (which I don't think exist in Colorado) and the ridiculousness of signs reading things like "Historic House Moving" as a euphemism for the mayor's heartless uprooting of really old houses with long-time residents in order to make room for the new city hall which will ensure his legacy). Yes, the city is a beautiful thing - as was the Jazz Festival (Salsa Stage, most especially), and the GREAT show I saw the other night at Plant 51 - an Ozomatli-esque group of fine, talented young men who call themselves the B-Side Players.

But there was business to take care of, too. I got a job in the writing center at school, which sounds like it will be challenging, and challenging is good. However, beyond the job, three weeks worth of laundry to contend with today, and the business of hanging out lazily in coffee shops catching up with friends, I've been exquisitely, thankfully, and pleasantly idle.

One can never be quite so idle without feeling a slight bit of guilt (if the "one" is me, anyway), so I decided I had to get some good reading in before school starts and I have to read what THEY tell me to read.

I decided to start with Camus' "The Stranger," which had shamefully sat unnoticed on my bookshelf for who knows how long. You know how you grow up your whole life hearing about books and movies that are supposed to be the Be All End All of books or movies....and then you finally get the chance to watch, say "Gone with the Wind" and you're all, "Wha?" "What the hell is so great about THIS movie, book, etc.?!" You know what that's like?

Well, "The Stranger" is nothing like that.

This is a book that has earned its place on the imaginery list of must-read books that might not necessarily be in THE CANON, per se, but everyone knows that you're supposed to have read them (The Canon, what a bunch of phony-balonieness that is, by the way). For any of you who haven't read it, this book is said to epitomize existential philosophy and all that jazz. I would normally be opposed to a work of fiction that attempts to present such a huge philosophical or spiritual idea ("The Celestine Prophecy" drove me nuts for that reason!) because if it's something as important as a philosophy about life, I'd prefer for authors to just come out and say what they mean, you dig? But this is the exception, and I'm not sure why, maybe just because it's so well-written.

Check this out: (the speaker is getting used to his new life of incarceration after having committed a murder) "Afterwards my only thoughts were those of a prisoner. I waited for the daily walk, which I took in the courtyard, or for a visit from my lawyer. The rest of the time I managed pretty well. At the time, I often thought that if I had had to live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowering overhead, little by little I would have gotten used to it. I would have waited for birds to fly by or clouds to mingle, just as here I waited to see my lawyer's ties [the lawyer wears ugly neckties] and just as, in another world, I used to wait patiently until Saturday to hold Marie's body in my arms."

I love that passage. Anyway, what's interesting about the story is that the plight of poor Meursault (the story's main character) is presented in such a way that you can hardly blame him for his actions (for which he is ultimately sentenced to death), and you find yourself thinking like an existentialist (sympathizer, at the very least). In reading, I could see how society was constantly trying to impose a morality on the character based on the (unproven) idea that there is a god and that life holds some kind of deep meaning (if only in-reference to an afterlife). It's interesting, really. Meursault was only being honest, and yet nobody would believe that he put his mother in a nursing home or was able to kick up an affair with a woman the day after his mother's death, simply because he felt they no longer had anything to say to each other (he and his mother) and that he was ready to move on in his life. Only evil people behave with such utter absence of humanity, so they said.

I would like to think that I would have given young Meursault the benefit of the doubt, if I had known him in real life. But I knew a man just like that once, only he was named George, and really, I just thought George was an asshole. I would like to have the chance to know George now, though, because I would like to think that I could let him live his life and think in his way and not internalize everthing (which is usually what the problem is - internalizing - when people can't just let others live and have their opinions without taking issue with everything). And not that I advocate rampant murder or anything, but there are degrees of personal freedom, free of judgement, that I think humans should be entitled to.

Yeah, so, reading. That's been good. I've since nuzzled up with Kerouac's "Big Sur" for the second time around...if only for the pure pleasure of reading frenzied words put together in the strangest and yet most satisfying of ways.

One more week until school starts...I'm trying to soak it all in and slowly savor it...lick, instead of bite my way to the center of the Tootsie Roll Pop.

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