Monday, March 31, 2008


“You wouldn’t have had to do that,” Jennifer protested, short of breath, after I gave her a twirl around as we walked down the hill full of creaky trees, monkeying squirrels and the reverberations of a woodpecker bird up in the canopy of old growth in Inwood Hill Park – home to Byler marriage proposals and occasional natural refreshment. Jennifer was stuck in the twirly-whirl because she had her left hand in my right hand coat pocket where she was “warming it up.” I just had been telling her that I felt like I was losing my enchantment with nature and no longer felt like writing cliché-y sounding descriptions of the ecstasy of nature in the raw. I’ve moved on to understatement I said. Then when we were walking under the big straight trees I started thinking about what it will be like in Alaska two months from now in the teeming deciduous rain forest outside of Juneau. Maybe I’m not too far gone yet.

Also I’m really starting to enjoy New York again. Maybe its because of the new friends I’m making in our nascent “Organization for the advancement of Inner Eurasian Societies” – read OASIES + me = talking to people about Uyghurs. Another possibility is that I like the way the two middle-aged garbage collectors with mini afros straight out an advertisement for The Invisible Man whistled as they tossed bulging black bags into their giant green truck. I may have “caught an updraft” according to my friend Matthew who occasionally talks to me about nothing in particular for hours on the phone from Ohio. Maybe its just the return of bike-riding weather, or maybe it’s because I drank a bunch of coffee but right now I feel great.

A new café opened up across our gentrifying street last Monday and the omelets are good and the coffee strong. I can look out our window right now and see the Tibetan flags in our apartment fluttering pathetically. That's the only thing that makes me sad on this otherwise electric day.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Tonight I was reminded that I am my father’s son. I was making my usual rounds through the museum merrily turning off lights like an Al Gore adept when I realized that I’ve annoyed nearly all the cleaning people by obliviously turning off the lights in the galleries they are cleaning at some point or other. I was reminded of how irritated I used to get when Dad would turn off the light switch at the top of the basement steps plunging my notes into darkness as I struggled to finish a history paper I had started too late. I’m just like him. I get so much satisfaction turning off the lights and saving energy.

Then again the other night when I was watching Noam Chomsky’s favorite economist Michael Albert chew his fingernails on stage after he explained his anti-socialism, anti-capitalism, pro-working people plan for the world, I thought of all the times I was so embarrassed by the way my dad would sometimes would whip out his handkerchief and clean his nose (while he was waiting to speak) in front of whatever church he was giving meeting at. I don’t do the nose cleaning so much I think, (although Jennifer might disagree), but I do sometimes chew my nails when my mind wanders and sometimes this is in front of other people who probably wonder what kind of farm I was raised on.

Well that’s the kind of person you produce when you home-school them. Poorly socialized kids like all those environmentally-aware children in California who stay home and read books filled with words they could never pronounce out-loud until their eyes are tired and their flashlight batteries die. Those are the kids that build little fantasy worlds in their backyards and entertain themselves for hours with internalized narratives of adventure and imagination mostly having to do with Indians or anything related to Jack London (Did White Fang turned me into a Marxist?). They might even ride their bikes 10 miles every afternoon so they can play a modified game of baseball with their equally homeschooled friends or walk over to their Amish neighbors to help them shuck up some cornstalks -- that is if their mom hasn’t assigned them to kitchen duty or garden tilling.

I never did play organized football though, and I mispronounced the word “archive” until I was in college.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Not to be Sappy

If they were to publish a roster of the 100 Most Fortunate People in the World, I’m pretty sure you would find me near the top. Here is why (in no particular order):

1. I am married to a funny man who manages to pull a 4.13 GPA at Columbia University (he cooks too). Speak to his professors and they get downright gushy. He is not threatened by the fact that my body comes complete with a brain and thinks it capable of accomplishing feats including, but not limited to, doing the dishes. He married me even though he never really got a straight answer to why I don’t like pink.

2. If I wish to vote for Ralph Nader, I can just go right ahead and do so even if it would take more than audacity to hope. . . (this is not an official endorsement).

3. In spite of growing up far out of shouting range of the poverty line, I was able to get an Ivy League education (the previous statement was made possible by Access Group Loan Corp).

4. I am not repressed in any official way (religion, politics, gender, etc).

5. I have a sister who is widely regarded as a saint (but is still humble enough to likely leave me angry messages when she sees this). After living with her for many years I have nothing to say in her defense against this allegation.

6. I saw and heard Joanna Newsom perform Ys. It was two of the most magical hours of my life. It was as if she had set the soul of the universe to musical score and poetry and played it out lovingly on that harp of hers - crooning along bizarrely as needed.

7. I have been to China. If I had 10 vacations coming up (& unlimited cash) I would go to China on all of them.

8. I am, in my opinion, overpaid for doing a job that gives me the satisfaction of making someone’s life more pleasant in some small way.

9. Olive tapenade & a peasant loaf of bread are just a stone’s throw away.

If I were very hypothetically a celebrity, I would say that my kids keep me grounded. But there has been a real dearth of kids around here lately. Here’s what’s been filling in:

1. The mouse colony has taken up a hankering for apples (of all things!). Their follow-up all time favourite pastime is gnawing our books to shreds. Bylers set traps and the almighty Mouse laughs (his GPA possibly surpasses even Darren’s).

2. We have a pit bull outside our bedroom window who believes in freedom of “speech” at precisely the moment when Darren is trying to sleep.

3. Huntington’s disease exists. Working with a patient whose mind and body has been kidnapped by the disease confirmed my suspicion that it is the worst possible diagnosis that can exit a doctor’s lips. If diagnosed I would wander out into the wilderness and live on poisonous mushrooms.

4. We live far from family and friends.

5. 95% of my income goes straight to the moneylenders and tax collectors (if only they would take a lesson from a wee little man in a sycamore tree).

But, as you can see, the bad underwhelms the good leaving me fat and full and fortunate.