Driving home from Stacey's apartment. The sky is pink and orange and I'm in workout clothes. My feet probably stink. I need to get gas and go to my regular spot like a fish that knows a good coral reef. Some men pull up in a truck behind me. Their car is about 40 years old and it sounds like its on its last legs.

They are smiling, and I can see their teeth flashing white in the growing shadows. Across the street some fat children are running around their parents, who are seated on a bench. They have the energy of the desperate--every moment counts before they are shuttered away under comforters with flowers and their favorite toys, before they are banned from all that is exciting and dangerous in the world.

The DJ on the radio isn't funny. He's trying though. Maybe someone, somewhere is laughing and thinks he's the best radio show host ever. I have to turn right before the traffic light changes , before the rest of the cars catch up with me and keep me from the curvy roads home.

I feel like I'm driving faster than I am, that my car has a momentum borne of emotion, when I'm really just tired. Maybe I'm teetring on the edge, just like those children. Except I welcome being shut in away from the creeping dark and blinding headlights.

All I can think about is a shower and my daily ritual will be complete. I'll have pedaled to nowhere for half an hour on level 5 so that I can come home and shower off the day, wipe clean the worry, the politics, the fatigue.

There is something sacred in the mundane. The children will remember only a blur of that moment, when I saw them so carefree. The men in the truck will keep driving; one of them will go home to family, another to live alone. They will forget the sunset.

And I shared just one, mundane moment with all of them, that I will hold on to for life.


You're not fully clean unless...

I was reading Dr. Sanjay Gupta's blog post memorializing Michael DeBakey, a surgeon Dr. Gupta called a "medical legend." One of the comments from a medical student says that Dr. DeBakey said in a Q&A session many years ago that his biggest regret was wasting too much time. How anyone considered a pioneer in their field can think they have wasted too much time speaks of either tremendous arrogance or almost saintly humility. In Dr. DeBakey's case, who credits his mother's sewing instructions as the key to his success as a surgeon, I'm willing to bet it was the latter.

In my career, I doubt I'll be saving any lives, but I am highly likely to be wasting quite a bit of time. There's the 10 minutes I waste every day listening to Ann Curry gush uncontrollably every morning while I wait for my local news and weather; the hour I spend tooling around on the Interwebs every evening, looking for nothing in particular; and the untold weekend days where I can't seem to get up before 11, then lay in bed for two hours reading trashy books, only to finally get washed, quaffed, dressed and ready to meet the world by 4pm.

Did I do the laundry? Nope..but I still have some clean undergarments so I guess it can wait until next week. Did I go through the mail? Nope, but the stack on the kitchen table hasn't fallen over yet, so it can wait another few days. Did I exercise? Nope. Woke up too late and then ate too late, and who wants to go to the gym on a Saturday night??

Of course, the amount of wasted time in my life is nothing compared to the useless junk taking up space in my brain. There is a scene in Jim Henson's iconic film Labyrinth where Sarah is dreaming about searching for her brother and finds herself in a junkyard. An old woman tries to distract Sarah by offering the girl all of her favorite toys from childhood. Eventually, Sarah remembers what she has come for and yells something to the effect of "I want my baby brother!" (Sorry guys, no youtube luck, though I tried).

This scene haunted me as a child, and even still gives me the heebie jeebies as an adult. In a way, I wonder if my mind isn't a big junkyard, filled more with advertising slogans than literary passages, juicy celebrity gossip instead of complex philosophical concepts.

For example, the other day, I noticed a frozen food lunch my boss was eating. It was Thai peanut chicken or something, in a "zesty" sauce. I thought to myself, "Zesty--that's a word for green things like, cilantro, pesto.... and Zest soap."

I actually spent a few minutes wondering why "zest" the name for the soap means something like enjoying or relishing an experience; but the simple addition of a "y" to the end of the word evokes images of Latin food. Certainly "zesty" wasn't the right world for things with peanuts in it, and although the mango flavored Zest was a tremendous failure, I still stand by my belief that it would have worked if they had kept the soap green.

All this, and I could have been contemplating a solution to our country's current economic difficulties, or learning a new word like "piquant."

Maybe, I simply don't have the mental stamina for such intense intellectual musings. Or perhaps I can blame it all on Corporate America.

DeBakey didn't grow up with television and failblog. He didn't grow up in a world where every waking moment was a bombardment of marketing strategies aimed at convincing you consciously or subliminally to become another lemming.

I can't help it if I grab the Sunny D from the fridge and think to myself, "It's not OJ or the purple stuff." The jingle just eeks out of me, perhaps like a maestro finds himself humming the Moonlight Sonata when driving at night.

What I'm really arguing is that the consumerist culture that pushes Prada and iPhones on my generation and American Girl Bistros and Guitar Hero on the one after me is making us dumber. Certainly, others have wondered the same thing.

So, my brain, which has infinitely less capacity than the late Dr. DeBakey's has no chance against all the catchy slogans and sitcom theme songs that have been engineered, focus-grouped, and triple-tested to stick in the deep nether regions of my consciousness--and the equation for finding the area of a circle and the definition of a gerund are not. And that urban legend that we use only 10 percent of our brains during the day? Untrue. So much for the possibility of finding an alien technology that could help me remember my shopping list.

And this blog? Has it been a waste of intellectual energy and time? You tell me.


Going Home

I've had a lot of time to think about what it is like to return home. It takes a while to prepare your mind to re-visit things. Returning to the places you grew up around and loved can be a disheartening lesson in the inevitable doom borne from the passage of time. Your parents are a bit grayer around the temples, slower to get off the couch. Your favorite deli is dirtier, there are more potholes en route to the bank or post office. And the teenagers at the movie theater are ten times trashier and more obnoxious than you ever were.

I begin to understand why my grandparents seemed so adverse to change. It wasn't that they disliked rap music or wasabi-flavored cream cheese--it was that they were afraid of these things. Our world moved too fast for them to keep up and it was a warning to them that they may wake up one day and find that in their home town, they are just as lost and obsolete as an 8-track tape in an Apple store.

Now, I'm just over the quarter-century mark so I shouldn't allow myself to get too morbid too soon. Maybe when I'm 30 it'll be more appropriate.

It is a bit ironic to think that the world's greatest masterpieces--the pyramids, the Sistene Chapel's ceiling, Big Mac special sauce--were not conceived in a day, but labored over through many changing seasons before they were complete.

But, today, we have so much information and entertainment at our fingertips that virtually all of it is less valued to the point it is entirely disposable.

And if communicating is so important to us that the cell phone we use must be replaced every year to two years, and our iPod is practically ancient for having only 1 GB, then why not houses, and restaurants, and local parks too? We don't need them anyway, we have whole worlds that are much cooler and less polluted online.

So, nobody throws a fuss when Jerry's Deli is suddenly gone for a giant Tar-Mart and turn of the 20th century houses are knocked over for a glassy, condo highrise.

And my home and all the memories with it, doesn't belong to me any more. It was thrown away with all the old dot matrix printers and beepers. Why don't you just put a stake in my heart and stuff my mouth with garlic?

After all, I'm practically undead with my rotary phone and antennaed tv. I'm actually getting the digital signal converter device becuase I don't want a flat screen tv. I have no desire to see that soap opera stars are just as broken out and bloated as I am. I don't need to see the world in high definition--it's ugly and Kelly Ripa's voice is frightening. I want my blurry signal that shifts when the wind blows...because I want an escape. I don't want to communicate with people constantly in the empty language of "LOL" and "OMG." I want a real conversation, that is spontaneous and meaningful. And if it gets too intense, I will read a book or listen to my AM/FM radio...or a CD. That's right...Enya's Shepherd Moons from 1991, bitch.

And just like that, I'm 75, and an old busy body who will shake her cane at you if you drive by my house too quickly.

It's true, you can never go home again, because you realise, you weren't really needed there in the first place. Things are moving along quite nicely without you. So, if you are young or young at heart, you will pick up the pace, figure out where that new road goes and try Kim's Deli down the street. After all, home is more what you make out of it, than what it ever was.