Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Buried Life

In case I haven’t told you about it, the show “The Buried Life” is one of my new favorites. It’s a documentary made by some Canadian 20-somethings who decided to step away from the emptiness of modern life and set about accomplishing their real goals in life. Stuff like #18: tell a joke on late night TV, or #41: make a toast at a stranger’s wedding were on their list of 100 goals to do before they died. Originally they posted their mini-episodes on youtube, and gained quite a following until MTV bought up their show and started producing full episodes to be aired on TV. The show is inspiring, especially since after the boys accomplish one of their own goals, they help someone they’ve met along the way accomplish one of their dreams.

But what exactly is the “Buried Life?” I was wondering where they had come up with that title myself and decided to do a little research. I discovered that it comes from one of Matthew Arnold’s lesser known poems of the same title, written back in 1852. I read through the poem and it has become one of my favorite pieces of literature, right up there with Tennyson’s Ulysses and Eliot’s Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. Here are a few excerpts from the poem:

Matthew Arnold in all his handsome glory

Lines 12-23:
Alas! is even love too weak
To unlock the heart, and let it speak?
Are even lovers powerless to reveal
To one another what indeed they feel?
I knew the mass of men conceal'd
Their thoughts, for fear that if reveal'd
They would by other men be met
With blank indifference, or with blame reproved;
I knew they lived and moved
Trick'd in disguises, alien to the rest
Of men, and alien to themselves--and yet
The same heart beats in every human breast!

Lines 45-63:
But often, in the world's most crowded streets,
But often, in the din of strife,
There rises an unspeakable desire
After the knowledge of our buried life;
A thirst to spend our fire and restless force
In tracking out our true, original course;
A longing to inquire
Into the mystery of this heart which beats
So wild, so deep in us--to know
Whence our lives come and where they go.
And many a man in his own breast then delves,
But deep enough, alas! none ever mines.
And we have been on many thousand lines,
And we have shown, on each, spirit and power;
But hardly have we, for one little hour,
Been on our own line, have we been ourselves--
Hardly had skill to utter one of all
The nameless feelings that course through our breast,
But they course on for ever unexpress'd.

Lines 77-90:
Only--but this is rare--
When a beloved hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved voice caress'd--
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again.
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

Amen Mr. Arnold, Amen. You’ve really got a great insight into human nature here. Who doesn’t conceal their inner most thoughts and feeling for fear of being hurt? I know I do. We all have on our facades, our faces that we put on. Eliot wrote about this in Prufrock as well: “There will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet.” It simply is a natural emotional self defense mechanism we have in place in our relationships. We are so reluctant to trust anyone enough to allow them to see into us, to know how we really feel and what we really think. And yet, by keeping ourselves safely tucked away, we hinder ourselves from finding a fullness of beauty in life. That life, that beautiful life remains buried until we can trust ourselves to someone else. That is when we find the “lost pulse of feeling” and life becomes full, complete; perfect.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tacos, Trapezes, and a Little White Magic

Saturday was quite an eventful day. About three months ago, in my efforts to discover new things to do and see, I discovered that a traveling version of Cirque du Soleil would be coming to Salt Lake City on the weekend of the 22nd of May. My roommates and I rushed out to buy tickets, deciding that this would be our cultural event of the spring, full of high flying flips and swinging trapezes.

And so, finally after months of anticipation, the day of the circus rolled around. To my added good fortune, I was accompanied by the lovely and exquisite Aubrey Potter. (Sidenote, when I invited her to come with me she didn’t know if I was joking or not. For the record, I NEVER joke about such things. In fact, I hardly ever joke.) We decided that we would go get lunch before the matinee show, but rather than going to any standard restaurant, we decided to do as the local Provoites do and go to the farmers market. For those of you who don’t know, the title “farmers market” is a bit of a misnomer. I don’t think there were really any farmers there. The closest thing was probably the lady selling potted plants. I almost bought one of the tomato plants, but decided to wait on it. Maybe next Saturday. Anyways, instead of farmers there are artists, craftsmen, bakers, popcorn dealers, goats-milk soap peddlers, barbecuers, and taco makers. There was even a live band called “White Magic: a traveling country band.”

After going around and looking at all the different stands and eating some banana flavored popcorn (which was delicious, by the way. It tasted like runts candies.) we decided to try the tacos from the taco cart, they having been recommended previously. When we got to the ordering window, the sign advertised something called the “super burrito.” I wanted that. But unfortunately they were sold out of the giant tortillas that are used in the construction of the super burrito. In fact all they had were mini tortillas, so I had to settle for four tacos. (The tacos were really good, very tender meat. It must have to do with being cooked in the back of an unhitched trailer.) We took our tacos over to where the band was playing and enjoyed our food as White Magic serenaded us. Now, when I say band, I use the term rather loosely. In fact, it was a really cute old couple, probably in their 60’s, the husband playing the guitar and singing while the wife did percussions (bongos and tambourine mostly) and sang back-ups on a few songs. She did take lead vocals for what was Aubrey’s favorite song: “I’m not messing around unless you want to marry me.” It was a classic ditty about a girl “making eyes” with a boy in a band. Unfortunately we cannot remember how the tune goes, so we have to sing the few lines we know to whatever notes pop into our heads.

With our ears now tickled by the sounds of White Magic, we got back in the car and headed up to salt lake to see the circus. The show itself is called “Alegria.” Alegria is a Spanish word meaning ‘jubilation’ and the show is described as “a baroque ode to the energy, grace and power of youth.” It sure did take me back to my youthful days of being a contortionist, juggling fire, and doing flips on a 2x4. Seriously, I did not have the same kind of youth that these people did, and frankly I’m a bit jealous of their experience. Watch the trailer here for some insights into what we saw.

My favorite was the board flips, followed by the swinging trapeze where the guys threw each other around in the air. It was ridiculous. There were also these two clowns that would come on in between acts, but their funny to boring ratio wasn’t that high. However, the lady sitting behind us thought they were hilarious, so I would always end up laughing because the lady behind me was laughing so hard. Also funny was watching Aubrey anytime someone did something dangerous on stage. Each time, she would make the sound of a chipmunk gasping for air and by the end of the show, her palms were sweaty from worrying about the performers' safety.

I will now finish this post with a joke I thought of. I was recently told that Cirque du Soleil is a Canadian company, so wouldn’t it make more sense if they called it Cirque du Soul-eh? HA! I do crack myself up.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pour Us Some Road and We’ll Drink and Drive

The title for this post comes from a song by Jimmy Eat World, a band who has released several classic tracks, a few of my favorites include Kill, Praise Chorus, and Chase This Light. The song from which the blog title comes is called “Night Drive.” It is a soft track that builds up the intensity as it discusses hooking up in the back of a car. That has really absolutely nothing to do with this post (we have all been very well behaved), except for the word drive, because drive we did, and drive we did well.

In looking at the BYU academic schedule it became apparent that we would have a limited window of opportunity to do some traveling over the weekend between winter and spring. We knew we had to take advantage of this time, as BYU is quite stingy with our time. A quote came to mind “Go west young man, go west.” But what could that mean we wondered. Luckily we have a friend named Ie Ling West who was heading home for that weekend. Naturally we had to go with her, west to California.

The trip got under way on a Thursday afternoon. That morning I had raced my sister out to the airport and on the way back to provo, I made a crucial Costco run, picking up essentials like a 6 pound bag of pretzels and a carton of red vines to keep us satiated on the trip west. After speeding home to try to make the target departure time, Kendrick, Laurie, and I waited for Kara, and remarkably only one hour behind schedule we took off. The waiting only built up the anticipation and as you can see, we were excited to go.

And so we were off, taking with us the motto of a generation before us: “California or Bust!” No, I’m not talking about the hippies, they were mere copycats of their predecessors. We were just like those men of 1849, risking it all for the sunshine and coastline of California.

The drive was rather uneventful. I read a collection of travel stories, and learned a lot about chocolate. Fun fact for you, the scientific name for chocolate means food of the gods. Also, true chocolate connoisseurs won’t touch a bar with less than 70 percent cocoa. Anything less than that is not “real chocolate.” Take that all you decriers of dark chocolate. Also the reason American chocolate is not as good as European is that Mr. Hershey couldn’t figure the proper way to boil milk without it curdling. This was a very educational trip for me.

Anyways after consuming an inordinate amount of redvines and pretzels, we made it to St. George, the first stop of our trip. This just a brief intermission, a quick trip to the temple grounds, and no, not for a marriage: we were picking up team member number 5. Kylie had come down to St. George the night before and we were picking her up for the second leg of the trip to California.

We carried on, Kendrick bravely at the helm guiding us further south and further west, keeping a mostly south-west direction until we reached Sin City. We stopped in Las Vegas for dinner and for a little walk about as we waited for Ie Ling, with her brother Jonathan and his friend Jonathan (for our intents and purposes he will be referred to as J2) in tow. On this walk about I had another educational experience. I learned that magic is real. Not the crazy magic like harry potter, like casting spells at people and stuff, but like gravity defying, making things hover and stuff like that. I saw it with my own eyes in the Venetian hotel. Just this dude working at a magic shop making random things hover. This was beyond slight of hand, or as GOB would say “Illusions Michael, Illusions!” There is no explanation possible for what I saw. If you ask me about it I will at it out (sans magic) and see if you can explain what I saw.

Anyways, this stop was rather rejuvenating after the long car ride (which was only half over at this point). Our stop at Brookstone certainly helped with that. Kendrick got his face massaged to gear him up for further captaining duties. We met up with Ie Ling and continued west.

We arrived late at the West’s home and Kendrick, J2 and I were shown the guest house where would be staying for the next few nights. The guest house is a cozy recreational vehicle the West’s keep parked in their driveway complete with 3 beds. We probably could have doubled them all up and got the whole gang out there, but as I said before, we were on our best behavior.

The next day had a very tight agenda. Knott’s Berry Farm was on the menu for us. Southern California is packed with amusements parks, but we went with Knott’s because it offers the cheapest tickets, and as we would soon learn, the Ghostrider.

The Ghostrider is an old style wooden roller coaster that will make think you are about to day. Supported only by a wooden lattice, the ride reaches speeds I calculated to be nearing terminal velocity. All the while it bounces and shakes. We rode on it 4 or 5 times, and each time when we looked at the in-ride picture, we all had faces of sheer terror. These were not manufactured or artificial expression at all either, just pure, unadulterated panic and fear. It was really fun.

We paused halfway through the day to eat. We had one guideline to follow, when in Rome do as the Romans do. We weren’t in Rome, but Hollywood does come close, and Hollywood people eat hot dogs, or so the sign at Pink’s hot dog stand told us. They even had a picture of Alec Baldwin eating there so you know it’s good. I ordered the monster dog, a footlong jalapeno sausage smothered in greasy chili and cheese then topped with onion and tomatoes. On the side I got the chili cheese fries and an order of grease. I felt sick after, especially with the funnel cake dessert. I wish I had a picture of Kendrick’s 3 Dog Night. It was a burrito filed with 3 hot dogs, 3 slices of bacon and cheese, and copious amounts of that greasy chili. He had grease dripping down his face, hands, and arms.

Back in the park, we went a few more rides. Kara picked on that spun you really fast. It was mostly painful and sickening. We did not go back for seconds, in fact Laurie wouldn’t even high-five Kendrick to celebrate the ride ending.

More her style, Laurie really enjoyed the Merry-Go-Round. She showed off what growing up in Oakley taught her.

While at Knott’s, Kara learned a lesson. As you can see by the picture, a giant monkey is pouncing on her. “You always must be on your guard,” she explained later. “You never know when you could be attacked.” She then proceeded to explain in detail how dental school has prepared her to face such moments of trial.

Kendrick also learned a valuable lesson at the park. Never trust your friends with your keys. They will leave you in prison and take your car.

Ever since we’ve known her, Laurie has talked up her basketball skills. So when we got back to the Wests’ home that evening we decided to play a little ball. Kendrick and I took it to her 2 on 1 then 2 on 2 then 2 on 3. This picture shows why we were able to win. I mean, she’s not even facing the basket!

The next day was beach day. I woke up early and looked out the windshield of the guest house and saw grey skies. I was not very impressed. I went inside and watch some sports with John West, and he assured me that it would burn off before we got to the ocean front. I don’t know if he’s studied weather patterns or not, but he’s good. Within a couple of hours the sky was blue and the sun was bright and we were ready to go. However, Jonathan’s meteorology skills do not translate to cartography. We got quite lost trying to find the beach. Luckily, J2 had thought ahead and brought along Avatar for our viewing pleasure. So while the car cruised up and down the 101, we were swept away in a colorful world of extremely tall smurfs saving a fictional planet from corporate America.

We finally found a beach appropriate for our needs in Laguna. It was a beautiful cove surrounded by rock cliffs. We knew it was a magical place because there were dolphins swimming out in the distance. I gave chase, but my swimming abilities failed me in comparison to the dolphins.

I went off and explored the rocks in the picture below with Kara. We found lots of tide pools filled with all sorts of creature from little fish to sea anemones to crabs. On the rocks out in the water we could sea sea lions and huge sea birds hanging out in the sunshine. Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera on the exploration so I do not have documentation of my discoveries.

Towards the end of beach day, it was voiced that bigger waves were desired for some boogie boarding. We decided to change locations and go back up to Newport beach. The waves were bigger, but the air cooler and windier without the cove’s protection. We took some time to do some beach poses, I had to show off my newest ebay purchase, my swim trunks. They’re polo brand, and were only 14 bucks. Pretty good deal I thought.

Towards the end of beach day, it was voiced that bigger waves were desired for some boogie boarding. We decided to change locations and go back up to Newport beach. The waves were bigger, but the air cooler and windier without the cove’s protection. We took some time to do some beach poses, I had to show off my newest ebay purchase, my swim trunks. They’re polo brand, and were only 14 bucks. Pretty good deal I thought.

We also had to build a pyramid. It’s just one of those unwritten rules that everyone follows. “If you have a group of people and are taking pictures, you must form a pyramid.” Not ones to fight against the flow of history, we complied and this is what we came up with, the glow of the setting sun glowing gently on our bodies. It took several attempts.

We stayed up that night playing games back at Ie Ling’s. Laughs were shared, memories made, and friendships formed and strengthened. The only thing missing was a fire and someone singing kumbaya, and we would’ve started one except for the fear that Ie Ling’s basement might be flammable.

Sunday was our last day there. We went to church in the morning after saying goodbye to Ie Ling’s parents. Now a plug for them. I don’t think I have met nicer or more hospitable people in my life. Our goal was to be neither seen nor heard during our stay so as to cause as little stress as possible, but they would have none of that. Instead they insisted on making breakfast and dinner for us, even making chicken salad sandwiches for us to take on the road back home. We truly felt like the kings and queens of south Pasadena.

On our way out of town, we had stop at the Rosebowl and see one of sport’s great land marks. We were expecting it to smell like roses, but as evidenced by the look on Kendrick’s, that was not the case.

And so, with our backs to the coast, we turned toward the rising sun, retracing our steps back to where this all began. This time, there would be no stopping to see sights or make discoveries, those places were to us just as memories from a very recent past, already seeming too far from us. In a day we’d be back at our desks, either fighting sleep in a lecture or the collapsing walls of an office, waiting for the next opportunity to break out from the routine of daily life and drink up some open road.