Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Night Quandary

I probably won’t sleep tonight. I’ve spent the last couple of months vacillating, researching, debating, and ultimately remaining unsatisfied. The reason for my discontent is mostly wondering whether or not Jim and Pam will stay together…and partly because of the election. Some of you may know that I have respected, followed, and supported McCain for the last 8 years. You may also know that the last couple of months have seen a gradual disillusionment with McCain, and that I’ve been considering voting for Obama. Now, after 5 months of spending hours a day researching and thinking, it’s 11 hours before I plan on entering the voting booth, and I still don’t know which button I’m going to push.

My respect for McCain was predicated partly on the campaign that he ran in 2000. Everything that he said and did made it clear that he had a big picture of what was best for the country and what was best according to his principles – the far right reaches of the base be damned. It was ultimately that refusal to pander to the far right that helped lose him the nomination. Even when faced with one of the nastiest smear campaigns in recent memories, McCain refused to play as dirty as would have been necessary to win the primary. His comportment during 2000, his insistence on maintaining his moderate politics, and his repudiation of partisan politics won him an army of admirers that was waiting for him in 2008. I was one of them. I knew that if he ran again with the same honor and dignity that I thought were his hallmarks, that he could garner the bipartisan support that has been lacking for the last 6 and a half years and ride that to the presidency.

Since the general election started, my support for McCain wavered, then diminished, and finally eroded completely. I watched a man who had repudiated smear campaigning hire legions of Karl Rove’s minions and set them to work. I watched someone who worked for immigration reform and voted against tax cuts try to convince us that he was staunchly conservative. I watched a disastrous attempt to appeal to the base disguised as a VP pick. I cringed over his attempts to convince us that, by dint of some trade delegations, her proximity to Russia, and experience as a mayor of a city of 10,000, she was qualified to potentially run the country. I was confused by his comments that William Ayers didn’t matter and his assertions that we needed to know the full extent of the relationship. My support for him was chipped away by 1,000 little things that might not have mattered on their own, but when taken in the aggregate, revealed a man who had sacrificed his principles on the altar of political expediency.

Do I think that’s actually who John McCain is? No. I’ve watched him as he plays the game that he once vilified, and I can see the turmoil in his face and hear it in his voice. He knows that he’s better than the candidate that he’s pretending to be. His supporters will say that he is doing what needs to be done in order to get into office and make the changes he knows need to be made. Regardless of my desire to believe them, I can’t base my vote on an “ends justify the means” mentality.

My disappointment with McCain spurred me to vote for Obama. At first, my vote for Obama was a vote against McCain and not an indicator of any support for Obama. As the months passed and I thought about the meaning of this election, my vote for Obama gradually crystallized into actual, albeit qualified, support for him. I think the role of the next president will be to restore national self-confidence, international prestige, and to provide a steady hand and an open mind to replace the iron grip and constricted worldview that have characterized the executive branch for the last 6 and a half years.

When I see my president, I want to think about something other than torture memos, Guantanamo, illegal wiretapping, and secret renditions. I think that Obama has the temperament and the ability to raise our national spirits and help us move past the abuses that are an integral part of the Bush administration’s legacy. To be frank, I don’t give a damn who Europe (and their ability to fund welfare states because their defenses budgets are so indescribably miniscule thanks to us), China (really, they’re at all qualified to talk about elections?), or Latin America (they’ll resent us no matter who we pick) want to be elected. This is my country and I will vote for the candidate who offers the best hope for me and those I care about. Furthermore, for all the denigration heaped upon us by the rest of the world, countries still fight for bilateral free-trade agreements with us, potential emigrants still flock to American embassies all over the world, and whole regions of the world depend on American military power for security. There is no replacement for America; the choice is between us and relative anarchy. That diatribe out of the way, it is indisputable that our reputation has been horribly tarnished. The moral high ground that we liked to think we had is not resting below sea level, and the phrase “leader of the free world” is wholly inaccurate. Obama’s willingness to make diplomacy a cornerstone of our foreign policy is derided as naïveté, but I find it inspiring. There is little doubt that Obama would go much further than McCain towards regaining the global goodwill that has been squandered by Bush.

So I decided to support Obama. I wanted a president who represented the best that American could offer, and he seemed to do that. I think that from day one, a President Obama would raise the level of our national discourse and would restore the pride that we ought to take in the personification of America’s ideals.

That can only take us so far though. I don’t agree with many of Obama’s policies, policies that will be in place long after the warm-fuzzies have faded. More importantly, I don’t believe that Obama has the substance to match his style. He seems to have based his candidacy on the nebulously defined “hope” and “change” catchphrases without ever fully elucidating to us (or himself) what exactly he means. I don’t believe the “experience” argument – nothing can ever prepare you for the job of president – but I think that Obama’s refusal\inability to delineate his steps for “change” bode ill for our country under his leadership. I have purposefully avoided discussing specific policies, as my turmoil stems from the ineffable concept of “character” that I consider such a vital component of an individual’s ability to lead. This is not a logical and methodically laid-out explanation of my indecision, but is instead an attempt to express the conflict that has characterized my feelings towards this election. So, tomorrow I will enter the voting booth and be forced to make a decision. Whatever button I push will be pressed with trepidation and misgivings; and as I leave the booth I will feel a sense of relief that it is over and a fear that I made the wrong decision.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Who is Dennis Haster's secret lover? Did you throw up just imagining that?

Everyone has deal-breakers. I could meet a Nobel Prize-winning, Sports Illustrated centerfold who insisted that our first date be at an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet after a long day of wakeboarding while talking American foreign policy - and I would take her home at the first sight of an US Weekly or Star Magazine on her kitchen table. Most people lead fairly mundane, humdrum lives and they need some sort of stimulation. I recognize that. However, instead of taking up new hobbies, getting to know their families better or taking up a cause, some people choose to get enmeshed in every detail of celebrities' lives. Housewives from Des Moines whose weekends consist of crocheting enough doilies to cover their obese husband's new recliner talk about "Brad" and "Brittany" like they're on a first-name basis with movie stars worth $500 million. Office workers whose daily interaction with their families consists of some mumbled words over KFC in front of the television are familiar with the minutiae of B-list actors' relationships. I could go on for pages, but I actually do have a point.

I always considered myself interested in politics and so I was a little confused to discover that I don't really enjoy talking politics with many of the people out here. After thinking it over I realized that there is a difference between politics of the world (which I'm interested in) and the world of politics (what everyone is immersed in out here). Politics is fascinating - you can analyze and understand why countries act the way they do. You can predict the path of countries and regions within countries. Politics DC-style is different. "Talking politics" out here means talking about the latest controversial blog post, gossiping about what chief of staff switched jobs, and bragging about your input on an inter-office memo dictating faxing policy between the House and the Senate. Politics out here means losing yourself in the minute details of the process and not necessarily considering the results of said process. Out here it's popular to the point of passé to deride west-coasters for their fascination with Hollywood and celebrity magazines. The hypocrisy in that derision is that these people engage in the same sort of celebrity watching and gossiping - just with different idols.

DC is a very insular world and the people who inhabit it believe that everything they do is imbued with import and significance. They're like that clique of kids in your high school who talked a lot about the burdens of being at the top of the social chain. You know the type, they always talked about their parties and how everyone wanted to get invited. They sat by themselves at lunch and convinced themselves it was because their social circle was so exclusive that nobody else wanted to intrude. In actuality, their parties always featured the same fifteen people sitting on a couple of couches and faking having a good time while secretly wondering if everyone else was as bored as they were. After high school,most people went to college, got jobs, and became contributing members of society. These kids moved to DC, hooked up with other self-important wankers, and are now trying desperately to believe that anyone outside of Washington DC gives a rat's ass about what they do. I can't even get started on the political bloggers. Bloggers blog to other bloggers, who post comments on their blogs about the initial blog's topic, which makes the first blogger think that people care about his blog, which means he will blog more. It's like an incestuous community in the backwoods somewhere. They only communicate with each other, and instead of spreading genetic mutations and birth defects, they spread an inflated sense of self-worth and ability to sway opinions. (says Austin as he writes in his blog...the irony is not lost on me). I'm going to law school in five months. Is that really any less insular? Feel free to mock me for my hypocrisy and judgmental nature. Next post up soon. I'm making them smaller. Reluctant Fundamentalist next...pinkie promise.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Law school-bound!

Ten days after my last post I got a letter in the mail from the LSAC (the sadists who administer the LSAT). You may remember my last post and the fairly depressing tone in which it was written. Two days before I wrote that, the LSAC had written a letter to me consisting of three paragraphs. The first two were filled with phrases and words like "irregularity", "disqualification", "violation", "disembowelment", "banishment", etc. Finally, buried in the last paragraph was the phrase "not take further action". What did they do with this letter that would alleviate my fears, back me down from the edge of the bridge and convince me to drop the bottle of Southern Comfort? They sat on it!! I got it in the mail February 26. Were they busy popping little kids' balloons? Poking puppies with pins? Giving cupcakes to diabetics? I'll never know. I hope that whoever was responsible for this letter goes in for medical tests, waits three unnecessary weeks for the results, and then has to hear an explanation of all the things that might be happening to their body before finally hearing "ohh...but you're not actually sick". This will likely be the same hospital that treats the guy who invented the hard plastic casing that everything comes in nowadays and is openable only with a machete and a blowtorch. In my ideal world, this inventor has diabetes and can only obtain his much-needed insulin by attempting to tear open the packaging with his bare hands. As the title of this post suggests though, this is all a moot point anyway.

I came home from an incredibly depressing night of waiting tables Friday night humorous digression I work with a couple of very sweet (gullible) girls at the Melting Pot...which provides a never-ending stream of entertainment. Friday night I was teaching one of them to close and told her that part of her closing duties was to empty our water heater. I told her that corporate policy requires the use of a 1\2 liter container to empty all heaters and told her it shouldn't take more than 6 or 7 minutes. Our hot water comes directly from a water main and is impossible to empty, no matter how many times you fill your 1\2 liter cup. After 15 minutes of watching her run from the sink to the tap, my manager had compassion on her and told her why we were all laughing so hard. I'm just glad I didn't tell her she had to use her mouth to transport the water; she likely would have done it humorous digression over to find an email in my box from BYU telling me that I was accepted. This was at 2 in the morning and I was so excited that I went for a 6 mile run, cooked and ate a full dinner and practiced writing "Austin S. Baird, Esquire" in cursive on multiple sheets of paper. I'm still deciding if I'll have people refer to me as "Esquire" or "Barrister".

Why BYU? I've had several people ask me why I want to go to BYU for law school. I've been asked several times if I'm going back because Provo is comfortable, because I miss being around people I know, or if I'm scared of going somewhere else. These are valid questions, so I won't take offense at them. I admit, schools in Washington DC, Los Angeles and NYC have their appeal. You can't find a better place to learn international law than Georgetown or Columbia. I won't find a nicer place to live than 75 degree southern California. There are two things that BYU Law offered me over any of these other schools. First and foremost is their idea that the law is a calling and an opportunity for service. I had a chance to meet with BYU's dean and he didn't once mention the law as a career or a way to make money. You cynics can insist that I'll have changed my tune a year from now, but I'm still convinced that learning the law offers me a chance to directly influence the way that society is structured and a chance to provide a voice for the otherwise impotent. With that sort of outlook on a legal education, it was important for me to find a school that blended responsible use of the law with the learning of it. BYU seems like that place. Concomitant with that emphasis is the reason that BYU's tuition is so cheap and the second reason I'm studying there. The dean explained that BYU charges so little ($9000 a year vs $42000 at other top schools or $31000 at state schools) so that their grads can take whatever job suits them best and matches up with their ideals, as opposed to taking a job based on what would best pay off $200,000 in loans. Corporate law doesn't interest me. Making sure I can always get emails on my Blackberry and working 90 hours a week billing a giant corporation sounds like a newly-added circle to Dante's hell. By graduating virtually debt-free from BYU, I'll be free to take whatever job I want - or not take a job and end up going to culinary school.

That is all for now. Next post I will talk a little about a book called "The Reluctant Fundamentalist". Pick it up. Also, I'm conducting a search for a woman good enough to hold the title of "David Trichler's Girlfriend". If you would like to apply or have someone you can nominate, please send me a headshot and list of interests.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Debacle or Disaster?

A month later - whenever I give myself a deadline for a new blog post I ignore it. I'm realizing that posting on a blog is like building a shrine to Slobodan Milosevic or writing a love letter to Sam just has to come naturally. I left y'all with a cliffhanger last post - my job interviews. They didn't work out the way I hoped, but it wasn't all bad. One of the offices didn't hire me, but they sent me a letter explaining why and telling me how much they enjoyed interviewing with me. The second office told me they were interested, told me to think about it and get back to them, and then didn't return my phone calls for a week. Needless to say, that was also a rejection. The third office told me they really liked me, and that they needed to finish up interviews but that the position was likely mine. They were very straightforward and told me that 95% of the position would be answering phones and giving guided tours of the Capitol to Scout troops, nursing homes, etc. After thinking about it, I decided that my sanity was more important than my resume, thanked them for their time, and politely declined. The upside to the whole process was the fact that all three interviewers made the same point to me. They each asked me to consider the responsibilities of the job I would have, and told me that I seemed "overqualified", "a little too charismatic", and "like this position wouldn't challenge you enough". At the time, all I could think was "just give me the damned job", but after further reflection I imagine that I should be flattered by their remarks. Each interviewer told me that I seemed like a better match for campaign work, or for actually being a politician, and one told me that I should be in front of the political process instead of working in an office. I suppose I should consider the very real possibility that their comments were interviewers' euphemisms for "you're full of yourself, a little too loud, and I don't want to deal with you demanding more autonomy and responsibility", but for my ego's sake I prefer to take them at face value.

Winston Churchill said that as bad as fighting the Nazis was, waiting for his LSAT scores was even worse. It might have been Thoreau who said that...whatever. My point is that I was hoping that a sense of relief\accomplishment would accompany my completion of the LSAT, marred only slightly by the fact that I was in for a three week wait to get my scores back. My taking of the test, however, achieved debacle status - and that's not a status that I concede readily. The LSAT consists of 5 sections, four of which count towards your score, and a writing section. The sections that count towards your score are 2 logical reasoning sections, one reading comprehension section, and one analytical section (the infamous "games" section). The games section was the only section that I ever rushed to finish, and was the only section that I was worried about. I finished my first section with about fifteen minutes to spare and so went over the questions again and erased any stray marks. I was finishing up erasing, when I realized that my eraser had ink on it and had made a smudge on the test. I put the pencil down, picked up another one, and started erasing the smudge. Time was called, I dropped the pencil, and waited for the next section to start. When it did, I finished erasing the smudge and started on the section - which was the games section. The proctor of the test came over and informed me in a loud voice that I was being "written up for an irregularity" and that my test scores might be invalidated. Of course I wanted some clarification and I offered a muted protest at the fact that I obviously wasn't cheating, that I didn't know it wasn't allowed, etc. I then realized that the clock was ticking and that I was falling behind on the games section. I picked up my pencil and started trying to work on the games, but quickly found it impossible. For a good five minutes all I could do was stare blankly into space and think about my future spent waiting tables because I couldn't get into law school. When I finally started working, I was so flustered that I worked an entire problem set according to the wrong rules and had to redo it. I calmed down for the next sections, but I'm still convinced that I bombed the games section. I've spent the last two weeks in a funk and I'm sure that when I get my scores I'll be even more depressed thinking about what I could have gotten were it not for that incident. This is assuming that I even get my scores. I am yet to hear anything from the LSAC (the administrators of the test), which assuages my worries somewhat, but not entirely. The worst part of it was that after the test I had to go up to the women proctoring the exam and apologize for the inconvenience I had caused them and stress that the entire situation was unfortunate...blah blah blah. I realized that they have input on what goes into the report and so I had to stifle my urge to tell them how much this test meant to me and how they may have ruined my chances to get into any of the schools because of their insistence on following some bureaucratic BS rules and writing me up for something I didn't know was an issue. It was good practice for my diplomatic skills, but didn't provide the catharsis that I wanted. So here it is on my blog...I feel marginally better. There are more positive developments in my life, as well as a fairly important decision, a gay, homeless pimp sighting, and video of a bunch of non-English speaking Asians picking up trash in front of the abandoned crack houses on my block. I also have a book that all of you need to read. I think that the pessimism of the first part of my post would jaundice anything else I posted. I promise though that the pessimism won't last for long. I'll get another post up much quicker than the last one. And for my readers in Utah - see you in 2 weeks!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Boy George and Be-Ribboned Pugs

I've gotten at least a dozen acerbic e-mails and texts, excoriating me for my inattention to my blog. Here it is, my first post in a month. My first topic is the one I would like some feedback on.

For Christmas this year I decided to eschew the typical gift-giving routine and try something new. This was prompted by a hatred of shopping malls, an inability to find a book or a scarf that conveys "thanks for birthing me and putting up with me for 26 years", and the realization that there is very little I can get my Dad, a successful attorney, that he wouldn't have bought if he really wanted it. Therefore, I decided to buy Christmas presents for a single mom in my area who had two small girls and who had just been cleaned out by a divorce. Just asking her what I could get her and her girls was humbling. The "must-have" gifts for this season are iphones, HDTVs, and Chia Pets. She asked me to get her rice, milk, and diapers. As a side note, that was the most awkward phone conversation I've experienced. I spent fifteen minutes paralyzed with my finger on the TALK button, trying to come up with a good way to say "I really want to get Christmas for you and your girls" without saying "I'm an upper middle class white kid who's faking the funk living in the ghetto in D.C. and I want to feel good about myself by buying Christmas for you just so I can blog about it to get girls". I think I did a good job, but I did stutter a lot and revert to my notes once. (Yes, I wrote out a little script. Whatever.) I thought the hard part was over once I finished the phone call, but my travails were just beginning. Once I got to the store, I realized that I cannot differentiate between kids aged 3 to 8. I don't know if 3 year olds can walk, if 8 year olds are potty trained, or if 6 year olds should be allowed to play with flammable materials. This inability forced me to call a couple of people with younger siblings (thanks girls, you saved me at least an hour) and ask what type of toys I should get. The truly awkward part was just beginning, however. I was terrified of getting the wrong toys for these girls, and so I did what anybody else without a clue and with a desire to look like a child molester would do - walk around the store and ask overprotective moms what size diaper their kid wore, what type of toys they played with, if they ever left them alone for long periods of time, if the kids knew not to take candy from strangers, etc. Luckily, the socioeconomic background of most of these women made them trust me based merely on the fact that I wasn't carrying a gun. Many hours later (don't get me started on wrapping, it took me two hours and two whole rolls of wrapping paper. I finally ended up just wrapping tape around the whole damned thing.) I had the presents bought, wrapped, and delivered. As I rolled out of the apartment, however, hoping to feel a sense of satisfaction for what I considered a good idea, I felt nothing more than regret that I hadn't been able to get more for this family that had so little, and contempt for myself, for spending money on some new clothes for work that I could have spent on more diapers or milk. This is a dichotomy with which I struggle frequently. Anytime that I volunteer my time or resources, I rarely come away with a sense of a job well-done. I instead feel guilty for not giving more when so many people need so much; a guilt which is compounded by the fear that I'm not fully appreciating and using the ways in which my life has been so blessed. Does anyone else feel this way? How best to alleviate giving more or by forcing myself to be happy with what I'm already doing?

Onto something more fun. My old roommate Spencer Hyde came out to see me in D.C., and we spent three days in NYC. Two memories really stand out. The first is the experience that Spence and I had at the Museum of Modern Art. If you aren't familiar with the MOMA, just imagine a chair made of popsicle sticks next to a painting of a cat with sunglasses. Now imagine an entire building of this "art". As an aside, it's amazing to me that our culture has evolved to such a point that people can survive who contribute nothing more to society than a giant canvas with a red stripe across it, and that these people have the temerity to call themselves artists. If they had lived 200 years ago they would have starved to death making statues out of cow manure while the rest of their community was busy planting crops and contributing to society. Anyway, they had a thermostat on the wall in one of their exhibits. It was just an ordinary wall thermostat that Spence and I stood in front of for a good 7 or 8 minutes, making inane chatter the entire time about the "organic flow" of the thermostat in the rest of the exhibit and whether or not it stayed consistent with man's search for meaning as contextualized in the....blah blah blah. Long story short, we had quite a crowd gather around the thermostat, several of whom were taking pictures of the "daring" piece of modern art. They are probably the same people who pay $400 for a bottle of wine because sommeliers tell them this was a good year on the east side of the vineyard in Sonoma Valley.

Our second memory wasn't in Manhattan, but in the Bronx. I think people forget that Manhattan comprises five different boroughs, that Manhattan is only one of them. Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn all have just as wide a variety of restaurants and attractions as Manhattan, albeit at half the price and zero of the touristy, kitsch factor. I was insistent that we go see the "real Little Italy", which is in the north end of the Bronx. This required an hour-long metro ride, after which we got out of the subway and started looking in vain for Arthur Avenue, which I had been assured was a fairly close walk from the subway. After having no luck finding it we started looking for a cab, and were met with derisive snorts when I asked where we could find one. I finally started hailing random cars until a black sedan with tinted windows and a Guinean driver named Muhammad stopped. We figured we might as well be driven to a remote location and killed as mugged on the street, so we hopped in the car for what ended up being a twenty minute cab ride. The food ended up being delicious and the waitstaff mocked me ceaselessly, which pleased my dining partners slightly annoyed with me for the epic scope of our dinner outing. The moral of my story is that you need to get out of the usual rut, and that you probably won't die while doing so.

I'm now back in D.C., and feel that a brief update is in order. I am interviewing at three different places on Capitol Hill this week. I have a first interview with Orrin Hatch's office, a second interview with the Senate Rules Committee (I decided to take my love of rules and following them as far as I can go), and another interview with a representative from Texas. I'm also taking the LSAT February 1 and I've decided to go to law school, probably this fall. I am, however, open to fire away. I'll keep y'all updated on how my interviews go, so check back later this week.

I wanted to close with my ipod-buying experience. I bought an ipod off of Craigslist, and had to go to Dupont Circle (you should be familiar with this as the neighborhood that I work in, and the gay district in D.C.) to pick it up. The door was opened by Chuck, the man I was buying the ipod from. Chuck was cradling a pug in one hand and sipping a glass of wine with the other. His pug had a bandana around its neck and a blue bow in its hair. Chuck's apartment was furnished with dark wood and lots and lots of nude male statues. A review of Hairspray was pulled up on his computer (a blue iBook) and he had a copy of D.C.'s gay community newspaper open on his table. He powered up his ipod to show me that it worked, and the first song that came on was Janet Jackson. He changed four songs and they were, in order: Wham, Aretha Franklin, Boy George, and Clay Aiken. I was starting to look around for the hidden cameras, because there was no way that any one person could embody every gay stereotype I have ever known, when the door opened and his partner came in. His partner was "Alejandro" (with an emphasis on the j - Alejjjjandro) and was cradling a Siamese cat in one hand. I shook his hand, gave them my money, and then tried to make it out of earshot before exploding in laughter. No, I'm not prejudiced at all. I just happen to be occasionally have the sense of humor of a 13 year old and the inability to control myself.

That's it for now. Check back later this week and I'll have posted updates on my interviews.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A 3 year old as Milosevic?

First things first. I have come to a decision on the next couple of years of my life. Law school it is. I received a treasure trove of good advice from y'all (and some questionable advice - bull semen collector? If that's the desired position, I don't even want to think what the entry-level position looks like), and most of it told me to be patient, keep trying to figure out what makes me happy, and to trust that it will all work out. That forced some serious introspection as to what I really see myself doing and what will really satisfy me. I don't know what I will end up doing with a law degree, but I do know that I love learning, enjoy school, am ambitious, enjoy analytical thinking, and will need something more than a political science degree to make it anywhere (damn the social science propaganda machine...when you start school they tell you to get a liberal arts degree, to learn to think, to get a "real" education...and when you graduate and ask for help finding a job, they tell you to talk to the business school that they have been deriding for the last 4 years. Oh well, at least I'm not a humanities major.). Furthermore, as an unanticipated ancillary benefit, going to law school will allow me to postpone finding a real job for another three years.

As far as the current state of things, I quit my day job. It happened for a variety of reasons, but the main three are as follows: I didn't see the sense in working 35-40 hours a week for free; I have enough to offer that someone, somewhere, should be shelling out major bucks to have me (perhaps a gigolo position is in order). I spent too much time sitting in front of a computer creating Word documents and entering data. I saw the sun 30 minutes a day and other people about as much. Most importantly, however, I realized that I'm not a starry-eyed idealist. My organization believed that by working as a coalition of countries under the aegis of the United Nations, we can end war and poverty, and make the world a more tolerant and kind place. What's more, they believe that such change can be effected by small groups of determined, idealistic people. I realized that I don't particularly ascribe to those beliefs. I don't think war will ever end. I think there will always be areas of the world that are more disadvantaged than others. I think that people will always highlight their differences so they can exploit them to justify violence. Every generation likes to think that theirs is more advanced, more refined, and more capable of harnessing the violence that has characterized man's existence. Our generation is no more immune to the temptations of hate and savagery than any other, however, we're just more aware of their effects and more self-conscious of our own roles. Lastly, I don't think that a small group of determined people can change the world. I think a small group of people with political power, money, or nuclear weapons can get something done, but I don't think that passion alone can carry the day. Or am I just being cynical?

So...long story short, I'm in the market for a day job. I've been trying to find something in Congress, with either a representative or a senator. Earlier this week I got exasperated at the fruitlessness of sending out resumes into the void that is online recruiting. So I put on my suit, did my hair, borrowed my roommate's briefcase, and went up to Capitol Hill. I went to the placement office and then walked around the building where the representatives have their offices, hoping for something to materialize. I remembered that adage that "fortune favors the bold", and decided to get myself a job. I walked into five different offices and asked to speak to the Chief of Staff, explaining to the receptionist that "of course I have an appointment, it's about your open position for a Legislative Assistant". I didn't really have a game plan. I didn't know if I was going to lie to the Chief of Staff and tell him\her that I had gotten an email about the interview, or if I was going to confess my ruse, throw myself on their mercy, and hope that my ingenuity and determination would get me a job and not get me thrown out of the building. I would like to be able to say that the heavens smiled on me and that the outing resulted in a job, an interview, or at least a fun story. Alas, I ended up sitting in each office for about 15 minutes until the receptionists notified me that the chiefs of staff were "busy with hearings". I tried flirting with one to see if it could get me a cell-phone number, but she was one of those unfortunate women who never got married because she always cheated on any prospective mates with her paramour (Dunkin' Donuts) and her some-time lover (fried foods) (calling people fat is acceptable if it's done circumspectly and semi-wittily...right?). Therefore she has filled her life with cats and soap operas and her desk with pictures from Anne Geddes (that photographer who takes pictures of babies dressed up as sunflowers, food, Slobodan Milosevic,etc.) in an attempt to compensate for the human affection that constantly eludes her. Long story short, she was resistant to my charms (perhaps I should have offered a 15 piece from KFC) and I obtained nothing from my outing. I'm optimistic though, I hope to be wearing a suit five days a week on Capitol Hill within the next three weeks. I know I promised vituperation of Europeans (even more necessary after an incident last night, but Melting Pot stories will come on the next post), but that also must wait. Lastly - my next post will explain more, but I am putting Spencer Hyde, a.k.a "Pepe" the author of the blog "Haberdashery" ( on notice. Consider yourself warned Spencer.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Slinging Vitriol

I want to start this post with a vilification of the state of Colorado. After spending a fantastic three days in Provo, I set out with Phil, Stephen, Carolyn, and Aubrey Quebe, and Brittany Patterson to drive home to Texas. Like anyone else who has ever sat foot in the state, I have a moral objection to New Mexico. Granted, certain parts of the state are gorgeous. Angel Fire, Santa Fe, the entire northwest part of the state, they're all breathtaking and I have no issue with them. My objection to the state has four main components.

First - the entire eastern part of the state. You know those dates where all of dinner is spent hoping that the waiter will stop by in order to provide some semblance of conversation? Where your date's most scintillating topic of conversation is her marriage prep class; a class where they obviously teach her that the only requirement for marriage is that she have a pair of X chromosomes and a complete inability to offer a response consisting of more than two syllables? Eastern New Mexico is the geographic equivalent of those dates. I have actually tried to fall asleep while driving there because death would be preferable to traveling past another truck stop\porn shop\"authentic Indian crafts" store.

Second - driving on the reservations. Granted, I've only driven through these on weekends, and weekday nights, and weekday mornings and afternoons too. I've never driven through on Arbor Day though, so it would be inaccurate to say that you will always encounter drunk drivers in 1978 Ford pickups on the road. Every time I've driven through, however, I have almost been hit by no fewer than 35 drunk drivers. There are many experiences for which I don't mind tempting death...driving through New Mexico ain't one of them.

Third - doe-eyed little kids who try to sell me cheap trinkets, packs of gum, and "authentic" arrowheads while I'm trying to ingest enough grease-filled food at aforementioned truck stops to anesthetize myself to the soporific effects of the New Mexican scenery outside of my window. I feel like I'm in a third world's humiliating. I half-expect a bunch of starry-eyed European idealist non-profit employees, flush with cash from not having to spend more than .000000001 percent of their GDP on military or defense spending (don't worry, we'll keep defending your borders so y'all can keep up your 15% unemployment rates and 35 hour workweeks) to show up to these New Mexican restaurants and attempt to airlift these little kids back out of the region.

Fourth - tribal casinos. They all have names like "The Proud Indian", "Running Bear Casino", and "The Mighty Chippewa" because these sound better than "Truckers Losing Their Money", "Grandmothers Gambling Away Their Social Security", or "Using Indian Tribes as a Front for Rich White Lawyers Whose Ancestors Probably Took the Land From These Tribes".

For the reasons outlines above, I avoid driving through New Mexico when traveling between Utah and Texas. It's a little bit longer driving through Colorado, but it's much prettier. Therefore, Tuesday morning before setting out on what should have been a 14 hour drive with six people in a Suburban, I checked the weather report to see forecasts of clear skies through Colorado. I must have checked the map for the western fifteenth of the state, because as soon as we passed Grand Junction our speed dropped to 25 miles an hour, visibility dropped to 15 yards, and those numbers maintained their positions for the next 7 hours (197 miles!!) to Denver. The only way we were able to navigate was by reflectors on the side of the road, and the only way we maintained our sanity was by playing old-school Contra on Phil's laptop (a special shout-out to the first one to contact me with the code for 99 lives in that game). Our trip from Provo to Denver ended up taking as much time as our return trip all the way from Amarillo to Provo. After reading this post thus far, I realize that I only want to vilify Colorado's mercurial weather patterns, but that I also want to heap calumny upon New Mexico (already done) and for the inaccurate forecast (suck it,

There. Now that I have fully exorcised the opprobrium from my system, let's get on with it. Thanksgiving was fantastic. It started out with a 9 hour layover in New Jersey. I was initially upset about the length of the stop, but after I realized how close Newark was to NYC, my layover turned into a chance to let Kent Breard III buy me the best BBQ I have eaten outside of Texas. Kent alone was worth the layover, but I decided to avail myself of my presence in Manhattan to buy some fairly homo-suspicious scarves and eat (in addition to the BBQ) two slices of pizza, two hot dogs, one glass of papaya juice, a falafel sandwich, chicken kabobs, an italian sausage, a chocolate cupcake, cup of hot chocolate, oatmeal raisin cookie, and a box of strawberries. This was in 4 hours. I don't care to discuss the matter.

Upon landing in Provo I was reminded why I felt so detached in D.C. Driving past the Modest is Hottest billboards (don't you think they would at least try to find attractive girls for those ads?) from Salt Lake to Provo, I realized that Utah felt like home in a way that I never really expected. That feeling was accentuated by the comfortable and familial air that accompanied everything I did that weekend. The dinners out were fun, Steak Night was an unqualified success (much thanks to Noelle, Jake, my roommates, Rilee, Scott, Heidi, Emily...everyone who helped out, brought stuff, or just came bringing meat). I realized that much of the turmoil I feel over my career choices is exacerbated by the desire I have to stay in Utah, be near the people I have grown to care about, and feel like I'm somewhere where people care about me. After further consideration, I realized that I can only stretch and challenge myself when I have stepped away from everything familiar. I grow too attached and become too accustomed to the people, things, and activities that I enjoy, and I forget about testing myself. By constantly maintaining a foot in my comfort zone, I deny myself the chance to meet and learn from the challenges concomitant with life outside that zone. This realization gave me a new perspective on my time here, as I realize that, regardless of what I do or accomplish, my life has been enriched by the sheer fact that I'm here...that I left.

Anyway, as always, I let this post swell to behemoth size. The next one will be more manageable...and much sooner. I will comment on the suggestions y'all gave me for my life plans and probably rain down more bile on Europe...albeit with scholarly assistance.