Tuesday, January 03, 2012

I drank sound soup today for lunch, meandering among the houses surrounding the place I work, grazing along Imperial Highway for whatever auditory hors d'ouvres might be left on the buffet table of city life. I've long neglected this table; often I commute to and from work as if I am commuting from one building to another, all the while fast-tracking past the life that is in between. It is a survival skill in a setting like this; I cannot imagine actually trying to remember each noise, each voice, each honk, whistle and scrape; I cannot fathom the multitude of faces I pass, the scenes I see played out along my path. And yet, I feel I have somehow denied the personality of place and time by tuning everything out all together.
So today I tucked in my mental napkin, and cut my way around the block, just listening for life. It is amazing how much we fast from, whether intentionally or not. Rustling leaves crowded the sidewalk, their hush swishing greeting my every step, like a crowd admonishing my own noise in case I awoke something I was not supposed to. Yet for all their whispers, leaf blowers blared by, like loud brazen beasts, groaning for attention, laying waste to the civilized piles gathered in the gutter.
I picked at a plate of sounds at a traffic stop, some slippery cell phone conversation, which I can't say I cared much for, and the throat clearing of car exhausts; a dog's bark peppered the whole affair, seeming like a spice that didn't go with the dish being served, and then I turned down a side street for an unexpected dessert...
There must have been chirps and squeaks, and the general noise of life in any city, even the small ones. But underneath it all, in that corner of my restaurant, the sweetness of nothing graced my palate, its ghostly, delectable taste lingering just a moment...then gone.
As my course sloped back toward my office, my ears tasted the air for it again, but much like that perfectly balanced dish, the quiet eluded me, one of those things you try to describe to friends, but simply cannot. As I entered my office building, my mind ultimately turned back to the roughage of the day. I suppose I will have to eat there again sometime.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year Shrouded in Fog

To begin with an expression: a bolder move perhaps

Than the years that have recently passed

There was a time when I greeted the new year

with a magic word I once heard in a book: shirak

In my mind's eye then, the year’s dawn lifted itself mightily

Above the horizon of possibility,

Lit by my hopes and certainties.

Now, as another brother of that season greets me

From beyond my perception, I eye him suspiciously;

Each anthem on television, each shout of exhilaration,

Each resolution, each restitution, each revolution,

Each new year’s solution…

The jade of poorly hatched past plans edges into my vision,

And yet…

Tonight, outside my window, fog crowds the street, blocking out buildings,

Billowing between me and future unsure

And somehow, that comforts me.

Anything can happen. I remember Basho:

Perhaps in the mirror tomorrow, I will see a new man.

-JS 1/1/12

Monday, March 30, 2009

Recently, it seems my soul and imagination have wanted to be elsewhere, and I've been trying to figure out where that is. I don't mean anything morbid by that. Just that nostalgic longing you get from time to time, and the feeling that if you could just go back to a certain place or time, things would click, even if you could only do it for a day. As far as I could calculate, the place and time I am longing for today is Sarit Centre, Westlands, Nairobi, roughly 1993, by the popcorn shop that probably isn't there any longer. It was one of the entrances to the mall, and it always signified escape for me, if only for a moment. Video City was straight ahead, but as it was an entrance, all around were options.
Today after lunch I sat at my desk looking at a satellite image of Westlands, and trying to remember exactly what the drive looked like when I would drive from our former home in Westlands to Rusinga School, my elementary school alma mater. I knew it wouldn't work, but I typed in a directions request on Google maps: From: 13800 Biola Ave, La Mirada, CA 90639, To: Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya.
Even Google couldn't tell me my way back to where I long to be.