Wednesday, April 23, 2003

the wright brothers and i

I woke up ten mintues ago or so, startled, and realized that I have a plane leaving for New York in less than 24 hours, the place to which I will be moving, and I still have not packed one thing. The plan is to cram all I can fit into two bags, and to give the rest to Pelican Man. All this crap, this will force me to seperate myself from some of the unneccesary posssesions I have.

Last night was my last day working at the Best Western, and it was the perfect way to leave a job. Katia, the manager, ordered me a really yummy pizza, gave me advice for life, and a big hug. Departures always bring a heightened sense of importance to the present, to the future, and towards this object called life - and people say things sincerely to you, like Good luck with life -- what a fucking beautiful phrase, with life, good luck with life, the big thing and an earnest hope that everything will work out. Little tidbits of wisdom, the advice that people will a little more experience in life, give you at moments like these are to be cherished. And Katia's compact advice was, "Have fun, be smart, get smarter." Yes, yes, yes - thank you, I will.

And then later in the night, this guest, Ralph Mabry, who I had talked to a couple of days earlier about poetry. He saw me reading Wallace Stevens and he told me about his translations of these Mexican poets that he loved into Arabic, he made me write down the poets names so that I would check them out from the library the next time I was there. Well, last night, he came in and kicked my ass. Here is basically how it happened:

Ralph: So what would you do if you did get an English degree?
Charlie: I have no idea.
R: Well, would you teach, would you write, what would you want to do?
C: I'm not sure. I would love to write for a living, but there are just aren't that many opportunities out there for that.
R: Well, are you confident about your writing abilities?
C: Uh ... I mean, I am moderately confident about my writing abilities.

[And this is where he sighed a big sigh of annoyance with my wishy washyness, told me how if I was not confident, and did not go after what I wanted in life, if I had any doubts about it, nothing would happen. How I could not wait for the perfect opportunity to present itself, because it never was going to, that I had to make them. And then we pick back up into the dialogue I can remember:]

R: Do you think someone taught the Wright brothers how to fly? Do you think someone taught Albert Einstein how make the lightbulb? Do you think someone taught [some name I didn't know] how to send voice across the Atlantic? ... If you are twenty-one and you don't know what you want to do with your life, you might as well just dig yourself a hole and stay there. You have to have dreams...

These are the moments, the interactions with strangers that I long for, and it occured on my last day at work, two days before flying to a city for no real reason other than because, and this man appears to give me admonishing advice that is desperatly needed. Enough of the wishy-washiness, I am going to kick some NY ass. I talked with Ralph for about 15 minutes, him riffing on this similar theme, telling me stories from his own life, about being denied to Columbia medical school because they didn't have "facilities for Negroes," about him not caring, going someplace else, about his son kicking life's ass, about Islam, and more more more.

I am ready.

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