When the World Overwhelms…

Several years ago, one afternoon at work, I was reading an article on The Guardian about the Arab Spring and the violent reprisals various Arab governments launched, especially in Syria. The specificity of the memory — where I was, what it was about — is striking. What followed has stayed with me.

There was a video embedded in the article. Street fighting. I thought nothing of it. I clicked play.

The cameraman had positioned himself near a firefight. Burned out, shot up cars. Protesters under fire.

I watched a protester’s head explode. It was there. Then it wasn’t. My brain couldn’t quite process this. I jumped back in the video. There he was. His head was there. And then it wasn’t.

I watched it a third time. I was really struggling to understand what I saw.

I’m not naive or sheltered. I understand the realities of death. I’ve killed orcs with head shots in video games. Nothing in the video was surprising. Yet I had a difficult time wrapping my head around it. Maybe it was the darkness of it, the suddenness of it. I was profoundly shaken. I watched a man die in the most brutally definitive way possible.

Some of you know that I have an interest in Yemen’s civil war and the plight of Syrian refugees. But I have to be careful in how I track these stories, lest I emotionally torture myself. I want to do something. There are people hurting. There are children dying. There’s not a thing I can do. And Twitter is a terrible curse; a search on “Yemen” brings up distressing image after distressing image. I won’t even begin to describe some of the human-inflicted horrors on other human beings I’ve seen. I carry those with me. Sometimes just thinking of them leaves me shattered.

How can we hate other human beings so? I fear there’s no hope for us at all. That we’re nothing more than an accident of time and evolution. That we’re nothing more than a blight. We’re capable of so much. We’ve built amazing things. We’ve created works of art and literature and music that touch the heart. We’ve gone to Jupiter and Saturn and Pluto. We know there are billions of other worlds out there; we may not be the only intelligent life in the universe.

Yet we, as a species, insist on inflicting terrible harm on our own kind.

And that pains me.

When I’ve said that if I won the lottery I’d give the money to MSF and UNICEF and other relief charities, I’m not kidding. That is what I would really do. And then I would probably disappear into the desert in a misguided attempt to do something meaningful, something that matters.

So it was that yesterday Sesame Street posted a picture in response to Nice of Ernie hugging Mr. Snuffleupagus.

I cried. I sat at my desk and the tears streamed. There are times, times that are all too frequent now, when the world is too big and too painful for many of us to cope. Where there’s too much hurt, where we feel isolated and powerless and alone. Where it becomes overwhelming. In moments like that, we need reminders of our interconnectedness, of what we have in common. We need a reminder that we’re not alone, that what truly matters is the love we have for one another. Not just for our friends and families, but for strangers, too.

I needed to see Ernie and Snuffy yesterday. I needed them to help me through the pain and the shock I carried. I needed them to help me cry.

“Do not fear to weep,” Gandalf said, “for not all tears are evil.”

A Graveyard of Watermelons

Today I went for a walkabout. It’s a nice autumn day, it’s nice to get outside.

The walk just so happened to coincide with the Automattic Worldwide WP 5K, a virtual 5K for users of WordPress. It’s not really a race, and I certainly didn’t run.

So, I’ll say that my walk today was part of that, though it was closer to 7K than 5K. I went up to Dallastown (dropping off mail at the post office), then through town, over to Fruitlyn Road (stopping at a roadside fruit stand) which I took all the way over to Dallastown’s Walnut Street (stopping to explore a cemetery), and then back home. I left at 11 o’clock. I was back home at 12:45. I wasn’t in any rush.

What follows is a selection of photos I took along Fruitlyn Road.

Farm country. Cows are never far away.

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In summer, this was a verdant corn field.

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As was this.

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Here, we have a graveyard of shattered watermelons.

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The direction from whence I came.

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Apple trees.

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I thought this might have been an apiary, but it’s actually a mausoleum.

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It turns out there’s a cemetery there.

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It was an interesting cemetery. It appears to be new, like within the last fifteen years new. All of the markers are metallic and flush with the ground, probably to make mowing easier. I noticed that many of the markers have birth dates but not death dates. I also noticed that the names in this cemetery were quite different than the names in the cemeteries in Yoe and Dallastown.

And then there’s this curious structure.

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Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

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Ionic columns. A sundial in the center. It seemed, as I approached, quite… pagan.

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There was a patriotic temple of sorts further in. I did not explore that. Perhaps another time.

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Back on Fruitlyn Road.

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And, that was that!

On (Not) Going Hollywood

Around the age of nineteen or twenty, I had the idea that I might want to work in film. I had no talent as an actor, I had no desire to attend film school or take classes, and my attempts at writing scripts were laughable at best.

At the time, the Star Trek television series had an open submissions policy, and I thought I could do that. I bought a screenplay, a copy of Syd Fields’ Screenplay, saw how a screenplay should look, and hammered away at some truly terrible scripts. One had a runabout from Deep Space Nine find a planet of space vampires in the Gamma Quadrant. Then there was the wormhole accident that brought the Enterprise-H and an evil future Dax to the station in the 24th-century. Then Star Trek: Voyager started, and I gave that a try, too; the Borg, a shattered Dyson Sphere, and a guest star I intended as Richard Kiley was the result there.

The thing I learned from this experience was that writing scripts wasn’t for everyone. It certainly wasn’t for me, and when a friend and I decided a few years later we were going to create a sitcom one night when sitting around drinking, I realized in the sober light of morning that, no matter how good the idea was, we had no agent, we knew no one in Hollywood, it was unlikely that either of us would move to California, and so there was nothing to do with this sitcom idea. You want to work in television or movies? You have to be where the action is. You have to be there to take meetings and press the flesh. At twenty, going Hollywood sounds romantic. At twenty-five, reality sets in. That said, we did write a series bible, and I tackled the pilot script, just in case. But that was also four (or was it five?) moves ago, and I certainly no longer have the materials.

Maybe there’s another life where we made a different decision and headed cross country to pound on doors and try to sell Spew! (Contrary to the title, it wasn’t a gross-out humor sitcom. In the context of the series, the title makes sense.) What if we had?

Perhaps we’d be producing. Low-budget and indie fare. A period baseball movie here. A sensitive drama there.

Directing? Nah. I’d be clueless behind the camera. I have enough trouble with a regular camera.

And acting? No way.

Honestly, I can’t make myself believe that we’d have done that — chuck everything and head cross country in search of Hollywood dreams. Not my speed. :)


Topic taken from The Daily Post‘s “The Show Must Go On” prompt.

A Haunting Memory from Childhood

There is a memory from childhood that haunts me.

I was in bed last night, staring at the ceiling, and the memory came to me, demanding attention.

It may have been in elementary school, though junior high seems more likely. I can’t place it exactly in my mind. Seventh grade, perhaps? 1984? That seems not unreasonable.

It was a science class. The memory feels like a biology class. I don’t feel it was a health class.

We were watching a movie on an old reel-to-reel film projector. The film was about fire safety. Smoke detectors, escape routes, stop-drop-and-roll, all that jazz. The things everyone should know.

That’s not the part that haunts me.

Part of the film was about how dangerous and deadly fire could be. And it showed something rather graphic.

What I remember was a little boy. He had been caught in a fire — a house fire, perhaps? — and he had been burned badly. Very badly. Extremely badly. He had survived.

I won’t to go into details. The image is seared in my mind. That’s enough.

I can’t place the memory exactly, but the image on the screen still haunts me.

It looked like a school picture. It had that kind of backdrop.

He was wearing a long sleeved shirt and pants. Corduroys, maybe?

The detail that caught my attention the most was his belt.

It was a Charlie Brown belt. It was wide. It was blue. It was made of vinyl. It had pictures of Charlie Brown like comic panels all the way around.

I knew that belt. I knew that belt because I had owned that belt, when I was a year or two younger perhaps. Even if I’d outgrown it, I may have still owned it at that time.

He and I owned the same belt. And in my mind, that was a connection. He could have been me. I could have been him. I can’t imagine that particular style of belt was on sale for more than a year — styles come and go, after all — so I’ve always suspected that he and I were roughly the same age. I suspect that’s why the image seared itself into my mind, why it has haunted me for thirty years.

I wonder who he was; if the film gave his name, I’ve long since forgotten it. The image overwhelmed everything else.

I wonder what happened to him. He was severely deformed by the fire. He likely suffered lung damage. I imagine he lived a life in excruciating pain. Perhaps he didn’t live to see ten. If he lived to see twenty, would that have been a blessing or a curse?

I think about him. When I do, I don’t pity him. Instead, I feel overwhelming sympathy and sadness. I think about a childhood shattered and a life devastated.

I weep for a stranger.

On Momentousness

Oh, look at that.  A new year’s begun, I’ve barely noted it, and the first month is already half gone.

Hopefully the rest of the year won’t pass by in such a whirl. :)

This year will be momentous.  I can feel it, and I’m already making plans.

I intend to write more.  I’ve already sent one piece of writing on its way; it wasn’t until July that I could have said the same for 2012.  NaNo crashed, but the outline is solid.  I have other projects outlined as well.

I intend to live healthier.  This is a personal odometer year, and I plan to buy a bike and shed some pounds.

I intend to learn Gaelic.  I have learning materials, I have a dictionary and CDs and podcasts.  I intend to learn it — and learn it well enough to write something meaningful in the language.

I intend to relaunch my website.  Yes, my posting habits, which had been daily, have dwindled to weekly at best.  Partly, that is for technical reasons; my server, like an attic, is filled to the rafters.  The new site is ready to go, however.  And it’s going to be more than just a blog.  The blog will still be there — and I intend to return to daily posting — but I also see this as a repository of all things me.

I intend to do adventurous things.  It won’t take a wandering wizard and a conversation filled with “Good morning”s, either.

I intend to laugh and enjoy life.  The Pilgrims weren’t half as dour as I can be sometimes.

I intend to have fun.

These all sound like reasonable things.  A plan of action, even.

This year will be momentous.

On the Sunday Feeling

Today I felt unnerved, even apprehensive.  I couldn’t figure out why.  I posted on Twitter that I felt “lonely,” but that couldn’t be it, surely?

Then I realized that I hadn’t had a meaningful conversation with anyone in a day and a half.

See, I don’t handle solitude well. It’s a weird personality quirk of mine; I may be as INFP as it’s possible to be, but I still need to feel like I’m part of humanity.

Yes, I’d talked to my grandmother’s worthless cat.  Yes, I’d talked with people online via e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook.  But after Friday night’s pub outing, my only personal interaction with another human being was with the ticket clerk at the movie theater.  And even though I was surrounded by people at the theater, I didn’t interact with them.  One can be surrounded by people and still be alone, after all.

And yet, even after the realization that I’d had no meaningful human contact, I went and had even less. After putting out my laundry to dry, I went up the reservoir and hiked back to the dam, a long and lonely hike where it’s possible to not see another soul for long stretches.

I actually saw a semi-familiar face as I was in sight of the parking lot on my out. I’ve seen a few times a young woman with blond hair who wears a Celtics jersey. I’ve no idea who she is, just someone I’ve seen before. I passed her as she was just starting out. I nodded, she nodded back, and that was my personal interaction for the day.

At least it was, until a few hours later I decided to go to Fuddrucker’s for dinner. What can I say? I wanted a hamburger. I could have gone to Five Guys, but I like the atmosphere of Fuddrucker’s. I like the memorabilia with which the restaurant is decorated. A Fuddrucker’s hamburger isn’t as good as I remember, but it’s good enough, and the ambiance makes up for it.

The Fuddrucker’s outing brightened my mood, despite the presence of James Blunt’s “You’re Beautiful,” surely one of the world’s most depressing songs, on the restaurant muzak.

Then I went to Target and looked at coffee pots and furniture.

You’d be surprised, but looking at coffee pots and furniture in stores gives me a strange feeling of contentment, especially because I’m in the market for neither.

Now I think I can call it a day.

On the Week That Was

It’s been a week.

Every month when the catalogs go to press, it’s a rougher week than usual. There’s last minute writing (often late night alcohol-fueled writing), long days at the office, and needless stress.

This month, all of that was amped up to eleven. There were also spreadsheets to be entered into the CMS, press releases to wrangle, meetings, and eleventh-hour cock-ups.

Then, even though the Red Sea parted and my week became clear yesterday at roughly 2:30, the work I did after that in a database was lost entirely. None of it saved.

On top of that, I somehow rammed my head into the door bulkhead of my Beetle as I got in to go to work on Wednesday, so I have a bruised top-of-my-head that really really hurts. It’s a head pain, not a headache.

And my cubicle neighbor has, I suspect, infected me with the Plague.

Suffice it to say, it’s been a week.

When last we spoke on Sunday, I was toying with stylesheets to improve the readability of TrekBBS. I currently have this nice minty-green thing going…

A minty-fresh look for TrekBBS

It’s all done with a local stylesheet. As you can see I’ve removed the sidebar — it’s too wide for a 1024 monitor — though I’ve been experimenting with resizing it down with CSS to half its current width. Some things can’t be changed, like the black header at the top or some of the buttons (which are hard-coded graphics), but otherwise, it gives the site an easy-to-read look.

Of course, the CSS coding to achieve all that reignited my itch to code. I’ve been working on a new website design, and while I think it’s done, recently I’ve felt the itch to rework it for HTML5 and CSS3. (WordPress’ current default theme, Twenty-Eleven, is an HTML5/CSS3 design, since that’s the direction web design is heading.) I haven’t made the leap to scrap what I’ve done and start coding again, but I am starting to see in my head how certain things (particularly in the area of responsive design) would fit together.

However, even if I don’t do anything with that code, I did scratch a little bit of the tinkering itch by updating several WordPress plugins this morning, including one to black out the blog on the 18th in support of the SOPA blackout. I’m also experimenting with the updated LiveJournal crossposter; the last version conked out for me during LJ’s recent spate of DDoS attacks.

And since it’s going to be a cold weekend, I should get caught up on my comic book reading.

On 2011 In Review

January 1st. The start of a new year. A “turn the page” moment, a time when the slate is wiped clean and one can start fresh. That’s my feeling on every day, that the new day is a blank slate on which anything can be written, so it should be my feeling on the start of a new year, too. Except that it isn’t. New Years is, for some reason, just another day.

Many people make resolutions. They’ve taken stock of their lives, and decided that this and that will change. I don’t normally make resolutions, but here’s something I intend to do better in 2012 — tell the difference between good ideas that are productive and good ideas that waste time.

There’s a specific reason that’s come to mind, but it’s a trivial, insignificant thing, much like my mad inclination a few weeks ago to recode my website to work with Habari instead of WordPress. Yes, that’s an interesting idea, but it’s not practical or sensible. :)

Since this is the start of a new year, I’ll take stock of the year that was. A few years ago, a friend posted a list of questions on his LiveJournal, and I answered that at the time. Now I’ll use them again. :)

  1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
    Spend time in New Jersey. I’ve been through New Jersey, but I’ve never stopped there or spent any significant time there. In November, I attended PhilCon, a science fiction convention that happens to be held across the Delaware River from Philadelphia in the wilds of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
  2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
    I put it this way a few years ago: “As a child I never made New Year’s Resolutions.  I’m not planning on starting now.” I plan on putting more thought into my decision-making vis-a-vis ideas as mentioned above, but I’m not sure that falls under the category of “resolutions.”
  3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
    One of my coworkers, a graphics designer, gave birth to a son in November. Among close friends, no, there were no births in 2011, though there are some impending births in 2012 among my friends.
  4. Did anyone close to you die?
    My grandmother, in July.
  5. What countries did you visit?
    Sadly, I did not leave the country in 2011. This means I need to redouble my efforts!
  6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
    Money, maybe? I’m having a difficult time thinking of anything I lacked in 2011.
  7. What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
    There are many I can choose from. Seeing Elbow for a second time in September was pretty memorable.
  8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
    How to choose? I built a website for a friend — and it turned out really well, I think. I wrote two articles for Star Trek Magazine — and one of those (on Star Trek: Voyager‘s “Timeless”) is, in my admittedly biased opinion, one of the best pieces I wrote for the magazine. I also did some ghostwriting this year, and the article I ghosted three weeks ago was an awesome piece of writing.
  9. What was your biggest failure?
    I was about to write that “nothing comes to mind,” but I’m not sure that that’s true. A friendship went off the rails earlier this year, and I’m not really sure why. Then there’s someone else, someone that I don’t know very well, to be honest, that I feel like I’ve treated appallingly. My failures in 2011, then, were failures of the interpersonal nature.
  10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
    Thankfully, no.
  11. What was the best thing you bought?
    I bought a mobile phone in February. I don’t know that that’s the best thing I bought, but it’s become my Shadowfax, my companion through many adventures.
  12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
    In my life, personally? Ehh… I’ll get back to you on that. No, wait, no I won’t get back to you on that. I have no idea, really.
  13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
    The Republicans in Congress. Anarchists and nihilists, all of them. Teddy Roosevelt would punch every last one of them in the mouth.
  14. Where did most of your money go?
    My student loans. And since my car is now paid off, I’ve been overpaying on my student loans. Someday I’ll see the end of them…
  15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
    The Hobbit trailer. The Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes crossover (I literally cried tears of joy at the office). The One Day movie. Noel Gallagher’s solo album. The Elbow gig. Shamrock Fest (and I’ve already bought my ticket for 2012’s).
  16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
    “If I Had a Gun…,” by Noel Gallagher. I wrote a little about it here; it’s a haunting piece of work that I just can’t get out of my head.
  17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
          i. happier or sadder? Happier.
         ii. thinner or fatter? A little thinner.
        iii. richer or poorer? Richer.
  18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
    Reading. My leisure reading has fallen off the map. I’m still reading a lot — I really have to, if only for work purposes — but I feel like I’m not reading the things I want to read.
  19. What do you wish you’d done less of?Arguing with people on internet message boards. In the past few months, I’ve made use of the “ignore” feature at TrekBBS, for instance, just so I don’t have to be bothered. :)
  20. How will you be spending Christmas?
    I spent Christmas with my sister, her husband, their daughter, and my parents.
  21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
    I’m not really sure.
  22. How many one-night stands?
    That would be… Zero. I’m not a one-night stand kind of person.
  23. What was your favorite TV program?
    Downton Abbey. That was can’t-miss television for me, and I can’t wait for next Sunday when the second season begins on PBS’ Masterpiece.
  24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
    This time last year I was indifferent to Mitt Romney, but now I find him an appalling example of humanity.
  25. What was the best book you read?
    One Day, by David Nicholls.
  26. What was your greatest musical (re)discovery?
    In terms of discoveries? Aerials Up. A Scottish band with a unique sound. I wrote in January about them here, and I bought their first single a few months ago.
  27. What did you want and get?
    A Hibs scarf. I have no idea how to wear a scarf, but now I have one.
  28. What did you want and not get?
    I wanted the Cubs to win when I saw them at Nationals Park on the fourth of July, but no, Mike Quade had to send Carlos Marmol up to the mound with the game on the line… Suffice it to say, the Cubs did not win that day. Still, it was a good day. I spent it in DC and attended the Capitol Fourth concert on the lawn of the Capitol Building.
  29. What was your favorite film of this year?
    Probably Winnie-the-Pooh, which was pretty much exactly what I wanted it to be.
  30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
    It was a Friday, so I worked, and apparently I wrote a lot of copy that day. I also received a Charlie Brown “Keep Calm and Carry On” t-shirt, which was cool, though it didn’t make me feel that the “Keep Calm” meme hasn’t overstayed its welcome, which it so clearly has. And I turned thirty-eight.
  31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
    The Beer Diet. :)
  32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
    Functional.
  33. What kept you sane?
    Twitter. No, really. It’s such a great place to vent.
  34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
    Katie McGrath.
  35. What political issue stirred you the most?
    The nihilism of the Republicans, in general. They are wholly unwilling to govern, and they have an agenda that is so morally bankrupt that it verges upon evil.
  36. Who did you miss?
    Where to start…?
  37. Who was the best new person you met?
    We had some new people at work who were pretty fab.
  38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
    New Jersey was designed by traffic engineers who freebased acid.
  39. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
    “We got open arms for broken hearts
    Like yours my boy, come home again”
     — Elbow, “Open Arms”

And there you have it. My 2011 in review.

On Philosophies and Birthday Wishes

The son of a friend of mine had a birthday recently.

This is the (slightly edited) text of the e-mail I sent him.

As you are turning twelve, I wanted to give you two pieces of advice.

First, cherish the coming year and live every day as if it will never end. You are twelve, and twelve is the last year you have before the teenage years.

Second, never give up on LEGO. When I turned twelve, my mother decided, not unreasonably, that I no longer needed LEGO castles and spaceships and pirate ships. No, I was old enough for Technic models with gears and engines. Yes, they were okay. Yes, I enjoyed building them. But no, they just weren’t as much fun. I wanted castles and spaceships and pirate ships. When your mother asks you what kind of LEGO you want and you tell her Ninjago (to pull one example out of the air), don’t settle for Technic. Never give up on LEGO.

And third, listen to Roy Orbison. The man had a voice that still gives me shivers.

Yes, I realize that I said I had two pieces of advice. Orbison transcends advice.

Have a fantastic birthday, young master. Enjoy cake and ice cream and and chasing fireflies and time with your friends. It’s your magical day, and live it fully, as if it will never, ever end.

The last line, I like it.

That should be a philosophy.

Today is a magical day. Live it fully, as if it will never, ever end.

Peace.

On Reliving Moments from the Past

If you got to relive one day of your life, when would it be?

It’s tempting to pick a day when something really bad happened. Maybe it’s a date of an unfortunate accident, like getting lost in fog and running a car headfirst into a stone wall. Maybe it’s a day when a drunk driver runs a stop sign and slams into your car’s driver side door. Maybe it’s the day that a friendship ends in tears and tatters.

In other words, maybe it’s a day when things go wrong. Maybe it’s a day when you think that time and experience could change things. I’ve heard it said, after all, that time travel is a concept young children grasp very well when they make a wish to “make it not happen.”

The thing is, it’s the bad things that happen that make us who we are. It’s how we deal with the slings and arrows, to borrow a phrase, that helps us grow. We find our coping mechanisms. We develop emotional scar tissue. The bad things in life may not happen for a reason, but they don’t have to be bad over the long term. Life isn’t a sprint, after all.

Yes, I’ve been drinking. Why do you ask? Oh, is it the cod philosophy? I’ll try and tone that down, thanks.

My point, such as it is, is this — yes, there’s a natural emotional pull toward the desire to relive the bad days in our life, but if I had to pick a day to relive, I would pick one of the good days.

But which one? I don’t know that I can choose.

January 16, 1999 is an obvious choice. It was the second day of the debate tournament at George Mason University. There was a party at Jake Weiner’s apartment off-campus, which a friend of mine really wanted to attend. It was there that I met Jason Gronberg during, of all things, a conversation on circumcision.

Jason died in November 2008, six months to the day after his mother passed away. I wish I could say our last conversation, two days before he died, was profound, but it was nothing of the sort. We talked about Sophia Myles and eBay scams. There’s no connection between the two, by the way.

June 30, 1999. My first day of work with EB Games. I would say, with absolute certainty, that I met Chris Jackson and his girlfriend on that first day. (Chris died earlier this year.)

October 10, 1999. I met S.M., who is number three on the list of women Allyn most clicked with. We had a really intense six hours. Nothing ever came of it — we lived ten hours of hard driving apart — but, damn, was I smitten.

S.M. married. She’s S.B. now. She lived in Raleigh at the same time I lived there, though our paths (to my knowledge) never crossed. She has a daughter, she taught college English at one of the universities there. The Carbon Leaf song “Blue Ridge Laughing” is how I think of her.

September 30, 2001. Jason and I went to see the Orioles play the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. It was a bloody cold and miserable day in the Bronx. Rain started during the fifth inning, and it continued into the sixteenth when the game was finally called on account of rain. Well, that and the fact that Bernie Williams lost his grip on his rain-soaked bat, tossed it into the stands, and whacked a guy in the head. Yes, Jason and I stayed until the brutal, bloody, and utterly inconsequential end, even if the stadium was abandoned by all but maybe two thousand by that time.

June 15, 2004 and July 19, 2005 both come to mind. I met some of my former EB Games employees on those days. (Unlike the first four dates, I had to look these ones up.)

February 14, 2009. That date belongs on this list, too, for reasons I’ll keep to myself.

The thing about this list…

Yes, these are all days I would willingly relive, just to experience them all over again for the first time. They’re all good memories, happy memories, delerious memories. Moments of great significance and import. But none of them would be my first choice.

I can’t fix the date for the first choice, not precisely. Mid-February 1996 is the best I can do. I can’t tell you if it was in the middle of the week or on the weekend. I can’t tell you what I did that day, not entirely. I think I might possibly have bought Michael P. Kube-McDowell’s Star Wars novel Before the Crisis that day, which would fix the date in late-February, I think.

I can tell you where it was, the Barnes & Noble at Barracks Road in Charlottesville. I can tell you who was there. I know how our conversation went.

In my mind’s eye, I can see where she was, I can even see how she stood. I can almost see her name badge, in the café a few minutes later. I can’t see her. There’s a memory wall there.

I would relive that day. In a heartbeat I would relive that day. Just to fill in the gaps in the mind’s eye.

Maybe it’s for the best that I can’t, that the memory is walled off and I can’t relive that day. Maybe the reality falls short of what I think that memory should be.

That’s the trouble with memory. It is so subjective.

Still, that’s the day I would go go back in time and relive. A nameless, faceless day in late February 1996, when I was twenty-two and still had a decent amount of hair on my head.

That’s where I would go.