Category Archives: Randomness

All the Things I’ll Never See


Often times we stand in the here and now and we believe that we understand what brought us to this point. We take for granted certain things about ourselves and our world. We have seen the past and we look forward to the future. In reality, we have personally experienced very little in our own lives and we rely heavily on the stories of others to tell us about the things we will never see.

All the things we will never experience for ourselves, and all the times we have never been a part of, must be learned again. These unseen events and people are nothing more than pages in a book, or words leaving someone’s lips. The story is recorded, either physically or mentally, and then passed down to us, but we can never truly know what it was like to stand in the middle of that moment and be moved by it.

Here are just a very few of the many things that I will never be able to see, but nonetheless shape me and the world I live in. The moment has passed and it will never come again. Though I may understand that this past does exist, in essence, I am completely ignorant to the truth that can only be fully known by someone who was there or who lived in a world much younger than the one I currently occupy.

I’ll never stand under the stars and look up at the moon and wonder what it is made of or how far away the stars are. People just like me have been there and stood under the stars looking back at the rest of us. They drove around, jumped up and down, and hit golfballs across the face of a dead lump of rock. Mystery solved, no more imagination necessary.

I’ll never walk down a hallway and see separate bathrooms for “Whites” and “Blacks.” I will never truly grasp what it was like to experience this void of separation that ran so deep for so long. My young life views this culture as it is now and the truth that it wasn’t always this way can sometimes seem a little absurd.

I’ll never stand in the crowd as John, Paul, George, and Ringo come out on stage and send the waiting crowd into a frenzy. As strange as it may seem, the simple gathering of these four guys playing music didn’t just change the lives of a few fanatical teenage girls. It did change things in a noticeable way and sent the world culture in a new direction.

I’ll never see my parents as teenagers falling in love for the first time. I’ve heard stories about their younger selves , playing drums and singing Janis Joplin songs, but it seems like it must be so long ago. I wonder if it seems like that far in the past to them? As I grow older will my memories get further apart, and harder to reach, or just more compressed so that the trip further into the past takes the same amount of time?

I’ll never come to the crest of a hill, look out across the other side and see land that is not already owned by somebody else. No matter how far you go you are never far from everyone else. When you get there you may find a soda can or some dirty socks under a shrub. Gone are the days when there was a wilderness to be “tamed,” when you could strike out towards the country to start anew.

I’ll never stand in front of a Washington D.C. monument and hear a speech about dreams. Will there ever be a moment again when someone speaks so passionately and effectively about something that is so important to them? Or have we become so jaded and cynical of everyone and everything that when they speak we ask ourselves what is their real agenda, or what’s in it for them?

I’ll never stand on the beach and stare into the vast expanse of ocean and wonder what is on the other side. Everyone knows what is there and we all have seen the pictures to prove it. There are other people very much like us over there and they are standing on their own beach. No monsters, no demons, no edge to fall off of.

Absolutely everything we learn about the past is told to us by someone else. The separation between what we know and what we have experienced is vast indeed. We do not inherently know that the Earth revolves around the Sun, we have never seen this happen. Most of us have never actually witnessed penguins diving off the Antarctic shelf or felt the heat radiating from the mouth of an active volcano. Yet, we take for granted that these things happen.

We do not even know everything about our own past. We must be told about the times we spent before we can remember. We are nothing without a past even though it is a past we largely have no personal knowledge of. I will soon become the bearer of the past for others, but how much do I really know?

The Presumption of Intelligence


"Well, actually Gabe, it turns out you are, in fact, a moron"

We believe what we believe. We tend to find validity and truth in those things which are presented to us that correlate with what we already believe to be true, and we reject those things which do not coincide with those beliefs. The media does not create belief systems and morals, it does not create a world which does not exist. The popular media, often vilified for its skewed portrayal of humanity, simply strengthens and solidifies feelings that have always existed inside of us, and that were looking to find their own reflection.

We believe what we believe and we ignore the rest. We dismiss it as the background noise of the lesser enlightened people that make up the mindless public masses surrounding us. Even if you truly believe that you learned something new and unexpected, something unbelievable and you’ve had a revelation of sorts. You only believe it because you allowed yourself to do so, and ultimately it falls in line with similar patterns of thought that you already share.

Often people consider themselves to be open-minded when, in fact, they simply choose to believe in things that others choose not to. They have moved beyond the mainstream to form a pattern of thought that falls out of line with most of the public at large. This makes them unique in a way, however many choose to ignore the fact that instead of truly being open-minded they have simply chosen another path that comes along with all the same close-mindedness they tried to escape. They turn around, close the door and join the others like themselves. They all rejoice and say Look at how incredibly open-minded we are!

Presumably, the intelligence level of their beliefs and those they believe in is slightly, how should I say… enhanced over those who believe in supposedly archaic ways of thought. The enlightened people will not say outright that their beliefs are better or more intelligent than yours, that would be too close-minded of them. No, instead they will smile smugly and condescendingly tell you it’s alright to believe whatever you want, like a parent petting the head of a child.

A book is written on a subject by a person with a degree of some level and people say Aha! Look at what this very intelligent person just said about this! It must be true! What about the 40 people standing over there who also have degrees and who happen to disagree? Well, they must be wrong and/or ignorant… unwilling to acknowledge the truth… too scared to allow themselves to be free-thinkers!

A pseudoscientist finds proof of God in the complexity of a cell, through systematically neglecting to recognize countless factual contradictions, and the religious community shouts See! Even science proves it to be true! Ignoring the protests of the rest of the scientific community, and the fact that they operate under no agenda. They choose to believe any “proof” that points in the direction they want it to go, and they ignore the rest.

We believe what we want to believe and then we lie to ourselves that we are simply weighing the evidence and making a fair decision. We fool ourselves into believing we can objectively balance our options without prejudice. We consider ourselves open-minded based only on the fact that we consider ourselves to be in the minority, then we turn and judge the majority on how uninspired their views are. We convince ourselves we are special for our unique beliefs and presume that we, and others who think like we do, are just a little notch above the rest in the intelligence department.

Star Trek and ATM’s


A bit of irrelevant ranting for a Monday morning…

"Is there a 'Fast Cash' button upon this device?" "Dude, are you gonna be a while?"

I stopped off at an ATM last week to pick up some cash for the farmer’s market and the nearest bank was, of course, the ever-prevalent, Bank of America. The bank that charges you a fee to look at it as you drive by. I pulled in, skipped gayly across the parking lot, and strolled up to the machine to begin my transaction. Now, a small note about myself: I have this weird little thing where I actually pride myself on my blazing ATM speed. Bing, bang, boom! I’m out! No receipts, no surrender! Nothing worse than getting stuck behind the guy who wants to deposit money, pay bills, and check the balance of his 5 accounts via the machine expressly intended for people in a hurry. Not this guy. I use double fingers like I’m playing Simon Says.

Anyway, I quickly realize from looking at the very first screen that I am on unfamiliar ground, as I rarely use B of A machines, and this may not be as cut and dry as I’m used to. The first screen asks for my language and it literally gives me 8 options to choose from. Really?!? 8? I know this is northern California and we are pretty ethnically diverse, but I haven’t seen that many language options since I tried to read the warning labels on my Swedish-made furniture (long story short, attach all furniture to walls like your blonde-haired life depends on it).

I stared in amazement at my plethora of options and half expected to turn around and see the entire cast of Star Trek waiting in line behind me. That’s about the only circumstance I could foresee in which most of these languages would ever be used, and while I did see some character-based languages, I’m pretty sure none of them were Vulcan. Scotty could just select English, but I still think the ATM would have to either be drunk or use an accent in order for him to understand. Of course, we all know that the Federation has no use for money in the 23rd century (duh), but I think we also saw that sometimes it is necessary to go back in time to northern California to save extinct whale species in order to stop giant space probes from tearing the Earth in two, so ya never know.

The icing on the cake was after I pressed “English” it then went to the next screen where it proceeded to tell me that I had selected English and asked me whether or not that was correct… in English, of course. Did some software designer somewhere get paid by the amount of ridiculously useless screens he created? If it was wrong, how the hell would I know?!? If I had accidentally selected Vietnamese I would have been left staring at a screen of wingdings for who knows how long!

What a complete waste of time and energy on everyone’s part. Just another example of common sense being overruled by the desire to placate even the tiniest percentage of the consuming public. If the United Nations ever decides to come to Chico Ca. on a “fact finding” mission about the medical uses of marijuana you can then reinstate the universal translator software, but until then I think maybe it might be easier if I just slip in my bank card, that has English written all over it, and then enter my PIN.

3.. 2.. 1.. Kill Your Little Brother


Me, Danny, and some baby.

Danny was still unconscious when the paramedics took him out of our living room. They carried him out on a hard stretcher, his head immobilized with a series of straps over his forehead and chin. The other families who lived in our apartment complex stood outside on the lawn we all shared to get a better view of what the commotion was all about. The lights atop the multiple emergency vehicles, now parked in front of our door, lit up the summer evening in intervals that flashed off and on through neighbor’s windows in alternating blues, reds, and whites. They carried his little body out to the ambulance, lifted him into the back, and shut the doors behind him. They drove away and my mother followed, leaving me in the living room with only my aunt and the horrifying guilt that I had just killed my little brother.

It had only been a few minutes earlier that Danny and I were playing in the living room as the evening was winding down. We were watching TV and intermittently pestering each other and roughhousing during commercial breaks as young boys might normally do when they are bored. Nobody was planning on anything eventful happening in the very near future.

It was late summertime in southern California and since there was no school yet, we had spent most of the day outside, as usual, playing games like Tag and Hide-and-Go-Seek with the neighborhood kids. Most of the kids we played with were a bit older than us, the bigger kids being around nine or ten, while Danny and I were around four and seven years old. After thoroughly exhausting all of the standard childhood games, including all the sub-variations of Tag, such as Freeze Tag and Cartoon Tag, the older kids showed us a new game.

The Rocket, as they called it, required only two people, preferably one would be a bit smaller than the other. Perfect, Danny is just the right size, he has no idea how awesome this is going to be! The larger of the two lies down with their back on the ground, pulls their knees to their chest and creates a little seat with the bottom of their feet. It resembled the fetal position with the bottom kid’s legs pulled in tight to the chest, ready to spring up and out forcibly. The smaller kid sat on the upturned feet, like a barstool, and prepared for launch. As the kid on the ground pushed powerfully up and out, the lucky little human projectile on the other end soared through the air and landed somewhat gracefully, and upright, about 10 feet away. The keyword is upright.

Understandably, my four-year-old brother was not too keen on being flung helplessly through the air by my feet, and he refused to let me test my launch capabilities on him. Since he was the smallest kid in the group and I was the second smallest, there was no one else I could play with. Why does he always have to be such a baby? After arguing with him for a while – as a young boy this means throwing demeaning insults his way – and trying to convince him he wouldn’t get hurt, I gave up and went inside to watch some TV. What could possibly go wrong?

Once inside however, I refused to waiver in my coercion techniques. During commercial breaks I used all of my advanced seven-year-old name calling tactics that usually worked on Danny when I wanted him to go along with one of my little schemes. I called him a wuss, a baby, a scaredy cat, and a slew of other tried and true names that kids use on one another to play on their fear of being too young to do something in life. Our mother half-heartedly scolded me from the couch on my crude behavior, but eventually it worked and he caved. They were both tired of hearing my voice. Just wait till everyone sees how cool this is…

Grinning from ear to ear because I had got what I wanted, I assumed the position in the center of the living room and my wary little brother eased his backside onto my waiting feet. The countdown was initiated… 5.. 4.. 3.. 2.. 1.. BOOM! I thrusted my legs up as hard as I possibly could, just as instructed. There was quite a bit of up however, and not a whole lot of out. He was also much lighter than I originally anticipated. Coincidentally, it’s the forward and outward motion that is truly pivotal if your goal is to get your flailing little bro to land on his feet instead of his neck…

He went straight up. He came straight down. Woah. His neck and head hit the ground first and hit it hard, followed by the rest of his body buckling down on top of him and causing further contortion of his spine. The look of shock and awe upon my face must have been laughable if you were unaware of the seriousness of the situation I now found myself in. Danny had just enough time to emit a blood-curdling scream, roll over and off his neck, grab my dirty barefoot, and sink his teeth as far as he could into it before his eyes rolled back into his head and he passed out. To this day, we really have no explanation for this unexpected biting move on his part, except that maybe it was a defensive retaliation for his sudden pain.

I was frozen in utter stupor. Mom moved like her hair was on fire. She picked up his limp body and screamed for my aunt to come downstairs and call 911. He looks dead. My brain instantly registered a massive amount of fear, took over control of my body, and made me move. It did the only thing it knew how to do, which was hide, and I did it behind the couch. I squeezed into the space and began hoping it would all just go away. Of course it didn’t work and a few minutes later my aunt and I stood staring out the front door as the flashing lights turned the corner and disappeared. He’s dead. I’m dead.

I awoke very early the next morning and slipped out of my bed in the room that Danny and I shared. Once upon a time, before I killed him. It was still dark but I could see that his bed remained empty. I silently opened our bedroom door and crept along the wall toward my mother’s room. The whole apartment was dark and quiet and my footsteps were louder than I would have liked. I peaked around the door and saw two lumps under the covers of her bed. She must have heard me and turned her head to look at me… she motioned for me to come closer and whispered that everything was going to be okay. The other lump was Danny sporting a brand new foam neck brace. It was just a precaution, as he had a few strained neck muscles. No bones sticking through his neck. She told me to get back to bed and I did what I was told.

This wouldn’t be the last time I would accidentally cause my brother life-threatening injury…

How to End This War, Right Now


Two words: air conditioning. I think we all know what hundred degree temperatures do to people. It makes ’em all crazy inside. I mean, look at these guys… these people aren’t evil they’re just dying for a cool breeze across the forehead once in awhile. We must provide window A/C units for every household in Iraq and Afghanistan if we want to win the hearts and minds of the people. What else are we good for if not to spread lethargy and procrastination worldwide? It’s the American Dream damn it!

They’re just pissed off all the time over there, and who wouldn’t be?!? Who can think straight with beads of sweat running from back to crack all the time? I’ve done the math, folks. We’re looking at about 650 million dollars to give every household  A/C units, compared to the latest totals of about 1 trillion dollars that we have racked up so far to fight both wars.

The heat is just intolerable people, let’s be honest. Hell, I wanna blow something up when it hits 90 degrees in my house… and I have cable and a Playstation 3. Come to think of it… let’s give them all cable T.V. and Playstations. It’s a mere drop in the bucket compared to what we’ve spent so far!

If you really want to give the middle east a real taste of authentic Americana, do it the best way we know how, through obesity and plain old fashioned laziness! Who wants to scheme up terrorist plots when there is a Madden ’11 tournament going on over at Ahmed’s place? C’mon, I’ve got a bag of Cheetos and a 12-pack of Coke Zero with my name on it Habib! Can’t we “destroy the infidels” after I crush Akhbar with my smothering Raven’s defense?

Terrorists with On Demand reruns of The Office and 70 degree temperatures aren’t terrorists anymore. Nobody wants to put down the lamb kebob and pause Michael Scott (AKA Prison Mike) to go shoot at some dudes in that sun. Besides, if anyone does start any trouble, no problem. A morbidly obese “evil-doer” is nothing if not a slow “evil-doer,” and easy to catch. Easier to spot too. Wal-mart could start shipping over Little Debbie’s Honey Buns by the truckload… I’m sure they’re down to “take advantage” of the new market.

Have you ever walked out of your nice, cool, house straight into a 110 degree slap in the face? You think twice about leaving don’t you? These guys just need a good reason to stay home and I think high score bragging rights on Guitar Hero 5 might just be the way to do it.

Democracy is all well and good, but what better way for the newly “freed” citizens of both Iraq and Afghanistan to learn about the power of one vote than through casting their ballots for their favorite “Islamic Idol?”

That is all….

Aliens Vs. Apparitions


There I was, 11-years-old, brushing my teeth in the bathroom mirror, getting ready for school… and terrified out of my gourd. Toothbrush slowly shaking across my front teeth, back and forth, over and over the same spot as my bulging eyes darted between the open door leading to the dark hallway and the wall behind the shoulders of my reflection, just knowing something evil must be near. I leaned over to spit out some excess toothpaste, taking my eyes off the mirror for only a split second and when I straightened back up, there was my mother standing behind me. Her bed-head hair was twisting in contorted directions, her bloodshot eyes stared blankly at me, and her jaw lay slack from a mid-yawn pause. All in all, the most terrifying, gut-wrenching, thing I had ever seen… that morning. I screamed like I was Macaulay Culkin putting on aftershave. Toothpaste-laced spittle was flying to and fro and my hands flew up in a defensive position across my face, toothbrush bouncing off a wall somewhere, no doubt. I pushed past her and her confused face, knocking her aside as I leapt in one swift motion out of the bathroom, thorough the dark hallway, and into my bedroom where I slipped under my blanket like a poof of smoke and began sobbing uncontrollably.

That’s it!My mothered yelled at me, following my flaming smoke trail into the bedroom. You’re taking those books back today!

You see, the week before my class took its regular excursion to the library so that we could all browse around and read or checkout a book or two to take home. Trying to stir the imagination, I suppose, was the intended goal of the teacher, but her noble intentions did not take in to consideration the twisted little mind of one of her students and the near nervous breakdown it would cause an 11-year-old to have just a few days later.

Two books sitting side by side caught my attention immediately. One was about the evidence that aliens might be visiting our planet from time to time and the other was about the possibility that ghosts may be all around us, all the time. Tons of photos of smokey body shapes and eyes lurking in the background of family photos, or bearded men dressed in civil war era clothing leaning against tress. I took them both home and opened up a little can of crazy on the rest of my family.

The alien book I found very interesting and not at all scary. Little slimy midgets wearing sunglasses hurdling through time and space in flying muscle cars seemed pretty awesome to this little 5th grader. Lifeless corpses who watch you from the shadows with their dead eyes and the power to possibly posses your very soul, all while moaning and spitting blood? That seemed a little less appealing for some reason.

I was incapacitated by abject fear for weeks. Every open window into the night contained flesh rotting corpses hovering and waiting for me to look their way, so they could stare at me with deadpan eye sockets. The mirror became a portal to the netherworld where a turned back could get you a one way ticket to hellish death. Every creak and crack  was a limping, dragging, foot and every breeze a whisper or moan from a tortured soul. I was inconsolable.

I eventually got ahold of the reigns and straightened out, but to this day sometimes I just cannot control the fear once my brain turns something over. I saw the movie “The Ring,” which I understand is laughable to some people, and I couldn’t go to the bathroom or down my hallway by myself for a couple weeks… and I was 26! I mean, the hallway light was a long florescent bulb that flickered on and off! How scary is that? I was living alone with my cat (totally hetero thing to do) and I had to pick him up and take him with me at night whenever I had to go to the back of the house. After all, cats can sense spirits right? Hey, I know all about it, I saw Ghost too. Pathetic.

But when I stop and really think about it, it seems like in this world you generally fall into two categories: you’re terrified of ghosts OR you’re terrified of aliens. I know there is the group that is scared of anything and everything, and then, of course, the “I ain’t a-skeered a nothin!” group which we all know is bullshit posturing, but for the most part I think people would definitely choose one over the other.

My wife lands on the alien paranoia side. Sure she has a healthy respect for possibly ill-intentioned ghosts, but you can hardly let the word “alien” roll off the tongue without igniting a little terror and sending her fingers plunging into her ear canals. La-la-la-la-la I can’t hear you!

In basic training she was woken up in the middle of the night to pull her guard duty shift. She emerged from her tent, rubbing the sleep and exhaustion out of her eyes, only to see three moonlit shapes slowly marching towards her in the dark. They were all holding rifles, of course, and were wearing hooded gas masks as they creeped across the clearing in the woods, towards where she was standing. She was legitimately horrified that they were alien invaders for a moment and almost screamed out… which of course would not have made for a pleasant ending to her military exercise.

What is the difference? Why do I think aliens are cool, but she might need adult diapers if we ever watch “The Fourth Kind?” (Never going to happen) It seems to me that the answer to the question about which you are more fearful of might have to do with a deeper, hardwired, response that you have to fear itself.

Aliens represent an external unknown. Aliens come in and observe you from a distance or they swoop in and steal you away from your own home and place of safety and comfort. They are truly unknowable and foreign. They experiment on you in very inhuman ways and represent something that is beyond anybody’s control.

Ghosts, on the other hand, are very internal and a somewhat known variable. They are basically you, but a different version of you, a possibly evil version of you and others like you. They don’t come from afar, they come from within, and could possibly be sitting next to me as I type this out (… stop saying stuff like that.) They are dead, lifeless, cold, lost souls… and you might become one of them. You know that you could, because if ghosts are evil, you understand that you have that propensity for evil within you right now and you can see it in humanity as a whole.

So which are you? Do you pull the covers up to your eyeballs when you sleep alone at night because you’re afraid someone might come in and take you or because they are already there sitting at the foot of your bed? (stop saying things like that!)

I can hear myself think


What I sometimes think about when nobody is talking…

I have recurring dreams about flying. I just spread my arms out and soar into the sky, free from all the bindings and responsibilities of the earthly realm. These dreams are usually followed promptly by dreams about me plummeting to my death in a terrifying free fall as the earth comes rushing back to crush me. I don’t need any dream interpretation skills to figure out what this means.

I have to laugh when I hear people get really perturbed when they hear a celebrity’s view in world matters. These people get all indignant and say things like “What the hell does Bono know about anything? He’s just some dumb singer. Just stick to writin’ crappy songs and let other people worry about things you couldn’t possibly understand, all right pretty boy?!” Well, I don’t know Jimboy, you seem to vocalize your opinions pretty loudly and you have more missing digits than remaining teeth, so let’s hear what Brad Pitt thinks about world hunger for a sec. Maybe other people can also have a shred of insight, even if they are just subhuman celebrities.

I’ll take experience over age any day. Just because you are old doesn’t mean you are wise. A person can live their whole life and experience next to nothing. There is no seniority rule in truth, but the truth of an experience is lost if the person doesn’t have the will for self-reflection.

If you ask me what I think or feel about something and I say “Oh, I don’t really know.” I am lying. I am just subconciously stalling so that my brain can catch up. You didn’t ask me what I “know” about something, or any factual statistical analysis. You asked what I thought or felt about it and the brain never stops thinking or feeling at anytime. There is no off switch. It is hard-wired to prejudge, to make snap decisions as a matter of survival. When I say “I don’t know” it means “Of course I have already formed an opinion on the subject, whether or not I wish to admit it. Even if I appear undecided or neutral, deep down I know what I feel, but I don’t want to sound ignorant or short-sighted.” I think most people feel that way about most things, if they are honest with themselves.

If you truly believe that you don’t care what anyone thinks about you, you’re probably lying to yourself. You are a social animal and you didn’t just unravel millions of years of human evolution that is dependent upon group interaction for survival, just because you listen to indie rock and shop at Hot Topic. You care. Thoreau didn’t fill up reams of paper so that he could read his own thoughts at some later date. It’s usually the people who think themselves the most individualistic and free of any outside influence who have to find someone to tell it to or rush around letting the world know how much they don’t care. What a pathetically selfish world it would be if nobody cared what anyone else thought or felt.