Balloon Rides

Thursday, April 21, 2005

My brain’s gears grind and squeak relentlessly through the night, almost as if the mechanic forgot to replace my oil during an oil change. I spend what should be my sleep time replaying past video games, recalculating virtual moments in vivid, bright flashes of intense and inane concentration.

I go to lunch with Doolies’s family in Dallas. A fortune-teller lady, an old friend of Doolies’s parents, joins us, and grabs my wrist to read my palm. She doesn’t speak English but Doolies translates. She has a grandmotherly look but I don’t like her because Jennifer, Doolies’s younger sister, is her favorite, and I’m partial to Doolies. I forget most of what she says—partly because I don’t believe much in fortune telling, and partly because I have a bad memory—but I remember she says I spend too much time thinking, and not thinking in a good way.

We stand near the water-cooler and Larry discusses a new lawnmower. I mention that I am procrastinating calling a gardener to take care of the Castle’s garden. Larry looks at me as if I’m from Mars. He says gardening is one of his favorite activities because it gives him a chance to get out of the house and perform mindless, satisfying, and guilt-free work. He says I’ll understand when I’m an older family man the satisfaction inherent in mindless activities.

My mind is constantly in motion. I’d like to say that it spends its time pondering big and important questions, formulating theories about life’s deeper meaning and my place within that meaning. I’d like to say that it spends hours forming logical arguments about topics of interest, thinking through the building blocks and tying them together with anecdotal yarns. I’d like to say that I have some control over my mind’s activities; that I can direct it to the questions that interest me, and focus its attention on working out particularly knotty issues that make up my life. But I don’t. None of it. At best, I can show it the direction I want it to go, and hope that it will get there, eventually. As it is now, it spends most of its time spinning in the dirt and rerunning embarrassing, stressful, or poorly actuated moments. I’m recast as the hero with at times tragic results.

My friends, Doolies, and I played video games for a relatively fun two and a half hours last night. Toward the end, my head started pounding and I knew I was in for a bad night. As I discussed above, my brain has problems getting past too much concentrated effort, especially if that activity occurs in front of a computer. (This isn’t an issue with writing. If anything, I feel more rested after a long writing session, and while my mind may dwell on a plot or characters, or a particular nasty turn of phrase, it never does so in an anxiety-filled way.) As I tossed and turned in bed last night, I thought of giving up the video games, something I’m sure The Nameless One would welcome. I’m not willing to go that far (just one last drink, I swear), but I am going to try to further limit it by playing only when Erik, Will, and Doolies can find available time. This should decrease my video game time to around four hours a week—a good, in my mind, amount of time to waste on a fun if unproductive hobby.

I find myself again racing against the clock to write this musing. I think the time pressure helps me concentrate. When I think about it, there are three things that help me concentrate: (1) yummy caffeine; (2) time pressure when I have something to say; and (3) being locked away somewhere (e.g., airplanes) with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

I’m looking forward to Doolies’s visit this weekend. After this weekend, however, we’re not going to see each other for a very long month. We’ll next see each other when we celebrate Doolies’s birthday in June (chief—i.e., to remember her birthday, I use the mnemonic I learned in The Memory Book: CH=6, F=8, and vowels are ignored, reminding me that June 8th is Doolies’s birthday) with a trip to Vancouver.

I’m going for a fitting for a new bicycle on Friday. I might attempt commuting by bicycle to work a couple of days a week. It’s an hour and fifteen minute ride to work, and a forty-five minute ride home (thanks to the hills). I might have to build up to it, but it’s a goal for the summer. I figured if I bicycled to work, then I wouldn’t have to go to the gym—not that I’ve been going to the gym lately. But I did take a long jog a couple of days ago, and even though my legs still hurt, I felt great. Driving home today, I came up with an even better reason for a bicycle commute. With a beautiful Seattle day, I was stuck in an hour and a half worth of traffic on the way home. In other words, I would have made it home faster if I had bicycled. And, yes, my commute was very angry, as I yelled at the cars around me, and Doolies, who decided she didn’t want to talk to angry David today.

I just drank the last few drops of orange juice. I opened it a few weeks ago, and as I upended the carton, I realized that the orange juice had begun fermenting. It wasn’t the pleasantest of experiences.

As part of our monthly “Wine Down” at work, Larry (the colleague I spoke about above) brought his hot-air balloon. We inflated and tethered (pronounced teh-thered, not tea-thered, as I thought) the balloon, and Larry took people up for a forty foot flight. I was in charge of the main rope that attached the balloon to his car. I was an important person. Below are some pictures of this event.

Inside of the Balloon

The inside of the balloon when I went for a ride.

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That is Leonard standing next to the tow rope I was in charge of

Leonard standing next to the tow rope that was my charge

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That is Larry, the Balloon Master

Larry, the Balloon Master