Like the Clock

An Island At Night


Clouds boil high into the atmosphere, pulling colors from a sun well below my horizon. Voluminous and imposing, these megaliths draw breathe from me with heavy humidity, and electricity. And while now they surge, in an hour’s time—as little fish flick over waters that lap my feet—cannonades will flash in the interior. White cracking and shuddering amidst purples, bruised yellows and reds. These are larger forces, and they are somewhere off, above the jungle. In the morning, the water will hint at the night’s activities, central rivers emptying into the bay. But for now, in darkness, all is clear.


American Psycho

"If I want water, I go to the well,” the old man tells me. "If I want food, I throw a line in the water"—he points to the bay—"I catch fish. Or I go in the forest, I pick fruits from trees. The weather is warm. The water is clean. The nighttime is safe."

His clothing hung from his body, label-less and threadbare. His dark skin cracked, weathered and worn from exposure to the elements and to life. I doubt he had much if any savings, let alone a few pieces in his pocket.

But there he was, content.

He took a bowl of local drink, a sedative of sorts made from a plant root. It makes your mouth numb upon first drink. Tastes like soil, looks like muddy water. Its consumption is ritualistic and communal. It is a fine thing.

I had a few bowls too, while we sat in the dirt and grass taking in the evening. A squall came through, but none of us moved. The rain fell. We got wet. Some minutes later, the rain left. We dried off.

I cleaned dried droplets from the lenses of my glasses, Kame ManNen, made in Japan. My blue gingham Rapha shirt wicked quickly the wetness from my shoulders. My Macbook, iPad, iPod and two Blackberries stayed protected next to me, tucked into my Jack Spade oilcloth satchel.

It was hard not to be aware of it all. He wasn’t. He just looked on and talked, in and out of an English I had to focus on to understand. Then he asked me: "What do you think of the world?" At least, that’s what I thought he asked me.

So I said: "Well, we have to end apartheid for one. And slow down the nuclear arms race, stop terrorism and world hunger. We have to provide food and shelter for the homeless, and oppose racial discrimination and promote civil rights, while also promoting equal rights for women. We have to encourage a return to traditional moral values. Most importantly, we have to promote general social concern and less materialism in young people."

His expression revealed that my answer was not related to his actual inquiry. He approved just the same and said, “Good, good. Me too."

"Do you like Phil Collins?" I then asked. He nodded: "This singer? Yes, yes. I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual."

I smiled, because I only pretended that was his response. He actually said, "No, I like Michael Jackson."

But there I was, content.


The Passing of Steve Jobs  

At a time when our world needs better leaders—people who capture creativity, can inspire others and move forth with boldness—we lose Steve Jobs. He leaves an uncomfortable hole in our collective consciousness, as played out in various media. There is sadness, and a lot people admit not quite knowing exactly why. We didn’t know this man personally. We only know the products and brands he championed. We know his story, but most of us never directly experienced his leadership. It can only be then that we mourn the idea of Steve Jobs, what he represented in business and how we apply that to our lives. Indeed, the technology is useful—is cool, is fascinating, is unique—but it all stands most as one of the few areas in life in which we have had reliable guidance, in which we’ve built trust and allowed ourselves to follow another’s vision. And we fear what may happen now that Jobs’ vision is gone. Because right now, we’re lacking the inspiration he was known for. At a time when “leaders” in business and politics fail us, we’ve taken refuge in a brand, in a business, in an idea of how life could be. It is why his statement “stay hungry, stay foolish” has become a constant refrain. We so want to live up to this, especially now in this economically depressed state. But we’re not sure we can. So we spend time and energy relying on others, or being completely adrift. We relied on Jobs to stay hungry and foolish. Now we’re left searching for meaning in his death, thinking we now most need someone like him. We shouldn’t though. His passing should not cause us to look for the next Steve Jobs. If anything, his death signals that we should stop looking to others for answers and guidance and begin looking to ourselves—to be bold and express our own vision for the world, to take risks and rally others to great ideas, to fail and learn and move forth, knowing that all we have to lose is time and all we have to gain is ourselves. 


Bicycle Culture in the District

I've been lately neglecting my blogging here; however, check out my latest post on the new Huffington Post DC site. To complement it, I started this Tumblr to track all the bikes I've been seeing around the District. 


Hitting a Target

The black and white bull’s-eye appears when I’ve pushed myself too hard. It’s a flickering mark in the center of my sights, like an old film reel blinking over a scene. Physiologically, I don’t know what it is, perhaps related to my blood oxygen levels; but psychologically, it signals when I’ve crossed the threshold from pain to peace. Whereas when I set out on my run or my ride, my brain is sifting, sorting, rehashing, running scenarios, acting out frustrations—all loudly. Once the bull’s-eye appears, all is quiet. All I see is the trail or the road. All I hear is my breathing. Even the thoughts that percolate below conscious contemplation for a time cease to bubble up. And then I know I’ve hit my target; I know I've hit my pace.