25 October 2014

October Vignettes, Day 25

2014-10-25 08.51.21

Names tell histories. In Harborne, there is a Station Road, but no station. You have to read the history of Harborne Walkway, the old railroad line, and look at the GPS coordinates to see where it was. Then it all makes sense. There was another station on Hagley Road, right after the tunnel that I am afraid to run through in the dark. That building is still there, I think. When I ran the walkway this morning before sunrise, I tried to think about history and not be afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of, but I am afraid of the nothing, the dark, the empty path. How does one overcome their fear of god and retain a fear of ghosts. I confront it when I can, and when I run into it, the fear dissipates with each step until my phone announces that I have now run six miles and tells me my slow pace in a voice that sounds friendly to me. Do not be afraid — how can you lose your fear of god, but not his word.  Given enough time, enough steps into the dark, your eyes adjust. The night is not dark anymore, or even the night, but the bright edges of a Seiji Fujishiro lightbox.

24 October 2014

October Vignettes, Day 24

2014-10-24 07.21.00

How do you prepare your children for a world in decline, for a future that can't be as economically prosperous as this one: the energy and capital (literally and metonymically and metaphorically) is simply not there. I worry about the values that emerge as white (mixed) children of privilege in Harborne, what they are learning about property and capital from me and the world around them. Of course, if the right values emerge, their futures will take care of themselves. Yoko is an excellent teacher and giver of the best thing they have going for them, should the world fall apart: the Japanese mountains. You — the Japanese 'you' which encompasses the mixed-race expat American-Japanese English resident who conceives of themselves as Japanese —  could go high into the mountains of Tosa, where the water comes down into the valley, and make enough food there to support yourself and family. You have been doing it for centuries; you will be doing it centuries from now. You won't need guns and baked beans because the society is already interdependent and communal. You can cast off that American, Western independent identity and only confront it when you look in the mirror. You can sit up high, above it all, grow old and come down to ruins of the city every now and again, to see if the world has sorted itself yet.

Cell phone

23 October 2014

October Vignettes, Day 23

2014-10-23 14.19.59

When I bought my Saddleback bag in 2011, I didn't plan to ever buy another bag, but now I run and I need a bag to run. These artefacts of day to day life, jersey and backpack, slung in the corner to be picked up and used again and again and again. I wear this bag all the time: I can pack it in a minute, I know it so well now. I can take off my sweatshirt while wearing the bag and running, tie the sweatshirt around my waist without stopping — it's a science: structured, constructed, mobile space that is here and mine, wherever here is. When you have a good bag, you can go in a minute if need be. Just throw what you have in it, the laptop and change of clothes and you're gone. A bit of freedom, the omnipresent here.

22 October 2014

October Vignettes, Day 22

2014-10-22 12.10.16

It's been a while since I made a mixtape or a playlist. I used to: if you look back on this blog somewhere, you can find evidence of it. Last night, I tried again: what would a 32 year-old mixtape sound like. Millenial and navel-gazing, I suspected. I carefully chose all the most interesting music I could think of, insufferably avoiding anything that might look like I was who I actually am, a man who bought John Mayer's album when it was on sale. I thought about adding Bitch, Don't Kill my Vibe sarcastically, but I chickened out. What is the truth anyway.

21 October 2014

October Vignettes, Day 21

2014-10-21 13.03.14

Newman University has worked out. When I left Malaysia last year, I was terrified that I had made a mistake again, gambled again on an unknown quantity and taken too many chances with my fragile, newborn career. Newman: nobody really knew anything about it. The first day I drove the hired Vauxhall Corsa there. Every day since then had been good in its own way. I have been saying all year, in a hushed voice, 'Touch wood, it's really been good for me, I really like it here.' And today, I sat through two graduation ceremonies, wearing the suit I was married in and Zara plimsolls I bought at Midvalley Mall in Kuala Lumpur and my Open University PhD gown, which makes me feel Marxist and proud. Knox College, University of Birmingham, the Open University, now Newman University. All institutions I am proud to represent in a small way. Watching the Muslim families cheer their Muslim daughters and sons across the stage, you can see how catholic (with a small 'c') Newman really is, even the Cardinal in his robes and institution: he reached out as a friend passed in the processional line. It's so good to see you. Stories of John Paul the Second eating dinner with friends, talking about poetry. How lovely this whole thing has turned out for me, sitting in the most beautiful space, surrounded by friends. How lucky I was that night in November last year, that the tiny Skype image of me made its way here and guided me home. All warm embraces, these families watching mothers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters graduate. The first ever in our family — no one had dreamed of this before.
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