Friday, June 27, 2008

Keeping it fresh

You've got to keep things fresh, so I adjusted my template today.

I also put up a new movie trailer; Hancock. I've been looking forward to see it come out because it's shot in LA.

It's also cool to recognize the highways he is flying over. I mean, that's where I've been driving from and to work like hundreds of times.

The funny thing is, the voice in the trailer says Hancock is "going North bound on the 110" right before Will Smith smashes through the traffic sign, but at that time he is in fact still on the 105 East leading towards the 110. You can tell because the sign he smashes shows the direction for either 110 south (San Pedro) and 110 North (Los Angeles), the highway they say he is already on.

Now, the 105 is right next to the LAX airport and El Segundo, the town where I spent my first weeks with the Edlefsen family. For this scene, they shut a small part of the 105 (the part in El Segundo) down for about a day of filming. So it's pretty cool to see the result.

The reason they're mentioning this misplaced information is probably because the car that Hancock throws up in the air, gets stuck on the peak of the famous round Capitol Records building in Hollywood (you see this in the trailer).

The Capitol Records building is a very famous building in Hollywood and sits right next to the 101 North. To get there from where Will Smith crashes through the sign, you actually have to follow the 110 North all the way through downtown LA (you see the car tumbling through the skyscrapers of downtown LA) and get on the 101 to get to Hollywood, where this Capitol Records building is (and the car ends up on its peak). So from where Hancock smashes the sign to the final shot of the car sitting on the capitol building, it's actually still a good 20 miles of driving. I guess the filmmakers wanted to give the audience a head's up on where we are heading in this scene.

Hehe, this is probably very boring information for everybody that isn't familiar with the city, but I'm just thrilled to see it.

Anyho. Have you looked at the poll results lately ? 1 person thinks Belgium is the best country in the world to live in, 2 out of 6 digs it most of the time (unless fries and beer are running scarce), one person only likes Belgium when on a holiday in another country (haha), and 2 people would rather be put on a plane to another country than to live in Belgium.

Wauw ! That's a lot of different opinions. I guess I have learned to appreciate living in Belgium because I have lived in another country for a year. I wonder if I'll ever see Belgium as a country again and not just a 'state' in Europe. Sure, there's a bigger difference between France and Belgium than Maryland and Delaware for example, but still, Belgium really isn't all that big. But sooo charming.. instead of wanting to live in the fast lane, I'm calming down, settling into a life that I can enjoy in a peaceful way. :) And even though Belgium is not exactly Spain, compared to the US, I think Belgium is way more relaxed.

Oh, check out the new poll ! Gosh, I love these things. :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The clock is ticking

It was bound to happen after 6 weeks of doing nothing : I have a blogger's block. That sorta happens when you don't get out too much and don't meet any strange, funny or obnoxious people.

All I do these days is this:

Go for a run,
Do sit and push-ups,
Watch movies on digital on demand (still so many movies to gooo !),
Do research on stuff,
Talk to people on MSN and skype,
Go for a run,

and go shopping for food. :)

So, I guess you could say my life is boring right now, but of course I'm the one responsible for it. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the ocean of time I'm having now to get into shape and catch up on reading books and watching films.

Meanwhile, I'm about done with arranging things to move back to Belgium. Spoke with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) yesterday to ask them if I should file my taxes now or wait until next year.

It took us about half an hour to come up with this: Normally, I would need a "sailing permit" (yes, it's a term they've used since medieval times, a permit that will allow you to sail to Europe) which states that I have paid my taxes. But, after browsing 'Publication 159" of Tax law, we discovered that as a J-2 Visa holder, I am exempt of having to get that permit. That saves me a lot of trouble.

I do, however, need to file my taxes, but not until next year. And best thing of all; I will definitely get a tax refund. Too bad it won't be in Euro's, though :). But it's a nice gift anyways.

So that leaves me printing out my ticket to Belgium. I will leave from Washington International on July 10th at 6PM and set foot on Belgian soil the next day, July 11th at 7:30 AM, local time. I hope I won't forget my earplugs so I can get some sleep on the plane.

Also, packing my things will be a challenge. I'm bringing about two suit cases; maybe 1/4 of one of them won't even be my stuff but things for the family and some friends. I feel like I'm a sales agent with all of these goodies. :)

And of course, meanwhile I have contacted some prospective employers, and looked at some apartments.. I'm really excited about getting my own crib and have lots of parties and movie nights and drinks and sleepovers and what not. :)

These are the things you will read about when I get back: my life in Belgium, fresh and uncut.
Maybe I'll put my blog on hiatus until the 11th. Maybe not. It all depends on when things start happening again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A visit to the orthodontist

I always feel like they're setting me up for a hell of a ride when I'm being directed to one of the dentist seats.

They usually put me in front of the window, so I can look outside while waiting for the supervising orthodontist to check on my teeth. After some waiting, the assistant looks at my chart, spits out the obligatory "How are you doing today" and hurries off to get the tools that the doctor will be needing for my treatment.

There's one thing that stares at me every time I take a seat; a pair of black plastic protective glasses.
You can tell these are worn by every patient visiting this chair because of the fingerprints and greasy residue that's left on them. Unfortunately, the liability policy states that every patient needs to wear these protective glasses. I usually don't put them on until the very last moment. I wait until the assistant says "here we go", as if pushing the automatic seat reclining button is going to shoot me into the sky. That is my signal for obscuring my vision with the greasy glasses (I call 'em GG's).

What bothers me is that they usually start chit-chatting about what happened in the news or ask if I saw the latest episode of their favorite sitcom. They become inquisitive about your opinion on things in life and you try to answer everything by nodding your head, suppressing tongue spasms, avoiding sharp metal objects hovering over your face, hoping the subtle head movements you make will be interpreted as some useful answer to their questions.
And they actually understand what you're saying, too.

Sometimes they stab me. Every time one of their pointy tools digs its way into my gums, the assistant yells in my ear. "Oh my god, this has never happened to me before, I'm so sorry," and I think "yeah right, that's what you said last time, A-hole." Oh yes, the assistant is a dude. That's what makes it even less bearable.

My supervising orthodontist then takes over and starts talking to me as if I'm her best buddy; she asks me about my life in California, about what life's like in Belgium, what my future plans are and where she can find those delicious Belgian chocolates. And sometimes, instead of lying on a dentist chair, I feel like I'm having a session on a couch with a shrink. I mean, she asks me things I thought a dentist wasn't supposed to ask.

One time, she put the seat up and looked at me with her big brown eyes. I guess some people would give a hug or burst out in tears after what she was about to muffle through her blue mouth cloth. But all I could do was swallow down chemical residue and smile sheepishly.

She said: "Never forget - there's always a way.. OK?"

I'm really going to miss these visits.

PS. Here's a bit of Alex Agnew's stand-up comedy tour, talking about going to the dentist. I think it's hilarious:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I love roller coasters

and watch other people ride them:

This kid poops his pants while riding his first coaster:

This is the world's scariest coaster :

OMG - I wanna go !! :-)

The British version :) :

Friday, June 20, 2008

Movie experience

I can't believe I always end up next to the noisiest, most obnoxious people when I go to the movies.

Last week, during the dumbest film I've seen in a VERY long time ("You don't mess with the Zohan"), I was sitting quietly in my seat, patiently letting people pass until suddenly this fat chick and a dude drop their huge asses in the seats right next to me. She settles into the seat, smiles at me and says thank you, like we had made some sort of agreement that I was going to keep them seats.

I totally felt my private space invaded. On top of that, the woman places her can of coke right into MY cup holder, then wips out a bucket of buffalo chicken wings and starts chewing them down like Gollem eating fresh fish out of the creeck. Her hubbie leans forward, asks if he can have a bite, the woman grunts and as she passes the wing she was already working on, their toddler appears from nowhere and starts crying. O great.

I tried to be cool with it, you know, tried to stay open minded and all, be in a Zen-like state, focus on the movie, but when the kid started repeating the on-screen dialogue and Mom was laughing more with their own kid than the movie (I have to admit; she was cute), I could not help but give an occasional and very demonstrative sigh.

They finally got the hint and after a while she dropped her daughter into the dude's arms and sends them walking, probably off to the toilet to give the kid instructions on how to behave in a movie theater.

The woman didn't say anything, but laughed hysterically with every little thing. In the end, I didn't really miss a lot of the movie .. it sucked anyways.

Today, I saw "Get Smart" with Steve Carell. I love that guy. And it's a funny movie too. I liked it.

So did the couple two seats away from me. They were laughing out load - scratch that, they expressed their enjoyment by hollering, slapping their legs at every joke, giving in to occasional hand clapping or whistling.
One thing I got to hand to them; they made the jokes on screen become more hilarious. You could tell people around us were laughing more then the people sitting on the right hand side of the theater, where everything was peaceful and quiet.

Americans don't seem to care what other people think when they're enjoying themselves in the movie theater. And I don't blame them at all, in fact, I think their enthusiasm brings out more enjoyment for the ones around them. But when that enthusiasm goes over the top, I just get embarrassed in their place and wish I was sitting in the movie theater in Sint Niklaas, where almost nobody goes to see a movie on a Friday morning and I can enjoy the movie in my own way without any additional 'soundtrack.'

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My view on Destiny

The poll question for this week was: Do you believe in Destiny ?

2 out of 5 people think that they create their own future.

I agree. We have the power to create what is best for us, as long as we are conscious of the fact that the concept 'future' is a relative concept and doesn't really exist. Of course, I am not talking about practical time; if you want to schedule an appointment or whatever. You need practical time because that is how we agreed to organize things.

I am talking about psychological time.. in psychological time, the future or present does not exist. When we're thinking about what happened in the past, about that argument we had or that party we went to, we are thinking about it Now.
If we're thinking about what we''re going to do this summer, or what we're going to say when we meet the person we have an appointment with, we're thinking about that Now !

So, I also believe I create my own future, as I can decide in each moment how I will react in that very moment and then in the next, and the next and so on.

Again, 2 other people voted that some things are just meant to be.

I agree. Things are meant to Be. But 'meant to be' is often used as an excuse for pretending to have accepted something we haven't really come to terms with.. We often say "It's meant to be" because we believe that some ''outer force' has control over our lives and we think "hey, what can you do about it, right" ?

Not exactly. I understand why some would believe that things are just 'meant to be'. Somehow I can't help but wonder if this believe comes out of some form of passive acceptance, as if accepting that an 'outer force' is controlling your life and you are just subjected to it because you don't realize that you can decide what is meant to be - for you. Of course, we don't control every little thing in life. But do we really need to ? Where does the need come from to control everything in life ?

1 voter thinks s/he was born to fulfill a great destiny (of course now I'm curious as to who this person is and what his/her destiny could be :) )

Good for him/her ! If that is what gives that person meaning or purpose in life, that's great. But what happens when that destiny is fulfilled ? Do you lose your purpose in life ? What happens when you lose the meaning of your life when you've attained your purpose, your 'destiny' ? Won't you feel lost ? For example, a lot of people are loving, caring parents and say that their purpose in life is to take care of their children, which is absolutely wonderful of course. But by the time the kids move out of the house and the kids don't need the guidance or support from their parents that much any more, a lot of parents feel that they have lost their purpose in life and fall into some sort of identity crisis.. because the identity that they had, the thing that they had identified with all of this time, was being a parent, playing the role of being a parent.. and suddenly, this identity breaks down.. maybe not completely (you will always care for your children of course), but you catch my drift.

I don't really believe in Destiny, as if it were some faith that's been set out for me, as if the universe (or God if you will) has a plan for me that I need to fulfill.

I do believe that Destiny is some sort of thing you want to identify with, because it gives you a purpose in life, it gives you meaning. There's nothing "wrong" with this, of course, but it will never bring out your true - your never ending- meaning in life.

I believe that I'm destined to find my place in this Universe. I do believe that it is not what I do, but how I do it, that is most important in life.

If we're not fully enjoying how we are doing in life, if we're not happy about how our life is at this moment, than this is a signal that we are not living the way we're "destined" to live.

I believe that we have a collective destiny ; be in balance with life, live in complete acceptance (and the word "acceptance" does not mean condone, but we can just accept what is without having to resist it).

I also believe that this collective destiny will manifest itself differently in each of our lives. That is why we think that we each have a different destiny while in fact it is just a different manifestation of one collective destiny, that is:

Instead of living from a desperate wanting in life, our destiny will manifest itself as living from enjoying life.

At least, that is what I try to do every day. :)

On a lighter note; scroll down for a new poll and movie trailer !

PS: Forgetting Sarah Marshall was released in Belgian movie theaters today !

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Future plans and present dreams

I'm totally hyped about moving back to Belgium. There are so many things that I still want to do, and so many things that I have done before but have never finished or have kept up. Here's a list:

- Being a DJ: I used to be pretty good at it, mixing records, combining oldies with contemporary music, pumping up the audience with beats and rhythms. I want to know if I still have it in me. So for one day, I am going to rent a sound system and mix some tunes. Hell, maybe I even end up buying DJ-equipment. Who knows !

- Play the piano: I was in music school for two years. Learned about notes and rhythms and stuff. The second year, we got to pick the instrument we wanted to play. And I chose the piano. Not for long though, because after a few months, my friends in school were taking Judo classes. And as kid desperate to belong, I quit music school and started going to Judo practice, too.
Now I regret having never learned how to play the piano well. So, that's definitely on my to do list; take piano lessons !

- Speaking of playing music, I also took a djembe class once and I absolutely loved it. I still know how to play a rhythm or two and know how to start and end a song. I also love to dance to African music. So, one of the classes I will be taking in the future; Djembe classes and combine it with African Dancing.

- Rock & Roll : My mom used to take me to some R&R classes, and I still remember like two dance moves and know how to throw somebody from my left to my right and through my legs. I want to throw people around, jump around rock and rolling until I drop dead. So next on list ; Rock and Roll classes.

- Film making ; aaah, one of my biggest passions. I'm definitely going to buy a decent video camera and film editing software. I'll probably start out with making some documentaries, or fun stuff, maybe shooting a wedding or a dance here and there, just like I did when I was still in Belgium. And in a few years, I also want to do that 5 year evening class in film. Too bad I can't get a bachelors degree with it. But that's okay, because of this:

- Enjoy friends and family. After one year of spending my time mostly alone in a far and distant country, I've realized that friends and family are one of the most important things in life. So I'm going to enjoy, appreciate and share my life with each and every one of them. No friend is going to be better or more fun or nicer than the other. They're all as great as they are. So I'm going to have fun at parties, have friends over for movie nights and drinks, go to restaurants, the theater, theme parks, go kayaking and so much more.

- Being sporty : I don't want to lose my will to stay in shape and feel healthy. So I'm going to keep up running; or, if I get sick of it, am going to find something else that will keep me in shape. One thing though; I really want to play racket ball (squash). Any body care to join ?

- Traveling : Australia's on the list, New Zealand is too. That's my next big trip. Probably in a few years though. :)

I think of these things not as if they are dreams that need to be realized, these are things that I will be doing very soon. Probably not at the same time, or in the same year, .. but I feel like I wouldn't fully live my life if I wouldn't do these things.

Oh, sure, I still have dreams:

Buy a house of my own.
Have lots of kids.
Write a self-help book.

And die happy.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sporty Dennis

When it comes to feeling healthy, I think I have turned my life around.

I've become more sporty; I go for a run every other day and do sit-ups, push-ups and power training the days I'm not running.

I eat more healthy stuff; still not up to 4 pieces of fruit every day but at least I have a balanced diet; I eat cheese on bread, lean ham, grapes or apple as a snack, pasta, fish, almost no potatoes anymore, etc. One thing, 'though; I'm hooked on ice cream. It's taking on a form of addiction; not just any plain flavor of ice cream, but the Ben & Jerry's ones. They have unstoppable combinations ; Strawberry cheese cake (strawberry ice cream with chunks of graham cracker crust mixed through it); Cake batter (Yellow cake batter ice cream with swirls of chocolate vanilla fudge); Pistachio with caramel cookie chunks; and so on.

It's just too good to pass when you're roaming the grocery store. Boy, am I going to miss my B&J ice cream when I get back to Belgium !

We went to the batting cages yesterday. That's where you swing a bat at balls being warped from a machine. You can pick either softballs (the bigger ones) or baseballs (the tiny weeny ones) and you can also pick the speed the machine will throw them at you; soft pitch - 40 MPH or 50 MPH.

There were a few people practicing in the cages, wearing no helmets or protective gear whatsoever, and all I could see were warning signs that said : Bat at your own risk - wear protective gear - we will not scrape you of the floor..

OK, I made that last one up.

So we went in without protective gear - hey, we didn't want to come off as pussies - and hit our first (soft)ball. Aki of course had some practice already and swung the bat vigorously, hitting almost every ball.

My first try was a - well maybe not a complete - disaster. But I was improving with every round. By the third round of hitting softballs at 40 MPH, I wanted to try swinging for baseballs at 40 MPH. What a difference ! There was a I think 12 year old kid standing two cages next to us, whacking baseballs as if it were flies, and I barely hit three out of 10 or something. I guess it does take some practice.

The last round of soft balls at 50 MPH were rather painful for the wrists. The first 3 swings felt more like I was just barely stopping the balls with my bat, rather than hitting them in to the field (aka cage). But by the 4th ball, I felt unbeatable. I kicked some softball ass.

Feeling all pumped up, we went to a giant sports store to look for sport outfits and stuff. In the end, Aki almost bought two folding chairs she can use at festivals, and I bought a Nike T-shirt that says "Cornell Lacrosse" even though I don't play Lacrosse. I guess we're not that big of sports fans after all. :)

Since we were out shopping near the mall, I picked up the last items I wanted before moving back to B; two pair of really cool pajama pants, some underwear (2 for 10 bucks), and some t-shirts. Old Navy had a bunch of shirts on sale and since it was Sunday a lot of the normal sizes (which are Small and Medium) were already gone. Some times I was lucky to find one small or medium sized shirt tucked away (or hiding from greedy human fingers) behind a stack of very lonely ugly shirts. I grabbed whatever I could and headed for the fitting rooms with about 6 or 7 shirts. One of them I bought. 3.99. What a sale. The rest of them was too small, too big, made me look like a wrinkled garbage bag or a bag of potatoes.

I better keep up that work out schedule..

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lola's secret - Behind the scenes

So Lola's secret is actually based on an opening scene that I had in mind for a movie. I was walking down the street one day and there was this song playing on my I-pod that reminded me of the way Quentin Tarantino shoots his films and the choice of music he picks out for his soundtracks and I thought; what would be a typical opening scene for this director ?

And I came up with this :

"Camera looks down, filming the black road up close, white road markings flashing by as we move forward, then camera tilts horizontally towards the front of a car, a red convertible, and the camera comes in closer until only the license plate saying 'LOLA' remains in frame. then the camera tilts up, levels with the hood and starts crawling towards a girl, Lola, who's driving with her hair in the wind and one end of her scarf flapping in the wind.

As the camera comes in closer towards Lola, you can see she's crying. the camera comes even closer and you can see her make up is all messed up and tears are running from her eyes. the camera comes in closer until you only see her watery eyes.

then the camera swings outwards to your left hand side and draws a slow circle going clockwise behind her head. Slowly, the road ahead becomes visible and you can see a glimpse of the horizon but you can't exactly pin-point where Lola's actually heading to ..

the camera slowly continues the circle around her head and stops where it started the circle in front of her face. only this time we see Lola's entire face in frame. "Fuck it" ! Lola yells and the camera jolts up, and backs up from her head slowly seeing Lola driving from a bird's perspective, completely cut within the frame, so you only see the car with Lola in it driving on the road when suddenly the road ends, and we see her skidding on to a dirt road and then abruptly drop from a cliff.

the camera keeps moving forward as we see Lola tumbling to her death down the ravine, ending with an explosion that barely even gives a sound to give a sense of depth.

And then cut to black."

Then I thought, OK, let's analyze this scene:


"Camera looks down, filming the black road up close, white road markings flashing by as we move forward, then camera tilts horizontally towards the front of a car, a red convertible, and the camera comes in closer until only the license plate saying 'LOLA' remains in frame.

--> this bit tells us we're driving down a road, and the person that this car belongs to is called Lola.

then the camera tilts up, levels with the hood and starts crawling towards a girl, Lola, who's driving with her hair in the wind and one end of her scarf flapping in the wind.

As the camera comes in closer towards Lola, you can see she's crying. the camera comes even closer and you can see her make up is all messed up and tears are running from her eyes. the camera comes in closer until you only see her watery eyes.

--> this bit tells us that Lola is driving there for a reason, that she is not happy and to make you wonder what has happened to her.

then the camera swings outwards to your left hand side and draws a slow circle going clockwise behind her head. Slowly, the road ahead becomes visible and you can see a glimpse of the horizon but you can't exactly pin-point where Lola's actually heading to ..

--> this is to give the audience a glimpse of where Lola is heading, maybe even revealing the reason why she is driving, or where she is driving to ?

the camera slowly continues the circle around her head and stops where it started the circle in front of her face. only this time we see Lola's entire face in frame. "Fuck it" ! Lola yells

--> this bit is to enlarge the drama and to grab the audience even more.

and the camera jolts up, and backs up from her head slowly seeing Lola driving from a bird's perspective, completely cut within the frame, so you only see the car with Lola in it driving on the road when suddenly the road ends, and we see her skidding on to a dirt road and then abruptly drop from a cliff.

the camera keeps moving forward as we see Lola tumbling to her death down the ravine, ending with an explosion that barely even gives a sound to give a sense of depth.

--> "Oh, surprise element ! Don't you want to know why she was crying and what happened to her ? And why she drove off a cliff ? :-)

Cut to black."

Do you think Tarantino would shoot this kind of scene ?

That's when I started thinking of reasons as to why she was crying and why she drove off of a clip. And that's how Lola's secret was born. :-)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The end of Lola's secret

At the top of the mountain, hot wind was blowing through Lola's hair. The desert Valley opened up in front of her and she was relieved to see the road stretching into one straight line, leading right to the canyon.

Lola reached for her purse and wondered if her cell phone would work. If she could only call the detective she went to see the other day. Maybe he could go and check the house, see if every thing's OK with Lizzy.

The cell phone played a tune as she opened it up. Lola dialed 911. She knew she had to make a scene in order to get someone check out the house. She also hoped that she could talk to detective Morsley to tell him that Tony was going out of his mind and that she feared for her live.

Lola heard the phone dial.

"911 Emergency, how can I help you."

"Thank God, you need to come over here, my husband's gone crazy. I'm afraid he'll hurt me and my daughter Lizzy."

The voice in the phone responded, slowly. "Calm down, Ma'm, we need to know your address."

"You already know my address, I spoke to detective Morsley this week, he stopped by our house ! He knows what's going on ! "

"Hold on, I'll put you through."

The car rolled down the slope and gained in speed. The dry desert air vaporized Lola's tears.

"Detective Morsley." His voice sounded weary, like an alcoholic who smoked 5 packs of cigarettes a day.

"Detective Morsley, this is Lola, we spoke earlier this week about my husband. Tony ?"

"Right, Miss Matthews. You caught me at the right time, I was about to call you with some news."

Lola flinched. News ? Did they find the boy ? Was Tony getting arrested ?

"Miss Matthews," the voice croaked, "Tony was not the one who killed that boy."

The phone produced static noises as Lola passed the power cables leading to the power plant.

"What ?" she said." Tony didn't - "

"No." Morsley sighed. "Frank did."

Lola dropped her cell phone. All of this time she had believed it was Tony who'd accidentally killed that boy.

"But - but Tony was driving that night. He told me." Or did she dream all of this ?

"Miss Matthews, Tony was promised a large sum of money from Frank to stage all of this. In fact, Frank was driving for Tony because he was too drunk to drive. We have witnesses at the bar confirming this. Frank probably had a little talk with Tony when he purposely had hit that boy up the hill, and promised Tony everything in the world if he could hide him in his basement 'till all of this would blow over. "

That's when Lola realized something. Frank had left his cap in the basement. The night she came home and Lizzy was listening at the basement door, it had been Tony who was moaning and crying out for help.

Tony had been bleeding to death, stabbed in the gut by Frank, who had escaped through the window. But he forgot to take his cap with him.

Lola had freed Tony, wondering what he would do to her next. But Tony was infuriated, and had stormed out of the house yelling he would kill Frank.

So Lola had gone to the police, telling everything she knew.

Lola's phone yelled at her. "Lola ?" it said, "Miss Matthews !"

Lola picked up the phone.

"I'm sorry, I just.." she started crying, "How did you find out ?"

"The cap that we found in the basement belonged to the boy. We did a DNA analysis on the hairs found in the cap. Turns out he's not a random kid either; he was Frank's bastard son."

Morsley paused to give Lola a chance to take this all in.

"A few years back, Frank raped the Sheriff's wife. She wanted to keep the baby, but the Sheriff wouldn't put his reputation on the line and was afraid people wouldn't respect him anymore. "

Lola stared in front of her, hypnotized, listening to Morsley.

"So they got a divorce. But his ex-wife couldn't handle raisin' a boy just by herself. So she killed herself. Frank had heard about her death, and when he understood that the boy would go out looking for his dad, Frank decided he had no intention of raising a kid either. So he went looking for his son and thought killing him would take care of this once and for all."

Lola put all of the pieces together; Frank set Tony up. He knew they needed the money. He purposely got Tony waisted so Frank could drive, so he could find the boy that would make his life even more miserable. Or so he believed.

In her heart, Lola knew that Tony had been too proud to admit that he wasn't in control of this situation. And so he had agreed to hide Frank, take the money and hopefully run away with his wife and daughter.

And now that Lola hadn't trust him, had betrayed him by going to the police, Lola understood that Tony was mad at her and had kicked her out of the house. But that didn't mean she forgave him for what he had done.

The car sped down hill topping 85 miles per hour. Lola saw the canyon closing in and touched her brake. It cracked. The brakes didn't work. She pushed it again. Still nothing. Morsley croaked through the phone.

"Miss Matthews ? Are you still there ?"

Lola held out her phone and looked at it for a second. The she put it back to her ear and said: "I think Tony cut my brakes.."

"He did what ?" Morsley yelled through the speaker phone.

"I think Tony cut my goddamn' brakes !" Lola screamed.

She dropped her phone and tried stumping the brake pedal once more. The canyon drew closer and closer as she was steering the Cadillac downhill, trying to keep it on the road. But the brakes didn't respond at all.


She reached for the hand break and saw the picture of Lizzy taped to it. She jerked the picture loose and looked at her daughter. Intuitively, she turned the photograph over and recognized Tony's handwriting.

The Cadillac jumped off the cliff and flew forward in the air for a few seconds before plunging into the canyon. The birds that were sitting in the trees next to the river hurried away from the canyon as the car crashed into the rocks and exploded. Lola had fallen on to the river bank. She was holding on to Lizzy's picture, bleeding from her head and completely unable to move.

With her last breath, Lola read Tony's message again. It said:

"I'm sorry."


The phone in the living room rang. Once. Twice.


"Mr Matthews?" A voice croaked.

"This is Tony, who's this ?"

"This is detective Morsley."

Tony wasn't surprised to hear this voice.

"Listen, I told you I did not kill that boy."

The voice on the phone laughed.

"Oh, we know you didn't."

Tony froze.

"But we know you killed your wife."

Lola's secret - part 3

"Frank and I were heading home from the bar. We had a few beers, I admit, but I was still clear enough to drive."

Frank hissed. Tony shot him a threatening look and continued;

"So we were drivin' up Route 90 and by the time we reached Dead Man's summit, the sun was already comin' up."

Tony shifted his weight and the chair squeaked. A drop of sweat ran across Frank's temple.

Lola leaned toward the table. "So, what exactly happened ?"

Tony sighed.

"A boy was driving his bike in the middle of the road," he said, "We hit him."

"What ?" Lola gasped. "How did you not see - "

"The sun was in my goddamn eyes !" Tony slammed the table. " Couldn't see a damn thing !" Frank and Lola lifted their drinks off the shaky surface.

Lola really tried to stay calm, but her voice was trembling. "So was he .. dead ?"

Frank hadn't spoken for a long time but chose to say something now:

"No, the boy was still alive."

Tony stood up and raised a fist. Lola grabbed his arm and prevented him to hit Frank, who in his defense had already jumped off of his chair.

Lola's high voice bounced off of the black and white tiled kitchen walls. "Will you stop it already !"
Tony sat down again, took a deep breath and continued;

"So we buried him."

This was too much for Lola to deal with. How can you bury a child like that ? Driving intoxicated is one thing - irresponsible at most, but in this deserted shit hole of a place, people were drunk all of the time. But, driving around waisted and burying a child alive ? That's just messed up. Tony could get a live long sentence or even worse for that.

Lola veered up from her chair, knocking it over on the ground. "You buried him ?" she said, "How could you do that !"

Tony leaned back in his chair, spread both of his arms and held out his chest as if trying to catch a ball. "What was I supposed to do, take him to the police station? Point them to the blood on my truck ?"

Lola thought about this. After all, a live without Tony might not be so bad.. things were not running smoothly between them these last few years. Ever since he got laid off by his boss, Tony wanted to become a successful independent contractor.

"I promise you," he had said to Lola during a romantic candle lit dinner, "I'll be the richest contractor this desert has ever known." And they had kissed and made love and Lizzy was born 9 months after that and they were the happiest couple in town. For a while, at least.

Only, Tony had failed miserably at building a successful business. And that had put a strain on their relationship. Of course, with Tony in jail, Lola would have to find a better way to support Lizzy and at the same time manage to be home for her, too. They could move to the city, find a better life, move on with their lives..

"I - I dunno what to say, Tony." she said, pulling up her chair, "This is just - wrong."

"I told him to go to the Po-lice and tell'em that he'd just found the kid lyin' on the side of the road like that." Frank said.

"Yeah, like that wouldn't make them suspicious of us." Tony grinned at Frank.

But Frank still didn't seem to be impressed by Tony's attitude. "And dumpin' a little kid in the desert, comin' home lookin' like we just slaughtered a cow is a better way of dealing with this ?"

Tony kept his cool and looked up at Frank, who continued his rant;

"How about our clothes, my cap ?" He threw it on the table. The bloody fingerprints were obviously still fresh. "The dent in your car ? The loose bumper on your truck ?"

"Yeah," Tony nodded to Frank, "Whaddabout that ?"

"The mechanic at the repair shop is gonna know you had some fix-ups done. He might tell the Po-lice. Maybe we should go out and run him over too, then. "

Tony's face reddened. "What d'you suggest I do, then. "

Frank stood up and walked toward the kitchen door. "I'll fix up your car tonight, you go to the cops tomorrow and tell 'em you saw a boy rottin' in the desert."

Frank picked up his cap from the table. "I'll make sure I burn this out in the field and no one ever needs to know. And if you're too scared of telling the law, then I will."

Lola had not never thought Tony would be capable of what he was about to do. He jumped up, took a knife out of the drawer, twisted Frank's arm around his back and held the knife to his throat.

"Here's what we're gonna do," Tony gritted through his teeth, "You're gonna fix my truck," he said, "and then we're gonna let you stay in our comfy dark basement 'till all of this has blown over."

Lola was paralyzed by what she was witnessing. Tony has lost his mind.

Frank looked down at the knife pointing at his throat. This guy was not fooling around.

"And after that, you're gonna leave this town and move to goddamn Afrika for all I care, but I don't wanna see you ever again."

Tony slowly pierced Franks throat with the point of the knife. A drop of blood thickened on the blade.

"Ya got that ?"

Frank nodded carefully.

Lola tried reasoning with Tony. But he wouldn't listen. His mind was all made up. And he promised her that, if she ever tried to help Frank escape in any way, he would kill Frank and lock her up in the basement, too.

After Frank had fixed the truck later that night, Lola had to tie Frank up against the wall next to the heat installation. He would get a glass of water twice a day, some beans, bread and an apple for a meal and could only walk around the basement for one hour every day.

Lola really tried to take care of Frank as much as she could, given the fact that she needed to go to work and take care of Lizzy too, who, of course, knew nothing of this whole ordeal. Lola would come home after work at night to find her daughter sleeping in her bed or watching TV early in the morning, while all of this time Frank was tied up with his face pointed to a basement wall covered in mold.

Lola would bring Frank more water and food as Tony was starting to loose interest in what was going on in the basement. Of course, Tony would still check Frank's condition every day and punch him in the gut just to top of his misery, and then lock the basement door before giving Lizzy a goodnight kiss in the kitchen.

Lola never heard from the Police or was told stories at the diner about a boy found dead in the desert. She guessed that Tony and Frank had buried him well, or that the coyote's had found the body and had bitten it to pieces.

One night, Lola came home late from work, and saw Lizzy eavesdropping at the basement door.
Lola dropped her coat and car keys and ran over to her daughter who was listening intensely for sounds.


Lizzy looked up, scared.

"Mommy, you're home !" She swung around Lola's neck.

"What's the matter, honey ?" Of course, Lola could already guess what was going on, but she didn't want to upset her baby.

Lizzy's voice whispered in her ear. "I hear someone moaning in the basement." she said, "I - I think it's a ghost."

Lola felt her blood sink to her feet. How's she gonna explain this ?

She whispered in Lizzy's ear; "And did the ghost say anythin', sweety?"

Lizzy's big brown eyes just sort of stared at Lola. She must have been frightened.

"Well ?" Lola said, keeping her eyes fixed on Lizzy.

"I'M GONNA DIIE !" Lizzy screamed.

Lola almost dropped her daughter. She knew it had been Frank calling out for help. He might had managed to untie the cloth in his mouth, hoping to reach someone up stairs. Lucky for him, Tony wasn't home. Being a Friday night, he was probably out drinking at the bar.

"I'll go and take a look," Lola said and she put Lizzy at the stairs to the second floor. "Just wait here, and Mommy'll be right back, OK ?"

Lizzy nodded and sat down on the first step, holding her head in her two palms.

Lola walked through the kitchen and opened up the basement door. She heard Frank moaning in the dark below. Step by step, she moved further down the stairs, holding her hand against the damp wall for balance, until she reached the ground floor.

Lola felt a light switch sticking out of the wall. She hesitated for a second, took a deep breath, and flicked it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Lola's secret - part 2

The Cadillac drove off the road touching the dirt shoulder. Lola steered the car straight and continued up the hill. She had no other choice than to drive to town. She really needed to go and tell the police what happened. Things had really gotten out of hand. Tony had gotten out of hand. She should have never allowed it in the first place.

Traffic signs stated the percentage of inclination and warned her to slow down. Lola switched back and forth between the throttle and the brake of her old car, hearing a mechanical grunt while steering the car up the windy road.

Lola knew this road by heart. She'd driven every mile of it a thousand times before. She knew how lonely this road was, laid out in the middle of the desert, making her commute to work possible. She loved how Route 90 was actually a scenic route going up hill first, topping Dead Man's Summit and then opening up to the desert valley glistening below.

Lola had seen this valley in every way, day and night. In the morning, the sun climbs above the mountains shielding the desert from rain, and as the sun revives the sky with red and gold, as if God himself had painted it, a subtle breeze would bring coolness to the valley.
At night, stars wink from above while the moon shines pale light upon a black vastness of land, lighting up the white road markers painted on the tar of the road that Lola was now driving on.

Lola loved how, after having reached the summit, she could just put the transmission into neutral and let her car roll down the steep slope that goes on for miles and miles until it reaches the middle of the valley, the place where the Colorado river eroded a deep canyon over millions of years.

She would often stop at the point where Route 90 veers away from the edge of the canyon, following the stream of the river. Not a lot of people knew that this was a perfect place for swimming and jumping of cliffs into the water. Lola used to come here all the time with her parents when she was younger, and she had promised Lizzy that one day she'll show her this special place, too.

"Dead Man's Summit - 1 mile."

The sign announced the last few curves before reaching the top of the mountain. This is where everything had started. One night, Tony and his buddy Frank had come home in shock, covered in dirt, looking pale like the moon.

Lola had just put Lizzy to bed. They'd enjoyed a fun night together, playing charades and dressing up like fairies. Spending time with her daughter was unusual for Lola, what with working nights and weekends at the diner.
Lola wished she could stay home with her daughter, or at least work part time during the day, but as a building contractor in this scarcely populated area, Tony could not put enough money on the table to support this.

That night, as Lola came down from the stairs, the first thing she noticed were the muddy foot prints by the front door. She followed them into the kitchen and saw Tony furiously washing his arms and hands, his shirt and arms almost completely covered in mud.

"Is that blood on your hands?" Lola jumped closer to the sink but Tony pushed her away. Frank sat down across the kitchen table, looking frazzled, reaching for a cold beer with fingernails as black as the night. He seemed to have already washed his skinny arms and hands, but still had his cap on, and bloody fingerprints were all over it. Lola's eyes switched from the blood stained cap to Tony. She grabbed his shoulder and tried to turn him toward her so she could see his face. But she didn't have the strength.

"What the hell happened to you ?" she said.

"Nothin," Tony turned off the faucet and reached for a towel. Frank seemed to disagree. He gargled in disbelief.

Lola looked at him. "Care to explain, Frank ?" He took a sip from his beer and shrugged.

"Better to keep it to myself," he said, " I wouldn't want my buddy to go to PRISON !"

Tony turned and loomed over Frank, supporting his weight by placing his two hands on the table.

"If you want to stay alive, you shut - the - hell - UP !"

Frank was not impressed by Tony's threat. He tried to laugh it off and took another gulp from his beer.

"Com'on Tony, be serious, in a town like this, somebody's going to find out a boy's gone missing."

Lola stood perplexed, covering her mouth with both of her hands. It seemed to slow down her words. "Wa-did-you-do, To-ny ?"

She quickly snapped to her senses as Tony threw aside the kitchen table as if it was made out of Styrofoam. It smashed into the china closet holding Lola's old vase collection. Tony grabbed Frank's throat and pushed him against the wall.

"If you say one word to the cops, I'll bash your fuckin' head in."

Frank tried nodding. He couldn't. Tony let go of him and Frank reached for his throat, gasping for air.

"But you gotta ," Frank coughed, "at least tell Lola."

Lola was still standing in the same spot, looking at the two men in front of her. Suddenly, in one minute, they had become strangers to her - this kitchen now felt strange to her, like some back room in a bar filled with the stench of beer and the sweat of fighting men.

Tony turned around and looked at Lola. His eyes were filled with regret, as if he wanted to apologize for what he had done.

"OK, I'll tell her." Tony said, and he put the table back where it belonged, slid the chairs underneath and sat down, and so did Lola and Frank and they shared beers and everything seemed normal again for a split second, like they were about to have a dinner party and Frank was the first one to have arrived.

Then Tony started talking..

Lola's secret - part 1

This has got to stop.

Lola wiped a tear from her nose and checked her face in the rear view mirror. Her hazelnut hair was messy, her blood shot eyes made her look tired, God she was tired, and her forehead was showing a sun burn; driving at noon in a Red Cadillac Convertible down desert route 90 was not something a local would do.

But she had no choice; he had pushed her out of the house this morning, throwing her stuff out the door, leaving her underwear and clothes scattered over the front yard (except for the white linen dress that he had given her for her 30th birthday, that was something she guessed he did not want her to have any longer), and one picture of their 6 year old daughter Lizzy.

"Somethin' to remember her by." Tony had yelled this morning as he'd flipped their daughter's photograph at Lola's chest while she was pleading to let her stay.

Of course, Lola had been completely surprised by all of this. At 6 AM, she was drinking a glass of water after a long night working the grave yard shift at the diner, sitting in the kitchen in her night gown, ready to go to sleep, when Tony stormed down the stairs carrying a leather suit case.

"What're ya doin'?" Lola said as she saw him place the suitcase at the front door. Lola looked up at Tony's face. His balding head looked shinier than usual, his green eyes were staring into space and the scar on his cheek made him look even more mad.

"You leavin' me ?" she said.

"No," he folded his arms, "You're leavin' us." He didn't look at Lola. He wouldn't give her even that kind of recognition.

A pause of silence, not the same quiet that Lola had been enjoying while drinking a glass of water, but a moment filled with anger, tension and the ache of a stomach that was now upset. Lola's heart pumped despair and disbelief through her body.

"W-What d'you mean ?" she said, as she stood up from her chair, her gown touching her bear feet. "Why?!"

His eyes shot an angry look at her. "You know why."

Tony opened the front door, that same door that had welcomed Lola to the house this morning after a hard night at work, and she looked at the gaping hole, the exit that would become like a kick out of the house.

"I have a goddamn right to know why you throwing me out on the street." She sat down again and gestured to the chair standing on the other side of the table. But Tony had no intention of discussing it over a glass of water.

He walked over to her, grabbed her by the arm and pushed her out the door. Of course, Lola struggled, kicking - screaming - demanding an explanation, but Tony was too overwhelmed by anger. She was pushed out on the lawn, falling backwards, her elbows sinking into the grass, followed by the picture of Lizzy that Tony flipped at her chest. The leather suit case flung open as it hit the ground beside her. And then he had shut the door.

She had stood there in her ripped night gown, holding Lizzy's picture, the world turning around her, thoughts shooting through her head, hearing voices telling her that what she explained to the police yesterday, might have been a big mistake.

PS. Part 2 is for tomorrow. ;)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Having goals in life in relation to abandoning fruition

In response to a previous blog about fruition, people have send me emails stating that how we as humans need goals in our lives to pursue, things we want to achieve and learn from.

This is how we evolve and don't stagnate.

I completely agree that we need goals and that having ambition to achieve something is a building stone of being happy in life.

But that still doesn't mean that we have to perceive this goal to be a realization in a future moment. If we refer to this goal as being in the future, that means you have not accepted the way things are at this very moment. All we ever need to achieve is what we have in this very moment.

How about wanting to pursue a goal that has obviously not materialized yet in this present moment ?

When we believe that we have already attained our goals, if we believe that this is already our reality now, then what we believe inward will also manifest outward. 'Cause that is how we perceive. What we mentally label inward, what we think, becomes our reality outward.

So if you want to achieve a goal, become something, learn something, get a new job, house, or whatever, then believe that you have already attained this, so that this becomes a part of you, IN you, something tangible, rather than something that lies ahead of you, OUT of you, not reachable.

This way you have goals not out of neediness, but out of 'havingness'.

Act from the richness that you have inside, act from abundance, instead of acting from lack of.

This way, you can achieve goals in life, without having to think your present moment is lacking of..

If I apply this to my personal life situation, then one of my goals would be making movies. I know getting a degree in film would help pursuing that goal, and that time-dependent thinking would say that I only can make movies when I have attained that degree in a few years and find a way to make movies.

But if I redefine what would normally be expected of you when you want to make movies, then I'm already making them.

'Cause in my mind, I'm already coming up with stories to shoot, I'm already visioning scenes and camera movements, I'm already casting or even see me acting in a film, I'm already thinking about how I would edit it, and so on. And the moment I have a camera at hand, the only thing that I will be doing is shooting that what I'm already thinking, or visualizing.

And that goes for so many things in my life right now. Sure, I need a job soon, but what kind of job ? Something I feel comfortable in.. so I'm not just looking for a job, I'm trying to visualize a job that I think I would feel good in. And from that realization, I take action and know that I will attain exactly what I'll need for my personal evolution.

How would you apply this to your life ?

PS. Does having a lot of time on your hands make you think or what !

Sunday, June 8, 2008


Watch this amazing short film, made in Belgium:

Let me know what you think of it !

PS. It's subtitled in English, too !

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Poll results and new movie trailer

I'm positively surprised to see that 3 out of 5 poll takers think their life is not boring at all. You see, I thought the majority of us would think that our life IS boring. We go to the same jobs every day, meet the same people, eat the same food every week, travel the same route.

What is it then that makes your lives NOT so boring ? Enlighten me :-).

There's one person that thinks chocolate is like a drug saving him/her from dying of boredom. (just kidding ;-))

And one person feels she or he has a mediocre life by just having fun. That's fine with me.

I'm glad to see that nobody feels miserable enough to shoot themselves. Yay ! *clappy hands*

There's a new poll for this week. Scroll down to take it !

Oh, and also, check out the new trailer below : it's the new Paramount production of KUNG FU PANDA !

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Mole

ABC, one of the biggest American networks, is now showing the real life TV program called "the Mole".

Yes, DE MOL, the Belgian TV show that was a hit in '98 on the Belgian network TV1.

In the end credits, names of Bart De Pauw, Tom Lenaerts and Michiel De Vlieger roll by and I think it is exponentially cool to see a Belgian format make it onto the American TV screen.

Hooray for Woestijnvis !

PS. You can also watch the first full episode (which is really good) on this site (click on watch full episodes to try), but I think it probably won't work if you're outside of the US. Bummer, I know.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

About a storm and buying a book.

The tornado warning that interrupted the radio broadcast of one of my favorite country stations was surprising, if not frightening. It started with a high-pitched distorted sound, like a satellite transmitting data.

"This is a message delivered by the National Weather Agency."
" A tornado warning is in effect until 4 PM for the following counties: Arundell, Ellicott, Bel Air, Baltimore.."
That's us!

I white-knuckled over the outer loop of the Beltway, driving 70 mph in an attempt to make it home before the rain clouds would burst and cause everything to flood. Plus, our Newfoundland dog Fai was still in the back yard and even though she generally loves water, a heavy downpour would be too much, even for her.

It seems that every time you really need to be somewhere, everything and everyone will get in your way. The cars in the endless one lane street leading to our house wouldn't budge, school buses screeched to a halt like every other block or so and school kids seemed to be crossing the road like turtles on a beach.
As people turned into the residential side streets, the road to our house cleared. I could finally put my foot to the throttle. I'd barely reached the front door when I heard thunder roaring and rain started falling from of the sky like a cold shower.

I was happy to see Fai hiding underneath the little porch roof. Of course, she didn't even realize what was going on. She hopped inside wagging her tail. She was happy to see me. Then immediately she started whining to get back out and play with her ball.

"No, Fai, now is really not a good time," Rain was pouring down like a waterfall. Some of the younger trees were almost blown horizontally from the wind.

Fai jumped on the chair standing in front of the window to see what was going on in the back yard. I still think it's incredible to see this 100 pound dog jump onto a relatively small chair, sitting her giant behind down to stare outside like an old lady on a gloomy day.

As I observed Fai sitting in front of the window, I was amazed at the brutal force of the winds swooping outside. I imagined cows and rooftops whizzing by our house.
But aside from the strong winds and lots of heavy rainfall, the weather was nothing like another Hollywood disaster storm movie.

Later that day Aki returned from work. I told her about our stormy adventure and she said, "A storm ? Really ? Oh, I never noticed a thing at the office."

That goes to show how local this kind of weather can be. I could've been hanging horizontally from a tree holding on for dear live and screaming for God as power poles and cars shot by.
I could see a 20 foot dump truck just leaping over my head as it gets sucked in by a monstrous tornado, while Aki would've been sitting in a meeting, discussing her elegant garden design over a nice hot cup of coffee.

Gosh, I just love to exaggerate.

Meanwhile, things have calmed down weather-wise, although with temperatures rising every day, Baltimore has become comparable to a steam treatment at a spa. I mean, every inch of my body exhales sweat. Yuk.

Right now, I'm sitting in the air conditioned Towson mall enjoying a large diet Coke as my patronage to the food court, enjoying a mix of odors coming from Panda Express (Chinese food), Flamers (fried chicken food), Villa (Italian food) and the occasional stench of garlic coming from Sarku Japan.

I just bought a book with my European credit card (a Visa) which, unlike an American credit card, has a chip in it.

This totally dumbfounded the newbie-cashier in Borders. She practically yelled out her cry for help through the intercom system (clearly, this girl is not aware of the fact that the concept of a microphone has evolved from a wooden cone that you yell through, to a very sophisticated electronic gadget that picks up, transmits and amplifies even the squeak of a mouse into a crystal clear sound.)

One of the customer service people standing in the cook-book section twitched and jerked his ear plug out as if he'd just gotten electrocuted. He glided over to our register and asked the helpless rookie what her problem was. Clearly he was indulging the fact that his what I assume must have been maybe two more weeks of experience behind this counter makes him the cool kid in town and that no financial transaction would go wrong when he's in charge of handling this complex piece of machinery.

He swiped my card and asked me politely if I could enter my pin code.

Our faces lit up : receipt paper rolled out of the pay pad. Transaction completed.

Then he spoke these wise words:

"So like, whenever you get like, a foreign card, just go ahead and put it in the system like a debit card." He closed the cash drawer. "That'll totally work."

The young cashier girl grinned. "Totally," she said, repeating the head cashier's lingo by means of acknowledgment.

The guy nodded, pleased with the respect he now had gained, and zipped back to the cook-book section.

"So where you from ?" the girl said, handing over my credit card.

"Europe," I said. I didn't feel like going into countries and all that.

"OOOOooooh !" The tone in her voice had this 'that explains it' quality to it. She studied me as if she was sure to find green alien ears sticking out of my head.

"Thanks," I said and walked away.

I can still feel her eyes burning on my back.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Bits and pieces for today

The weather has turned extremely humid again; thunder clouds loom over us, and we're waiting for a downpour that will make tonight's commute a living hell. I feel wet even though it's not raining (hey, maybe I'm just sweating profusely?).

And summer's back. Yesterday temperatures reached 30 C again and they will not drop below this threshold the next 10 days or so.

Mornings used to be crisp and cool, birds singing with new found energy, happy to announce a new day. Today our cheery friends whistled only muffled tones.

God, I miss dry and sunny California.

I'm going window shopping today. There are about thousands of books to browse, hundreds of CD's to listen to and it's going to keep me busy all day. I'm one of those people you can drop off in a Barnes & Noble, rambling like a tod in a bath of balls in Ikea.

I might even go watch that Indiana Jones movie. Finally.

PS. I got back from my previous employer that there are no job openings anymore. Plus I also found out that the Narafi full time day film school has reached its attendance limit, and because the 5 year program in the Art Academy evening school will not give you a bachelor's degree, I just feel totally fucked. On the other hand, thanks to my ability to stay positive I'm sure some other job prospect will turn up somehow, leaving me enough time and energy to pursue my passion in film. This, however, leaves me with unrest that I now have to accept and let go of until I'm back in B and can start doing something about it. I just wished everything would have turned out the way I planned it to. I was going to go back, start that job I know is a steady job, start film school and be all happy and ambitious the next 5 years. Now I'm left with the remnants of a plan that is hanging by a thread. I'm not giving up, though. Never.

I guess you could call me a buddhist

One of the most powerful teachings of the Buddhist tradition is that as long as you are wishing for things to change, they never will. As long as you're wanting yourself to get better, you won't. As long as you have an orientation toward the future, you can never just relax into what you already have or already are.

One of the deepest habitual patterns that we have is to feel that now is not good enough. We think back to the past a lot, which maybe was better than now, or perhaps worse. We also think ahead quite a bit to the future - which we may fear - always holding out hope that it might be a little bit better than now. Even if now is going really well - we have good health and we've met the person of our dreams, or we just had a child or got the job we wanted - nevertheless there's a deep tendency always to think about how it's going to be later. We don't quite give ourselves full credit for who we are in the present.
In one of the first teachings I ever heard, the teacher said, "I don't know why you came here, but I want to tell you right now that the basis of this whole teaching is that you're never going to get everything together." I felt a little like he had just slapped me in the face or thrown cold water over my head. But I've always remembered it. He said, "You're never going to get it all together." There isn't going to be some precious future time when all the loose ends will be tied up. Even though it was shocking to me, it rang true. One of the things that keeps us unhappy is this continual searching for pleasure or security, searching for a little more comfortable situation, either at the domestic level or at the spiritual level or at the level of mental peace.

Nowadays, people go to a lot of different places trying to find what they're looking for. There are 12-step programs; someone told me that there is now a 24-step program; someday there will probably be a 108-step program. There are a lot of support groups and different therapies. Many people feel wounded and are looking for something to heal them. To me it seems that at the root of healing, at the root of feeling like a fully adult person, is the premise that you're not going to try to make anything go away, that what you have is worth appreciating. But this is hard to swallow if what you have is pain.

In Boston there's a stress-reduction clinic run on Buddhist principles. It was started by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a Buddhist practitioner and author of Full Catastrophe Living. He says that the basic premise of his clinic - to which many people come with a lot of pain - is to give up any hope of fruition. Otherwise the treatment won't work. If there's some sense of wanting to change yourself, then it comes from a place of feeling that you're not good enough. It comes from aggression toward yourself, dislike of your present mind, speech, or body; there's something about yourself that you feel is not good enough. People come to the clinic with addictions, abuse issues, or stress from work-with all kinds of issues. Yet this simple ingredient of giving up hope is the most important ingredient for developing sanity and healing.

That's the main thing. As long as you're wanting to be thinner, smarter, more enlightened, less uptight, or whatever it might be, somehow you're always going to be approaching your problem with the very same logic that created it to begin with: you're not good enough. That's why the habitual pattern never unwinds itself when you're trying to improve, because you go about it in exactly the same habitual style that caused all the pain to start.

There's a life-affirming teaching in Buddhism, which is that Buddha, which means "awake," is not someone you worship. Buddha is not someone you aspire to; Buddha is not somebody that was born more than two thousand years ago and was smarter than you'll ever be. Buddha is our inherent nature - our Buddha nature - and what that means is that if you're going to grow up fully, the way that it happens is that you begin to connect with the intelligence that you already have. It's not like some intelligence that's going to be transplanted into you. If you're going to be fully mature, you will no longer be imprisoned in the childhood feeling that you always need to protect yourself or shield yourself because things are too harsh. If you're going to be a grown-up - which I would define as being completely at home in your world no matter how difficult the situation - it's because you will allow something that's already in you to be nurtured. You allow it to grow, you allow it to come out, instead of all the time shielding it and protecting it and keeping it buried.
In other words, anything that you can experience or think is worthy of compassion; anything you could think or feel is worthy of appreciation.

This teaching was powerful for me; it stuck. I would find myself in various states of mind and various moods, going up and down, going left and right, falling on my face and sitting up - just in all these different life situations - and I would remember, "Buddha falling flat on her face; Buddha feeling on top of the world; Buddha longing for yesterday." I began to learn that I couldn't get away from Buddha no matter how hard I tried. I could stick with myself through thick and thin. If one would enter into an unconditional relationship with oneself, one would be entering into an unconditional relationship with Buddha.

This is why the slogan says, "Abandon any hope of fruition." "Fruition" implies that at a future time you will feel good. There is another word, which is open - to have an open heart and open mind. This is oriented very much to the present. If you enter into an unconditional relationship with yourself, that means sticking with the Buddha right now on the spot as you find yourself.

Right now today, could you make an unconditional relationship with yourself? Just at the height you are, the weight you are, the amount of intelligence that you have, the burden of pain that you have? Could you enter into an unconditional relationship with that?

Thanks to : "From Start Where You Are : A Guide to Compassionate Living" by Pema Chodron, Copyright 1994, Shambhala Publications.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A world of smells

Being subjected to the unfortunate symptoms of hay fever and having my sense of smell barricaded by a stuffed or runny nose makes me appreciate the times that my nose is actually clear, so I can scent all sorts of aroma's.

It even seems that, because of the occasional lack of smell, I've become more aware of smelling than before. Like a blind person that lost his sight and now has super hearing.

There are smells I am confronted with in this very moment:

A Cinnamon raisin bagel. There's nothing like it, so the vendor in the Bagel Bro Shop claims, but there's something about the smell of cinnamon in the morning that is just not quite right in my mind. Maybe it's because of the fact that I have associated it with the bread pie that my dad used to make for us when we were younger and living in the same house and that I feel protective over the fact that nothing else but my dad's bread pie can smell like cinnamon and raisin, purely out of nostalgic reasons.
Since we have bought a few of them and Aki doesn't really eat bagels in the morning that often anymore, I reluctantly toast them every other morning or so, smearing a bunch of whipped cream cheese on top to tone down the cinnamon taste.

Rotting flowers. I bought them last weekend to color up the living room. They're Memorial Day themed, a combination of white, red and blueish flowers. I really wanted to buy Day Lilies because I love the smell of lilies so much, but since they only had these, I forfeited for the star spangled banner type ones. Of course, THEY've never smelled like anything except for a neutral flower odor. If there even is such a thing.
Right now, they're not in a complete state of deterioration yet, but like the fan club of Morbids chant: you rot away the moment you're born.

Cat pee. I love cats but I hate the smell of cat pee. There are wafts of it that reach my momentarily cleared nostrils. I've become one of those people that sit quietly one moment and suddenly jolt into a frantic sniffing of air the next, saying:

"I smell cat pee."
*snif snif*
"Do you smell cat pee ?"
"I smell it.. it's cat pee."

And then, as predictable as 2 + 2 equals 4, I start looking for the source and no corner or pillow in the house is safe from an ammonia attack. OK, now I'm exaggerating a bit here.

Dog heat. Yes, you can smell a dog in heat. Fai is in heat. She's licking her groin area more than is forgivable and when we go for a walk she pees every 30 seconds to get her smell about.
Other than that, she's still pretty calm, except for the occasional howl for male dogs in the area, followed by a visit of the always escaping pit bull a few doors down. If you wonder what dog heat smells like (then you're a very sick person, hehe), it smells like cheese. Not the good kind, but those really smelly ones.

The outdoors. Occasionally, in between all of these comfy other smells, I also get a sniff of fresh oxygen wafting in from outside. And with this, a load of pollen reaches the tiny hairs inside my nose and I start sneezing again and this precious moment of smell clarity is over.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A weekend out in the country.

This picture was taken yesterday afternoon at I believe half past 1 when it was rainy and chilly outside and the best place to be was tucked away in bed with a fluffy sweater on. This was not in muggy Baltimore but in a house that belongs to my NY friend Elaine in what she calls 'the country', which to Baltimorians is a 5 hour drive up North to Yulan, NY.

I was sleeping because of the unavoidable effect that going to the country has on you: you become overwhelmed by weariness and fatigue. However, our main reason for going to the country was to help out Elaine with all sorts of chores on the grounds, but the rain was preventing us from working outside. And so I ended up doing exactly what everybody does when they spend time in the country; I took a nap.

The nap was unintentional. I was actually reading a good book for a change. It was NOT the novel I spent 25 bucks on in Barnes & Noble, a book called "Enlightenment for Idiots" which the blurb on the back of the cover promised to be "a very entertaining read".
This is not a self-help book but an extremely sappy story about a wanna-be Yoga teacher who writes about traveling for Idiots - like the dummies series - for a living. The protagonist is a woman in her mid 30's who has a mindset of a 16-year-old and is preparing herself for a spiritual journey to India in search for enlightenment. But not before endlessly wondering if she could leave her boyfriend and all of the drama behind for two fucking weeks. I gave up on page 75. At this point she was still deciding if she should get a convenient, state of the art travelling bag or a simple giant black suit case. She wrote about it in her diary, talked it over with her friends, family and had about a 3 page discussion about this topic with some generic store clerk. I mean: how long can it take for you to buy what you need and get on a motherfucking plane? They should have changed the title of the book to : "An indecisive idiot." Big yawn.

So I surrendered to this bright, yellow book that was standing on Elaine's bookshelf that, as you can see in the picture, is resting on my belly. The book is called "How to be Good" by Nick Hornby and is an absolute page-turner. Again not a self-help book. It begins to tell the story of a female doctor who is doubting if she should stay married to her ever-complaining and utterly sarcastic husband or just leave him and be done with it. Then it elaborates on her dealing with her husband who's suddenly become enlightened by a spiritual healer. From being an egoistic and aloof character, the husband turns into an emphatic goody-two-shoes, nurturing a wish to cure the world from starvation. He suggests that every family in the world takes a homeless person in and provide him with food and money. To set an example, he invites a local bum into his own house which leads to various strange - but funny - situations for everyone. You see how this guarantees an entertaining story about how to create a better world.

Anyways, sleeping was not all I did that day. We went to the recycling center and visited some surprisingly authentic old towns in the neighborhood. It's a different world out here in the woods, there are different laws and it really is like in the movies where everybody knows each other and the sheriff pulls you over for no apparent reason. Well, you're likely to be pulled over for speeding, cause here you have roads that you could easily drive twice the posted speed.

And here and there you come across these typical family restaurants and saloons or antique stores where you can still buy wooden golf sticks. And finally, exactly when a thunderstorm of hell broke loose, we checked out of the local supermarket that made me think of the old corner store in the town that I grew up in.

Later that night I tried a new sweater that Elaine had dug up from her closet:

The skunk outfit didn't really fit me of course; the sleeves barely reached my elbows. But it kept me warm for our BBQ that night. Aki wore a hillbilly outfit and professionally grilled corn on the cob for us. We also had steak and shrimp and bell peppers and squash. The perfect meal after a day out in the country.

Today, Sunday, we stopped in Scranton, Pennsylvania to take a look at that church they show in the opening credits of NBC's "The Office" with Steve Carell. I absolutely love that show, the American version of the British original series by Ricky Gervais. It's about a paper company in Scranton called "Dunder-Mifflin". And even though it's actually filmed in Van Nuys, California, coincidentally the neighborhood where I used to live in LA, they mention Scranton and show us buildings from the town.. take a look at the album.