Today I went for a walk in the city. It was a bit chilly but I was joined by 2 million other people and we all had a splendid time. We were a noisy bunch, whistling, chanting, shouting and banging our way past the historic sites of London.

Along Victoria Embankment, past Westminster, Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, the Banqueting Hall, up into Trafalgar Square, then to Haymarket and along to Piccadilly Circus. After squeezing through there, some of us went up Jermyn St and others Piccadilly, past Fortnum & Mason, The Ritz then onto Hyde Park. Marvellous.

We weren't in a hurry and ambled along. It took us nearly 6 hours to complete our Saturday afternoon stroll. At Hyde Park, some of us listened to some other people make interesting and thought provoking speeches. Later, a few of us went back to Piccadilly Circus and sat down for a rest.

It was a long day, but I came prepared with cucumber sandwiches, delicious apples, a thermos of chicken soup and a small packet of chocolate biscuits. Certainly enough supplies for an afternoon out.

A Saturday afternoon to remember. I hope Tony, Jack, George and Colin noticed, it was such a pity they were busy and couldn't join in.

You've got to be kidding me. Is Everything2 nothing but a bunch of losers? I look at the Feb. 14 w/u's to see maybe a few good poems or thoughts, but instead it's as if all the losers in the world flocked to write about there miserable lives...

Alas, Poor Me!

Granted, I'm single, hating it, have nothing to offer women, and wish to have a girlfriend, I don't publicly display my depression hoping that some day my prayers will be answered and a girl will look affectionately in my direction.

I don't care if I get downvoted. I don't think Valentine's Day should be a day when those who are partner-less should feel depressed because they don't have a significant other. As I said before, I get very depressed, followed by extreme drunkeness, followed by more depression and so on...

But I don't bore others that would enjoy a good daylog by complaining about my own situation. The reason us losers are single is because we do shit like this. That's what makes us losers.

I'm waiting for the F train on the platform at 7th Avenue in Brooklyn. Toward the end, there's a homeless person rooting through one of the trash bins. Common enough sight in New York. Cleveland Indians jacket, knitted hat with a puffy ball on top. One arm buried to the shoulder.

The train arrives. There's another homeless person in the car, sitting with his head down, bent completely forward. A blue hooded sweatshirt poking out from the red and black plaid coat he's got on. Fingerless gloves on his knees. I sit down a few seats away, on the opposite side, and start reading my book.

The person from the platform enters the car, and starts the routine. "Ladies and gentlemen, I am a homeless female," she begins. "If you can spare any food so I don't have to eat out of the trash, a cookie, a piece of fruit, a cake, a sandwich, it would be very much appreciable and very much grateful..." She makes her rounds up and down the car.

Then I see the other homeless guy stir. He starts pawing at himself with both hands. The three well-to-dos sitting by him watch with cautious fascination. When the woman comes back his way, he withdraws a quarter and drops it in her cup.

Honor amongst thieves, I think. But it gives me pause.

He crumples back up, and she closes the speech. "Thank you ladies and gentlemen, enjoys the rest of your evening." On her way out of the car, she comes back up to the guy, and hands him a dollar bill.

Confused, he takes it.

"That's how that's done, you see," she says to him. "That's how that's done." She exits the car at the back, leaving the man sitting there holding the bill in his hand.

It's difficult to understand him, the speech is slurred and garbled, but he opens up on the three sitting by him.

"You see that, right? I got nothing, I got nothing, I give her a quarter though. Then she gives me this." He holds out the dollar, almost angrily. "What's that?" he demands. "What's that?"

The three shake their heads.

"That's God," he answers, pointing upward. "That's God. What else could that be?" He pockets the bill, and makes the sign of the cross in the air.

The clock is ticking. I went to Gwangju with Eun Jung yesterday. There were no movies playing that either of us wanted to see, so we went to a video room (kind of like a combination video store/miniature movie theatre for two people... good for dates). She picked out a not-particularly-interesting romance movie. I can't even remember the name. It doesn't matter, because halfway through the movie, she rolled over on the sort of inclined couch/bed/chair thing that video rooms have and started kissing me. It's the first time we've kissed (aside from one quick peck she gave me a while back), and she was pretty enthusiastic about it.

Here's the scary part, though. After that, we went for dinner, then to a bar to drink some beer... but on our way to a second bar, she initiated this conversation (all in Korean).

Her: I have to ask you a question.

Me: Okay.

Her: Are you going to stay single, or get married?

Me: I'd like to get married, eventually.

Her: When?

Me: Two, three, four... maybe five years?

Her: I can't wait that long.

(At this point we arrive at The Blue Monkey... to stall for time, I tell her I'm going to the bathroom, and tell her to get a table and I'll be with her in a second.)

Me (joining her at the table): Did I hear you right? You said you can't wait two years or more to get married?

Her: Yes. I want to marry you as soon as possible.

Me: I thought you said (earlier) that you want to get married at 27. (she's 23 now)

Her: I said 27 at the latest. In Korea, if I'm not married by then, I'll never find a husband.

Me: I think it's a bad idea for two people to get married if they haven't known each other for at least a year. If a man and a woman meet and then get married right away, quite often, 6 months later, they change their mind and realize they've made a mistake.

Her: I know. One year is okay, but not much more than that. If we're going to be together, I want to marry you after a year or so.

Me: I'm going to have to think about this. I love you, and I guess I'm old enough that I'm ready to get married, and I want to live in Korea... but I don't want to make a mistake.

So basically, because she's scared of being a lonely old maid forever, she wants me to either commit or call the whole thing off with enough time to spare that she still has a chance to find someone before she's culturally considered too old to be desireable to potential suitors. I can understand that fear, but it puts me in an awkward spot.

I've felt for a while now that I'm old enough to get married, and marrying a Korean girl and settling down here has been part of the long-term plan... but as a sort of vague plan, involving an abstract girl, some time in the non-specific future. This is a concrete ultimatum, involving a very concrete girl, in the very specific and rather short-term future. As I said to her, I'm going to have to think about this very seriously.

One year, or less, to make a decision. The clock is ticking. Gah!

Well, I can't say that yesterday was a total loss, even if it did rain all day, which prevented me from working. Some of the CocoNuts (local denizens of my favorite hangout) decided to have a mass "pity party" and went to George's Pool Hall so that we could all be alone together. Basically, it was just like every other night except that some of us dressed up and flirted more often than usual... or got drunker than usual. Me? I don't drink, but I didn't want to be left out of the fun, so I flirted with disaster. More to the point, I'm a 30-year-old male and I flirted with an 18-year-old college chick. Lots.

I guess the upshot is that I had some fun for a while. I didn't make a long night of it because, as fate would have it, I was tired. I didn't ask the young woman I was flirting with to go home with me, but I did ask her out for dinner tonight. She accepted, but she was a little hesitant, I think. You see, one of my best friends has had a letch for her and when he got drunk last night (yes... he was one of those people), he had taken enough liquid courage to go and let her know about his attraction to her. To which she kindly replied, "I'm very flattered."

More backstory: I've been somewhat attracted to this young woman for a couple weeks now (hey... don't look at me like that... I haven't been on a decent date in a few years and I need to get back in the saddle again...). I expressed this subtle attraction to my close friend, and his face kinda fell because, well, he was suffering from that "I saw her first" syndrome. I told him that I would back off and let him make his move if and only if he got off his ass and told her or asked her out. He finally did so last night while it was his turn to play a game of pool against her (we were on a rotational circuit... player wins, loser racks, new player goes against winner, repeat).

When he told me about it and repeated to me what she'd said, my reply was, "Okay... so she was flattered... buuuuut?"

"No 'but'," he said. "She just said that she was flattered."

So that's neither good nor bad. He didn't ask her out, but he told her that he was attracted to her. So I was free to make my own move now, right? I mean... I did say that until he got off his ass and said something, I would keep my distance. So, later, she and I were playing a game of pool (it was her turn to play against me) and I mentioned it to her. Her face fell, looking not too happy at the prospect of his attraction. I asked her how it made her feel when we got to the cafe and there were fewer people around to overhear the conversation. She was silent for several long seconds.

"Flattered? Awkward? Uncomfortable? Happy? What?" I asked.

"Flattered that he's attracted to me; awkward because I don't want him to; uncomfortable because I know that if I don't do something soon, I'll end up hurting him and he's a friend and I don't like hurting my friends; happy because, well hell, doesn't every woman like to feel attractive? I don't know... this is a sticky situation that I've been in before and it always ended badly."

"I see," I said. "Well, would you like me to talk with him? He's one of my closest friends, first and foremost. If you feel awkward about talking to him, I can."

"Well... what about you?" she asked. Of course, she knew that I was attracted to her. I'd said as much, but I was far less involved with my feelings about it get weird over it.

I smiled and shrugged. "Let's jump off that bridge when we get there," I said.

She was thoughtful for a moment. "No," she said. "I'll deal with it. It's my problem, not yours."

Fine by me, I thought. While I have no personal problems with telling a friend bad news, I knew very well that it would be 10 times more awkward for me to tell him, since he knew that I would take a shot at this woman next. And so I did, just as I was leaving the cafe. She and I had left at the same time, she going for her car and I going for mine. I called across the parking lot, "What're you doing tomorrow night?"

"Uhm... nothing. Why?"

"Want to have dinner with me?"

"Sure... when?"

"The usual time. Seven or so. Let me get your number..." I reached into my trenchcoat pocket for my cell phone.

"You've already got it," she said, closing the gap between us. I now had my cell phone in my hand and raised a curious eyebrow at her. I had never asked her for her number, so how could I have it? "While you were playing pool against someone else I took the liberty of putting my number in there for you."

I smiled again, this time with admiration and appraisal. I really, really, really like women who know how to think ahead. She'd anticipated me asking her for her number long before I ever got around to doing it. Clever girl. I began to scroll through the list of numbers. There was a new name that I didn't recognize listed: "Love Kitten?"

She blushed.

"Right, then. Very well. Drive safely. What time do you normally wake up?" I asked.

"Around noon," she answered, pulling out her car keys from her hip pocket.

"Great," I said, putting my cell phone away and reaching for my own car keys. "I'll call you tomorrow and we can set up a time and meeting place. Start thinking about what you'd like to have for dinner. Have a good night, sleep well and I'll talk with you tomorrow." We waved good night and that was that....


On the way home, about ten minutes after we'd parted ways, I called her from my car.

"Hello?" her voice said to me over my cell phone.

"Hi," I said. "It's me. Now you have my number, too. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, right?"

I heard her giggle through the airwaves. "Certainly."

"Damn straight it is. Good night." She replied in kind and we hung up.

Today I woke up and tried to call her. Apparently, her phone was off from 2 PM till around 4. She called me.

"Mother Nature's being a bitch," she said to me. "You know how I'd mentioned last night that I was worried if I could even get home because of the rain, how the bridge on my street floods easily?"

"Yeah...." I said, somehow knowing where this was going.

"Well, I can't leave. This sucks. I mean, at least with snow I can go outside and play in it. Rain's a whole other story. I'm stuck here and can't go out. I tried using Dad's big-ass truck, but the water's too deep and it keeps stalling. Can we do this tomorrow night?"

I was already at the cafe, sitting in front of my laptop, and dressed for a night out on the town. To say that I was displeased over this would be an understatement, but what could I do? Complain? What would that have done? Nothing, except make me look like a whiney bitch. I sighed into the phone's mouthpiece. "Tell you what... if you want to go out tomorrow night, you've got my number. Call me tomorrow at any time. Sound good?"

"Yes," she said. "I'm really sorry about this."

I shrugged, even though I knew she wouldn't be able to see it. "No problem. I'll do what I do every night, no big deal. Try to have a good night, okay?"

"You, too... I'll call you tomorrow."

"I certainly hope so. Bye."

And, so, that was that. Not exactly stood up, but not exactly hooked up, either.

At least I was able to use the time productively.

Sitting here at the cafe with nothing much to do allowed me the time to give my computer's GUI a face-lift. LiteStep has been making some good progress over the last 2 years. I'm quite pleased with the new look.

So the day wasn't totally wasted, was it?

You know, sometimes nostalgia is very nice.

Just when you're kinda in a nothing mood, just drifting along mindlessly, memories of times gone by float up to the surface. These memories can be of the smallest, most insignificant things, but sometimes, they can bring such a smile to your face.

I had one of these moments tonight.

It was triggered by a tin of baked beans...

I guess some explanation is in order, because that's gotta sound pretty strange. You see, right now, cash is in short supply. Things are by no means desperate - I just had to pay a few outstanding bills and the like, so need to tighten my belt for the next week. Which is ok - I simply need to resist temptation until next Friday, and entertain myself in ways that cost nothing. No big deal. So I'm wandering around the supermarket near my place, trying to figure out what food I can buy that will firstly fill me up, and secondly not cost too much. Then I walk past a shelf full of tins of baked beans, and tinned spaghetti. Ahh! You can't go past $1 for a tin of food that's filling, not too bad tasting if you can get past the whole stigma of eating baked beans, and actually fairly nutritious. So I picked up a tin, after marveling at the range available these days - baked beans with tomato and bacon chunks, baked beans with sweet chili, baked beans with barbeque sauce - I guess it's been a while since I've had a good look at the range!

So I'm back home, later in the evening, when hunger strikes (not helped by a friend of mine cooking spring rolls in the oven, which smell pretty good). Beans go in a bowl in the microwave, a couple of slices of bread in the toaster, one slice of bread in reserve for when I've inevitably got left over beans and no toast left on the plate.

Then nostalgia hits with full force.

I'm transported back to the year 1987. Living with my family - mum, dad, brother and sister. And it's Sunday night there, just like it is here now. The main difference is that back then, it's the middle of winter, whereas here I'm sweating in the heat of summer. And I feel as though I'm 12 years old again, as my family enjoys a relaxed Sunday night meal - one of the few that were ever taken in front of the television. Sunday nights were different - the Rugby League match of the round was shown then. My dad gave to me the love of that game, sitting on the couch on those nights as he's explain the things I didn't understand. We had a slow combustion fire in that lounge room - I can remember our cat, Soxy, who used to stretch out on the carpet in front of it, soaking up so much heat that you were worried about burning yourself if you touched him. Mum, heating up a big pot of the beans, dad usually helping by getting a mountain of toast ready and buttered. Eventually it'd all be ready, and we'd all go off with a steaming plate of food, sit in front of the box, and watch together. I guess there wasn't all that much talking at that time, but it didn't matter at all. We were all together, enjoying the simplest meal you could slap together.

We were a family, doing the most mundane of family things.

Tonight, I sat down to a plate of baked beans on buttered toast, and I enjoyed every last mouthful. It's been close to ten years since I lived with my family, but tonight, in some small way, it felt like I was back in that lounge room, listening to dad's disbelief and frustration at a stupid refereeing decision. Lying on the couch in my pyjamas, waiting for Soxy to come up and find a lap, purring all the while.

I think I'll buy another tin soon.

Peter. It struck me today that I haven't talked to you in 8 years, since you and your family moved back to Manchester. I feel like a bad friend, because you are probably the only one I haven't kept in touch with out of all of the friends that I've been separated from.

I have your phone number lying around somewhere, I think, but I've always hesitated to call, for some reason I don't know. I guess I don't know what I'd say. What would or could I say? It's been so long that too many events have passed by to properly catch up, I guess. Where would I start? Would I tell you that Steve is doing his PhD now, that Brigid is still in St. John's - but, see, that's where it gets complicated, because Brigid isn't *still* in St. John's, she's actually *back* in St. John's, but she's been back for long enough for me to consider it as though she's still there. She was actually in Thailand for a while back in 1997 or so, and then went out west to British Columbia - but like I'm saying, that's why it's so complicated. There's so much to unpack, and everything unfolds and spirals out of control until I realize there's no way to hold all the loose ends at once and make it a story that could cover over and smooth out the awkwardness of hearing a long-lost voice come to you out of nowhere.

Pasts can't collide and not make a mess. It just doesn't happen like that, I'm sure it'd be weird.

We often talk about you, about babysitting your sister while Herb snuck in through the back window with a bottle of Johnnie Walker. Brigid and I especially talk about getting in touch with you, but we never do. We just talk about it, and then think about it for a while, as the pages of my books turn yellow and the words get rubbed out.

I live in a different city now, I have for the last five years. Friends have died; friends have taken on much different shapes than the ones you'd recall or recognize. I want to tell you these things. I think that secretly, I write this in the hopes that you'll read it, or someone that you know will read it, as if chance is the only acceptable way in which to meet again, as if an effort would be forced and unreal. I'd like to someday see your house on Lomond Road, and raise a glass with you again.

Remembering is an act of consent.

Gene Autry's Cowboy Code: The cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take advantage. The cowboy must always tell the truth.
Painted on a large banner at the February 16, 2003, Anti-War Rally in San Francisco

I see contingents at the rally from Illinois, from Montana. I consider the effort they had to make to get there. My wife sees someone she knows from Reno. But for many of us, it's just another weekend in the Bay Area. Sunday's to do list: Do laundry. Protest War. Buy groceries. Watch The Simpsons.

An anti-war protest in San Francisco is unusual in not being unusual. There's Joan Baez, Danny Glover, and Bonnie Raitt leading the march-- that won't even make the six o'clock news. Ho-hum. The hippies and the grandmothers and the Chicano student association and the young parents with strollers and the anarchist teens and the Vietnam vets all marching together. Seen it. Been there, done that. Bring your sign, or don't. Pick one up when you get there. Or paint your face. Or just march along. You're invited, heck, you're expected to show up. In my building, the upstairs neighbors leave early. "See you there." The across the courtyard neighbor leaves to meet friends. "Have a good time." Her upstairs neighbor leaves to catch the train to the march. If we'd realized this earlier, we could have marched together: "381 Adams Street Neighbors for Peace."

The time and meeting place for the rally is on the front page of the newspaper. While the editorial page pushes for Bush to show casus belli, the Datebook section has features on local artists preparing for the march. The business section runs articles on financing a protest march. The theatre critic is covering the giant puppet and street theatre angle. (Their eagerness to pay attention might be seen as penance for their community faux pas by underreporting the January march of 100,000 people). The organizers postpone the protest a day, so as not to inconvenience the 500,000 people who come out on February 15th for the Chinese New Year's Parade. The BART train and the ferries run extra trips, so you can get to the rally on time. It's all so... normal. By the time my son reaches his second birthday, he'll he already been to three anti-war rallies. It's just the way we live here.

We plant ourselves by a light pole and watch the march go by. It's easier to see everything if you let the crowd come to you. We plan to leave the rally before the end. Peace in our time? Not if our toddler isn't allowed his afternoon nap.

There are dozens, hundreds of signs, mostly on message (notable exception: Free Ed Rosenthal). Oil is a common theme, so are caricatures of Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld. Duct tape is new, as is Viva La France. But while the signs provide a riot of color and sloganeering, the experience of the march is profoundly an aural one: drums. Bells. Chants. And this:

The sound starts in the distance. Sometimes from the East, probably starting at Justin Herman plaza, five blocks away. Sometimes from the other direction, anywhere along market street between here and the Civic Center two miles away. It's the sound of the human voice. Shouting. Or cheering. Shouting, as if raising the volume would get the politicians in Washington two thousand miles away to listen. Cheering, to celebrate that there are other people who feel the way you do, and they've come out to the street today to be with people like you. The shout and the cheer become a roar, and the sound sweeps through downtown. The sound echoes off the glass facades of San Francisco's office buildings and storefronts. The sound fills our ears, our heads, we can feel it in our bones. We lift our voices to join in. The sound of two hundred thousand people.

I am proud to say that I marched with 6-10 million other people today, including PhillC and Ereneta. OK, in fact, I only had to endure the BO of 500,000 Sydney-siders, but our voices were joined with the global cry for peace.

Normally, I show a healthy level of nationalism. I’m usually quite proud to be an Aussie. But recently, just when one thought the Liberal party had learnt from the Vietnam War, and its All the way with LBJ, little Johnnie Howard gets us involved in the Coalition of the Willing.

He doesn’t need UN-backing... he’s got US-backing... which brings me to one of my favourite sign-series of the march:
Sign 1: I did it for the oil - George W Bush
Sign 2: I did it for the Bush - John Howard

I am glad I’m on the side of peace, because I think it’s the side that has much more fun. Our songs are better, our jokes are funnier (and so are our cigarettes). The camaraderie of the day was pretty cool, and it was not just the usual suspects - although, of course, they were there.
I referred to our train as the Peace Train. At the start of the trip, we were all nervous, and uncertain as to just how many people were going to be there. Maybe, it would just be me, my hubby and the freaks. But as the train filled and the t-shirts became more “vocal”, it was obvious that this was going to be a big day - complete with all walks of life.
But no extra trains were scheduled. And soon, the train departed stations with platforms full of people, still waiting to get on the train.

On the day, I knew that what we were doing were unlikely to change the warmongers’ minds. But I wanted to play my part of history. I wanted to be able to tell the next generation: “I opposed the evil invasion of Iraq”.

I was shocked when I discovered that the warmongers had two things to say about it:

  1. Assuming that 10 million turned up, that still left 5,990,000,000 people who didn’t turn up - and therefore supported the war on Iraq.
  2. Hope the protesters are happy now, because they have supported Saddam Hussein, and given him more propaganda ammunition.

I’m not going into the arguments of the war, the confusion between a “War of Terror” vs. a “War on Iraq”. Oh, I can’t help quoting Andrew Bartlett, leader of the Australian Democrats:

”Someone who is pro-peace cannot be pro-Saddam.”

Not in my name

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