Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Posts from 10,000 ft: missing Mississippi?

The view from way up here
From my cramped, middle-seat in row 42, without even the distractions of free wifi ($6/hr is $6 too much.  Take note, Delta), I'm doing my best to appreciate the fact that I am flying through the air at 100's of miles an hour. So far, I'm unsuccessful.

But I'm no less happy for it, I managed to hop on the standby list for an earlier flight (for free!) and got out of Atlanta an hour and a half earlier than scheduled. So now, at this moment, instead of inching along the tarmac in Atlanta, I'm sailing over the bright, golden-hazy meadows of Oklahoma.  

Since, relatively speaking, I'm not going anywhere, I thought I'd talk a bit about Mississippi.

See?  Boring. 
I'll open with a confession: I get bored in Mississippi.  A lot of people asked me why I went home for such short time.  There were a lot of good reasons–I needed to finish up projects in Provo; it was hundreds of dollars cheaper to fly christmas and new years eves; and I wanted time to come back, work on things in Provo and get ready for the school semester. A big part of it was just habit: for a long time I've had very limited time for vacations because of the MTC, so this Christmas, even though I had fewer obligations, it felt strange to leave for more than a week–but a lot of it came down to the fact that I always get bored when I stay in Mississippi for too long. I miss the near-constant adventures available in Utah.

That said, this last week was lovely.  I think this last year I mellowed out a bit and realized that I actually enjoy a lot of things about Mississippi and being home that I've never really appreciated.  Here's a little shout out to my home state.  It may have problems with obesity, poverty, education, and teen pregnancy, but it's not for nothing that profound people come out of Mississippi.

There are also no dogs in Provo
When I was younger, whenever we would go to Utah, when we came back my parents would always talk about how Mississippi was "So green!!". I never saw what was so fantastic about the greenness.  Now when I come home I love how the entire state is alive.  Everywhere you look, there are trees and bushes and vines and life.  There are squirrels and birds and bugs everywhere. Everything is slightly damp and smells like life.  Everything breathes.

Mississippi might not be a popular destination for carefree, outdoorsy europeans and asian tour busses (although it might, they always seem to pop up in the strangest places), but its outdoors are somewhat wonderful.  Open water kayaking is fantastic, and walks in the woods have this private, secluded, even romantic (in the truest sense of the word) feel that is hard to find in the exposed, oft-overcrowded wilderness of Utah. You can turn a corner in the woods and find yourself with no human in earshot. It's really the best type of solitude.

Here we see Perkes in its natural habitat
There was a time when I thought snow was the most magical thing in the world and I could play in it forever and never get bored.  Admittedly, that was last Sunday, but the more time I spend in Utah, the more I appreciate winters that aren't quite so frigid.  It is wonderful to stand barefoot in the gulf, or walk through the woods in a t-shirt (having fallen into the water from a tree of dubious integrity), or simply go outside without gearing up for war.

In regards to the people, I might just be projecting, but I feel like everyone here, myself included, is a lot less high-strung. It's sort of hard to judge this, because I live in a stressful college town, and my parents live on the beach in a casino town, but I think it's a fair observation.  People in the south just take time to talk to people or to sit.  I think that's the reason there are so many porches in Mississippi compared to Utah. (I don't actually know if this is true, but I suspect it is.  When I have internet again I'll look this up.) The one time we tried to get a porch in Utah the Home Owners' Association threatened to fine us.  Why?  Because they hate relaxation.

Crepes for lunch

Returning to Mississippi, you wouldn't know if from how skinny healthy everyone in my family is, but we do food right.  Eating my parents cooking is great, and the bagels and cream cheese flow like water from the tap (and unlike tap-water in Mississippi, bagels and cream cheese are delicious).  Actually my family does everything I love right.  We play games, we cook fancy meals, we talk about science, we go outside, we watch Doctor Who.  It's very reassuring.

So I really enjoyed this week, and being in Mississippi.
I'm not saying I'd like to build a summer home here, but the trees are actually quite lovely.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

People watching just to pass the time

Notes from my voyage:  

First flight awful, stuck between two people, both college students.  Good enough people–they don’t take up my space, make noise, or smell bad, but the whole thing is very claustrophobic.  Guy on the right wants to be a naval pilot, studying flash cards of pre-takeoff checks, slept most of the trip.  Girl on my left in pajama pants, sleeps, reads.

Young family to the left with a fairly quiet baby.  Sometimes she cries, but that’s how I felt also.  The girl next to me was making faces at her and making her (the baby) laugh. As we approached Atlanta, baby was sitting on tray table, pressed against the window, looking at the world below. 

In the airport cafĂ©, black ladies at the cash register.  Probably around my age, messed up Hispanic guy’s order, didn’t really face him when they talked to him.  Didn’t include his bread bowl, and wouldn’t give it to him because he hadn’t paid, agreed to charge him for it and give it to him, but found out they were out of bread bowls.  Hispanic guy (an airport worker, maybe on the tarmac? Has a vest with initials on it, can’t remember what) retorted as he left, “it’s a holiday, y’all need a cook!”

My lunch  was  mediocre.  Chicken salad sandwich careless, raw onions always a bad decision.  Four croutons does not a Caesar salad make. Now my hands smell like raw onions.

Second flight: Drunk (?) woman with seat next to me argued about baggage space with passengers in front of us (old married couple, made snide comments and didn’t really acknowledge her directly), coming from home in Charlotte to visit her husband who works for VA in Biloxi. Short dress and makeup, but fairly disheveled.  Face puffy, seems like it’s seen plastic surgery, but could have just been a bad day. Probably drunk, definitely kicked off the plane.

In front of me, old, colonel sanders type friendly with young, smart, relaxed black guy. Sanders is in a suite, black guy in a white t-shirt with tattoos.  Both in first class, ordering drinks, bonded over drunk lady.

Take off, empty seat where upset woman would have been; she smelled bad, I didn’t ask her name. I unceremoniously nabbed her seat for my stuff after she was escorted off.

Diamond rings do disco–reflect the sunlight all over the cabin.  Looks like stars. This ring’s owner is a white, middle-aged, thin woman with grayish buzzed hair.  Did she do chemo, or is she just a little edgy? Husband reading CNN, sort of a Newman type, now he’s on E-trade, CNN money. (Making stock decisions?) Old woman in front (the couple who argued with lady from Charlotte) not wearing a ring.  Are they just family? Unmarried? Or do her fingers swell on airplanes? I can’t see the husbands left hand without being obvious. She’s reading “Born in Fire” Husband (?) has typical old man hat: tan, canvassy, large.  Woman has anchors embroidered in gold all over her blouse.

Middle aged couple (with the diamond) ordering white wine, joking with stewardess.  Classy Folk, southern accents, going home. 

Stewardess is older (mid 40’s?  Early Fifties? Black women tend age well) A bit old fashioned (shoulder pads, hair curled in rollers) but classy, friendly.  She opens cans with a card to save her hands. Clever.

Other flight attendant younger (30’s?) more modern style, smiles more.

They keep offering me refills, why don’t I take them? These pretzels are making me thirsty.

I started this because I was reflecting on the drunk lady and didn't want to forget how that went down, I finished because I was bored.  As we de-boarded I noticed the older fellow had a ring, so I'm going with swollen fingers.  Additionally, the diamond ring lady had her leg was in a brace and she asked for a wheel chair, and they were talking about having had surgery.  Bone marrow transplant maybe?  Christmas can be a rough time for people.  It's good to be home. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Thoughts of an recently-busy, oft-overprivileged yuppie, or Further proof that my dad cloned himself

"Perhaps I am more than usually jealous with respect to my freedom. I feel that my connection with and obligation to society are still very slight and transient. Those slight labors which afford me a livelihood, and by which it is allowed that I am to some extent serviceable to my contemporaries, are as yet commonly a pleasure to me, and I am not often reminded that they are a necessity. So far I am successful. But I foresee that if my wants should be much increased, the labor required to supply them would become a drudgery. If I should sell both my forenoons and afternoons to society, as most appear to do, I am sure that for me there would be nothing left worth living for. I trust that I shall never thus sell my birthright for a mess of pottage."
                     ~Henry David Thoreau,  Life Without Principle

Reading Thoreau makes me feel like less of a generation-Y idealist unwilling to settle down and get a real job and more like a generation-Y idealist in pursuit of a worthy life. Not that there's anything wrong with working hard–I suppose all good things that exist are the result of hard work–but the idea of sacrificing a joyful life for money to provide for an expensive one terrifies me.

I was going to make this long and thoughtful, but that's really all I have to say on the subject, plus I just realized that I actually ended up posting my failed attempts at a good analysis of this semester last month.  I don't think all people who make a lot of money are selling their soul, a lot of people are passionate for things that compensate well. I'm fairly lucky in this regard actually.  While I'm not passionate for anesthesiology, there are a lot of people willing to pay scientists to explore the world, and that's a pretty good gig.

Maybe people who have actually pursued careers will be able to inform my opinions on this, but for now I'll stick with this. I've had a lot of examples in my life of people for whom a career is about so much more than a paycheck.