Monthly Archives: May 2011

climb down, yo

~or~how to not be a wanker in your online approach

And so, The Global Hook-Up Party: How to have a sexytime-no-strings-attached-two-day-affair through couchsurfing. Or not. It is true that the last two posts were building up to this. Because even in my worst moods, my heartbroken moments, my deep despair, T’s words will pop into my mind, and I laugh. You will, too. That’s the point of all this. His pickup rewrite is simple, yet hilarious and amazing. My point is not to be schooly, as T has suggested. Though I can see how a guy might find it so.

A few weeks ago, I received this couchsurfing request (I cut a bit for length):

spero_crucible_365Hello V. (or should I address you as Venerated Coconut?)

The cool morning breeze across my face as I ride my bike downhill¦ The howling of jackals in the deserts of Eastern Oregon¦ Writing, the sensuous movement of the pen upon paper, letters forming into words, sentences and ideas¦ Playing as a football goalie, diving across the goal to turn the ball away¦ Joining with others in peace and environmental groups, trying to restore some balance and justice¦ The touch of a loved one’s hand¦ These are some of the things that I love and that provide my life with joy and light.

I will be in NYC [for two nights] and would love to meet you, and be hosted if possible….I share your love of writing and art- the last show that moved me deeply with its pain, love, war, suffering, and resistance was by Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in London
www.serpentinegallery.org/2010/09/nancy_spero_serpentine_gallery.html

and would like to hear of your other passions as well as share mine.

I am…a university teacher in the department. Writing and editing essays and books about these subjects is also an important part of my being. [One would think he’d take a moment to edit his correspondence. But evidently not so important.]

If you have the time and inclination, let us meet for coffee, an art show, a hike, a concert, a bike spin, prepare a meal together, or whatever the spirits and our imaginations inspire.

[closing cut]

My CS profile has no recent photo but I would be happy to send one (as an attachment I can only send it to a non CS address.)

Oh dear. No, I’m not interested in a photo of your 49-year-old self. Not at all. In fact, I’m grossed out. T and I have discussed fairly thoroughly the nature of couchsurfing, and this “request” does seem to land on his side of the argument (that of the global hookup party). I shared the request with him:

A (me): I got this from a couchsurfer. It’s so gross. What else is there to say? [see above]

T: Lordy.
It probably works most of the time.
Wankers all.
Say: “climb down, yo.”

A: “I share your love of writing and art- the last show that moved me deeply with its pain, love, war, suffering, and resistance was by Nancy Spero at the Serpentine in London and would like to hear of your other passions as well as share mine.”

is that like a mashup or mistaken cut and paste?

GAG.

T: i think it’s just barmy writing yo. few people are able to write articulately.

I recently saw a show by Nancy Spera at the Serpentine in London.  It covered all the bases – pain, love, war, suffering, resistence.  I was honestly moved.  I would love to meet you and talk about our respective interests.  I am sure we would find that we share a love of writing and art.

Something like that.  It comes easy.  People are morons.  I don’t know why I can’t function in this world when it’s the rest of the world that is moronic.

A: [Gales of laughter.] Agreed.

It’s almost shocking how T’s quick edit instantly changes the para from swarmy to thoughtful. It’s really just not that hard. But giving the behavior of (many) guys both online and in person, it seems that it is. Why is that?

a global hookup party (or not)

Lithuania_07-05_ Vilnius2_004If you didn’t read the last post, this post is a continuation. It can also stand alone. It’s the second in a series about online personality and relationship.

I had a nice surprise today when I saw that Owl, a blog friend, had posted a favorite part of a favorite poem, T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. I posted almost the same lines years back. It’s one of the few books I own (everything else from the NYPL, thanks).

I’ve never met Owl, but we’re bloggers, over-thinkers (in recovery, maybe), and ashtangis. She warms my heart just as a personal friend would. I made my first website in 1995, and within that year made friends through the web. It’s not so strange to me. As with anything, I employ discretion.

Lithuania_07-05_ Vilnius2_001It was also in 1995, before my first solo international trip, that I joined an organization called Servas. “Servas hosts offer hospitality to approved travellers of every ethnicity, creed and nationality. Through Servas, travellers have opportunities to meet hosts, their families and friends, and join in their everyday life (excerpted from their website).” They weren’t online at the time. There was an application, a fee, and an interview. Once approved, I received a book of hosts for the countries where I was traveling. All this through the US mail. It was great fun. Through it, and a book called People to People, I met friends in Europe I have to this day, including a Lithuanian family I take for my own. (The photos are, top to botttom, of Dad Myrius in their living room, with his son Regimantas behind him, Mom Regina making bulviniai blynai, and Regimantas visiting NYC years later.)

Servas is online now, but it’s been eclipsed by Couchsurfing.org. Couchsurfing is for those interested in “Creating a Better World, One Couch At A Time.” Very few have heard of Servas, but most travelers and youngsters know of Couchsurfing. I first heard about it through Anya, an in-the-flesh friend I met through the internet (about seven years ago via a harvard listserv on central asia, or siberia, or something). An anthropologist and intrepid traveler, I don’t think Anya has couchsurfed, but she talked about a male friend at Columbia U. who liked to host people with great frequency, particularly young girls. Later I heard about it from other people who said that it was used largely to find a free place to stay. My first impressions were not great—certainly not ambassadorial—but I did sign up before my long trip to Australia, and met some people before I left New York. Like Servas, many couchsurfing hosts prefer to meet others for drinks or to show them their home town rather than to host them. This I did, and still do on occasion. I’ve met some great people. But really, for most, inviting anyone to stay in her home is a bit fraught. To invite perfect strangers? Who has the time?

NewYork_2004-05_Regim_3One’s attitude to this, like most social networking sites, can be a litmus test of personality. There are really lovely people on the site looking to meet locals where they travel, like I was sixteen years ago. Now? I don’t know. My travel style has changed, and I tend to go to places I already know people. If lovely people contact me, I do like to meet them, certainly. These people send a message about themselves and what they related to in my profile—i.e. why we might enjoying meeting one another. Oh yes, like a dating site, there are profiles, which does cause confusion (conflation) for some. There are others just looking for a free place to crash. They write carbon-copy form letters about themselves and seem not to have troubled themselves to read their potential host’s profile. These people I ignore. And there are others still who give the site the reputation that Anya’s friend lends it. Why T likes to call couchsurfing “The Global Hookup Party.” This we will talk about more. Next time.

heartache incarnate

I posted this poem before, about four years ago. It reminds me of my brother. And of others, too. My mind keeps coming back to it. Maybe because it’s that time of year. Or maybe just because.

So here we are, 2011, the Thursday night before Mother’s Day. For the record, she did not have a good one. None of us did.

I read the poem again. And again. Again, until it is carved into memory. The lines that flow endlessly, beautifully, painfully through my heart are these: “You do what you can if you can; whatever the secret, and the pain, there’s a decision: to die, or to live, to go on caring about something. In spring, in Ohio, in the forests that are left you can still find sign of him: patches of cold white fire.”

Whatever the secret, and the pain, there’s a decision. You can go on caring. Maybe that’s easy for me to say—and maybe it’s not. It’s my decision, to go on, caring. I can’t make it for anyone else, but I won’t pretend I don’t want to.

This goes out to my loved ones, my tribe of true affections, who have struggled with this decision or have suffered the struggles of loved ones.

Perhaps I am selfish, but please, please stay. If you can.


John Chapman

He wore a tin pot for a hat, in which
he cooked his supper
toward evening
in the Ohio forests. He wore
a sackcloth shirt and walked
barefoot on feet crooked as roots. And everywhere he went
the apple trees sprang up behind him lovely
as young girls.

No Indian or settler or wild beast
ever harmed him, and he for his part honored
everything, all God’s creatures! thought little,
on a rainy night,
of sharing the shelter of a hollow log touching
flesh with any creatures there: snakes,
racoon possibly, or some great slab of bear.

Mrs. Price, late of Richland County,
at whose parents’ house he sometimes lingered,
recalled: he spoke
only once of women and his gray eyes
brittled into ice. “Some
are deceivers,” he whispered, and she felt
the pain of it, remembered it
into her old age.

Well, the trees he planted or gave away
prospered, and he became
the good legend, you do
what you can if you can; whatever

the secret, and the pain,

there’s a decision: to die,
or to live, to go on
caring about something. In spring, in Ohio,
in the forests that are left you can still find
sign of him: patches
of cold white fire.

—Mary Oliver

 

I need to go camping.