Posts tagged: Friends

Welcome to the Latitude Society

By , October 30, 2015

Some years ago I wrote a blog about the Jejune Institute. I waited quite some time before posting that blog, because Jejune was something best discovered without assistance. I stumbled across strange stickers and unusual signs and gradually pieced together a path that led me to the Institute’s door, and I didn’t want to spoil the opportunity for another to feel that sense of wonder, with some fear mixed in for good measure, as he tried to decide whether or not he’d accidentally joined a cult. Only after the Jejune Institute began publicly advertising its own existence as a sort of “real world game experience” did I feel it was acceptable to share some information about it here.

Now, some years later, I’m here to share details of a related experience, this time as a member of the Latitude Society. Sadly, while my Jejune post came while Jejune was still operating, this post is only possible now that the Latitude has come to a close.

Latitude Invitation Handoff

As the Jejune Institute wound down, I befriended several of its creators, most notably Jeff Hull. While I never quite knew who did what with regards to that project, Jeff was head honcho at Nonchalance, the company that had produced the experience, and someone brimming with ideas concerning the repurposing of public spaces for secret games and clandestine art projects. When Jeff contacted me in June of last year to let me know he had “an object he’d like to pass onto me” I was pretty excited. It was with considerable disappointment that I had to inform him that I was getting married in less than two weeks’ time, and would not return to the Bay Area until mid-August. It’s a testament to my belief in the creations of Nonchalance that, as excited as I was for my pending nuptials and subsequent honeymoon on the continent, I felt no small amount of regret that I could not immediately partake in the new project. Had it been anything other than my wedding, I’d quite possibly have postponed the affair by a week or two for the opportunity to return to the magical land of Elsewhere, to which I was sure Jeff’s “object” would grant me entry.

Eventually I did meet with Jeff, at Oakland’s Chapel of the Chimes columbarium, a place of resonance to me as a Jejune member. There, Jeff explained that he was inviting me to join the Latitude Society, an ancient community that has existed in secret for centuries. By accepting his invitation I was bound to a code of absolute discretion, and was not to share any information about my invitation, or the society, with anyone else, ever. Or else. As such, I’m only sharing now because Jeff has closed the society and posted a long blog of his own describing its creation and spilling its secrets.

If you want to know the nuts and bolts of what was involved with joining and participating in the Latitude Society there are now plenty of “walkthrough” web sites and blogs, so I’ll spare you the minutiae. The short story is that the invitation Jeff handed me was a plain white credit card that unlocked a door to a non-descript building in San Francisco. Once inside, the house began to interact with me. Lights flashed, noises sounded, and I soon found myself sliding down a curved slide, in absolute darkness, then crawling through a narrow, carpeted tunnel, also completely dark, before emerging into a library of sorts. An open book read itself to me, complete with moving pictures, as if by magic, after which I made my way to a rathskeller where I poured myself a drink. Nowhere along the line did any other human interact with me; the house itself was alive. There was more, including a sort of scavenger hunt through the Mission District, before I ended up in a secret video game arcade where I played Asteroids using a bronze coin I’d acquired along the way. The game was interrupted by a digitized face on the screen (even the video games come to life when the Latitude is involved) who told me what to do next.

Besides being an amazing afternoon’s experience in its own right, a door had been opened to something that Jejune had only partially offered– a recondite family of likeminded individuals. That was the true magic of the Latitude Society, for once initiated (indoctrinated?) you were welcome to invite others of like heart and mind to join the community. The community was based upon the notion of “experiential tithing,” which is a fancy way of saying we were all encouraged to create and share experiences, talents, and ideas with one another, with the goal being to give more than you get. There are other aspects to the society, including myths, lore, and rituals, that I still won’t share, and I hope others won’t, either.

The Latitude Society introduced me to hundreds of amazing individuals, and I’ve developed friendships with many that will last long after the demise of the organization. It granted me access to the artistic endeavors and creations of so many talented and enthusiastic people, as well as the chance to simply sit and discuss myriad topics of mutual interest with people whose knowledge and opinions I value. Further, it gave me the opportunity to share my own creative visions and passions, and allowed those compeers (for that is what one society member calls another) with whom my notions resonated to partake in that which I was offering. Much of what I shared with compeers were my bartending skills at twice-monthly speakeasies in the rathskeller, though I had a number of other experiences to tithe had the society lived on. Sadly, it has come to an end. Hasn’t it?

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Casablanca, Morocco – Overview

By , December 22, 2010

I’ll begin my description of my stay in Casablanca by describing my lodgings, as I think they are somewhat indicative of the state of the city itself. The hotel in which I stayed, Hotel Foucould, was clearly a nice place once. The elevator, long out of commission, was a beautiful wooden contraption, ensconced in a wrought iron cage. In the hotel’s heyday it must have been a sight to behold. My room must have been nice once, too. It had a 20-foot high ceiling, and ornate touches, but today it is in awful shape. There was a puddle of water on the floor that remained there for my entire stay. The bathroom looked to have been created by crudely erecting a cement wall on one side of the room and installing plumbing. There was a shower-head, but no shower structure, so the water (only cold water was available) just sprayed into the room. There was a sink, but no toilet. The walls had massive holes punched into them, and there was graffiti on one of them, and the bed was falling apart, but there were lovely French doors that opened out onto a balcony that offered fresh air and a view of the city.

That contradiction exists all throughout Casablanca. I have a sense that 50 to 75 years ago Casablanca was quite posh. There is evidence everywhere to that fact, but it is buried beneath a seeming ton of rubble. The word that repeatedly comes to mind when observing this city is dilapidated, for that is what Casablanca is. I have the constant feeling of having walked into a city the day after a long war has ended. Everywhere you turn you see massive buildings that have collapsed in on themselves, and faded facades of what were once lovely, art deco masterpieces, standing proudly next to a two-story-high pile of brick, wood, glass, and other building material.

There is considerable garbage to navigate whilst walking the streets, as well as potholes deep enough to be used in trench warfare, so caution is necessary lest one take a nasty fall. The streets are full of mopeds– this was a never-ending source of amusement to me. Dozens would ride by at once– impromptu moped gangs made up of strangers, breaking up and recruiting new members at every street corner.

The people of Casablanca are for the most part friendly, and helpful to this American who speaks no Arabic and precious little French. One in particular, Abdallah, assisted me in finding a good cup of Coffee Moroccan style. The coffee, espresso actually, is really good here. It is subtly different from the European version, perhaps a bit more bitter and not quite as viscous, and thoroughly enjoyable to me. Abdallah told me about his days working at a restaurant on a now-defunct U.S. Air Force base between 1958 and 1962. That is why he spoke English, he explained, for most Casablancans possess a rudimentary grasp of English, at best.

Casablanca is not a town for a tourist, but for someone who travels as I do, plopping down in a neighborhood and haunting a few local cafes and eateries and chatting with the local folks, it is a pretty ideal place to be. Couple that with the amazing affordability and you have a place in which I could spend quite some time. My four days here was enough to get a sense of the place, but nowhere near enough to tire of it.

Speaking of costs, here are the prices you can expect to pay for a few things in Casablanca, translated from the local currency, dirhams, into U.S. dollars:

12 oz. glass bottle of Coke 47¢
cup of coffee (espresso) 59¢
taxi ride around downtown $1.31
1 night at Hotel Foucould $11.81
best fish ever at Snack Amine $13.08
fried bread thing at a stand 20¢

Pretty cheap, huh? You can see why I like it so much! Up next… Egypt!

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The Little Moments That Count

By , October 29, 2009

Sometimes I wish I could freeze a certain moment and save it to relive it again in the future. I do my best to relish the good stuff while it’s happening, but you can only savor something so much, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. In an attempt to preserve such a moment for future savoring, I will now relate a tale from my life.

On Tuesday night I went out with four friends, Chris, Teddie, Barrett. We were in Berkeley, moving from bar to bar, drinking, talking, dancing, and generally making merry. We eventually made our way to Manny’s Tap Room in Berkeley, which is an unusual destination for us, but we were on a shuffleboard kick and they have a table. While playing, we heard the bartender ring a bell, and turned to see a guy standing on the bar chugging a glass of beer. Except he couldn’t do it. He stopped a few times, before finally finishing. Twice more, the bell went off, and other guys tried, and failed, to pound a pint.

Later, while out front, we were laughing at the fact that the guys couldn’t even chug one glass of beer, and I said something to the effect of, “I ought to get up on the bar and show them how to do it.” Teddie scoffed, insinuating that I couldn’t do it, so I told him I could drink a glass of beer faster than him. He hesitated for a moment, then backed down from my challenge, and instead said “I know you can’t drink faster than Chris.”

Now, Chris drinks a lot. I mean, a LOT. And he’s from Michigan, so… I wasn’t sure if I could drink faster than him, but I said I thought that I probably could. Now that it wasn’t me vs. Teddie, Teddie was of course all about getting us up there, so we approached the bartender. He informed us that if it is someone’s birthday they have to stand on the bar and chug, but when we explained there had been a challenge, he agreed to let us try. Up onto the bar we went.

Everyone stared as the two of us climbed onto the bar and picked up our pints of Guinness. The bell rang, we chugged. I finished, turned to see Chris still getting the last sip down, and raised my glass into the air in victory. The entire bar was cheering, and I leapt down from the bar, landing directly in front of this Miss Unnamed, whom I did not even know was at the bar, and on whom I currently have a big crush. She was smiling at having seen my glorious victory, and silly though it sounds, for that moment I have to say I felt pretty damn awesome. Sure, I was chugging a beer on a bar, not saving the whales or curing cancer, but whatever. Ferris Bueller’s got nothing on me.

I’m telling you, it’s those little moments in life that mean so much.

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What is This? MySpace?

By , January 6, 2006

Since MySpace is all the rage these days, here is the latest ridiculous “survey” that I’ve filled out there, saved here for posterity. And for future embarrassment.

9 lasts.
last cigarette: I don’t smoke, but I had my last pretend cigarette whilst getting air outside at the Chinese Hospital casino bash
last beverage: coffee at Fenton’s
last kiss: friendly? Chloe, unless I kissed Josh tonight. I think I only bundled him up. romantic? Tzuen.
last cd played: actual CD? Brian Jonestown Massacre. Last song, Joy Division is playing now.
last bubble bath: at the Madonna Inn in October of ’04 with She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named
last time you cried: this morning :/
last time you laughed: Moments ago whilst foos-balling with a super-stoned Josh

8 have you evers.
have you ever dated one of your best friends: no
have you ever skinny dipped: no. wait, yes. forevs ago
have you ever kissed somebody and regretted it: boy howdy have I ever
have you ever fallen in love: yes
have you ever lost someone you loved: yes
have you ever been depressed: consult previous blogs…
have you ever been drunk and threw up: *nod*
have you ever ran away: no. but ask me again in a couple weeks.

7 states you’ve been to.
1. Alaska
2. New York
3. Michigan
4. Arkansas
6. Hawaii
7. Texas

6 things you’ve done today.
1. got drunk
2. ate cheeseburgers, plural
3. listened to music
4. read comics
5. wilded in the streets with Teddie, Bronson, Kevin, Josh, and Nick
6. sent a fax

5 favorite things in no order.
1. my friends
2. being massaged
3. cooking
4. her, but not the her you think I mean
5. film noir

4 people you can tell [almost] anything to.
1. Teddie
2. Kathryn
3. Chloe
4. Diane

3 wishes.
1. to be happy again
2. to trust again
3. to love again

2 things you want to do before you die.
1. spend time in at least 50 countries
2. find out why

1 thing you regret.
1. trusting her, the bad her

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Trash

By , December 29, 2005

Maybe, maybe it’s the clothes we wear,
The tasteless bracelets and the dye in our hair,
Maybe it’s our kookiness,
Or maybe, maybe it’s our nowhere towns,
Our nothing places and our cellophane sounds
Maybe it’s our looseness

But we’re trash, you and me,
We’re the litter on the breeze,
We’re the lovers on the street,
Just trash, me and you,
It’s in everything we do

A friend recently chastised me for, as she put it, “associating with trash.” Apparently, many of my friends aren’t ambitious or “going places” and I’d be better suited to hang out with young lawyers and other motivated and soon-to-be-wealthy professionals. My initial reaction was shock at hearing one friend describe the rest our friends as trash. I happen to think they’re great people, or else I wouldn’t be friends with them. After a moment something else occurred to me: what the hell makes me any different? If they’re trash, aren’t I trash, too? My friend explained that yes, I am trash as well but I have a decent-paying job and have saved some money, so I’m above them. She described me as “trash with money.”

This did not sit well with me. I tried to see the side of the friend who said these things to me, but her attitude is diametrically opposed to everything I believe in. The more I’ve mulled it over, however, the more I see that she is right, to an extent. Just like Brett Anderson wrote in this post’s epigraph, we ARE trash. I’ve been trash all my life. Proudly so. I grew up poor, in one of the “bad parts” of Los Angeles. My father would routinely come home from work after having been robbed, once whilst tied up and at gunpoint. I remember my mother sometimes buying two fast food cheeseburgers and cutting them into pieces to feed three of us. For most of my childhood, my clothes were ordered from the Sears-Roebuck catalog. Going out to eat meant Taco Bell or McDonald’s– Sizzler if it was a special occasion.

My job often entails me interacting with moneyed folks, and by and large I find I have nothing whatsoever in common with them. I don’t dislike those in the stratospheric socials classes. I harbor no ill will for them, and congratulate them for the hard work or good fortune that got them where they are. It’s more that I have an entirely different value system and lifestyle than they do. And yes, the sense of privilege and entitlement that sometimes seems to run rampant through the upperclass can at times be sickening, but for the most part they are people like anyone else. They just aren’t the sort of people I feel comfortable being around. Sure, a few lucky breaks and wise choices on my part have landed me in a career that provides me with a decent level of income, but I don’t consider myself a part of their world. For that I am glad, as I think I’d be miserable if such people were my friends. I was born and raised trash, and trash I’ll always be.

And the road that I have walked upon
Well it filled my pockets
And emptied out my soul

Truth be told, money is almost meaningless to me. Earning it has never been my goal. I realize I need some to survive, and while I’m glad that I no longer have the money worries I used to have, I know that I was a much happier person when I was still poor. I once gave the girl I loved the last dollar I had so she could make good on her bills, and I gladly ate leftovers and scraps for a week until more money came in. I was happier eating those meals than I am now that I can eat (nearly) anywhere I choose. And now that I have a little money, I do my best to share it. I treat my trashy friends whenever they aren’t fixed for cash, I over-tip trashy waitresses working dead-end jobs in nowhere towns, and I give to charities that help trashy people in other cities and nations. I even gave a twenty to a trashy homeless man the other night. So yeah, trash with money is fine by me.

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HHGFF

By , December 25, 2005

It’s half past four on Christmas morning and we just finished cooking and cleaning crabs for tomorrow night’s dinner. Someone has been kind enough to adopt me for the holiday, and we’ve been hard at work preparing to make dinner for her parents and relatives. I’ve been looking forward to it, and I know it will be a marvelous Christmas. Of course, I have one Christmas wish, which I know won’t come true. Yet, at the same time, if asked with whom I most want to spend this day, I would say with all honesty there is no one in the world I’d rather be with this Christmas than exactly whom I will be with. I may be far from “over” the past, but the present has been a little bit better of late. I don’t believe in fate in any way, shape, or form, but it is remarkable how things sometimes work out. HHGFF. And ever.

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Another Wild Saturday Night

By , July 2, 2005

My job usually keeps me busy on Saturday nights. For example, later tonight I’m putting on a casino party in San Francisco. As it happened, last weekend I had Saturday night off. I was spending it eating pie with two of my nephews when the phone rang at around 10:00 PM. It was Alice, a woman who used to work with my mother. She told me to turn on C-SPAN because they were showing my older brother giving some sort of speech. I dutifully trudged into the other room and turned on the television set. Sure enough, as promised, there he was; wearing a silly robe no less. It was a re-broadcast of the commencement address he gave for Seton Hall’s graduation this year. A moment later, the phone rang again. It was Ronzie, another family friend. “Your brother is on C-SPAN!” she shouted at me. No sooner did I hang up than the phone again rang– yet another friend reporting to me that they were watching my brother on C-SPAN.

I couldn’t help but wonder why all these people were watching C-SPAN in the first place. I realize that “eating pie” is not exactly a night on the town, but hey, I’m just not used to having a free Saturday night. Why does the rest of the free world seem to be home watching C-SPAN? Am I missing out? Is the C-SPAN Saturday night line-up must-see TV? Isn’t it normally a rerun of the Assistant Secretary of the House Subcommittee on Corrugated Piping giving a speech about ditch-digging to an empty room? I have clearly missed a major shift in the viewing habits of the American public.

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The Christmas (Mean) Spirit

By , December 7, 2004

Yale: Here is your Christmas gift. I made it just for you.
*hands me a homemade blanket*
Me: Thanks! I love it!
*loves it*
Yale: Sorry it is so ugly. I wanted to make sure it matched your apartment.
Me: :(

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Arcade Fire – Tunnels

By , September 15, 2004

And if the snow buries my,
My neighborhood.
And if my parents are crying
Then I’ll dig a tunnel
From my window to yours,
Yeah, a tunnel from my window to yours.
You climb out the chimney
And meet me in the middle,
The middle of the town

I’ve been playing this song over and over and over for more than a week. I can’t get enough of it, and I cannot wait for the supposedly soon-to-come album.

Currently Playing: Arcade Fire – Tunnels

I am not using hyperbole when I say that this song may be finest combination of deeply profound, poetic lyrics and a beautiful tune I have ever heard. I am fully prepared to crown this song as just that. There may well be songs with a prettier tune, and songs with even more poignant lyrics, but none that I know have both to the degree that this one does. There are more levels to this song than I can yet comprehend, and with every listen I feel I have grasped some new element of its meaning.

I’m going to try to break down some of what I take away from the song, so bear with me as I suddenly get all abstract and emotional.

But sometimes, we remember our bedrooms,
And our parent’s bedrooms,
And the bedrooms of our friends

They have hit upon something so powerful there– the bedrooms of our parents and our friends. I think I speak for nearly everyone when I say that as a child, though willing and able to run rampant through the rest of the house, I treated my parents’ bedroom with a sense of awe and respect. It wasn’t quite off-limits, but it was certainly semi-hallowed ground, and now that I’m grown-up I remember it as somehow mysterious and larger than life. Now, that alone would have been enough of an allusion to elevate this song to the “super hella profound and deep” category, but then they immediately take it one step further– the bedrooms of our friends.

If there was trepidation in the bedroom of my parents, there was a magic in the bedrooms of my friends. At that age, your bedroom is the only place where you have any autonomy; beyond how you dress, the posters with which you adorn your bedroom walls are nearly your sole expression of self. Seeing what someone else did with their tiny corner of the world always made me question how my own little kingdom looked. Today, years later, I remember those rooms with a hallowed sense of nostalgia. The hours spent listening to music or just wondering about life were all framed by the environment of some friend’s bedroom. I hadn’t thought about it before, but that one little line in this song floods my mind with memories every time I hear it.

Arcade Fire - Tunnels

If I had to offer an overarching meaning, I’d say this is a song about growing up unprepared for the world that we must face as adults. Either because of death, absence, or plain negligence, so many of our parents just aren’t there to guide us, and we’re on our own. We’re a generation of children in adult’s bodies, going through the motions of adulthood without ever having earned it. That is just my take on the lyrics, and I’m sure there are many other ways to interpret this song. In truth, there are certainly numerous meanings intertwined with one another. The only certainty is that it is a song charged with powerful symbolism and poetic wordplay, perhaps none so more than when the chorus comes in for the final time: it arrives with one extra line, and it’s a line that ups the ante exponentially:

You change all the lead
Sleeping in my head to gold,
As the day grows dim,
I hear you sing a golden hymn,
The song I’ve been trying to sing

The song I’ve been trying to sing. That feeling or emotion that is forever in the back of your mind, and one you know, if you could just bring it forward, would make all the difference in the world; but one you can’t put it into concrete form. It remains hovering just behind your consciousness. To hear someone singing it– would that be to experience a moment where someone is able to make sense of everything in your life that has heretofore been a confused jumble? Or would it only add to the confusion, when a moment later the song is gone and you can’t remember exactly how it went, and it too ends up buried in the recesses of your mind, a haunting melody that you need to hear again but know you never will.

I’m normally a very literal, to-the-point writer, and when I try to put my emotional response to a song like this onto paper (computer screen?) I fear I am lacking. Much like the golden hymn in the song, I’m afraid that I am only skirting around what I feel because there really aren’t words that convey what I am feeling; or, if such words do exist, I do not know them.

Purify the colors, purify my mind
And spread the ashes of the colors
Over this heart of mine!

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Ten Years

By , September 11, 2004

I’ve been ruminating about my future lately. Most of the time, I feel as if I have a solid foundation underfoot, and my life is going in the direction I want to see it go, but once in awhile I catch myself wondering if somehow I should be doing more. It’s like there is this check list of the basics in life,

significant other
family
friends
career
financial stability
general fulfillment
and so on,

and I have a nice check next to each one, and it’s allowing me to sort of coast along a little bit. Is there some way I could be doing more? Could I be changing the world around me in positive way more than I already am, if I even am doing so at all? Is it enough to have nailed down all the fundamental aspects of life, or should I be striving to “take it to another level,” or however one would say it in the Attitudinal Beliefs patois?

I asked myself– where will I be ten years from now? Will I still live here in my college apartment? Will I be doing the same job? Will I be married? Will I be a father? Just what will I be doing come 2014? Or will the Mayans have risen from the dead and eaten us all by then, so it won’t even matter? I didn’t have a very precise answer to any of those questions.

Nothing else in this world seems to stay the same, so who is to say that the person I am right now won’t also be subject to that state of eternal flux that plagues everything else. Whatever is taken for granted today could be gone tomorrow, or I may lose the things I need later on; or they might not even be there in the first place. I have no idea what I am talking about anymore.

My life is great right now, but it could probably be even better. I hope ten years from now I can re-read this blog and say without a doubt that I bettered my life since authoring it.

Today’s Question: Ten years from now. You. Well?

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