Thursday, November 29, 2007

Eating Despairagus Makes Your Heart Smell Funny

I started this whole blog thingy about three years ago. The original function of it was simple enough - I was moving to China for a year and thought that it would be a good way to communicate to the filthy democratic capitalists that are my friends and family. I was going to use it as a place to post my musings about life in another country and maybe a picture or two from time to time. Nothing big, just something that said, ‘Hey guys, I’m alive. Here’s me with short people’.

Well, about three weeks into the trip I noticed that my 'simple musings' had taken on a life of their own. I slowly began to write with more and more confidence and more and more enjoyment came to me from this newly discovered outlet. I began to get excited when I read my own writings with the realization that I could be witty and funny in the same sentence that I was being dangerously honest and emotional. Of course, all I had for comparison was Chinese restaurant menus, so naturally I thought I was the next Dickens. Everyone else may beg to differ.

Fast forward a year or so. Post-China. I would sit down at my desk saying “Ok, today we write!” But there was nothing. Why, all the sudden did it become so difficult to write? Where did the magic go? I couldn’t figure it out. I would sit in front of my computer or a pad of paper and just stare. I just couldn’t get back in the groove. I couldn’t capture and formulate things the way I had that prior year. Things in my life were pretty good. I was in a relationship with a great girl, I was at a new job that wasn’t too bad, I was exercising and eating right. What the heck? I couldn’t figure it out.

Fast forward another 6 months. All the sudden, I can write again. Not only write, but I was really bringing the noise this time. Very little of this writing ever made it out to the public, for slightly selfish reasons, but I was writing, and it was great. What happened? The thing I first noticed was that, even though I was writing, I wasn’t very happy about it. In fact, I was downright miserable in my life. Things had taken drastic turns around me left and right and life was dishing it out on a rusty platter. I jacked up my relationship, I was miserable and sweaty in my city and my job had turned into Lamesville Inc.

That's when the realization hit. The secret sauce of creativity.

That realization?

Happiness can really throw a monkey wrench your creativity. Especially if you're not in a 'self-inspiring' situation, like on the moon or something.

I’m not alone in this one, Hemmingway shot himself in the face, F. Scott Fitzgerald was an alcoholic and suffered two heart attacks (the second of which did him in, however it was just a race between his weak heart and Zelda showing up with a sharpened butter knife), Hunter S. Thompson – shotgun blast to the face, Jack Kerouac – internal bleeding form cirrhosis of the liver onset by severe alcoholism, I could go on and on. My point is that it seems like words form on the tips of your fingertips the best when life sucks. It’s only when you’re sick and broken hearted that your attitude shifts from the comforts of life to the reality of life and things begin to focus to a dangerously sharp level. It’s happened to me many times over the years, yet every time I think I’ve experienced it for the last time, I inevitably take a wrong step, or wrong steps, and find myself in familiar territory.

This last time was a doozy. Not only was I writing more, I began to take pictures more, and any one of the links on the side of this page can show you how good or bad that’s turned out. Either way, I was back. Back in the creative saddle, and quite honestly, as good as the creativity feels, I think that I preferred happiness. At any rate, here I am. In one way or another. Fighting desperately to maintain creativity without despair. I’m back home and today I’m here to drop the bomb on my next little adventure. To be inspired alone is only a small step up from meaningless. It’s what you do with your inspiration that shows you what kind of a person you are, how thick you roll, how much spank you’re packing. Inspiration into creativity, water into wine, love into a voice.

The scoop? I gotta get out of here, if only for a short time. In the past two weeks, I’ve been to Tulsa, Wichita, Kansas City, Omaha and Chicago, but that’s just not good enough. I need farther. I need more. I need to be tested and possibly hurt. I need…someplace…foreign. So, I’ve decided to dust off my passport and hit the skies, the water and, more importantly, the world. Rather than being inspired by spite or sadness, I'm going to actively seek inspiration.

Saturday morning, I’ll begin testing my stair climbing abilities by climbing the steps of an airplane that will drop me off in the one country that I miss more than any other - Peru.

This has nothing to do with my previous (totally awesome) trip; this trip is of a personal nature. It’s my chance to revitalize my heart by volunteering my time in the city of Cuzco for a week. Pulling teeth, building houses, teaching people the differences between suede Pumas and leather adidas, helping them write dope hip-hop lyrics, you know, the regular stuff.

The flip side of the trip will be physical. I've been exercising relentlessly for well over a year and I have decided to do something with it, other than to look good. So on the second leg of my trip, I will hit the trail and make the 45km hike up the Inca Trail to visit Machu Picchu. It's really not the horizontal distance that I'm concerned about, it's the three 13,000+ foot passes that are on the trip, hence the introduction of the Stairmaster into my daily routine. That wretched machine has turned my legs to jelly every morning for months now and I'm about to reward them by doing the 'outdoor Stairmaster'.

So there it is, my garbled description of what goes on inside my head when I try and write as well as a little nugget about my upcoming weeks. Hopefully I'll be able to do Cuzco, Lima and Machu Picchu better descriptive justice than the above when I return.

I’m out. Back in a flash.

Here’s something to keep you occupied, it’s by Pablo Neruda, probably the greatest Chilean poet ever to live, a much better writer than I will ever be:

Canto XII from The Heights of Macchu Picchu
Arise to birth with me, my brother.
Give me your hand out of the depths
sown by your sorrows.
You will not return from these stone fastnesses.
You will not emerge from subterranean time.
Your rasping voice will not come back,
nor your pierced eyes rise from their sockets.

Look at me from the depths of the earth,
tiller of fields, weaver, reticent shepherd,
groom of totemic guanacos,
mason high on your treacherous scaffolding,
iceman of Andean tears,
jeweler with crushed fingers,
farmer anxious among his seedlings,
potter wasted among his clays--
bring to the cup of this new life
your ancient buried sorrows.
Show me your blood and your furrow;
say to me: here I was scourged
because a gem was dull or because the earth
failed to give up in time its tithe of corn or stone.
Point out to me the rock on which you stumbled,
the wood they used to crucify your body.
Strike the old flints
to kindle ancient lamps, light up the whips
glued to your wounds throughout the centuries
and light the axes gleaming with your blood.

I come to speak for your dead mouths.

Throughout the earth
let dead lips congregate,
out of the depths spin this long night to me
as if I rode at anchor here with you.

And tell me everything, tell chain by chain,
and link by link, and step by step;
sharpen the knives you kept hidden away,
thrust them into my breast, into my hands,
like a torrent of sunbursts,
an Amazon of buried jaguars,
and leave me cry: hours, days and years,
blind ages, stellar centuries.

And give me silence, give me water, hope.
Give me the struggle, the iron, the volcanoes.
Let bodies cling like magnets to my body.
Come quickly to my veins and to my mouth.
Speak through my speech, and through my blood.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Omaha: Where catsup is called 'spicy sauce'

Have you ever had a really good weekend? I have. I especially like it when it falls around a holiday, so that the 'weekend' is actually four or five days long. That's basically how my Thanksgiving was. It was busy to be sure, but it was totally awesome. It started with a drive to Wichita to kick it Cheney-style followed by a night of hanging with Pomeroy and a bunch of other people that I dont see often enough and was capped off with a totally awesome trip to Omaha, to do one of my favoritest things in the world - go to a zoo.

A few people know that I did two summers at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, splitting my time between taking care of snakes and thawing out frozen rats in the herpetarium and riding a bike-slash-giving boat rides for Visitor Services, which I was WAY to immature to do. I love all things animal; holding them, feeding them, cleaning up their poop, thawing them out to feed to others, eating them, actually about everything except hunting them.

For years, I've been warned that the Omaha zoo is the toppermost of the poppermost (vague Beatles reference) and over the weekend I finally got to see it for myself. Of course it was cold as hell, but it didnt matter, as the cool stuff was inside. It was followed up (and actually preceded) with wine. I really love wine. Antiques, which I also love and several hours of driving while trying not to laugh a drop of pee out.

So here I am, sitting in Chicago, thumbing through pictures, thinking back on a great weekend and realizing that I'm one of the lucky ones that was fortunate enough to have a good one land on a 5-dayer.

The zoo was sweet, the company was awesome, the vino was great and the pictures are in focus-ish. All in all, it was a great break from adulthood and the rather mundane routines of maturity. Ch-ch-check them out.

How many people does it take to open up a flash memory card?

Now kids, what have I told you about being alone with uncle Daniel?

Susan kept sneaking off to pray all weekend.

One of the few meals of my life where both coffee and wine was involved.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Holidaze Part II: Remember That One Time...

....that I went to the Beaumont and didnt get drunk? Yeah, that was great. However, I think I was about the only person that wasnt doing much drinking and here is some proof from Friday's Pomeroy show.

Ciao - Luke

PS: Apparently low-light photography is not my specialty, but it is what it is. Practice, practice, practice. Love, love, love. Look, see, hear.

Friday, November 23, 2007

...Insert Funny Holiday Title Here...

First of all, I feel that I should apologize to anyone who accidentally got in front of me yesterday during the dining hours of 10am and 8:30pm. If I bit off one of your fingers or slopped any pecan pie debris on you, please accept my deepest apologies. Anyone that I didnt physically offend, then I apologize for any emotional damage done by witnessing 'that skinny relative' eat his way through several pounds of food and bottles of wine. I was in the zone and remember very little. Lucky for all of us, my camera was there and was able to capture fragments of the day. Please help me put them together into a meaningful manner so that my food-fueled rampage makes more sense than Naked Lunch.

To anyone who was not there, consider yourself lucky. Look at your own risk.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Lee's Summit to the West Bottoms

Having nothing whatsoever to do with the holidays, I decided to clean off some more pictures from my computer today & have put together some from the past couple weeks snapped around Kansas City. Hope you enjoy, this post has about as much to do with the holidays as my next post will, if I ever finish writing it, but it's going to be a doozy for sure.

Happy turkey day everyone, I've been doing doing nearly seven miles a day on the treadmill/river run plus another four on the stairmaster, all in preparation for the Romanesque gluttony debacle that is my grandparents house on Thanksgiving.